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!! 🙂

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 🙂

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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 🙂

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. 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? 🙂

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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 🙂

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***

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The Best Camera I Never Knew Part III: The Contax Tix APS Film Camera

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The Contax TiX from 1997. Perhaps the most beautiful Contax point and shoot, but doomed by being born an APS film camera.

I have to admit I’m a big fan of Contax point and shoot film cameras from the 90s. There was just something special about the whole series.

While I stand by what I wrote in earlier articles about the fragility of Contax cameras and their brittle electronics, I loved the concept, the feel, and execution despite the feeling that I could never really rely on them completely.

THE CONTAX Tix

The Contax Tix (pronounced T…i…x as opposed to Tix, I think!) is a high quality point and shoot camera introduced by Kyocera in 1997.

The camera featured a Carl Zeiss 28mm f/2.8 Sonnar T* lens and used the infamous and now defunct APS (Advanced Photo System) film system. The camera was the smallest of the Contax film point and shoots.

The camera has autofocus, a shutter speed range of 15 seconds to 1/1000, and came with a data back for date imprint. It was powered by one 3V CR-2 battery.

WHY IT DIDN’T JIVE WITH ME?

The last two cameras I profiled (Rolleimatic and Rollei A110) didn’t jive with me because they didn’t work. That was NOT the case with the Contax Tix.

A little history…I got my first Contax point and shoot, the original Contax T, in 1997. That was a superb little manual focus rangefinder and I got some wonderful shots from that thing. Basically, after the Contax T, I was hooked on Contax for a while!

I got the Contax Tix some time in the mid 2000’s, mainly as a curiosity and to add to my collection. I did not expect to use it often because even at the time of the introduction of the APS film system in 1996, I was never really interested in that format. Even back then, I wondered why would anyone bother with this over 35mm?

The 35mm format already had its limitations vs medium and larger formats and I felt like APS was a step backwards.

The negatives were smaller and despite the stuff you were able to do with it, ie, the three image formats, 16:9, 3:2, and 3:1 aspect ratios, as well as the quasi-panoramic mode, I wasn’t into it. I just thought they were gimmicks, but even if they were useful to some, I would take the larger negative of the (already relatively small) 35mm standard over APS any day.

So back to the Contax Tix. Yes, the camera worked and worked well. I used it for two or three rolls of snapshots expecting good quality, but most of the shots from this camera looked excellent!

I’m sorry I have no pics to show you now because as mentioned in the last couple of postings, I am without my main working computer and using a 10′ Chromebook. I would still need to scan these prints.

My assessment of the 28mm f/2.8 Zeiss Sonnar on the Tix is this…The lens is excellent, as expected. It is very sharp. Not as bitingly sharp as the lens on the Contax T3, but still sharper than most point and shoots. But my favorite part is that the lens seemed to have more of a classic look, a soft/sharp kind of thing like the 38mm f/2.8 Sonnar on the original T or T2. So, in my opinion, the lens on the Tix was in between that of the T3 and T/T2. That’s almost perfection right there!

So the camera itself was never a problem. The fact that it used APS film was what didn’t jive with me and why I got rid of it.

If looking for one of these, prices have been trending steady for years at a low of $70 to around $150 with an average of around $90. The camera came in silver or black which is a bit more rare.

If I were to seek one out today, I don’t think it would take me too long to find one. And there are apparently places that will still develop APS film if you send the film out to them. But I’m already dealing with enough dead or outdated systems like Polaroids, 127mm, 110mm, etc that I wouldn’t bother with APS film right now.

BOTTOM LINE

The Contax Tix is a beautiful, jewel-like camera. I feel that this camera could’ve been THE best of all the Contax point and shoots, but unfortunately it was and will forever be hindered by the format it was born with, the APS film system, which is probably one of the biggest flops in film history.

Now before any APS film fans get mad at me, I want to say the concept, and indeed the quality of APS film was not bad. If I recall correctly, there were even some APS films that equaled or exceeded its 35mm equivalents in magazine tests.

In many ways APS was “pre-digital” film. It wasn’t designed for ultimate quality, but instead was made for easier development (with machines specifically designed to take APS film, of which one can guess the companies also hoped to make money selling) and promised smaller, lighter cameras. It foresaw almost all that we see in digital point and shoots today!

But APS wasn’t friendly for the home developer. I’m sure someone must have done it, but I haven’t met anyone who actually home developed APS film. You actually had to bring that film into the store as each film cartridge was locked and coded. The main problem for APS film was timing. It was introduced in 1996 right around the time the first wave of digital cameras were coming in.

In only a few short years it was killed by digital, but somehow managed to hang on till 2011 when Fuji and Kodak, the last two APS film manufacturers ceased production of this film forever.

Again, in many ways, APS had some key concepts that made its way into digital such as switchable aspect ratio, smaller cameras and lenses, and of course APS lives on in our memories by the APS-C sensors which is approximately the same size as APS film. This is the lasting legacy of the APS film system I guess.

The Contax Tix was one of those cameras that I loved as a camera. It had a wonderful lens and beautifully small proportions. The Tix is probably at the apex of APS point and shoot cameras. It is no doubt a camera that added to the Camera Legend of Contax/Yashica.

It is a camera which was only held back by the APS format that it was created for and a camera of which I was never able to realize its full potential. The Contax Tix is a superb camera that unfortunately became one of…the best cameras I never knew 🙂

Note: Still waiting for my Mac in repair, but the show must go on! While I have created a workflow with this Chromebook, I have noticed it is becoming painfully slow the more I use it. Thanks to all who continue to visit, I appreciate it, and I continue to write about cameras for you my friends.