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  1. #1
    TomTomJ's Avatar
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    Contax 645 or Mamiya 645 AFD - Help me decide!

    I'm a huge techie gear nerd and I've just recently gotten into Film. I shoot a 5D3 for my digital work, so the EOS-1V has been a great starter camera for me, I love it but to be completely honest I've always wanted a medium format. I remamber years ago lusting over Hasselblads and in the past years I had mad the decision on a Mamiya. I would search the web for one but always procrastinate and never buy it. Now that I've finally made the jump to film and I think I'm a bit hooked. So pulling the trigger on a Medium Format camera will be much easier lol.

    I've found a few great outfits locally and I'm completely stuck...

    1) Mamiya AFD, 80mm f2.8 & 150mm f3.5 w/ 120/220 back (also includes a Sekonic L-558 that I dont need)
    2) Contax 645, 80mm f2 Zeiss w/ 120/220 back.


    Both are selling for a decent amount less then what I've seen them go for online and they are also both open to negotiations.
    My question is, what would be the best choice for me?

    • They both feel about the same in my hands.
    • The Contax seems to be considered the better camera, but is it?
    • I love shooting wide open with large apertures.
    • I shoot Wedding & Portraits.
    • Film is currently just a hobby, I dont plan on using it in my services any time soon (but that could change later on)
    • If I got the Mamiya, I would probably sell the 150mm lens and definitely sell the Sekonic as I already have a LM, so this would bring the cost down more.
    • I dont see my self investing in other lenses. 80mm is



    Let me know what you think of the prices. Are they low, fair or high?

    Mamiya kit = $1100.00 (Friend of a friend, I've negotiated this price from an original asking price of 2000.00)
    Contax kit = $1800.00 (It's at a local camera store on consignment, owner says I can definitely negotiate a much lower price. It's been there for months)
    Film Gear:
    Contax 645 w/ Zeiss 80mm F2
    Canon AE-1 w/ 50mm F1.8
    Polaroid 250 Land Camera

  2. #2
    sandermarijn's Avatar
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    I´d go for the Mamiya: extra lens, lower price. Don't worry too much about the 'Zeiss look' you'd be missing, none is better, just different (Zeiss is lower overall contrast, sharpness is equal for all practical purposes). Accessories/replacements for the Mamiya tend to go much cheaper (extra back, lenses).

    To be perfectly honest, I don't think either is a screaming deal. In continental Europe the Mamiyas can be had for less. But maybe forget about that, you're not in Europe, and you have to deal with what is offered.

    I used to own a Contax 645 with three lenses and wasn't thrilled beyond other 645 brands.

  3. #3
    brucemuir's Avatar
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    One advantage to the Mamiya system is that you can use the Mamiya manual focus lenses on the 645AFD's.
    The AF mamiya lenses aren't exorbitant and the MF versions are downright cheap.

    The accessories for the Contax system are obscenely priced.
    Backs are astronomical and even the lowly oem lenshoods are mostly around 150.00 usd. Yes, approx one hundred fifty u s dollars for a freakin' lenshood!
    I recommend the rubber lenshoods that Mamiya has for the RZ with a step ring.


    Both the kit prices you have listed look pretty good.
    A bit high for a standard 645AF but about on time for the AFD versions.
    The plain "AF" body goes for cheaper.

    It's wedding season so the Contax system is bringing good money right now. I've seen a standard kit go for 2200.00 recently.
    Last edited by brucemuir; 05-25-2012 at 01:04 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  4. #4

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    I think I can shed some light on this, considering that I own both of those exact cameras at the moment!






    About a year ago, I bought the AFD because frankly unless you shoot people on 645 most of the time, it's just not worth the premium to shoot the Contax. About 2 months ago, I came upon a swingin' deal on a Contax 645 and picked one up.

    Bottom line: The Contax is the better camera if you shoot pictures of people, outside, with available light. The Mamiya is better if you shoot test charts or in the studio. Both of the suck for landscapes because 645 is still pretty small.





    The things that stood out to me between the two:

    -The Mamiya has better overall ergonomics if you've got long surgeon fingers like I do.

    -The Contax is completely modular. Finder's, Screens, backs, lenses, grips. The whole thing comes apart and can be a completely different camera if you wanted it to.

    -The Mamiya has a smarter shutter. When you take a back off, the mirror and curtain snap out of the way, the Contax keeps those fragile parts down.

    -Weight is somewhat similar, but better distributed on the Mamiya. Plastic lens/Plastic body vs Metal lens/Carbon Fiber body.

    -The Mamiya 80mm is sharper than the Zeiss 80mm when both are wide open..by a long shot too.

    -The Mamiya is a b*tch to manually focus, the Contax is a breeze. The Mamiya feels like it's on ball bearings vs. a tight resistance with the zeiss.

    -The Contax with the 120/220 back has a hard time keeping 120 flat. It's par for the course to have a severe V shaped field curvature towards the long end on the left size of the image. Look at other photogs who shoot Contax's and you'll see it all the time. I haven't a clue about 220 in those inserts or with the 220 vacuum back.

    -The Contax is alot quieter.

    -The Zeiss 80mm is easily the most unique lens i've ever used and one of the most beautiful. If you shoot wide open, it is THE lens to use.

    -The Mamiya flares better...if shooting into the sun is what you do.

    -The Contax has quieter and easier AF, the Mamiya is reminiscent of the Nikon's of the 80's.

    -The viewfinders are equally terrible in comparison to the Hasselblad 645

    -The 80mm f/2.8 AF has a flatter field in general compared to the Zeiss 80mm.




    I shoot Weddings and portraits too, got a Wedding on Saturday actually...and i'm telling you, get the Contax. It is the better camera. The Contax will look dramatically different than what you're getting off 35mm or digital. The Mamiya..not so much. The 80mm AF for the Mamiya actually renders strikingly similar to the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G sans veiling flare. The Contax will let you shoot in most lighting situations you would 35mm, the Mamiya not so much. f/2.8 with film isn't really that fast, and if you're shooting backlit into the sun exposing for the shadows.. you need all the light you can get.



    Now if you shoot with a Phase in the studio..than yeah, the extra sharpness and veratility with a current system trumps the f/2. But if you're shooting people with Portra, Ektar, or 400H.. F/2 trumps sharpness and flat fields.

    Here are some comparisons and examples. If you shoot available light portraits, don't waste your time and money with the Mamiya if you can afford a Contax.



    CONTAX:






    MAMIYA:



  5. #5
    brucemuir's Avatar
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    1.4,
    is the film flatness issue evident on any of the examples you posted?
    A bit small to tell here but woondering what part of the image it tends to show up?

    Along the left long side as you look at the print???

  6. #6
    amsp's Avatar
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    Unless you are planning on using a digital back or absolutely need AF I would buy the earlier manual focus Mamiya 645 pro. It's cheaper and like the Contax it's modular. The old manual focus lenses are great and cheap, they also have a better build than the new AF lenses (they also weigh more though). You can use the MF lenses on the AF bodies, but you have to stop down the lens manually. If you love large apertures don't forget the Mamiya 80mm f/1.9. If money is of no concern to you then I would probably go with the Contax, but like others have said, if you want to expand on the system by adding lenses and accessories it will quickly get very expensive.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by brucemuir View Post
    1.4,
    is the film flatness issue evident on any of the examples you posted?
    A bit small to tell here but woondering what part of the image it tends to show up?

    Along the left long side as you look at the print???
    The right picture not so much..but take a look at the truck:


  8. #8
    TomTomJ's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone, I really appreciate all the info.

    I'm leaning a bit towards the Contax because I know it ROCKS for a wide open portrait camera and everything I see come out of that thing is just AMAZING!
    But the wife isn't to happy about spending that much haha, especially considering I just got into film not long ago. I'll swing by the camera shop this week and see how much I can wiggle that price down to.

    It's crazy, I seen a similar Contax kit go up for sale for 2800!!! I'm sure it'll never sale but jesus, are they going back up in price???

    F/1.4: Do you have a flickr or site? I love all your shots you posted up!
    Film Gear:
    Contax 645 w/ Zeiss 80mm F2
    Canon AE-1 w/ 50mm F1.8
    Polaroid 250 Land Camera

  9. #9

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    The Contax has more of that "medium format look" than a Mamiya, but both will do great, bottom line. Lawrence Kim chose a Phase over a Contax when he tested them side-by-side for logical reasons.

    I try to keep a tumblr, it's about 90% film. the first 4 pages are all film until you get to the night landscape..than it's film/digital..

  10. #10
    amsp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by F/1.4 View Post
    The Contax has more of that "medium format look" than a Mamiya, but both will do great, bottom line. Lawrence Kim chose a Phase over a Contax when he tested them side-by-side for logical reasons.

    I try to keep a tumblr, it's about 90% film. the first 4 pages are all film until you get to the night landscape..than it's film/digital..
    No offence, but you're comparing the contax f/2.0 with the Mamiya f/2.8, you should compare it to the f/1.9 if you want to be fair. It's a pretty darn dreamy lens too, although less known.

    Click image for larger version. 

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