The Contax T2 – the killer compact
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.
Unfortunately I have stopped sourcing these cameras now as they are simply too hard to find and I get too many requests. Sometimes I have them for sale directly on the site though, please check the sale items page.
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