After the Kyocera decision to cease production of Contax cameras early 2005, we´ve heard little about the future for the Contax brand cameras and the Contax compatible Zeiss.
The international webstores seem to be out of stock regarding most new Contax items now. Used items are also harder to find than we´ve been used to.
Has the Legend come to its end?
In my opinion (and this is only my opinion, nothing else), we'll see the Contax brand name again in time. Right now Zeiss has put their time and money behind the Zeiss Ikon rangefinder and M-mount lenses, and I'm sure that they won't do anything to distract what little attention film cameras are getting these days from that effort. (I'm sure that, had Kyocera made their decision to cease making cameras a little sooner, the new camera from Zeiss/Cosina would be badged with the Contax name. It is, after all, only a brand name that was last used by Zeiss/Kyocera to market various lines of equipment.)
I would not be surprised to see a C/Y mount camera appear in a few years under the Contax badge. Making a reasonable C/Y mount body should not be technically difficult, but I'm sure that Zeiss would rather wait to release such a camera until they could both assure a quality product (rather than dilute the Contax brand) and until such a release would not distract from the Zeiss Ikon launch. Given the Zeiss have trusted Cosina to deliver their new rangefinder, it wouldn't surprise me if a new manual focus C/Y mount camera with the Contax name came out of a partnership between Zeiss and Cosina. Lens production could be moved to such a partnership as well.
As to whether Zeiss will resurrect the medium format Contax line, I really have no idea but I do have some thoughts. The cameras were always very popular with the people who owned them, but I never saw many of them around. I don't know if it would be worth Zeiss' time and effort to resurrect the line, given that it was more of a banner carrier than a highly successful brand for sales. (Please don't take this as any criticism of the actual equipment that was delivered in medium format under the Contax badge from Kyocera. It was all first rate stuff, but the prices seem to have held sales down to a lower state than would justify the investment to resurrect the line. When Zeiss and Kyocera developed the Contax MF equipment, the world was a very different place.) It is possible that Zeiss might resurrect the brand with an eye toward digital (much as Hasselblad with the H series), but I wouldn't count on bodies that were designed for film only. In fact, I think that a body with an integral digital back is the likeliest path that Zeiss might take with the involvement of a manufacturing company, in an attempt to lure those who have an investment in the glass for the old Contax bodies. Something along the lines of what Mamiya is doing, developed by one of the larger players in the digital camer world (Sony, perhaps?).
I believe the G series is dead. The investment to deliver a digital G-series body would most likely be very high, and I doubt that it will occur. As an owner of G-series equipment I'd love to see further work on G series film bodies, but I don't believe such work is likely to happen. If anything were to occur, like the MF Contax brand I believe it would be the delivery of a digital body that would take the lenses that were developed for the G series cameras. Not much use to me, but there might be a market for such a body.
The problem that I see with both the MF and G series Contax cameras is that I don't believe Zeiss will invest in either line for a future that's tied to film, and I also don't believe Zeiss currently has the proper business partnerships in place to deliver digital equipment that will take the current lenses in the two lines. It will take time to build such partnerships, and time to develop products once such partnerships have been sealed. Zeiss does work with Sony (the Sony cameras carry Zeiss-branded lenses), but I haven't heard any rumors about Sony creating cameras for the older Zeiss lenses.
Everything that I've written here is pure conjecture. I have absolutely no facts to back any of this up. My experience around the world of camera equipment for the past 30 years is virtually useless, as the rules have changed dramatically since digital has entered the scene. But combining what I know of business with the little bit of information that's available about what Zeiss is up to these days, I wouldn't count on anything badged with the Contax name in the near future (unless they deliver a version of the Zeiss Ikon camera with the Contax name), and I think a C/Y mount manual focus camera is about the only thing that makes economic sense right away. A partnership with a digital company could lead to cameras that take any of the old lenses (C/Y, N-mount, medium format, or G-series) on digital bodies, but the development of those cameras would likely take some time.
Consider all of this to be nothing but my opinion, and feel free to tell me if you disagree. I'd love to hear what others have to say about this. (And, having an investment in G-series equipment, I'd love to know that it's not a dead product, but I won't believe anything until I see it, and I fear that the only thing I'm likely to see is a digital body anyway.)
Last edited by Mongo; 10-15-2005 at 08:25 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Film is cheap. Opportunities are priceless.
More than likely, I heard a rumour that Sony was interested at one point, but only in the lenses mount & the lenses for their DSLR's which are due out next year. At one point Sony looked at buying Nikon, but they have gone into an agreement to share technology with Minolta.
Fewer & fewer people are using 35mm as they switch to digital so I would be very surprised if anyone steps in to save Contax. It’s a shame, the G2 is one of the nicest cameras I have handled
I'd really like to see Sony resurrect the Contax brand. They could launch a line of CY mount AF lenses that would work well on a DSLR with an APS-sized sensor. And they could develop another mount (or use the Contax N mount) for a full-framed sensor DSLR. Perhaps they can cut a deal with Zeiss and Kyocera.
The Kyocera SLR bodies are/were excellent. Sony would be wise to copy the designs for their DSLR.
Hey, I can hope.
My opinion is perhaps as good as anyone else's. I've been a Contax T3 user for four years and concerned about the repair service provided by the company. I heard it's 10 years that Contax/Kyocera will handle its products for the repair, but I'm not sure how much repair it's capable of doing.
Meanwhile the prices on the Contax-brand products mainloy SLRs and P&Ss have gone up in Japan. They went down first but now are backing up again. That might have had to do with the stories on major photography magazines that seemed encouraging the amateurs to buy the Contax products because of its optics. But I personally thought then and still think now it's too late to start investing on them at this point.
Over all, my impression is that the investors for the company have to be interested in photography business in some way to come back, but right now, probably not. I remember when Contax pulled out from it late last year, it was soon after Carlyle Group became its leading stock holder by having about 30 percent of the stock). I saw a couple of Kyocera executives talking to the Japanese news media about the company's decision to get into the security business. I could understand the shift because it had significantly suffered from the poor sales in the photography market in the last couple of years.
Anyway the last product I got from this company is the tiny camera on my cellular phone, and this piece of equipment doesn't amaze me at all.
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Actually the last 2 autofocus 35mm SLR's by Contax didn't use the C/Y mount (unlike the autofocus AX) but a completely different mount. This must have depressed sales and driven people who wanted autofocus to consider other brands.
Originally Posted by Robert Budding
As I understand the situation, Zeiss has some agreements that are still inforce that prevents it at this time from offering cameras that were made by Kyrocera.
I believe that Cosina would be capable of making a high grade level Contax if they wished too.
I remember thinking at the time that the Contax RTS was introduced that Yashica was a poor chioce for making a high quality SLR. How wrong I was.
Claire (Ms Anne Thrope is in the darkroom)
Claire, you're right. At that time, Yashica wasn't seen as one of the makers of high quality cameras. Among the Japanese makers, it seemed that it was perceived (in terms of quality) behind Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus and Minolta. It probably was viewed above Kowa.
I suppose Zeiss will wait until the agreement with Kyocera expires before announcing its next move, although it's very likely that they are working on plans right now.
Perhaps Zeiss will continue its relationship with Cosina and bring forth a new generation of Contax-branded SLRs, but possibly this time under the Carl Zeiss name. That way, they control the decision to pull out of a market segment, not a third party.
Some of us viewed the partnership of Zeiss and Kyocera as years spent in Purgatory.
And I don't mean a crunchy ski resort. Kyocera was a nightmare, and their disinterest, or incompetence, meant Contax was always fighting with one hand behind it's back.
I'm happy Zeiss is still piddling around in photography, goodness knows they don't have to. I hope the venture with Cosina goes well. I wonder, though, if the future in either film or digital, looks promising enough to launch a major effort. It wouldn't be a bad idea to lay back until all the makers but Canon go broke, and then come back.
"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"
I hope Cosina is at least as good as old Minolta in terms of backing up old German companies with better technology and finance. But since I've been hearing a lot of negative reviews on the new products that Cosina has been involved, which are always the camera bodies, I'm not sure.
Cosina may be following the same path as Kyocera-Yashica did with the same kind of capacity, which is not very much. You look at the old Kyocera-Contax cameras in the used market today, most of them are almost junk. I don't mean to insult anyone, and I have to say the lenses are superb and outstanding. But in general, the used camera bodies are really poor that they were not made to last in the first place.
That's is so different from Canon and Nikon from the same period. I think Kyocera-Contax was an over-hyped brand from its beginning, which I didn't buy. I never understood that.
Instead, I use a Canon New F1 because it's similar to Contax RTS series and Leica R3, but its sustainability is far better. Otherwise, I would've had a larger camera collection with flagship SLRs.