Contax G1

I was kindly lent a Contax G1 and three lenses and took the opportunity to shoot four rolls of film with it.  The first thing you notice on picking it up is that it is an absolute gem.  The level of finish is exceptional it feels like it was milled out of a solid block of titanium.  It does have a nice rubberized grip but is a little too heavy to easily use one-handed. The autofocus works well as long as you ensure that you set the center focus point on the subject.  That’s fine for individual portraits but it caught me out a couple of times when it focused between two people despite my efforts.  Additionally the focus is the loudest aspect of the camera drowning out the shutter and film advance although not really achieving objectionable levels.  It’s too bad because even using manual focus doesn’t mitigate the noise as it works by ‘fly by wire’ and focuses to the distance you set on the top dial.  Strangely when you change to manual focus rather than providing you an indication of the actual distance in the viewfinder as it does with autofocus it just gives an uncalibrated indication of whether you are setting focus in front or behind what the autofocus has determined.  That and the fact that the manual focus dial is  easily knocked inadvertently I would suggest that leaving it in AF mode is the order of the day.  Moving on to the viewfinder there is good news and bad news.  The good news is that it adjusts it’s field of view depending on the lens that is mounted.  To achieve this though it would seem that it was necessary to engineer it much like the viewfinder you would see on a zoom point and shoot and the result is that it is a small viewfinder that is sometimes hard to bring quickly to the eye,  like is possible with a fixed lens rangefinder, that’s the bad.  Additionally on the good side of things the viewfinder automatically changes its masking to adjust for parallax and focus.

Okay that’s all well and good, it’s a beautiful piece of camera engineering but what about the lenses?  Well if the camera is a gem the lenses are diamonds.  The standard lens the Zeiss T* Planar 2/45 is perfectly matched and exquisitely built.    With the camera I was also lent the 28mm f2 Biogon and 90mm f2 Sonnar two lenses equally as beautiful. The legendary Zeiss T* coating is evident on all the lenses.  In the center of the lens barrel is the aperture ring with a nice solid detent for each setting.  Because the manual focus is done at the body there are no other external moving parts to the lens.  The lenses are as good optically as they are aesthetically pleasing. The rendering of out of focus areas (bokeh) is terrific giving the images a strong three dimensionality. Unfortunately the limited number of aperture blades shows in the background highlights as hexagonal shapes rather than nicely rounded as is possible with more or curved blades. All three lenses have exceptional sharpness from corner to corner they may very well be the best film camera lenses I’ve ever used.

A few other features of the camera are its top shutter speed of 1/2000 of a second it has +-2 EV exposure compensation and will do three frame bracketing.  You do have to be careful if you override the DX reading system to set a manual ISO as it does not revert back, it can be very easy to accidentally leave it at an incorrect setting (Something to remember)  Also it’s not impossible to forget to remove the lens cap although you will get a very wrong exposure as the metering is  TTL which is another amazing piece of engineering.  It actually uses the light reflected off the shutter curtain to determine exposure.
One thing about one camera: It was the first ever autofocus rangefinder camera

Here are some of my first sample images there are more to come after I develop more film

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