Don’t let the top fool you, the Contax G2 isn’t actually made by the famous German camera manufacture that produced the same cameras that Robert Capa took with him during the Operation Overlord landings at Normandy, better known as D-Day. While proudly saying Contax, it’s actually manufactured under licence by the Japanese firm Kyocera. But the Contax G2 does hold one thing above any other rangefinders out there, it is one of two autofocus rangefinders ever produced, the other one is the previous G1 model. There are some out there that say that the G series aren’t true rangefinders, and they do have a point. But the general style of camera screams rangefinder, and it is one of my favourite systems to work with when size and space is an issue.
Model: Contax G2
Type: 35mm Autofocus Rangefinder
Lens: Interchangeable, G-Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1996
If you love the rangefinder format but just can’t get the knack of the focusing system than the G2 is for you. While the autofocus isn’t perfect, it still is better than the older G1 models. Not to mention the size is perfect for tucking in a small shoulder back, or in a camera backpack is a great second camera if you’re shooting a large format system because it takes up very little space, even with a lens attached. It also feels great to hold and can be fairly quick in bright environments. And this camera is a solid piece of metal, very little plastic in the construction of it, so it can be bounced around a bit. For operation the camera has a good meter in it, with aperture priority or full manual mode. And finally the optics, against Japanese made under licence from Carl Zeiss, and when compared to the actual Zeiss made optics there is no difference in quality. The key is to the stick to the prime lenses, the zoom is a bit iffy. To go along with the optics, the viewfinder will automatically adjust its zoom range to match the lens you’ve mounted, from 28mm to 90mm. There is a winder lens that the viewfinder cannot accommodate so you’ll need the shoe mounted viewer to help with composing your photos.
Oddly enough the one thing that makes the camera different is also the weak point on the camera, the focusing system. While better than the G1 the camera’s autofocus can be slow in lowlight and a bit unpridicatable. And when it comes to manual focus, don’t even bother, it becomes little better than a guess focus camera with a distance scale being displayed in the viewfinder, best to pack along and external rangefinder to help out if you’re doing manual. Another issue is that the command dials are very sensitive, make sure to check the EV, Focus Mode, and Drive Mode dials if you’ve pulled the camera out of the bag or had them bouncing against something because they have a tendency to move on you. The camera is also a bit of a battery hog taking 2 CR2 batteries (which aren’t cheap), so best to pack a spare set (or two).
The Low Down
Despite the drawbacks, the camera remains one of my favourites for travelling when space is an issue or for travelling light at photowalks. It remains today a very polarizing camera, those who love it love and those who hate it hate it. And despite that remains the one camera in my collection that photographer friends of mine always want to borrow. It’s a camera that is certainly worth a try, but try it first, see if you like it before you go out and buy the camera.
All Photos shot in the Historic Center of Antwerp, Belgium
Contax G2 – Carl Zeiss Planar 2/45 T* – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-125 – Ilford Ilfosol 3 (1+14) 7:30 @ 20C