35mm Camera Review Camera Reviews Contax film camera German japanese Rangefinder

The Contax G1 Takes on the World

From my first foray into trendy movie images, I used to be confronted by the obvious supremacy of Leica and its M mount. But for some purpose, the Leica bug has by no means appeared to chew me. To start out, I’ve little interest in paying the prices that M our bodies and lenses demand (and even less capability to do so). But in addition the ubiquity of Leica-appreciation makes the cameras by some means uninteresting to me. That is, for my tastes, where Contax arises as the foremost competitor to Leica.

Informal Photophile has all the time been a place where a couple of quiet voices challenge unpopular takes which are evidence-based and hype-opposed. This results in occasional opinions which may seem intentionally contrarian. You’ll be able to see this in a few of our tongue-in-cheek articles, comparable to once we listed our least favorite cameras they usually ended up being conventional crowd favorites; Leica, the Mju II, and the AE-1, to name a couple of. Or the early-days article that heralded the Minolta CLE as the greatest M mount physique, an at-the-time controversial opinion that has grow to be more extensively accepted, or no less than begrudgingly tolerated. The point isn’t to stir up controversy. We just love unloved cameras, and finding value in something under-valued is certainly one of life’s great pleasures.

All of this factors us to as we speak’s writing, and the opinion I’m proffering within – that the Contax G1 is the greatest 35mm luxurious digital camera one should buy on at this time’s market. This opinion isn’t utterly wild, the G1 is understood to be an amazing digital camera. Nevertheless it does get slightly more controversial once I specify that I’m notably concentrating on its younger brother, the Contax G2. This runs in direct opposition to what almost everybody claims, that the G2 is the higher of the two without query.

In his evaluation of the G2 final yr, Informal Photophile founder James referred to as this interchangeable-lens autofocus rangefinder “a camera in a class of its own.” Some could be wont to recommend the Konica Hexar AF as a companion machine, but such a digital camera lacks the triangulation-focusing attribute of a rangefinder. To seek out an autofocus rangefinder digital camera, one can look only to the Contax G collection. On this means, the G1 and G2 are in their own area.

Off the line, the G1 good points a step on the G2. It prices substantially less cash to purchase at present. The place a G2 physique will retail for round $600, the G1 could be found for about $200, or $250 for a inexperienced label model (extra on this later). Which means it’s attainable to purchase the G1 and its most spectacular lens for less money than most G2 bodies sell for (and not using a lens). That’s exhausting to disregard.

That lens I referenced isn’t a bargain-basement bit of glass, either. It is, with out hyperbole, one among the greatest lenses ever made at a worth level far lower than anything ending in –lux or –cron. This lens is, in fact, the Carl Zeiss 45mm T* Planar, which James completely reviewed right here.

It’s uncontroversial to say that the G-mount Planar 45mm is considered one of the greatest lenses ever made for 35mm images. It’s on par with any lens made by Leica when it comes to construct and picture high quality. The lens makes use of what Contax referred to as a “spigot” mount, just like Canon’s breech-lock FD mount. Because of the brief 29mm flange-to-film distance (a few millimeter totally different than Leica’s M mount), Zeiss designers have been capable of construct a Planar with out typical mirror-box restraints. This brief flange focal distance is what makes rangefinder lens sometimes superior to their SLR counterparts.

I gained’t spend time rehashing all of what James stated in his evaluate of the lens, but the reality of the matter is that in capturing with the 45mm, you’re capturing with certainly one of the greatest lenses ever made, bar none. Even with that presupposition established, although, the G1 isn’t a positive guess. A lens means little if the digital camera or the capturing experience is terrible, and since we’re comparing the G1 with the G2, or a Leica, or perhaps a Voigtlander rangefinder body, it had higher be a pleasing shoot. Luckily for my argument, it is.

In This Case, The Earlier than Photograph is Better than the After

The G1’s physique is in many ways superior when in comparison with the G2. To start out, the G1 boasts a smaller, sleeker general package deal. When comparing the complete dimensionality, the G1 is available in at about 19mm smaller than its successor; the major difference being the 10mm difference in depth that makes the G1 a considerably thinner digital camera. It’s tempting to scoff at differences of minuscule millimeters on paper, however 10mm is a considerable difference in the arms. The G1 is just a much smaller digital camera.

The G1 additionally weighs less by three ounces, once more making it not just the tinier digital camera but in addition the nimbler digital camera. Why the additional measurement with the G2? Nicely, one level in favor of it is the added lively focusing system that constituted an obvious “marked” improvement over the G1 (more on this later). Otherwise though, there are a handful of design selections that went into the G2 that make it extra compartmentalized and, frankly, less consumer friendly from my perspective.

On the G1, only the prime plate of the digital camera is in play in relation to controls. On the G2 this is far from the case, and when really thought-about, this is very odd since the G2 was supposed to enhance upon the G1. An awesome instance of why it’s not clever to mess with perfection.

Let’s actually dig into the differences in controls between the two cameras. I hope you like details.

First, on the left of the Unique’s prime plate you discover two slim, oval buttons: one for ISO and one for drive mode choice. ISO is definitely manually set or routinely set using DX coding. The drive button rotates via single-frame, continuous-frame, timer, and multiple exposures (offering as many exposures of a single body as the photographer wishes).

On the G2, the drive mode button is reworked into a drive mode dial blocked away from the ISO selection button (which is now a spherical button with a type of shroud guard round it). We see on this one design selection that the G2 creates interruption the place the G1 possessed fluidity.

On the proper aspect of the Unique’s prime plate we find a hefty dial (the tallest on the plate and with the largest diameter) that controls shutter velocity selection, auto shutter, and exposure compensation for when the shutter is about to auto (offering plus and minus two stops in one-thirds increments – similar as the G2). Beneath this dial is a change for ABC (Automated Bracketing Control – when your digital camera shoots three exposures for a single body – one “properly” uncovered, one greater, and one lower).

Throughout the means from this dial is another dial that controls the autofocus choice and the guide focusing distances (this dial has a properly beveled prime). Each dials embrace a lock button at their centers for switching from the auto settings to the guide settings.  Lastly, on this right aspect is the on/off change that additionally consists of one step further for AEL (auto publicity lock) and the shutter release button (which also acts as the focus lock when depressed midway).

The G2 diverges from this setup by shifting things around and dealing with the fallout of added features (specifically steady autofocus during single-frame capturing, an impossibility with the G1). In this later model, the taller dial is now the smaller-by-diameter dial and only controls exposure compensation. The shorter, however larger-by-diameter dial controls the shutter velocity (each auto and guide settings) and is not beveled but slightly simply slightly sloped. (For a full rationalization of, and debate over beveled versus sloped dials, @ me in the comments). The shutter release and on/off change remain the similar between the two models.

To the place did the cherished manual-focus dial go? (Tongue-in-cheek, for what it’s value, as a result of I don’t know anybody that makes use of, not to mention makes use of persistently, the guide focusing talents of the Contax Gs). Nicely the focusing selector slipped down the backside of the digital camera and is now a dial that permits the photographer to pick MF, AF, or CAF and includes a button that permits for focus lock when CAF is chosen. The precise focusing dial has slipped down the frontside of the digital camera right into a vertical pocket, nevertheless it has no markings on it to indicate focus distance. As an alternative, guide focusing have to be accomplished completely in the viewfinder by aligning a marker with one other marker- I repeat, there are not any precise distance markings anyplace in the viewfinder or on the digital camera for guide focus.

Guide focusing with the G1 is actually surprisingly simpler. First, one can simply use zone focusing and switch the demarcated focus dial to the desired distance. For example, if you understand you’re capturing something distant, simply manually focus to infinity. On the different hand, if you already know you’ll be capturing a subject at two meters distance, simply flip the dial to two meters and hearth away. If you need the precision of turning the guide focus dial whereas watching the markers align in the viewfinder (indicating a match between measured distance and guide focus selection), you are able to do that too. Each are surprisingly straightforward.

When it comes to why the G2 needs a focus lock button separate from the half-depress shutter release method, the answer is nauseatingly difficult. With the G1, you’ll be able to solely “choose” AF or MF; you don’t get to choose continuous AF. Nevertheless, if you select continuous-frame as your drive mode, the G1 AF becomes CAF. So once you’ve received AF selected and you’re capturing single-frame mode, the focus will lock once you depress the shutter launch midway. If you’re capturing continuous mode, conversely, the focus won’t lock once you depress the shutter launch halfway however will as an alternative constantly autofocus as you alter the frame. In sum, the G1 has principally two AF choices.

Formulation G1a: single-frame mode, single autofocus and focus lock (with half-depression of the shutter launch button)

Components G1b: continuous-frame mode, steady autofocus (with half-depression of the shutter release button), no focus lock

On the different hand, as a result of the G2 introduces a selectable setting for CAF, there are more AF formulae.

Components G2a: single-frame mode, single autofocus and focus lock (with half-depression of the shutter release button)

Components G2b: single-frame mode, steady autofocus (with half-depression of the shutter release button), choice of focus lock with focus lock button pressed

Method G2c: continuous-frame mode, single autofocus and focus lock (with half-depression of the shutter launch button), successive exposures locked at unique focus

Components G2d: continuous-frame mode, steady autofocus (with half-depression of the shutter release button), choice of focus lock with focus lock button pressed

In my mind, nothing is gained over the unique G1 performance. It makes little sense to use CAF with single-frame mode (Components G2b) since you only have to focus as soon as per frame. It additionally makes little sense to use single autofocus with continuous-frame mode (Method G2c) as a result of then you definitely’ll simply be ripping via frames with out refocusing. It makes even much less sense to lock CAF when capturing continuous-frame mode (Components G2d) because then you definitely’re again to primarily capturing with a single focus.

All you actually need is a locking SAF for single-frame mode (Formulae G1a/G2a) and a non-locking CAF for continuous-frame mode (Formulae G1b/G2d), which is strictly what the G1 delivers. That approach if you take a single shot, the digital camera autofocuses for that single body. And if you need to quickly take many photographs, the digital camera will refocus as you shoot.

All of this unpacking constitutes a hell of lots of words merely to say that the G2 unnecessarily complicates issues in the identify of consumer management, however that consumer management is pointless. There’s some extent at which the addition of increasingly more consumer controls reaches some extent the place the diminishing returns are so small that they’re truly dangerous. This may be strongly evidenced by just how complicated the final part of this evaluate was.

At this level, we’ve established that the G1 prices lower than the G2, makes use of the similar fabled Planar, and is smaller, lighter, and more streamlined when it comes to controls. Where to next? In my thoughts, I still need to explicate the stand-alone great thing about this machine. And then there’s affirmation or debunking of the fable of its autofocus incapability (a commonly touted argument towards the digital camera). Further nonetheless is the actual capturing expertise, which conveniently ties in with the former two matters.

Sparkly Titanium – What extra might you need?

In the curiosity of complete disclosure, a lot of the proceeding fawning that I’ve lavished upon the G1 is fawning that’s equally applicable to the G2. Lots of the following accolades are shared between the two machines, however I’ll also present that the G1 stands apart even from its very comparable descendant.

The G1 is built on an aluminum chassis, making it mild however durable at the outset, but the real great thing about the digital camera comes in its titanium finish body. When compact and SLR cameras have been trending increasingly to thick, sturdy plastic, Kyocera took things a special course producing all-metal our bodies for their T and G collection cameras. The titanium is a stupendous champagne gold that effortlessly and subtly captures the metallic’s highest quality – its pearlescence. In truth, titanium oxide is utilized in paints and other merchandise to imbue them with the delicate sparkle unique to titanium.

In shiny mild, the digital camera actually glistens.

The Contax G1 features etchings or laser-etchings for all markings which might be on the foremost physique of the digital camera. The place “DRIVE” and “ISO” are simply barely engraved into the metallic, the larger “CONTAX G1” (in its proprietary styling) is deeper. There are seen, minuscule screws (they have to be about 1mm in diameter) on the digital camera’s prime plate. The electronic shutter is of the metal-bladed focal-plane sort. Each component of the digital camera oozes consideration to element and high quality.

The dials are really pinnacles of pleasurable use. The clicks of the shutter velocity/publicity compensation dial are agency with out being rough. The sides of the dials function a nice, coarse, straight knurl (those last two descriptors are official Knurl™ phrases), but in this case the knurl is cut up in the center horizontally throughout the dial. On this approach, the dials truly function two separate knurls stacked on prime of each other and separated by a thin groove. The dials additionally relaxation on a really, very slight pedestal on the floor of the prime plate. These tiny particulars can be described by some individuals as insignificant, however they’re not. Even when the variations they make in real-world use are statistically immeasurable, they exist. They assist my finger discover its option to the dial quicker or easier, or make turning the dials that much more pleasant. At the very least, they’re good to take a look at.

A standard trope among the Informal Photophile writers is that we take pleasure in speaking about issues like knurls and metallic finishes and engravings more than we like talking about digital camera specs. Properly, it’s a trope for a purpose. We’re real nerds for these things, and on the subject of the things that element and design nerds discover to be thrilling, the Contax G1 will get the whole lot right.

The lenses made for the G mount function the similar design decisions made in the digital camera physique. The lenses sometimes function multiple rings on their exteriors, though solely two serve a authentic function and just one has motion. The aperture ring has full-height, straight, coarse knurling round the ring save for the place the aperture markings are. The ring just prior to the aperture ring features the similar knurling for about 38mm segments opposite one another. This enables for a agency grip when mounting the lens.

One design aspect introduced by the G1 that the G2 promptly (and foolishly) squelched is the curves and angles featured on the again of the digital camera. In the G1, the movie door includes a straight edge on its prime dimension, however a cut up edge on its bottom where the door becomes narrower (by means of a diagonal line) just after the right fringe of the eyepiece. This symmetry is definitely missed, however demonstrates the care put into the design. It also provides angularity to an in any other case glossy digital camera. The curve I discussed is available in with the grip. The G1 and G2 function a matte plastic grip that wraps from the back of the digital camera round to the entrance. I’ll speak extra about how superb this grip is once I get into the capturing experience, but the part that issues right here is how the grip meets the metallic.

On the G2, the grip merely ends on an angle with a straight line. This is also the place the movie door narrows, dropping the symmetry with the eyepiece and making the door itself much less visually dynamic. These lackluster designs have been conveniently unnoticed of James’ lovely photographs of the G2. Luckily, the G1 doesn’t bear the similar errors of the G2; (it’s virtually as if the G2 messed this up and the G1 got here alongside to fix it…). On the G1, the grip comes to a swoop joint with the metallic door, producing a curvy yin-yang look. Once more, the G1 takes the cake for arresting, intentional design.

I might go on about the digital camera’s features and feels. I really like the oval movie preview window. There’s a diopter on the eyepiece for those of which might be imaginative and prescient impaired. The LCDs (whereas admittedly vulnerable to some leakage) give precisely the info vital and no extra. The digital camera is a marvel of ‘90s engineering. When different producers have been producing eyesores (albeit, functionally wonderful eyesores), Kyocera sought to supply trendy cameras that retained a sure timelessness of design. They succeeded, because the G1 seems high-end, even twenty-five years later.

Perhaps They’re the Drawback?

It’s widespread for film aficionados to remark that the G1’s autofocus system is “sloppy” (thank you, Ken Rockwell), “serious trouble” (thanks, James Tocchio), “slow” (thank you, B&H), and inaccurate (thank you, hundreds of forum specialists). I’ll grant these detractors the incontrovertible fact that the G2 added an lively AF system in addition to the G1’s passive AF system, which matter-of-factly assists with autofocusing. However is the G1’s autofocus system truly problematic? The reply is each sure and no, however the individual situations that make these straightforward answers true are as informative as the solutions themselves.

To get the heartbreak out of the approach shortly, the autofocus of the G1 can indeed be sluggish in sure instances, or more aptly, with sure lenses. The photographs I shot with the 90mm Sonnar lens on the G1 have been typically out of focus, particularly when capturing portraits, which is meant to be the function for a 90mm Sonnar design. It’s potential I simply wasn’t paying shut sufficient attention to where the digital camera targeted once I locked focus earlier than capturing, but I’m meticulous about checking this and never have issues with the 45mm lens. My take is that the digital camera simply had hassle at the narrower focal length. This will come as a blow to some, but given the supremacy of the 45mm lens, it did not dampen my spirits.

And for this reason I can equally argue the G1 is actually not problematic in relation to autofocusing. Out of many rolls of film shot on the G1 with the 45mm, I can rely on one hand the occasions it missed the focus, and these have been doubtless on account of quick capturing on my half. The reality of the matter is that in case you are conscientious about noting the focus as you compose and focus lock with the shutter release, you’ll not expertise focus problems using the 45mm lens.

Training oneself to observe the distance in the viewfinder is absolutely no work at all. Perhaps you favor capturing from the hip and intend to get crystal clear photographs each time from an AF system. I might recommend – no, not the G2 – but digital cameras. Film images is a thought-about process, even when utilizing an autofocus digital camera. The time it takes for me to see the distance it determines, maybe reset the focus a few times, and shoot the photograph is admittedly no time at all.

The ineffectiveness of the G1’s autofocus system is so grossly exaggerated that it has grow to be something I typically roll my eyes at once I see it espoused online. Don’t worry. The digital camera focuses properly, offered you’re capturing with (perhaps) the solely lens you have to be using.

This might be a superb moment to acknowledge the digital camera’s different deficiency, specifically, that it can’t accept each lens made for the G mount. The vary of G-mount lenses includes an entire set – the 16mm Hologon, the 21mm Biogon, the 28mm Biogon, the 35mm Planar, the 45mm Planar, the 90mm Sonnar, and the 35-70 Vario-Sonnar. Of this batch of seven lenses, the unique G1 might accept only 4, the 16, 28, 45, and 90mm lenses. Later or modified versions of the G1, the so-called “green label” G1 indicated by a literal inexperienced sticker where the film canister is inserted, might also accept the legendary 16mm lens and the 35mm lens. Unfortunately, the G1 is incapable of utilizing the Vario-Sonnar on account of the undeniable fact that the lens requires seven electrical-contacts to the G1’s five.

Aside from this slight downside (and for those who acquire a green-label G1, you’re batting over .800 anyway), the capturing expertise of the digital camera is second to no different autofocus digital camera. To reveal, let’s stroll by way of the expertise of capturing the G1 from start to end.

The Capturing Expertise

You wake up and keep in mind that you’re meeting pals for a stroll around your metropolis’s wonderful arts museum. You determine you’re in a mood to shoot the restrained effervescence of Portra 160, so that you pop open the G1’s movie door with a simple twist of the change on the left aspect of the digital camera.

You effortlessly insert the canister and pull the chief out to only slightly over the spool (marked properly by an orange line). You close the again. The digital camera winds the movie for you and nails it. However for those who tousled, by placing the leader to far in or not far enough in, the digital camera would flash double zeroes at you in the frame counter to indicate, “Hey, you made it so that I can’t do my job.”

You assume that it may be a bit darker than desired in the museum, so you modify the score from 160 to 320 with the hold and then single faucet of the ISO button.

You make your option to the museum on your city’s public transit. Your pal’s new child child is sleeping and holding the giant-in-comparison index finger of your good friend. You determine to it’s the good second to allow the 45mm to reveal its half-a-meter minimal focusing distance. As you carry the digital camera up to your eye, you first assume that the viewfinder is just too small, however you keep in mind studying in that 1994 function of the G1 in Widespread Images that it’s a Keplerian viewfinder which means it’s small, but nonetheless surprisingly shiny.

As you half-depress the shutter launch to focus on the intimate touch between your two pals, you’re stunned, as the viewfinder appears to zoom with the lens as the lens focuses. Identical to that, the viewfinder, which was already displaying the right finder subject in your 45mm Planar has now corrected for parallax error as nicely. It finds the focus simply because you deftly placed the middle marker on the contrast of vertical strains at the juncture of the small hand wrapped around the single finger. You recognize to do that because you learn the useful G1 pamphlet entitled “Useful Hints on focusing the lens [sic].”

Once the digital camera finds the focus, you keep it locked and reframe the shot. You complete the full press and the photograph’s taken. With the zip of the film advance, you’re ready to take another photograph.

You understand that you simply by chance smudged the focusing window of the digital camera, so you gently wipe off the smudge and ensure the window is clear and able to focus unobstructed. You determine to reap the benefits of the a number of exposure function, so with three clicks of the drive button, you’re set up to take your good friend’s profile towards a shiny sky followed by your full body of foliage. Compose, focus, shoot. Compose, focus, shoot. On the spot karma.

You’re strolling now and making an attempt to maintain up with the group. Because of the grip, which is by some means mushy but not rubber, your thumb finds straightforward help on the back of the digital camera and your middle finger finds a prefect resting place on the front, while your index is poised to shoot. With one hand—you’re still holding the museum map in the different—you increase the digital camera to your eye, shortly focus on the backs of your laughing associates 15 ft away, and also you shoot with one hand.

The digital camera never feels unfastened or susceptible to being dropped. It’s steady in your hand as you shoot. There’s no slap of the mirror. And in the mild draping in from the atrium glass, it discovered its focus distance in a matter of seconds. Not sufficient time to move out of focus. You understand the shot can be sharp, contrasty, and tickled with the pungency of the T* coating shade.

If you take your last shot (perhaps it’s indicated as frame thirty-seven in the body counter) and the digital camera immediately begins to rewind your film, leaving the chief out because of a setting you selected, you’ve gotten full confidence that inside that canister are thirty-seven photographs commemorating your day. Perhaps you got lazy once and that one shot of your good friend with their face filling the frame might be out of focus since you by chance composed with the middle mark to close to the background.

However the rest shall be precisely what you envisioned since you’re capturing with one among history’s greatest lenses on considered one of historical past’s coolest cameras and also you’re a badass photographer that saved tons of by preferring what those-in-the-know know is the better model anyway.

Want your personal Contax G1?

Find one on eBay

Find one at our own F Cease Cameras

Comply with Informal Photophile on Fb and Instagram