My Favorite Contax G Is Not A Contax. Or Even A Film Camera
Recently, I wrote about my 35mm favorite film system, the Contax G. There is a section where I debated the merits between the G1 and the G2 and spoke of the virtues of both. Since then there was another option mentioned in that post that has taken precedence, so much so that I let one of the Gs go, the G2. The smaller, slightly lighter, and less precious G1 won out over the zoom lens option and slightly faster focusing.
As a rule, I try not to keep premium film cameras, or digital for that matter, as shelf trophies. Whether a lens or a body, there is too much high quality, good value gear to let a system that is unused or underutilized coast on reputation, aesthetics, and feel. I will put near any 35mm film system up against my Maxxum 7 kit. A post for another day, but that pedestrian set up put another top-tier system, where the body alone of the latter could buy the body, flash and multiple lenses of the former, on a trailer when I could not justify the price or features for output disparity.
What could have changed my mind drastically with the Contax system? Welp. Its name is the Techart TA-GA3.
What is it?
A remarkably small and well thought out autofocus Contax G lens adapter for Sony E mount.
What is the big deal? Let's take this in three parts.
Part 1: The Lens
I put this first since all of this would be pointless if there was nothing special about this lens. And it is. It is very special. The Contax G Zeiss 45mm f/2. It is so good in fact that I sold off my other Contax G lenses even though they were great. Why? I literally never used them. The 45mm is that good.
With film? I know, right? More of that with digital, please.
Part 2: The Camera
The second generation A7 family are great cameras. Not sure how the adapter performs on all other E mount cameras, but I can say the focus is nearly useless on the a6000. The a6300 and newer models play well. This lens works great on the two second-generation A7 cameras I tried it with.
Part 3: The Adapter
Why we are gathered here today. Techart is amazing! I first heard about them when they released a Leica M mount AF adapter that worked by shuttling the whole lens back and forth. Bringing AF to a manual lens? Crazy. Then right about the time I was wishing for a digital Contax G I saw this adapter. Makes more sense for me since Contax G lenses are typically less expensive, more compact, and start out with screw drive AF making for a smaller adapter.
Below are a few more features:
- Bluetooth firmware updates. That is just nuts. The update I installed out of the box reaped immediate improvements.
- It passes lens info on to the camera which allows:
- Focal length retained in EXIF information.
- Automatically sets the in body IS to the right focal length.
- Works within body stabilization.
- 2 focus modes (AF-S and AF-C) available. Others are not selectable and more about MF below.
- 3 focus areas (Wide, Center, and Flexible Spot) available. Zone and others not selectable.
- Face detection works. Tried eye detect, but that was getting greedy admittedly. Face detect will do nicely.
- AF screw drive engagement works well.
- Focuses rather swiftly wide open.
- Short rangefinder flange offset eliminates that extension tube replacing a mirror box look you often see when using SLR lenses on a mirrorless.
- Manual focus via a wheel on the adapter automatically invokes focus peaking and works surprisingly well.
- It's a Zeiss. Sharp. Great subject isolation wide open. Wonderful fall off. Wonderful colors.
A few downsides:
- A bit chirpy when focusing. Especially in AF-C mode. Not terrible, but not silent.
- Has a hard time focusing when you close down the aperture in low light.
Ok. Now for the big finish.
This is a 45mm f/2 Zeiss Planar lens. Ahem. This is an autofocus 45mm f/2 Zeiss Planar lens. And it is gold. The purchase price may seem high in isolation, but...
Currently, a very nice, new manual focus 50mm f/2 Zeiss Planar lens costs nearly $1,000. Sony sells a 55mm f/1.8 Zeiss Sonnar branded lens that runs almost $900. Now there is also a Sony Zeiss Planar branded 50mm f/1.4 that is a bit on the large side and runs well over $1,000. Both the Techart adapter and 45mm f/2 lens combined cost less and with autofocus, unlike the Zeiss variant, which is smaller than all but the manual focus Zeiss... And it is gold.
The result? As close to a digital Contax G as I can realistically hope to achieve.
Here is a link to an ongoing gallery and above are a couple of sample shots of this combination in action. Happy shooting.