Contax Aria or NX ?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by Matus Kalisky, Jun 14, 2011.

  1. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    Hello, I am considering a travel 35mm slr. There are many options - one of them would be Contax Aria with 25/2.8, 35/2.8 and 85/2.8, or just the (unfortunately heavy, but very good) 28-85 zoom. So far so good.

    However I just realize that there is a rather forgotten Contax N system - few lenses and 2 cameras. But what got my attraction is the 24-85/3.5-4.5 zoom which is reportedly very good and it would cover my needs for the purpose intended. The 70-200/3.5-4.5 sounds interesting too.

    Aria with 25, 35 & 85 weights as much as NX with 24-85 and covers the same range, but the latter does not need to change lenses. The former is faster and is lighter in hand when shooting. With both systems one may add a 50/1.4 for low light.

    So - here I am with a few questions:

    1) How does the Aria and NX cameras compare from the user point of view? It seems that Aria has nicer (larger) viewfinder ...

    2) Would it be possible (with a help of adapter or permanent conversion) to mount the N 24-85 lens on the Aria? Generally speaking conversion of N mount to C/Y mount. That would be a great combination.

    3) How is the viewfinder & focusing screen of the NX? I would be fine with AF, but how does the system feels when focusing manually?

    4) and obligatory question - what would be your choice from the two? Why?

    thanks ..
     
  2. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    Before I would consider buying Contax/Yashica equipment I would think it wise do some research into the availability of service facilities and spare parts .
     
  3. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    I also use a long "dead" system with Zeiss lenses (Rolleiflex) and don't have sleepless nights over spare parts.
    Just don't spend too much on a body (probably a reason not to get the NX, as it's quite rare)...


    About the 25mm: avoid earlier versions (about pre-1985) as they use a different optical scheme and are quite soft. You might still find a poor later 25 sample, but when good is quite good.
    You might consider the 18mm instead. Lovely look and more of a difference compared to the 35mm (the 25mm is effectively a 26mm).

    My own Rollei light travel kit is the 18mm plus the 35 & 85 f/2.8.
    Apparently the latter two are optically slightly different in the C/Y version, but at least the ones I have are wonderful and small lenses.
     
  4. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I would go for the Aria, because there are so many more lenses and accessories available for the C/Y manual focus system, but if you can get your hands on both of them, give them a try in person before buying. To me, the Aria was too petite for my hands - I was used to the 167MT with the AA battery grip, and found at least one finger dangling off the bottom of the Aria which was uncomfortable for me. I never used an NX, so I can't say what they would feel like. Another option for the Aria would be a two-lens set-up: if memory serves, they did sell a 28-70 zoom that was compact and light weight, intended to go with the Aria, and then add the 85 f2.8.
     
  5. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    Thanks.

    The point about servicing is indeed valid, but I somehow learned to live with using nearly exclusively dead systems, so I would take the risk. After all - there are very few non-dead systems in film photography out there.

    - Rol_lei_nut -
    You mention that I should avoid the early 25/2.8 models - do you know approximately which serial numbers would that be?

    - TheFlyingCamera -
    I am aware of the lightweight zoom (28-70) which was introduced for the Aria, but reportedly its performance does not match the heavier and faster 28-85.

    I have checked the prices, weights and availability. Indeed the "N" system is not too plentiful, but both NX and 24-85 N can be found for about 350 Euro each. Not cheap but somegthing I would consider acceptable. Aria and 28-85 can be had for about 150 and 450 respectively what makes them comparable.

    For the camera body I would probably prefer the Aria, for the lens the N 24-85 as it goes wider and is lither - that would be the perfect combination - if it would be possible .. (is it?)

    So my further questions would be:

    4) How does Aria "feels" with the rather heavy 28-85 zoom? I have read that it does not balances too well, but how "usable" it is?

    5) Is there anybody out there who has experience with the NX and/or 24-85 N ?

    2) Back to the second question - any idea about the possible conversion of N mount to C/Y mount? I am really interested about that.
     
  6. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Yes, the 28-85 zoom in the C/Y mount is a real pig - very heavy lens, and it barely balances with an RX or RTS III.

    The lens mounts are pretty well incompatible. For one thing, the aperture control on the N/NX lenses is electronic, whereas on the C/Y lenses it's mechanical. Also, the Flange-to-Focal-Plane distance on the N lenses is greater than on the C/Y lenses, so you'd have to have a machinist make a mount adapter.
     
  7. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    Thanks - that is a start. But this would mean that some kind of C/Y-to-N adapter could be used and removing the N mount from the lens would probably not be necessary. The difference in control would most probably mean only stopped-down metering I guess ...
     
  8. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I don't think it would work - you'd have to always shoot wide open, as the aperture control is electromagnetic. There would be nothing to tell the lens that the shutter is about to fire, triggering the stop-down.
     
  9. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    Personally for travel I'd go rangefinder for compactness and smaller fast lenses. But the Contax SLR C/Y lenses are awesome (I have the 35/2.8 PC, 50/1.7, 60/2.8 MACRO, 85/1.4, and the 100-300/4.5-5.6). With the C/Y manual focus lenses you can use the lenses on digital cameras with adapters later (like the Sony NEX), not sure about the N-series stuff. Aria is nice and small and lightweight. Frankly I do not like it (too plasticky feeling and too light) much preferring my RX and RTS. If you're thinking almost pure mechanical consider a Yashica SLR body for real savings.

    And that's some pretty slow glass you're talking about. I'm sure that's for weight and cost but if you plan any low lighting shooting at dusk or even early evening with street lighting unless you're shooting fast film you'll be forced to hand-hold at 1/15th or less, which can work in a pinch for RF but you'll get soft shots otherwise. Personally I learned the hard way about carrying slow glass when traveling too often wishing I had just one or two more stops and ending up with some soft images as a result. I'd drop one lens and carry two faster ones at either end than carry three slow ones. But that's just me.

    -----------------
    Richard S.
    Albany, CA (San Francisco bay area)

    My Flickr River of photographs
    http://flickriver.com/photos/rich8155/popular-interesting/

    My Photography Website
    http://www.lightshadowandtone.com
     
  10. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    I see - I guess you are right. I have checked the webpage of conurus - guys that actually convert the N series contax lenses to Canon EOS while preserving the AF. It costs about $550 for the 24-85. And that is already developed product they offer. So even if possible I would guess it would not be economically feasible.

    - rich815 -
    You are right about the slowness of the lenses selected (though I would probably add a 50/1.4 to the setup for exactly that purpose), as well as about the usability of the rangefinder. In fact - I have used Bessa R3A in the past and use Mamiya 6 today (speak about slow lenses :smile: ). But I just recently used Minolta 7 and it was so nice and fast to use and focus - I just enjoyed using the SLR. I would also like to get some nice matrix metering (one of the plus points for Aria). I plan to shoot mostly slides and present them with projector - so the results should look 'out of the box'.
     
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  11. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    I don't have much solid information: just read an article about C/Y lenses where there was something to the effect that "Zeiss quietly improved the scheme of the 25mm around 1984".

    Plus my own experience with Rolleiflex-mount 25mm lenses is that I went through two earlier "Made in Germany" samples which were quite soft before finally getting a later "Made in Singapore" sample which is excellent.

    Whether that really means that the scheme was changed can certainly be debated.
    The C/Y 25mm also often got bad reviews, which I'm guessing is due to old versions, as my last Rollei one, as I mentioned, is excellent.
    Sample variation could also explain the situation, though that would be untypical for Zeiss.
     
  12. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    Understood, though personally I think "matrix" metering is over-rated. Some of my best slide work was years ago using Nikon FM2 and FE2. That said if you can find a good used Aria and better yet have time to get a CLA on it you'd be golden. If you have time consider maybe a C/Y to M42 adapter and a Pentax 50/1.4 Super-Takumar. Awesome lens and works great on my Contax bodies.
     
  13. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    The NX and the Aria have different lens mount. If I were to get the NX I might as well get the N1. I don't worry too much about parts although that the Contaxes are too expensive today.
     
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  15. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Frankly, if you want a Contax product to haul around as a travel camera, forget the SLRs altogether and get a G2 with 21, 28, 45 and 90 mm lenses. Those four are some of the best glass ever made, and they're light, compact and easy to work with. I have a G2 and a G1 as a backup camera plus those four lenses (and the 35mm f2, which is by no means a bad lens, but probably the weakest of the bunch). You will pry that kit, and my Rolleiflex, from my cold dead hands. Let me put it to you this way - I took the kit with me on vacation to Barcelona. When I got back, I sold some prints - that single sale paid for the G2 and the 21, plus some walking-around money. And that was just from snapshots!
     
  16. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    I new somebody will come up with the G2. You make a completely valid point. However - contrary to my expectations - once I have put down the numbers it comes out that 4 lens G2 kit weights about as much as Aria with 25, 35, 85 lenses (all f/2.8 though). And indeed the lenses are great (the 21 and 45 became legends)

    Surely - I consider the G2 strongly - but I just would like that SLR feel. So - the G2 is on the candidate list, but here I just wanted to discuss Contax SLRs

    I just keep telling myself that it is the photographer and not the camera that matters :tongue: . Seriously - I would actually love to sell a few prints here and then, just do not know where to start. But that is an entirely different topic.
     
  17. faustotesta

    faustotesta Member

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    The issue about service and spare parts must be considered. But i don't think it's that serious. I use contax from the early '90.
    My first 167 (heavily used for 18 years without any maintenance) has been working very well. A couple of years ago i bought another 167 from KEH ( 5 US$) in AS IS condition. Nowadays it's my main choice. In other words my advice is to get a Aria (i heard it's really good) and a spare mechanical body that can be serviced by a good repairman. I guess that a Contax S2 or a Yashica FX3 may last for, at least, the next 4 decades.
    I own both the S2 (beautiful camera. A pleasure to handle) anf the FX3. I bought this one a year ago for 50€ (brand new, boxed).
    The advice for lenses is more difficult (it depends much on your preferences/attitudes) . I don't like zooms. I use mainly the 35 2.8 and the 85 1.4. Should i make an "important" travel (and have some money to spend) i would get a 18 3.5 or, alternatively, would let at home the 35 and get a 28 2.8 (much cheaper). Good luck and let us know
     
  18. Matus Kalisky

    Matus Kalisky Member

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    Thanks. Should I decide to go with the Aria I would probably aim for the 25/2.8, 35/2.8 and 85/2.8 - as this would be my travel trio, but in a slower pace. Quite probably I would start with 50/1.7 to get accustomed with the camera before investing further. Also - I do my best to get as much information about the MM and AE versions of the lenses as it seems that some designs changed over the time (in particular the 25/2.8 and 50/1.7). On top of that there are not too many out there so haste is not an option. Rarity helps to fight the GAS :tongue:

    You mentioned the 18/3.5. How is it? Sounds like and interesting lens, but it seems hard to find and I guess it will be on the expensive side. The 85/1.4 is supposed to be a great lens, but it is more than double the weight of the 2.8 version. The 21/2.8 is supposed to be great, but is huge and costs more than 35/3.5 for 645. ...

    Concerning the camera - while I am primarily oriented to Aria because it is compact, light and rather recent, I am a bit confused about the rest (167, RX ST AX). As far as I understand the basic features are pretty much the same. 167 is really cheap and could be a good backup camera.

    Actually - what about the Yashica - I am curios both about the bodies and lenses. My understanding is that the bodies are manual only (no AE), but how is the build quality, user friendliness, viewfinder, etc compared to Contax cameras?
     
  19. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    The 85 1.4 is a big heavy lens, but worth the weight- the image quality from it blows away the 85 2.8. I took it with me to Cambodia and it ended up being one of my most-used lenses when I was there.

    The 167MT is a really nice camera because of the automation you can have if you want to. It has a little bit of motor drive (3fps), program, aperture and shutter priority exposure modes, and auto bracketing. The RX (which I also had) became my absolute favorite camera, even more than the 167. I loved the Digital Focus Indicator (DFI) with the depth-of-field indicator in the viewfinder. All the controls were beautifully designed and easy to use. The ST is somewhat like the RX minus the DFI, but I believe it also had the ceramic pressure plate (without the vacuum) of the RTS III. The AX is not worth considering for you as it is a total pig of a body- it auto-focused by shifting the film plane back and forth, which makes it fat and heavy. On the upside, you could do macro work to a certain degree with it without a bellows or tubes by setting the lens to minimum focus then using the camera's auto-focus feature to give you a bit more. But it was still a pig. Very un-ergonomic to use.
     
  20. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    Here I have to disagree, though my 85mm f/2.8 is the Rolleiflex version, which *may* be optically different from the C/Y version (a rumour I've heard, but have no concrete information about).

    The f/2.8 is as sharp and analytical as any lens out there. The f/1.4 excels in better Bokeh and perhaps a more 3-d look.

    But as an architecture/landscape lens, the f/2.8 is almost unbeatable.
    It is also a small fraction of the size and weight of the f/1.4.
     
  21. Jeff L

    Jeff L Subscriber

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    I have an 85 2.8 and find it to be an outstanding and very sharp lens. Hard to imagine not being totally satisfied and impressed with its image quality.
     
  22. faustotesta

    faustotesta Member

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    Street photography with Contax 167, 85 1.4, 100 iso film.
    The picture was taken with the diaphragm at 1.4.
    Forget this look (lights on the background, reduced depth of field) not ot mention the possibility to shot without tripod at night with a 100 iso film
    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]
     
  23. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

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    I have both the 85mm f/1.4 and f/2.8.

    While the f/1.4 can give a unique signature to some shots, I end up using the f/2.8 about 99% of the time.
    The f/2.8 could even be preferable for some uses because of its "high acutance" signature...
     
  24. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I'm not speaking solely of sharpness or resolution when I talk about image quality. I'm talking about the whole package - the "quality" of the image, which to me includes bokeh and 3-D effect. I never said the 2.8 was a bad, poor-quality lens.
     
  25. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    If I owned both that would be the case with me too. So that's why I only have the 1.4. ;-)
     
  26. Kiron Kid

    Kiron Kid Member

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    Sage advice. I have two buddies that had the ARIA model, and they were always in the repair shop, due to electronical malfunctions. They eventually ditched them and went with Nikon. They are quite happy not owning the Contax rigs anymore. Love the Nikons.