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  1. #1
    snegron's Avatar
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    Anyone using Contax SLR's?

    I have been looking into purchasing a used Contax ( I'd love to get a new one but since the company went out of business no one seems to stock them) but I am not too familiar with the different models out there. The one that I have been focusing on has been the AX only because of the ability to use a variety of Zeiss lenses out there.

    I have always wanted to own Zeiss lenses, so I think Contax would be the way to go. Not to mention the prices on used bodies have dropped considerably. Can anyone comment on the durability of Contax SLR's? Are they as tough as Nikons?

    I have also been throwing around the idea of getting a Leica R5 or R6 instead. Used Leica's are pricier but I think that parts availability would be better than Contax if I needed a major repair. Any suggestions?

  2. #2
    PhotoJim's Avatar
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    Contax cameras are pretty decent. Some of them (e.g. the 167MT) were pretty innovative in their day. Unfortunately, because of the Zeiss mystique, although the body prices have come down nicely in this digital age, the lens prices are still fairly high.

    The RTS-series bodies are probably as tough as the Nikon F-series bodies (meaning the F, F2, F3, F4, F5, F6, not the F100, F90x, F80, etc.). Nikon's cameras have typically had a lot more accessory availability than probably any other cameras, but whether that matters is a point of debate. Not that many F-body users bought secondary viewfinders, but for the ones that needed that feature, I'm sure it was a godsend.

    I used to have Yashica gear (which shares the same mount) and I had the same Zeiss lust that you have. However, I went Nikon when my gear got stolen (primarily because I wanted to try autofocus) and although I am now shooting probably as much manual gear as autofocus, I have found the Nikon system to suit me perfectly. Most of the Nikkors are as good as the comparable Zeiss lenses; some lenses are better, some worse. They are usually significantly cheaper than the Zeisses.

    Also, Zeiss is now making a few manual-focus Nikon-mount lenses (50/1.4 Planar T* and 85/1.4 Tessar (I think) T*) with a few more to be released this fall, so you can have a tough-as-nails Nikon body and some Zeiss glass, if you have the budget. A bargain-grade Nikon F3 body is well under $200 these days (I just bought one).

  3. #3

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    I have a Contax RTSIII. I use it a lot. Prpblem free and well built is the camera.kyrocera has promised parts availability for approx. another 91/2 years on models availble new at the time which the line was dropped. This is the only Contax SLR that I have experience with.

    I have nine prime lenses. All have been more than satisfactory.
    Claire (Ms Anne Thrope is in the darkroom)

  4. #4
    snegron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PhotoJim
    Contax cameras are pretty decent. Some of them (e.g. the 167MT) were pretty innovative in their day. Unfortunately, because of the Zeiss mystique, although the body prices have come down nicely in this digital age, the lens prices are still fairly high.

    The RTS-series bodies are probably as tough as the Nikon F-series bodies (meaning the F, F2, F3, F4, F5, F6, not the F100, F90x, F80, etc.). Nikon's cameras have typically had a lot more accessory availability than probably any other cameras, but whether that matters is a point of debate. Not that many F-body users bought secondary viewfinders, but for the ones that needed that feature, I'm sure it was a godsend.

    I used to have Yashica gear (which shares the same mount) and I had the same Zeiss lust that you have. However, I went Nikon when my gear got stolen (primarily because I wanted to try autofocus) and although I am now shooting probably as much manual gear as autofocus, I have found the Nikon system to suit me perfectly. Most of the Nikkors are as good as the comparable Zeiss lenses; some lenses are better, some worse. They are usually significantly cheaper than the Zeisses.

    Also, Zeiss is now making a few manual-focus Nikon-mount lenses (50/1.4 Planar T* and 85/1.4 Tessar (I think) T*) with a few more to be released this fall, so you can have a tough-as-nails Nikon body and some Zeiss glass, if you have the budget. A bargain-grade Nikon F3 body is well under $200 these days (I just bought one).

    You are right about the prices of used Zeiss lenses! I have owned Nikon gear for many years and I have had no complaints with their lenses. I guess I have always been under the impression that Zeiss is sharper and I wanted to get that "extra edge". It boils down to the idea that the grass seems greener on the other side!

  5. #5
    Loose Gravel's Avatar
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    I recently bought a 139Q and a 159. I bought them so I could use Zeiss lenses. I bought these models, one for the wife and one for me, because of the good reports and the electronic shutters. Also, the leather was coming off the 139 so I could recover it with leather from cameraleather.com. The 139 is known for bad leather and now it looks very classy in blue. I do need a rewind knob for the 139, however. If anybody sees one, let me know.
    Watch for Loose Gravel

  6. #6
    TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
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    I shoot 167mt's and an RX. They are excellent quality all of them. The 167 is not as robust as an RX or RTS III, but that said, mine have been to the jungles of Belize and Cambodia and held up admirably. The #1 reason you buy these cameras is the Zeiss glass; you'll come away with photos that you'll always be amazed by. If you are thinking about an AX, they're neat cameras, and if you do a lot of macro work, they're pretty cool, as you can have a mini-bellows extension factor if you set the manual focus lens to its' minimum focus distance, then let the body focus kick in. However, the AX is a bit problematic when focusing big tele lenses. You'll quickly have to do some manual focusing with it if you want to focus on anything significantly closer than say 30 feet or so. Also, because of the many moving parts inside an AX, I would be concerned about long-term reliability. That is why I got an RX instead - less mechanical fuss, but it has the digital focus assist. The DFI is a really cool feature- you can not only see how far off the focus point you are, but you can also have your Depth-of-field indicator turned on, so you can see where you are focused relative to the depth-of-field for your selected aperture, which makes playing with selective focus very easy.

    As I am trimming down my gear to focus primarily on large format, I have my 2 167mt bodies I'd be willing to let go. Both are in excellent condition, and have been factory serviced for the duration of my ownership. I have the P5 battery holders for both of them, which let you use AA instead of AAA batteries, have a socket for an external battery pack to use in extreme cold weather, and have center-mounted tripod sockets (the stock baseplate for the 167 has an off-center tripod socket). The P5 also makes it easier to shoot vertically, as it functions like a vertical grip (without a vertical shutter button). PM me if you're interested. I would be willing to let them go with my zoom lenses - the 35-70 and the 80-200. The 35-70 is one of those lenses that once you use it, you say, "If I had to keep only one lens for my camera, THIS would be it". It is a fixed F3.5 max aperture through the entire zoom range, and will give you a 2:1 macro at the 35mm.

  7. #7
    Bruce Osgood's Avatar
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    I'd stay away for the AX. I didn't and cannot find anyone who will even consider repairing it. Other than an engineering marvel the autofocus isn't very good. It is slow and indecisive. The last battery I bought ($15) lasted one day or one roll of film, whichever comes sooner.

    The Aria is little jewel. Light, small and does it all. The three metering systems (Matrix, Average, Spot) are all accurate and can be overridden by Manual. The Aria is a strong foundation for T* senses which is really more important than the camera body for making 35mm pictures.

    My advice would be to research the lenses you would like to use. The major manufacturers (Nikon, Canon, etc) make two levels of lenses, Consumer, that you will be offered when you buy the body, and Pro, which is really what you would want. Find the lens and then decide on the body you need.

    My $.02

  8. #8

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    i have a 139q, and the time when the zeiss lenses shine the most is with color. prices haven't come down a bit in the last 5 years though..
    art is about managing compromise

  9. #9
    naaldvoerder's Avatar
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    I own a RTS 3 and a ST. Both are build to last. I have 4 primes up to now (hope to get more, a 18mm would be nice and the 100mm/3,5 is on the wishlist to). The lenses are exitingly sharp. I never used Nikon so I can't really compare with them. But you can't realy go wrong with contax and zeiss.

    Jaap Jan

    Bruce is right, by the way. It's the lenses that mather. They function equally good on Yashica's, I suspect.

  10. #10
    df cardwell's Avatar
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    I shot Contax for years. Loved my AX. Service was ALWAYS a nightmare for me, and most pros I knew shooting Contax.

    When Kyocera bailed, I bailed and haven't looked back.

    I shoot SLR 25% of the time, RFDR 75%. I use Leica RFDR and (now) Nikon F5. If I shot SLR 75%, I'd be in Leica SLR. The R8 is briliiant, the lenses untouchable. But picking carefully through Nikon ( or Canon ) you can get dazzling lenses for almost free... and no headaches at all.

    The major camera makers designed and built great stuff. When the service is creatively and aggressively malevolent.... go somewhere else.
    "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"

    -Bertrand Russell

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