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Author Topic: Contax 645 or Hasselblad H2  (Read 4117 times)
JabariHunt
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« on: November 02, 2012, 02:10:25 AM »
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I'm pretty set on getting an H2, but the Contax keeps beckoning me.  The problem is that I can't seem to get my hands on one to test out.  Has anyone here used both extensively???  If so, what are your thoughts?  How would you rank them against each other as far as auto focus?  I hear the Zeiss glass for the Contax is outstanding.  I really don't have any issues with Hassy's H lenses though.

My biggest hangup with the Contax is what could possibly go wrong in the future.  With the H2 I'll have support for repairs & parts, not to mention the ability to trade up to the H4X (or H5X at some point!?!?!).  Do you think there will be a number of places that can repair the Contax 5+ years from now?

Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
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JV
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« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2012, 05:10:18 AM »
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I used to own both.  I sold the Contax 645 because of the better autofocus of the Hasselblad H and because it was easier to find used backs for the Hasselblad H.  That being said used lenses for the Contax 645 probably tend to be a bit cheaper.  Both will eventually serve you well.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2013, 07:11:35 AM by JV » Logged
JabariHunt
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« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2012, 09:19:17 AM »
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I used to own both.  I sold the Contax 645 because of the better autofocus of the Hasselblad H and because it was easier to find used backs for the Hasselblad H.  That being said used lenses for the Contax 645 probably tend to be a cheaper.  Both will eventually serve you well.

Thanks!  Any build quality issues with the Contax?  Is autofocus "bad", or just not as good as the Hassy?
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paul_jones
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« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2012, 02:51:34 PM »
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i originally owned a contax system. then - thinking that it would be better to have the faster auto focus and rental gear available i moved to and hi and a p25.
i killed that back with a splash of salt water, so i ended up buying a p40+. I wanted to try contax again, but after trying a friends p30 on a contax, i just couldn't live with the crop- and i could only afford a p40+, so i stayed with the h1.

but i never really loved the hassy, and i found the blur characteristics of the HC lenses not very nice. they blur in a strange way, almost look like a photoshop gaussian blur, kind of ugly. considering this is the way i shoot a lot- small DOF (see my type of work here- www.paulrossjones.com).
the hassy was fine for crisp clean - sharp everywhere style of photography.
but after having the hassy for years i still didn't feel comfortable with the controls. and even though the body is metal, it felt weak and plastic.

so, close to a year ago i moved back to contax. i brought a p65+ (thats full frame). ive probably shot a dozen shoots with it, and so far love it. the full frame back makes the viewfinder larger than the hassy with a stand crop (like a p45) and with a bill maxwel focusing screen, its quite bright too.

the contax has very intuitive controls, a vertical grip, sharp- nice looking lenses, ok focus speed- but more accurate than the h1, better design all round.

it chews batteries though, i use a full set of aa's in the vertical grip each day.

paul
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JabariHunt
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« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2012, 03:15:22 PM »
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i originally owned a contax system. then - thinking that it would be better to have the faster auto focus and rental gear available i moved to and hi and a p25.
i killed that back with a splash of salt water, so i ended up buying a p40+. I wanted to try contax again, but after trying a friends p30 on a contax, i just couldn't live with the crop- and i could only afford a p40+, so i stayed with the h1.

but i never really loved the hassy, and i found the blur characteristics of the HC lenses not very nice. they blur in a strange way, almost look like a photoshop gaussian blur, kind of ugly. considering this is the way i shoot a lot- small DOF (see my type of work here- www.paulrossjones.com).
the hassy was fine for crisp clean - sharp everywhere style of photography.
but after having the hassy for years i still didn't feel comfortable with the controls. and even though the body is metal, it felt weak and plastic.

so, close to a year ago i moved back to contax. i brought a p65+ (thats full frame). ive probably shot a dozen shoots with it, and so far love it. the full frame back makes the viewfinder larger than the hassy with a stand crop (like a p45) and with a bill maxwel focusing screen, its quite bright too.

the contax has very intuitive controls, a vertical grip, sharp- nice looking lenses, ok focus speed- but more accurate than the h1, better design all round.

it chews batteries though, i use a full set of aa's in the vertical grip each day.

paul

Thanks Paul!

How is battery life without the grip?  I'm guessing worse.  No biggie either way, I plan to spring for the grip if I go with Contax (I have a ton of AA rechargeables).  As far as auto focus, I'm definitely more interested in accuracy than speed.  That said, it can't be god awful slow!!!  I really need to get my hands on one of these to test, none of the shops here have them long enough for me to get in and look at.

BTW - Your work is OUTSTANDING!!!  I want to be just like you when I grow up!
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tho_mas
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« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2012, 06:37:47 PM »
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As far as auto focus, I'm definitely more interested in accuracy than speed.  That said, it can't be god awful slow!!!
here's a pretty good write-up about the Contax 645... including a chapter about AF: http://photo.net/equipment/contax/645
Note the article is from 1999.
AF is very slow when the lens is set to nearest distance and AF has to turn the lens all the way to infinity. In regular use I am finding the AF speed is decent.

My biggest hangup with the Contax is what could possibly go wrong in the future
It's a common strategy amongst Contax 645 users to buy 2 copies of the most important parts. Although the Contax is known to be very reliable I would at least buy a second camera body and a second copy of your favorite lens. When you plan to buy the 45-90 Vario Zoom you may not need second copies of the primes in the respective focal lengths (though the zoom lens is f4.5 ... whereas the primes are faster - 2.8/45, 3.5/55, 2.0/80 ... the zoom lens is also pretty big and heavy). Contax 645 kits (body, 2.0/80 lens, prism finder and film back) are easy to get for very good prices.
There are also repair shops... but of course you won't get overnight service with a spare camera or so.

If you go the Contax route I'd say these 2 pieces should be on top of your shoppig list:
- a brighter matte screen (e.g. from Bill Maxwell)
- the waist level finder (it's pretty rare ... but sooner or later you'll find one)



« Last Edit: November 03, 2012, 06:45:45 PM by tho_mas » Logged
paul_jones
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« Reply #6 on: November 03, 2012, 09:58:52 PM »
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Thanks Paul!

How is battery life without the grip?  I'm guessing worse.  No biggie either way, I plan to spring for the grip if I go with Contax (I have a ton of AA rechargeables).  As far as auto focus, I'm definitely more interested in accuracy than speed.  That said, it can't be god awful slow!!!  I really need to get my hands on one of these to test, none of the shops here have them long enough for me to get in and look at.

BTW - Your work is OUTSTANDING!!!  I want to be just like you when I grow up!

thanks for the compliments. i haven't actually used the small grip - ive only used the battery vertical grip. its got this nice backup when using the vertical grip- when the batteries run out in the grip- you can switch it to the small battery that would have fed the small grip. its like a reserve power system, keeps you shooting while someone gets new batteries ready.

paul
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Cineski
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« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2012, 10:46:23 AM »
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I shoot Contax and have played with Hassy.  I consider myself a fanboy of neither.  As for the Contax, it is a good, solid system with a few quirks but it works very well and the Zeiss glass is beautiful.  You get 1/4000th top shutter speed with the Contax as well and the vertical grip is a must have in my experience (and Hassy mindbogglingingly doesn't have this option).  While you won't find factory support anymore, you will find several shops who specialize in Contax camera repairs.  There's 2 in Cali and one in Utah I believe.  Contax gear has skyrocketed in price lately but there is still a lot of options to buy out there (I recently saw a very beat up kit w/ 80 lens sell for $2500).  You'll mostly find sellers holding on to gear at inflated prices vs. trying to offload it onto a buyer for cheap.  The Contax autofocus is worthless, although it works I use it to get me close and then I manually focus.  I'd get either a Maxwell or Contax split diopter focus screen although focus and recompose doesn't work shooting wide open on 645.  As mentioned above, the Contax eats batteries like crazy.  Get the vertical grip.  If you shoot film the 220 vacuum backs do wonders for film flatness.  If I were to do it all over again it'd be a tossup.  I shoot film so a digital back isn't a worry quite yet.  I hate the internal Canon-esque marketing games Hassy plays with their own customers.  I hate that you can't just buy the H4X.  FWIW, when looking for a Contax outfit, be patient.  Wait for one with little use with a shutter that's clean.
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JV
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« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2012, 07:42:41 PM »
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Is autofocus "bad", or just not as good as the Hassy?

I would rate the Contax autofocus as mediocre at best. 

I would rate the H1 autofocus as OK, the H2 as quite good and the H4X as good.

Obviously you need to try it out for yourself.  Make sure to also test it out in situations with less than perfect lighting. 



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EinstStein
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« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2013, 10:09:17 PM »
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I own both H2 and C645. In many way except the price, getting a H2 is like getting a Canon while getting a C645 is like getting a Leica.
The major differences are three:
1. You get Fujifilm glass on H2 while you get native Zeiss glass  on C645. I say native Zeiss for C645 because you can still use Hasselblad V Zeiss glass on H2 (through the CF adapter).
2. You get much cheaper glass on C645 while much cheaper digital back on H2. Once the digital back has dedicated H-mount, the price is much cheaper than the Contax mount.
3. You get a lot of supported features with H2 if you use Phocus instead of Lightroom, such as multi-shot digital back, direct camera control and interfacce through IPAD, etc. 

There are other pros and cons, but in my mind they are all minor.
Yes, C645 is discontinued, but so is H2 too.
Yes, H2 has much more complicated, un-intuitive function control. You need a PH.D degree for H2 but kindergarten is OK for C645.
yes, H2 has much faster AF, a little larger and brighter view finder, while C645 has more accurate AFG, but none you'd want to use AF. You'd use MF anyway.

Personally I favor C645 a lot. Mainly for the Zeiss glass, but I also find the productivity for a professional photographer with H2 is much higher, at least from the learning curve point of view. It could be a wash as soon as you get handy on it.

I still use C645, but I recommended H2 to my son.

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bcooter
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« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2013, 02:12:02 AM »
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I don't have an H, though keep testing them thinking that's my next move.

I will admit the h4's focus is much better than the original h1/h2.

I agree with about everything everyone says here with a special check mark on Paul because his matches his style with the Contax.

The thing that always stops me on an H is like Paul the out of focus areas look linear or digital or something to me and I can't explain the look, I just know it when I see it.

The upside with the Contax is it's so intuitive and natural, even if you grew up in the iphone age.

The other upside is it's very smooth.  Slow shutter speed, even hand held will give you a sharp image because their is very little mirror slap or shutter shake, even on my older bodies.

The downside is it's quirky.  You have to always keep the contacts clean, make sure you start with fresh batteries (like new batteries) and be careful with the prism mounts.

The biggest nag on the contax is it goes to sleep quickly and you pick it up, push the button, nothing happens until you realize that pushing the shutter wakes it up, so you get in the habit of always touching the button before you shoot and of course sometimes you get one blank frame at the start of every session.

I shoot 1/2 the time with the waist level finder and it's glorious if not for the better focus, just the sound the camera makes.  No clack, slap, clack, no metallic click, just a smooth beautiful sound.

I know looking back means nothing, but how good would it have been if contax had continued with the 645, leaf shutter lenses, made the N-1 digital to modern standards and (drum role please) a digital g model.

It's kind of hard to understand why they stopped.

IMO

BC
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JabariHunt
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« Reply #11 on: February 23, 2013, 04:22:34 PM »
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I came across this again and decided to post an update for anyone else who may be in the same boat.  I went with an H1 for a few reasons:

  • I couldn't get my hands on a Context to test with.  I thought about getting one anyway and then selling or trading for an H1/H2 if I didn't like it, but I could do the same with my Hassy whenever I come across a Contax.
  • Leaf shutters.  I use strobes a lot, and really appreciate the faster sync speed of the Hassy (1/800 with a sync cable | 1/250 with PocketWizards vs a straight 1/125 on Contax). The smaller vibration will be appreciated for macro work as well.
  • Ability to upgrade down the line.  The H4X is basically an H4D that will accept third party backs.  My plan is to buy a gently used H2 body, then use the H1 to trade up to the H4X.

What I KNOW I will miss having...

  • A battery grip.  I'm a big guy with big hands, and I don't mind the weight of medium format systems as long as there is a large enough grip.  Holding the H1 for long periods of time isn't the greatest because the standard grip is so small.  An extended battery grip would go a LONG way for comfort, not to mention add some much appreciated juice!  Contax and Phase One got that part right!  Phase even added a remote trigger for ProFotos (although a PocketWizard option would have been better IMO).
  • Easy controls.  The Hassy's menus are very well thought out actually, but the easy to reach no nonsense controls of the Contax were one of the first things that attracted me to the camera.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2013, 02:20:09 AM by JabariHunt » Logged
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