View Full Version : Contax G vs Nikon SLR
I'm a rank amateur but love shooting with my Bessa L and various other cheap rangefinders. For some situations, however, I pick up a Nikon SLR for its autofocus. I recently got turned on to the G series and supposedly awesome Zeiss lenses, and just read the G1 vs. G2 thread, deciding that for my budget I would prefer the G1. So, this thread is purely related to GAS....
For you G owners out there, sell me on this system some more. Would the real advantage to trading my Nikon SLR system for a G1 be in size, weight, and convenience, or is there a noticeable quality difference in the lenses?
Sorry if this type of thread annoys anyone, i.e. the purists who hate such general questions with "quality" not defined. I shoot my kids, mostly, and street scenes, and some landscapes. I am very attracted to the size benefit with the G, though, and it seems the prices are coming down to where I might be able to afford it. This would replace my autofocus SLR, not my other rangefinders, of course.
Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks.
Which Nikon SLR? That might influence my and others' answers. I think you'll find the Nikons' autofocus systems, assuming it's a Nikon from within the past 6 years or so, will be better than that of the G1, especially regarding AF speed. That may not be an issue for you at all. The G system lenses have a justly earned reputation of being as good as anything out there -- really superb. Of course, there are only a very few, and nothing longer than 90mm, so if you're thinking of using the G1 to replace a camera system (Nikon's) that has many, many lens of all sorts of focal lengths (zooms too), you may regret that decision. For instance, if you want to take pictures of your kids playing sports, you need a longer lens than 90mm.
I assume you have played with the G1 already. If not, you should. Some people don't like the noisy AF, or the finder (not as bright as a Leica's, and it zooms rather than having pop-up framelines). But see for yourself.
You also have the unpleasant-to-contemplate issue of how long you'll be able to get the Contax equipment serviced, now that Kyocera is out of the camera business. Servicing is there for the time being, but I don't know what sort of time commitment they've made on parts and repairs. Nikon will be there for the foreseeable future -- they aren't the size of Canon, to be sure, but they seem pretty solid, and this is their main business.
Nikon hasn't gotten to where it is without having top-notch lenses. But as with any manufacturer, certain lenses are better than others. Nikon's pro lenses are often quite expensive, but you get what you pay for. There is no shortage of opinions on which Nikon lenses are the best, and which should be avoided -- go to nikonlinks.com and under "equipment" you'll find lens reviews by several different persons.
The G1 and the "basic" lenses (45, 90 and 28) are pretty affordable these days. Someone on this list was offering a G1 and 45 for $499, I think. You can do better than that, but his stuff sounded to be in really good shape. Whomever you buy from, make sure the camera has the "green label" inside -- this is an indication the G1 has been upgraded so that it can accept the 35mm and 21mm lenses. I assume you can still get that work done yourself, though I forget which entity Kyocera has contracted with for the servicing these days. I think Kyocera also does or did something with the focusing system at the same time, so there's an improvement for all lenses when this work has been done.
You are right that this is a really nice and compact camera, and optically first rate. But don't think it can replace an SLR in all respects.
Thanks for the lengthy reply, and points well taken. My Nikon is the N8008s, and I only have the standard 50mm and 28-85mm f/3.5 zoom lens at this point. Given that this Nikon system doesn't sell for much anymore, I may just hang on to it. But I was thinking of replacement in use, not liking to lug around a big SLR. At this point my kids are young enough where 90mm is probably all I need for those soccer shots. I also have a manual focus Konica slr with 200mm and 300mm lenses. Things to think about. I'll certainly try to get my hands on one.
I think that Nick did a great job of responding to your questions. I'll try to add a few comments:
I own a G2 with 28, 45, and 90 lenses. I also own a Contax SLR system with a few Zeiss lenses. I have owned Leica RF gear in the past. I have found that the AF of the G2 to be okay (not bad but it does tend to seek a little too much) and after some getting used to, I get very few out of focus shots. I love the size of the G2 and lenses and can pack the entire set into the space of my SLR + one lense. While I prefer the SLR viewfinder, I have become completely used to the G2. The lens choices for the G1/G2 are limited and in the 16mm, very expensive.
Okay, here's the big one.....the lenses for the G1/G2 are the best optical lenses that I have ever used. The only lenses comparable are the ones that I used on past M's at 4X the price. These are truly great lenses and deserve all the accolades they receive. On a $/lp/mm resolution, these are probably the best that you can get. I compare quality of my SLR vs G2 images at a 4000 ppi scans and G2 is almost always better. Visually, they seem to be better as well.
Oipinion: If you want the freedom of a wide variety of lenses and great AF and viewfinder, get the Nikon. If you want some of the best optics that money can buy and can deal with some of the unique features and limitations of the G system, get the Contax.
Try the G system before you get it, you'll either love it of hate it.
Hi — I wouldn't advise selling your SLR, because it has abilities not shared by a "direct view" type camera like the Contax G1. By all means relieve some GAS by adding a G1/G2 if you want though!
Just a year ago I was in about your position, wanting to get that great Zeiss glass for bargain prices (particularly the fast 21mm) and of course needing some kind of "box" to put 'em on. I too decided on minimal expense with the G1 and got one from KEH.com. I liked its small size and good handling (except that the manual focus knob moved accidentally too easily) but it had film-transport problems and was returned for credit...
...On a G2! I figured there were enough improvements in the G2 to justify the additional size and cost. I later got a second G2 body as a "spare" in case one died and was unrepairable... allowing continued use of the great lenses.
BTW, I'm occasionally tempted by the Contax zoom, but it's way slow, and still very expensive. Yet I'm intrigued by the technical challenge successfully met of applying a zoom in this application.
My thought is that the Contax G is — for a non-SLR — quite SLR-like in use. There's the viewfinder of course, which always shows the parallax corrected full field of the mounted lens without frames or extra stuff outside of what will be captured on film. And the camera is filled with modern electronic features that make it vastly different from using a more traditional mechanical RF camera. Indeed some say the Contax G is not an RF camera at all, either technically or in spirit.
Well, the camera is compact and discreet (many folks will simply assume it's another digicam), easy to use, and the lenses are phenomenal. Still, the AF is very different from the crisp RF patch of an optical RF camera, where you KNOW the item you focus on will be in focus. With the G you have to learn how to make the AF focus where you want, yet I still have many more focus errors with this rig than with a (very straightforward) manual RF.
Bottom line: the G1 is cool, has its own plusses and minuses, and I'd not advise giving up a good SLR for one; get a G1 in addition if at all...
Sooner, I don't know how much you'll get for the 8008s and lenses, but I do know that an inexpensive Nikon AF SLR of more recent vintage, like the N65, will do more for you. And if you wait a while, you might be able to afford an N80 or even an F100 (a great camera). If you have a Konica and 200mm and 300mm lenses, you will be fine in the interim. I use manual focus cameras and lenses for my nephews' soccer games all the time.
I shoot my kids, mostly, and street scenes, and some landscapes.
I've got a G2 and 28, 35, 45, & 90 lenses. It's great for landscapes and may do all right for street scenes, but shooting kids could be a problem if they are physically active.
The auto focus doesn't give you a visual confirmation (you get the focus distance on a meter scale). That slows down the focus/shutter release cycle. With my Nikon AF I can see proper focus in the viewfinder, so the focus/shutter release is faster than the G2. Also, the focus rangefinder doesn't seem to be as fast in achieving focus as the one on my F5. Consequently I use the F5 for my 3-year old grandson to make sure I get the focus right as he changes his expressions or physical positions.
I also had trouble with auto focus and the 90mm lens when shooting birds on a feeder. I tended to focus and fire to catch the action without looking at the meter scale to confirm the right distance, and I got some out of focus photos.
Hope that helps.
I don't have a whole lot to add to this discussion. I do have the G2 on my short list, but haven't been able to add it yet. As far as the 8008 is concerned, well, I do think it is always good to own a SLR. There are somethings (macro, long lenses) that an SLR does far better than any RF can hope to. Still, I'd wonder if that was the right SLR?
I'm not very familiar with Nikon cameras, but my understanding is that one is relatively low on the totem pole. Now, to my understanding, it's really nice if you focus your lenses manually... that kind of defeats the purpose, I'd say. If you like the way it works, you might look at a more competent member of the Nikon family. However ...
I'm a big Canon fan so that will color my experience and as a result I can't resist the temptation to suggest an Elan or an A2E to you instead since you don't have a big investment in Nikon glass. OTOH, if you want the best glass at the lowest cost, buy a Canon FD mount manual focus camera and lenses. Since there is no upgrade path, there are some amazing lenses available for stupid cheap prices... :D The FD mount 50/1.4 I got for $12 recently is one example... A Canon T-90 will give you everything a modern film camera has to offer except for auto focus.
This isn't an easy question to answer, as I'm sure you are well aware. Take your time - nothing is going to disappear overnight. Make sure what you like and what you want. Then buy that and leave all of us blathers in the dust.
Good luck & good light!
I own a G2 system and love using it, for all the reasons everyone else here mentions. But I'm a little puzzled about all the knocks on the focusing system. First of all, you DO get "visual confirmation" when the lens achieves focus in AF mode -- not through a rangefinder patch, but a mark that appears on the distance scale. If focus is not achieved, two marks on either side of the scale flash. Pretty simple. (Actually, by now I can tell when I'm in focus just by the sound the lens makes.) Second, the focusing system works much better if you use the focus lock button to prefocus on your subject before taking the picture (if possible). Once the lens is locked on the subject, the shutter will then release almost instantaneously. Works like a charm, and much better than laboriously pressing the shutter button halfway down every time you want to take a picture. Is the G2's AF as foolproof as using a rangefinder patch or SLR focusing screen? Of course not. Does it achieve focus much faster than you can with any manual focusing camera when it works properly, which in my experience is 95% of the time? Of course it does.
I've had both systems. In fact, I sold my Contax G stuff because I got a Leica system and it wasn't being used.
Since most of what you needed to know has been said, all I can add is that even your humble Nikon 8008 has a matrix meter, an excellent flash system and far more variety of lenses than the Contax G cameras. If you want to use it the same way you use an SLR... you may be disappointed. The Contax is a small camera to use in small quarters under low-light conditions, so it's not quite effective for games. Besides, there's also the shutter lag it has (a bit larger than the Nikon's). It's a really good camera to travel, but not an SLR replacement.
Frorm your messages, I've perceived you intend to keep it. By all mean, do so, and expand it as well. The only Nikon lenses your camera cannot take are the G-type: the ones without an aperture ring. Otherwise, you should be able to use most of the recent ones (with the exception, probably, of the ones with the Vibration Reduction feature).
Now, if you want candid pics... and are willing to put up with the somewhat noisy AF of the Contax G, it's a real find. Don't miss a chance to get a flash for this one: the little TL140 is synchronized at all shutterspeeds, and it is a TTL system.
As I said above, I sold mine because I considered a sin NOT to use it... which is what was happening to my Contax G gear. I simply saw its limitations and used it in the best way to exploit its advantages of the SLR equipment I have. They are enjoyable cameras! :)
Keep the 8008s for the spot meter, the matrix metering, balanced fill flash, macro and long lenses, and AA battery use. The 8008s is a very economical, highly under-rated camera. Yes, it doesn't have the fastest AF... big deal. Think of it as a full manual focus camera that turns the lens for you. :)
Likewise, as others have pointed out, the G1/G2 viewfinder is a whole 'nother experience. The image size is about 1/2 (in width, 1/4 in area) of the Nikon. You will not see DOF, or out of focus areas. Yes, you get a visual focus marker feedback in the viewfinder, but unless you have learned precisely where in the "[ ]" the focus point is, you may get the point of the nose, the nostril, or the cheek in focus. Don't be disappointed when your first Contax roll comes back with a few empty frames (you left the lens cap on) or some out of focus shots -- there is a learning curve. But also notice how painfully sharp they are when you hit it right.
That being said, many people have them (including myself), shoot 'em, and love 'em. The 45 Planar is argueably the sharpest 35mm lens available. If you consider it's performance vs cost, it wins hands down.
I personally shoot the G2 for the sharp lenses, especially the Planar and the wides. I shoot Leica for the relative silence. I also personally prefer an SLR viewfinder over that of a rangefinder (any rangefinder, Contax, Leica, or any other)... it's what I see best in, and compose best in.... but that's just me. If I could get the same "3d" look in my Nikons, I would sell the whole lot of rangefinders (can I say that here?) :) But that's me, not you.
So buy it, try it, enjoy it (but keep the 8008s)
Thanks for all the comments. I will keep my older Nikon. Truth be told--and I admitted to GAS up front--I am intrigued by the reputation of the lenses. Everyone says they are so great, and I will be doing a lot of travel this summer and fall and could use a nice portable system. I dunno, it just seems very alluring to me, even with the limitations that are amply documented here and elsewhere. And the prices seem to be coming down into my price range, barely. Anyone have a favorite shot with their G to post?
All of my RFF Gallery shots are with Contax G lenses and I haven't scanned most of my Madrid pictures yet, but here is one with the 28.
And for low light,
Elitechrome 400, Planar 35 at f2 handheld at 1/15th
Thanks, Volker, nice shots. I'll check out your gallery for more. --John/sooner
Volker, I just checked out your gallery, and the shot of the mohawk dude on the bike is great. It reminds me of what people say about these lenses, that they have a three-dimensionality to them. You've definitely wet my appetite......
I have had the G2 for a couple of months now and I love it. I also have a Mamiya 6 and Fuji GX680, so I already have all of my other bases covered. I wanted a travel camera that I could take everywhere. The size is great, the build quality is excellent and the lenses speak for themselves. It's shocking to me what a value priced camera this really is. I just picked up the 90mmm for less than $150 in LN- from KEH. This has to be one of the best values out there on the used market. The prices seem to have stabilized and I think that if you tried it out and decided to get rid of it later that you could do so without taking a big hit. If you want to see more photos taken with the Gs - check out the Contax G pages at http://contaxg.com/.
The G2 is the only camera I have gotten rid of that I want back.
There was a thread here about seller's remorse. I'm trying to figure out how to get me a G2 (black) without breaking the bank...
I owned a G1 (green label) and 28, 45 and 90mm lenses but sold it because I wanted to go to a more manual camera. I had terrible sellers remorse and recently acquired a G2 and lenses. The lenses are fantastic, I shoot mostly B+W but after seeing some of the color images at Contaxg.com I'll be trying some color film.
The autofocus is a little quirky but as soon as you understand the autofocus area it is very reliable.
I do a lot of hiking and this system is ideal - the lenses are more compact than your average SLR lens.
I only have a couple of G shots in my gallery - there are lots of great images at contaxg.com - check out the hall of fame for starters.
Echoing what Peter said, the lenses are some of the best bargains out there - my "like new" 90mm was about $130 and I paid less than $200 for a mint 28mm. KEH is great and there are occasional bargains to be found on ebay.
vBulletin® v3.6.8, Copyright ©2000-2013, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.