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“Superb lightweight system camera which produces...”

Written on: 15/11/2007 by rubblegum (13 reviews written)

Good Points
Small and discrete range finder camera at the top end of the old 35mm film class. Photographic quality is right up there in the Leica class.
This is a camera for 'thinking' photographers. It requires basic photographic knowledge to get the best out of it and isn't really suited (or designed for) the point and shoot market.
Lenses are superb. The range is 16mm, 21mm, 35mm, 45mm (standard) & 90mm. There is a 35-70mm zoom which only works properly with the later Contax G2 due to different electronics in the later camera.
There are also adaptors to fit 35mm Contax/Yashica lenses to the G series although I can't work out how the focus / exposure is carried to the camera.
Flash is adequate. 3 small TTL units for the G series and commonality with the larger guns.
A Contax G fitted with a huge press style flash gun is works but looks rather similar to a German WW2 stick grenade.

Bad Points
Very expensive system! Excellent but very limited range of 5 lenses in Contax G mount. Nothing greater than 90mm and with small apertures, the 45mm is an f2 and the 90mm f2.8. It would be nice to have a fast aperture f1.0 - f1.4 in one lens at least in this price bracket / quality.

Main disadvantage of rangefinger cameras is that unlike SLR's (single lens reflex) you are looking through a viewfinder rather than the taking lens so cannot check focus, depth of focus or parallax error in close up. Rangefinders also can't do macro (close up work) or medium to extreme telephoto.

The G1 comes in 2 versions, early and late. The later ones have a green sticker in the film chamber which means they have the computer ROM upgrade to work with the 16 & 35mm lenses. Early models have a silver sticker and cannot use these. Note that despite what some reviewers state: the 35-70 zoom does NOT work on any G1.
Early G1's have a problem with close range focussing with the 90mm lens at full aperture. It either won't focus or sulks on infinity. Later models have this cured. The G2 has a different and better , quicker range finder / AF system which eliminates the problem.

The electronics are fairly old tech and crude by modern standards, surprising on a camera of this quality. However once you understand the limitations they work fine. Metering is centre weighted with no spot metering...major flaw, although there is a comprehensive exposure compensation system fitted. Focusing is via a small marked area in the centre of the viewfinder, be careful because thats where it will focus! Its easy to take a group photograph and find the camera focused on something in the background leaving your group fuzzy!

The camera has a manual focus dial which works fine..except its on the top plate, impossible to see when using the camera and its also not stiff enough...adjusts the focus all by itself.Contax service had a free modification to make this stiffer.

Rangefinder lenses are very small and light compare to their 35mm SLR versions, due to optical design and the way they mount on the camera. Care is needed when the lenses are dismounted not to damage the exposed breech ends..also the Contax G mount is fairly fiddly to take on and off the!
Battery eater! Carry spares!

General Comments
Superb lightweight system camera which produces excellent results in the 'middle ground' of photography. Not suited to close work or sports/telephoto.

Specs as follows:

35mm rangefinder camera with interchangable lenses and TTL flash.

Telescopic viewfinder with auto parallax correction for mounted lens.

2.5 fps built in motordrive.

Aperture priority (set the shutter and it sets the aperture)

Full manual with focus override.


Diopter eyepiece correction built in.

Top quality camera for top quality results. Negs are pin sharp. The only disadvantage in some situations is the slow shutter response and lack of reflex viewing which has caught me a couple of times used in a pro studio with models.

G1/G2 are niche cameras. The can't compete with an SLR system for versitility however anybody who's lugged a full kit of SLR's and gubbins around on assignment will love the low weight and the quality of result where you can use them is better.

If I was buying now I'd buy a G2. Same lenses and quality but better ergonomics and much better rangefinder/focus system. There are still some specialist dealers with new around.

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