Contax vs Nikon 35mm SLR and ZF/CY Planar
I'm looking into getting a 35mm SLR with a Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Planar lens. This is the only lens that I will get.
It seems, to me, that nearly all 50mm f1.4's are fairly good, but I'm partial towards Zeiss. I've never been dissapointed from any Zeiss lens from any vintage (I admit, that it is probably more psychological and make-believe).
If I go the Nikon route, then I will go with a Nikon F2 or an F3 with a ZF 50mm f1.4 Planar. If I go the Contax route, then I will go with a Contax body (not sure which one) and a CY 50mm f1.4 Planar. The reason to go Contax, is if the bodies are good-enough and the overall cost is lower (this is my speculation). At the present, I'm inclined to think that Nikon bodies are better because of their work-horse reputation. This is all speculation. I honestly, have little doubts regarding the ZF vs CY lens performances.
My ideal body is all-mechanical (although electronic shutter isn't a deal breaker) as I don't need automation or meters. I do love all matte screens, not having one is a deal breaker. I know that Nikon meets this requirement and that they are fairly inexpensive, robust, and readily available. I might consider the F3 over the F2 only because it feels more refined to me. I don't really need guidance within the Nikon line of bodies, but I'm unfamiliar with Contax.
- What is the simplest, purest Contax body available? Something that is analogous to the F2/F3. Any reliability issues? Are plain matte screens available?
- Is the build between the ZF and CY lenses similar? Is the build good? I know that the ZM lenses (rangefinder) have some quality control issues...
The joys of a mechanical Contax
The Contax/Yashica Zeiss 50 1.4 Planar is recognised as one of the finest standard lenses ever made - indeed, when it was first tested by SLR Camera magazine (July 1976) along with other photo journals, they had to completely recalibrate their equipment to accommodate it's previously unseen sharpness. Oddly, the smaller, lighter 50 1.7 Planar is slightly sharper - which probably explains its enduring popularity, especially with many DSLR/CSC owners. Someone has already mentioned the quality of the RTSII - a delightful, robust camera that won't break the bank and has a mechanical fail-safe of 1/60th despite using an electronic shutter. For a mechanically-shuttered camera you have several options as has been mentioned: the Contax S2 (a stunner with a 1/4000 top speed but with spot metering only), the rare S2b (essentially the same as the S2 but with average metering) and then the Yashica FX-3/FX-7 (top speed 1/1000) and FX-3 Super (with a faster top speed of 1/2000). The two Contax Preview cameras also have mechanical shutters but are too specialised for your needs as they only take instant film.
The FX3-Super represents the best value (also to be found as the re-badged Braun SR2000Y) by far but for greater versatility in film sensitivity and shutter speed range you would need the S2 or S2b. They both use titanium bodies for durability and lightness and the shutter is a joy. I've used both but prefer the S2b - if you're happy with spot-metering only (not a big issue unless you're in a real hurry) then get the S2 as there's a 30% premium to be paid for the much more rare, and dark coloured, S2b (see photo).