For the past 8 months I have been exclusively shooting 35mm and medium format film. In high school I dabbled with 35mm film for a little bit but didn't take it as seriously as I did with digital. To be honest, technology was advancing and it became easier and a lot cheaper. But as time went on, I felt like I was losing sight of photography's roots. I would sit at my computer combing over hundreds of photos, only to keep a fraction of them. Over time I wanted to get back into film, and Craig and I would talk about it often. The discussion always ended with digital being so much easier and more cost effective.
8 months ago I was hired at a camera store and took a spot in the film department and since then, aside from large paid projects, I have been shooting nothing but film. I've found it more rewarding, taking my time with my work and what I consider worth shooting. I found that each roll of film yielded at least a 95% rate of images worth keeping.
Film is NOT dead, if anything, it's growing. There's a huge community of professional photographers that shoot nothing but film. From big weddings to high profile jobs, they claim that they haven't touched a digital camera in years. I've discovered that film is doing so well, that Kodak announced that they are bringing back one of their most popular films from the grave this year in 2017: Ektachrome slide film.
Film can be intimidating; we're so used to instant satisfaction with digital and being able to see what we just took a picture of -via our phone, video camera or DSLR. If we don't like what we see, we can delete it and just take another photo until we get it right. With film you don't get any of that. You take the shot and you wait a week to be able to see if your calculations were right or wrong. A lot of people come into my work and express frustration and confusion towards film photography. They're afraid of it because they relied so heavily on seeing it right away. For me, I find it exciting and fun. You learn from your mistakes and you get it right because you don't want to pay for it again.
I now own a few great film cameras and I have shot on many more. If you're looking to get back into film or if you've never done it before and want to give it a try, I'm going to review a few of my favorite cameras I love to use. Maybe down the road I will also review film as well?
Today I am going to review my favorite camera company, Contax. The model of camera for today is the legendary Contax G2.
It is said that the Contax G2 is the most advanced 35mm rangefinder camera in the world. And I concur!! It's the tits!!
The G2 is highly refined, with arguably the world’s best optics, Zeiss glass. It also offers auto exposure, auto loading, advance and rewind, and TTL metering for both flash and ambient light. I'm not even mad about it.
The autofocus is probably my favorite thing about this camera. It's super quick to snap into focus and it hardly ever searches for it. It just works.
Contax did everything right with this camera, and they had to. They always had a number one objective: to beat Leica. Contax and Leica were like how Nikon and Canon are today. It's like the Westside Story. They didn't like each other...at all.
Contax has always been the best. When Ansel Adams shot 35mm, he shot Contax, not Leica. Sadly, Contax went out of business in the 1950s and Zeiss bought the rights to the name. In the 1990s, Zeiss licensed the name to Japan's Kyocera, who made the current-day Contax cameras. Sadly, in 2005 Kyocera announced they were no longer going to manufacture Contax cameras.
Zeiss lenses are out of this world. Literally...they use Zeiss in satellites. That's why everything looks so good when you google map stuff. Could you imagine how crappy the person's house you're trying to spy on would look if it was with Tameron glass? No..you can't... because you get the best...Zeiss best.
They created something new when they made the Contax G2; they designed it to allow the rear lens elements to get closer to the film plane than in Leica, which allows lens designers more freedom to design better wide lenses, which in turn created waaaay less lens distortion -that's pretty baller if you ask me.
Ergonomically, I love it! I still can't get over how easy it is to change the settings with just your thumb. There's no holding one button down while spinning another dial just to get to a setting that you want to use. Each function has its own dial and it's all located by your thumb.
I'm not lying when I say it's a hoot to shoot!!
Contax G; not compatible with anything else.
This camera had a lovely line up of fixed lenses: 28mm F/2.8, 35mm F/2, 45mm F/2 and the 90mm F/2.8
There are two AF systems: a coarse, high-speed active infra-red system that instantly gets pretty sharp focus even in total darkness, and so long as there is light, and a second passive high-precision AF system that gets perfect focus. These two systems get great focus almost instantly most of the time.
This was one of the main updates from the earlier version, the G1.
A motor in the body focuses each lens via a mechanical screw and the lens position resets for each shot!
Some say that the autofocus is still hard to get, but I can't seem to recreate that problem without making it an operator error. The only times I've gotten out of focus shots is when something is coming right at me at a fast pace leaving the lens focused on the last spot it grabbed it. Or when I forget to change my shutter speed and the photo comes out blurry and out of focus due to slow shutter. All this can be prevented if you just take your time.
Focal plane, multi-blade vertical metal.
Auto: 16s - 1/6,000 sec.
Manual settings: 4s - 1/4,000 and bulb.
Bulb: Counts-up seconds on frame counter LCD. Counts up to 59 and resets to count up again.
Maximum shutter speed with flash (sync speed): 1/200 marked, 1/180 actual.
PC flash sync terminal.
I've got to admit, it sounds pretty sexy when it fires.
But I never use it. You can blow through your roll of film sooooo fast. Seems like it could be a waste.
The finder is a big peephole with dioptometric adjustment from -2D to +0.3D. (which means, from poopy can't see eyes, to you have great seeing eyes)
It pokes out for easy viewing without having to push your nose against the back of the G2.
It changes magnification with lens choice
2Xs CR2 3v batteries.
The one really cool thing I found out about the G2 is that it will use the all the life of the batteries. It'll warn you when there's about 10% life left, but will keep going until it hits zero. Most of the other cameras I use will leave about 10-20% left.
The Contax G2 feels great in my hands! It has a nice but not cumbersome weight to it and doesn’t hurt my neck while I’m carrying it around all day. It has everything you need near your right thumb which makes it so much easier when shooting quick shots. The shutter button is pretty touchy, which means you might fire off a shot when you’re trying to focus. The great thing though, is that they put in a dedicated focus button on the back of the camera right where your thumb is!
I find the G2 perfect for street photography; the size is perfect for it. You don’t draw much attention to yourself when carrying it around or snapping photos of people on the streets like some photographers do when they hold their massive DSLRs. I find it less intimidating and seems to piss people off LESS than when I try and take their picture with my Nikon F3.
The quick auto focus is amazing for the streets. I sometimes miss what I’m trying to shoot when using my other manual focus film cameras, so I’m very grateful for the snappy focus the G2 gives me.
Metering is spot on as well. I’ve never missed the correct exposure yet with this camera. However, when metering, it ONLY works in “auto” mode. Auto isn’t what a lot of people think it is when it comes to film cameras. Auto is actually Aperture Priority. Meaning, it will base the shutter speed off of what you selected for the aperture.
I honestly give this camera 10/10. I'm not jerking your chain either. To give a rating like that for our first review is pretty nuts. But I enjoy this camera so much that I had to share the Contax G2 first. The way this camera flows just feels right. To the way it feels in your hands, to the sound it makes when you fire off a shot and the spot on exposure accuracy. You can really tell that Contax put a lot of time and effort into making this camera. It really is a shame they don't make these anymore. There is hope though! If you do find yourself almost purchasing one, there's a company in New York called Nippon that still services them. I've worked with them before and they do a flawless job at repairing the Contax along with many other types of cameras. So please don't let the "they're old and no one fixes them anymore" voices get to you.
I am also uploaded a slide show at the bottom of the page with photos taken while testing out the G2.
I really hope you enjoyed my review as much as I enjoyed making it. There are many more reviews to come, and please let me know if you'd like to see us review 35mm film brands as well.