contax II / Kiev and IIa viewfinder difference

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by daveandiputra, Oct 9, 2010.

  1. daveandiputra

    daveandiputra Member

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    i'm currently using my first rangefinder a 1983 kiev 4a and enjoying it, even with it problems. one of the things that i find quite hard is the small viewfinder, and really having the chance to use a friend M8 recently it was very diffrent indeed. but admitedly i still love the feeling of the kiev / contax design compared to the leica.

    so i would like to ask to someone who used both the contaxes how does it compared?
     
  2. mrred

    mrred Subscriber

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    I have a 4a, vintage 1978. I just did a quick look on google for a Contax II and they literally look identical. I could only assume the viewfinder is identical too.

    I enjoy mine. Aside from my experiences in MF, I think it is the most important purchase I have made. It's the perfect size for walking around, perfect capability for the control I need, and I can shoot from the hip when needed.
     
  3. xxloverxx

    xxloverxx Member

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    From reading a few articles, the VFs are the same.
     
  4. daveandiputra

    daveandiputra Member

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    Just to be sure what I meant here is the II / kiev compared to the IIa?
     
  5. elekm

    elekm Member

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    The Contax IIa is mechanically a different camera, sharing no parts with the Contax II. The mount is identical, although not physically interchangeable between the two cameras.

    Being a 1950s camera, the viewfinder eyepiece is still rather small, especially when compared with a Leica M, the new Carl Zeiss Zeiss Ikon or any of the Cosina Voigtlander Bessa models.

    For many people, the viewfinder in the Contax IIa seems darker than the Contax II, and it has to do with the type of prism that the cameras used.

    I prefer the Contax IIa, mostly because of its smaller size.

    My own opinion is that if you find the viewfinder on the Contax II to be too small, you will also not be too happy with the viewfinder eyepiece on the Contax IIa.

    Here's the back of a Contax IIa.

    [​IMG]

    And the front of that same camera ...

    [​IMG]
     
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  6. Timestep

    Timestep Member

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    Look into a Nikon S2, which has a 50mm. 1:1 viewfinder. And has Contax layout.
    I still use one regularly.
     
  7. daveandiputra

    daveandiputra Member

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    That's exactly i want to find out Mike, so no go on the IIa then :smile:
    I wolud love to own one of the nikon S rangefinders, especially the legendary SP, but the prices are out of my league right now :smile:
     
  8. elekm

    elekm Member

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    If you're not tied into one brand, you could always look into a Cosina Voigtlander Bessa camera. They have excellent viewfinders and should be less than a Nikon SP. Some of the Nikon rangefinders are very expensive.

    One option: You could always use a small accessory viewfinder. Not perfect, of course, but just an option.
     
  9. daveandiputra

    daveandiputra Member

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    nothing about the bessas mike, but never liked their look :smile: i just love the contax kiev nikon style of design in a way..
    looking at the big bad bay, used nikon s2 sells for roughly the same as a new R2C, albeit maybe having a better viewfinder, i'll pick the S2 if i had the chance and money :smile:
    just constructed my DYI 35mm viewfinder for my soon to arrive J12, it's quite a hassle shifting eyes to focus and compose, hopefully the J12 DoF is wide enough for hyperfocal focusing..
     
  10. xxloverxx

    xxloverxx Member

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    I always found it to be enough. Enough so that I don't think I ever got a badly focused photo with it. Note that I almost never shot closer than 2m, but that I did shoot wide open quite a lot.
     
  11. RubenBitt

    RubenBitt Member

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    How to manipulate a Kiev and make it a challenger in the premier league

    My opinion is that the whole process to make a picture with a ZEISS KIEV or CONTAX is completely different from what we are used to, and the core of the difference is in the approach to the camera viewfinder.

    My starting point is the axiom that the camera must work with a mounted Turret or Universal finder, not just a single accessory finder, and in the following strict proceeding:

    a) Your winder is already wound from the last picture you made.

    b) You look through the Turret Finder to see if you have a possible picture, or to compose one, with the lens you have in your camera. Or, in contrast to many other cameras, to view if a different lens will make a better picture, without having to change lenses beforehand. So far we have a crystal clear Superb viewfinder to start with. Of course the Universal Turret Finder can be mounted in any camera, but it belongs to the Zeiss designers and Russian KMZ improvement.

    c) You meter the light with your light meter and get the exposure

    d) You adjust either the camera f/stop or speed.

    e) You meter the distance with the horrible viewfinder, which is dedicated to this action only, and set up your lens barrel. From this moment you will completely leave the lens, putting your left hand on the body. Otherwise you will ruin your distance metering

    f) You go back to the Turret finder with all the adjustments already set up, and you find your former view, or recompose the picture with all settings already made

    g) You shoot, and wind for the next picture.

    Get your Kiev, mount your Turret and follow in dry the process, and everything will make sense as the most logical proceeding, taking advantage of all of the Zeiss Ikon design.

    Once you part from the body viewfinder as the one to compose with, working with the versatile and crystal clear Turret Finder as your main window, and limiting the horrible viewfinder to make the distance metering only, it will give you an overall edge over many other system rangefinder, new or old.

    With this approach to the viewfinder, once the main obstacle has been removed, we can start to see again our camera in its proper perspective. A ca,era is for taking pictures in the same way that butter is to spread over a toast. You can enjoy up to full happiness in paradise with how the parts of the Contax have been made so extraordinary well, better than any rangefinder up to day, but you should not forget that a precision camera is first of all in its very design, not in its parts as single pieces. This is what the Kiev is all about, once it has passed through a quality overhaul. Newer system cameras with less ambitious design will all fall behind.

    First, notice while your Turret is mounted on the camera, that with some practice this method can be performed faster, although never as fast as with a winding lever camera. But all in all, we obtain an extremely accurate picture with a crystal clear Superb finder.
    .
    The second edge of the Zeiss Ikon rangefinder has always been in its widest base length, giving the camera a capacity to mount teles as wide angle lenses, and focus either at the shortest distance as well as infinity, with the widest lens aperture. Perhaps the Leica is the only system camera can do it as accurately. I do not know.

    The third edge of the Zeiss design is in its super silent shutter, able to surpass even a Leica camera. You may not believe it concerning a Kiev, make your tests. This edge is not only in your ability to shoot silently, but it has a dramatic consequence, giving the Zeiss design its fourth edge, the lowest vibration shutter mechanism.

    This lowest vibration mechanism enables us either cut in half the ISO of your film, or the f/stop you use. It is the vibration factor, a different one from the mere silent one.

    Are you used to shoot with ISO 400 ?, with the Zeiss Ikon Kiev or Contax you are able to cut it into half, ISO 200. If you want it, this lowest vibration factor is alike to what we call today Image Stabilization.

    Of course that in order to make the most of our Kiev (or Contax), we will have to send the camera to a very serious overhaul. .Despite its shortcomings, Kievs have lasted for 70 years and can last another 70. Not the case with polycarbonate or electric and digital circuits.
     
  12. elekm

    elekm Member

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    I've used the Contax IIa for a number of years (since 2001), and I've really grown to love this camera.

    I don't find the small eyepiece to be a problem, and I like the smaller body of the Contax IIa.

    As RubenBitt points out above, once you expand beyond the 50mm lens, then you have to rely on external viewfinders. The turret finder is the most versatile, although I really like the boxy ones for 35mm and 21mm.

    I probably wouldn't dismiss the Contax IIa as a user because of the smaller eyepiece. After you use it a while, you don't even notice it.
     
  13. RubenBitt

    RubenBitt Member

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    Well, this is the opposite of what I a was saying. The issue about cameras in my opinion, is never about "what I am doing with it", or "I do no need it anyway", but about the intrinsic possibilities built in. My thesis is that the small horrible viewfinder at the left has not been built at all to be The viewfinder. It also doesn't make much sense to assume that that was the potential viewing that the Zeiss designers meant to be used, beyond metering distance. Although I am not a church priest.

    May claim is that once you make the Universal Finder as your main one to work with, EVEN FOR THE 50MM, and not as a simple auxiliary for other lenses, like you say, and you do not leave the UF in your bag,the whole camera starts to make sense as a first rate versatile camera for our days too. This, among other thing, was the superiority of the Contax over any other camera using frame lines, the Leica foremost, and today the Bessas.

    This is why Stephen Ghandy derogates the Contax versus his Cosinas with its "bright' viewfinder, while his Cosinas cannot be effective for longer lenses than 95mm, and the frame lines viewfinder never able to match the versatility of the Universal Finder. And this is Ghandy dfefiinition of the Contax base length as "gargutean" . Not that he does it intentionally, of course. He is a great Personality.

    Also, as much as I tried to, the darker image projected by the distance metering finder. is very much alike the 4/3 size of our days, while film is of wider proportion. Working with the distance metering finder of the left side as THE ONE to compose and shoot, makes the shooting faster, but it belongs to the category of how "I use the camera". This is the widespread use of the metering finder, and this way using the metering window has make the Contaxes more of a one-lens-camera.

    Using instead the Universal Finder, EVEN FOR THE 50MM LENS, makes the 50mm more effective. and changing lenses even more effective than changing lenses in an SLR or DSLR, although of course zooms are not possible, in contrast to the SLR, being the SLR a far leap in camera development.

    Of course as well that a one-lens user, and in the case of the Contax being a Standard Single-Lens Shooter, changes somewhat the perspective, at the expense of brightness, and composition.

    In Photography nothing is sacred, and this includes the use of the distance metering finder, or a dedicated finder for a 50mm for a single lens user.

    Therefore Mike is not "mistaken" in his approach to the distance metering finder, suiting his style and needs. But this belongs to the category of "how I use" the camera, not about the intrinsic built in potential of the camera built in to give far more and better possibilities.

    For years I have been breaking my head about how can it be possible the finder metering window is the one designed to compose, being the Zeiss designers so revolutionary skilled. For years I have been writing about the need to find the sense of the camera at its time, as how this marve was intended to use. For me at least this approach makes the sense of the whole.
    Nevertheless still I may be wrong, and my interpretation is another "how I use it". In Photography, like in every Art, nothing is sacred.
     
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  14. giannisg2004

    giannisg2004 Member

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    That is plain wrong.
    The whole purpose of the Contax is that it has a combined viewfinder/rangefinder.
    That's the most major advantage over the III Leicas. The raison d'être of the camera.
    It was a huge deal in the '40's.
    And it is what made Leica built the M3. And the reason the M3 was so much more successful than, say, the IIIf, despite being bigger and heavier and requiring a new mount.

    I agree that the viewing experience is better with an external finder.
    But having a bright and versatile combined finder is a huge user experience + practicality boost.
     
  15. mrred

    mrred Subscriber

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    I use my Kiev4a because it is (for me) a return to simple. The rangefinder is the minimum feature for me to use a camera. That said, to use an external viewer and / or meter would lessen the experience to the point I would not use the camera.

    Rubin, the amount of steps you list makes my eyes roll back into my head. I would rather take the time to ponder my compose and assess the light. Then I can just point and shoot.
     
  16. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    To be fair, the Contax should be compared to the Barnack-type Leicas. Keep in mind that the Contax II was introduced in 1936, and the Kiev is a direct clone of it - to the point that a damaged Contax RF prism can be replaced with one from a Kiev.
    I find the Contax/Kiev VF to be very useable, much better than the coeval Leica; and the C/K rangefinder is the best I've ever seem on a 35mm camera.
     
  17. giannisg2004

    giannisg2004 Member

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    Totally agree.
    That's why the combined vf/rf is a huge deal.
    If you take that out, why not use the lighter and more compact Leicas?

    Also, the notion (of the other guy) that the vf/rf was meant to be used only for rf focusing and not composing, is totally misguided.
    If it was true, they would have used an 1x magnification (so the effective rf baselength would increase), for even more accurate focusing.
    They didn't do so, because they needed the vf to have a 50mm FoV so it can be used for *composing* as well.
     
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  18. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Because they're Leicas!:laugh:
    Actually I have a Canon IIb ca. 1950 with the single-window VF/RF and three finder magnifications, this too is a big step forward from the Leitz finders although it is still pretty dismal. I'm thinking of getting a IIIc in fixer-upper condition, too, mainly because they are so pocketable with a collapsible 50. Any of these view/rangefinders are quite useable with a little patience and practice - that really is the key when you are using cameras that are as much relics as anything else, don't lose sight of the fact that they are just as good a photographic tool as they ever were and you can get a great deal of enjoyment out of any of them.
     
  19. RubenBitt

    RubenBitt Member

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    After checking the data, I find myself mistaken. Viewing and range finding in a single step for the standard lens was the intention of Zeiss. My way is the one who belongs to the category of "how I use it". It's personal preference.
     
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  20. giannisg2004

    giannisg2004 Member

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    Oh, that too! :D
    Zeiss glass from that time is awesome as well, definitely a notch up from Leica.
    And with that baselength, you can focus the f/1.5 Sonnar and the teles very easy and accurately.

    I agree with most that you said.
    I like the IIIc and its ilk for being very compact. Probably very good with wides, that you use an external VF anyway.

    And I like the Contax II for its baselength, the combined vf/rf, and the lenses.
     
  21. Kevininsky

    Kevininsky Member

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    I recently bought a Kiev 4am and Kiev 2a. Thus far I have Helios 103, Jupiter 8 and Jupiter 12 lenses to use with them.
    When using the Jupiter 12 (35mm) I use the KMZ 35mm aux viewfinder, and it is fantastic. It seems completely natural to compose/frame using the aux, then use the rangefinder to focus.
    I find myself wishing for a 50mm aux (or UF), just for the clearer view--especially in dim light. Pretty sure there will also be an 85mm aux viewfinder in my future, along with a Jupiter 9.
    These things all work very well together. Nothing is really "wrong" with the combination viewfinder/rangefinder (for 50mm lenses), but an aux VF is a serious enhancement to the system.
     
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