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  1. #1

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    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...

  2. #2

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    Cant speak to the Contax body, but I have been using my F2 for the past 6 or seven years ( on and off, I also have an F5 that gets a good deal of use ) and it hasn't skipped a beat. I recently had it for a CLA, and the guys at Midstate camera in RI reported the camera and shutter to be in excellent working order, and also tested the phonemic meter, and found it to be within 1/3 stop accurate. Pretty great reliability for a now 40 yo camera, although you didn't really care about a meter. The nice thing about the F2 is all the focus screens ( I have a bunch that I use ). You can really tailor the camera to suit your needs. a good, user F2 body shouldn't set you back too much, as long as you don't want one of the Titan models, or the F2AS.

  3. #3

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    Good review of the Contax RTS series

    Because you didn't mention Yashica, you may not be aware that Zeiss collaborated with Yashica to make the C/Y (Contax/Yashica) lens mount and therefore Yashica also made C/Y lens mount SLRs. I have the Yashica FR which I understand is their version of the Contax RTS and it is a fine camera too and reviewed very well in an previous photography magazine to be "better constructed" than the Contax RTS. What is interesting with both Contax & Yashica design is the shutter switch is simply a magnetic switch which requires hadly any pressure to trip as opposed to most other shutter switches that require some travel to make contact. The premise being that this minimizes camera movement caused by the traditional shutter mechanism. It does that but it does take a little getting used to.
    There were three in the series - FR, FR I and FR II. THe FR is manual only, the FR I is auto expose only and the FR II is manual with aperture priority. Compact size, bright screen and well made. The shutter is electronic and completely battery dependent.

    Last edited by Les Sarile; 06-15-2014 at 10:33 AM. Click to view previous post history.

  4. #4
    ic-racer's Avatar
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    The simplest purest C/Y mount bodies are probably the unber-expensive and rare Contax S2 and the ubiquitous, near-free Yashica FX3. The most inexpensive path to a Planar 50mm is probably a Rolleiflex SL35M. I picked up a like-new SL35M with 50mm Planar 1.8 on craigslist for $25. I have a box of those 50mm Planars (I never use 50mm focal length and these lenses seem to come free whenever I buy a body)

  5. #5

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    I understand that the Contax S2 is made by Yashica -> Contax S2 brochure
    It does look very nice!

  6. #6

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    Between the Contax RTS series and the Yashica FR bodies, is there a plain matte screen that is readily available?

  7. #7
    Richard Sintchak (rich815)'s Avatar
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    I have a nUmber of Contax and Nikon bodies. I'd recommend either the F2 or RTSII without reservation. As for the lens do not overpay for the modern Nikon-mount Planar. In fact I prefer the 50/1.7 Planar over the 50/1.4 Planar,
    Last edited by Richard Sintchak (rich815); 06-15-2014 at 02:37 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    -----------------------

    "Well, my photos are actually much better than they look..."

    Richard S.
    Albany, CA (San Francisco bay area)

    My Flickr River of photographs
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  8. #8
    ContaxRTSFundus's Avatar
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    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).
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails S2b front.jpg  

  9. #9

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    Thanks for the suggestions. Very helpful, but any comments on the screen?

    Is a plain matte screen readily available/interchangeable/affordable? This is a deal breaker if it is not.

  10. #10

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    Down load the PDF instruction manuals if you want information.

    If you like flim flan post questions in threads...

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