Guest Reviews Rangefinders (Changeable Lens)

The Contax G2 – Guest Review by Adam Laws

Morning all, I hope this finds you well with a hot beverage and ideally a biscuit nearby (I’m rather partial to a bourbon myself).

After speaking with Hamish about an advance compact a month or so ago I agreed to submit my thoughts in relation to the shiny Contax G2. I subsequently got somewhat side-tracked with the joys of editing, and then sold the camera in question (more on that later), which made me ponder if I should even submit my musings at all. Anyway I guess I should start at the beginning.

Hello, my name is Adam and I’m predominantly a portrait photographer. I generally work with model agencies and various other creative folk supplementing my digital work with polaroids and film.

I purchased the Contax G2 from our friendly Japan Camera Hunter. It was in great condition apart from some LCD leak situated in shutter counter (a common problem). It replaced my Lecia M6. I appreciate that may sound like blasphemy to some of you, and that by admitting to this a mob armed with pitchforks and torches running to my house as we speak but there was a purpose to this. The Contax G2 would act as my daily analogue camera in the same way as the M6, but in addition, and unlike the M6 had the extra capability of a “usable” flash sync with my studio equipment.

Anyway below is a very brief synopsis of my findings.

Contax G2

Ergonomically, the Contax G2 feels great in your hand. The addition of a thumb rest and small grip really enables you to get a grip over the camera, rather than it feeling like a slippery metal bar of soap. It feels so reassuringly solid that you may believe you could defend yourself from a rampaging rabid goat with a swift twat to the head, although I might add, this is not a course of action I would recommend or condone.

The Twiddly Bits

It has them, all of the ones you can possibly want. From exposure compensation, exposure lock, auto bracketing (because film isn’t expensive at all) and various shooting modes. It’s all rather easy to control by feel and the dials have a good amount of resistance on them.

It also has custom modes, although generally I didn’t use them because it requires you push ISO and focus lock button down for a few seconds, and then twiddle the manual focus dial. Then up, down, left, right, A, B, C, start and then you get the level select and Super Sonic options. Ahh I might got muddle up with the last sentence. I do have friends who use the custom options, but generally I didn’t feel the need too.

Manual focusing requires more twiddling of the front nob. It’s a chore and I never perfectly felt comfortable that I have actually focused on what I intended so I kept with the autofocus.

Autofocus

Th Contax G2 autofcus works like magic. So much so after you receive a roll of film perfectly in focus you may feel the need to make a sacrifice to the great camera gods. It does however sound like Robocop. It’s not loud, I doubt many people would notice it in a street scenario unless you are close enough to steal their last Fruit Pastel, which I might add is somewhat frowned upon. 

Viewfinder

The Contax G2 viewfinder is small “ish” (I think I have read somewhere .57x magnification with the 45mm but please don’t quote me on this) but very accurate and It compensates for parallax, which you would expect from a Robocop of a rangefinder. It also has the added benefit of diopter adjustment for those who wear glasses.

The best thing about the viewfinder is that not once will you have to worry about the rangefinder patch deciding to disappear and go on holiday when lighting conditions get a little more challenging.

Lens

I don’t look at MFT charts. Really who has the time? Comparing the images from 45mm to the 50 cron’ they look just as good in my opinion. That’s all I can say.

So to summarise my experience with the Contax G2 there is a lot to like about this camera. It’s almost a perfect camera for those who want an automated rangefinder camera with manual overrides, and that is why I ultimately sold it. I missed the more manual process of shooting with a manual camera. Of course I could shoot the Contax G2 in full manual, but when you have the options of automated everything I found myself ultimately getting lazy, and shooting it as I would a digital camera. One of the joys of shooting film is in my opinion the manual interaction with the equipment so I now find myself with another Leica.

Hopefully you enjoy the varied selection of images I’ve submitted. All images were processed by Aperture in London and UK Film Lab (Who I couldn’t recommend enough for level of service).

AL180815EX001034-07

AL180815EX003330-05

AL180815EX003330-17

AL180815EX142198-20

AL180815EX142198-33

AL150216002204-14

AL150216002204-37

B286948-R1-32-33A

B290412-R1-00-1

B290576-R1-11-12

B291372-R1-17-18

B291372-R1-29-30

CNV00027

B288695-R1-01-2

You can find my latest work on Instagram – www.instagram.com/adamlawsphotography/

Or alternatively my website – www.adamlaws.com

All the best,

Adam


Show your support for 35mmc – A message from Hamish

If you found this post interesting or useful, or if it helped you make up your mind about buying one of these cameras, then why not
 
By clicking that link, as long as you buy, bid on or win an auction within 24hrs – at no extra cost to you – I will receive a little kick back from ebay to help keep 35mmc up and running.

Additionally, if you would like to contribute a post of your own to 35mmc, click here!

Thanks,

Hamish

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Des McSweeney
    April 23, 2016 at 7:55 am

    Great fun, to the point and a clear opinion backed up by good photography (but tell me about the scorpion). Des.

    • Reply
      Adam Laws
      April 23, 2016 at 10:03 am

      Morning Des, thank you for your kind words.

      I would love to say in the spirit of Robert Capa or such like I risked life and limb for the photograph but alas I did not. The scorpion is an animatronic shot on a roll of HP5.

  • Reply
    Richard
    April 23, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    it can’t be a good review of the G2 – nowhere does he say that this is the best 35mm camera ever made by anyone ever! That 45mm lens still amazes me – pin sharp, a pixel peeper’s delight.

  • Reply
    jeremy north
    April 24, 2016 at 11:23 pm

    The G2 is for me the best 35mm camera ever. Thank you for the review Adam. I feel though that you’ve glossed over the cameras only weakness.
    The manual focus is not truly manual. It depends upon the cameras focus system. In some poor light or other low contrast situations it is not possible to lock any kind of focus. Most frustrating.
    Other than that it is an absolute dream to use. One handed if necessary. Fabulous lenses. The 21 28 & 45 in particular. Not so keen on the 90 as autofocus can be a bit more tricky.

  • Reply
    rollbahn
    April 25, 2016 at 12:43 am

    Firstly – very nice shots.

    Secondly – I’ve owned and re-owned the G2 (and G1) about three times over the past few years and I find them just about the perfect camera I have ever used. My only issue is focusing problems, which seems to be highly dependant on the camera and whether it had been looked after or CLA’d recently rather than an issue with its design. The 45mm is absolutely tack sharp and a joy to use. The only lens I found a letdown was the 35mm wide-open was atrocious but still nice for daily use above f4.

    I finally ended up going back to a Zeiss Ikon and 35 Cron (I wear glasses so the Ikon works the best for 35mm for me – still love the Leica M4-P the most) as I know I can nail focus each and every time but kept a G1 in the cupboard that I occasionally play with. 🙂

    It would have been great to see what a G3 could have been especially with a better manual focussing system. Contax seem to have been one hell of a camera company when you see the sort of cameras they out out over the years.

    • Reply
      jeremy north
      April 25, 2016 at 8:44 pm

      I agree that a G3 with proper manual focus would have knocked every other camera into a cocked hat!

      I’ve read a lot of bad comments about the 35mm Planar but I don’t get why. I’m not a pixel peeper so can’t comment on its sharpness performance at f2. All I know is it is a great all round performer and while I like the 45 & 28 better it is the ideal one lens option.
      It is true that Contax was one hell of a company. Well underestimated by the Canikon fans. The RTS series was ahead of the game as was the 645 (the best of its type). I think they were even out there with the N series and digital.
      Even the early Contax (pre Yashica) are revered. The rangefinders, in particular, were thought to be better and more innovative than the Leicas, though not quite the same tank-like build. Like Hamish, I have a Contax iia with the Sonnar 50/1.5 which is a stunning outfit

  • Reply
    Aaron
    May 24, 2016 at 1:55 am

    Would you be willing to share more on how to focus thin DoF shots like the B&W headshot (5th from last, 6D strap)? Based on your review, AF? Focus on the eyes and recompose?

    I currently use the G 45mm and G 90mm on my Sony A7 and love them. When I was on APS-C, I also used the G 28mm extensively.

    Alas, it doesn’t play well with the A7 (stock) so I’ve been thinking about getting a G1X or G2 so I can get some use out of that lovely Biogon.

    I can grok a rangefinder or a manual SLR, but the AF of the Contax G has me wondering if it’ll just be a pain. Do you find yourself stopping down a stop or two just in case, to accommodate the lack of precise feedback? Or have any other techniques for getting accurate focus to recommend?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Reply
      Adam Laws
      November 19, 2016 at 8:46 pm

      Evening Aaron my apologies for what must be one of the longest waits for a reply.

      In relation to focus I indeed focus on the eyes and then recompose. The autofocus on the G2 never let me down. You just have to trust in the electronics. It is probably fair to say I got the more “keepers” with this than my leica due to the ease of focus.

      I would generally be out on my focus on 3-4 images on the lecia. With the contax I would get rolls back perfectly in focus.

  • Reply
    Richard Stone
    May 26, 2016 at 1:02 am

    Thanks for this review. And thanks for the excellent images. I am the happy owner of a G2 which I have not used for years. It is an excellent camera, and really, the 90 is pretty good, as is the 35, but maybe not as good as the 45 and 28, which are simply so good that everything else pales in comparison. The camera is very easy to use., and easy to get great results from.

  • Reply
    René
    January 22, 2017 at 11:19 am

    I agree that the Contax G2 is a fabulous camera. I looked at it when it was introduced at the Photokina in Cologne, but at that time disliked the relatively small viewfinder. Many years later I bought one of the very last new G2’s out there, and at that time had a lot of trouble finding lenses for it because the system had gone out of production. Ergonomics are great, for instance I have never seen a better implementation of the AE lock function. The way it’s compact body and Carl Zeiss (!) lenses are manufactured from titanium is simply stunning, and thanks to the titanium it makes a dream light weight travel set.

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