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Contax T, anyone?
Old 06-27-2011   #1
efix
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Contax T, anyone?

I recently found out about this little camera, which came as a surprise as I wasn't aware that such a tiny little rangefinder with such wonderful Zeiss optics even existed. (I had read about the T2 and T3 before, so the fact that the T was an actual rangefinder seemed surreal at first ...) Now GAS has struck, and as I'm a big fan both of Zeiss lenses and of fancy rangefinder cameras, I'm seriously considering to postpone the acquisition of an M2 (I already have an M8), and getting a T instead.

However, I would first like to hear the opinion of those who own(ed) one, in respect to its reliability, used market price and quality of the lens. I've seen some pictures on flickr which looked stunning and showed the typical Zeiss qualities, so I'm pretty sure I'll like it. How easy or difficult is it to operate the camera? Is there anything I should be aware of? And chief of all: do you have some pictures taken with a Contax T to share?

Many thanks in advance!
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Old 06-27-2011   #2
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Hello, the Contax T is a wonderful camera, I've been using them for years. The lens is the best of any pocket camera I have ever used, except perhaps the Contax T3, but I prefer manual focus, so kept the T and sold the T3.

I don't have access to my scans right now so cannot post, but I believe there are a couple of Contax T shots in Flickr photostream.

The camera is reliable, but has a few things that break easily, most notably the small sliding lock/switch on teh bottom that secures the camera back. The rangefinder also goes out horizontal alignment (meaning focus inaccuracy) pretty easily, and I have not yet figured out how to disassemble the camera to adjust it.

I have 4 or 5 Contax T's, only 2 of which are fully functional. A couple have the broken lock swithc problem, and at least 1 needs the rangefinder adjusted. In order to have these two functional examples, I have go through perhaps 2 or 3 additional camers over theyears which either arrived via Ebay broken, or which broke and which I sold off for parts. So my advice is to buy from a reliable seller, such as someone here on RFF who has actually used the camera and can testify that it works, or a shop which offers returns.

Having said that, I believe the Contax T is a pretty tough camera once you find a good working one. I don't baby my cameras: last summer I took a 3 month trip through Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, and Albania. The cameras I brought were a Hasselblad Xpan and my two T's (one with slow colour film, the other with 1600 ISO). Those cameras got bashed around, thrown in pockets, in rucksacks, in hot and dusty environments, at beaches, etc. They worked reliably, and the negatives look great.

The Contax T is also very quiet.

I don't know what the market price is these days, sorry.

More about the lens. It has very pleasing bokeh, and is quite sharp wide open. Stopped down a bit, it is VERY sharp. I have used many a Leica lens, and the lens on Contax T stands proudly with the best of them. I find the meter very reliable, but the display in the view finder is somewhat sparse.

I love the T - even though I now carry a Canon S90 digital point and shoot with me at all times, the Contax T remains, because the look of it's photos, especially when shot wide open, can only be achieved with a larger sensor/format of film, and try fiting a dSLR in your shirt pocket.

I hope you find one and enjoy it.
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Old 06-27-2011   #3
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Here are a couple of shots - boring, lab scans
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Old 06-27-2011   #4
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I had one for a while, I found the lens a little soft and it was fiddly to use. Maybe the softness was a fault with mine, but that combined with awkwardness to use meant I got rid of it. I replaced with a Rollei 35, which I'm much happier with.
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Old 06-27-2011   #5
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I bought my Contax T used on eBay. Though the top cover had several dents everything worked well.
A NOS top cover was installed when I had the camera CLA'ed by Metro Camera Repair in New York City.
I have had no problems with the camera in the years since.

As you must expect the controls on the Contax T are small
but IMO far easier to operate than say an Olympus XA.
Like other tiny cameras with removable back one must take extra care in loading.

The lens is superb; excellent at all apertures.
The rangefinder and exposure display are also far better than the XA.

If you will be keeping it in a pocket I suggest using a small pouch-type case to prevent dust and lint infiltration.

My only complaint is that despite its small size the Contax T is slightly heavier than I'd like.
OTOH it is easier to hold steady than some plastic pocket cameras I own.

If you find one in good shape I'm sure you will enjoy using it...

Chris
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Old 06-27-2011   #6
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efix, I am in the same boat as you, but a month down the river! I found a Contax T and got it at the 'Buy it now price'. I have not seen any for sale (mind you, like you I was originally looking for the T2 or T3. I have had autofocus compact cameras go wrong on me in the past, so finding out the Contax T was a RF, was icing on the cake. If the RF goes wrong you can still manual focus - which I have been doing for years with a Minox. Just weighed my compact cameras - with batteries and film on the kitchen scales:
Minox GT-E 225g, Contax T 300g, Rollei 35SE 370g
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Old 06-28-2011   #7
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It's a great camera, the lens is exactly the same as the T2, so image quality wise they're both the same.

I got it for around 200$, cheaper than the T2, about the same as a Rollei 35S.

Since i bought it i haven't touched my Olympus XA rangefinder again, it handles much much easier (still a bit fiddly though), it feels and functions just like a more solid, better built and heavier Minox 35 version, the apperture stops click rather nicely, and the lens focusing is smooth, you also get hyperfocal markings, rangefinder patch is a bit dim, but much more brighter than the XA, the shutter speed readout is nice but a bit limited, showing only three shutter speeds with led lights in between each one plus an overexposure warning, the flash attaches to the side just like the XA flash.

Film loading is a bit tricky, pretty much like loading a Rollei 35 (folding film pressure plate), the camera also the camera scratches and dings easily, the black version probably hides them better, and yeah the lock switch at the bottom also broke on mine, i did force it though, but i found a workaround until i got a busted one for parts, using a small tripod mount screw did the same as the switch and kept the camera locked.

I'm planning on making a leather case similar to this one to avoid scratching it further, plus it looks awesome.

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Old 06-28-2011   #8
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I have one and enjoy it quite a bit. The only thing I don't like is the film loading, a little awkward for me.

If you get one check the meter...the little cell is known to crap out. I had one of mine repaired in NY not long ago.
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Old 06-29-2011   #9
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The T is great fun to shoot, if slightly fiddly. On the street, it's invisible and silent. Many eBay specimens look like they went through a war, so confirm that any purchase is properly functioning. Lens is the Sonnar 38/2.8 found on the T2, yielding a fine, medium contrast image. In size and weight, it's not quite a shirt-pocket camera like the T3. I own three T and one T3.
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Old 06-30-2011   #10
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Thanks for your input, everyone! I mainly crave the T for its Sonnar lens, and of course because it's a true rangefinder in such a small package -- simply irresistible :-) I'm watching some eBay auctions at the moment and hope to make a good catch soon.
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Old 06-30-2011   #11
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Keep in mind the T only focuses to 1 meter, the T2 down to 0.7 meters and the T3 all the way down to 0.35 meters. Don't underestimate the close focusing ability as it opens up far more shooting opportunities. When I owned the T3, it produced exceptional images. The T2 was very good and had the best ergomonics of the three, but the T3 was in another class producing far more keepers. Their prices remain high on the used market but that's partly because it's such a great picture taker and easily went head to head with my Leica for IQ.
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Old 06-30-2011   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by awilder View Post
Keep in mind the T only focuses to 1 meter, the T2 down to 0.7 meters and the T3 all the way down to 0.35 meters. Don't underestimate the close focusing ability as it opens up far more shooting opportunities. When I owned the T3, it produced exceptional images. The T2 was very good and had the best ergomonics of the three, but the T3 was in another class producing far more keepers. Their prices remain high on the used market but that's partly because it's such a great picture taker and easily went head to head with my Leica for IQ.
Thanks for the info, awilder. However, I'm specifically interested in the T because it's a manually-operated rangefinder. A p&s just spoils the whole experience :-) (I have no doubt though that the T2 and T3 are both excellent picture taking devices!)
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Old 06-30-2011   #13
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It's only manual WRT focusing. The exposure control is strictly aperture priority with the only override being a +1.5 EV button for backlight or you could change the ISO setting for greater control. Originally designed for well healed snapshooters using negative color or B&W film with it's greater latitude. At least with the T2 or T3 you can do incremental +/- EV control over a few stops if exposure is critical with slide film. It's a truly beautifully made camera but it's design is too restrictive in close focus and exposure control for my taste.
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Old 06-30-2011   #14
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Those limitations have not restricted my picture-taking with the Contax T.
Negatives and slides from my Contax T are consistently well-exposed,
and I have never found the minimum focus distance an issue.

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Old 07-05-2011   #15
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Found one! I can tell you, I am properly excited -- though not quite as much as when I got my M8 :-) It's a black one (would've preferred chrome, though), in pristine optical condition, and the seller claims that it's been working flawlessly until recently. I hope it still does when I receive it! I'll keep you posted :-)
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Old 07-05-2011   #16
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That's great - have fun with it, and post a couple of pictures if you have the time.
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Old 07-07-2011   #17
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Just got my film film processed from my Contax T. Grim news - All images correctly focused, correctly exposed, good sharp prints (tiny bit soft wide open good at f5.6) - I have light leakage across most shoots, and I have just loaded another film. I suppose I will rewind the film and check the back seal:-(
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Old 07-07-2011   #18
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Just got my first film processed from my Contax T. Grim news - All images correctly focused, correctly exposed, good sharp prints (tiny bit soft wide open good at f5.6) - I have light leakage across most shoots, and I have just loaded another film. I suppose I will rewind the film and check the back seal:-(
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Old 07-07-2011   #19
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Just got my first film processed from my Contax T. Grim news - All images correctly focused, correctly exposed, good sharp prints (tiny bit soft wide open good at f5.6) - I have light leakage across most shoots, and I have just loaded another film. I suppose I will rewind the film and check the back seal:-(
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Old 07-08-2011   #20
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@ kram -- I'm sorry to hear that. Just went through the first roll in my new, shiny black T, and hope for the results to come out as they should!

Here she is, the beauty:

:-D A- condition from what I can tell, but I'll have to wait for the results of the first roll to make my final judgement. Seller claimed the pictures turned out gorgeously when he last used it, so I'm positive :-)
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Old 07-08-2011   #21
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efix, you can looks mint- great buy. With mine, I am hoping that the film canister is at fault. The way the camera is constructed, it is hard to see were there could be a light leak.
My lend condition looks great (like yours), but there are pain scrap off the rear edges.
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Old 07-08-2011   #22
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Gorgeous! if you ever get a chrome one, you can swtich backs and make em pandas ! . I really wish kyocera/contax would have made a dedicated leather case for it as they did with the rest of the T line, the original pouch is just ok, mine came pretty worn out though.

If anyone ever gets the repair manual i'd love to know where the camera light seals are located and how they should be replaced, mine are ok right now, but won't probably be for much longer.
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Old 07-08-2011   #23
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Gorgeous! if you ever get a chrome one, you can swtich backs and make em pandas !
Yes, I just thought of that yesterday
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Old 07-10-2011   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kram View Post
efix, you can looks mint- great buy. With mine, I am hoping that the film canister is at fault. The way the camera is constructed, it is hard to see were there could be a light leak.
My lend condition looks great (like yours), but there are pain scrap off the rear edges.
I also have a bad light leakage coming from somewhere down right, just where the sprocket hole is located. You can actually see the fall off from the sprocket teeth. It is a mystery how the light enters here... Kram, did you manage to fix your leak?

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Old 07-10-2011   #25
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I also have a bad light leakage coming from somewhere down right, just where the sprocket hole is located. You can actually see the fall off from the sprocket teeth. It is a mystery how the light enters here... Kram, did you manage to fix your leak?

Considering the lens projects the picture onto the film upside-down and mirrored, shouldn't the light be coming from somewhere top right?
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Old 07-10-2011   #26
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it should be up left in the picture... I don't know why this is showing that the light is coming from top right... I'll check the other negs.
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Old 07-10-2011   #27
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My light leak is worse than yours (gulp), bit in the same position. Weird thing is, the sprocket hole shows light leak, but the thin bit of film between the sprocket and edge of the film (2-3mm) is clear. Some of the foam is missing in the top section of the camera. I will try and replace that.
Wife wanted new TV and for me to sort out the roof aerial today (pure joy - I hate working at height). Both TV roof aerials now in the roof, rather than on it (they have boasted the TV signal in the last year). One TV (the new one OK). The main house TV, nor so - need a new signal boaster by the looks of things. Hopefully will give it a go at fixing the seal monday or Tuesday night).
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Old 07-15-2011   #28
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Just finished scanning a first test-roll of cheap generic drug store ISO 200 colour negative film -- camera seems to be working fine, and it looks as though that little Sonnar is (theoretically) cabaple of producinig some outstanding results.

Only problem has been with getting the colours right in those darn scans ... next time I'll either have prints made, or use slide film right away. Anyway, here are some shots that turned out halfway decent. No artistic value whatsoever, just test shots to see if everything works as it should.











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Old 07-19-2011   #29
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OK folks- here's the latest. The foam around the film canister area had been removed, but the source of light on the negative (bottom left of photo) suggested top right on the camera back (underneath the film wind on lever). Sure enough the foam was missing down to the bear metal. Spent 1 hour completely removing foam (used cut down cocktail sticks). Have replace all back foam seal with new replacement camera foam material. Reloaded film and will report back.
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Old 07-21-2011   #30
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Some more, this time on a different cheap drugstore 200 ISO film. These turned out a little better in terms of colour. Not sure if it's my processing, the scanner software, or the actual emulsion.


The apple tree in our garden.


Once more.


In the car.


Self portrait in a blue tinted window. This is what was left in terms of colour and contrast after removing the blue tint.


Elderly lady with dog.


I really like this shot, but what's that dreadful line?

What a superb little camera -- I'm totally in love with it! Small and pocketable, unobtrusive, quiet, and a truly wonderful little lens! Just running a roll of Velvia 50 through it, can't wait for the results
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Old 07-25-2011   #31
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Quote:
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OK folks- here's the latest. The foam around the film canister area had been removed, but the source of light on the negative (bottom left of photo) suggested top right on the camera back (underneath the film wind on lever). Sure enough the foam was missing down to the bear metal. Spent 1 hour completely removing foam (used cut down cocktail sticks). Have replace all back foam seal with new replacement camera foam material. Reloaded film and will report back.
OK, I know that I have a seal there, the condition might be inadequate though. I haven't done anything yet to mine except shooting a roll with taped body.
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Old 07-25-2011   #32
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F074-035.jpg by HoodedOne, on Flickr

I have a Contax-T for a couple of months now. And I love this little camera. The shot above is from one of the first rolls I shot with it.
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Old 07-26-2011   #33
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So I have just developed a roll of Tri-x with the taped camera back, and alas the light leak is still there! The whole upper part of the body was taped with black tape. So either the leak is coming from below, battery or tripod mount, or from the lens assembly. Next step will be to shoot a roll with the whole bottom of camera taped. The seal by the film canister might also be the source of fault. So I'm eagerly waiting for kram's results.
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Old 07-26-2011   #34
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Please keep us updated, guys!
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Old 07-26-2011   #35
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I have long been on the lookout for a black version. Really interested in shooting one!
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Old 08-04-2011   #36
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Got my second film back today, first part of film shot as it was, second part with replacement foam. Kodax 125px. I am goig to use up my 35mm stock before I order any more. Have now put my usual compact camera B+W film in the T, Ilford XP2 Super.
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Old 08-04-2011   #37
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Originally Posted by kram View Post
Good the film back today, first part of film shot as it was, second part with replacement foam.
That looks good! Glad your T is in working order again!
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Old 08-08-2011   #38
micromoogman
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I was not lucky. Second roll with taped bottom plate also has light leaks. So if the light is not coming from the camera back, where does it come from? It could be the foam where the film canister sits, like kram's, but I don't understand where the light source is coming from...
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Old 08-08-2011   #39
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Hi Micromoogman, bummer about the light leak.

I don't have my Contax T in front of me right now, but isn't there a kind of bellows on the inside that allows the lens to be extended out?

I'm wondering if that's where your leak is.
Good luck.
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Old 08-08-2011   #40
efix
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sleepyhead View Post
Hi Micromoogman, bummer about the light leak.

I don't have my Contax T in front of me right now, but isn't there a kind of bellows on the inside that allows the lens to be extended out?

I'm wondering if that's where your leak is.
Good luck.
There is indeed, but I wonder if that wouldn't have a more general effect on the whole frame?
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