Contax T2 Overview

Contax T2 Overview

The Contax T2 is a 35mm, automatic & electronically controlled manual focus compact camera with fixed 38mm f2.8 retractable Carl Zeiss T* lens.

It requires a battery for all operations which include a built-in LED display light meter and a shutter with a maximum speed of 1/500th of a second.

Shutter speeds can be selected manually or automatically, and the aperture is set manually by the user.

Background

Back in the early 1980’s, people from all backgrounds had a compact camera tucked away in their pocket ready for family snaps and a trip to the One Hour Photo. And while many of these people who considered themselves photographers may have had something like the Olympus XA or a Minox 35, what they really wanted was the Contax T! It had an all metal body, sleek design, and even said “Zeiss” on the lens! 

As soon as the Contax T was released it marketed itself as a serious camera with prices matching many of the seemingly superior SLRs of the day. When it was discontinued in 1987, the prices went up even higher. 

Contax T2 Release Date

Then, in 1990, the world got their first look at the next Contax compact camera, the Contax T2!

Appearance & Lens

The Contax had an all new look and function, while keeping the best parts of the Contax T. It was shorter, wider, and had automatic features the original T did not, but retained the all-metal construction and, most importantly, the 38mm f2.8 Zeiss lens.

Features & Operation

Focus

Autofocus

The biggest change from the Contax T to the Contax T2 (aside from the design) was the inclusion of an active infrared autofocus, which had the ability to focus at 118 different positions from as close as 28 inches, all the way to infinity. The Contax T was a fully manual focus camera with a coupled rangefinder.

By 1990 the majority of cameras being made had autofocus, a camera feature that grew into normality in the 1980s.

Although autofocus can sometimes be frustrating because the camera can never be 100% sure where the photographer wants to focus, Contax recognized this as the way of the future and it made its way into even the high-end T2.

Manual Focus

Luckily the Contax T2 also included a manual focus option controlled by a dial on the top of the camera body. While not practical for precision focusing, it can help in situations where the camera's AF sensor may get confused.

And possibly a more practical use today would be zone focusing for street photography. You could set the manual focus to 1 meter or 2 meters, and instantly snap away when your subject is at that distance for perfectly clear and crisp shots. 

Rangefinder

The Contax T2 is widely known as a compact camera or a point and shoot, but it’s actually also a rangefinder. Not an optical rangefinder with a focusing patch like most others, but an electronic rangefinder! 

Inside the viewfinder towards the bottom center you will see what resembles the light meter of a Voigtlander Bessa L or a Leica M6 TTL. Unlike those cameras, though, these symbols are the manual focus indicators.

When the focus mode dial on top of the camera is turned to any manual focus range (not Auto and not Infinity) the camera's infrared scanners are continuously running, comparing correct focus to your current focus setting. 

Much like aligning the double image in a standard rangefinder to obtain correct focus, your goal to achieve correct manual focus on the Contax T2 is to make the bottom center circular LED light up. 

The triangular lights on each side tell you which direction your focus is not yet correct. Simply turn the focus knob in the direction of the lit triangle until the center circle is lit and there you have it - focus achieved! 

Exposure

Manual Aperture & Aperture Priority

You can set the aperture manually from f2.8 to f16 and the camera will select the shutter speed for you. The camera exposure works via an Aperture Priority AE function. Meaning the camera's aperture is controlled by the photographer and the camera adjusts shutter speed accordingly. You can control exposure compensation but you cannot specifically select a shutter speed.  

The Contax T2 has a maximum shutter speed of 1/500th of a second, but that speed can only be obtained when shooting with the aperture set to f2.8. And if 1/500th of a second is used while the aperture is set to f2.8, the camera is actually shooting 1/500th of a second at f/16. What!?

This is the result of a very interesting, confusing, and little known feature of this camera is an additional Aperture Priority AE function that triggers when the aperture is set to f2.8.

Special Aperture Priority AE on f2.8 

Let’s understand this further. The Contax T2 can shoot at 1/500th of a second, but only when f2.8 is selected. In other situations, the camera will only use up to 1/125th. Allow me to explain.

When shooting the T2 with an f2.8 aperture, the camera will only choose shutter speeds up to 1/125th. If f2.8 and 1/125th results in overexposure, the camera will change the aperture instead of only changing the shutter speed. Only then is it possible for the Contax T2 to choose a shutter speed higher than 1/125th. 

Shooting the Contax T2 at f2.8 allows you to shoot in full program mode, with a bias towards f2.8. This can be good or bad depending on what the goal is for your image. 

With this, you can set the Contax T2 aperture to f2.8 and trust the camera to correctly expose each shot.

Here are the approximate exposure settings the camera will choose when the camera is set to f2.8:

Aperture set to f2.8:

f2.8 @ 1 second (EV 3)
f2.8 @ 1/2           (EV 4)
f2.8 @ 1/4           (EV 5)
f2.8 @ 1/8           (EV 6) 
f2.8 @ 1/15         (EV 7)
f2.8 @ 1/30         (EV 8)
f2.8 @ 1/60         (EV 9)
f2.8 @ 1/125       (EV10)    
f4    @ 1/250       (EV 12)
f5.6 @ 1/250       (EV 13)
~f8  @~1/250      (EV 14/15)
f11  @~1/250      (EV 16)
f16  @ 1/500       (EV 17)

When you set the aperture to f2.8, a “P” light in the finder indicates that you are in Program mode. Contax T2

 

Light Meter

If the chosen aperture is too wide for the fastest shutter speed, a "1/500th" indicator in the finder will blink. Ironically enough, setting your aperture to f2.8 (special program mode) will almost always ensure proper exposure. This is because the camera can set itself to f16 @ 1/500th of a second. 

Flash

The Contax T2 has a very useful built-in flash. To the left of the f2.8 setting on the aperture ring there are two different flash settings. To use the flash on the Contax T2 you must use one of these. 

The double flash setting is a red-eye reduction mode that fires a few short flashes before the main shot. And the single flash setting will pop the flash just once as the shutter opens to light up your image. 

Exposure Compensation

The small dial on the top left of the camera allows you to set exposure compensation in half stop increments, +/- 2 stops. This allows the photographer to slightly affect the camera's automated settings and change the exposure.

Setting the exposure compensation dial to +1 means that whatever the camera will adjust its settings to overexpose by 1 stop.

If you leave the exposure compensation dial set, a red “±” symbol will appear inside the viewfinder.

Setting it to 0 will allow the camera to fully decide exposure without compensating for the photographer's suggestions

With a titanium body, sapphire glass viewfinder window, and legendary 38mm Zeiss lens, the Contax T2 is a premium compact camera worthy of respect.

Contax T2 Alternatives:

If you like the sound of the Contax T2, but aren't convinced, here are a few similar cameras.

Same price or higher:

Leica Minilux

The Leica Minilux is a 35mm, automatic & electronically controlled manual focus, compact film camera, with fixed 40mm f2.4 retractable Leica Summarit lens.

It requires a battery for all operations which include a built-in LED display light meter and a shutter with a maximum speed of 1/400th of a second.

Shutter speeds and aperture can be selected manually or automatically.

Fuji Klasse S

The Fuji Klasse S is a 35mm, automatic focus, compact film camera, with fixed 38mm f2.8 retractable Super-EBC Fujinon lens.

It requires a battery for all operations which include a built-in LED display light meter and a shutter with a maximum speed of 1/1000th of a second.

Shutter speeds are selected automatically by the camera, and aperture can be selected manually or automatically.

Contax T3

The Contax T3 is a 35mm, automatic & electronically controlled manual focus, compact film camera, with fixed 35mm f2.8 retractable Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* lens.

It requires a battery for all operations which include a built-in LED display light meter and a shutter with a maximum speed of 1/500th of a second.

Shutter speeds are selected automatically by the camera, and aperture can be selected manually or automatically.

Likely less expensive:

Contax T

The Contax T is a 35mm, manual focus, compact rangefinder film camera, with a fixed, manually retracting 38mm f2.8 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* lens.

It requires batteries for all operations which include a built-in LED type display light meter and a shutter with a maximum speed of 1/500th of a second.

Shutter speeds are selected automatically by the camera, and the aperture is adjusted manually by the user. 

Olympus XA

The Olympus XA is a 35mm, manual focus, compact rangefinder camera (wow!), with a fixed 35mm f2.8 lens, and a clamshell design.

It requires batteries for all operations which include a built-in needle-type display light meter and a shutter with a maximum speed of 1/500th of a second.

Shutter speeds are selected automatically by the camera, and the aperture is adjusted manually by the user.

Olympus MJU II

The Olympus MJU II a 35mm, automatic focus, compact film camera with fixed 35mm f2.8 retractable lens and protective clamshell design.

It requires a battery for all operations which include a built-in LED display light meter and a shutter with a maximum speed of 1/1000th of a second.

Shutter speeds and aperture are selected automatically by the camera.

Yashica T3

The Yashica T3 is a 35mm, automatic focus compact film camera, with fixed 35mm f2.8 Carl Zeiss T* lens.

It requires a battery for all operations which include a built-in LED display light meter and a shutter with a maximum speed of 1/630th of a second.

Shutter speeds and aperture are selected automatically by the camera.

Rollei AFM 35

The Rollei AFM 35 is a 35mm, automatic compact film camera, with fixed 38mm f2.6 retractable S-Apogon HFT lens.

The AFM 35 requires a battery to function, including an LED display light meter and programmed exposure. The maximum shutter speed is 1/1000th of a second.

Shutter speeds are selected automatically by the camera, and aperture can be selected manually or automatically.

Nikon 35Ti

The Nikon 35Ti is a 35mm, automatic, compact film camera, with a fixed 35mm f2.8 retractable Nikkor lens. It is capable of electronically-controlled manual focus.

The 35Ti requires a battery for all operations, including a built-in LED display light meter and programmed exposure. The maximum shutter speed is 1/500th of a second.

Shutter speeds and aperture can be selected manually or automatically.

Konica Hexar AF

The Konica Hexar AF is a 35mm, automatic film camera with a fixed 35mm f2 Konica Hexar lens. The lens can focus automatically, or with electronically-assisted manual focus.

It requires a battery for all operations which include an LED display light meter and programmed shooting. The electronic shutter has a maximum speed of 1/250th of a second.

Shutter speeds and aperture can be selected manually or automatically.

 

This article was originally published on 7.10.2020.

 

Kirjoita kommentti

Huomaa, että kommenttien täytyy olla hyväksytty ennen niiden julkaisemista.