As I was lent this camera and I am not sure when I have to give it back, I thought I would try the Contax RTS III again. I popped in some Fuji film and headed to Skipton with my father.
In the short time I have left the camera on my shelf I had forgotten how to use it. I have been using automatic cameras recently and for the first few shots I even forgot to focus the thing. Golly, what a complete amateur. But circumstances meant that my failings were not a total disaster in regards to the film.
The 28mm lens has a long depth of field and the camera and film coped with my setting choices until I came to my senses.
I still found the camera very heavy and would have preferred a different strap. The look of the camera is also not “classic” enough for my tastes. But gosh, the lenses are sharp. After the 28mm I tried a few shots of my 40 year old ape toy with the 50mm lens. A few of my friends are freaked out by Charlie, but it is a new project I have started.
Here are the new Contax shots.
It is a stunning camera and if you only want one camera then it would be an awesome choice….if you can afford a good one.
While taking part in my first vintage fair I was contacted by a reader of this blog who made me an offer I could not refuse.
“Would I like to try a Contax RTS III with a lens of my choice?” he asked. “Erm yes please!” I replied without much delay.
So at the fair he brought in said camera as promised with a 28mm lens as I already had a 50mm. He also brought in a box of other items including a 500mm mirror lens with a Contax adaptor.
Here is the camera with the wide angle attached.
My goodness this is a heavy camera, but as you can see in perfect condition. I think if I had owned this camera it would have been a lot more scratched up as I carried it and swung it around. Mr Generous really did look after his stuff. Everything in his box of goodies was in its original box or a bag and labelled.
This camera was first introduced in 1990 and you can find all the technical details you like on this page. Really far down on that page you will see details of a ceramic film pressure plate. This other site also mentions it as a starred feature that ensured a flat film plane as it was enhanced by a vacuum. Well, that is impressive. This reviewer said it felt and looked like a Porche of cameras. I have to agree. Even though it was heavy it was surprisingly comfortable to hold, the hand grip being just the right size for my tiny hands. The diopter adjustment made the already bright viewfinder a delight to look through.
As I had this camera for “as long as you like” I decided to put a few films through it and experiment a bit. So for the first film I put in some Kodak EPH P1600X slide film that I had been given by another reader. In fact he gave me a fair bit of this now unavailable film. I wish I had read that link before as it mentions it is a rare 400asa film that can be pushed to 1600…oh I think that is what the ‘p’ indicates before 1600x.
Well, I really should start reading instructions and reviews before I use things, but where is the fun in that. Anyway, nowhere does this film have 400asa written on it, not even on the box, you just have to be clever enough to know it??
So as I thought the film was 1600asa and it was from 2002, I set the camera to 1250, moving the dial two places lower on this camera. First I tried the 500mm lens, as it did not have an aperture dial I used it at various settings. I tried aperture and speed mode hoping the camera would figure it out the aperture of the lens. I also tried manual, guessing the lens was an f8 as I had seen other lenses with the same sized aperture. I took ten shots then changed to the 28mm lens.
Then I made some calculations. Sending the E6 film off to be developed would take at least a week and cost about £15 with postage. I have at least 12 rolls of slide film. Gosh that would be expensive. An order of Tetenal Colortec E6 would be about £50, arrive the next day, and possibly develop 30 films if I could do it. And there is the rub, I have never done E6 processing before. In Japan you could only get black and white chemicals due to government restrictions on the chemicals needed. So I had next to no experience with colour processing. How hard could it be?? Be brave I thought, chemicals ordered!
I found this site and followed it to the letter. I followed the mixing ratios and timings with a quick glance at the pack instructions. If I had known about the pushing element I would have also followed the film guide which I found later. That would have meant adding 5 minutes to the first development stage.
I boiled a kettle to use as topping up water for the tub which I had filled from the hot tap. I put all the chemicals in the tub and took constant temperature readings to check it stayed at 38C. The main issue I had was the wash process, because the sink was full and I have a small kitchen. But in the end it was not as hard as I thought it would be to keep the temperature fairly stable, even on a cold day. I agitated the developing tank every 15 seconds by using the agitation stick rather than taking the tank out of the warm water and inverting it. Then I waited very impatiently for the film to dry.
So the first part of the film was from the 500mm mirror lens.
Well, they are a bit crappy. Underexposed and fuzzy, focusing was quite hard due to the very small depth of field and darker viewfinder. I don’t like the lens very much, though I am glad I tried a free one as I always wanted to buy one for bird watching. The slides were obviously underexposed which enhanced the blue tint.
Here are some of the ones from the 28mm lens.
At first I was disappointed with the results, but then I remembered…Hey, I developed these slides! The film was 17 years out of date and I used it at the wrong settings on the camera and wrong timing of the film processing. So actually, they are not that bad 🙂
These slide also have a blue tint. The ones in the link I shared to before were also blueish. I wonder what the slides will look like when I try another roll and set the camera to 400asa.
As for the camera, it is a bit awesome. I have put a fresh roll of C41 film in it which I will not be processing myself as I want to see what it can do without the hit and miss of my own processing skills. For a Contax camera these can be found for sale at quite reasonable prices. If you are looking for a good quality, manual focus SLR, they don’t come much better than this.
Update: I tried another roll of the slide film today, this time taken at 400asa. I tried a few settings and a yellow filter. I found the yellow filter definitely was not needed and the blue colour cast was probably due to the underexposure of the first film. Some of the new roll were still blue, but some were relatively ok. Either way this roll came out better.
Here are some more from the second roll. It is not my favourite film at the moment, but I will try it in another camera for another comparison test at a later date.
Believe it or not, this was a junk find. A seller in Japan was selling it for junk as the skin had disintegrated and there was a dent on the bottom. Apart from that, they said it worked fine. So I got it for less than £8 plus postage. Then the fun started. I knew what I wanted to do with it so I ordered the covering material which arrived in a few days. But the camera took well over a month to arrive. A few days after I ordered it there was a massive typhoon in Japan which damaged Kyoto airport, and where was my camera…at Kyoto airport according to the tracking information. And there it stayed. I was just about to give up all hope when new tracking information arrived. But what state would the camera arrive in? Did it get damaged in the typhoon? Well, the package was perfect. Inside was this camera. It came without a lens, but I put one on from another camera to test the viewfinder and operations.
Actually, I almost forgot to take photos before I got stuck in recovering it. These were taken with my phone when it arrived. And the covering? Japanese stamps!!
This is what it looked like once I had finished.
The strap was made in Okinawa and was a gift from a friend when I left Japan. I also put on a lens hood. Even if the camera didn’t work, and I hoped it did, I already loved it.
The camera was produced from 1982 for around 5 years. You can find all the technical details you like on this website. I left the camera on automatic for my test shots, but you do have the options of full manual, aperture, and shutter priority modes. I found the camera very easy to use and quite responsive. It was sturdy without being so heavy that it became uncomfortable. The strap helped with that. The length of the strap meant I could move the position of the camera over my shoulder like a bag.
I put in a roll of Street Candy with the original thin film base. I developed it by adding a leader, in ilfosol3 using the same process times as I would use for Ilford HP5+. I still found it difficult to thread it on the holder though.
I tried the camera around my house as it was raining quite heavily. Once it had died down a bit I went for a walk. Here are my results:
I was really impressed with the camera and film. I spent a little more time post-processing these photos using Snapseed on my iPad. I don’t usually alter film photos in this way, but why not? It is just another form of photography I suppose.
In my film pile, I had a very expired E6 film. I didn’t trust it for anything I cared about so I put it in this camera and wandered around Leeds. I was right about the film, the photos came back in a terrible state. I used Preview to change them to black and white, then increased the contrast. In the end, they came out ok. I just love this camera.
Keep or Sell: This is by far my favourite camera. As I am reducing my collection it has persuaded me to sell nearly all the other SLRs I have and stick with Contax. Yeap, I love it more than my Olympus cameras due to the lenses. This other reviewer came to the same conclusion.
This is one of my favourite, non-autofocus SLR…at the moment. I know I have raved about Olympus cameras, but holy-moly I love this camera. I have recently tried another Contax camera and that persuaded me to get this one. But the road to my love was a long and windy path.
I saw the body on eBay from a Japanese seller I have used before. It seemed very cheap compared with the others for sale, but it said excellent condition so I thought I would take a risk. Practically the next day the camera arrived, it even had the blue plastic cover on the screen (I have resisted pulling it off). I set about getting a lens as soon as possible. I was going to Akihabara, Tokyo to meet a friend and try out the VR Zone (for the second time). Gosh, it is fun. Anyway, I stopped at a camera shop to buy a lens…no C/Y lens. Hmmm. I tried another, they had ONE, one, a f1.4 aperture 50mm and it had a bit of dust in it and a scratch to the front. The shop-keep said none of these things would be an issue but these lenses were also very rare in Japan. I had already told my friend I had a budget and it was all the money I had in my wallet. If the lens went over that, I had to wait….It was under my limit by 20yen, about 20 cents. The guy asked me what camera it was for and I said a 167MT. He replied it was a very reliable camera. He carefully wrapped the lens and I put my bag in a locker at the station so I wouldn’t virtually or literally damage anything and then we went off to be terrified by virtual heights and speed.
When I finally got home I put the lens on the body and thought…behold my beautiful camera!!! Yeah…..no. Behold my camera that doesn’t seem to focus and has a funny image in the viewfinder????
WTF???? Was it the lens? Was the camera? Was it me? WHAT WAS WRONG WITH IT!!!
Calm yourself and ask the internet gods, I thought. I have recently joined a facebook group of vintage camera lovers who make me feel normal again as they seem to have way more cameras than me. The members quickly said…”You’ve got no focusing plate there mate”. Oh. And there on the listing for Ebay, right at the bottom, “missing focusing plate” 😦
I have never removed or replaced one. I didn’t know where to begin. Luckily the internet gods did. I found a replacement and ordered it. Then I sadly put the camera away and waited for it to arrive. Two weeks later….
It came with a little tool and instructions. It was a lot easier than I thought it ever would be and voila..it worked. Here is a shot through the viewfinder…focusing achieved.
And after all that, did the damn thing work?
Here are some shots around my house and school to try out my handy work.
Yeah, Look at that focusing!!! Since I fixed this camera, I love it more. I have taken it out a few times. This camera and the autofocus NX are all the cameras I should ever really need. I should stick with these two cameras and get to know them better, but gosh that G.A.S.
As I was trying it out the plastic window fell out, or it was never there. I kind of remember it being there, but I can’t be sure. Whatever, black tape fixes it.
Interestingly, after writing this I left it in the draft section for ages. Plus, I seem to be using my Pentax ME Super more than any other camera. It is super light compared with this one. Fewer buttons and bells too. So given the number of cameras I have, I sold this one. Though I was sad about it and regret it a bit.
This camera was in one of my local second-hand stores for ages. I saw it every time I went in to womble. It was on a shelf with a hefty price tag of about $100 which was quite a bit more than I would like to pay for an unknown camera, and one without a lens. But there it was week after week. Finally, I thought, “If is there the next time I go in I will buy it, I am sure I have a lens that will fit.”
It was in perfect condition and fired up straight away with 2 CR2 batteries. It came with the Japanese instructions and original price tag, which makes me think it is a mint, never used example. Out of interest, I looked up what that price would mean in today’s money and it came to $890 so a bargain for me really. You can find more technical details here. Of course, if you are knowledgeable or read the specs you will know that the lens mount for this camera is a Contax N, which I had none. In fact, there are only 10 lenses and they are all friggin expensive. Even an adapter to fix it to another camera is expensive. In fact, the lens would cost me three times that of the camera. I was tempted to just sell it straight away and not even bother. I don’t know why I changed my mind, but I did and waited for payday. I then search online for the cheapest I could find and bought that.
It was fairly cheap at $250 and in perfect condition. So all in all a pretty expensive camera for me, seeing as I sometimes pay $1. It better bloody work!
First I tried a fuji film and went for a walk around Koto-Ku in Japan. Here are a few of the photos.
Look at the mushrooms on the tree, it is so sharp. This camera is awesome. It is a little heavy to carry, but it is worth it. The dial on the top allows you to manually set the ISO, so you can push a film. There are two “o” settings where you can have custom settings and quickly change between the two. Plus all the regular settings. There is a thumb dial so you can change the speed or aperture without moving your eye from the viewfinder. Of course, it is the lens that makes this camera, it was well worth the money…as I got it cheap. But it did persuade me to get a better lens for the Leica I have and that worked out great too.
I then decided to put in a slide film, the first time since I went back to film, a Fuji Velvia 50.
The odd shot out is the Pikachu as I wanted to test the inbuilt flash. I found the film a little cold so I added a bit of warmth. I am not sure I will try it again. But the camera is still awesome. Contax is now my new favourite line.
With this autofocus camera and the Leica with the Canon lens, my feelings towards going wombling have changed. I don’t feel like I need another camera. My friends and family think this is a phase..but I am not sure. I have a few more cameras to try and add to this blog, but really I want to use these two cameras all the time. Plus I am reaching the limit of the free allowance for WordPress.
Keep or sell: moot.
Update Oct ‘18 – I sold the camera. I found I liked the older cameras more and the lens on this one didn’t fit any other camera I owned. So given I am out of work a while, it had to go. I don’t regret it, I think I have less GAS now.