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Contax G1...why so cheap?
Old 05-27-2008   #1
vfrazz
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Contax G1...why so cheap?

If it is too good to be true, it probably isn't...as we are often told. So why are the G1 and its various Zeiss lenses selling so low (on its own or compared even to the Hexar RF, and certainly an M4)--am I missing something? I'm looking to replace my Rollei 35s as my constant walk-around and street camera. I probably won't be doing much AF, and I want a better meter (than the Rollei), plus the benefit of RF focus (vs zone for the Rollei). The G1 with a 35mm lens looks like it has all the right stuff (the G2 is larger, so...). So what's "wrong" with these cameras that are so cheap?

ps: if I do spring for the G1, where can I get the body upgraded for the 35mm lens?
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Old 05-27-2008   #2
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one of the reasons why its so cheap could be the fact that these cameras aren't really collectibles.. compared to the various leica bodies. the differences between leica based bodies and the contax g system are widely documented around the internet and reading up on it would give you a clearer picture.. there are numerous things that certain rf users dont like about the contax such as noise.. poor manual focusing.. lousy viewfinder etc etc.. for your needs if you prefer manual focusing i would suggest any of the bessa bodies as budget options or the hexar/leica bodies if you have a bigger budget.. the bessa cameras are cost effective and take most screwmount or M bayonet lenses depending on which model you buy. the contax doesnt feel as connected while you are focusing manually and its main convenience i feel is the autofocus..at least thats why i bought it.. the lenses though are as good as any of leica's.
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Old 05-27-2008   #3
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Regardless, they are fine cameras and lenses.
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Old 05-27-2008   #4
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This is true. Fine camera. BUT: autofocus is slower than on the G2, and I think this is really the issue. If you look at all film cameras, even super cameras like the Nikon F5, they are selling for a fraction of what they sold for new. IMHO, this is because of the move of pros to digital. The G1 is not particularly collectible, has a faster, more capable older sibling (G2) and is part of an orphaned system that was aimed at amateurs in the first place. Don't get me wrong: I owned one and thought it was a great camera. In particular, the G-series glass is just great. If you are infatuated with one, by all means buy it. There are few lenses, if any, with higher image quality than the 45/2 Planar. I think the modification for the 35/2 lens has to be done at the factory.

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Old 05-27-2008   #5
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I can think about several reasons:
1. G system: orphaned. No digital support.
2. Electronic design, not mechanical.
(The above reasons applied to both G1 & G2)
3. Contax had stopped to supply G1 parts since 12/2007. It will at least continue to supply G2 parts until 2011.
4. Green & silver labels have confused people, and they heard about the compatibility issue, but do not know exactly what it is (not everyone is as genious as Rangefinderforum people )
5. Even green label does not support 35-70mm lens
6. G2 is also very widely available, that natually drives G1 price down.

Nevertheless, G1 is still an excellent camera. And I have been benefited by its low price to get one for myself!!
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Old 05-27-2008   #6
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...well, thanks for the speedy replies...I did Google the heck out of the subject, and as you might expect, the pros and cons were all over the place and contradictory--which is why I wanted to see what RF Forum had to say. If this were another era, I'd go down to my local camera store and just try out that focusing and the viewfinder, but that's a whole 'nother subject. I must admit I am looking more kindly toward the G2, which is about the same size as Bessa (not thrilled with that, though). I did have an earlier Bessa which quickly developed an alignment problem, so I am reluctant to ever go there again, and the small M4 isn't even under consideration ($). The Hexar RF is just barely over the border of my budget. But...what I am gathering from the replies so far is that the cameras have some cranky problems or drawbacks, but they're still good users (sort of like my Rollei).
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Old 05-27-2008   #7
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I've got one. The glass is stellar. The AF will cause you no end of lost shots or shots OoF. If you want to take shots of plants in controlled light.. the glass shines. Otherwise if it's got to be an RF, go for a Bessa R3a (used or new) and some good CV glass or cheap but tasty FSU glass .
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Old 05-29-2008   #8
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I still like the G-system for more than 10 years now. For me the only drawback is the noise of the af.
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Old 05-29-2008   #9
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At the risk of inviting flames...

Possibly it's cheap because it's not a very good camera?

Nice lenses, yes, but I wasn't all that impressed by the G2, which is generally reckoned to be a far better camera than the G1.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 05-29-2008   #10
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I've owned a G2 and now own a recently acquired G1 after having sold the G2 and finding myself missing the quality of the 45/2 lens. Although it's certainly true that these cameras are quirky and aren't perfect, to suggest that either is "not a very good camera" is really unfair, don't you think, Roger? The glass isn't just good, it's spectacular. The camera itself is easy to operate, if you don't mind being careful about where you point the center focusing grid. If you anticipate moving subjects, then switching to manual focus is a pain but still no big deal. At current prices, the G1 is a great buy.
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Old 05-29-2008   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sooner View Post
I've owned a G2 and now own a recently acquired G1 after having sold the G2 and finding myself missing the quality of the 45/2 lens. Although it's certainly true that these cameras are quirky and aren't perfect, to suggest that either is "not a very good camera" is really unfair, don't you think, Roger? The glass isn't just good, it's spectacular. The camera itself is easy to operate, if you don't mind being careful about where you point the center focusing grid. If you anticipate moving subjects, then switching to manual focus is a pain but still no big deal. At current prices, the G1 is a great buy.
Well, quite a lot of people must agree with me, or the lenses (which we all agree are very good indeed) would carry the day. If you're never in a hurry, and don't mind a manual focusing system which even you, as a fan, agree is 'a pain', sure, buy a G1. Otherwise, well, you've explained very well why the bodies are cheap.

Cheers,

Roger
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Old 05-29-2008   #12
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If you want to stay small and you were thinking of only using a 35mm lens anyway, why not just buy a fixed-lens RF or a high-end point and shoot? These will be well within your budget and the nicer ones can give very good image quality. They will mostly have better meters than the Rollei. The P&S cameras won't give you RF focus, but neither would the G1.
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Old 05-29-2008   #13
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Okay, here's the deal. I was using one for about 6 months. The glass as we all agree is wonderful. However perhaps it's just me but I lost a tonne of shots due to the focus apparatus. The noise is some kind of RFF bugbear that I could care less about, it's not the issue. The issue is the AF sux and sux badly. I gave up using the camera a due to that. Frankly I've found my R3a and CV Heliar 50mm every bit as sharp and tasty as the G series 45mm lenses. My hit average is not comparable.

If I have to shoot and rely on the camera to deliver I reach for the R3a/CV 50 Heliar not the G series and AF lenses.

(the manual focus... it's arcane and beyond normal peoples use and patience levels)
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Old 05-29-2008   #14
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Agreed. AF is frustrating, lenses are incredible.
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Old 05-29-2008   #15
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I have a G1 for years and really love it. To me it is an AF camera. The manual focus works reasonably for occasional use (e.g. hyperfocal distance, on a tripod), but if you want a manual focusing camera look else were. This is an area where the G2 is vastly improved.

In contrast to what other people write, the number of out-of-focus shoots I had from mine is small. In that respect clearly better than anything else I own. I have the 90 and use it wide open if needed and I judge sharpness on 2900dpi scan. Moving subjects with the 90 are tricky though. With the 35mm these are complete non-issues.

Considering the price, the G1 where not that expensive when they were new (£600 incl 35 lens, which is as much as a Nikon F80 with 35 lens was back then). The same goes for most of the lenses. The 28, 35, 45 and 90 when new were available at a price you expect to pay for a similar lens in the Voigtlander range. As others discussed with the system now being orphaned and the change from film to digital the prices dropped. At least here in the UK the G1 sold quite well, so there is a lot of supply on the used market now. The G2 used prices have also come down recently and, so it seems to me, did Leica M4 and M6 bodies. This puts pressure on G1 prices.

Considering the electronic, repair and part situation, I take it this will be similar to what Minolta CLE users are facing. These are pretty popular here, but now being 20+ years out of production, they become increasingly hard to fix, if things go wrong. If that is 15 years more out of my G1, that should be ok. If I am unlucky and mine gives up earlier I can always hunt down another G1 or G2. Considering the green sticker (upgrade for the 35 and 21 lens), the easiest is not to buy a silver one.

In summary I think there is nothing wrong with the G1, in particular not for it's price. Have a look what you need to pay for an auto-exposure and auto-winding M body.

Hope this helps.
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Old 05-29-2008   #16
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Well, I wish these cameras and lenses get even cheaper, because right now I can't afford the 16mm and 21mm lenses in the lineup.
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Old 05-29-2008   #17
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Yes, it's the 90 that is hardest to focus...I missed a lot of really good candids this way.
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Old 05-29-2008   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jan normandale View Post
Okay, here's the deal. I was using one for about 6 months. The glass as we all agree is wonderful. However perhaps it's just me but I lost a tonne of shots due to the focus apparatus. . . .
(the manual focus... it's . . . beyond normal peoples use and patience levels)
Dear Jan,

No, it ain't just you. The only thing I'd add to your post is that I had a G2 on loan for a year, not just 6 months. So maybe it was twice as bad...

If the image quality hadn't been so good, I'd have returned it a lot sooner.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 05-29-2008   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mabelsound View Post
Yes, it's the 90 that is hardest to focus...I missed a lot of really good candids this way.

That holds for any rangefinder. The telephoto lenses are harder to focus than the WA.
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Old 05-29-2008   #20
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I've owned about a half dozen of the G1's over the years. I had no problems w/ the AF using the 45mm lens. The AE lock is a joy to use. Noise of AF is not an issue unless you are shooting in a church or something. Lenses are great. Itty bitty viewfinder. If it breaks it's toast, as good luck finding a shop to repair it, but they're pretty sturdy cameras. The 90 lens is just wonderful, but I gave up trying to use the AF w/ it. The manual focus is fine, but it takes getting used to. The whole system is peculiar to use, but I found it to be a great camera for fast candids ( w/ the 45mm lens).

If you want to get the king of the AF rangefinders, grab a Konica Hexar AF. I almost never had a shot out of focus w/ mine. Unfortunately the top shutter speed of 1/250 was a problem since I shoot 400 speed film, and I am not a wide angle shooter.

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Old 05-29-2008   #21
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I'm the differing view once again. I think the bargain price of the G1 bodies is two factors:

1) Everyone became convinced the G2 must be better because it costs more. Additionally, people thought the "idiosyncrasies" of the G system must be more pronounced in the G1 than in the G2. After all since these "idiosyncrasies" are "bad" and the G2 must be better than the G1, it all makes sense, right? (actually wrong)

2) as film photography and RF cameras became more of a niche market, the G1 appeal to those who just wanted to make good photos went away as they shifted to digital. Most film / RF users now tend to be very brand / feature specific.

I'm just seem to be the odd guy who has had a G1 and a G2 for about 6-7 years, prefers the G1 to the G2, and finds they focus spot on perfect 99% of the time.

Now I did come back to photography about 6-7 years ago with a wide open mind and no preconceived notions. I found the Contax G system works well. But that was just from personal observation. I probably would have had a different reaction if I'd been shooting a Leica RF for the 20 years I was using a simple AE/AF point and shoot.

I must say that I have never been able to reconcile the number of people who had problems with the Contax G auto focus with my good experience. Years ago, someone told me that keeping the viewfinder window clear and free from smudges did wonders for the autofocus. That tip did wonders for me. I wonder if it would have helped everybody else who had focus problems?
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Old 05-29-2008   #22
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You say you want the benefit of RF focusing? Keep in mind, the Contax doesn't have an RF patch at all. You won't be able to visually see what the camera is focused on in the viewfinder, there's just a little arrow that points to a distance on a scale. Personally, I find this the most irritating thing about the G1. I've been drooling over the Ikon for months, but I just can't bring myself to spend that much money for a body and new lenses when I got the whole G1/28/45/90/TLA200 for about $800, and I don't expect M-mount lenses to be noticeably better.
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Old 05-29-2008   #23
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I'm a G1 owner and it's a great camera.

Weighing in on autofocus versus manual - I would say I "miss" more shots from manual focus on the M system, me not being fast enough, versus the AF on the G1 not working well. It just seems more frustrating when it's the camera at fault rather than human speed. So I don't think it's fair to hold this issue as the main reason to not get this system.

Regarding the price issue - what always seems crazy to me is how expensive Yashica T4s and Contax Tvs and other high quality p/s cameras are. Not to knock those cameras, which are best of their breed, but the basic Contax G1 with 45mm is a far better camera for your money.

I haven't used the G2, but from the times I've looked through the finder, it's not that much better looking than the G1, but better autofocus is going to be important to some people. Reading this thread makes me think about getting another G1 body just so if my current one craps out and needs repair, I'll have a back up.
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Old 05-30-2008   #24
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...this is the original poster--many thanks to all who have replied...I take my photography seriously, so this is all very important. I am surprised at what JT said about the arrow focus (no patch), which I somehow missed in all my Google reading. Jeez, that might take some getting used to--I can envision my eye moving away from the subject to check the arrow, and losing something in that moment--and me with glasses, yet! I am not a typical street shooter looking for people situations where stealth is important, but rather I'm into spotting quirky features, interesting patterns, visual contradictions, etc, with manual focus, aperture priority for DOF control, a 35mm lens (my Rollei has a 35 lens, and I like it), and the optional yellow or orange filter (I use only B&W film)--but I do need a good in-camera meter and the RF focus (vs zone). The Zeiss lenses are splendid, of course (I'm a little spoiled by the Rollei Sonnar). The reason I prefer a small camera is for ease of carry, and the no-intimidation feature for the rare occasions when people are part of the composition. Given the above, any other comments are welcome...thanks again to all...great gang...
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Old 05-30-2008   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vfrazz View Post
If it is too good to be true, it probably isn't...as we are often told. So why are the G1 and its various Zeiss lenses selling so low --am I missing something?
With finger to lips.... shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

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Old 05-30-2008   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Dear Jan,

No, it ain't just you. The only thing I'd add to your post is that I had a G2 on loan for a year, not just 6 months. So maybe it was twice as bad...

If the image quality hadn't been so good, I'd have returned it a lot sooner.

Cheers,

R.
Good image quality with a such bad (auto focus)camera hmmmmmm.
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Old 05-30-2008   #27
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Good image quality with a such bad (auto focus)camera hmmmmmm.
Yes -- WHEN I got an image (which was nothing like as often as I do with a manual focus camera).

Cheers,

R.
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Old 05-30-2008   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Yes -- WHEN I got an image (which was nothing like as often as I do with a manual focus camera).

Cheers,

R.

Roger I am at a complete loss why you had problems with the AF system.

I own your book "Perfect Exposure". Judging from the images you choose for this book, I can not see why the AF system of a Contax G would not work for the majority of them. You are sure that the camera wasn't malfunctioning?

As I wrote earlier, I have next to no rejects due to out-of-focus problems on the simpler G1.
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Old 05-30-2008   #29
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Roger I am at a complete loss why you had problems with the AF system.

I own your book "Perfect Exposure". Judging from the images you choose for this book . . .
Dear Joachim,

Well, yes; that was it. For publication, I choose sharp pictures. The fact that there were no G2 pics in that book may suggest to you that I prefer cameras with manual focus that DO reliably give me sharp focus. At least I cannot see any from going through it quickly -- I had forgotten the exact details.

Overall, remarkably few of my published pictures came from the G2. This is mostly because the more I grew accustomed to it, the more I carried other cameras, so most of the pictures published came from the original test or the year I took it to photokina.

Ask yourself this: why would I lie about the lousy autofocus? Especially given that so many others report exactly the same problem?

Cheers,

Roger

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Old 05-30-2008   #30
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vfrazz, as you can see people either like or don't like this camera. A couple of us say "nyet" more say "da". At this stage I'd say buy one, use it, then you'll know. You may find out that the people in favour are totally correct and people saying no are blowing smoke. One last thing.. G1 focus is thru an IR beam and in low light it shouldn't technically be a problem however my experience was poor in such situations. If you only purchase the 45/camera combo it's still a lot compared to some fixed lens RF's out there. Like you mention there are other fixed lens RF's which perform admirably for less.

My camera bag was packed today, it didn't include the G1.
Good luck what ever you decide. I've exhausted my comments.
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Old 05-30-2008   #31
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The problem with the G1 AF isn't that it's terrible, it's that it's unpredictable. You don't lose too many shots, but you don't know which ones they're going to be. And so as you're shooting you're slightly worried all the time. That's my experience.
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Old 05-30-2008   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post

Ask yourself this: why would I lie about the lousy autofocus? Especially given that so many others report exactly the same problem?

Hi Roger,

Thanks for the reply. I didn't suggest you lied. I said I am at at loss why it doesn't work for you, when it does for me and suggested your cameras might not have been up to scratch.

The pictures you choose are not the once I identified as problematic. And as you claim you are not to only one who had problems, I can do the same. Even in this thread there are more users than me who claim not to have problems.

Actually I have seen bodies (I returned three G1 (1 used 2 new) for this reason until I had my present sample) that focussed differently on lines which cut the RF patch like

[ / ] or [ \ ]

My present body doesn't do this (you can read it to the nearest cm on the body). I always take it as the Contax equivalent of the vertical rangefinder alignment problem. If your camera suffers from this, the AF becomes a bit of a Roulette, I agree.
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Old 05-30-2008   #33
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Originally Posted by mabelsound View Post
The problem with the G1 AF isn't that it's terrible, it's that it's unpredictable. You don't lose too many shots, but you don't know which ones they're going to be. And so as you're shooting you're slightly worried all the time. That's my experience.
YES!

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Old 05-30-2008   #34
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The G2's af is very very very accurate. The point is that it can mis focus without knowing it. Ther's no confirmation. You have to know when it gets tricky to get the focus right. So you can take precaution measures. Really the distance measuremant is more accurate then any other manual range finder!
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Old 05-30-2008   #35
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Hi Roger,

Thanks for the reply. I didn't suggest you lied. I said I am at at loss why it doesn't work for you, when it does for me and suggested your cameras might not have been up to scratch.

The pictures you choose are not the once I identified as problematic. And as you claim you are not to only one who had problems, I can do the same. Even in this thread there are more users than me who claim not to have problems.

Actually I have seen bodies (I returned three G1 (1 used 2 new) for this reason until I had my present sample) that focussed differently on lines which cut the RF patch like

[ / ] or [ \ ]

My present body doesn't do this (you can read it to the nearest cm on the body). I always take it as the Contax equivalent of the vertical rangefinder alignment problem. If your camera suffers from this, the AF becomes a bit of a Roulette, I agree.
Dear Joachim,

Sorry: my response came across as more aggressive than I intended. But I think enough people have had enough problems that it's not just chance.

As I've said elsewhere, ANY camera and lens can be used for brilliant pictures in the hands of the right photographer, for the right subjects. Unfortunately I fitted neither category, and I was not alone.

Cheers,

Roger
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Old 05-30-2008   #36
spark303
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I suppose, like anything else, it's horses for courses. I've not found the AF on my G1 unpredictable at all. It works just like my Nikon AF SLR 's - make sure the object of focus in the central brackets, half press the shutter, recompose if necessary and shoot. So far no major problems. As well as the distance scale in the viewfinder, I've found keeping an eye on the movement of parallax frame helps to make sure the focus isn't way off. Like wayneb, I'd say I've missed more shots using manual focus RF's than the G1.

My only real bugbear is the viewfinder - I just find it awful wearing glasses. But the sharpness of the images I've got from the 45mm Planar make it worthwhile, to the degree that I'm considering getting contact lenses again in an attempt to improve matters

Gav
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Old 05-30-2008   #37
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One thing I can say I really like about the G1--its AF system got me into the habit of focusing and recomposing with AF. So now when I use my DSLR, I have all the focus points turned off except the center, and it's much, much faster and easier. I had been turning the little jog wheel, moving the focus point around the diamond (this is a Canon 40D) like a moron, when all I had to do was move the camera.

If I'd thought about this for one second I would have realized. But I didn't until I started using the G1.
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Old 05-30-2008   #38
jan normandale
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joachim View Post
Actually I have seen bodies (I returned three G1 (1 used 2 new) for this reason until I had my present sample) ....... I always take it as the Contax equivalent of the vertical rangefinder alignment problem. If your camera suffers from this, the AF becomes a bit of a Roulette, I agree.
I am curious now.. I read Jaap's comment about this camera being more accurate than a traditional RF patch.. not sure how he arrived at this but let it ride. My question is after three camera bodies you now are on the fourth. So the chances of getting a good one are hit and miss. I say this because I've two bodies... and the focus issue is present on both so now we have one in six that are working... that would be enough to scare me away and probably lots of others. I think this is why that camera has such a low price. Consistency is important to me. I've lost G1 shots and there's no going back to get them.

The 'working' body you now have... have you ever had any repeat 'focus issues' or is this one 'bullet proof'?
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Old 05-30-2008   #39
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I am a G 1 & G 2 owner, since they first came out--I bought one because I couldn't swing an M at the time.

Very FEW frames from either G1 or 2 are OOF--EVEN the ‘notoriously’ problematic G1 & 90mm combo. It has a funky AF system, but it has been reliable for me. I think a lot of people misuse the AF, as it is rather unconventional in its execution.

Yes, if it breaks there is dwindling support for it, and it won't hold any resale value, but from what I can tell, the G1 has one of the highest 'bang for your buck' values in image quality at the moment...Where else can you get a CZ T* & a compact titanium body to attach it to for under $400?
Just my 2 bits///
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Old 05-31-2008   #40
joachim
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jan normandale View Post
I am curious now.. I read Jaap's comment about this camera being more accurate than a traditional RF patch.. not sure how he arrived at this but let it ride. My question is after three camera bodies you now are on the fourth. So the chances of getting a good one are hit and miss. I say this because I've two bodies... and the focus issue is present on both so now we have one in six that are working... that would be enough to scare me away and probably lots of others. I think this is why that camera has such a low price. Consistency is important to me. I've lost G1 shots and there's no going back to get them.

The 'working' body you now have... have you ever had any repeat 'focus issues' or is this one 'bullet proof'?
When I put it on a tripod, and let it repeatedly focus, it comes back with a fluctuation of at most +/-1 unit at the last digit (e.g 1.67 or 1.66) on the distance read out.

Did you try to focus on lines cutting the rangefinder at 45 degress? Does it give same distance at +45 degrees as it does at -45 deg?

Joachim
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