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Author Topic: Contax 645 - still viable? a reliable system?  (Read 21170 times)
Henry Goh
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« on: October 24, 2006, 12:43:13 AM »
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Hi everyone,

I never paid any attention to Contax in the past as I have always used V system Hasselblads and never even considered AF.  Contax no longer exist as a company.  However, I've come to know that there are still stockists in Asia that have brand new units of Contax 645AF with lenses and accessories.  How long ago did they stop production?

My question is were the Contaxes reliable and robust in the first place?  Are they still a viable system to use with the current Leaf and Phase backs?  Would people still go for Contax as a platform even though there is no longer a company to support it?  Can the camera outlast the back anyway?

Thanks for your insights.

Henry
« Last Edit: October 24, 2006, 12:44:07 AM by Henry Goh » Logged
Eric Zepeda
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« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2006, 06:10:20 AM »
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You need to talk to James Russell on this one, as he is staunch proponent of the Contax 645 system. I'm sure I'll be corrected, but I think the 645 stopped production around 18 months ago. Advantages include AF and DB compatibility (no external cables, unlike the Hassy V system), and of course the Zeiss lenses. Seems to be a very robust system at a price point that is extremely reasonable.
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Graham Mitchell
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« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2006, 07:10:39 AM »
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It's a much loved system, and I don't remember reading about any bugs. Only drawbacks are the fact that production has stopped, and the slow flash sync speed. The fact that production has stopped doesn't prevent the cameras from working well for many years to come, however!
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James Russell
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« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2006, 08:03:44 AM »
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Quote
You need to talk to James Russell on this one, as he is staunch proponent of the Contax 645 system. I'm sure I'll be corrected, but I think the 645 stopped production around 18 months ago. Advantages include AF and DB compatibility (no external cables, unlike the Hassy V system), and of course the Zeiss lenses. Seems to be a very robust system at a price point that is extremely reasonable.
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There are no real issues with the Contax, other than prices seem to be rising.   All of the main lenses are available and the autofocus is accurate.

With the Hasselblad adapter and a zork adapter, I have 10 leness from Zeiss, Hasselblad, Pentax and the Hareblei titl shift.  [a href=\"http://ishotit.com/superrotator/]http://ishotit.com/superrotator/[/url]

Never had a camera or lens go down and their reputation with rental houses and in the field is good and has been for years.

It has a digital interface so it requires no cords or connectors and the only downside is for some back manufactuerers you have to wait a little longer to get your chosen back for the system.

The upside is there is no new firware or lens screws that have to be checked.

It is very stable tethered and untethered with the Aptus 22 and 65.  Unlike the H series hasselblad you rarely have to restart the camera.

The lenses are sharp the right angle grip is absolutely perfect.

Like any system there are a couple of quirks.  It goes to sleep and must be awaken by touching the shutter (which becomes second nature) and the battery usage is a little high.

I go through 1 1/2 cr5's in a very heavy day of shooting.

JR
http://www.jamesrussellphotography.com
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rethmeier
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« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2006, 08:06:53 AM »
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A colleague of mine just purchased 2 bodies and a 34-45-80-120Makro-150 and 210 lens kit!
All for around $12.000 US and in either new or mint condition.
He's using it with a P25.
Make sure you get the battery grip as well as this camera loves batteries!

Otherwise a great system,apart from the low sync speed.

For myself I'll be going the Hy6 direction!

Cheers,
Willem.
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Willem Rethmeier
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william
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« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2006, 09:22:45 AM »
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I just started shooting with a P30 and a Contax 65 system.  I got the Contax system (body, prism, and 80mm, 35mm, and 140mm lenses) for less than $3500.  It's a great system; I owned one many years ago and loved it and am finding it still quite good now that I'm shoting with it again.  I'll be doing a complete write-up of this system in the near future, but for now, I'll just say I'm quite pleased with it.  I may or may not go for a Hy6 when it's available, but for now, I'm diggn' the Contax.

Quote
A colleague of mine just purchased 2 bodies and a 34-45-80-120Makro-150 and 210 lens kit!
All for around $12.000 US and in either new or mint condition.
He's using it with a P25.
Make sure you get the battery grip as well as this camera loves batteries!

Otherwise a great system,apart from the low sync speed.

For myself I'll be going the Hy6 direction!

Cheers,
Willem.
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Henry Goh
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« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2006, 09:49:13 AM »
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Thank you everyone.  This has been a most useful thread for me.

Looks like the 2 points I need to accept are slow flash sync and its eating up of batteries, but not too big issues compared with an unstable platform.

Really grateful for all your help.

Henry
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ronno
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« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2006, 09:53:46 AM »
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I just started shooting with a P30 and a Contax 65 system.  I got the Contax system (body, prism, and 80mm, 35mm, and 140mm lenses) for less than $3500.  It's a great system; I owned one many years ago and loved it and am finding it still quite good now that I'm shoting with it again.  I'll be doing a complete write-up of this system in the near future, but for now, I'll just say I'm quite pleased with it.  I may or may not go for a Hy6 when it's available, but for now, I'm diggn' the Contax.
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William, where did you buy that stuff for $3500?
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william
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« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2006, 10:41:26 AM »
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I got the Contax body + 80mm lens on eBay.  I got the other two lenses from Samy's Camera.  Keh.com also has some good deals on Contax equipment.


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William, where did you buy that stuff for $3500?
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marcwilson
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« Reply #9 on: October 24, 2006, 01:09:31 PM »
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If you look around you really can get great deals on contax stuff..usually getting it from photographers as opposed to overpriced 'stores' on or off line.

I have managed to put together a body, back, prism, wlf, polaroid back, grip, and 35, 45, 45 shift, and 80mm lenses all for under $5k.

It really is a great system with top notch glass that works wonderfully well in all conditions wether shooting quick (in mf terms) or slow.

The only drawbacks I see is the slower flash synch speed (if that is a problem to you) and the lesser availability of digital backs to hire.
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narikin
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« Reply #10 on: October 24, 2006, 03:57:40 PM »
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biggest problem is that the prices are going beserk:

$700 for a waist level finder,

and take a look at this:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewI...65736&rd=1&rd=1

The lenses are pretty good, though the 80mm is not any good till f4
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vgogolak
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« Reply #11 on: October 24, 2006, 04:24:28 PM »
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Well, I am surprised that prices are getting so high. Likely due more to people not selling, and renewed intered because of the new crop of backs. People should make sure they go to 'advanced' to get worldwide ebay options as well.

Also, spread the word to Boris at Arsenal, Kurland (NY) and KEH etc the people who cover the used market.

That said, I have two systems, with prism and waist level, also film and kodak, P25 and P45 backs, and in four years I have had not one issue. Seems prertty reliable stuff.

That includes the flaskes, and synch for stobes and wireles that work quite well.

Biggest advantage is that Hassey lenses seem to work almosrt better on the Contax (if you get in the right exposure range) Of course, even the F lenses work.

Now, about those hassey LENS prices. They are going up too!
 

Victor
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narikin
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« Reply #12 on: October 24, 2006, 04:28:28 PM »
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so how do I use hasselblad lenses on my contax?
obviously we are talking V series lenses here, but - all/any V series lens?
which adapter works well?
I presume its manual aperture too?
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fpoole
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« Reply #13 on: October 24, 2006, 11:19:48 PM »
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I love the Contax 645 and use it with a tethered Sinarback 54H.  The build quality, balance, controls and lenses are excellent.  It feels like a "real" camera to me.  I am a pretty recent convert to this system, having come from the Hasselblad V system.  I do miss the square format and hate the proportion of a 35mm frame but 645 has been easy to adapt to.

It's not easy or cheap changing systems and I put a lot of thought into it but i figured I can get at least 5 years out of the Contax and have a reliable digital platform.  In five years who knows where things will evolve and what companies will still be in business.

Slow sync speed is probably the biggest downside as everyone has noted. Only you can decide how much it will interfere with your work.

The 35mm lens is incredible with a 645 sensor but I've noticed that these are getting harder to find and more expensive now.

Good luck with your decision. I know how hard it is. It has never been so confusing.

Am I the only one here using a Sinarback??  

Frank Poole

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James Russell
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« Reply #14 on: October 25, 2006, 12:01:11 AM »
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I love the Contax 645 and use it with a tethered Sinarback 54H.  The build quality, balance, controls and lenses are excellent.  It feels like a "real" camera to me.  I am a pretty recent convert to this system, having come from the Hasselblad V system.  I do miss the square format and hate the proportion of a 35mm frame but 645 has been easy to adapt to.

It's not easy or cheap changing systems and I put a lot of thought into it but i figured I can get at least 5 years out of the Contax and have a reliable digital platform.  In five years who knows where things will evolve and what companies will still be in business.

Slow sync speed is probably the biggest downside as everyone has noted. Only you can decide how much it will interfere with your work.

The 35mm lens is incredible with a 645 sensor but I've noticed that these are getting harder to find and more expensive now.

Good luck with your decision. I know how hard it is. It has never been so confusing.

Am I the only one here using a Sinarback?? 

Frank Poole

www.frankpoole.com
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If you were careful and bought a good shape Contax system today and in 9 months decided to go with the HY6 or an H2, I would imagine you could sell the contax for what you paid today.

I also would imagine leaf and Sinar will be agressive and fair about moving your Contax mount to thier HY6 mount.  (I am just guessing on this).

Consequently if you buy a new 1ds2 today and sell it in 9 months to a year, you'll lose about 1/2 of the value.

JR
[a href=\"http://www.jamesrussellphotography.com]http://www.jamesrussellphotography.com[/url]

P.S.  The only downside to this is after a year of using the Contax you probably won't change systems.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2006, 12:03:17 AM by James Russell » Logged
mikeseb
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« Reply #15 on: October 25, 2006, 09:58:54 AM »
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Henry, I bought into Contax about six months before they announced its demise. My plan was to shoot film until I could afford a digital back. Since then I've accumulated most of the system's lenses and a slew of accessories, plus a spare body. I have not regretted the decision one bit; the system is ergonomic, rugged, and reliable, and I've been blown away by the images this system will make for the photographer with some regard for craft. Battery life hasn't been a factor for me: I use the MP-1 anyway with NiMH rechargeables, and recently started using the Li+ rechargeable 2CR5's internally. (They are especially handy in being little affected by the cold.) I've not yet found the "slow" flash sync speed limiting, but I can see the point.

I track prices closely on that auction site; certain accessories command irrationally high prices (waist level finders for >$600 are not uncommon.) The 35mm and 120mm lenses are scarcer and more expensive, while it seems you can barely give away the 80mm (the "kit" lens for this system) and 210 (it has an undeserved reputation as a real dog.) If you can find a 350mm it'll cost you; they've appreciated about 10 or 15% in the 5 months since I bought mine. Ballpark, lone backs go for $800-1000 or so; kits for $1500-1700 range. Otherwise, price fluctuations seem to be cyclical; haven't figured out the rhyme or reason for this. There was a peak just before photokina, apparently due to rumors swirling of a Contax renaissance that failed to materialize.

The system's termination threw the digiback picture into confusion--for how long would digital back makers continue to support a "dead" system? I know Phase has thru the P45; others can speak to its availability in contax mount. (What about the other makers, folks?) It's certainly rational, as a number of photographers have done--not just Michael R--to balk at plunking down P45-level dough on a "dead" system's mount, and to switch to the Hassy. You do hear those guys mourning their Contaxes, though, and Hassy has p***ed a lot of them off with its latest moves.

I began shopping for a used Kodak ProBack in the spring. At the time it was the only one available in my price range. Prices in the Contax mount have been significantly higher than in hassy or mamiya mount, and the backs have been very hard to come by--I've seen none at all there for the last five months or so.

I've been quite satisfied with the image quality of the back, if not with some of its operational quirks. (Try shooting skateboarding photos with this rig! ) Lately I've seen Aptus 17 refurb backs going for around $7500. In retrospect this would have been a smarter purchase than the kodak back. What can you do except do the best you can when it's time to act?

Sorry to ramble on so. To summarize: it's a great system; it's still available, though prices will fluctuate. Should be able to find a few refurb or new digital backs for the camera. I figure that I'll use mine for the next 3 to 5 years or so or until something irreplaceable breaks. (I'm not a full-time pro, and can afford this lower level of certainty.)  By then there'll be a Hy6 or something better with my name on it.

Best of luck,
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michael sebastian
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Henry Goh
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« Reply #16 on: October 25, 2006, 10:32:43 AM »
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Thanks again guys!

Really great to hear such positive feedback from users.

How the hell did the company go bust?  If they were still producing, I'm sure they will be the first choice platform for MFDB, No?

Henry
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« Reply #17 on: October 25, 2006, 11:04:13 AM »
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Thanks again guys!

How the hell did the company go bust?  If they were still producing, I'm sure they will be the first choice platform for MFDB, No?

Henry
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=82206\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

The same way Hasselblad would if they followed the business model being advocated here. Sell cameras and lenses at low margins to photographers who buy other companies digital backs with high margins.
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MarkKay
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« Reply #18 on: October 25, 2006, 11:14:11 AM »
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I sold all my contax stuff  to buy a Hassy H2 system.  I had the 35mm, 55mm, 80mm, 120mm makro, 140mm and 210mm.   I am concerned that within a few years, it will be almost impossible to get replacement parts or repairs. I was also concerned that when investing so much for a digital back, I would have be putting myself in a corner getting a contax designed back.  Of course a similar situation may be coming up with Hassy if they stop the H2 line.

In addition, the hard to find contax  items were skyrocketing.  The best examples were the waist level finders that were selling new for 250 about 6 or 7 months ago are now well over 500-700 dollars.  The 120mm makro and 35mm lenses as mentioned are also becoming harder to find. I had purchased a contax bellows for 1400 dollars and then decided i did not like it. So i put it on ebay a few weeks later and it sold for about 3400 dollars. This is nuts.


I was and still am extremely impressed with their optics but have real concerns about buying this system at the present time.  I know that many folks may feel differently. Mark
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Khun_K
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« Reply #19 on: October 29, 2006, 10:12:36 AM »
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I have been using Contax 645 since its introdction until today and never had any problem.  With all the lenses from 645 as well as some from Hasselblad CF or FE mount all still useful on Contax. I stopping using film and switch to P25 and then now P45, still a perfect camera and very robust, flawless system.


Quote
If you were careful and bought a good shape Contax system today and in 9 months decided to go with the HY6 or an H2, I would imagine you could sell the contax for what you paid today.

I also would imagine leaf and Sinar will be agressive and fair about moving your Contax mount to thier HY6 mount.  (I am just guessing on this).

Consequently if you buy a new 1ds2 today and sell it in 9 months to a year, you'll lose about 1/2 of the value.

JR
http://www.jamesrussellphotography.com

P.S.  The only downside to this is after a year of using the Contax you probably won't change systems.
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