The Contax T2 – the killer compact

Posted on by Bellamy


There is another contender on the compact scene, the T2
Recently it has all been about the Ricoh GR1, but what everyone forgets is that there is a very famous rival out there, which can certainly trade punches with the GR. So lets have a look at the T2.

I have had many cameras over the years, and many of them have passed and gone. But one camera that retains a permanent position in the JCH collection is the Contax T2. So why does this camera entrall me so? Well, to put it simply it is the glass. This little camera, which people wouldn’t give a second glance to on the street sports some wonderful optics. It also looks pretty damned good too…

When the Contax T2 was released in 1990 it was aimed squarely at the professional market. As I have mentioned in the past there was a bit of a ‘luxury compact’ was going on between the big makers (though Canon was conspicuous in its absence). And this camera and the later T3 were made in the hope of trouncing the competition. In my opinion there was no clear winner other than the consumer. But because of this bravura by the makers we got to have some simply gorgeous cameras that were also technically excellent.

Contax was actually acquired by Kyocera (an abbreviation of Kyoto Ceramics) in 1983. So despite having the name of a great German manufacturer, this camera was made in Japan. As were the optics, more of which later. The T2 was offered in several different finishes, some of which are rarer than others. All bodies were manufactured from titanium (hence the T). The most common finish is the champagne silver version, this is also the cheapest of the range. There is a common misconception that there is only one black version of this camera, but as you can see from the picture there is actually two. The titanium black is the second most common of the range, but the jet black is the rarest and commands a very high price tag. There is also a gold plated version, and here lies the other common misconception. There are actually two gold versions. The regular gold version, which was reasonably common, and the 50th anniversary version, which came with a mahogany presentation box and had a delightful suede cleaning cloth. The 50th anniversary version is much less common than the regular gold version, and is quite a bit more expensive.
But by far the most expensive was the Platin version. This came with a platinum plating, a beautiful presentation case, and ostrich leather cladding on the camera. This was a premium camera, that came with a premium price tag too. These are still going for over $1000 now, if you can find one.

Now I mentioned the lens, and what a lens it is. The T2 was furnished with a multi coated Carl Zeiss T* Sonnar lens, the sort of lens that you would find on a high end SLR of the time. The 38mm f/2.8 lens was comprised of 5 elements in 4 groups which is extremely sharp. I am constantly knocked out at how good the rendering is on this lens.
The camera is fully automated and has a program AE mode which is very easy to use. The ergonomics of the camera are great and it feels solid and comfortable in the hand. The viewfinder is clear and easy to read, though it can be a bit tough when you have glasses.

There are not really many downpoints to this camera other than Kyocera are no longer repairing them officially. Though there are apparently smaller places that will have a look at them. The most common problem I have heard of is the film advance dying. Other than that they are tough as old boots and will keep on going unless you chuck them in a puddle or throw them under a truck.

All in all this is a wonderful and affordable little camera that gets really great results. I will always have one nearby. Give one a try, you will not regret it.

If you would like me to find one of these fine cameras for you, then all you need to do is mail me and I can find something lovely for you. They are fantastic cameras and I have a lot of experience dealing with them.

Don’t forget to comment, tell me what you like about the Contax T2, or what you don’t like, come and earn your Camera Karma
Thanks
Japancamerahunter

39 Responses to The Contax T2 – the killer compact

demetri May 1, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Great write up on an awesome camera. I got a T2 about 4 years ago and I use it daily, I take everywhere. Totally agree the glass makes this camera.

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RE1000 May 1, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Love this camera! It’s my go to P&S camera.
There used to be a Contax T2 Japanese TV commercial on youtube about a year ago, but got taken down or deleted. I cannot find it anymore and it’s driving me nuts!

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Xiaofan May 2, 2012 at 3:43 am

Thanks for the excellent review. I am currently looking to buy a compact film camera and T2 is one of my choices. I own a Contax G2 and love it very much. However there are two questions I have regarding the T2:

(1) You said the viewfinder is a bit tough for people with glasses, how bad is it? I have no problem with my G2, but I have never actually tried a T2.
(2) How do you adjust the aperture? Is there an aperture ring on the lens?

Thank you!
-Xiaofan

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    Bellamy May 2, 2012 at 7:04 am

    Thanks for the comment.
    It is not all that bad with glasses. I wear glasses constantly and it is not really a problem, you just have to get used to it.
    There is an aperture ring on the barrel of the lens.
    Thanks
    Bellamy

    Reply
ritu June 7, 2012 at 11:30 am

Bellamy, thanks for the review of the T2. I just bought a used one. It arrived today and I noticed that the focusing window is cloudy. (It was advertised as having some body wear and mint glass.) Is this a very common problem? Will it affect the functionality of the camera, and can it be fixed? Thanks so much. Any advice appreciated!

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Jools Abel June 30, 2012 at 6:49 pm

I am the ex UK service manager for Kyocera Yashica UK (early ’90′s) and I have to say the T2 is my favourite camera of the contax range. Simple to use, sharp, very discreet and beautifully made. Early film transport problems were fixed by the addition of a small pcb to act as a brake and once this was sorted the T2 could stand alongside many of the full SLR’s of the day.

Tough as old boots, we had cameras in to the workshop that had been through car crashes, fires and floods and apart from drying out and sometimes replacement covers they worked perfectly.

Truly an excellent choice.

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John Morgan November 26, 2012 at 11:01 pm

Well, I started out with an Olympus XA as my first p/s. My daughter barrowed it one day and it was stolen from her, so I bought a champaign colored T2, which I took everywhere, and was so easy to use. Later, everybody was going digital, so I too had to have a digital camera, so I sold it. I became regretful as I missed film cameras so I bought a Leica CM. For some reason I never quite liked the CM quite as much as the T2. For one thing the CM viewfinder is smaller and darker then the T2 and it was also more finiky loading. The LED window in back was more cumbersome then the straight shooting in AF of the T2. The CM is also larger then the T2, thought compact it is not as compact as the T2. I ended up selling the CM and when a nice used chocolate colored T2 showed up at a camera shop, I bought. This time I learned my lesson and am keeping it.

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Justin January 9, 2013 at 2:03 am

I have a titanium black one that has suffered a minor fall. Camera is still perfect except for the wheel, it seems to have taken the load of the damage. The wheel will turn but is very tight, when it is set to AF the lens will usually open but sometimes it doesn’t and is kinda funky with all the other settings. I have looked online and everyone is saying ToCAD is doing Contax/Kyocera’s repairs but on the ToCAD webpage it says they are no longer doing the T series repairs and it says to Contact Metro camera in NYC. Metro does not seem to have much info on the web. Does anyone know where I can get this repaired?

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Tom Stappers January 30, 2013 at 7:56 am

I have owned all the usual top-end compacts in the last few years, you know them, Nikon, Leica, Ricoh….because I like to have a camera with me, also in situations where I cannot take a full-size reflex or rangefinder. All these compacts had their pros and contras, but now that I have been using this Contax T2 for a few years I can say that this is my favorite! The only point I’m aware of is that I never put it in my pocket with the lens out, so that I don’t put pressure on it, but all in all it works fine mechanically and optically this little giant is amazing. Great stuff, love it. Tom.

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Devin March 12, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Bellamy, you mentioned the T3 in the post. Besides the 38mm vs. 35mm difference, I would like to get your opinion on the T3 vs. the T2. I am in the market for a nice film P&S and would like to hear feedback from you or JCH readers who have handled both and their opinions on both.

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melod April 2, 2013 at 6:29 am

Devin, I have T2 and T3 as well as T4. They are surprisingly very different each other but the difference is hard to describe. you may want to search T2, t3 , t4 on Flickr and you’ll see the difference yourself.
The reason why the current value of T3 is more than T2′s is not because of the quality, but the quantity. The production numbers of T2 is at least 3-5 times more than those of T3. They are the equally great cameras, and the T2 price is a truly bargain.

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Karlo Samson May 9, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Nice writeup on the T2. My brother-in-law was able to buy one for cheap along Ginza, while I managed to purchase an even cheaper G1 body in Kitamura. Wasn’t able to buy a lens though, thinking I’d find some in Manila. Damn, was I wrong. No G-mounts here, even among the rangefinder peeps.

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Sem July 4, 2013 at 8:09 am

How is the T2 doing when shooting people up close wide open? And what is the minimum focusdistance? I cant seem to find it anywhere. found some cases where people find the camera to focus on infinity when trying to do a kind of portrait shot. Seems like a great camera anyhow!

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Ron July 28, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I’m not sure if anyone was aware, but “Contax” still repairs the T2 as well as a number of other Contax cameras. The company ToCAD now owns the Contax name. The electronics on my trusty T2 fried and wouldnt stay on. I sent it to the ToCAD America subsidiary in New Jersey, and they repaired it for a flat rate of $168. It took about a 4 weeks. Not sure how that works if you’re in another country…website below:

http://www.tocad.com/services.html

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Vivi Fragou August 10, 2013 at 9:18 am

I’m looking for a good point and shoot. So far, the T2 is looking like the best option (manual focus, aperture, compact, etc.) I have one question, though – how is it for snapshot portraiture? I’ve looked through some images but it seems it’s mostly used for street photography, whereas I’m more interested in intimate situations. Is there another similar camera that is better for this?

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    Ramayana August 19, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Maybe the Contax TVS? It has a zoom lens with 60mm at the longest end. The fashion photographer Mario Testino uses/has used it for his shots. Can’t get a better endorsement for portraiture than that.

    Reply
Will August 13, 2013 at 10:31 am

Hey Japan Camera Hunter! I am definitely interested in one of this sick little cameras. Any clue where I could get one?
– Will

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Robert September 30, 2013 at 1:27 am

Was lucky to find the jet-black version in perfect condition, when I was living in Berlin a couple of years ago. It is a great camera, sees a lot of use and has never let me down. Love the focal length and the stealthy qualities. The sliding door covering the lens seems very flimsy, but has never failed me, though. Other than that, the camera indeed is built like a tank and inspires confidence when handled. Nice writeup-Thanks!

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ThomasT January 4, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Interesting about the film wind failures That failed recently on a trip to Vietnam on my Contax NX SLR! The plastic cog simply wore out. Had to buy a new body, but today was cheap enough.

Why can’t we order the T2 to shoot at f2.8?
Has anyone super glued/epoxied on an 81A filter, (for velvia 50)? Maybe just the glass?

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Didi S. Gilson March 11, 2014 at 8:53 am

I have one of these little T2 beauties because I was wanting a compact camera for Dog walks since my furry friend is too strong to risk carrying/dropping my Hasselblad gear (and hold-holding while he drags me all over the neighborhood)! Love the Zeiss lens (that was the clincher for me), but it is a bit of a finicky/odd to focus cam (with the dots inside the viewfinder, etc.). That said, a year ago I did persevere & have some nice images, but… I had noticed scratches in the film emulsion, and stopped shooting with it.

So I contacted Kyocera, Japan — was informed they no longer service/repair these & have no parts. Contacted TOCAD, New Jersey — who told me that they won’t send overseas, so I need to contact the folks in Japan I’d already spoken with — boo.

I guess my question is DOES ANYBODY FIX these lovelies (I imagine it might well be a film transport vicinity problem)? I am in Oceania, so someone in Japan (provided they speak English would be okay). If not, I do travel back to the States annually, and I could do it there then. Any recommendations or suggestions??? Many thanks!

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Chris April 1, 2014 at 9:20 am

I’ve been buying and using thrift/op shop old cameras for years. they come and they go. i fall in love with them and then they die. its getting too hard, my heart cant take it anymore. I’ve emailed you, please find me one in good working order so my search for a beautiful point and shoot will finally be complete!

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