When my girlfriend and I made the decision to visit Japan a year ago, I had just got back into film photography after a long hiatus and I knew I had to find the perfect travel camera for this trip. It turned out to be the Contax TVS.
Since my photography was previously pretty much only about BMX, I never cared too much for pocketable cameras. But, it was during this time I stumbled upon 35mmc.com and I started getting interested in compacts. I started reading a lot of the reviews about P&S cameras on here and came to the conclusion that my camera will need:
- Flash off as a default
- A good lens
- 1/500s or faster shutter speed
- Exposure compensation
- Good Auto Focus
- 35mm or wider lens
I quickly realised that there aren’t too many options that fit my criteria, and even fewer within my budget. I tried all of the obvious choices, the Canon Prima Mini II, Olympus Mju I, XA, XA2. I thought I had found the one when I tried the Konica Big Mini BM-201. I bought two of them, sold one, and then the other one died a week later…
Finding the Contax TVS
Then, through some post on the r/analog subreddit I found out you can set Flash off as a default on the Contax TVS. I realised that fit all my criteria, expect it was a bit out of budget. But, after hunting around ebay, Facebook marketplace etc. daily for a few weeks I finally found a good deal and bought it.
First Impression: It’s not really a ‘compact’ camera, it was almost as big as my Voigtländer Bessa R, it’s just as heavy but it’s got a great feel to it. The mechanical action of turning on the TVS with the lever that extends the lens was very satisfying and I quickly began to love it.
The aperture compensation dial was a bit fiddly to use but it makes the camera very versatile with you being able to set the aperture compensation in ⅓ Stop increments. The viewfinder is bright and zooms to give you a pretty accurate representation of your FOV and it even gave you a shutter speed readout in the viewfinder.
Fast forward to March of this year when we went to mount Fuji during our trip to Japan:
I always wanted to capture Mt. Fuji on Fujichrome Slide film – I felt it would be really cool to have a strip of positives with photos of Mt. Fuji in my archives. But because I’m a cheapskate, I bought 2004 expired Fuji Sensia 400 consumer grade Slide film with me. I had tested a roll before and was happy with the results I got, so I felt it was worth the risk. And although some shots came out very grainy/underexposed I’m very pleased with the results:
I also shot a few different rolls of colour neg film:
Final thoughts on the TVS:
I was very happy with my decision to bring the Contax TVS to Japan. I have since sold it to buy a Leica but it was amazing to have an automatic camera with manual override in my sling bag at all times, even when I didn’t want to bring my Bessa R. With the prices of Contax T2, 35ti etc. rising into Leica territory i think it’s one of the best deals in the compacts market and i can definitely recommend it.
If you liked some of these photos and would like to see more, please check out my instagram @35000000nm (thats 35mm in nanometers..).
There is another review of the TVS here, you can also read Hamish’s more full review of the later TVSii here, and later TVSiii here
Contribute to 35mmc for an Ad-free Experience
There are two ways to experience 35mmc without the adverts:
Paid Subscription - £2.99 per month and you'll never see an advert again! (Free 3-day trial).
Content contributor - become a part of the world’s biggest film and alternative photography community blog. All our Contributors have an ad-free experience for life.
Sign up here.
5 thoughts on “Contax TVS – Mini Review – By Lukas Walter”
Dude this is exactly what I’m planning for our trip to Japan in October. TVS for film and smart phone for digital. I think it’s very appropriate to shoot film in Japan. Did you wait till you were in Japan to buy film?
I brought film with me since i didn’t know whether i would be able to obtain Lomo 800 there, the Superia 1600 i got on ebay a while ago for a good price and the slide films came with a lot of expired film i bought.
I didn’t bother to get anything hand checked, but i did have everything developed over there to minimize the amount of x-ray scans it had to go through. I also ended up buying some Fuji Industrial 400,100, Superia Premium and some Acros. So if you’re worried about x-ray damage, just buy film there. You will have no problem finding a good variety of 35mm at Yodobashi, BIC Camera or smaller Shops. Superia Premium is super cheap at Don Quijote!
Odd, that the images made on ISO 400 Fuji film are every bit as grainy as those made on ISO 1600 Fuji film. Assuming you’ve reproduced these photos fullframe, why is this the case?
Hey, the images are very grainy due to it being 15 year expired high-speed slide film. ISO 100 or 200 slide would have been a lot less grainy i think. The scanning and compression definitely exaggerate the graininess too
I have had this camera and I loved it. I prefer it even on the T2. I find it better to use (maybe the lens is a little less good but still very correct ; but the camera is especially much more versatile). By cons, and it’s a shame, it is very fragile : many, including mine, break down because of the electric sheet that feeds the lens and breaks from entering and exiting. It cuts itself by bending and there is nothing left to do.