Contax G2: The Ultimate 35mm Travel Camera?
ABOVE: Houses and shops in Edam, Holland, photographed on Kodak Supra 800 film with the Contax G2.
First, a confession: When it comes to photography, I'm a duffer. The Contax G2 is too good for the likes of me (not to mention too expensive), and in my hands the G2 gives credence to the adage that photographers--not cameras--take pictures.
Now that I've issued my disclaimer, I'll talk about my experience with the G2:
Design and workmanship. The Contax G2 is a joy to carry, hold, and use:
The resulting photos. I was disappointed by the pictures I took, because so many of them were out of focus. The fact that several entire rolls were badly out of focus suggests that I may have been careless in mounting the lenses on several occasions. (Each lens housing has gold contacts that line up with contacts on the body. If the mounting ring of the lens isn't twisted until it clicks firmly in place, communication between the lens and the camera's focusing and exposure systems may be disrupted.)
Unfortunately, air-freight delays caused by the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York kept the camera from arriving until the day before I left for Europe, so I broke my cardinal rule of "Never leave on a trip with a brand-new camera." Photos taken after my return to the United States were of more consistent quality--probably because I'd learned to be more careful with the lens mounting and was more familiar with the G2's controls and idiosyncracies.
To buy or not to buy? Would I buy a Contax G2 if I could afford one? In a word, "yes." It's a superbly crafted camera, the 35-70mm and 21mm lenses are perfectly suited to European travel, and the entire kit--camera, lenses, and a small flash if you need one--will fit easily into a small camera bag. (However, at US $3,500 or so, my G2 dream kit isn't likely to show up under this year's Christmas tree.)
If you're interested in owning the Contax G2, I'd suggest borrowing or renting the camera and lenses from a dealer for a trial period--as you should do before investing in any top-of-the-line camera gear. The G2 is a great camera, but it isn't a "point-and-shoot," and it requires photographic skills and judgment to yield the outstanding photos that it's capable of producing.
For links to the Contax Web site, independent Contax G2 reviews, and photo galleries, see page 5. And if you're wondering whether a 35mm film camera is worth buying in the digital era, see my "digital vs. film" comparison on page 6.
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