Contax Rts2
5 frames with...

5 Frames with The Contax RTSii – by Anil Mistry

April 4, 2018

I’ve been intrigued by Contax SLRs for a while so I eventually caved and got an RTSii and I’m blown away. It’s  beautiful. a Porsche designed solid hunk of metal with a luxurious feel. Black leather grips, a red led digital viewfinder readout and a minimalist design. All that’s missing is the Knight rider theme tune and the smell of Drakkar Noir. It’s a high quality piece of kit and I’m surprised that they don’t cost more on the ‘bay.

These things feel Porsche designed (in a good way- the Porsche design brand has been added to some real crap over the years – I have a “pointlessly” Porsche designed Lacie hard drive- not one of their proudest moments). The camera is smooth to use. Feels great in the hand with a reassuring density.  The shutter click feels slightly damped  in some way, I like the separate exposure check button and the Aperture priority works as it should. I love the way that the film is loaded in such a way that doesn’t make it reverse back on itself. Rewinding a finished roll feels so smooth it’s almost as if the film isn’t there. The camera feels like an unashamedly “modern” slr and must have had quite an impact in design terms when it was launched- but seemingly not enough to make it as revered as other SLRs (which makes it cheaper to buy. bonus.)

The camera is a CY (Contax / Yashica) mount and there’s a whole bunch of really decent priced Carl Zeiss glass out there for it. I ended up going for the 50mm f1.4 which renders beautifully. This camera is a joy to use, staying out of your way when shooting. The shots here are taken with various films, as I messed about to see what the camera could do. I’m looking forward to using this more, as much for its looks and ergonomics as its results.

Anil Mistry is a creative director and photographer. You can find him here:
Instagram: @anilmistryphoto
Twitter: @anilmistry

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  • Reply
    Art Tafil
    April 4, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    I loved your article.
    I too have been bitten by the Contax bug.
    I loved my RTSII especially with the 25mm f/2.8 lens.
    My only remaining Contax’s now are two N-1’s.
    One has the 24~85 Vario, battery grip and FX-3 Grid Screen.
    The other N-1 also has a grid screen and P9 battery grip, but this one has the 70~300 lens on it.
    My thinking was to have two cameras with the most used lenses that I didn’t have to constantly change lenses on.
    Of course this is a luxury that many Contax users cannot afford.
    I doubt that I’ll ever unload my contax’s since I also have numerous N-series accessories as well including two 360 flashes, again one for each body.

    • Reply
      Anil Mistry
      April 4, 2018 at 5:50 pm

      It feels so slick to hold and use. I am tempted to buy more glass but that 50mm 1.4 is so good I don’t feel the need for anything else!

  • Reply
    Chris Pattison
    April 4, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    I remember just about drooling over Contax adverts in magazines years ago. They looked like no other camera marque. You do see quite a few for sale on the auction site where the leatherette hasn’t aged too well. I wonder if that keeps the prices down?

    • Reply
      Anil Mistry
      April 4, 2018 at 6:23 pm

      They are gorgeous…There’s loads in good nick from Japan- and they are so relatively cheap – much prefer it to an Olympus OM2. And then there’s the cheap Zeiss glass…

  • Reply
    April 4, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    Thanks Anil for this article. You could have spoken a lot more about this fabulous camera. It is my favourite Contax SLR. The RTS III is even better but it is massive although extremely quiet. The RTS II though is as you say so beautifully designed and implemented. You should definitely get more lenses for it. The 85/1.4 is iconic and rightly so for it’s beautiful rendering. Then the 28/2.8 or has been mentioned the 25. all fabulous.
    I remember the RTS when it first appeared. It was lustworthy. As I couldn’t afford one I had to settle for the Yashica FR which was the same but without the aperture priority auto or the lovely Porsche design. Eventually many years later and thanks to ebay, I bought an RTS and Distagon 35/2.8. After that the floodgates opened. Even the little 139 is a lovely camera. However, as you said apart from the amazing build quality and feel of these Contax cameras, the glory of them is the Zeiss optics, though I don’t agree with you when you say they are cheap! Good value yes but not cheap.
    Now you’ve been bitten by the Contax / Zeiss bug, you have to try the G2 and the awesome 645.

    • Reply
      Anil Mistry
      April 4, 2018 at 7:49 pm

      I agree this review could have been longer- it’s a really iconic camera. You should speak to hamish and do it justice

    • Reply
      John Murch
      January 7, 2020 at 5:33 am

      Hi Jeremy, apologies for this very late comment. My Contax/Yashica story seems very similar to yours. I started out with a Yashica and a cheap 50mm lens as my first camera purchase. A few years later I upgraded to a 159MM which I still use today. Later I added another 159MM as a back-up body. I always lusted for the RTS III so last year I bought one. Over the years I’ve owned 7 Carl Zeiss C/Y lenses and 3 Contax bodies. For lenses now I run with 3, the 28 2.8, 50 1.4 and the 85 1.4 which I’ve owned for decades. I shoot events with these as I love the smooth and precise manual focus of these fine lenses and they keep my focusing skills sharp. The RTS III is superb in every regard.

  • Reply
    Simon Forster
    April 4, 2018 at 6:58 pm

    Nice article Anil, and if I could choose one lens, it would be that Planar! Here’s a link to my Contax kit 🙂[email protected]/35811356012/in/album-72157651574348006/

  • Reply
    April 4, 2018 at 7:05 pm

    Just a couple of days ago I was thinking about the fact that contax cameras are not much popular, at least here on “5 frames with”, and here it comes one! Seriously, on a film camera the lens is the only thing that impacts the quality of the final image, and contax’s zeiss line of lenses is one of the finest available on any system, and nowadays at really good prices. If I had not started my film journey with a lot of film era pentax lenses bought on the cheap to use on digital I would be on the contax boat!

    • Reply
      Anil Mistry
      April 4, 2018 at 7:45 pm

      I’m looking forward to trying the lens on my Nikon d850

      • Reply
        Simon Forster
        April 4, 2018 at 7:56 pm

        Have you investigated the problems you might have in adapting that lens to a Nikon DSLR?

        • Reply
          Anil Mistry
          April 4, 2018 at 8:00 pm

          No- I’m pretty sure I bought a c/y to f mount adapter recently – is there an issue I need to know about?

          • karellen
            April 4, 2018 at 8:24 pm

            As I can see contax’s focal flange distance is 1 mm shorter than nikon’s, so there should be 2 way to use it: with an adapter with lens, that corrects for this difference, or straight by swapping the mount buying one from leitax. Each has some severe downfalls: using an adapter with lens completely transforms it, you loose its sharpness and probably it changes also a little the angle of view and the light transmission. With the second option you transform the lens to an f-mount one, but one that has to be used stop-down (either you keep it always stopped down to the aperture you want to use, with a dark viewfinder, or you frame wide open and turn the aperture ring when you want to take a picture. Or you always use it wide open!). Obviously you won’t be able to take the lens from the nikon and put it on the contax straight away, there would be some work to do to put back the original mount…

          • Anil Mistry
            April 4, 2018 at 8:28 pm

            I think I’ll
            Leave it on the contax then. I have a nikkor 50mm 1.2 so all
            Is good

        • Reply
          Anil Mistry
          April 4, 2018 at 8:06 pm

          I’ve discovered this now- clearly. It straightforward. Maybe I won’t try that adapter

          • Simon Forster
            April 4, 2018 at 8:08 pm

            Yes, Leitax is your friend!

      • Reply
        Karl Valentin
        April 5, 2018 at 12:04 pm

        My Gandfather used to take pictures all his life
        and when I started to get involved in photograpy
        I a sked him why he didnt bought a Leica or Nikon ?
        He just laught and shaked his head “This is the lens”
        pointimg at a Zeiss “and this is what makes the picture!”.

        I tried it and compared the Carl Zeiss Sonnar 1,4/50
        to the Leica M Summicron 2,0/50 later
        Guess which lens I prefer ?

  • Reply
    Martin south of France
    April 4, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    I have been using a Contax 139Q since I bought it new in 1980. Fantastic camera…I also own an RTS and actually …I know this sounds strange….use it as a backup to my 139Q. These were EXPENSIVE cameras when they came out and aimed at the semi pro/pro market / Build quality is second to none…..way underated in my view. My 130Q and my RTS are still used to this day……whereas many of my others have fallen by the wayside. Thanks for a great piece!!!

    • Reply
      Anil Mistry
      April 4, 2018 at 7:45 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts – it seems that this camera is very loved

  • Reply
    Yashica FX-D review - Kosmo Foto
    April 2, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    […] Beyond this, if you are looking for a more complex and setting-laden film body then perhaps this isn’t for you. The few shutter speeds and reliance on batteries with frustrate many, and for those people I would advise investing in a Contax SLR such as the RTS II. […]

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