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Contax G2: The Ultimate 35mm Travel Camera?
Page 2
Continued from page 1

Honfleur, Normandy, France

ABOVE: The old French port of Honfleur, Normandy, taken with the Contax G2.

The camera

Most of today's 35mm cameras (excepting disposables) are either:

Point-and-shoots. P&S cameras are typically designed for beginning photographers. They offer a high degree of automation--hence the term "point-and-shoot"--but are limited in flexibility.

Single-lens reflexes. SLRs are popular with professional photographers and advanced amateurs because of their interchangeable lenses, through-the-lens viewing,  and the control they allow over shutter speed, aperture, and automated programs. However, SLRs tend to be bulky, especially when fitted with wide-angle or zoom lenses.

The Contax G2 is one of a small number of professional-quality cameras that fall into a third category:

Rangefinder cameras. In a classic rangefinder camera such as the Leica or Voigtlander Bessa, the photographer looks through a viewfinder above the camera lens. Images from two separate points are combined (and aligned) to determine the proper focusing distance by triangulation. This design has several advantages over SLRs:

  • The camera can be smaller, since there's no need for a mirror inside the body or a prism on top.

  • Lenses (especially wide-angle lenses) can be much smaller and lighter than their SLR counterparts, since there's no mirror to require a bulky "retrofocus" lens design.

  • In theory, at least, focusing can be more accurate at focal lengths up to 90mm (the maximum lens length available on the G2).

The automatic rangefinder camera. The Contax G2 takes the rangefinder principle one step further than its retro competitors by letting a microprocessor perform the triangulation automatically. An infrared sensing beam provides backup under dim focusing conditions.

Exposure metering is automatic, too, with centerweighted light readings taken off the shutter curtain behind the lens. The photographer sets the aperture (f-stop), and the camera determines the correct shutter speed. The electronic shutter has a range of 16 to 1/6000 sec in automatic mode.

To give the photographer maximum control and flexibility, the G2 has features such as:

AF mode. You can set the camera for focus priority (camera won't fire unless subject is in focus) or release priority (camera will fire at any time the shutter is pressed).

AE lock. Flip a lever to set the exposure before framing the scene. (Alternatively, you can set the camera up to lock exposure by depressing the shutter halfway, using a separate focus-lock button to lock the focus before shooting.)

Exposure compensation. This tells the camera to use a longer or shorter exposure--e.g., when the subject is backlit. This can be combined with auto bracketing, which lets you expose a scene at three different exposure settings.

Manual focus. Point the camera at your subject and use the manual-focus button to achieve focus. A display on top of the camera shows the focusing distance in meters.

Next Page > The lenses - Page 3

In this archived article:
The camera
The lenses
Test results
Related Web sites
Digital vs. film

Also see:
The Ultimate Camera Bag for Travelers