Contax G1 with a Zeiss Planar 2/45mm

This time a beautiful Contax G1 found its way to me, accompanied by three legendary Zeiss lenses. All parts are in good shape, so let’s see what comes out when the first film is pushed through.

On the one side, the Contax G-System (i.e. the G1 and even more its sibling the G2) is said to be the world’s most advanced 35mm rangefinder camera system. On the other side its said that beside all its merits, it has its rough edges too. More on that later ;)

Here are the three stellar lenses I meant, starting with the Carl Zeiss Biogon 2.8/28mm …

… the Carl Zeiss Planar 2.0/45mm …

Contax Zeiss Planar 2/45mm

… and the Carl Zeiss Sonnar 2.8/90mm.

All three are rated as superb from a wide range of reviewers on the web – all far more experienced photographers than I will ever be ;)

But now, film is loaded and on we go – an Agfa Vista 200 will do the job.

The Contax G1 body has been reviewed on several web-locations – just check my website to name some – so there is no need to repeat. There are some points which are widely criticized – things like a hyper sensitive shutter button, a small viewfinder, too slow maximum shutter speed and an unreliable autofocus – so I’ll have an eye on these.

The first lens I’ll try is the Carl Zeiss Planar 2.0/45mm, which is said to be  one of the best lenses of all times.

Puh, … film is done and in the lab. In the meantime I can talk about how it went, shooting this combo.

To me, this camera is a little gem. It fits in the hand like it was made for … me. Reminds me somehow on its SLR sibling – the 159MM. All dials and switches and buttons are simply where they should be. As I was shooting in aperture priority mode with autofocus, the only thing to adjust was the aperture.

First point, the maximum shutter speed of 1/2000s was never an issue.

Shooting ISO 200 film there is plenty of room for adjustments for playing with depth of field. Using film with ISO 100 or ISO 400 or even ISO 800 makes it easy to work when the environment makes it necessary. I do not know how some claim this 1/2000s to be an issue – too slow and not fast enough. During their time, 1/2000s was not that bad, when most SLR and Rangefinder offered 1/1000s – and yes I know there were SLR offering 1/4000s already … at least some.

Maybe coming from modern DSLR or Mirrorless Cameras (I really like this term as it describes an object with its missing feature) with their maximum shutter speed of 1/4000s or 1/8000s or even electronic shutter with 1/32000s is somehow challenging for those old cameras, but really …. it’s nice having it, but who need this?

Second point, the hyper sensible shutter button.

When ‘half-pressed’, it triggers autofocus and autoexposure measurement. To call this ‘half-pressed’ is somewhat funny as you do not really need to ‘press’. I compare it more with the shutter button of my Minolta X-700, where a slight touch triggers the measurement. That’s it.

You get used to it the more you use it. Is this not the same with all things you learn? Learning to ride a bicycle is tricky in the beginning, but once you got it, it’s pretty easy for the rest of your life as you know how to keep the balance.

Third point, the autofocus.

I can remember my Yashica T5 which too has a central autofocus field only. Not having the intended object in this focus field gives a missed focus … lesson learned.

Same for my Canon AF35 MKII. Central autofocus field and if you miss your intended object it resulted in a missed focus … lesson learned. Easiest to be seen when shooting two people, framing that both are placed well and pointing the central focus field in the middle between them. Wow … get’s the background sharp and in focus then.

And yes, if you place vertical lines in this focus field it helps a lot. So there’s nothing special with it. Learn it and then do it – it’s like riding a bicycle. That the passive autofocus is not that good in really low light does not bear a big surprise. No contrast, no autofocus. If you keep this in mind, autofocus works like always – and it’s fast enough.

If you come from the digital age with your DSLR and Mirrorless Camera carrying trillions of focus points spread over the whole sensor and working with artificial intelligence like algorithms to auto detect everything … yes, then you perhaps might get a little bit lost with a single central focus field.

I learned, that many professional photographers often deactivate their autodetect everything autofocus and use the central focus field only. Guess why?

Fourth point, a small viewfinder … can we please skip this and go to the next point.

Indeed it’s small – the smallest I’ve ever seen, besides some very old cameras like my Zeiss Ikon Ercona II. Once you know how to best look through it (i.e. position your eye), you see all things necessary. The info panel on the bottom, the central autofocus field and the full frame (pun intended). Nothing more is needed to frame and focus.

Shure, if the viewfinder would be like on a Minolta Dynax 9 this would be fantastic (more on that in a later post). But finally it shows what it should and its successor made it better with a larger viewfinder – on the G2.

Next point … my conclusion:

If you can find one – get one and enjoy it.

Point one, two, three and four show to me that you do not need to worry using this camera. Those were the most criticized topics and none is a show stopper. The opposite is the case – this camera fells into hand as it was made for and it’s handling is so easy.

Besides all that technical stuff, this camera is a real beauty – as beautiful as a camera can be. To me, this is a wonderful piece of technology and worth being used to take pictures without any doubt.

In case you’d like to comment, it’s appreciated … and maybe, you want to visit my website or my flickr page too.

So long … and thanks for all the fish.

P.S. Just to mention, the full film can be found on flickr in colour and in black and white.

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