Contax G2 – The Finest Camera Ever to See my Minds Eye

1. ​a poem that speaks to a person or thing or celebrates a special event
Keats’s ‘Ode to a Nightingale’

This isn’t an ode, poem nor a lyrical piece of prose, but it is all I could do to give the Contax G2 I used to have something more in line with an eulogy as it played a very important part in my life and has since departed, leaving it’s legacy in dusty boxes and negative sleeves.

The Contax G2

Back in 2005 I had just started getting back into shooting Film and had bought a Minolta Dynax 5 to accompany my Konica Minolta 7D DSLR. What I then wanted was a Leica – almost everyone starts off wanting a Leica, very much like when one starts of being interested in Wrist watches wanting a Rolex. I never did get one though – I was on Amazon’s website and when I typed “Rangefinder camera” an advert for an open box Contax G2 with 45mm Carl Zeiss Planar lens came up for an expensive £550. I had never heard of Contax and had no idea what a G2 was but after a short read on the Web I took a punt and received it in a couple of days. A wealth of articles and reviews have been written, video’d and spoken about the Contax G2 -which is one of it’s kind. Totally unique.

The first thing I did with my new friend was to put a roll of Ilford Delta 100 in it, I had been perusing over Ilford’s website and decided to try out some Black and White. I remember that day well, after going to my girlfriend’s house we went to Heathrow Airport to pick someone up, then over to Crane Park in Hounslow where there’s an old gunpowder mill with the tower still there, looking over the land, a relic still standing and dreaming of unhappy, far-off things, and battles long ago.

I had fitted Red 25 filter for some reason and walking through the tree lined pathway, she turned to talk to me, then glanced towards her right at something, I lifted the camera and shot and the moment was captured forever. I had the Film developed at my local lab and when I saw the results I was bowled over with excitement. The photographs were beautiful and from that moment on was the first day of the next 13 years of my life. Even now 18 years from that day, I feel a sense of loss. Selling the camera and parting with it wasn’t just the trade of a material thing

45mm Planar Ilford Delta 100 Red 25 Filter Crane Park Middlesex 2005

The lens captured everything; from walks in the park, weekends away, summer holidays, birthdays, weddings and parties. Ah! Those halcyon days! The images are frozen in time, the essence of the moment, as if turned into stone by the White Witch Jadis herself – with Aslan breathing life into them whenever I look – releasing the spirits within. Those golden summer afternoons, laughing children then, now grown men and distant – fathers and uncles themselves.

These skies, these meadows evergreen
Are scenes that no one has ever seen
Bounty in joy, calming in strife
They are the essence of our life

Kodak Ektachrome E100vs Turville, Chiltern Hills Buckinghamshire 2006
Pitstone Buckinghamshire Kodak Ektachrome E100vs  21mm Biogon 2008
45mm Planar. Ilford HP5+ 3200 London 2006

That camera was part of my life! I photographed my love, my laughter, my wonder and my joy. My memories are to be found more truly in the slides and negatives which my G2 captured, then the very memories and confused sensations which lie in my heart and in my head.

In 2007 I took the Contax G2 tabroad for the first time, it was an expensive camera and hence I was a bit reluctant at first, then thought in for a penny in for a pound and packed it. I didn’t take enough Film and remember spending a day driving around Islamabad looking for anywhere to buy some E6 – I eventually did at Fujifilm Pakistan’s HQ! A few rolls of Sensia! Anyway, it was off to the Punjab and then to the Swat Valley – I drove through Indus Kohistan, by the Indus into the North West Frontier Province and into The Hindu Kush, just before the Taliban offensive on Pakistani Government forces in Swat. The day after I left my hotel was blown up! I could see and smell the tension in the air and sense it behind the mask of indifference people wore, but the souls of some were to be seen in their eyes.

45mm Planar – Kodak Ektachrome E100vs Swat Valley Indus Kohistan 2007
Shepherds Swat Valley NWFP Hindu Kush 21mm Biogon – Ektachrome E100vs 2007
The Snack Seller Malam Jabba, Swat Valley Kodak Ektachrome E100vs 2007
Pashtuns 45mm Planar Ilford HP5+ Swat Valley Kalaam Hindu Kush 2007

I travelled a lot around these parts and the Contax G2 accompanied me; to The Karakoram and Western Himalaya, the heat of the Punjab plains, Turkey and Egypt amongst other not so exotic places (and all around Southern Britain, around England and Wales). I’m a creature of habit and also one who explores the same areas until I’ve seen everything – then I revisit and re-enjoy and marvel in the magic of a familiar yet exotic place once more.

Is the Contax G2 a Travel camera?
What is a “travel camera”? in my opinion it’s any camera one takes away with them, which suits their style whether in terms of how it performs, it’s size or suitability. I must admit, the most perfect ‘Travel’ camera I ever used was an Olympus XZ-1 Digital Compact, but the one I loved was the G2. The G2 isn’t for everyone – sure, it’s so easy to use (IF you understand F Stops as it has no Automatic or Program mode) but it’s difficult to master. I need to use a camera for a long while before I learn and understands it’s limits and what it can do. Even with over a decade using it, it always sprung some surprises; whether in an almost impossible photo made in low light with slow film, or the way it somehow nailed a difficult exposure. it also gave some nasty surprises, especially with the 90mm Sonnar which is a huge disappointment; a lens which manages to focus say 50% of the time and a lens I eventually gave up on because it let me down so many times. The supreme 45mm and 21mm more than made up for the lack of a decent portrait lens. The 45mm field of view in my opinion is perfect – it gave me everything – in fact I could shoot anything and everything I like with the 45mm and never miss anything else, but I also had the 21mm which again – I could mount and use exclusively, it’s that good! It’s so good it gives you shallow depth of field when shot wide open! I did have the 28 for a short while but once I had the 21 the 28 was no longer needed.

Frontier Policeman NWFP Hindu Kush 21mm Biogon Ektachrome E100vs 2011
Sunset Ride
Fujichrome Velvia 50 at Dusk. Punjab 21mm Biogon 2009
The MysticShrine of Pir-e-Shah Ghazi Kashmir 45mm Planar Fuji Velvia 50 2009
Mawddach Estuary Barmouth Wales 21mm Biogon – Agfa Ultra 100 2012
Mawddach Estuary Barmouth Wales. 45mm Planar – Agfa Ultra 100 2012

It performed flawlessly, yes the meter does underexpose and I learned how to get exposure compensation set to over expose by 1/2 a stop to get it right. Mine was dropped, bumped, nearly fell off a cliff edge with me, was handled by cowherds and kids and covered in mud and snow – but never let me down with no maintenance ever!

So for Travel, I’m not sure – it worked perfectly for me, but others may find it limiting and would prefer a zoom lens, something Digital perhaps. The Viewfinder isn’t the biggest, but it’s bright and large enough with that perfect adjustment for the different focal lengths. The buttons and dials are all placed, for me, in the perfect place, easy to find without looking at the camera. The exposure lock is great – the same style of lever as on a Contax RTS II but placed where it should be, not somewhere you’ll be groping for (as I do with the RTS II). I kept my 21mm hot-shoe finder attached most of the time – as I didn’t want to lose it, it was always ready for when I changed lenses and it looked really cool!

Wherever I went it attracted attention, passers by would look at it curiously, other photographers would ask me about it and I never ever met anyone who knew what camera it was! The best times were when people I photographed asked to look at the rear LCD and were perplexed when all they saw was a blank sheet of metal! Strange how in such a small period of time people have more or less forgotten about Film and it’s as if there had always been digital cameras with a rear LCD screen!
It’s a quick camera, lightening fast, locks instantly into focus and fires off like an AK47, even in near total darkness! The technology Kyocera put into it is amazing and now I’m hoping Kyocera will see which way the wind is blowing, the popularity of Film and re-release it (with a focus fix for the 90mm).

I could go on singing it’s praises, but I did sell it, with regret and a lot of misgiving, but not out of choice – sometimes life bowls googlies at you and you have to play the game to stay in and money; the source of all misery is usually the deciding factor.

Galata Tower Istanbul 90mm Sonnar – Kodak TMZ 3200 2008
In The Hagia Sofia Istanbul 21mm Biogon Fuji Neopan 1600 2007
Snowdonia Wales 21mm Biogon Kodak Kodachrome K25 2010
Snowdonia Wales 45mm Planar – Kodak Kodachrome K25 2010
The South Bank 21mm Biogon Red 25 Filter Fuji Acros 100 2013
Elvis with shades on. People watching a street performer. South bank, London. 90mm Sonnar T* Fuji Acros 100 2013
Virginia Waters. 21mm Biogon Red 25 Kodak HIE

Kodak Ektachrome E100vs

Kodak Ektachrome E100vs was my go to film. Sure, I used many colour stocks (and many B&W) – from Agfa Ultra 100 to Kodak Kodachrome, from Kodak TMZ 3200 to Kodak HIE, but I never got the look I wanted from any other Film. I miss this stock (I have two precious 35mm rolls in the freezer and a roll of 120), sure it was grainy and lacked the subtlety and fine look of Fujichrome Velvia (my second favourite), but it gave me the ‘look’ and the colour I wanted especially for people (Velvia colours I think tend to be too extreme for people skin tones) and suited my eye. My most memorable photographs have been shot with this Film. Unfortunately most of my Slides are at my mother’s and I haven’t had the opportunity nor the time to gather them and scan many that are missing from the files on my Hard Drives, but God willing one day I will do so. Slide film is very special, unlike Negative Film where the printer or the post process determines how the photo will look reversed, or Digital where the processor determines what the image captured on the sensor will look like, Slide Film is as it was shot in camera – (after developing of course) in my opinion it’s the truest manifestation of what your camera saw that you can get and Projected on a white screen in a dark room is a very nice experience and no amount of looking at computer screens or prints can ever hope to match it.

Kalash Boy and Goat 45mm Planar Ektachrome E100vs Rumbur Valley Hindu Kush 2009
Villager on Honda CD70 Punjab 2007 Kodak Ektachrome E100vs 45mm Planar
Summer Swim Upper Jhelum Canal, Jaggu Head. Punjab 90mm Sonnar Kodak Ektachrome E100vs 2007
Kalaash Child Rumbur Valley Ektachrome E100vs 45mm Planar 2011
Rakaposhi 7,788 m – 25,551 ft Nagar Valley Karakoram 2009 Ektachrome E100vs 90mm Sonnar
Bedford Rocket Truck – Punjab Kodak Ektachrome E100vs 21mm Biogon 2007
Boy from Nagar Karakoram Ektachrome E100vs 45mm Planar 2009

Now I have my trusty Contax RTS II and my Minolta SLR/DSLRs and The Contax G2 is long gone. I miss it, but would I get one again? No. I think I’ll leave it and won’t return to it – sometimes precious memories are best left alone and some things symbolize them – I think it’s fitting that my negatives and slides shot with the G2 should stay unique and special in this way, with the knowledge that as I sit and stare in the darkness, silent except for the whirr and click of the projector, through the mist of the pipe smoke; I see the phantom light of my past come to life. So Adieu Contax G2, Thank you for everything, you were the finest camera ever to see my minds eye and I’ll never see your like again.

Dad London HP5+ @ 3200 45mm Planar 2006
Uncle Punjab 45mm Planar Kodak Ektachrome E100vs 2007
Village Man Punjab Adox Silvermax 21 45mm Planar 2015
Chilas man and Cock – Nanga Parbat Himalaya Agfa Ultra 100 45mm Planar 2014

Closing thoughts

The camera became a central part of my life and through its eye I saw and captured memories and spirits – thousands of photos; whether my late uncle and my late Father’ who I loved and miss dearly, to my lost loves and  memories of happiness and laughter. Walks in London, my home town, which I’ve now left behind, parties, family snapshots, days out and portraits and even weddings (the weddings were the worst photographic experiences of my life).

Life is full of memories, and my G2 captured them all, it gave them a physical being; something I can look at, touch, feel and look at time and time again.

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About The Author

34 thoughts on “Contax G2 – The Finest Camera Ever to See my Minds Eye”

  1. Really enjoyed reading this article Ibraar, full of heart felt sentiment about life’s twists and turns, but also about the special bond with some cameras. Pictures were very enjoyable and for me it was also nice to see some on Kodachrome 25, as that brings back memories… it was one of my favourites.

    1. Thanks Paul, I spent too long considering shooting K25 (or any Kodachrome) as the long wait for the slides always put me off – but when suddenly it was announced that the last lab will close I managed to shoot a few rolls and I’m glad I did – and regret not doing so before

  2. Thanks for this – you were obviously smitten with the camera, and the photos are great!

    I have a G1 (45 and 28 mm lenses)and love it – it is one of my (several) go-to cameras. One of these days I must post some photos with it on this site.

  3. Excellent photos and great story. I think that most people have a similar relationship to a first or “best” in one’s life, be it a car, a camera or a musical instrument. With me it was a Minolta XE-7, my first “good camera”. Like you, I questioned whether to take it abroad and like you, I did. All over the world, with superb results. That’s why it was special.

  4. OMG my friend, after seeing these photos, I can understand how much you miss the G2. The two of you captured some beautiful memories together!


  5. Very interesting article and nice photos. I have a Minolta CLE. so there are some similarities. I use a 40, 28, and 90. The G2 is probably similar to using a rangefinder camera. I must focus manually, but often use zone focusing.

  6. I have thanked you before Ibraar and I thank you again for this wonderful, inspiring work. There is a beautiful quality to these images as much the photographer as the camera, but clearly they complimented one another.

  7. well Ibraar what can I say . . . . I really like your story, your writing and as for you photos, words fail me . . . . .amazing does not really do them justice . . . .I will re-read this and look at your images several more times, let it all soak in . . . .thank you . . . . .John.

  8. I really enjoyed your article as I to once owned a Contax G2 and I was so heart broken when it was stolen that it sent me of in a different direction for cameras, one that in hindsight a direction that I should not not have gone on. I went from the casualness of the Contax G2 to using a Mamiya 645ProTL and for the kind of work that I had been making that was a bad move. I wonder how many other photographers have made mistakes like that when using film cameras. I am now a Leica MA user and I have an article coming soon that will describe my journey to that camera.

  9. Ibraar, when I acquired my G2 in 2008 my photographic path took a turn as my minds eye began to see a different world around me. As I viewed those first negs on my light table I knew something special had come into my possession. Our paths crossed at just the right time in my photography universe and I have pushed my work into totally different worlds.

    I understand the reality of life causing unwelcome loss of personally precious objects. In 2008 my personal world began to crumble around me as the housing crisis took hold and my family was forced to move from our home that we had had spent years building from scratch. My gallery and studio were wonderful both in design and function. My audiophile grade listening room was my personal retreat. My back yard was full of native plants, flowers and wildlife. A photographers dream. As all this began a dear friend gifted me with the G2 and the 21,28,35,45 and 90 lenses. This camera kit became the salve that helped my wounded heart.

    We have traveled many places together now. We have documented many people, places and moments of my life. This camera inspired me to photograph a stairwell in a commercial office building from 2008 to 2016. My single most artistic endeavor. It was my constant companion as I spent 16 months documenting the demolition of a local sports arena in 2009_10. I wrote about this experience and the photos and story were published on Emulsive in November of 2018. This camera recorded my daughter on her first and last day of school from 2008 until her graduation in 2020. So many things too numerous to mention.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful story and beautiful images. The horse and rider image epitomizes the ability of this camera to excel at difficult lighting moments. I have not had a bad experience with the 90. To me it is as excellent as the 45. My best to you as you continue this life journey.

  10. Thank you so
    Much my friends for the comments, encouragement and the anecdotes and memories.
    I’ve just moved house – phone signal here is so slow and as yet the home internet hasn’t been installed so haven’t been able to reply.
    Looking at the post and the photos i chose I didn’t realize how much personal emotion I had put into it. The title photo of me above was taken in 2009 at the shrine of the Kalash god Moandeo in the valley of Rumbour in the Hindu Kush. I’ve just turned 50 now, how times flies.

  11. Ibraar, what a wonderful journey you and G2 have experienced and what wonderful images you have produced. I have recently acquired a G1 along with the 45mm lens and am now inspired to start my journey through time with this combination. I was particularly taken with some the 21mm images you show us. I was thinking of getting the 28mm lens but now I face a dilemma as you mentioned you used both and preferred the 21mm lens. Can you elaborate on the difference between these lenses. Thank you for posting this article.

    1. Hi Geoff
      Thanks for the message, the 21mm is a Great lens. the amount of my view I could capture with the 21 and the rendering is so good – plus using the big bright hot shoe finder was very satisfying .

      28mm is quite common and has been with other cameras I’ve used – it’s wide but not wide enough to capture something unique – 24 is also quite common but the 21 allows you this freedom and more space in the frame.
      The look of the images is also in my opinion nicer than the 28.

      If you haven’t used the 21 focal length before I really recommend it – you could go out with only the 21 and stick to it and you’ll be very happy on the way your composition and framing is given the unique look and feel and a look which is very much Contax G2.
      I think the 45 and 21 are perfect for this camera

  12. Jay Dann Walker

    A Contax G (either the 1 or the 2) is, to me, a mechanical masterpiece that opens up entirely new dimensions in one’s vision of photography.

    I could never afford a G2, but I did buy two G1s in the mid-’00s when everybody except me went digital and suddenly film cameras were being flogged off for cents on the dollar. I initially bought a 45 Planar but found the 28 Biogon was much more to my liking as it captured everything in my particular field of vision. I later added a 90 Sonnar but never quite fell in love with it. Also used a 35 Planar and the 21 the OP likes so much, but again, my view of the world is definitely ’28’ and that was the lens that served me best.

    Sadly, I’ve now sold out of Contax Gs, partly due to the high cost of films nowadays but more so given my age (mid 70s) and slightly failing vision. With less time available to me to get on with doing the many things, photographic and other, I want to do in my now more limited life, I find time in the darkroom is for the most part too draining both on my vision and my emotions. I still travel a lot, and intend to go on doing so for as long as my health and stamina hold out, long may it last. But now carrying a lot of gear is no longer my way, and I’ve opted for the most ‘minimal’ kit I could, which is (heresy to say it, I know) a Fujifilm XE2 with three lenses. The Yes are nothing like the Contax and in fact most Fuji digital cameras fail to excite me in any way, but they do the basic things I still want to, being to record the images of those moments I encounter in life and want to preserve.

    I miss my Contacts, and I retain very fond memories of the wonderful experiences they brought me. I believe all Contax G owners will agree with me on this, they are a truly unique camera, the likes of which we may never see again.

    Best regards from DANN in Surabaya, Indonesia

  13. Thanks but too late – I bought the camera a month before you published 🙂 Your images of Pakistan make me want to visit.
    I love it so much, I bought a 2nd body and a 21mm lens to go with the 45 and 90 that came with it.
    For street photography, I find it faster and easier than the Leica where it really is see the scene, raise the camera and snap.

  14. This piece, and your beautiful pictures, brought tears to me. You write and photograph powerfully. I have been meaning to sit and read your writing here for a while, and I decided to do so this morning, on the first of what feels like fall, with a cup of coffee, and a puppy snoring in the background. It was lovely to read about your life with this camera, and how you let it go, as we often have to do, in photography, and in life. Thank you for the bittersweet and beautiful, for sharing about a camera, and much more.

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