I’ve been using the Contax T2 for over a decade as one of my main cameras. This review is focused more on my experiences with the camera and how it’s impacted my work as a photographer so it’s light on technical information. Hopefully the images themselves speak to the camera’s best attributes. The design, controls, and above all the amazing quality of the lens have come through for me time and time again.
If you are looking for a more technical review, please see this post from Hamish
I received my T2 used as a gift from my older brother. He often frequented pawn shops and yard sales and knowing that I was a photographer, kept an eye out for deals on cameras. He came across a Contax that had a burned out flash but was in otherwise perfect condition so he picked it up at a steep discount and gave it to me as a gift. It’s impossible to overstate how thankful I am to him for finding it for me.
I primarily shoot urban landscape photography and the T2 is particularly suited to my workflow. My work leads me to explore some pretty rough neighborhoods, normally on foot or on my bicycle. A small 35mm camera that I can slip in my back pocket is perfect for this environment. It allows me to create photographs quickly and inconspicuously without carrying a larger camera. Because of the small size and incredible lens, the T2 can also be a very capable street photography tool, though the shutter is far from silent. It makes the type of sound that would blend into the background noise of a busy subway platform but would draw attention in closer quarters.
The T2 is equipped with a Carl Zeiss 38mm f 2.8 Sonnar lens and it is worth purchasing for that alone. Put simply, the image quality the Contax T2 produces is stunning. From the level of sharpness that can be achieved to the soft vignette that occasionally appears, it has a character all it’s own. In use, the camera also handles in a way that really sets it apart from other compacts that I have used. Operationally it is deceptively simple and can be used in a fully automatic capacity if desired. But if you dig a bit deeper, the thought and attention to detail put into the layout and controls become readily apparent. The viewfinder is great with bright, accurate framelines that are easy to see under most lighting conditions. Metering is center weighted with an easily accessible exposure compensation dial and the aperture can adjusted using the dial on the lens (or left on the automatic, f 2.8 setting). As far as build quality is concerned, the T2 is literally built like a tank. Although I’ve never dropped it, it has seen a lot of use in the past ten years and still functions the same as the day I got it.
Using the T2 over such a long period of time has definitely helped me shape my photographic style by allowing me to work unobtrusively in the streets and neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Personally, I’m a big believer in using a single camera/ lens combination for my projects and the T2 is the perfect fit for this approach. Over the years I have produced work with many other cameras (film and digital) that I like, but my best photography continues to be shot with the Contax T2. Perhaps it is simply the correct tool for my style, but I would be hard pressed to recommend another compact film camera.
For more reading, you can find Hamish’s review of the Contax T2 here