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Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by msbarnes, Oct 26, 2011.
would you consider it reliable?
Which version there are three, they are all old models and the electronics are most likely becomming unreliable. Love the lenses though.
The RTS III is not THAT old. They should be good for at least another decade. An original RTS would be a bit dicey though.
RTS I. I'd prefer an all-mechanical body but I'm considering a Contax because I hear that the lenses are just amazing. I'm not sure if the Yashica is any better...
The RTS II had a better shutter than the original RTS as it was quartz controlled, but did have a manual option for 1/60th if the battery failed. I think the RTS-II is likely the best compromise. I think ALL the contax cameras suffered from mirror slippage though.... Over the years, the glue used to fix the mirror would soften causing the mirror to gradually slide off its mount. Eventually, it can cause problems. I've never had it in any of the bodies I've owned.... Or rather if it's there, it's not been a problem. I have heard of some folks stating the mirror hits the rear on some lenses.... Apparently, the mirror slip problem was fixed with the Aria.
167, RTS-III, RX, AX bodies all suffered with LCD bleeding a lot of the time too.
The saving grace with Contax, is the glass. What more can be said about T* coated Zeiss lenses? Especially the 85mm F1.4 planar !!!
They did make one purely mechanical model ("S"?) which "might" avoid any electronic problems.
Most of the same lenses are also available Rolleiflex SLRs and there are some mechanical models there too...
Ask if you want a rundown of the pros & cons of the Rolleiflexes.
I'll grant that it is a non-representative and statistically insignificant sample but I did have two 167MTs and an RX, got to regularly play with an RTS III, an AX and a ST, and currently have a G1 and a G2, and have had no LCD bleeding on any of them. The G's are infamous for it though. The AX would be my least favorite of the bunch because the ergonomics sucked (that is one FAT camera) and the notion of moving the film plane to achieve focus worries me no end. I would have the greatest doubt about the long-term viability of the AX of any Contax camera. I've never heard about the mirror slippage before - that's odd. The only strange bit I ever had happen to one of my 167's was the clip that holds the focusing screen broke, naturally while I was in Belize, and I had to jury-rig it with a bit of scotch tape from the hotel front desk. Somehow I managed to get it in the right position, as none of my images were out of focus.
For a few bucks you can get some Yashica FX3s as spares. They are metal framed mechanical cameras, easy to service, in expensive and, of course take the same lenses.
I agree with the FX-3. A simple mechanical camera that seems to be a workhorse and very reliable. I've got 2 bodies, one that was really abused by its prior owner and it just keeps on clicking along. Prices for these are low as they are simple, battery only for the meter, metal flange rather than plastic, a nice balance and, for my hands everything falls just where it should. Biggest weakness is the outer covering that peels away. I bought some scrap leather and made a crude replacement and the online companies do make replacements. Save the buscks and put it into the glass. While the Contax glass is 1st rate, the Yashica glass is nothing to sneeze at and they are quite inexpensive.
I had an RTS 1 that died about 1996. Can't quite remember the sequence but basically was working one day and the next time I picked it up to use it, nothing functioned as if the battery died but that wasn't it. Up to that point I had no issues.
I sent it to Yashica Canada for repairs, they had no parts and couldn't fix it so offered me an upgrade to an RX for what repairs would have cost. So far, no issues with that body. Since then I picked up an Aria and an RTS III as prices dropped to giveaway levels and both have performed well. The RTS III was well used but seems none the worse.
From what I remember of my RTS 1, it seems like the mechanical quality got better with the later bodies.
As Rol_ei_nut mentions, there was a fully mechanical Contax body (Contax S2) but it was pretty rare and was always expensive. Never had an FX3 but that would be a good non-electronic option.
Before the RTS 1, my 1st body for the Contax lenses was a Yashica FR - it too died, seem to be the electronics. My impression was that the FR and RTS bodies were siblings so likely shared some parts, or at least engineering even though the skin looked different. Sort of like Chevy/Pontiac.
I really like my RTS II. Still going strong. My RTS III is in Japan at Kyocera for repairs right now. Both great cameras, the RTS III is magic though.
I have used two RTS bodies for 20 years before I changed to Arias. They never gave me a single problem. And as said the lenses are superb. Stil going strong on the Aria I have left now. That camera is lighter though and has more modern electronics which ultimately is the reason I switched to it.
I shot the RTS and RTSII for about 5 years and never had a problem with any of them in any regard. Great cameras in my opinion.
I have every Contax from my original RTS bought in 1977 through to the later models such as the AX, RTSIII and now even an Aria (still hate its logo though). I am still using the RTS and RTSII with the 5fps drive and occasionally the 250 back. The original RTS was last serviced 8 years ago and has still not missed a beat. However, if they do have a problem with their electronics, they're dead. I have bought about a dozen RTS/RTSII bodies with varying faults for spares and you can also buy the Yashica FR1 for its shutter which is the same Sugaya ytpe as in the RTS, but not calibrated beyond 1:1000 sec. If your passion is the Zeiss lenses, then save your money and buy either a Yashica FX3 Super or if you can afford it, the Contax S2 or better still the S2b; these all have mechanical shutters and only require a battery for metering. The essential difference between the S2 and S2b is that the S2 only offers spot-metering - both of these cameras have a top speed of 1:4000 whereas the Yashica FX-3 has 1:1000 and the FX-3 Super/FX-3 2000 has the higher 1:2000 top speed. There is a further alternative for C/Y lenses and is the most recent camera produced with the mount - the Braun SR2000Y which is in essence a rebadged Yashica FX3 Super. If you are still keen to get an RTS (and who would blame you) try instead to get the RTS Fundus (it's the Scientific version) if it's in good condition as these had a few extra advantages over the RTS (protection for the shutter button, a lock for the shutter speed dial and a better mirror damper) - an RTSII offers you the mechanical fail-safe of 1:60th sec and has more robust electronics. The RTSIII is in a league of its own with its vacuum film back to get the best out of the Zeiss lenses and amazing build quality.
If it was up to me, I'd buy the Yashica and use the money you'd save to buy an extra Zeiss lens!
I purchased a well used (pretty well brassed and slightly dented ;>) ) RTS in June of 1999. It had an issue with the film advance as purchased but after having it fixed (I live in Illinois if you are interested in the shop) it has worked flawlessly. I did replace the light seals myself at the same time. For a good 10 years I used it with a winder for most situations, but I have been using a Canon Elan 7ne with an adapter the last few years for sports because of the faster film advance. The RTS is still my main "walking around" camera and I put about 15-20 rolls a year through it. I would choose it for a shot I had to get over the Elan. I did pick up a backup RTS cheap (it was missing the battery cover) but have used it sparingly after making a new cover as the first one has had no issues. Finally, Yashica FX-2s can be had for very low prices and are decent fully mechanical backups for using your Contax lenses. (The Yashica ML line is awfully nice too.) One last thing. Any lens you get with an RTS will probably not operate in shutter priority mode if you purchase one of the newer bodies.
My first Contax camera was 176MT which died on me - electronic problem. Then 139Q and it too had electronic problem so I sold it.
Then I bought an RTS. I liked it very much so I bought an RTS II which came with mirror slip ..
Not as reliable as my Nikon F2 and F3 but Contax cameras are easily the best picture takers.
I have an original RTS that works beautifully. My understanding is that the insides are neater, cleaner, on the RTS II. But both have gold contacts. The RTS uses a cloth shutter curtain while the RTS II has the titanium, vertical curtain. I have an RTS II as well, and the most noticeable difference between it and my RTS, is the viewfinder. You can see more through it on the RTS II. I probably use my RTS more often mostly because I got it first. They are both a pleasure to use.
Have an FX-3 and FX-2 as backup bodies. They are both solid and reliable. I had a Contax S2 for a while. It was the camera I learned on. The FX-3 reminds me very much of the S2. Whatever build differences exist between the two, you won't notice them for many years. The S2 had a spot meter, which takes a microsecond more to use when you're shooting street scenes. Someone told me once that the S2 was built to a tolerance that ensures it will function perfectly through 20,000 shutter actuations; the Fx-3 through 5,000 actuations. I don't know if this is true, and while I sometimes miss my S2, it was not as much fun to use as the RTS or RTS II.
Sorry if that was confusing ... I tend to wander (both when writing and photographing!!)
I realize this post is several months old. What did you end up getting?
Yes, with a few caveats. There are a few known problems, some of which apply to earlier cameras, while others plague all bodies (i.e., mirror slip, degrading light seals including the internal ones in the RTS II -- a very serious problem, by the way, as it can cause shutter problems or even damage, even in little-used bodies, and intermittent problems at temperatures far below freezing).
Several improvements were made during the production of both the RTS and the RTS II. To the original RTS, they later added a brake to one of the gears under the base plate. The winding mechanism of the RTS II was upgraded at some point by a sturdier sector gear assembly (coupled with a smaller A gear) with a metal pin instead of a plastic one and a few additional parts. I've also noted some differences in the electronic components on the main PCB, but I can't tell which are the more reliable ones. Luckily I've never come across any electronic problem in a Contax. The most common electrical problem I read about is battery drain.
I currently own and use three RTS II bodies, which I service myself (being a mere self-taught enthusiast). A slipped mirror can be reattached relatively easily. Any half-capable technician can do it. The internal light seal can be replaced after removing the mirror box, which takes quite a lot of work, but isn't terribly difficult either. A common source of problems is the main release magnet being dirty (located under the mirror box). The same applies to the shutter magnet on the winding side of the shutter assembly, which is susceptible to contamination from the adjacent decomposing internal light seal. Some cameras require cleaning and lubrication (e.g., gears and ball bearings in the winding mechanism under the top cover or the rotary limit guides and levers at the bottom of the shutter shafts). Of course, there are several other things that can go wrong; for example, the aperture indicator in the viewfinder, but these are seldom irreparable. The repair manual, at least for the RTS II, can be downloaded for free. I encourage camera technicians to embrace these wonderful, durable, extremely high quality cameras. It is an awful shame that many are not being maintained as they should be.
I love RTS IIs very much and regard them as true workhorses when they are cared for properly. Still, this hasn't stopped me from acquiring the S2, which I find to be vastly superior to the Yashica FX-3 in every way.
Can't speak on the reliability of the RTS, however I've owned a couple of 137 MA's (that's the one with the built in motor drive) for a very long time with no issues. My oldest 137 (purchased in '83) developed some shutter issues, and rather than get it repaired, I just got another on e bay for $75 with an outrageously sharp Yashica 50mm macro lens and dedicated flash--a fantastic bargain! Although I like Zeiss glass, I've never purchased it for the Contax. I've been using Tamron and Yashica glass with excellent results. I like the Contax because it is a fast handling and responsive unit. It's been my favorite 35mm SLR for those reasons.
Can not imagine buying a Contax body and not using the Zeiss glass. I'd rather buy a Yashica and have the Zeiss glass as after all, the glass is what is most important provided the film plane of the camera is flat.
FRDRX ... have you torn down your S2, clinically, I mean, as a technician?
If so, I would imagine you found brass gears where the FX-3 has plastic, and bearings where the FX-3 has bushings. These are "vastly superior" traits, I agree. The S2 also has the titanium body with a brushed finish and no covering to wear out. I won't deny that it's a wonderful camera to own. But the FX-3 is just as enjoyable to use. It uses the same configurations and control placement, a very similar shutter release button. In fact, I would not be surprised if the shutter release button was interchangeable between the FX-3 and S2.
All this that I'm saying, of course, I would not have believed if someone had said it to me when I was learning on my S2. In fact, I was pretty highbrow about my camera and may well have scoffed. I'm a bit more weathered and mature now (although, as my girlfriend frequently suggests, not by much).
The FX-3 has a snappy, very accurate shutter that responds and even sounds like the shutter on the S2. I doubt, however, that the FX-3 uses the S2's titanium shutter curtain.
I guess my point is that, from a casual user's perspective, the FX-3 is almost an equal of the S2. If you plan to use one camera for the rest of your life, the S2 is undoubtedly a better choice. It's made from better material using better engineering. But the build quality itself is not necessarily any better than the FX-3.
I started with the S2 and it's the camera that opened my eyes to the pleasure of Contax precision, and the Distagon 28 2.8 and Tessar 45 that I attached to the S2 learned me on the merits of Zeiss glass.
I came to the RTS and RTS II, and the Yashica bodies, much later. All of that being said, the FX-3 is a fine camera body that has a reputation for functional dependability, for a reason. It's also available to the common shooter at non-collector prices.
One very noteworthy difference between the S2 and the FX-3, is the shutter advance. The S2 has one of the finest shutter advances I've ever used. It feels very much like my RTS (although slightly different from my RTS II, believe it or not). The FX-3 shutter advance feels a bit chintzy by comparison.
And now that I'm onto shutter advances ... does anyone else have a favorite? The RTS / S2 would have to be my favorite. Smooth and assuring. Just the right amount of resistance. If you know what I'm saying then you're a camera geek, too! Yes! Yay for analog geeks in a digital world!
Besides the faster shutter on the RTS, what else makes it different (or better) than the Yashica FR II? Just curious if it is worthwhile to upgrade. I had a 137MD that I was very fond of, that has been my only Contax body so far.
The RTS had mirror lock up and different ergonomics. Both the RTS and FR series were eccellent cameras. The FR1 being the closest in features. Different strokes for different folks. Choose the one you like.
I wonder if you could replace the plastic gears and bushings with the brass gears and bearings from the S2. If so, sounds like a killer long term body as it is so reliablee to begin with.
One of my bodies is a hangup when advancing the film. It starts to advance and then freezes. I release the advance lever and then push the advance lever with some pressure and it will advance and the framing on the film is pretty consistent. If bodies were not so inexpensive I'd probably have it looked at but, I simply use it for the backup on my other FX-3.
No, pstake, I haven't taken apart the S2 beyond removing the base plate, so I cannot comment on any possible differences regarding bushings and gears. I have, however, looked thoroughly at the innards of my Yashica, and, in my opinion, its construction is very good. Under the base plate, the S2 is very similar to the FX3 (including the plastic gears of the self-timer mech), indicating that, indeed, these cameras have a lot in common (which is a good thing because the FX-3 is a simple and proven design). My comment about the superiority of the S2 concerned the user experience.
Besides the faster shutter, titanium finish and metal external parts, the Contax has a vastly viewfinder (with a pentaprism instead of a pentamirror) with a very nice shutter speed readout as opposed to the lousy + o - LEDs on the Yashica. The Contax also has depth-of-field preview, which is very important for me. The difference is very similar to the difference between the Contax 139Q and the Yashica FX-D. Not that I don't enjoy using my Yashicas, I just like Contax bodies a lot better (in line with the intention of the manufacturer), though I fully agree with your praise for the FX-3. I'm also very fond of Yashica lenses, although I don't own any at the moment -- something I have to correct.
I guess I can say that the FX-3 is great and similar to the S2, but the S2 is still a vast improvement (mainly thanks to the viewfinder and metal exterior).
You're of course right that the S2 does not have titanium shutter blades. Who uttered this nonsense? It has aluminium alloy blades similar or identical to those used in the Nikon FM2n and also similar to those used in the Yashica FX-3 (and many other cameras).
As for the feeling and sound of the winding mechanism, my all-time favourite is the RTS II (especially one that is lubricated well). Each time I cock its shutter, it feels like a very special moment.