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Author Topic: Digital Backs - Contax Conundrum  (Read 6409 times)
TBoone
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« on: May 07, 2006, 10:57:17 AM »
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Here's my dilemma for which I'm seeking advice:

I have a Contax MF system that I have been holding onto for a couple of years in hopes that digital backs would start coming into a price range I could afford (I am not a pro).  Despite a few faults, the Contax is a wonderful system and I love it.  I am sort of on the bubble now of selling the system (probably at a significant loss given Contax's demise) and investing that money into something like a 1DSMkII, or continuing to hold it for a digi-back in the future.  

Now that backs like the P45 and Aptus 75 are out, what is the market like cost- and availability-wise for backs like the P25 and Leaf equivalent?  Where does one find these backs used?  What can I expect to have to pay for a used P25 at this time, assuming I can find one?  Is it taboo on this site to discuss prices of used equipment?  I sort of had the feeling on the RG forums that it was not allowed for some reason (could be wrong on that).

Secondary question:  I used to follow the RG forum related to medium format digital and wonder if this is the site where most folks have migrated to after that site went pay-to-play?  LL has always been one of my go-to sites for quality articles, but I haven't followed the discussion forums here that closely until now.

Thanks for your help!

Tim
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Gary Ferguson
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« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2006, 11:26:34 AM »
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Tim, here in the UK there's plenty of used P25 backs. Phase One are offering factory reconditioned outfits complete with the pelican case, charger, battery, and all cabling for 10k versus the 18k new price. This includes a 12 month Phase One guarantee. Some of these no doubt came from people trading up to the P45, but I've also heard that some of these kits were brand new stock.

In addition there's a few P25 backs on the UK market from photographers switching out of Phase One system, these tend to sell for about 8k. The older 16MP square format backs are also found fairly frequently, these are at about 4-6k.

Incidentally, now may not be a good time to buy a Canon 1Ds MkII. Canon announced the 1Ds at Photokina in September 2002. The IDs MkII followed two years later in September 2004, again announced at Photokina. The Photokina show is every second year, so I'd be inclined to hang on until September to see what's announced.
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MarkKay
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« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2006, 11:28:41 AM »
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TIm I think there are alot of variables in your conundrum.  First, there are many rumors that the Contax line will be resurected. If so, this may have a major influence back manufactors who now for the most part still make the backs for Contax. If Contax does not come back, I suspect after another generation, no new backs will be made for Contax. Second,  I think it is extremely hard to find used backs except perhaps for the Kodak 645C.  Interestingly, the COntax mount of this back tends to sell for more on ebay than the same back for the other MF cameras.

I would wait on selling my Contax gear if i were you I would wait and see until a final decision about the future of Contax becomes clear. Mark

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Here's my dilemma for which I'm seeking advice:

I have a Contax MF system that I have been holding onto for a couple of years in hopes that digital backs would start coming into a price range I could afford (I am not a pro).  Despite a few faults, the Contax is a wonderful system and I love it.  I am sort of on the bubble now of selling the system (probably at a significant loss given Contax's demise) and investing that money into something like a 1DSMkII, or continuing to hold it for a digi-back in the future. 

Now that backs like the P45 and Aptus 75 are out, what is the market like cost- and availability-wise for backs like the P25 and Leaf equivalent?  Where does one find these backs used?  What can I expect to have to pay for a used P25 at this time, assuming I can find one?  Is it taboo on this site to discuss prices of used equipment?  I sort of had the feeling on the RG forums that it was not allowed for some reason (could be wrong on that).

Secondary question:  I used to follow the RG forum related to medium format digital and wonder if this is the site where most folks have migrated to after that site went pay-to-play?  LL has always been one of my go-to sites for quality articles, but I haven't followed the discussion forums here that closely until now.

Thanks for your help!

Tim
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peegeenyc
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« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2006, 02:28:09 PM »
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wait for Photokina.

its pretty obvious Canon will release something big, and a very good chance they may even have an MF system in their bag.

the 1Ds2 > P25 upgrade isnt worth it. P25s suffered badly from Moire, and are an early sensor design. Moire is not just in fabrics, but also distant brick buildings or air conditioner vents will show it. and your not a pro so you wont earn your $ back quickly.
The P45 is great, and fixes many of these issues, but thats a lot of $ at present.

hold on. big announcements in September, for sure...
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RichardChang
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« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2006, 07:46:18 PM »
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Quote from: MarkKay,May 7 2006, 04:28 PM

I would wait on selling my Contax gear if i were you I would wait and see until a final decision about the future of Contax becomes clear. Mark

If we think about the return of Contax, it's practical to consider what caused Kyocera to abandon the Contax line.  It was a lack of sales.  If we further consider the return of the line, what's going to fuel an increase in sales; an increase that will be break-even for profitibility?  Medium format backs?  Not at the current price points.   How about shooting film?  Get real.  Neither is a practical vehicle to return the line to profitibility, at least in comparison to the ease with which most shooters capture with the dSLR's.  That's not to say that the dSLR's make better pictures, they don't.  dSLR's make smaller pictures that are slightly less sharp because of the low pass filter used to blur aliasing errors. dSLR's have half the image area of a camera back.

Keeping the Contax isn't a bad idea.  Used backs will continue to become more and more practical as time goes on, because the price will become more affordable as the newer, higher resolutions hit the market.  Be patient would be my recommendation.  If you have to sell the Contax to afford the dSLR, make sure you understand the quality and image size differences before you make the leap.

Richard
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MarkKay
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« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2006, 12:56:58 AM »
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Richard I want to clarify. I am keeping my canon DSLR (selling a few lenses) but I am selling the contax gear to fund the purchase of an Aptus65 and view camera.  
Quote from: RichardChang,May 15 2006, 05:46 PM
Quote from: MarkKay,May 7 2006, 04:28 PM

I would wait on selling my Contax gear if i were you I would wait and see until a final decision about the future of Contax becomes clear. Mark

If we think about the return of Contax, it's practical to consider what caused Kyocera to abandon the Contax line.  It was a lack of sales.  If we further consider the return of the line, what's going to fuel an increase in sales; an increase that will be break-even for profitibility?  Medium format backs?  Not at the current price points.   How about shooting film?  Get real.  Neither is a practical vehicle to return the line to profitibility, at least in comparison to the ease with which most shooters capture with the dSLR's.  That's not to say that the dSLR's make better pictures, they don't.  dSLR's make smaller pictures that are slightly less sharp because of the low pass filter used to blur aliasing errors. dSLR's have half the image area of a camera back.

Keeping the Contax isn't a bad idea.  Used backs will continue to become more and more practical as time goes on, because the price will become more affordable as the newer, higher resolutions hit the market.  Be patient would be my recommendation.  If you have to sell the Contax to afford the dSLR, make sure you understand the quality and image size differences before you make the leap.

Richard
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Let Biogons be Biogons
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« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2006, 07:22:21 AM »
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You are, of course, speculating on what caused Kyocera to abandon the Contax line.   I don't beleive the root cuase of Kyocera's pull out was lack of sales. The 645 sold very well and exceeded their expectations for the camera. It is not, obviously, going to sell in the same numbers as a Canon Rebel. but it was profitable (on good margins) and was sufficiently successful that Kyocera designed a new, updated version (the Contax 645 MkII).  Even on the 35mm side, they produced some excellent camera like the N1, the RTSIII, the Aria and RX all sold well -- that is, well in their market segment and were profitable.

No, what killed Contax within Kyocera was a lack of effective management and leadership, as well as an inability to understand the dynamics of the technological change going on in the industry and effectively handle to move to digital.  The Contax N Digital sold poorly due mostly to gross mismanagement, inept marketing and promotion, and a unwillingness to adapt to much shorter product cycles as technology advanced (old film Contax's had 7-10 year product cycles).  All this was true with resepct to the Kyocera brand consumer digicams as well.  In the end, Kyocera as a reasonably large company had many balls in the air, and Contax was too small to warrant the management and financial resources necessary to compete.  Dealing with Zeiss was a bigconstraint for them as well -- they never really saw eye-to-eye on anything.   They, will all the challenges that Contax and digital presented, finally felt their resources would be better applied in other industries (cell phones and cell phone cameras, for example).  Quite frankly, they way I see it, ultimately, it was a lack of commitment (and leadership) to Contax from Kyocera's top management that caused them to abandon Contax.  In spite of some outstanding products and huge potential in a changing market, the commitment just wasn't there to meet the challenges ahead of them.


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If we think about the return of Contax, it's practical to consider what caused Kyocera to abandon the Contax line.  It was a lack of sales.  If we further consider the return of the line, what's going to fuel an increase in sales; an increase that will be break-even for profitibility?  Medium format backs?  Not at the current price points.   How about shooting film?  Get real.  Neither is a practical vehicle to return the line to profitibility, at least in comparison to the ease with which most shooters capture with the dSLR's.  That's not to say that the dSLR's make better pictures, they don't.  dSLR's make smaller pictures that are slightly less sharp because of the low pass filter used to blur aliasing errors. dSLR's have half the image area of a camera back.
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« Last Edit: May 16, 2006, 11:46:33 AM by Let Biogons be Biogons » Logged
Ed Jack
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« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2006, 08:30:48 AM »
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wait for Photokina.

its pretty obvious Canon will release something big, and a very good chance they may even have an MF system in their bag.

the 1Ds2 > P25 upgrade isnt worth it. P25s suffered badly from Moire, and are an early sensor design. Moire is not just in fabrics, but also distant brick buildings or air conditioner vents will show it. and your not a pro so you wont earn your $ back quickly.
The P45 is great, and fixes many of these issues, but thats a lot of $ at present.

hold on. big announcements in September, for sure...
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I'm suprised that a P45/Hasselblad owner like yourself  makes these comments? I assume that someone wishing to make such sweeping judgements does own and used alot this kit right ?
Whillst Phase One's "virtually no Moire" claim on their PR stuff is obviously rubbish, this is a complex area to make statments on... some people's work never suffers from this effect due to the subject matter they choose.

As for your claim about Canon entering the MF scene - its the most absurd thing I've heard for a while - have you been hanging out on theDPreview forum or something ?!  

As for buying advice for the young man.... unless you want high iso or 8FPS shooting speed... keep that Contax kit. Why not keep shooting film till what you want comes into budget ? The used P25 backs don't cost that more than a brand new top end Canon, but don't forget to factor in a new faster computer for all that RAW processing!

Ed
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TBoone
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« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2006, 09:09:26 AM »
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Thanks to all who have posted so far.  I'm going to keep the Contax for now since I really do enjoy the camera and, as mentioned by Ed, I'm still having fun with film in the camera for now (scanning with a Nikon 8000).  

One other question though:  Is the Kodak DCS back a viable option for the camera?  I know it is technologically a generation (or two) old and same MP the 1DS2.  Just wondering.

Thanks again.

Tim
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Ed Jack
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« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2006, 09:51:31 AM »
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Thanks to all who have posted so far.  I'm going to keep the Contax for now since I really do enjoy the camera and, as mentioned by Ed, I'm still having fun with film in the camera for now (scanning with a Nikon 8000). 

One other question though:  Is the Kodak DCS back a viable option for the camera?  I know it is technologically a generation (or two) old and same MP the 1DS2.  Just wondering.

Thanks again.

Tim
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The Kodak is OK, and you can get a 645C version for about $2.5K on e-bay, so its a good cheap bridging option. But then so is film and film uses all of the imaging area without a 1.5X crop. If you ultimately want a more recent "full-frame" digital back, then you might consider that $2.5K a waste of money if you are going to get say an Aptus 75 6 months down the line. But then we are not going to see "cheap" A 75 or P45's for a while as this only happens with a significant new product to replace these models. I do not expect to see any significant new backs on the shelves for 2 years - but you could spring for a demo back?

I shoot film with my Hasselblad H1 kit, but rent P25's as and when doing so works out profitable - but I find myself doing these high volume/high value jobs less and less now.

Ed
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Gandalf
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« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2006, 09:16:27 PM »
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TBoone,

Some of the RG crew have not turned up anywhere, but many, if not most, have settled here.

The one camera we all need to be watching, and praying for, is the new Pentax 645 digital. That camera has the potential to sell well and may force back makers to come out with lower price backs to compete. Also if the new Canon further encroches on MFDB territory (unlikely) that could affect the market too. Of course all of this is speculation.

I have to echo the chorus of hold on and wait. Wait to see what Canon brings, wait to see how Pentax does, wait to see what if anything happens to Contax.
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mikeseb
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« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2006, 07:41:45 AM »
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The Kodak is OK, and you can get a 645C version for about $2.5K on e-bay[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=65669\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
I've tracked every contax-version DCS Pro 645 back sold on eBay for the last year, and none has sold for less than about $5k. And the price trend is upwards, as is to be expected given that they are relatively scarce (i'd wager fewer of them were made for the Contax than for the Hassy or Mamiya, and prices have reflected this) and that all of the other digital-back options are far more expensive.

I agree with Ed--digital back prices won't come down significantly unless there is a quantum tech leap that makes the current crop less valuable through obsolescence, and I think the Contax is likely to benefit least from this process.

That said, it's a fabulous camera and great lenses. I love mine and plan to keep it for the forseeable future, tech revelations notwithstanding.
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michael sebastian
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Ed Jack
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« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2006, 04:03:49 AM »
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I've tracked every contax-version DCS Pro 645 back sold on eBay for the last year, and none has sold for less than about $5k. And the price trend is upwards, as is to be expected given that they are relatively scarce (i'd wager fewer of them were made for the Contax than for the Hassy or Mamiya, and prices have reflected this) and that all of the other digital-back options are far more expensive.

Yeah fair point.. I think it's the Mamiya ones that go for about 1-2K less than the 645C and 645H versions. This then validates my point even more... keep shooting film till you're flush and then spring for used P25 or Aptus 22 OR SOME OTHER "full frame" digital back "on the cheap", i.e. used or demo. There are plenty of deals out there on the "just replaced by P45 and A75 backs" that are worth waiting/saving for. Why blow 5K of thoose savings on a back you migth not need or be satisfied with yet and will replace in a year >?


I agree with Ed--digital back prices won't come down significantly unless there is a quantum tech leap that makes the current crop less valuable through obsolescence, and I think the Contax is likely to benefit least from this process.

Of course you agree with me.. I'm always right   

That said, it's a fabulous camera and great lenses. I love mine and plan to keep it for the forseeable future, tech revelations notwithstanding.

Yes contax lenses are quite fast due to the focal plane shutter design and the second hand market is better than the H1 for lenses and stuff
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RichardChang
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« Reply #13 on: May 19, 2006, 04:46:13 PM »
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Quote from: Let Biogons be Biogons,May 16 2006, 12:22 PM


>"No, what killed Contax within Kyocera was a lack of effective management and leadership, as well as an inability to understand the dynamics of the technological change going on in the industry and effectively handle to move to digital.  The Contax N Digital sold poorly due mostly to gross mismanagement, inept marketing and promotion, and a unwillingness to adapt to much shorter product cycles as technology advanced (old film Contax's had 7-10 year product cycles).  All this was true with resepct to the Kyocera brand consumer digicams as well.  In the end, Kyocera as a reasonably large company had many balls in the air, and Contax was too small to warrant the management and financial resources necessary to compete.  Dealing with Zeiss was a bigconstraint for them as well -- they never really saw eye-to-eye on anything.   They, will all the challenges that Contax and digital presented, finally felt their resources would be better applied in other industries (cell phones and cell phone cameras, for example).  Quite frankly, they way I see it, ultimately, it was a lack of commitment (and leadership) to Contax from Kyocera's top management that caused them to abandon Contax.  In spite of some outstanding products and huge potential in a changing market, the commitment just wasn't there to meet the challenges ahead of them".

This commentary is in direct contrast to the take of Contax USA's last 2 Directors of Marketing.  Guy Lederer held the position in 2001 and he told me then, that Contax USA was doing a $ million a month in sales and that break even was $2 million a month.  He told me that Kyocera wasn't used to losing money and that they'd pull the plug if it didn't turn around.  Guy's successor mirrored Guy's frustration at the lack of sales.  When the axe fell, none of the Contax USA guys manning the booth at the photo shows were surprised; they all felt that the dSLR had claimed yet another MF company.  In light of the failing sales for Bronica, Contax, Pentax, and Mamiya, it's worthy of considering who's next.  Is Hasselblad selling enough to stay profitable?  Can a digital back sales vehicle keep a MF camera company alive?  Time will tell.

The N1 Digital didn't sell poorly because of your allegations, it sold poorly because it was a miserable performer; it was a noisy dog rocket.  And yes, I did shoot it, so I do know.  Considering how long Kyocera continued to allow Contax to run in red ink makes me think they gave it every chance they could.  The ultimate writing on the wall is that there weren't enough sales to keep it going.
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