Contax G2: A Step Above

2018-01-06 5

A long-time fan of plastic cameras, Argentinean writer and photographer Lorraine Healy (@lorrainehealy) is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera. In this article, Healy explores her first experience with a top-rated camera, the Contax G2.

Contax G2, 45mm lens, Fuji 200. Double Bluff Beach, Whidbey Island, WA.

I have never been someone who spent a lot of money on expensive equipment, be it cameras, lenses, or accessories. I started out with a Yashica 35 rangefinder, moved up to a Canon A-1 with cheap lenses, and never gave a thought to the quality of filters I used, the real sturdiness of my tripods, or any other matter other than making images that I found pleasing. Of course, this made me an absolute natural for the world of plastic and toy cameras—in my opinion, sharpness was overrated and pristine depth of field was rather a bore. Holgas, Sprocket Rockets, Lubitels, even Polaroids were inexpensive, funky, and gave me the kind of randomness that surprised me every time.

The angle is slightly different, and so is the tide level, but this is the exact same spot on Double Bluff Beach, left taken with a Holga N, right taken with a Contax G2.

As I moved deeper into medium format, I found myself attracted to cameras that were more up-market than my usual Holgas and my occasional Diana. Somehow the bigger negative made me appreciate a different kind of image, and I fell hard for a Mamiya 67. There is also a Yashica 124G TLR that I will never let go, even if I now find the weight of it a bit too much to carry all day.

Contax G2, 28mm lens, Ilford FP4, and lots of rain in Portland, Oregon.

They say that most of us photographers suffer from G.A.S.—Gear Acquisition Syndrome, a feeling that if only we had a better lens, that pro camera, that whole new kit, we would take the perfect images we envision in our minds. And that we all have a secret (sometimes not so secret) wish list, and it takes us to those auction sites where we look and dream. One of those cameras for me was the Contax, in both the G line (interchangeable lenses) and T line (fixed lens).

Two shots with the Contax, wide open at f/2.0 with the 45mm Zeiss Planar lens (left) and f/16 with the Blogon 28mm lens. Both Fuji Superia 200 film.

The Contax camera was Kyocera’s answer to the Leicas and Ricoh GRs— 35mm rangefinder film cameras widely considered to be the best of the best. Each brand and model of these high-end cameras has its own die-hard fans, and it is not my intention here to try to convince anyone about the superiority of any one of these fantastic systems. The Contax happens to be the one I kept looking at, time and again. This is not an inexpensive camera system by any means, so the problem with checking auction sites was wondering whether I could trust a seller before plunking down a significant amount of money. When a Twitter friend who is an awesome photographer announced he was selling his Contax system because he wasn’t using it enough, I jumped at the chance. I had seen the work he shot with the camera, and I knew this was one particular camera and seller I could trust.

Old cars, the Edsel shot with Fuji Superia 200; the old MG and Volvo shot with Ilford FP4. Contax G2 and 28mm lens.

It is not a strictly mechanical focus rangefinder, sporting an insanely fast AF electronic capability, but it can also go full manual, if desired. As a matter of fact, the AF system and the shutter itself are so insanely fast that I have ended up taking some shots entirely unprepared, thinking I was merely focusing before re-composing and shooting. I am slowly learning the intricacies of shooting with this wonderful camera and it is clear to me that only time with it and practicing lots will make me a worthy handler of such a tool. It is not that one cannot take great images right away with it, but I would like to get to know it like I knew my A-1, or like I know my Holgas.

Two night scenes on Portland’s Willamette River, shot with the 28mm lens and Ilford FP4.

On a recent trip to Portland, Oregon, I kept making mistakes, like not really remembering how to shoot long exposures, or getting flustered because I was unable to get the images I knew I wanted. The learning curve with a really good camera, if you haven’t used one before, is more uphill than we realize. Still, I’m keeping the Contax and I’ll be using it lots. Some of the images below convinced me it will be worth the time and effort.

Double Bluff, Fuji Superia 200. 28 mm lens.
Detail on a bridge in Portland, 45mm lens. Ilford FP4.
San de Fuca, WA. 28 mm lens and Ilford FP4.

Does this mean I am giving up on my Superheadz, Sprocket Rockets, LCAs, Debonaires, and every crappy camera I own? Not in the least. But just as I discovered a long-dormant passion for pinhole cameras this past year, I think 2018 will be a year in which I will explore making a different kind of image with a top-notch camera like the Contax G2. It’s all about not getting stuck in ruts and always feeling the excitement and pleasure of film photography, right? And, on that note, I wish you a fantastic 2018, great light, an abundance of film, and all of your favorite cameras to put it through!

Two portraits of one of my neighbor’s beautiful Shetland ponies. Ilford FP4.

Lorraine Healy (@lorrainehealy) is an Argentinean writer and photographer living in the Pacific Northwest. A long-time fan of plastic cameras and she is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera, available as an eBook from Amazon.com.

written by Lorraine Healy on 2018-01-06 #gear #35mm #color #b-w #contax-g2 #contax

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5 Comments

  1. lomodesbro
    lomodesbro ·

    Lorraine, you say that you are looking forward to getting to know your Contax G2 This absolutely stunning introduction promises a very creative and exciting partnership for you both. The fantastic 28 & 45 lens, graphic Ilford FP4, diffused pastel colours with Fuji Superior 200. Not too mention Holgas & pinholes. Where did you dig up the Edsel? Go well.

  2. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    The Contax G2 is a great camera. The only weak point is the difficult to find electronics spare parts in case of fault.

  3. jonkersey
    jonkersey ·

    I really enjoyed the article and the photos!

  4. lorrainehealy
    lorrainehealy ·

    @jonkersey Thanks so much! @sirio174 I know, I know... And I pray it won't happen for many decades!!! @lomodesbro thank you so much, Des! The Edsel was out for sale near the Volvo and the red coup, just out there in the weather for about 3 months and it must have sold because it is no longer there. The other two are still there, still for sale.... :)

  5. polaroidlove
    polaroidlove ·

    Great article Lorraine! Your photos are amazing. :-)

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