Why didn't the Contax G1/2 make it?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by troll, Jul 15, 2007.

  1. The specs read wonderfully -- everything that the Leica had, plus developments
    since the M3 was designed in the 1950s. Lenses were at least as good as Leica
    glass, and a lot less expensive.<P>"Faults/problems" of the G1 were mostly
    corrected with the G2.<P>Why, then, did it fail commercially? And what could
    have been done to prevent it?
  2. Better marketing? More capital?
  3. Too much wiring for everything..
  4. I don't think Kyocera woke up one day and decided not to sell cameras anymore, I think they knew for some time they were getting out of 35mm let alone cameras altogether. Knowing that why keep bring out new stuff to the end, simply don't develop any further models and save the cash.
  5. Hi,

    "Why, then, did it fail commercially?"

    Bill, would you like to put forward evidence that it did?

    cheers Steve.
  6. It was TOO LOUD.
  7. Hi,

    "Why, then, did it fail commercially?"<P><P>

    Bill, would you like to put forward evidence that it did?<P><P>

    cheers Steve.<P>

    <P>Uh, no...not except that it disappeared from the marketplace, without additional development.
  8. The other responses concerning Kyocera's business plan and the question of whether it actually failed or not go directly to the point. Furthermore, it must be difficult for any new lens mount to survive and establish enough following to stick around for a very long time, especially if the camera is unusual.

    However, I have a Contax G brochure from about 2000 comparing it to Leica M, point for point, and even though I was only just learning about Leica M at the time and didn't have one for lack of knowledge and not wanting to spend the money, my existing experience and affinity for manual focus "simple" SLRs was enough that I already found the comparison amusing because the Contax seemed enough different that the comparison was a stretch. It tried to make all the Ms strengths that appealed to me sound like out-of-date approaches. I was able to handle the Contax, and although it was clearly a very nice camera, I couldn't see it as a more compact, discrete, intuitive replacement for my Nikon F for street shooting applications because while it was smaller, it wasn't a mechancial camera in feel or fact.

    Perhaps it appealed to people who were looking for evolution, and now they've readily moved on to the next evolution.
  9. Robert,

    The TOO LOUD excuse is lame. I have owned a G2 since it was released, as well as my M6 and M2, and while the Contax is much louder than the Leica, it is only loud to the person who's face is smashed up against the camera. I can tell you from experience that the subject can hardly hear a thing form the Contax. I know that from lots of experience being the subject. I can tell no difference between the level of sound from it and any of my Nikons (F4s, F100, FM2, D70), Hasselbald, Mamiya, etc.

    I'd argue that the aside from being discontinued, the platform is still used heavily by a large cadre of dedicated users. There is even a Contax G users group event taking place next year in Berlin.

    For all of it's problems, it is a fine system with great optics and excellent reliability.
  10. Hiya,

    "Uh, no...not except that it disappeared from the marketplace, without additional development"

    Bill, I was not having a go, but merely trying to make a point. Many people on the internet and especially on forums like PN make assumptions based on nothing but other peoples assumptions, or other internet 'chatter' or the fact a camera was not further developed in your case. This does not mean the camera was a commercial failure. Only Kyocera can answer that.

    The market place is certainly full of many, many Contax G cameras, so they certainly sold a lot and bearing in mind the high prices they sold for, I would not be in the least bit surprised if it was actually quite a success in financial terms...but this is just supposition...

    cheers Steve.
  11. 35mm rangefinders occupy a pretty small market niche at best. A relatively expensive 35mm RF camera that was completely incompatible with all the others (and wasn't even a rangefinder in the traditional sense) had rather limited appeal - people who wanted AF tended to go for SLRs or cheaper P&S cameras, and people who wanted the 'rangefinder experience' went for Leica, V/C etc. In the long term, of course, the system would have needed to go digital to survive, and you can hardly blame Kyocera for not making the effort after their experience with the ND, which must have been the final straw for the Contax division. But it's a real shame to lose their interesting designs and terrific lenses.
  12. You know marketing success stories don't you? - Leica themselves, later Nikon... They convinced peers to get / use their stuff and the crowd followed.

    Who proofed the reliability of Contax G? Where was the hope to get at least a inexpensive consumer body to keep shooting like EOS or Minolta users?

    Has there been a obvious cutting edge advantage provided by the G's AF? - I remember trying out Minolta 5000 or Nikon F401 without becoming convinced to dump my manual cameras.
  13. jtk


    Leica's forte' is the viewfinder. Leica, Canon, and CV all have/had great viewfinders, far better than Contax. My Pentax IQ Zoom has a better viewfinder.
  14. Hiya,

    The Canon DSLR's have poor viewfinders, but they sell truckloads of them...quality has nothing to do with sales sucess.
  15. A similar question could be asked about the Contax 645 - another well-executed product
    cut short.

    Kyocera was making significant impact on the industry. It may not have been so much a
    case of the G1/G2 (or 645) not making it, so much as Kyocera just pulling out at the top of
    their form.

    I guess they ust didn't have the interest or stomach for the coming Canon/Nikon/Sony/etc
    consumer digital wars.

    Too bad. I think we all lost on that one.
  16. I owned a G2 for about 2 years but could not deal with the autofocus. The camera would
    refuse to fire the shutter until the autofocus had latched on to the subject. Lost several good
    shots. Also Kyocera by then was no longer a camera company and was not obsessed with the
    G2 as is the case with Cosina.
  17. I had a G1 for a while. I was attracted by the exposure automation and the AF. My
    experience, like so many others', was that the lenses were wonderful, the camera had
    some quirks in operation (but nothing I couldn't live with) but, oh, the G1 viewfinder was
    very poor - a nasty, dim, squinty thing. Unfortunately I never had the chance to try a G2.
    In the end I couldn't live with the VF anymore and traded the outfit, mainly for a Leica M2.
    After a few years I traded that as well, mainly because I couldn't hack it without the AF &
    the exposure automation!

    But those G lenses were really something....
  18. "The specs read wonderfully"

    I'd agree with that. On paper, I had decided I wanted a G2 plus a Mamiya M7. Could get both for the price of a Leica M6.

    And then I handled them all, plus a Hassey. And decided for medium format, I really wanted a Hassey, instead. And there was no comparison between the G2 and the M6.

    On paper, the G2 was great. Not sure why, but I just didn't like how it felt.

  19. At one point I dumped all my M stuff and replaced it with two Black G2s and a full range of
    Zeiss lenses from 21 to 90. I thought AF would speed things up like with a SLR. It did in a few
    instances, but mostly not. I hated the claustrophobic viewfinder ... but kept trying to make it
    work for me for a couple of years ... then returned to the M. Still, it was a nice camera, and it
    wasn't that camera that killed Contax.

    It was the N Digital, and poor marketing.
  20. Erik, As you say, the Contax is much louder than the Leica, and it was too loud for me. I had the G2 with three lenses and after a month using it I went back to my M2.
  21. Very poor viewfinder, hardly enough black models to respond to the market
    need, fierce CV competition in lenses (who wants the Contax with a Hologon
    when you can have the faster 12mm or 15mm CV lenses and a 2nd hand
    Leica or new Bessa body at a fraction of the cost), Kyocera decision to quit
    photography (as a huge ceramics company, it can only be assumed that
    Contax was not active enough for their shareholders).
  22. AFAIK, The G system was still in production right up to the time that Kyocera pulled the
    plug on their whole photo division. So it seems more like the company failed the camera
    than that the camera failed the company (but without detailed internal financial info, who

    My sense is that photo gear was always a bit of a sideline for KYOto CERAmics, which is
    primarily an exotic materials company. They bought Yashica back in the go-go
    conglomerate 60s, and then created the revived Contax line based on Yashica SLR
    underpinnings, and as long as it made some money, that was fine.

    Once it became clear that more and more investment would be needed to keep up in
    digital, (among other things, dealing with the same issues regarding RF WA lenses and
    sensors that Leica has had to work around in the M8) they bailed out. Just no longer worth
    the money for the payback.
  23. I used a G2 outfit for about a year-and-a-half until selling it. From a mechanical/
    operational perspective I eventually found -- against expectation -- that I seemed to be
    struggling *against* the auto-focus as much as I was benefiting from it; the viewfinder, as
    others have said, was a key weakness too. It must also be remembered that the G1/G2
    were pretty well designed to be used as auto-focus rather than manual focus cameras. The
    manual focus provision was poor -- near unusable in fact -- and I also found the
    completely unmarked lenses -- no DOF, no scale markings -- didn't provide me with the
    information I needed in order to make scale focusing possible. Perhaps had I known more
    about focusing and lens characteristics generally, this would have mattered less: I would
    have been able to fill the shortcomings of the information offered by the camera with my
    own knowledge, but that wasn't the case.

    So my own view is that I swapped because I wanted a conventional mechanical camera that
    would do what I expected and wanted, when i wanted it.

    But as to market failure, well the market for G2s was I imagine tiny. It was a closed system
    with literally no compatibilities. If you had a G system and you *thought* you might need
    or want to dispose of it, then frankly you had to decide pretty fast: in 2004/05 you could
    watch the resale prices of G2 gear dropping by the day...

  24. "...in 2004/05 you could watch the resale prices of G2 gear dropping by the day..."

    Interestingly, G2 cameras currently get good prices on eBay.
  25. Hi,

    "So it seems more like the company failed the camera than that the camera failed the company"

    "Once it became clear that more and more investment would be needed to keep up in digital they bailed out. Just no longer worth the money for the payback"

    ...Andy..NAIL HIT ON HEAD...

    IMO both Kyocera and Zeiss were crap when it came to truly effective marketing and advertising. The products were largely fantastic, especially the Contax SLR range with the C/Y mount Zeiss optics, but suffered from terminal crap marketing, poor dealers and awful back-up from the respective so-called service regimes. Then we have the slow death of Leica and what happens...we all end up with bloody Nikons and Canons...

    cheers Steve.
  26. Thanks, Guys. It seemed to me like the perfect specs and I was ready to buy the system. Then I picked it up and it felt like a heavy lump of misformed lead. It was the most un-ergonomic camera I've ever held. From reading your comments, I think that if I'd gone ahead and bought it anyhow that I'd have hated it.<P>PS, my favorite RF camera for street shooting is the Konica S3 which, in a sense, was the end of the line, and didn't make it either.
  27. I was new into photog when the G1 came out and I recall little information on it. Leica didn't have alot of info either but it did have a history and a great many shooters whom I liked used it. So I went with Leica.

    I recall shortly after the G1 came out shooters were complaining about the camera. By the time G2 came out I was hestitant about buying into it.

    I wanted something I could rely on and for me that meant a Leica, Nikon F3, and a Hasselblad.
  28. No forward compatibility to digital, is a real killer these days.
  29. jtk


    Who would want one when they could get equal lenses and viewfinder in a far more quiet IIIC, without all that autofocus and meter obstruction ?
  30. I agree with John. While the optics were no doubt superb, the crappy viewfinder and AF made
    it an amateur, ungainly piece of equipment. I considered it once, for a few seconds - till I
    held it up to my eye....
  31. I use it often and get great results! Kyocera awakened to the business reality that many other companies have . . . digital is the new paradigm. Film cameras are passe! Many companies are in it for the profits . . . go figure! :) <p>
    For many, the G1/G2 system was limited in its features, quirky in design, and totally wrong for Leica purists. OTOH: I find the G2 outstanding in quality, sufficiently full featured for much of my 35mm work that does not require a telephoto. The glass is excellent+, the camera can be controlled on auto or fully manual . . .even some spotmetering capacity! It's a solid piece of camera technology that can deliver up to 5 frames per second when I need it and all perfectly focussed and exposed! For group & party candids it rocks! With the 45mm Planar or 21mm Biogon, it rocks! Thus, my Leica MP sits in its box gaining value as a collectors piece!
  32. To much electronics
  33. If it had a standard RF and MF lenses but with auto winder like the Hexar RF then maybe it would have worked out. Wait the Hexar is also gone, skip that thought...
  34. Well, my own thoughts are that Kyocera dropped the ball and the G series was an unlucky casualty.

    A few comments brought up by others, with my own opinions tacked on.

    Too loud: Honestly, I think the G2 is quieter than my M6TTL. With one simple trick it is damn near silent and perfect for street (ie, where you want one shot at a time). You select multi exposure, then you cap it and hit the next shot to do the rewind. The G1 is louder, but is still very quiet.

    Focus Lock: Honestly, I rarely have had a G2?s focus miss anything. It is fast and sure. And honestly, it is one of the few cameras with zero problems focusing when it is dark. Has been a life saver when doing some wedding shots on a monopod. Your at the reception, and you simply set it to a wide aperture and auto shutter and click. Simple.

    Fighting with the camera: The G was NOT an M. It is a rangefinder, but it is a modern marvel. I have had SLRs with less features. Hmm, actually most SLRs can?t compete with it?s top shutter speed and FPS. Nor with three film speeds. But it isn?t something that can have all electronics fail, and keep on working. Personally I keep a G1, G2 and M6TTL in the same case. It goes with me when I am shooting film (probably 30% of the time).

    It is sad really. The camera that everyone talked about was the Contax G2D? a camera I wonder if was even developed.

    Oh well? I think Kyocera just up and dropped the ball.
  35. You really can't compare the G2 to the Leicas as they are quite different. Similarities are the high cost and the quality lenses, but there it stops. I had the Gs for quite a while, and, like others have said- I tried like hell to make them work for me. The lenses are superb. The 90mm would not autofocus quickly enough to shoot any action shots of my kids playing sports. By the time I had fiddled with the focus point and "played" with the AF, the shot I wanted was gone most times. If you shoot only portraits or landscapes it will be fine.

    Plus, many people, including myself pointed out the fact that the camera was basically a very expensive P&S, and not a "rangefinder" like a Leica.
  36. The G1 & G2 passed away for the same reason as the Hasselblad 500 and other niche market cameras. The shift to digital brought so many used cameras to the marketplace that production of new ones became uneconomical. And Kyocera didn't see the return on investment from them going into digital.

    I've used a G1 & a G2, plus five of the lenses for about six years. Great system for me. But I bought everything used.

    Leica and Hasselblad had no option but to try to make it in digital. Kyocera had the option and passed. It will be interesting to see if Leica and Hasselblad survive. It looks tough to me.

    For years, I've thought about Leica, then either the Zeiss Ikon or Voitlander systems. I always come back to the realization that the Contax lenses are great and the AF has always worked very well for me.

    The Contax G system is far from dead. It is just no longer in production. But there is a long list of great cameras in that same situation.

    Kyocera did pull of one great marketing feat in convincing people that the G2 was better than the G1. I've owned both for years and pick up the G1 almost every time. It does the same thing just in a smaller, lighter, and cheaper package.
  37. I concur with those who have said we can't really count the Contax G-line as a failure. It's a little like watching a ship sink with one lifeboat still tethered to it and concluding there must have been something wrong with the lifeboat because it didn't float like the other lifeboats. The Leica was introduced in the 1920's (they weren't actually rangefinders until the 30's) when the idea was revolutionary and their success was enough to propel Ernst Leitz's company to a whole new level. By the time the Contax G1 was introduced 70-some years later the 35mm rangefinder was a niche market dominated by established (indeed, in the case of Leica, iconic) names. The company responsible for its introduction had a lot of other pokers in other fires. Though the DSLR era hadn't quite dawned the writing was clearly on the wall (perhaps not for Kyocera, but most of the rest of the world.) There was little threat of these new cameras turning the company (or at least the Contax name) around or even keeping it viable on its own. The best Kyocera could realistically hope was that the G-line would make positive contribution to Contax's bottom line, and for all we know it did. Had Contax gotten some other things right through the digital trasition years we might be talking about the features of the new G5 right now.
  38. I too considered a G until I brought it to my eye...squinty. Built-in density, read, false quality, does not a good camera make.
  39. Oh good grief!
    I am tired of seeing posts that totally dismiss the Gs as not rangefinders but only point-n-shoots. A P&S camera you are only using the VF to frame the photo while the camera focuses the lens. The Gs are not manual rangefinders, but do operate as rangefinders, albeit electronically:
    1-In a manual RF, two windows bifocally see the image and the user manually turns the lens until a tiny mirror triangulates/aligns the images in the the windows onto a small RF patch. When the images selected in the RF patch are aligned as one, the lens is in focus.
    2-In the Gs, the camera uses two windows bifocally see the image, shoots out a beam, triangulates the distance, automatically turns the lens until the images in the the windows are triangulated/aligned as seen in a small patch. The user must select the focus point in the small patch (as in a manual rangefinder) and this is the mistake people make: if they use a G as a P&S and not use the focus patch (as in a manual RF) they will mis-focus. If they use the patch to select the point of focus (again, as in a manual RF), that is what will get focused, barring the usual AF issues such as flat walls (which won't manually focus either): you just then pick a clear focus target and hold the focus (like in a manual RF!). As with an AF SLR, you must carefully select to point of focus...or are you also saying an AF SLR is not a real SLR but a only fancy P&S?
    One is automatically done, the other is manually done.
    AFs can miss the focus or have issues, true...but as we get older and as bright as the FV can be, we may not clearly see the RF patch and on those very fast lenses Leica fans love, will not have a perfectly focused shot. Also, Leica recommends the RF in their cameras be CLA'd every 3-5 years as the RF system can get out of alignment, especially if knocked around.
    One you must trust the AF system, the other you must trust your eyes/RF system.
    I contend the G IS a rangefinder...just not a manual rangefinder.
  40. After years of wanting one of these, I finally pulled the trigger since prices are so low and got a G1 and 28/2.8 just yesterday. As to why it "failed", I'd say 1) Kyocera getting out of the camera business, and 2) digital.
    I look forward to using this camera, but I have to agree w/some of the previous posters...the thing is quite a bit louder than I remember/expected it to be.
  41. by the time yhe g-system had become known, respected, digital photography was building mpmentum.
    as a niche market brand, contax was trapped by insufficient brand presence, a competitor: leica, the most respected camera system in the world+brand fierce global brand marketing from jap brands.
    with 20/20 hindsight, kyocera had too many camera brands. yashica and kyocera brands had too many models. the total marketing spend across all this too thinly. same for technical resources.
    imo rhe G2 is an excellent camera. i used it alongside an m-system. different, brilliant. i am sure kyocera knew there was a market for a G3 digital. timing and resources needed, meant the end.after the N digital disaster, too big a risk. had they not tried to compete in the non-niche reflex market, used resources for a g3 unstead, we might have an ex[anding G system today.kyocera's then president, had to priorize shareholder value. just 1 year before his decision in 2005, he stated plans to double contax production. build new production in china for all kyoceras camera brands. predating the 2007 start of the current downturn, it was prophetic. less choice for camera-users. sad, of course.
    it wa

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