Contax (Kyocera) Aria Review

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  • Photograph Quality

  • Features

  • Ease of Use

  • Value For Money

Alan.'s review of Contax (Kyocera) Aria

★★★★★

“Ok, so you want to be a photographer right ? You go...”

Written on: 09/11/2001 by Alan. (1 review written)

Good Points
Smooth handling. Permanent AE lock. Lightweight and bright viewfinder. Manual focus teaches you photography.

Bad Points
Larger Contax bodies ( RX, RTSIII ) balance better with heavier lenses. No autofocus ( buy a point and shoot ! )

General Comments
Ok, so you want to be a photographer right ? You go through all the "major" brands and buying guides, endlessly comparing features until you go stark crazy ! In the back of your mind you say to yourself, " Hey, if I am putting this much time and energy into this search, maybe I should think about getting some quality gear that will last !"

But all you run into are dim viewfinders, obscure controls, and cheap zoom lenses. So what's an aspiring Ansel Adams to do ? One day you are at your whits end when suddenly you see this little jewel on the front of a magazine. "What can this be ?" you ask. You finally get your hands on this "Aria", put the viewfinder up to your eye...and the battle is over. You have discovered the magic of a Contax. So what I am I talking about ? First, an ergonomic design so natural and sure footed that you can work it with your eyes closed. A viewfinder brightness that puts the others to shame. An exposure meter that is dead on...and one more thing, Carl Zeiss lenses. Here is where faith plays it's part. If you have been taken by the smoothness that the Aria moves with, and decide to bring her home, when you get those prints back from the store and show them to your friends, the color rendition, sharpness, detail and contrast will leave them breathless, and you smiling. "What's that camera called ? " , It's a Contax Aria, and if you want to make a serious start into 35mm photography at an entry level price, you will not be disappointed.

  • Value For Money

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37716_Bill.'s Response to 5662_Alan.'s Review

Written on: 13/09/2002

What I am reading here is a sales pitch, not a review.

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Alanhayes's Response to 5662_Alan.'s Review

Written on: 15/12/2018

Hi All. The guy who gave the original review of the Aria. And for anyone who ever used a Contax Camera, we all knew I was not writing a "Sales Pitch". It's amazing to me the reviews I have seen since. I certainly respect everyone's opinion. So goes the Internet :)

So here is my update as far as a long life of using the Contax system as of 2018. Yes, 17 years ago! The Aria helped me break into professional photography. Just by having a Contax gave me credibility. The disappointing thing obviously is that the whole Kyocera relationship with Carl Zeiss blew up as the digital age fell on us. But now, guess what? It's 2018 and "Film is In". Amazing how the tables turn!

So here's how it went down for me. I loved my Aria, the size, handling, custom functions you name it. I never had a problem with over/under exposure for the most part. I had a Databack on it for awhile, and I do think it had a tendency to over expose maybe by 1/2 stop. But with the Spot meter, you knew where to point it to get results. I recall I believe a Custom function which helped get around the crazy tightness of using the on/off switch as an AE lock.

I started experiencing electronic problems with the camera. It would simply spontaneously shut down. I am not sure what the problem was, but it died on me at a cousin's wedding. I was not the photograpger of record, but I felt rather impotent with a dead camera and flash bracket around my neck!

So I traded it in for an AX. Man, did I love my AX. The AX is to put it mildly, not a portable camera! So I missed lazy Sunday's roaming around town with my Aria. What the AX WAS was a great 35mm Studio Camera, which is where my focus had shifted to. With that, I bought a Contax Preview II Polaroid camera and an RTS II "backup". I then started expanding my lens lineup and traded up to the likes of the 25, 35, and 85/1.4 (Could never afford the 100mm F 2)

Then Wedding "Photojournalism" came in and the costs to deliver 500-1000 images with Film just became too much... let alone casual shooting. So I started shooting with Canon Digital. I did "transfer" one Zeiss lens to the Canon line through a Leitex adapter.. the 50/1.4. I still have the rest of my Zeiss glass which I will probably never part with.

A couple of years ago, the mirror on my AX started locking up for some reason. Unfortunately I waited too long and Contax parts are literally impossible to find to repair the Cameras. I will try though. I am eying a used RTS III to anchor the rest of my glass. Could not have afforded it when they were in their prime. I hear there is a problem with the mirrors on some of the Contax Cameras, so if you are buying used, please ask the seller!

My bottom line? At the time of launch, the Aria was truly something special. It was an on-ramp into the world of Carl Zeiss Lenses. For a new Photographer, it was an absolute dream. If you viewed it as a tool within a wider Contax system as a pro shooter, you traded up if you ran into reliability problems as I did. As you learned to operate ANY camera (I shot with Medium and Large Format as well..), you put more stock into what the lenses could deliver... as much of Studio Photography could care less about Auto Exposure modes.

When I shoot now, I rent my Lenses for the application and If I need a Body with specific capabilities, I know I can rent that too. Cameras are tools and you should shoot with the most reliable image making tools you can find.

I will always retain a Contax Body of some sort simply to shoot with Carl Zeiss lenses. When I hit it big, I will probably explore some of the new higher end Zeiss lenses for Canon and Sony bodies.

For those just starting out in Photography and you want to start out with Film, I would recommend perhaps an inexpensive Contax 139, RTS II or even one of the nicer Yashica Bodies available used. They will serve the same magical purpose my beloved Aria served me: A classy and intuitive tool to help you learn how to paint with light. Cheers and never stop shooting.

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Rob Valine's Response to 5662_Alan.'s Review

Written on: 16/03/2007

I have to agree. I've been using 2 Contax Aria bodies for 7 years. In response to Bob's comment, In 7 years I've had to make one repair to my Contax Aria bodies. It was a stripped tripod socket. That's after 7 years of hard professional use.

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105722_Bob.'s Response to 5662_Alan.'s Review

Written on: 09/06/2003

People who are seriously considering this camera should also consider that they are buying a very expensive film camera body that might not be around much longer. Repair statistics are terrible:
<br>
<br>Nikon - 15.6% defects
<br>Yashica - (now discontinued) 16.6%
<br>Ricoh - ( now discontinued) 17.1%
<br>Canon - 19.6%
<br>Leica - 24.3%
<br>Pentax - 25.9%
<br>Minolta - 26%
<br>Contax 30.3% - (most number of repairs of any name brand)

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