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Contax SLR itch - Recommendations please
Old 06-26-2019   #1
Ste_S
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Contax SLR itch - Recommendations please

I think I've reached the top of the GAS pile and found the 35mm cameras I'm most comfortable with - a Nikon F4, with a FE when I want something a bit lighter.

However, I have a Contax/Yashica itch I'd like to scratch just to be sure Recommendations ?
A trusted seller has a 167MT body cheaply, but then I've not heard great things about these ?

Minimum spec
Manual and aperture priority exposure modes
Metering for up to ISO 3200
Exposure lock and compensation
Nice large and bright viewfinder
Motor drive options - either built in or add on unit.
Ability to override DX coding (if camera reads DX)

Would be nice if it had..
TTL Flash
Matrix metering
Shutter speeds faster than 1/1000sec
Program mode
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Old 06-26-2019   #2
nukecoke
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I have a 139Q. I think it is the lightest and smallest model of the line. It is only slighter higher than my Pentax MX which is famous for being small as an SLR, but it is shorter than the MX. It feels rather sturdy in hand, and I find it easier to hold than the MX.

I like the black finish of it. The viewfinder is not the largest, but then eye point is higher than the classic metal manual SLRs from the 70s. I wear eye-glass so I actually like it more than the wide and grand finders on Pentax MX or Olympus OM-1.

The Copal(?) shutter equipped on it is more carefree than traditional cloth shutters. But the noise and shake is bigger.

The lenses for C/Y systems are more expensive than P-K here in my region, even the Yashica ones. I think it is the same on eBay.

It is a camera that I would keep. If I'm travelling with it, I would buy a manual model only Yashica body as backup, since the electronic 139Q are more prone to failure.
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Old 06-26-2019   #3
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I had the 167MT some years ago, sold it on. It felt a bit outmoded and limited. The RX seems to tick most of your boxes except matrix metering. It has a very good viewfinder and it shows you when the lens is in focus (passive AF). It's light and very nice to shoot. The AX does AF on manual lenses by moving the film carriage, but it's bulky and on the heavy side. The Aria has matrix metering, but I cannot comment any further since I've not tried one. You can find all the specs for these cameras here: http://cdegroot.com/photo-contax/
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Old 06-26-2019   #4
Barry Kirsten
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I've had Contax cameras in the past and loved them. I had the venerable 139 which has stood up well over the decades with respect to reliability, and the 137 with built-in motor. I also had an RTS I which I could in no way recommend. At the time Contaxes were revolutionary with respect to their electronics, and the Zeiss lenses were to die for. Over several years I had no issues with the 139 and 137, but the RTS I was horrible and after a while I learned that mine was unfixable and I got my money back. The first RTS ended up with a poor reputation. The RTS II fared better, but I can't speak about that model from experience. I haven't heard anything negative about later Contax models, particularly the 167MT which I did feel some interest for at one stage, but did nothing about. But considering their age (I had mine in the early 80s-early 90s) I'd be a bit cautious about buying an early model now. But I still think the Zeiss lenses are a strong incentive to consider Contax. Good luck with your journey.
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Old 06-26-2019   #5
ruby.monkey
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If you choose a 137, make sure it's the MA; the earlier MD offers only aperture-priority auto-exposure while the MA adds manual shutter-speed control.
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Old 06-26-2019   #6
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The only ones that tick all your boxes are the Aria or the N series.

The Aria is the only one of the manual focus Comtax SLRs with matrix metering. It is also the only one with a mirror that is not glued in place and will not experience the Contax mirror slip problem. It is, of course, a leightweight electronic camera nearing its third decade, so not sure how reliable you can expect it to be. My two still work fine.

The Ns are less common, lenses are amazing but expensive and a lot have been converted to Canon EOS mount.

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Old 06-26-2019   #7
jbielikowski
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Aria is a wonderful camera, 139 is nice and cheap, 167 is surprisingly good, I don't like both of the 137, RTS have bad rap but most of them died long ago and those still working should go strong for some time, and you can find them for half the price of RTS II, both wonderful, sturdy cameras with gorgeus viewfinders. RTS III... heard some nasty stories, seen some dying examples, still if you hold it once you'll want one. RX has a wonderful grip, maybe just for me but one of the best I've handled, ST is also a nice option. I've never seen 159 I think, should be similar to 139.
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Old 06-26-2019   #8
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I cannot recommend the RTS or RTS II as both mine died and were unfixable. But the non RTS models seem to be good and they are gorgeous kameras.
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Old 06-26-2019   #9
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Had RX, ST, RTS, Aria, 139 (a few), 159MM.

Of those the 159 is my favorite. It has a rubberized covering which won’t disintegrate like the 139, is smalll, light, has a great vf and 1/4000 and an LED readout of the aperture. I no longer care about film autowind but it will accept a winder, same one that fits the 139.Has a program mode (MM.)

Mirror slip is an easy fix, don’t let that deter.

139 is nice except it will likely need a new cover and only has 1/1000.

RX, RTS and ST were all good but heavy.

Haven’t had an S2, RTS 2 or 3.

Also had NX and N1. Latter is excellent although large, with large lenses. Great glass, but you knew that.
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Old 06-26-2019   #10
ColSebastianMoran
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Aria is very late in the sequence, so newer... Made more recently, and made with more recent technology. It's also small, light, and does everything so very nicely.

I say, if it's one Contax, it's the Aria.

That said, the 167MT is a good effective body. Some say there's an internal battery or capacitor that kills the LCD when it goes; I can't confirm that. Mine work fine. As an inexpensive way to get started in Contax, no problem.

Then the next question is lenses. They are great.
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Old 06-26-2019   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by splitimageview View Post
Mirror slip is an easy fix, donít let that deter.
It usually is, but you have a brick until you fix it. In one of my RXs and one ST, when the mirror slip happened other things broke that weren't easily fixed. I got https://contaxrepairs.com/ to fix them.

I note the Contax repairs website now says he does not repair T, T2, T3, G1, G2, TVS, AX, Aria, 645, N1.

I bought multiples of all my Contax SLRs so I have a backup and parts. But when I got them I got them very cheap.

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Old 06-26-2019   #12
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I think the ST with the grip is the best overall unless you want the RTS III, but that is quite a large camera. My favorite after the ST is probably the 138Q. With the grip it is a really nice size. After those two I'd probably go with the RX. The AX is a beast and I don't think there is anyone left who will fix it. The Aria is kinda small. Not a fan. The most expensive one these days is the S2 which is all mechanical. Too bad they cost so much. i'd love to have one.

If you want a less expensive one, the Yashica FR 1 is a solid basic camera though you could probably get a 139Q for about the same price.
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Old 06-26-2019   #13
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I still have a set of C/Y lenses from 28mm to 50mm. I use them with the RX. They can be had from Japan on eBay for around $250. The first version has focus confirmation and I bought it for that reason but turned out I didn’t need it since it is so easy to focus. I haven’t tried other models. The RTS models look kind of big and heavy for my liking.
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Old 06-26-2019   #14
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I have 139Q, 159MM, Aria and RTSII in more or less active use so I thought of sharing by experiences on those:

-All are well designed for aperture priority shooting. Exp compensation is on right hand and shutter speed is on left behind a lock. I like this design since I am 99% on aperture priority but for manual shooting the "traditional arrangement for controls" would probably be more convenient.

-Having metering button separately (RTS, 139) is comfortable compared to the one integrated with shutter (159, Aria) since the shutter touch is quite light, actually "feather light" on RTS. Having it this way reduces accidental exposures. Also having the AE lock in the same place is convenient. AE lock on 159/Aria is around ths shutter so it is also well placed.

-All support at least ASA3200, only Aria supports DX (can be overridden)

-Center weighted works really well - thus I would not put much weight on matrix metering. I seem to be getting constant results with center weighted but sometimes get small underexposure when using Arias matrix metering. Aria has spot metering as well. Aria and 159 have program and shutter priority modes (which I never use) which require MM-type lenses.

-Aria and 159 have the fastest shutter 1/4000, RTS - 1/2000 and 139 - 1/1000. On sync speeds the winner is 159 (1/250), Aria has 1/125, 139Q 1/100 and RTS only 1/60. Thus I use mainly 159 when having a shoot with flashes. All support TTL with Contax flashes.

-RTSII is by far best damped, 159/Aria are pretty similar and 139 is least damped, but not bad either. If I am sloppy on technique I think RTS gives me one stop advantage on shake compared to 139. When I am concentrating on shooting properly all are good.

-I think Aria is the most quiet, RTSII and 159 pretty similar (RTS maybe having a small advantage) and 139 gives definitely the loudest "clonk".
-All have pretty good viewfinders and all provide necessary info for me (speed, aperture, compensation active/not). Aria shows the most info, even showing live the exposure difference compared to center weighted when on matrix metering. I think RTS is easiest to snap on focus evenwhile I have only microprism whilst all other have split-image in addition to microprism.

-RTS has separate mirror-up function as well as one mechanical shutter speed (1/50).

-139 and 159 use easily available and cheap LR/SR44 batteries. 139 runs pretty long on a set of fresh batteries. Aria uses CR2s and uses the most juice. RTS runs on 4LR44 so I think one could use a stack of LR44s as well. 139 does not have a separate power switch which means accidental exposures when putting the camera into bag with shutter cocked.

-RTSII has by far the most solid build and is the biggest and heaviest. 139 is pretty solid and small, 159 having bit more weight. Aria is the most flimsy/plasticky of them all.

-Aria has motorised advance, others are manual. Film advance is smooth on all Contaxes.

-139 has the least convenient (but not bad) take-up spool, Aria is naturally fully automatic and 159 and RTS are very handy to load. RTS has the best implementation of rewind crank.

If buying, all but Aria can suffer on the mirror slip, which is not that hard to fix. All can suffer on contaminated shutter magnets which means shutter not releasing or sometimes not releasing. 139s have a mechanism between AE-lock and advance lever so that when advance lever is pressed in it also disengages the AE-lock in order not to drain the batteries. This has been broken in many 139s I've seen. On one of my 139s it jammed the advance mechanism, but that was easy to fix by taking the top off and removing the broken piece. Naturally then that linkage no longer works, but otherwise camera became back to fully functional state. Most of the issues I've had with my 159 (mirror slip, contaminated magnet, mirror shifting and causing focusing error). Electronics have been OK on my cameras, but as someone said they are so old already that if something on electronics would have broken it would've happened already.

All and all, when the main objective is to take pictures I typically pick up the RTSII. If I am doing a "studio type" flash shoot I pick up 159MM and the all-rounder and travel camera is 139Q. For some reason Aria gets very little use. If I had to pick up only one I would choose 139Q - for me they have been robust, small and contain all that is needed but nothing that is not essential. And they are cheap to buy and use.
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Old 06-27-2019   #15
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That's an excellent overview.

My preference is for the small/light bodies, without autowind. That means the 139 and 159, and I went with the latter due to the 1/4000 as I like to shoot with wide apertures.
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Old 06-27-2019   #16
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I'll give you my 167mt if you want it
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Old 06-28-2019   #17
Ste_S
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GarageBoy View Post
I'll give you my 167mt if you want it
Wow, that's an incredibly generous offer (and timely). I was just coming on here to post that the sellers 167MT had sold whilst I was dithering. Not sure where you're based but i'm in the UK though if that's a problem ?

Thank you for everyone who's posted there's a wealth information in this thread
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Old 06-28-2019   #18
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I PMed you
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Old 06-30-2019   #19
Ste_S
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Thanks to a very generous forumite I now just have to think about which 50mm lens to purchase.
Not sure if to just dive in with the f1.4 Planar, or get the Yashica ML f1.7 while I'm trialling the camera ? There's also the plastic f1.7 Planar to consider...
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Old 07-01-2019   #20
Kai-san
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There aren't many 50mm lenses that can compete with the Zeiss Planar f1.4, but if you want something less costly and very good, go for the Yashica ML lenses. I've got the 21mm, 35mm, 55mm Macro and 100mm Macro, they all have very good optics and mechanics. In 50mm there are three models; f1.7, f1.9 and f2.0. If you want a compact and light lens the f1.9 fits the bill. I have not tried any of them since I have the Zeiss Planar f1.4, but the ML lenses are generally not far behind their Zeiss cousins in quality.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #21
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I finally got around to getting a Zeiss 50 1.7 MM for the body that garageboy kindly sent me.

However it looks as though lens, whilst working fine in Av and M, is broken as the camera won't switch into P or Tv modes. There's a lug on the outside of the lens that looks broken, and I think this needs to engage with a switch on the outside of the lens mount ?

Is this a common thing for the MM lug to be broken ? Any easy home fixes ?
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