The Contax T2: The Greatest Point & Shoot Camera Of All Time?

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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 🙂

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The Contax T2 was one of my film companions overseas. While large, clunky and not small like today’s point and shoots, the T2 exudes that Contax charm and Zeiss power that still seduces camera lovers to this day. Please forgive this bad phone pic. It was late night and I was just giving the T2 some lovin’ 🙂

PERFORMANCE

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.

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“Sister Samui” 2016. Contax T2, Tri-X 400. On Koh Samui island, Thailand, I met a wonderful lady whose grace and elegance made me think of her as a “Thai Lauren Bacall.” I’m getting used to going to these places now, but it’s the people I meet that keep it interesting for me.

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.

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“Pak Nam Klai” 2016. Contax T2, Tri-X 400 developed in D76. The Klai River in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand. Not as famous as the “River Kwai” but just as nice and it looks just the way it did when I visited as a child.

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.

BOTTOM LINE

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 🙂

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“Little Badass” 2016. Contax T2, Tri-X 400 developed in D76. I was just taking some test shots when this cute little “badass” stopped me in my tracks 🙂

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.

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“Double Trouble” 2016. Contax T2, Tri-X 400 developed in D76. In Manila, Philippines, I met these two beauties who I called “Double Trouble” 🙂 This was shot with direct flash in dark conditions and I was surprised it came out! This is my salute to Terry Richardson and Juergen Teller who made the “point and shoot with flash” shots hip and fashionable in the 1990s.

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 🙂

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“Number One” 2016. Contax T2, Tri-X 400 developed in D76. Not the greatest picture, perhaps one of my worse, but I decided to post it anyway to show that yes, you can use the T2 to take those lousy pictures point and shoot cameras used to be known for and besides that, Baby Zay thinks the T2 is “Numero Uno” 🙂

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.

Contax T2 For Sale

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.

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Photo of The Day: “The Lady Of The Harbor”

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So another 4th of July has come and gone and indeed the year is more than half done. Is there any way to slow down time short of getting on a spacecraft and cruising at the speed of light? 🙂

I still remember as a kid watching on television America’s “Bicentennial” in 1976. That was a big deal the Bicentennial. Anyone remember that? Gerald Ford was the President of the United States (thanks to reader Kevin Thomas for pointing this out!). You’re telling me that was forty years ago?! Hot damn man!

Anyway, here’s one in the spirit of the 4th of July. I shot this twenty years ago in 1996, the last time I actually visited the Lady. If anything, I hear she looks better than ever!

Any New Yorker knows that you visit the Lady once or twice and then you’re content to see her from afar, i.e., from a bridge, from a boat, etc. Only tourists actually want to go there and brave the long lines 🙂

The gear I was using at that time was the Canon EOS A2E which was a semi-pro/enthusiasts camera, much like the 7D is today. It had a unique feature called “eye control” focusing which is what the “E” in A2E stood for. The camera also had a twin without the eye control feature called the A2 and was also known internationally as the EOS-5.

The camera used technology that followed your eye movements to predict focus. It didn’t work really well for me, but I heard that it was fine for others. I did try it on the EOS-3 later on and it worked much better on that body. Overall though, being somewhat of a traditionalist, I just thought it was a fun gimmick and went back to focusing the “normal” way. Choose focus point, compose, shoot 🙂

The camera was actually quite great to use. Good build quality, speedy and accurate AF. It had one fatal flaw however. That flaw was that the mode dial was prone to breaking rendering it useless. The good news is that it did take a lot of usage for that to happen. Mine happened after about five years of ownership with moderate use.

Canon did repair them at one point, but the cameras are so cheap now it’s just better to grab another one if you really want to try it.

The lens used was an el cheapo EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 which was a decent, if not great lens. And the film I believe was Kodak Gold as it was my film of choice back in those days.

Ah those were the great days when I got by on one camera and two lenses, far from the gear lust monster I have become today. I always tell anyone starting out, if they have a decent setup like a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, to just stick to what they have and work with it. Of course, they don’t listen and I can’t blame them I guess 🙂

The Fuji Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic

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The Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic is an instant film camera introduced by Fujifilm in 2013. The Mini 90 Neo Classic uses Fuji’s Instax Mini film.

I first saw the Mini 90 or Neo Classic (whichever short name you want to use) at its introduction at the PhotoPlus Expo in the fall of 2013. After seeing it in the flesh and speaking with the nice Fuji representative, I knew I had to have one! What I didn’t think of was why? But we’ll get to that later on.

I got one as soon as they were released in 2013 and at Urban Outfitters of all places.

THE INSTAX MINI 90 CAMERA BODY

Upon first glance, you can see why Fuji named this camera “Neo Classic.” It really looks like an instant classic, literally and figuratively! It looks beautiful.

Upon first touch, your feelings may change a bit. Now here’s a camera that I would say looks better than it feels. It feels lighter and I don’t know how to say this nicely, but it feels “cheaper” than it looks. Maybe it’s better to say, it looks like a metal camera of yore, but feels like a plastic camera. It doesn’t feel like a cheap camera, but as I said, cheaper than it looks.

The Mini 90 has a very smooth power on. With the flick of the little switch, the lens protrudes very smoothly and quietly. I just love the way it works. The only negative might be that it’s very easy to hit the switch accidentally so be mindful of this if you have the camera in your bag of goodies.

Like most instant cameras, the Mini 90 has a slow 60mm f/12.7 lens making it hard to not use flash indoors or get any kind of bokeh unless you get really close. Fortunately, the camera has a built in macro mode which lets you get as close as around 11 inches from the subject.

The Mini 90 is probably the most full-featured of the current Instax camera line. In addition to the built in macro mode, it offers a stronger flash, the ability to turn off the flash (not available in some other Instax models), double exposure, bulb, brightness adjustment, kids mode (for moving subjects), party mode (brightens the background), and landscape mode.

For the most part, this is an automatic camera. You cannot control the aperture or shutter speed, except for bulb. Keep that in mind and feel good knowing that the camera generally produces good results without your help 🙂

IMAGE QUALITY

The image quality coming out of the Mini 90 and Fuji’s Instax Mini film is generally excellent. But here’s the pun…it is excellent for what it is.

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“Cheeri-O” 2016. Fuji Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic. Macro mode used to get in closer for a more effective portrait. Baby Zay believes in the power of a good breakfast. She starts her day off with a healthy dose of Cheerios and works her way up from there 🙂

Remember when I wondered WHY I got one? Well, my main issue is with Instax Mini film in general. The 2.13″ x 3.4″ credit card sized prints are just a little too small for me to really enjoy.

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“Vanilla Fudge” 2016. If you’re a fan of that old vintage look, you can do it with the Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic. This was taken recently, but it looks almost like a print from the 70s!

That said, I think that’s kind of the whole point of it. It’s supposed to be small and fun, not some kind of “artistic” tool that we photographers always think we need. But sure, you can definitely put your artistic twist to the pics as with any camera. Me, I just use it as a point and shoot instant film camera for family fun snapshots. It is superb for that purpose.

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“Beauty & The Beast” Part II, 2013. One of my first shots from the Mini 90 Neo Classic. It wasn’t going to win me any awards, but I knew it was going to be a fun camera 🙂

All Instax Mini film at this time is ISO 800. There is also an Instax Wide format film which at 3.4″ x 4.25″ is more to my liking and closer to the size of packfilm. Unfortunately, Fuji does not make a camera currently in this format that is as sophisticated, spec wise, as the Mini 90 Neo Classic.

I find the Instax film to be very consistent, maybe clinical at times, but very consistent in color and stability. I cannot say the same for the Impossible film that I have used.

BOTTOM LINE

In the age of digital, analog photographers should be very happy with the success of the Instax Mini line of cameras. They are so popular that you can find them almost anywhere, from Target to Toys ‘R Us. I read somewhere that Fujifilm’s latest financial release apparently shows Instax sales growing, while digital sales have stalled or are declining. Don’t quote me on this, but do some research if you’re interested.

The funny thing is, while so many photographers (myself included) were raging over the discontinuation of Fuji’s FP-100C instant packfilm, there’s a general consensus that the Instax line is not as well loved by seasoned photographers.

Why? Well, camera selection is one thing to be sure. As I said, there aren’t many models, if any at all, designed for the photo enthusiast.

The second reason, and this is my own personal take, is that people just love retro and hard to find stuff man! The Instax cameras are not rare and they are widely available. People may cross it off their list for that reason alone.

As I said, people just love retro. In fact, it’s probably the Mini 90’s retro looks that caught my attention in the first place.

But yeah, people. You give them a high quality audio CD and they will find that the scratchy analog records sound better. You give them a modern car with all the amenities and they will say, “They don’t build ’em like they used to.” You give them 42 megs and the ease of digital, and they’ll want to shoot an old film camera and deal with the hassles of development and scanning dusty, scratchy negatives.

Sure, I’m being a little sarcastic, but not really because I am also one of those “nostalgic” folks 🙂

Anyway, again, I think all analog photography lovers should really be glad that Fuji is still even making instant cameras and instant film.

If you can live with the small sized prints, the Mini 90 Neo Classic is truly a wonderful instant camera that is full featured and fun to use. I do believe it will be a classic, and who knows, maybe one day a Camera Legend.

WHERE TO BUY

The great thing about Fuji’s Instax Mini cameras is that they are very easy on the wallet. Even the Mini 90 Neo Classic runs close to $150 new and around $90-100 used. For the small difference, I’d say just save your pennies and buy new unless you can get one for $50.

For a good selection, you may try HERE and HERE. Thanks for supporting CameraLegend.com!

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