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Contax N1



the N1 is very nearly a pro body but still lacks > some things i.e. a proper Mirror Lock-up.

What were the other non-pro things about the N1 (other than the lack of 100% finder)?

Any other cameras I should look into? RTSIII? Why and why not?



> Kevin, Glad to be of help. I think you are right in going for the N1 versus the RTS111, although I still have hankerings for an RX and a line of smaller, lighter MM lenses. I had an Aria kit, and foolishly changed it for a lot of Canon stuff I lost money on later. The N1, whether we like it or not, represents the way COntax is going, and AF is the way I have to go since my eyes went south. The N1 is as manual as you could want, with the AF there when you really need it. What a blessing. The sheer heft of the camera is reassuring, although I have a hard time carrying the basic setup of N1, P-9 grip and 24-85 with hood fitted in a bag smaller than a monster pack ! Still, I still have the G2s for travel and going light. Have fun with your N1, as I am having. Robin


> Hi again, Kevin Non-pro things on the N1 ? Well, the AF is definitely not the King of Speed, motor wind is relatively slow (3.5 fps), lenses are pretty slow, few in number and very expensive - the average pro starter kit these days includes two bodies, 17-35 f2.8, a middle-range zoom with fast aperture i.e. 24-85 f2.8 (I WISH !) and at least a 70-200 f2.8 with an extender or two, and then a 300 f4 at least. Then add a sophisticated flash system with at least two units and some slaves, and bring it all down to Canon or Nikon prices, and straightaway you have eliminated the poor old N1 system. Other than that, I certainly don't want to spend more money than I already have, -but the thought of new N1 lenses in that lovely glass somewhere in my future makes me dream that I am once again young and looking forward to a bright future in photojournalism. After all, I began my career with Leica gear, when everyone else was using Nikons, so I guess history does repeat itself somehow. Albest, Robin


I just received my first slides back from the lab and 50 - 70 percent of them have a fine horizontal line (scratch). I questioned the lab and they said it must be the film plate on the camera, they even ran another test roll and some of those also had the scratch. I was wondering if anyone else has heard of this with the N1 and if there is maybe a quick fix instead of sending the camera back. Thanks, Roger


Don't believe the lab. I doubt it's the camera back especially if it's new. I work in the Photofinishing industry for one of Fuji's largest processing facilities. I am the Mgr. of the service department and I am responsible for all of the wet equipment as well as the Printers and film splicers. We do over 40,000 rolls in an evening. We also do the slides for the pros at the US Open Tennis matches, so quality is extemely important. Fuji's new phrase is "0 DEFECTS". I deal with eliminating equipment scratches on film processors, splicers and slide mounters everyday. Our film processors run over 100' per minute and anyone of the rollers having grit or bearing problems can cause fine scratches on your fragile slides. I don't know if you went to a one hour lab or a large processing facility, but I recommend you try another lab and you should get different results.


Hi guys,

I am about to piss off some of you.

I totally disagree that we as Contax users should accept the inferior AF technology that Contax places on their cameras. The fact that the lenses are trully legendary does not let them of the hook for a mediocre AF system. The Contax AX, I agree because of its unique ability to focus with non-auto focus lenses may be alot slower than the Nikon/Canon series. But when Contax redesigned their cameras and their lenses completely....AF speed should have been at the top of the list. After all Contax expected its users to start buying a completly new line of camera with its unique mount for what .....a marginal improvement over the AX speed.
I love Contax and love the Zeiss lenses. I currently own the Canon EOS system for its lightning fast responsive AF that always gets the shot. Maybe the image is not as contrasty as the Contax image but less than perfect image is better than no image. If the Contax system would focus like the Canon/Nikon I would bet that 2/3 of Nikon/Canon users would switch to Contax.
Contax wake day Canon/Nikon might reach the quality of the Zeiss lenses then what???
We as loyal Contax users should not be made to compromise getting Zeiss quality instead of AF speed. We deserve both.....



scratches on the film does happened sometime on the N1 back. I had the same experience with my N1 and it turn out the scratches cause by dust on the back! all u need to do is to blow the back every time when u load the film and this will significancely reduce the chance to damage the file. I think when they made N1, they try to make sure the file lay as flat as possible on the plate and as a result the file are very tight on the plate....and as a result, a small among of dust will damage the file....



Hi Adrian,

I looked in your profile and it seems that you do not have used the N1 yet. As a N1-user I can assure you, that the Af speed and accuracy of the N1 is totally sufficient although not as fast as the Top SLRs from Nikon et al.

But this was discussed in depth in this thread and in the other N1-press thread. So please red these comments first. Many complaints in the internet of the AF spedd are coming from people who tried the N1 for 5 minutes in the store, but not by using it for a couple of months.

Just as a renminder: Since the AF speed is at least as fast as a Minolta Maxxum 9xi or a Nikon F4 I wonder why nobody complaint about the AF speed of these 2 cameras at that time?



I have been looking to update my 10 year old Canon EOS system for some time.

I shoot a G2 on alot of assignments and I love it. Great glass and beautiful images. Stupid manual focusing system - why not use a propoer rangefinder focusing system like Leica and combine this with autofocus - this would make a truly great little camera.

I have been very interested in the N1 and the possibility of the N digital alongside it, but after quite a lot of research, some testing and general head scratching, I just feel that there are too many warts on the contax N system to put it at the top of my lsist ahead of canon or nikon. I would be interested to know if people agree. and if anyone can really persuade me to go for Contax...Here are the pros and cons as I see them:

- N1 body is well built feels great and is very user frinedly, like Canon. Nikons I have always found too fiddly.
- Zeiss glass
- AF focusing speed of 24-85 is fine as is 70-300, if nt as quick as it could be.
- detachable vertical grip is good (always an issue for me with the Nikon F5 and a big plus for Canon EOS - IMHO)
- 645 thing is a good idea...

- from what I have read on this forum the 15-35 lens does not sound as good as it should be and certainly does not sound as good as canon or nikon's offerings
- range of lenses available is a issue
- lens speed is a major issue for all reportage shooters . Contax need to wake up to this and produce a pro series of lenses which open to f2.8 all the way through)
- TTL flash system does not seem to be a patch on Nikon or Canon from what I have read. Certainly if the TTL system in the G2 is anything to go by - not a great comparisson I'll grant you as the TLA-200 is a very compact, unsophisticated unit.
- N dig seems to still be in development. Power issues, ISO issues and now Canon and Nikon are bringing out machines with full frame 11mb and 14mb chips, contax now lags behind after only being ahead of the game for a month or two.
- film plates which scratch the film on the N1? Honestly!!!
- support and availabilty. My local pro shopin toulouse in France used to work with Contax but they stopped doing so because there was a lack of demand...I don't know any pro store which rents out contax kit apart from in London.


Andy Johnstone


> Hi Andrew

I am a retired aviation/defence photojournalist now living in Spain. I read your e-mail with great interest, as the owner of Contax N1, G2 and T3 systems. I changed over from a complete Canon kit, as I no longer needed the facilities the cameras provided, and I wanted AF throughout for my worsening eyesight. I also wanted to carry less weight, and have Zeiss glass through the entire range of cameras. The N1 suits my present needs just fine. I agree with you about the manual focussing on the G2s, but hey - if you need the lenses, you have to take the rest with them. Even Leica (I used Ms and Rs for 45 years) is not perfect for everyone. BUT - I would agree with every one of your Cons from the point of view of a working pro. If I were still working, I would have stuck with the Canons, and would have binned the EOS 3s in favour of the EOS 1V. Contax does not have the lenses for a pro - yet. They still have work to do on the flash system, although the TLA 360 is a good copy of the Nikon SB-25 or whatever that model was. I use a Metz 54MZ3 with my N1, and it does all I want right now. But what I am doing is faffing about as a retired pro who still needs something to exercise an itchy trigger finger. If you cannot try out the gear by renting, stay with Canon while you are working, because in your working career you will undoubtedly need the digital bodies, and you shouldn't even be considering the N Digital, judging by what I read on this website. I hope this helps. I am a loyal Contax user, and am having fun in the sun with the Contax gear, but work with it all ? Hell no. Hurrah for Canon, although I disagree with you on the instinctive handling. The best thing on the N1 is the control knob system, instead of those pesky little buttons. Albest, Robin


Hi! There, It is quite sometime now since I last posted 22nd July to be exact. I have now had the time to examine a few results from my N1 with the 24-85mm lense, which I find are very good.
As a previous user of the AX, and in particular the RX,and quite a few prime lenses, I am a little like Robin Adshead, and have still have a great feeling for the RX, a belting little camera,which with the prime lenses give wonderful results.
I also have the 70-300 which I have only used on two occasions,which has now planted a little seed in my mind to revert back to the RX, with the following lenses:-
Distagon 28mm f2.8
Distagon 35mm f1.4
Planar 50mm f1.4
Planar 85mm f1.4
As I no longer have much of an interest in Wildlife,but more in the line of portraits, and landscape, I thought that the above system would suit my requirements.
Another thought is that I cannot really justify the differential in the price of the N System lenses,against the quality of the MM lenses, as against that of the N system. The results that I had with my initial setup with the RX,and that of the N1, to me was Very, Very, minimal.
By the way, as I usually set my stall out as to what I am likely to photograph before I set out, I usually only take a couple of lenses, as at the prime age of 74 yrs, weight is a bearing factor.
Does anyone on the site have any advise to offer before I go back to the RX.
Kind Regards. Ken Taylor.


> Let's get somethings straight about the N1.

> 1)As Dirk mentioned, the auto focus is quite good. I have not used the Nikon F5, or the Canon EOS 1 or 3, but have used the Elan series. > The autofocus is as good or better than the Elan and probably good enought for most photographers for 98% of their shots. >

2) The film is not typically scratched in the N1. My N1 has NEVER given me this problem.

3) The N1 is a very solid camera. Great lenses. And should be for MOST photogprahers a great body for a great system.



hi Andrew/Andy:

if you are still pondering your Canon-Contax decision...I made that about a year ago when I dumped my Nikon N90s and lenses to go with Contax N1+ 24-85, and now also 70-200 and TLA360 flash. To give some personal comments on your points:
pro: agree with all
1. never used the 17-35 myself but read Cdi (arguably the best phot-testing magazine): the new reference for this class of zooms
2. range of lenses is/will soon be F50/85/100/400/17-35/28-80/24-85/70-200/70-300
that's maybe limiteed but SURELY there must be something you like
3. TLA360 flash gives excellent results and is very easy to use (I had Nikon flash)
4. Ndig - well, who knows who is leading and who is not. chips still change (CMOS now, I guess versus CCD) and it is still way too expensive for me compared to what film gives
5. Scratched films??!!? Come on, that's something you need to take with a grain of sand (pun intended). There are no scratching backplates in the design, that's silly. Just because one person has dust in his camera doesn't mean we all have it!try putting some sand in your 10-year old canon and see what happens (I admit it has happened to me with my Nikon too; we're only human in dusty conditions)
6. support - I dunno; I live in the USA but I have never needed their support.

By the way, the slides I have taken with the 24-85 and 70-200 are absolutely gorgeous and I there say that the colors of the 24-84 are prettier (velvety smooth contrast and very sharp) to my eye than my Nikon glass!




As for the scratched slides, the culprit seems to be my lab. The camera is one week old and has only seen the sudio - not much dust there.


Hi Adrian, I totally agree with you that"Canon's (in my case Maxxum 9) fast responsive AF that always gets the shot(much higher rate)than Contax N1 (for fast action). Maybe the image is not as contrast as as the Contax image but less than perfect image is better than no image."

Two years ago, I was so so disappointed when I fisrt tested the NEW N1 and found out the AF speed is too slow. I did not buy it at that time. I purchased the N1 recently because of the FREE NAM1 adapter promotion which I can use my 645 lenses via this adapter for the N1. I shoot a lot of wildlife photograpy. I did some comparison between the N1 and my Minolta 9 for close up flying birds. The result came out as I had predicted two years ago. Almost all the nicely composed, sharp images were captured by Minolta 9(w\200-2.8G). I have not much luck with the N1(w/70-200N) for flying birds. Now, I carry both the N1 and the Maxxum 9 for most of my outdoor photography . Now, I use the N1 for scenery and the M9 for moving objects. My bag is so heavy. Well, what can I do -- I love Carl Zeiss lenses. Dear Kyocera, please produce a fast AF speed camera soon to save my back.


"Just as a reminder: Since the AF speed of N1 is at least as fast as a Minolta Maxxum 9xi or a Nikon F4 I wonder why nobody compliant about the AF speed ot these two cameras at that time."

Dear Dirk, maybe I can answer your delimma. I don't own the 9xi or the F4. The Minolta Maxxum 9xi was released in 1991. At that time I beleive, ultral fast-Af speed like the Canon EOS 3 or the F100 is not fully developed yet. Eleven years ago , the AF speed of these two cameras were as most photographers expected . It is unfair for you to compare the new 21 century N1's AF speed technology with the eleven years old Minolta 9xi AF technology. Yes, you are correct, the N1 is not a pro camera and should not compare with Canon or Nikon's top models. Be honest with you, the AF speed N1 can not even match the entry level of Minolta Maxxum 5.
Fast AF mean little to landscape and still life snappers but for sport, wildlife and paparazzi photographers extra fast speed could mean capturing the perfect moment. There are ten or even hunderd of thousands of these kinds of photographers out there. Actually, they are the most important ones. I can't beleive Contax excluded these groups of photographers for the N1 system. This is not a good begining for the N system. They are the ones who really have great influence in the photography world--they are the ones who can promote or make a brand popular( and it's free).


Hi Wai,

I understand your point, but answered this one in one of my other older N1 AF postings. The N-system is not going to be only N1 and NX in the long run. I do not think that Contax aimed the market you described (sport, wildlife and paparazzi)now already. Contax even does not offer the appropriate lenses for this target group, so why this fast AF is needed now?

This does not mean that I would not like to have had an even faster AF with the N1. It just means the target AT PRESENT for the N1 are the landscape/ normal action shooters. You see it with the lens choice, you see it with the AF speed. I am sure, as soon as Contax has the knowledge for a faster AF, they will also come out with faster lenses, more pro-focus. The knowledge for the lenses is already there but not for the AF speed.

I think the key-word here is "managing the expectations" of a buyer. If you offer fast lenses for the pro market right from the start, you have also to offer top notch AF speed.

The old Minoltas and Nikons from 1991 made still excellent sharp pictures, even in wildlife etc. BUT people had to work for it, thinking about what they are doing. Nowadays you can use a Nikon F100 et al. as a P&S. Just point on it, click and do not care about light meter, focus, flash... you name it.

Since for me the pleasure is also in knowing what I am doing (or learning it), the N1 is with the AF fine for me.



I got my N1 today!!!! I am very excited, I got it with the 24-85, it looks very good, I'll go shoot some slides tomorrow and see how it goes, so far I like it a lot. I am happy!!!



Pauloks , Congratulations on your new purchase. I am sure you will find the N1/24-85 is one of the best combo money can buy.

I did buy a new toy yesterday in San Francisco Calumet. It was the Contax day and I could not miss out the great saving of the Contax645 outfit sold less that $2990 with the instant $300 rebate and additional discount. I also got a Polaroid back and other accessories with 10% discount. With these price, there is no reason for me to buy gray market stock.

I am so excited and cannot wait to dump my RZ67.