Zeiss Contax or Nikon S2 ?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by francesco_palombi, Oct 18, 2012.

  1. Hi,
    I'm thinking about buying a rangefinder.
    Reading around the website and looking at prices I ended up with these two models. Zeiss Contax and Nikon S2.
    Of course I thought about the Leica M3 but it's off budget.
    Even if different from the other two, I was thinking maybe a Bessa R2 too..
    What do you think? any suggestion?
  2. Competent Zeiss repairs are hard to source, and the best service has a 3 year wait list. It is a very precise camera, with a perhaps over-sophisticated shutter, but a not very nice viewfinder. They were over-engineered and under-manufactured.
    Nikon rangefinders are at least easier to repair. S2 viewfinder is somewhat nicer than Contax, you need a Nikon SP for a great viewfinder.
    Lenses for these two are not that common.
    A used M3 can be had for under $700 with some patience. Same for an M2. Either has an extraordinary viewfinder. Great selection of lenses, at a range of prices.
    Canon 7 is a great value, not as nice a viewfinder as an M Leica, but still quite fine. More modest is the Canon P, if you are happy with only 35mm, 50mm, and 100mm frame lines (all visible at once). Either limits you to LTM lenses.
    Used Bessa R2 or R3 are great value. Fine finder.
  3. SCL


    If you're a newbie on a budget, in addition to the cameras listed above, there are a lot of lesser known rangefinders with very good optics which cost a lot less. Most of them don't have interchangeable lenses.
  4. The Nikon S2, a very well made camera, borrowed a lot from the Contax design except the shutter. The Leica type shutter of the Nikon is more reliable and overall it is an easier camera to repair than the Zeiss. Available OEM optics for either, as mentioned, are not easy to find. Cosina made Nikon mount lenses for a period up to a few years ago and these might be easier to find. Certainly a Bessa R2 is an inexpensive and competent modern rangefinder with interchangeable lenses. I have never liked the clunky shutter of Cosina camera bodies, but that is a personal hang-up. Voigtlander-Cosina makes some nice optics for both LTM and M mounts as well as Nikon/Contax, as well as add on VFs. If you don't mind a squinty 50mm VF and separate but accurate RF window, the Leica IIIf is an extremely well made camera if you buy one in mint or excellent condition and that has been recently CLA'd. For what it's worth, I've used both the S2 and IIIf in low to moderate, but not heavy, usage, and have had no trouble with either.
  5. Thanks everyone.
    I think the Canon 7 looks kind of too big. Is it? I'm trying to find something that I can always carry around without any problem.
    Probably I'll end up with the Bessa cause a friend of mine can sell it to me for a good price. even though I'm still tempted by one of these other models..
    I'll probably go to check the cameras to adorama or bh to see how I feel them.
  6. If size is an issue, take a look at the Leica CL. Very compact. It uses M mount lenses or Leica screw mount lenses with readily available adapters. Has a built in meter. CL's originally came with a 40 mm f2 Summicron which is a fine lens. Two piece body so it is not as solid as M or screw mount Leicas. Usually cheaper for the same condition M and LTM series Leicas.
  7. Can you scape together enough for a Zeiss Ikon ZM?
  8. Any true screwmount Leica is quite compact, and not too heavy. The IIIa is a bit lighter and smaller than the IIIc and IIIf. But you only get a squinty 50mm viewfinder. The Canon bottom loaders are also very nice, a bit heavier than the Leicas.
    Good viewfinder optics are fairly bulky.
    The CL and CLE are indeed nice choices, more of a maintenance hassle in the long run than the Leica screwmounts.
  9. I own both. Both can be purchased with a Sonnar lens. The things that you should look at are the sun shades. Contax IIIa with 50mm f2.0 shade can be purchased inexpensively if you wand a modern generic. Original shades and filters are hard to find for both. The Contax IIIa had a meter. Make sure it is working and accurate or get one without a meter. The Nikon s2 does not come with a meter. The take up spool on the Contax is removable so make sure that one is present upon purchasing. They are easily broken or lost. Pay extra to buy from a reputable dealer as servicing on either one will run easily $200.
  10. Thanks so much guys.
    Today I was thinking about it a lot, and I understood that probably I would use this rangefinder camera often with 28mm or 35mm lenses..
    I don't know how comfortable is shooting with an external viewfinder and how much space takes.
    Damn, cause if so, the choices are all probably too expensive for me. Cause there would be the Nikon SP, the Leica M3, the Zeiss Ikon..All of those have the same range of prices. For the body I would like to spent maximum 500 usd. So i'm really thinking about the Bessa R2.
    What's your opinion about the external finder?
  11. I don't see that an S2 would be "budget". Aren't they pretty pricey?
  12. Yes, but with the S2 I would need an external viewfinder to shoot with a 28mm or 35mm lens.
  13. I use external viewfinders quite often with my M3 and wide angle lenses (21/4.0 and 28/3.5), when we travel. Those lenses can be scale-focused, i.e., I never use the rangefinder in the camera, but only the external finders. And that really is a joy. On the flip-side, they do have a tendency to fall off (especially in my bag :), so you will probably have to pay some attention to that, unless you get a combination of shoe/finder that fits snugly.
  14. I own pretty much every camera mentioned in this thread so far. Between the Contax IIA and Nikon S2, I would choose
    the Nikon hands-down. The Nikon has a better viewfinder with a bright line frame for 50mm lenses, and it has an
    incredibly reliable shutter mechanism. Also, it doesn't have a separate film take-up spool like the Contax. The Nikon
    S2 operates just as smoothly as a Leica M, and is usually more quiet. The standard lens for the Nikon is the Nikkor
    50mm f/1.4, which is fairly easy to find, and relatively inexpensive. The Nikkor lens is also a superb performer.

    Repairs for either camera need not be expensive. I sent a Contax II to Oleg in the Ukraine, and he did a brilliant job of
    replacing the shutter ribbons and doing a great CLA, and the cost was only $100 or so. I double checked the shutter
    on my own digital tester and found that his adjustments were spot on. I do like the Contax, but I don't care much for
    the viewfinder, the knob-style winder, or the easy-to-lose film spool.

    I generally use a Nikon rangefinder nowadays, my Leica M cameras are collecting dust...
  15. I'd only second the notion that RF cameras in the late 1960s into the early 70s were at their peak development. It is not necessary, but may be much fun, of course, to go with items that are much-sought after by collectors (and hence expensive). To be sure, many of the 60s RFs have fixed lenses, but these are often enough in the 40mm range--not so far off your 35mm target, anyhow. If you extend to scale-focusing, something like the Rollei 35s are also extraordinary.
    If you will look at some of these as posted frequently on the Classic Manual Cameras forum, you will see how pleasing the results can be. We (at least I speak for myself) were so busy chasing the SLRs that we failed to notice at the time.
  16. Francesco, I may be repeating some things already said, but if you intend to shoot mainly wide angle lenses then you may be comfortable with a Leica IIIf model which is relatively inexpensive interchangable optics body and a very smooth, quiet and rugged machine, which may be dated but is very compact and pleasurable to use. With an add on VF it is very useable, as Soeren has said in regard to use of wide angle optics.
    I use the generally accurate Voigtlander-Cosina VFs with mine as they are less expensive than equivalent used Leica finders. Although less quick to use with its separate viewer, the 1.5X magnified in-built rangefinder of the IIIf is as accurate or more so than the Bessa VF-RF. The downside is that you need separate VF's for each lens other than the 50mm, but that depends upon the range of optics you may want to use. I use mine with the inexpensive but fine 35mm f2.5 V-C lens (I think it was recently discontinued but still available) and the 75mm f2.5 V-C lens, with separate VF, occasionally with the superwide 12mm f5.6 V-C lens. Such a system, or another of differing lens choice, can be acquired gradually, of course. A lot depends upon the state of the camera body you find, and the price of the more recent used but modern construction V-C lenses, and your acceptance or not of a separate exposure meter (like with the S2 or Contax II cameras)
  17. A really old thread, but gets read every so often, so I'll add my two cents. Some people recommended the Leica IIIf here. I'd not go that way personally; knob advance, two finder windows, absolute cr@p film loading (AND you have to cut your film leader to even use it in this camera....). More of a nice camera to look at and fondle rather than use seriously. Almost as bad, but with lever wind is e.g. the Yashica YE. It is just as well made as the IIIf, but rarer (in case you want that serviced, go e.g. with Youxin Ye). The Contax II is ok: So-so finder, advance knob only and early models came without flash synchro. Not many shutter service people out there, as mentioned by others; I got mine serviced by Oleg as well. He did do a good job and I've really put mine through the wringer since, over 1000 rolls and not even a camera bag; it just bounces around in whatever I have and gets largely used in a humid marine and dusty desert environment. But that aside:
    So, I'd get a Nikon S2 or Canon 7 in a heartbeat, if you want a user friendly, great camera of that period. Truly wonderful and affordable.
  18. Having owned an S2 and a bunch of Leicas from M4 to M7, using them exclusively for nearly a decade, and now using a trio of Kievs from the 1950's, I would go with the latter. More bang for the buck, by a factor of 20 or 30 or more. A 50's Kiev in its' original box with 50mm lens and case, ect., cost less then $200, and that includes shipping from the Ukraine. The build quality of my samples (1952, 1957 and 1958) is outstanding. The Jupiter lenses (8, 9 and 12) are phenomenal. What I really like is the high contrast viewfinders though. I find the Kievs easier to focus compared to the old Leicas and the Nikon. Surprisingly I love the lack of frame lines. It really results in some creative shots, if only by accident.
    The Nikon S2 viewfinder is the pits. Don't understand how anybody can claim they're good. The Nikon rangefinder patch is awful.
    But what do I know. I prefer the Leicaflex SL to either the Nikon F and F2 and all the great internet experts say I'm wrong, so I'm probably wrong here too.
  19. I've owned both a Nikon S2 and Kiev II/Contax II. All the cameras were recently served. I did not like the Nikon. The rangefinder patch was beyond useless, though the Nikkor lens was nice.

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