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Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by kivis, Sep 4, 2012.
I might regret this but if one were just diving into Contax SLR's, which would you recommend?
RTS II or III ... Or an RX
S2b if you can find and afford it. Full mechanical but with the center-weighted meter (similar to the RTS II). The S2 has a spot meter, which is fine once you learn to meter and adjust quickly. Center-weighted is a better all-purpose metering system in my opinion. Hand meters can be used in cases where a spot meter is a better choice.
Second to the S2b, an RTS or RTS II.
Some of my qualifications:
I started in photography with an S2, and currently use an RTS as my main shooter (I'm sure I will be taunted for using the word "shooter" even in context), as well as a Yashica FX-2. I also have and use an RTS II (special occasion), 139Q (when I feel like it) and a Yashica FX-3 Super 2000 (backup camera.)
The RTS II has the most features and is a tank. The RTS is a tank, has a great meter and shutter release but no AE lock. The 139Q is small and has features that sort of fall in between the RTS and RTS II. IMHO, the 139Q is an under-appreciated little beauty.
There's nothing wrong with the Yashica bodies, though.
End of sermon.
Let us know what you decide!
I bought a brand new Contax 139 back in the early 80's. It was a great little camera. The only thing bad about it was that the leatherette covering on it fell apart in a few years so I replaced it with an aftermarket covering which held up fine.
After many years of use the seals eventually started failing and the film winder jammed so I replaced it with an almost new 167MT which I purchased from a local Doctor. A salesman at the local Pro Shop told me that the 167MT's were the most reliable cameras that Contax ever made. Everyone was afraid of the built in autowinders when new but they turned out to be extremely reliable. The weakest part with 35mm cameras are their manual film advances. Anyway, that's what he told me and I wasn't looking to buy a used camera from him.
The later Aria cameras had matrix metering which sounds nice. I know I like it on my Nikon digital. However, I have no experience with an Aria.
I have the RX, RTS and RTSII. Love them. Many speak so highly of the S2, 139, and others. The Aria is the only one I held and did not like. Felt too plasticky, small and cheap, just an impression. Most are wonderful.
Depends on what you want out of a camera. I have an RTS III, RX, AX, S2 and Aria. Sold my 167MT. Returned the ST.
A user's opinion...
RTS III: Big and heavy. A bit long in the tooth. Still expensive, very capable. I lusted after one of these for years.
RX: The best, most capable camera they made. I love mine, I want another. If I could keep only one, this is it.
AX: A big meaty handful of a camera, autofocuses with manual focus lenses. Just as capable as the RX, only much larger.
S2: All mechanical, with spot metering. Small.
Aria: Small and light, a tad cheesy-feeling, not the solid metal heft of the rest of the Contax line. Still a nice camera.
167MT: I hated the sliding toggle switch for the shutter speed control, so I sold mine. Otherwise a good camera.
ST: A little smaller than the RX, and noisier. I had one for a week, didn't like it, sent it back.
Heard from others (to be taken with a grain of salt)...
RTS: These seem to be failing, electronically. Best to avoid.
RTS II: Replacement for the RTS, much more reliable from what I've heard.
S2b: Same as S2, only with (I'm guessing here) center weighted average metering, not spot.
RXII: The RX with the good stuff left out.
One review of the Yashica FR thought it a better camera than the contemporary Contax. It's a great camera in every way, if a bit of a brick. It doesn't have 'Contax' on the front of course.
Incidentally, and somewhat OT, I recently did some stills tests on the 50mm F2 ML lens that came the FR body, with a view to using it for movies on a DSLR. The resolution was astonishing, out-resolving my Nikons of various eras. At 200% magnification at F5.6 individual specs of dust were sharply defined. If you do decide on a Contax don't overlook the ML Yashica lenses, although prices have climbed sharply over the last year they haven't reached the stellar tags being asked for Contax glass.
I wanted a 167MT for several years and eventually around 1987 I was able to afford one. With the 50mm F1.7 Zeiss lens, it remains the most expensive camera I have ever bought, costing considerably more than the Pentax DSLR I bought over 20 years later. The 167MT has been very reliable and I still have it, although it doesn't get much use these days, but this discussion reminds me to dig it out and start using it again.
I've had an RX, two 167MTs and now an RTS III. You can't go wrong with any of them. The RX and the RTS III are tied for whiz-bang cool factors - the RX has the digital focus assist, which will not only help you focus, but it will also allow you to figure out where to focus to take advantage of your depth of field (very helpful if you're forced to shoot at f16 but want to blur your background to make it LOOK like you're shooting wide open), whereas the RTS III has not only the ceramic film pressure plate and the vacuum back for perfect film flatness, it also has a 1/8000 top shutter speed and TTL flash metering for non-dedicated flash sources. So you can test fire studio strobes, a Vivitar 283, or anything else for that matter, and meter it through the camera instead of hauling around a separate flash meter.
my brother has two RTS II and used them as an archeologist under severe conditions, dust, shocks, rain, on the construction sites. They were very reliable and sturdy. But after years of use they got electronic malfunctions and unfortunately there is no longer an official Kyocera service station here in Germany. The availability of spare parts is also a problem. The Carl Zeiss lenses are great (1,4/85, 100 mm Makro Planar, 2,8/25).
Contax 137 MA. Great camera, quick autowind, reliable, great metering, great price (bought one with a Contax flash, Yashica macro lens, for $75). Can't beat it if you want to get into Contax.
That depends on what features you want. I just went through this (mostly a Canon guy) and I wanted these features:
Aperture priority auto exposure
Program auto exposure
ALL exposure meter information in the viewfinder
1/4000 shutter speed
1/250 flash sync
I ended up with the Contax 159 MM, Zeiss 28mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.7 and 135mm f/2.8. I'm very happy.
So the short answer out of all of these suggestions is that most of the contax line up is reliable. There are some potential issues with mirror slip on many of these, but that is problem that can be fixed. Just dont leave the camera in a warm car.. I currently have a contax139q with the alligator leather. Much prettier than the standard vinyl covering that comes off! At any rate, if you are intersted in buying, try looking at www.keh.com they have a good selection there of many models that people have spoken about here.
Mark Hama CLA'd my RTS and my RTS II.
I had the RTS first and it looked barely used (no brassing, no tri-pod marks on the base plate, very clean in general) but had sat for a long time with a battery in it. Consequently, the battery compartment had corroded and it needed a new one to function reliably, which it now does.
Hama told me that the electronics on the RTS II were much superior to that of the RTS and that he would recommend I find an RTS II (prior to this, I had only used an S2 — electronics were new to me.)
All of that said, for what it's worth, my RTS feels the same as, and functions similarly to my RTS II — and is so far equally as reliable and durable. I don't baby it like I do my RTS II and it has been my primary go-to camera for about the past two years, roughly 100 rolls of film.
One night, I had my alternating and blinking rear bike light going in the living room. I pointed my RTS with Planar 50 1.4 at the light and looked in the viewfinder. The concept of RTS metering clarified as I watched the meter doing its job quickly and precisely. Photos have shown that it does the job accurately as well.
I hope I'm not jinxing myself because I really enjoy using that camera!
Instead of a Contax, how about one like this -
Old but probably one of the best designs in terms of looks and quality.
I have an RTSIII, RTSII (jammed; in repair), RTS (great), S2 (NOS; hard to work with due to the spot metering and the viewfinder display; flashing or constant led's) and a scruffy 139Q with a scruffy 2.0/50 ML Yashica.
They all have great viewfinders, are well built and offer acces to Zeiss optics. I find them more "jam-prone" then my Nikons (FM2n, FE2, FA), which have never given any problems apart from light leaks.
I'd say a 139Q if you want to go cheap; lovely camera and ignore the failing leatherette or an RTS or RTSII. I have no experience with the highly praised RX.
I have a 139 with a winder. I think it's an outstanding camera. I replaced the foam seals and the body covering myself, as well as the covering on the winder.
If you don't want to spend a lot, a 137MD can be picked up on Ebay for ridiculously reasonable prices. I know it's an auto only but the auto exposure lock is superb. I've got a 137MA with the manual exposure option but use the AE lock on that camera as well. I've written a bit about them here. Unlike, the Aria, the 137 cameras are a better size for the Zeiss lenses. I have a Yashica FR1 as well and can't fault it.