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Contax G2: The Ultimate 35mm Travel Camera?
Page 4
Continued from page 3

Edam Holland

ABOVE: Houses and shops in Edam, Holland, photographed on Kodak Supra 800 film with the Contax G2.

Test results

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:

  • Although it's heavier than my Canon Rebel SLR (thanks to a titanium body and machined metal lens housings), it's less fatiguing to carry because it hangs straight from the neckstrap and lies flat against the chest even with a zoom lens.

  • The camera is just the right size for most photographers. The body is easy to grip and has perfect balance, even with the zoom lens attached.

  • Controls are conveniently placed and clearly marked, with excellent tactile feedback.

  • The overall build quality of the camera is superb. The G2 feels like a classic German camera with modern electronics hidden inside. It looks the part, too, whether you choose the satin titanium or optional black finish.

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.

Next Page > Related Web sites - Page 5

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

Also see:
The Ultimate Camera Bag for Travelers