The Contax TVS Digital

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In its time, Contax/Yashica made some very fine film cameras and lenses which continued after its acquisition by Kyocera. The company struggled for a few years during the early days of digital but were making some interesting cameras such as the Contax TVS Digital. Unfortunately, Kyocera halted production of all Contax cameras in 2005.

THE CONTAX TVS DIGITAL

The Contax TVS Digital is a 5 megapixel point and shoot digital camera introduced by Kyocera of Japan in 2002.

The camera uses a 1/1.8″ CCD sensor and features a Carl Zeiss (35mm equivalent) 35-105mmm f/2.8-4.8 lens. The camera has a shutter speed range of 8 seconds to 1/2000 seconds and an ISO range of 80 to 400.

Close focus is around 2 ft and goes to infinity. Macro range is around 5.9 inches. The camera has an optical viewfinder that has about 85 percent coverage and a tiny 1.6″ LCD for composition and playback.

The camera has a built in flash and runs on a proprietary lithium ion battery that must be charged in camera via AC adapter.

The camera uses standard SD cards up to 2gb. That was a lot back then! And in all honesty, it’s more than enough for a 5mp camera that shoots jpegs. There is no RAW option.

IMPRESSIONS

Let me be blunt…I was never interested in the Contax TVS Digital.

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Why? Well, early on I saw that the specs were very similar to the Kyocera Finecam S5 and I picked up that camera in 2008 or 2009 for $10 dollars.

Considering that the TVS Digital was selling for around $400 or so at that time, I kept it out of my head. I said to myself…why would anyone pay $400 when you can get (possibly) the same camera for $10?!

Flash forward to 2016. Saw a TVS Digital for under $100. I said…DEAL!! πŸ™‚

Right off the bat, it must be said that the chances are unlikely that many people are looking for, let alone thinking of the Contax TVS Digital in 2017. But you my friends, you are NOT the masses, that’s why you’re reading Camera Legend! You come here for those old, decrepit and forgotten cameras πŸ™‚

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“You Are Special” 2017. Contax TVS Digital. The TVS Digital’s automatic flash can be overpowering at times, but it still manages to produce flash images with pleasing color. Just like Baby Zay (and Barney), I would say that if you are seeking a Contax TVS Digital in 2017, then you my friend, you are special πŸ™‚

Ok, so I’ve had a little time with it and I’m sharing my opinion with you. First, the Titanium Black version is beautiful. It feels well built, solid, much like the TVS film camera it emulates but perhaps lighter than the film version.

IN USE

The controls are well laid out. Sometimes, scrolling through the ancient 2002 menu system can be a little confusing but you get used to it.

The optical viewfinder is small and dinky and I almost never use it. The 1.6 inch old school LCD is not much better, but I use it as it’s better than nothing.

Though the camera gives you an in focus indication, it’s hard to tell from either the optical viewfinder or the LCD that the camera is truly in focus. However, for a camera with the typical tiny sensor you really needn’t worry because in most situations, you’ll have ample depth of field for everything to be sharp.Β Only when in macro range or doing close-ups do I worry but more often than not the TVS Digital gets sharp focus.

The autofocus is decent, but slow. Considering it’s from 2002, we’ll forgive it! Writing to the sd card as well as playback are also slow.

IMAGE QUALITY

In all honesty, I did not have high expectations of this camera. In my opinion, the original Contax TVS film camera, while beautiful, had a pretty average lens and was clunky to operate. The TVS Digital is almost a mirror image of its film cousin in image quality, perhaps a bit better.

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“Shadow Cloud Rider” 2016. Contax TVS Digital.

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“Shadow Cloud Rider Revealed” 2016. Contax TVS Digital. The built in flash of the TVS Digital fires by default (can be turned off) and provided nice fill flash for this shot.

The lens is sharp enough, but doesn’t strike me as one of those stellar, super-sharp lenses. It is not, but it’s good enough for most purposes.

“Bill Haley And His Comets” 2017. Contax TVS Digital. This is a crop from the TVS Digital at its widest setting. Barrel distortion can be seen, but the colors are very good especially for a camera from 2002!

Compared to the $10 Finecam S5 with similar specs, the images look as sharp but perhaps more contrasty. I’m not sure if it’s really the T* coatings doing their thing or if it’s just my imagination. Perhaps a more rigorous comparison should be done.

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“Pot” 2017. Contax TVS Digital. I’m not referring to the plants, I’m referring to the “thing” the plants are in, it looks like an ancient pot to me! The TVS Digital shows nice colors and crisp details here.

Anyway, the images are sharp with nice color and contrast. The colors lean a bit towards cool rather than warm. Don’t fool yourself, this camera is not going to do better than an equivalent modern day point and shoot. The 5mp resolution is limiting. The colors can go wonky at times. It’s sharp, but not the sharpest lens I’ve ever seen. Yet, when taken on the whole, I like the pics I get from this camera!

There’s a certain kind of quality to it. I’m not going to say “film-like” or “filmic” but it’s something similar and very pleasant to my eyes. Actually, yes, when viewing some of my photos at 100 percent, the “grain” did seem reminiscent of color film grain. It kind of makes up for the lack of details or low resolution.

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“Sun” 2017. Contax TVS Digital.

The nifty macro mode is very good. In once instance, it did better than a Sigma DP2 Quattro I was testing. No, not in sharpness or resolution but in the fact that the TVS Digital got several sharp shots where the DP2 Quattro misfocused on the same shots, even though it gave me an in focus indication. That was a good example to me of getting the shot vs not getting the shot. What would you take, a 29mp blurry shot? Or a 5mp sharp, in-focus shot? πŸ™‚

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“All Mine” 2017. Contax TVS Digital. Macro mode. The TVS Digital has a very useful macro mode that works well in capturing shots such as this. This large butterfly seems to be claiming all this “food” for itself and no one else πŸ™‚

With a limiting top ISO speed of 400, the TVS Digital is not a camera one would likely use for low light shots. However, I found one pleasant surprise; when shooting in low light with no flash, the camera still produces surprisingly good color under these circumstances.

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“Empire State” 2017. Contax TVS Digital. The TVS Digital does surprisingly well for night shots such as this one at ISO 400.

Check out the photo below. It looks well lit, but in reality, the room was dark and only the hallway light lit the subjects. With these circumstances, many cameras, even modern ones will usually produce reddish or yellowish colors, but the TVS Digital produced colors so natural here it puts a lot of cameras to shame! This was shot handheld, but this leads me to believe the TVS Digital could do better than I thought in low light conditions, especially if a tripod is used. This fact that the whole picture did not turn into mush is a pleasant surprise!

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BOTTOM LINE

As one of the last cameras introduced by the now defunct Contax line of cameras from the Kyocera era, the Contax TVS Digital is seen these days as collectible and that it is, I suppose.

In use, the TVS Digital in many ways mimics the TVS film series. It carries very good optics into an all purpose point and shoot digital camera. Its performance can be good to very good, but not earth shattering. It’s a good basic point and shoot camera that happens to carry the prestigious Contax name.

Considering that the Contax brand of its era is gone, the TVS Digital is one of the few digital remnants that keeps the Camera Legend of Contax alive and as a Contax fan I would say that’s a good thing!

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

Unlike the Contax N Digital DSLR, the TVS Digital is almost always available on eBay. And also unlike the N Digital DSLR, prices have been trending downwards in the past few years, settling to around $175-300 with an average around $250. This indicates to me that even buyers know this is not a standout collectors item like the N Digital.

In my opinion, even at its current price, it’s is still too much for this camera. Again, for me, it all goes back to the Finecam S5, the Kyocera camera with similar specs. You can find this camera if you look for $10-30! But though they share similar specs, the S5 looks and feels a lot different from the TVS Digital. The TVS Digital is better in this respect.

If you are a Contax fan like me, and you don’t mind paying current prices, then I suppose it’s not an out of this world price to pay.

But buy carefully. As I mentioned many times before, Contax electronics are prone to failure. Make sure you buy from a place with a good return policy because if it breaks on you, there’s really no hope of repair.

If interested, try one of the links here and support Camera Legend at the same time. Your support will help me continue to bring you reviews on forgotten cameras such as the TVS Digital and many more film and digital classics of yore. Many thanks!!

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7/29/17: ***DEAL ALERT***

Our good friends at Adorama have some great deals this weekend on some hot new Rokinon lenses! For a very limited time (this weekend) you can save a bundle on these awesome Rokinon lenses.

Photo Of The Day: “Evil Bugster” Film Version

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Hmm, does this look familiar? If it seems like something I posted before, well yes, yes it is! It’s THIS picture.

Same VG “Evil” Buggy. Different camera. The previous was shot with a Canon G1X, digital point and shoot. This one was taken with a Minolta TC-1 point and shoot film camera. The film was Fuji Superia 400 color print film.

Other than the slight graininess of the film version and the art filter I used on the digital version (which caused the color differences), do you see any differences? If anything, it’s very slight. Some might prefer the G1X version, some might prefer the TC-1 version but to my eyes they’re nearly identical. The fact that I shot them both within the same minute from my car might have something to do with that, but photographically, I don’t see a lot of differences.

I’m re-testing the TC-1 because while I have a short write up on this classic film camera from a couple years back, I didn’t have any photos in that article and as I always say…Pics or it didn’t happen!

Anyway, being that I tend to favor film cameras it might surprise you that I was this close to saying save your money and stick with your digital camera but I won’t say it right now until I evaluate my next roll of film from the TC-1.

All I can say right now is, the TC-1 is a beautiful little camera, a classic, a Camera Legend. However, today, your digital point and shoot is likely to give it a run for its money and probably cost less too.

Happy Sunday and hope you get some great shots!

Iconic American Cameras Part I: The Argus C3

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I was looking to do something in honor of the 4th of July Independence Day holiday on Tuesday. I think classic American cameras don’t get enough spotlight.

I thought to myself, what is the most iconic American camera? What camera would qualify as an American Camera Legend? There have been quite a few of them, but for some reason none came to my head right away. When you think of iconic German cameras, right away you probably think of Leica, Rollei, or the early Contax cameras. Japan, you easily think of Canon, Nikon, Pentax, etc, etc.

American? First thing that came to my mind was Kodak, but Kodak was iconic mostly as an American film manufacturer. Sure they had a bunch of cameras too, but a lot of them were rebranded imports or cameras that were part American, part foreign (usually the lenses). It was films like Kodak Kodachrome or Ektachrome that made Kodak an American icon.

I thought of Polaroid too and certainly some of their cameras such as the Land Cameras or the One Step series would qualify. But again, a lot of the best Land Cameras had Japanese lenses on them.

The only one I could clearly say is an American Camera Legend is the Argus C3. Well, let’s say it might be the most iconic American camera in my collection. So if you can think of a more iconic American camera, feel free to let me know. I’m just saying this is the most iconic made in the USA camera in my collection.

AS A CAMERA

The Argus C3 is a 35mm rangefinder camera made by Argus of Ann Arbor, Michigan from around 1939 to 1966.

The camera features a 50mm f/3.5 Cintar lens which was made by other companies among them the most well known was Bausch & Lomb, another famous American optical manufacturer.

The lens can be removed and there are a few other lenses which can be used on the C3, though in my personal experience, I’ve never seen a C3 in the flesh with any lens other than the 50mm Cintar. The Cintar is actually the fastest at f/3.5 while the other lenses (35mm/100mm/135mm respectively) have a very slow and boring f/4.5 as their fastest aperture.

The camera has a shutter speed range of 1/10 to 1/300 plus B and the lens as an aperture range from f/3.5 to f/16. The rangefinder focuses from around 3 feet to infinity and is coupled.

There were a few revisions to the C3, but I think they are all pretty much the same cameras or at least nothing really earth shattering in the revisions. The original “C” model has an uncoupled rangefinder.

IMPRESSIONS

The first thing that strikes you about the Argus C3 is the awesome retro look. But this isn’t a Fuji or Olympus digital camera dressed up as retro. This thing is from 1939 to 1966…it IS retro! πŸ™‚

Its nickname is “The Brick” and it does look and feel like a funky, chunky brick! In pictures, it looks smaller to me than it actually is in real life. I remember being quite surprised by the size of this camera when I first got it.

I remember seeing the camera numerous times on television, as a prop in print ads, and in movies, most notably in one of the Harry Potter movies.

It makes a great prop I must say!

IMAGE QUALITY

I know without pictures “it didn’t happen” but I’m not going to lie, I don’t have any photos from this camera that I’d consider remarkable.

The lens, at least on my sample, was of average quality and many of my shots were in poor focus or blank. The ones that were sharp seemed decent but nothing I’d call spectacular. Don’t forget, this was a camera designed and priced to sell to the masses, it was not and is not a Leica. I can and do blame myself for not producing decent pictures with the camera, but I don’t think the Argus C3 would mind if I blamed it too πŸ™‚

Sure, don’t get me wrong, you can get some nice pictures with it, but then again you can get nice pictures with almost any camera. If you want a camera to take those shaky, out of focus, softish hipster images, this might be the camera for you.

I’m not sure if the rangefinder was off or the shutter or something else I was doing wrong. It might just be my particular camera and lens. Nevertheless, it’s not a camera I’m really interested in putting another roll of film through as I have a lot of other film cameras to review!

PRICE & COLLECTIBILITY

The Argus C3 is a good example of “collectible” not translating to “expensive.” Argus made millions of these mass produced cameras and while beautiful (to me), it is not an out of this world picture taker. People know that and it shows in today’s used prices which can go as low as $10, though the average prices for these cameras seem to be trending at between $15 to $30.

The C3 is also a good example of a camera looking like it’s worth more than it is. I’ll bet on any given day, someone comes across one of these in their attics and knowing today’s appetite for anything retro, they probably think it’s worth a lot. Then they check prices on eBay only to be disappointed by the low prices these cameras command.

AS AN ICON

As I said at the start, the Argus C3 is an American Camera Legend. The camera sold in the millions and helped to popularize 35mm photography in America.

By doing so, they probably helped Kodak sell a boatload of film in the USA as well. So even though the C3 wasn’t and isn’t (in my opinion) a great shooters camera, it is indeed a legendary camera. A Camera Legend.

So if you’re a camera collector, and a patriotic American, you don’t just want one, youΒ needΒ to have one in your collection!

The looks alone will bring a smile to your face and amazement to your non camera knowlegeable but retro loving friends. Just think twice before you waste any film on it. My two cents! πŸ™‚

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***DEAL ALERT***

Β Nikon Lens Rebates are on!! This is the time to SAVE BIG on Nikon!

Remembering Dad

Trying not to take up your time with a long post, I’m just pausing today to remember my Dad on his birthday. Though you have completed your mission here in the world, we still miss your presence. Hope you’re resting in peace now my Papa. 1932-2011

Note: the above photo was taken in 2011 with an iPhone 3G 2mp camera and the Hipstamatic app. Of all images of my Dad this is one of my favorites, even if it’s not a direct photo of him. He was a quiet, humble man who loved music and I think he would have loved this photo if he were alive to see it. Say what you will about phone cameras and apps, but sometimes they work! For me anyway, yes 😊

Photo Of The Day: “Palm Beach”

Ok yes I know it’s been a long time since I had a decent camera review for you and I’m sorry it’s going to be a little longer cause just as I did my edits for my next review the computer crashes! Don’t you just hate that?!

Anyway, it’s almost 6am EST so there’s no way I’m going back to it now.

So just to let you know I’m still around, here’s a shot using a Leica M5 and vintage Canon 50mm f/0.95 “Dream Lens.” The film I believe was Fuji Superia 400. If you wish to see a larger version, you may now do so by clicking on the photo. I hope to include larger photos on future postings, now that I’ve found a decent work around to WordPress limitations on this.

My workflow is usually this…I start out testing the cameras and lenses on my kids, if they’re cooperative. Once I get decent shots of them, I move on to other subjects like the streets, buildings or anything else that strikes my fancy because once the gear passes the “kid test” I already know it’s going to do ok with anything else! 😊

The Canon 50mm f/0.95 is one of my favorite lenses of all time and I’ve been using it for many years. It’s a specialized tool, no doubt, so I use it sparingly. To paraphrase that now retired handsome old man in the commercial…”I don’t use the lens often, but when I do, it’s the most interesting lens in the world.”

The lens has that unique soft/sharp thing going on. It’s not the sharpest lens in the world, it’s softer than it is sharp, but it certainly has its own character.

I hope to post a collection of Canon Dream Lens images from a variety of different bodies in the near future.

Have a great week and see you soon!

Photo Of The Day: “Saigon In New York”

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I spotted this near Central Park in New York City and it reminded me of the little carts that you might see in Saigon or the tuk-tuks in Thailand. I know they’re not exactly the same, but you get the idea.

Shot with my trusty original 8.1mp GR Digital and the wide angle converter lens making the field of view around 21mm. No matter where you come from in this world, you can find a slice of home in New York! πŸ™‚

 

Happy Father’s Day 2017

Happy Father’s Day to all you great fathers out there! While Father’s Day is generally a celebration of you, Daddy, any photographer/dad out there knows the best aspect of being a father is to be able to take photos of your greatest accomplishment life which are your kids. They are what makes you a Father in the first place πŸ™‚

In celebration of this, here’s some photos of my beloved. While I have tried to shift to other subjects in recent postings in order to not “bore” folks who may not like kiddie photos, it’s the photos of my babies that inspire me most so please allow me today to indulge a little. In fact, it’s my tribute to these hard working kids because they are the ones who allow me to create reviews for you by being the main subjects for my camera testing πŸ™‚

Thank you and once again, Happy Father’s Day to all you happy Papas out there and I hope you get some nice cameras and/or lenses today!!

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Any Father’s Day tribute should start with Dad! This is a shot of my late Dad with Baby Zoe from 2008. Pentax K10D, Pentax Β SMCP-FA 35mm f/2 AL lens.

 

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“Munchkin In The Tree” 2015. Canon EOS-1D Mark III, EF 135mm f/2L.

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“Spring Fashion” 2013. Contax IIIa, 50mm f/2 Sonnar, Kodak Tri-X 400 deveoped in D76.

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“Cheeri-O” 2016. Fuji Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic.

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“Ho Hum Day” 2011. Nikon F100, Kodak Tri-X, 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX…yes, the APS-C digital lens!

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“Sunday Girls” 2015. Konica Hexar AF, Ilford Delta 400 in D76.

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“Nine Degrees Of Separation” πŸ™‚ 2016. Iphone 6s Plus.