Contax G1 and G2

The camera's

In the 90s I had never heard of the Contax G camera’s. Somewhere in 2014 I read an article that these Contax G camera's were in the 90s the state of the art. The image quality was as good as Leica, because of the amazing lenses and above that they were modern. No stupid film loading, no manual focusing, no 50s frame lines. And no fanclub who think that a € 6000,- camera with a € 4000,- lens can only be rightfully handled with the rule of sunny sixteen. And as important they were secondhand a lot cheaper than Leica's.

So I bought a Contax G1 with a 28 mm lens. Beautiful camera beautiful lens. But I was punished for my sacrilege of the holy Leica. The autofocus mechanism was broken. Thank god there is Ebay. I bought a second G1 in Japan. This one cost me € 100,00 without  a lens. I hadn't said anything nasty about Leica in weeks and it payed off. This one worked beautiful. And now in december 2021 it still works perfectly.

The G1 is a beautiful camera. But I'm human so enough is never enough. No I read about the G2 and about the 45 mm and the 90 mm and the 35 mm and the 21 mm and the zoom. Long story short. I completed my Contax G collection. I even bought the aluminium case. And it is all true they are nice camera's and great lenses, though the G2, although it's a better camera, is not half as beautiful as the G1. 

Both camera’s make use of the G mount bajonet and that is something you have to get familiar with. On most other camera’s you have to turn the whole lens to put the lens on the camera. But not so with the G’s. You have to put the lens on the camera and then turn a ring on the lens to click it into place. It feels clumsy and sometimes it goes wrong. When it goes wrong the settings on the aperture ring are in the wrong place. I think both Canon and Pentagon used this kind of bajonet in the past.

The Contax G camera’s use two lithium V3 CR2 batteries and they make intensive use of these batteries. You can shoot approximately 40 rolls of 36 exposures with two batteries. Of course this depends very much on the circumstances in which you shoot. In very cold conditions it will be a lot less. So if you go out in the field always take at least two spare batteries with you en keep them warm. In the Netherlands these batteries are easy to get, but they are not cheap. Two batteries cost about € 10,00.

Then there is the annoyance that not all lenses fit on all camera’s. Let me explain. When you own a G2 you’re good. All lenses fit. But when you own a G1 you have to look inside if there is a grey or a green sticker. Green sticker no problem but on a G1 with a grey sticker you can’t use the 21 mm, the 35 mm and the zoom but of course the G1’s with a green label are twice as expensive.

The Contax G's is are very special camera's. They are autofocus rangefinders with interchangeble lenses. Well purist wouldn't call them rangefinder at all. With a 'real' rangefinder you have to match two images in the viewfinder by manually turning a ring on the lens. The most famous rangefinders are the Leica M models, but there are a lot other brands who have produced rangefinder cameras. But they are wrong. The Contax G camera’s are rangefinders. They are no SLR’s that focus through the lens. I’m no technician but I see two small windows at the front of the camera and like all rangefinders these are there to focus.  Only difference is they do it all by them selves. There is even a back button focus knob on the back of the G2. The question is how well do they autofocus. In my experience here is the big difference between the G1 and the G2. The G2 focuses much faster but also more accurate then the G1 especially with the 90 mm lens. 

Then there is the aspect of framing. When you use a Leica M you see frame lines in the viewer that correspondent with the lens you use. Well actually most of the times you see frame lines for two lenses. For instance when you put a 28 mm lens on an M6 you see the frame lens of a 28 mm and a 90 mm lens so you can compose you shot and very important you can see what is outside of the frame lines. When you use a G camera what you see in the viewer depends on the lens. You when you use a 90 mm the whole frame is filled with the 90 mm image. On the Leica you can use up to a 135 mm on the Contax is 90 mm the maximum focal length. On both camera’s the shortest focal distance is 28 mm and when you want to go wider and see what you’re framing you need an external viewfinder.