The Contax T2 is a high end autofocus point and shoot film camera released by Kyocera in 1990.
While many cameraphiles consider the T3 the “Ultimate” point and shoot film camera, the T2 has, over the years, developed such a cult following among camera fanatics that it might be considered THE greatest Contax camera of the Kyocera era. Is it really the greatest? 🙂
The T2 is one of the most popular point and shoot cameras of all time and there are many other reviews and testimonies better than mine. I’m just giving you my two cents on my experiences with this camera.
I have been a Contax lover since using the original Contax T back in the 1990s and have used all the cameras in the T series, including the T2, T3, TVS, TVSIII, and TiX APS film camera.
THE T2 CAMERA
As a camera the T2 features a Carl Zeiss 38mm f/2.8 T* lens, Program and aperture priority modes. Aperture range is f/2.8-f/16. Shutter speed range is 1 to 1/500th seconds in Program mode. ISO range is ISO 25 to 5000. The camera relies on one CR123A battery.
The camera is primarily an autofocus camera, but you can opt for manual focus if necessary.
One neat feature that I love on the T2 is the ability to change lens aperture via a ring around the lens mount.
The camera is rather large and long for a point and shoot, quite in line with its peers from the 1990s such as the Leica Minilux or Konica Hexar, which are all larger than most high end point and shoots of today, i.e., the Ricoh GR, Leica Q, or Sony RX100 series. The camera is not jeans pocketable, but perhaps coat pocketable depending on your coat 🙂
As mentioned, the T2 is primarily an autofocus point and shoot. I have found its AF to be generally reliable in good light or when using flash, but less accurate in low or challenging light situations.
The center point AF seems to need something solid to lock on to and not just sharp edges, as many cameras do. Solid objects with good light helps.
I have mentioned many times that I do not like using manual focus on similar cameras because it’s really electronic vs real manual focus and clunky to use. It’s more like a “guesstimate” system using the distance indicators vs physically manually focusing the lens which you cannot do on the T2 and most comparable point and shoot cameras. However with the T2, using its electronic manual focus is sometimes necessary.
When the AF is in its zone however, the 38mm f/2.8 produces excellent, sharp images with lots of contrast. The high contrast is what you have come to expect and love from Contax Zeiss lenses and it accentuates the appearance of sharpness.
However, in very bright lighting situations, the high contrast can be problematic and it’s easy to get blown highlights with this camera. Thankfully, due to the high dynamic range of film, I can generally bring the levels down and recover detail with post processing.
The lens seems to be more in line with the original Contax T, which produced sharp images with a more classical look that I liked as opposed to the T3 which produced bitingly sharp pics with a more modern look. Many people prefer the T3 probably for that reason, but to me, the T and T2 produces images with more “character.” Hard to explain, but I suspect many of you will know what I mean.
Oddly enough, whenever I’ve used a 40mm f/2.8 lens on my film or full frame cameras, I’ve always found that focal length a little “boring” especially because it reminds me a lot of a 35mm f/2.8 lens which is a generic old school focal length that can be found very cheaply. Yet everyone including me has no complaints about this on the T2. Hmm, perhaps it’s the T2 “legend?” It’s like seeing five apples that look exactly the same, but you were told that one was special so you believe it and it tastes better than the rest 🙂
Keep in mind I’m not saying the T2 lens is just like any other 35-40mm lens. I’m just talking about the focal length and the f/2.8 aperture which I find boring. A 35mm f/2 or 40mm f/2 is preferable to me, even if it’s less than a stop faster. Your milage may vary. That said, I do think the lens on the T2 has that special something! I loved the original T which was my first T series camera and I suspect it’s the same lens.
The tiny original T was and is my favorite of all the T series due to the lens and the ability to achieve accurate focus using its true rangefinder system. It is manual focus only, but I found I had a higher rate of keepers with the T than with the T2 and its AF.
The bokeh on the 38mm f/2.8 Zeiss Sonnar can be a bit “nervous” or “busy” and in line with what I have seen and mentioned here about most Zeiss lenses that I have used. However, you can also get very nice bokeh out of it. To achieve this, you need to get in close on your subject and make sure the background is uncluttered.
The camera is not silent, but the AF and motor advance/rewind are quite quieter than, say a Ricoh GR1. In fact, if I weren’t spoiled by other cameras like the Konica Hexar, I would say the T2 is very quiet indeed.
The Contax T2 has achieved an enviable status among cameraphiles and camera collectors alike. Despite Kyocera/Contax being out of the camera business for quite a while already, these cameras are still actively being sought.
There’s a lot of love, respect, and perhaps even a bit of romanticism involved in the cult of Contax T2 lovers.
The T2 is not without its flaws however. It does not have the most accurate AF that I’ve ever used, but it is generally reliable in good light. The results can sometimes be inconsistent. When the camera (or the photographer!) does get it right, the results can be superb. The good will make up for the bad with this camera, and there IS a reason it has earned its reputation. The lens can be fantastic, but you got to earn your keeps with this camera.
The T2 is a camera that I have bought and sold, and then bought again. Usually I would say that means it’s a great camera, but one could argue that if you sold it in the first place then maybe there was something about it that was not so great? No, it could just be that I needed cash at the time 🙂
Anyway the T2 is a “Bad Ass” camera! I’m on my second one and I’m glad to have it, despite its AF issues. I’m holding on to this one as long as I can this time around. I still have a couple rolls of undeveloped T2 pics, but that will be for a later time. I just wanted to give something to you wonderful fellow camera addicts 🙂
It’s been said that the T2 was beloved by famous fashion photographers like Terry Richardson and Juergen Teller, but I haven’t seen any pictures of these guys holding one. I know Terry used a Yashica T4 and have seen pics of Juergen with a Contax G2.
However, I think the main point was that cameras such as the T2 (if not the T2 itself) were made famous by photographers like Terry and Juergen who took that once dreaded “point and shoot with flash” shot and turned it into something hip, cool, and fashionable. Of course, if they can turn a point and shoot photograph into art, it doesn’t mean I or just anyone can! However, with enough savings we mere mortals can all own (or someday own) the T2 🙂
The Contax T2 is one of the most beloved 35mm point and shoot cameras of all time and certainly a Camera Legend. Is it the greatest? Well, I wouldn’t call it that, based on its AF performance, but I will say it could certainly be considered one of the greatest, if not THE greatest. However, if you’re a camera fanatic, you probably need to have one in your collection 🙂
WHERE TO BUY?
If seeking one of these gems, I hate to tell you that prices seem to have gone up on these babies, even from just a couple of years ago. Prices are trending at $500 and up for the camera in EX and EX+ condition on eBay.
The silver T2 is the most common and therefore quite often the cheapest ones you’ll find. There’s also black, titanium gray, gold, black, and something called “platin” (most beautiful to me). All these are much more rare than the silver models.
The good news is that the T2 is almost always available on eBay. While the T3 will probably always be thought of as the ultimate Contax point and shoot, it also cost more and is harder to find, which probably adds to its appeal and iconic status.
The great thing is that the T2 is cheaper and to me, no less iconic. However, if buying one proceed with caution as these cameras are aging and no one is repairing them as far as I know. That doesn’t mean a good repair shop wouldn’t attempt to fix it, but the parts are no longer available so most shops would probably not try to repair it.
On the other hand, while I’ve been critical on Contax electronics in the past, the T2 is probably one of their more reliable and durable models. Just be sure you buy from a place where you can return it if a problem arises. For a safe purchase try here Contax T2 Silver 35mm Camera.