Contax G2 opinion please
Hi I shoot using Minolta SLR's but there are times when something smaller and lighter would be nice. I have been thinking about a Rangefinder, I can't afford a Leica but could run to the Contax and couple of lens’s. If anyone has used one I would be grateful of your opinions.
I haven't had my G2 for very long, but I absolutely love it. It has a wonderful feel and the lens (45mm is all I have for now) is great. I just printed from G2 negs for the first time last weekend and I am very impressed. I considered the Bessas, but as I already have a Mamiya 6, another manual focus rangefinder would have been redundant for me. I keep the G2 with me at all times - it's a wonderful travel camera. The shutter sound is music to my ears. I wanted a small camera that I could take anywhere that would deliver ease of use and had wonderful lenses - and I found it.
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I've had one for some time. I bought it because I think 35mm should be fast, spur of the moment photography. The Zeiss lenses are wonderful. The camera is a do everything, fast 35mm. If you want to manual focus, it's a pain. If I have time to focus, I'll use a 6x7. If you need to save a few bucks, try a G1. It's almost the same thing.
Why not go with a Cosina Voightlander Bessa R2a or R3a and a couple of lenses? You can even go Zeiss for the lenses if you wish (Ziess ZM lenses in Leica M mount). They're cheap, good and still supported.
Only criticism I had of the G2 was the sometimes uncertainty of where it was focussing, although it seldom failed, unless I was up close and shooting wide open.
That's a common difference, though, between AF and M focus. You'll miss some shots you'd get with MF, and make some you'd miss.
I've been told more than once it was my fault, that I was too stupid to know how to compensate for the camera seeing one thing and me seeing another. Probably true.
Finally, from uncertainty, I parted with the camera. Probably much easier for someone to learn to use the camera on its own terms, than one constantly comparing it to another camera.
But the G2 is no worse than the best AF SLRs, and better in many cases. The lenses, as said before, are wonderful. All in all, a great camera.
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I've used a G2 as my main camera for the last three years and really love it. The lenses are crisp and the color reproduction and contrast is superb. Like any other tool, it's not perfect, but a few rolls will get you through the quirks and the links listed above will be of help as well.
My caveat for the G2 is that it is an auto focus, automatic camera and if you are looking for a manual camera it isn't the one you want.
The Contax is to 35mm rangefinders what the Fuji GA645 series is to medium format rangefinders...they're both auto-everything cameras that you must learn to trust, but that will reward you with great results when auto-everything is good enough. (In both cases you can manually focus and set the exposure yourself, but you really won't want to.) If you want a manual 35mm rangefinder that doesn't break the bank, consider the Voigtlander Bessa cameras. Plenty of people are very happy with them. Personally, I use an SLR when I want control, and the Contax when I'm willing to let the camera do most of the work.
I have a Contax G1 and haven't had any focus problems. The most common complaints are about the 90mm lens on the G1, but I've not run into problems with that combination. Both close up (head-and-shoulder portrait) and at a distance, the lens has focused well for me.
The "holy trinity" of lenses for the G series (the 28, 45, and 90mm) are absurdly cheap and are excellent performers. The 21 and 16mm lenses are too pricey to tempt me (although that 21mm does sing a Siren song...). The 35mm is reasonable, but too close to the other lenses to catch my interest...it might be the lens to buy if you're looking for a one-lens kit. If you want to get something strange, Zoerk actually re-mounts the Voigtlander 12 and 15mm LTM lenses into Contax G lens barrels. I'm sure the 12mm would be a fascinating lens to play with, but again these lenses are pricey. Finally, if you have the G2 you can consider the zoom lens, although I've never read a positive review of it. (I suspect that has as much to do with the high image quality of the prime lenses as with anything else.)
I'm off to Paris in early June, and the Contax will be my travelling companion. I've been to Paris numerous times and have shot plenty of manually metered images on larger film...this time I want to spend more time looking at the city rather than at my equipment. I expect that the Contax will perform as well as it always has.
As Tim notes, look elsewhere if you want a camera that you can control. Beyond simple things (choosing your own film speed, setting exposure compensation) it's best to allow the camera to do the work for you. Manually focusing the G1 is a nightmare, and I've read that the G2 is only somewhat better. There is a manual for the G1 online at http://home.comcast.net/~samius/CONTAX_G1.pdf - a quick scan through should give you a good idea of how the camera works. (I don't know of a G2 manual online.) The one thing you won't get from the manual is the feel of the camera...these things feel wonderfully solid when you hold them.
Best of luck.
Film is cheap. Opportunities are priceless.
For another thought and an opiton, if you're concerned about the compactness and don't mind the AF&AE nature of certain rangefinder cameras, you may want to take a look at Contax T3. It's a point-and-shoot camera with a pretty sharp lens like any other camera. It might be too tiny for everyday use, but very reliable.
I think you can still find a used one for about 500 USD somewhere.
Just like G2, you might miss some shots if the focusing was your issue, but overall it's not bad at all. You can use MF setting to compensate that if you need. There are also the aperture-priority setting and the exposure-compensation mode to play around.
But what's really great about it is that no one thinks it's a real serious camera because it's so small, and the noise is very minimum.
Just by looking at some of the images by Christopher Anderson (ex VII, now Magnum photographer), he might have used it for his work along with other cameras. Or at least what he feld in his hand in the following page is the one:
I'd stick to the G2 unless budget is a significant obstacle. The G1, while a very nice camera, has several shortcomings in comparison to the G2 - the G2 has faster flash sync (a BIG deal if you need to do fill flash), faster film advance and faster top shutter speed. The biggest difference is in the autofocus - the G2's autofocus is much more accurate, much faster, and quieter. This is especially true as the cameras age. That said, I'd move heaven and earth to own a G2 system, for the optics if nothing else.