I just went through the same exercise but I did not consider the TVS lll. I purchased a mint TVS but hated the viewfinder, it was hard for me to see, a combination of my eyes and the dimness of the viewfinder, I think. I then bought a TVS ll on ebay and the viewfinder is very nice. I like the feel of the camera, I like the fact that I do not have to worry about a lens cap and in order to take a picture the lens has to be ready..and I like the range of the zoom. The pictures are not quite a clear as my T3, but what is? If you are patient you will find a used one on ebay for around $450. I sold my G1 and for the kind of photos I take these two camera's are really all I need. Good luck.
The built in lens cap on th TVS II is not important AFAIAC.
When comparing finders in the store the TVS I finder did not appear excessively dim in comparision to that of the II or III, but then I was paying more attention to the features of the three models than the brightness of the finders. The TVS finder's brightness seemed quite adequate to me, at least in the afternoon light. I'll look into this again when I go back to the store.
I have seen some comments on the web to the effect that the TVS II is a somewhat stripped down TVS. Any truth to this?
Are there any known reliability problems with the TVS I or II? In particular, anything to look out for when buying used?
By the way, can the TVS I take an external flash with an adapter?
I am no expert, but I think the only differences of the TVS and the TVS ll are insignificant. From my reading it appears that some folks think the viewfinder differences is a big deal, as I did, and some think it not important. Both the TVS and the TVS ll can take an external flash with an adapter. I do not know of any reliabiltiy problems. I also like the feel of zooming better on the TVSll, not using the little knob, but just turning the lens, but again this is subjective. I am sure you will get many more educated responses than mine.
> From my reading it appears that some folks > think the viewfinder differences is a big deal, as I did, and some > think it not important.
I find the viewfinder on my TVS I very dim, and sometimes a guess at best. I haven't seen how improved the TVS II is though.
> I do not know of any reliabiltiy > problems.
I have had an electronics problem with my TVS I, and so have a number of others. It just stops working, and you pay Contax $165 or something like that, and they return it to you working...but refuse to tell you what the problem was, or what they did to fix it. Rather annoying.
> I also like the feel of zooming better on the TVSll, not > using the little knob, but just turning the lens, but again this is > subjective.
The knurling around the lense is also there on the TVS I...so I believe you can zoom the TVS I the same as the TVS II.
Given a choice, and nearly the same price tag, I'd recommend the II.
I have owned a TVS I for about eight months and have had no problems with it - the viewfinder is not the brightest around but is perfectly adequate. I use the SA-1 adapter with it as flash photography indoors requires it - it is a bit bulky with a flash on it but I only use it indoors with a TLA140 (which is sleek and small as well). All the filters work with the TVS I and it is able to take pictures in panoramic mode - unlike the TVS II... How important this is to you is another matter... I am happy with the TVS - but then I have not used the TVS II and have had no problems with it (yet!)
> I may have been unlucky but my Tvs died on me after only 3 years. It simply failed to operate and when checked by Contax in the UK was advised that it was beyond economical repair. There had never been any trauma to the machine. On a more optimistic note, until its demise, it had > given excellent results - very sharp and contrasty pictures at all focal lengths. I did not find the finder too dull - remember that it has automatic parallex correction using LCD masks in the viewfinder - this may account for the slight loss of brightness compared to other direct > viewfinders. A reliable ex&le makes a perfect "carry everywhere" and travel camera.
> I've owned the TVS for several years. I don't use mine all that much any more because I'm not completing into digital (Sony F717...). However, I will say that the images I've taken with my TVS over the years have been quite nice and they compare well with many of the shots I've taken with my Contax SLR gear. As for the viewfinder, I don't wear glasses and have never found there to be any problem with it. I don't find it dim at all. I have had a couple of reliability issues with this camera though, similar to the ones described previously. Same circumstances too -- the camera just "stops working" and I send it back to Contax's repair center in New Jersey. They send it back about a week later and the cost is pretty much as described earlier -- about $165.00. And no, they're not all that helpful about explaining what the exact problem was. ***If anyone's interested, my TVS is about to go up for sale. Probably at Half.com but if there's interest, please let me know. Mine is in really clean condition and, as noted, it's been serviced a couple of times by Contax. It went in earlier this year and, other than making sure it was in good working order, I haven't used it since getting it back. I've got most of the original materials (including the "jewel" box) with the exception of the clip-on lens cap which I've misplaced. As I said, I've gone 100 percent digital [Incidentally, I purchased (and returned) the TVS Digital a few months back. Contax needs to try a bit harder -- the TVS Digital is not worth the money.***