So what is this? I’m providing some impressions of a camera launched in 1996 which ceased production in 2005? Am I mad?
Hopefully not! I decided more and more that I liked the film-like quality you get from the Fuji X-trans cameras and from the Leica M9. The thought occurred to me that I ought to see what shooting a 35mm film camera was like. Not the old 35mm cameras I recalled from my youth, with slow lenses and more lights than your average christmas tree. No, I wanted to try a quality camera with some quality slide and negative film. No Boots 200 ISO!
My first thought was to get a film Leica, like a M7 or an MP. But while they are capable of stunning output, I know that I have a tendency to use my X-Pro1 more than my M9. I also saw that I was looking at £1200 odd for a used example of a Leica M7 on eBay.
I recalled some articles and blog posts I had read on the Contax G2, an autofocus rangefinder from the mid 90s, that was reckoned to be the equal of a Leica image quality wise. I looked on eBay and the body could be picked up for £200-300. I thought about it and it was a no brainer. I bought the G2, the 35 and 45mm lenses.
I picked up a variety of “professional” films to try out: some Velvia 50, some Ektar 100 and some Ilford B&W FP4 Plus 125. Way over the top but you don’t learn by taking baby steps.
Of course, not everything turned out as I expected it. The G2 body turned up with dust in the viewfinder, dead batteries in the body and a number of scratches the eBay seller had “forgotten” to mention. However, with some new batteries, the camera was up and running.
I was really very happy with it in use. The AF is very fast and the controls were intuitive in every way. It was liberating not to be in a position to “chimp” at photos. Of course, it wasn’t all plain sailing. I loaded up Velvia which was a poor choice for shooting people (because it makes skin tones redder) and I forgot to check the ISO setting on the film, meaning most of the first half of a film was lost. However, it was a learning experience.
There were a few negatives. The AF is more noisy than I’m used to but hardly deafening. The viewfinder was small and dark (though in its favour, the fact it zooms to reflect the FOV of the lens mounted was very much appreciated) and the shutter speed dial is even more annoying than the one on the Fuji X-pro1 (why the ruddy lock button, why?).
However, in general I thoroughly enjoyed shooting with the body. The lenses were just stunning. Every bit the equal of Leica lens image quality. My only real complaint is the lack of a focus ring and any way to sensibly manually focus. Never mind, there are always compromises.
On receiving the scans this am from Peak Imaging, I was concerned they wouldn’t be up to scratch. I shouldn’t have been. It’s clear at least that the lenses are sharp and very high quality. No way are any of these perfect, but they have a soul and I like them. By way of an aside, the 45 makes an excellent short portrait lens when mounted on my X-Pro1 too!
Shot on (i) my Contax G2 and 35 and 45mm lenses (with Velvia 50); and (ii) for featured image, X-Pro1 and Contax/Zeiss 45mm