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Which Contax System suits best to your needs



I didn't say the older lenses were inferior. In fact some of the older lenses are the most famous glass ever produced by anyone, ever.
But some of those legendary lenses are more expensive than an entire N system. The 28/2 50/1.2, 85/1.2, 135/2 and 70-200/3.5 German made Zeiss lenses are to die for. If I could own those I wouldn't care if I had to duct tape them to a shoe box. The difference between the N lenses and less lofty Contax manual lenses have to be evaluated lens to lens. I don't think a N zoom should be compared to
a prime. They should be compared to zoom offerings from other camera companies. Since I own or have owned comparable zooms from Canon and Nikon I can say the Contax N zooms are some of the best, only rivaled by a few Leica R zooms ( and only bested by the Leica 21-35/3.5 ).
There well may be a difference between older glass and the newer, but for all practical purposes I can't see it. My recommendation is based on future use. Fitting 645 lenses on a N camera means less glass to carry around when doing as wedding. Then there's digital, which I didn't dream of doing less than 2 years ago, and now it constitutes 80% of my commercial work including weddings.


Hello All,
I am surprised by some claims that the new N zoom
lenses are optically better than the old manual CZ prime lenses. Am I interpretating their statements correctly? I think even the Carl Zeiss engineers would disagree with that subjective judgement! It is possible that the new N zoom lenses are slightly better than the old manual zoom lenses, but without objective comparisions, one should never make such claim. I could write to Dr Hubert Nasse from Carl Zeiss camera division to verify this myth if any one feel strongly about the issue of old vs new Zeiss.
Note that the old manual CZ prime lenses are legendary for their optical performance and I doubt Carl Zeiss engineers would modify the design a great deal for the N counterparts.


Lots of people have problems with autofocus on the G2. Even on SAF mode it is easily fooled. Remember this is a rangefinder, the lens doesn't see what you see (it attempts to though)so you can't tell it's out of focus until you see the prints. It also doesn't focus on what you hoped it might. (I learned the hard way). There is no focus confirmation, and the centre bracket can not be used for focus locking with 100% confidence. My advice is to keep an SLR until you are convinced, or confident enough to use it with 100% success. Otherwise wide aperture work (esp. with flash) can be a total lottery!

Contax have a long history of superb optics and high quality cameras.

They are <font color="ff0000">•<font color="ff0000">•<font color="ff0000">•<font color="ff0000">•<font color="ff0000">•<font color="ff0000">•<font color="ff0000">• electronics. They have never been in the technology race (both good & bad).

That's why they are together with Yashica and Kyocera, and still not up there with Canon, Nikon etc.

Hence, autofocus just ain't there forte! Flash neither. Even zoom lenses are a problem.

Best to use Contax MF cameras and lenses. You know where you stand, it does exactly what it says on the tin !! Superbly !!

Have you seen the size of the Contax that uses the film back to focus? Ridiculous !!

They have some fantastic ideas (inc. G2) but can not get them to "bring home the bacon" if they rely on electronics.


Here's my questions/concerns:

I do outdoor photography almost exclusively - particularly mountain climbing. However, these are action-oriented sports photography.

Consequently, weight is important. Also, ruggedness as well.

What camera system would you recommend? I am considering either the RX or the N1. I assume the RX would be lighter, but I would rely on the older style of Zeiss lenses. I assume this precludes me from using the newer N1 series or any combo in conjunction with the 645 body via the NAM-1 adapter.

However, I do not foresee that as a problem. It just limits my future selection.

Also, I've been told by various camera stores that I should get fixed lenses & ignore the zooms. The reasoning being that the fixed lenses are superior to the zooms. Is this correct?

Also, I'd prefer a SLR as opposed to a range finder.

I go places that very few humans trek (well, at least I hope so). Consequently, I am willing to carry more weight to capture the pictures that I take. So, I guess the trade-offs involve the N1 (maybe Nx) versus the older styles (Rx) or even the compact cameras ( Aria or ?)

Thank you for your advice and consideration !!

Best wishes,


...the choice between the manual Contax system and the N-sytem is not easy.

The general "rule" that FFL are better then zooms is not valid for all FFL-Zeiss lenses anymore. The reason is the older design of the FFL with C/Y mount and the new designed N-Zooms with the lastest knowledge and production know-how in it. The manual focus FFL designs are sometimes still from the 70s i.e. 25/2.8 so this is not a fair comparison. See for this the test shootings I made in the other threads.

The Rx weights the same as the N1 by the way. If you want to have a light weight packkage, you need to get an Aria or an S2 with the 25, 45 and 85/2.8 on it.



An interesting question is posed above: G vs. N systems.

For what it's worth, I have both the G and N systems (film only) and can conclude that shooting similar subjects (landscapes and portraits primarily) using print film (Fuji Reala film, for ex&le), the N system is superior for its:

+ color rendition
+ sharpness
+ flash system (TLA 200 vs. 360)
+ accurate focusing
+ framing.

but weaker on these fronts:

- battery consumption
- weight.

As with all things, there is a trade-off. I believe that the superior lenses of the N System trumps the no-mirror advantage of the G cameras. Long-term? I believe the G system will last longer due to its build quality and lack of electronic circuitry.

The G system might be better for amateurs on vacation; however, for me, resolution and final print quality is more important that carrying less weight.

I picked up a NX (not as a back-up) but as a compromise recently and I think this is the camera I will use on holidays.

(still unconvinced on the N digital but would gladly jump at a new N2 or even G2 digital).

n.b.: The T3 is a nice conversation piece but its inability to focus fast is a downside.


G vs. N systems

Hi Jack Su,

you rated that the N lenses over the G lenses.
This sounds strange since prevailing opinion is that the G lenses outperform even Contax SLR lenses.

Could you specify for what lenses you did a side-by-side comparison?

Can anybody else agree or disagree to your opinion?


Yes, I would like to know the source of this lens data, too. And a recent post suggests that the G2 is fancy junk, over gadgetted and unreliable as to focus, etc. Does anyone say anything positive about this camera? Also, can the Zeiss lenses for G2 be used on other bodies w/o modification?

TIA for the forum's wisdom here. Mike Gregory


"And a recent post suggests that the G2 is fancy junk"

This person was deleted from the board, because he was trying a couple of times to misuse the board by using profanities all the time. Therefore I doubt that his statements are reliable. I have never had problems with my G2 and the AF.



I bought a G2 a couple of years ago and had a really difficult time focusing under less than optimum light conditions. Was that the cameras fault or mine? I don't know for sure, but I do strongly prefer SLR cameras. Jack C.


I intend to give my Nikon SLR/ 28-135 lens to my daughter. I'd like to finally join the Contax family but am totally confused about which camera/lens to buy. The primary use will be travel --prints/hand held. IMAGE QUALITY is my primary consideration (does this eliminate a zoom e.g., the 24-85, and dictate a FF?).
I will use AF as well as manual but do not want to be frustrated by a tricky AF system as many members write in their e-mails. So---what should I do? Should I save my money and stick with my Nikon? Also, any reason to wait and see what comes out at the end of the year?
Many thanks for your help.


Dear Diane,

If you really want to change to contax for the optics and build quality and you must have autofocus, then you have several options.

For travel I recommend a very lightweight and convenient camera. I suggest the T2, which is has a 38mm f2.8 sonnar lens. You will be surprised at how much more you enjoy your vacations and how many more pictures you get when you don't try to avoid taking a heavy camera along. Another option is a G2 with a 45mm f2 planar lens. These are bouth lightweight autofocus systems with superior optics.

If you really don't mind bulk, or you need an SLR, then get an AX with a 50mm f1.7 planar. I do not recommend the N1. It's lens selection is too small and priced unreasonably.

Sincerely, Eitan Adut


Dear George,

167 cases come up on ebay every month or two. If you can't wait there, call Sarber's camera in Oakland, California and ask for Shasta. Phone: (510) 339-8545.

Best Regards, Eitan Adut


A mini camera is always useful. The T3 is a work of art. You would never regret owning it. There will always be times you have a cigarette sized camera that you would not have a larger one. The utter simplicity is cool too. Of course it is expensive and these cameras lead rough lives. Right now I use an Olympic Stylus and it's OK in this role, and I take a lot of pictures with it.

The G series is interesting. I haven't shot with it. It's amazing that range finders have made a big comeback. I still think if I was going for this retro an approach I'd go all the way to Leica M6. Or even a M3 !

But I think SLRs rule. Versitility, light metering, long lenses, macro photography. They do it all. Really to me the SLR is the required, must have, excellent camera.

Based on the standards of other manufacturers I'd say all the Contax SLR bodies are "professional". The Aria is a little jewel. It's extremely rugged and has all the basic features (if stuff like three metering modes, a comprehensive viewfinder and 1/4000th shutter speed are "basic"). I've read a few reviews from people who took them to the arctic and very high up on mountain climbing expeditions. So I think, as much as other Contax's it's a pro camera built in to a niche. One reviewer launched one from a taxi cab with a monopod attatched and it survived to take pictures. In fact some plastic in a body - if done right - can increase shock resistance. (Why Glocks are so rugged).

The RTS III is awesome. The RTS II is a really handsome classic. The NX is a lot of people's favorite. The lens selection for C/Y is great. How long until there is a 85/1.2 ? Ok, so your not going to buy one of those, but how about the 100/2, considered the best portrait lense for a 35mm by many? Etc. Plus, the feel of manual lenses is really nice. To me the C/Y series is the nicest compromise between the full-retro of the Rangefinder and the obviously modern N.

Having said that the N is the future, and it's never a bad thing to bet on the future. Both cameras are nice, the NX in particular having many of the pluses (size, weight) of the Aria. The zooms are superior, and handy.

Finally in medium format I like "square" so would go with the Rollei, which has nice Zeiss lenses for it too. Lots of folks love the 645 though.

My choice is C/Y .. but you can't go wrong with any and maybe the "N" makes the most sense now.


Dear Till:

I agree my conclusions run contrary to the so-called experts. Using the similar focal length (say the 90mm G vs. 24-85 N at 85 mm) and taking the same portrait, I find the results quite remarkably better with the N series package. Perhaps it's not just a simple lens-to-lens comparison but the final product produced by either system. I have shown these photos to others and they concur that the N-shot photos are better than the G-shots, esp. for color reproduction and overall resolution.

Further, one basic advantage familiar to all of us is that there's no framing problem with the slrs. Sometimes, it's madness trying to get the right framing with the Gs, not to mention the new T3.


Well, I recently shot a test roll on my own: Contax G primes vs. Minolta 9000 AF and Minolta 28-85 zoom. I will analyze the slides ASAP. Quite interesting if the inconvenience of carrying and fumbling the primes pays.

I will post my results here.


Okay all of you opinionated members, I'm again asking for guidance. As I e-mailed before, I'm considering setting aside my Nikon equipment and buying Contax. I've faithfully read members' comments about lens/bodies (thanks Eitan for responding to my message). I feel I should follow Dirk's advice and buy what best suits my needs. My Contax system will be used for travel. I now use a short zoom and usually shoot in AF (handheld). I like the convenience of a zoom and have long ago abandoned changing lens and/or carrying two hefty camera bodies.
I want to move to Contax because it's my impression it can offer me a lens capable of giving me 'drop dead' quality prints. Is this only possible with prime lens? Am I sabotaging Contax's strenghts and my goal if I were to buy a zoom? It seems the 24-85 is a good choice for travel. Do you agree AND will it provide the very sharp images Contex is known for? For those of you who use a Contax zoom and have used FF lens, have you found the 24-85 zoom compromises image quality? (Is there another/better zoom to consider?)
I don't need to add more cameras and lens to my already large arsenal, and I don't want to spend the dollars unless I move into a lens that has the capability to produce the classic resolution and color associated with Contax.
So-----------believing a zoom is best suited to my needs, please advise.
Thanks so much.


I use the 24-85 zoom on my N-Digital and find as good as resolution and sharpness as one could want. It is a very practical travel lens it's almost all you need. I agree primes used to be the only thing, but this is a great lens.


"I use the 24-85 zoom on my N-Digital and find as good as resolution and sharpness as one could want."

I agree. If you want to reach the limits of the N24-85, you have to use a tripod and an excellent film. Since the FFL of the Zeiss manual focus line are sometimes a very old design, you will often outperform them with this zoom. Only "disadvantage is aperture 3.5-4.5.

What is especially amazing because of the new N-lensdesign is the flare reduction and contrast. I have not seen that at any other zoom yet. The 24mm in the zoomrange makes it also tremendeously more "universal" for travel shots then the old C/Y 28-85MM zoom. The new N28-80 is also great but it lacks the Dualfocusmechanism and the 24mm for impressive landscape shots.

Look also in the N-lenses folder for more opinions

BUT the N-system is quiet big and loud compared to the G-system or C/Y-system. People will see immediatley that someone is taking a picture. In some countries a disadvantage. In these situations I would prefer an Aria with an 45mm (S2 to loud), a G2 with 45mm or even better a TVS III/T3.



"Drop Dead" hmmm..... Good Nikon Zooms will also offer extreme sharpness. Perhaps all you need is a nice ED Nikon zoom.

I agree that TVS III/T3 would be great travel

I have not used the new N series zooms. I have used some of the Y/C versions. IMHO they are equal to or exceed Nikon/Canon etc high end zooms.
But the "magic" I like in CZ is often absent.
I'd have to say thay this is the case with some primes as well.

I'd try to put a roll through an N camera with the Zoom on in the shop, then check out the results, but if you are already using high end Nikon gear, you may find it about the same.