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Review Contax RTS II

dirk

CI-Founder
...my almost perfect dream camera...

...yes it is. The RTS II was my second Contax camera, I used. It has the same really good looking Porsche design as the RTS I. It is the same pleasure, to take it in your hands and go out to take pictures. Who is saying, that photo-equipment has nothing to do with feelings? I am a fan of this retro-style of classic cameras. Try the RTS I and II. The latter one is just doing everything slightly better/easier, than the RTS I.

On the first look, you will hardly see a difference between RTS I from 1974 and RTS II from 1982. The first indication is the on/off switch at the bracketing-wheel on the right hand top, the AE-lock on the front of the body and the locker of A. But there has been a lot more improvement over the RTS I, even this was already a very good model. Here are just some of the other changes/improvements:

- shutter-blades out of Titan
- TTL-flash control
- exposure correction warning (+-) electronically
- Viewfinder image now 97% (RTS I 92%)
- auto shut off after 16 sec.
- electronic self-timer
- locker of the aperture automatic (A) and in position (X)
- mechanical shutter speed of 1/50 sec.
- aperture and shutter-speed via digital LED’s etc.

for more details and differences of the models, please look in the overview Contax bodies.

I like good quality cameras. I like the feeling of a metal-construction. Nowadays you will not find this anymore. The modern materials are as solid as the old metal-bodies, but they still feel differently. Fortunately, even the modern Contax bodies are giving me a very good feeling, while using them – even if it is not 100% metal anymore.

But back to the RTS II. It is a good compromise of state of the art technology at that time and size and look of the body. The RTS II is a kind of small camera. The viewfinder is excellent bright and it is very easy to read the information even in bright light. Good also for people like me, who wear glasses. Focussing is a pleasure (I love to focus manually) – fast and easy. The shutter is compared to modern cameras a little loud. But this is on the other hand part of this retro-feeling I like so much. The AE-lock is easy to reach without moving the head, the exposure compensation, too. It is almost asking to be used.

The aperture priority setting can not be turned off accidentally, because it locks itself in its position. The shutter release is as sensitive as with the RTS I. So if you are not used to it, you will fire without wanting it. But after a while, you get used to it and you realize the advantage of not missing an important second because of this speed (RTS = real time system). With the small and light MM-lenses, it fits perfectly in your hand, except with the latest zooms 28-85, 35-135 and 100-300, where it is getting a little bit out of balance. But that is why later the RTS III is also constructed differently.

The mirror-up function is easy as it can be. You can move the mirror up and (!) down with the lever on the left side of the lens-mount. The centre-weighted metering is very accurate and easy to use. The only thing I am missing with the RTS II to be a perfect camera is a spot metering mode for extreme light situations. Of course you can use also the AE-lock, but this is not exactly the same, also not from the comfort point of view. But hey, the RTS II had already many features in 1982, which other brands, especially Leica, did still dream of. So let us not be unfair. As long as I was using my RTS II, I was not missing anything else, nor did I had problems with that camera in any other respect. Just a lot of fun.

Even nowadays, it is a lovely camera to use, if you know what you want. This is no automatic gimmick camera. It was made for professionals, very durable with features that make sense. As almost always with Contax cameras, the whole construction was well thought through.

If you buy one used with some defects, make sure that there is a possibility to repair it at Contax. I do not know whether there is still the possibility to exchange/repair every part of that Camera. Maybe there are some other stores who are concentrating on repairing older cameras, but I do not know addresses here in Germany. Maybe others know some places not far away from you. I would appreciate some hints on this page. For an indication of second-hand prices, please look on the specific page.

Summary of most important points

Very good quality
Very good viewfinder
Mirror lock up
Very accurate center-weighted-metering
Very professional accessories
No spot metering
Not produced anymore

Used available in good condition around 500 Euro. For this price very good price/performance ratio, with the risk of repairing problems.




Best wishes

Dirk
 
G

Guest

The RTS II was my first Contax body. It was used. I bought it about 3 years ago. Its a great body. It does not have built in motorized film advance so the battery requirements are minimal. Viewfinder is bright and I understand almost 100% in view.
I use the 28-85mm manual lense mostly which fairly large. When on the camera its diameter is large enough that the aperture ring extands below the bottom of the camera. This isn't really a problem but on occasion care has to be taken when putting this outfit on a tripod as the ring can bind with the little tripod table when screwed on.

Great little camera body. Meets my needs at this time. The AX is of interest. I would like to see an uddate of it. The N system is interesting, too.
 
G

Guest

I own an Aria and I am considering the purchase of a second Contax body. It appears that I might be able to find a used RTS II or 167 MT in the range of $250 to $350. The 167 MT has the advantage of being most like my Aria, however, the RTS II is appealing because of its more basic features and solid build. Any opinions on the relative merits of each camera? Is any one more likely to have problems given light to moderate future use? Thanks for any ideas on this.
Dennis
 

dirk

CI-Founder
"I own an Aria and I am considering the purchase of a second Contax body"

Hi Dennis,

I would recommend you the RTS II. If you want to have a second Contax body at all, it should complement your Aria and not duplicate it.

As you stated yourself, the 167MT is going more in the direction of an Aria. There is nothing what the Aria can not do, but the 167MT.

This is different with the RTS III. Above all the mirror lock up and the "real time shutter" is a value added to your Aria. A part from that the RTS II is a drug. It has a brighter viewfinder, better to read information than the Aria, better build quality and a huge accessory possibility. The CW-metering is extremly reliable.

The only risk is the repair issue. Check really seriously the body you want to buy, there a many dealers, who sell defect RTS II models. They always look good with new leather, but that is saying nothing about the functionality.

Let it check from contax directly. If the dealer does not want to do that, the body is probably not o.k.

dirk
 
G

Guest

The RTS II (and original RTS) also have much larger viewfinder images than the more recent models. These may be a problem if you wear eyeglasses, but other than this, the viewfinders on the older cameras are great.

I use my RTS III and S2 very heavily because of their spot meters, and the RTS III is my default studio camera becaue of the built-in flash meter, but except for these features, I think the RTS II is the best Contax body in many ways. I particularly like the option of using your thumb to advance, or you can add a motor or winder, but you're not stuck with a built-in motor. It's also the only body other than the S2 that works without batteries -- the d-o-f preview button functions as a mechanical shutter release if you rotate the little lever mounted concentric to the button. I believe the shutter fires at 1/90 second. The camera feels good to handle because of its solid construction, and it balances very well, especially with some of the heavier lenses.

I also prefer the RTS II's meter button on the front with concentric exposure lock. The RTS III has the meter button on the front, but it's not necessary because you can activate the meter with a light press of the shutter button, and you lock the meter on the RTS III with the power switch. I prefer the way it was done wtih the RTS II, where you can control all the metering functions with just your middle finger. This was a unique feature of the early Contax bodies (RTS, 139 Q, RTS II).

What I'd like even better would be if you could press and hold the front meter button to lock the meter reading temporarily, just for as long as it is held down. If you wanted to keep that reading for several exposures, then you could use the lock, but I usually find the lock tedious to use for a single shot -- meter, lock, take picture, unlock, instead of press meter button, take picture, take finger off of button.

- Paul
 
G

Guest

Mechanical shutter time is 1/50s. I find the AE lock on the RTS II easier to use then at the RTS III. With a Spot meter additionally, the RTS II would be perfect!
 
G

Guest

Dirk,
You recommend "letting contax check" a used body before buying and that the dealer might not want this. How do you go about this? Wouldn't it take time for the dealer to send it to contax and get it back? And I suppose you'd have to pay for this service.

Nick.
 

dirk

CI-Founder
Hi Nick,

I would send it to Contax yourself. If the dealer is doing that for you, it is just getting even more expensive. And you have thing under control.

Of course you have to pay for the checking, if they make some repair for you. As long as you just ask for an estimate of the potential repair costs in case something is damaged, it should be free. Then you can tell them viaw e-mail whether to fix the problem or not for.

But the dealer should agree that in case something is wrong with the camera, you can return it or he is paying the repair costs. Whatever he prefers.

dirk
 
G

Guest

Does anyone have experience with the Contax Pro-motor Drive W-6 W/pmd Pwr-pk used with RTSii??

It looks solid, beautiful and offers up to 5fps, but is it too heavy for hand held use? Can one use it without the power pack attached for short periods?

I've seen one in my local photo store for e315, looks in good condition. Does anyone know if that's a reasonalbe price?
 
G

Guest

hi there

i have a question. is the tla200 flash compatible with a rts2 or 159mm?

thanks
francois
 
G

Guest

I own or have used most of the Contax SLR bodies and the RTS 2 is one of my favorites. The mirror lock up is great, the camera is very solid but the best thing for me is the very sensitive shutter release Dirk mentioned in his review. It takes a little getting used to - even the slightest touch will fire the shutter release. Once you get used to it though you'll love it. The camera seems to fire instantaneously, as soon as I think of taking the shot without any delay at all! Fantastic. I use mine with a W3 winder most of the time because I like having the second shutter release for vertical shots.

The main features that I miss with this body are the spot metering and higher shutter speeds of some of the newer SLRs. In most cases though I don't find these to be essential for my style of photography and still prefer the older RTS 2.

Jason
 
G

Guest

Do other older Contax "quartz" models share the same sensitive shutter release with the Contax RTS II? For ex&le, does the 139 Q model share this feature? Although I have tried out two RTS II cameras, I have yet to find one without some kind of problem. But I certainly did like the super-sensitive shutter feature on the ones I did look at. Is there any evidence to indicate that this feature produces sharper (less blurry) hand held exposures?

Dennis
 
G

Guest

>

Denis,

I got this table from an ebay seller. He listed shutter delay times for various cameras. You will note the millisecond delay on the left an camera type on the right. This list is edited down as the system rejected a message with long lines.

Stuart

> > ms camera (various sources) > 17 Leica_M6 > 21,8 Contax_RTS_III > 39,4 Contax_RTS > 46 Contax_S2 > 50,0 Contax_139 > 53,8 Contax_137 > 54,0 Contax_Aria > 68,8 Contax_RX > 70 Contax_RTS_III > 72,0 Contax_167 > 72,0 Contax_ST > 78,8 Contax_S2 > 80 Contax_AX > 80,0 Contax_159 > 131 Contax_RTS_III > 160 Contax_G2 > 206 Leica_R8 > 550 Contax_N1 > 580 Sony_DSC-F707 > 900 Casio_QV-4000 > 1000 Sony_Mavica_MVC-CD1000 > > > > >
 
G

Guest

Stuart,
Thanks for the very interesting information. You listed the RTS III twice. I assume your first listing is really the RTS II. If it is the RTS II, it appears to be the fastest SLR in the group!
Dennis
 
G

Guest

Hi Dennis,
The other Contax cameras do not have the very sensitive shutter release of the RTS II with the possible exception of the original RTS (I've not actually used one of those). The 137, 139, 159, 167, AX, RX, RTS III all have a more standard electromechanical shutter release. I do feel that the RTS II shutter release helps me get sharper pictures at slower shutter speeds and also helps me catch the "decisive moment". I wish Contax had kept the RTS II type shutter release on the newer cameras. They probably decided against it because the release is so sensitive that you need to use a separate button to check the exposure. You can't touch the shutter release to check the exposure - it is so sensitive that the slightest touch will fire the camera. I suppose some users would find this inconvenient.
 
G

Guest

I enjoy the light touch of the shutter release. I am considering getting a second RTS II body as its my main camera at this point.
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G

Guest

William,

I beg to differ. The very 'touchy' shutter release may sometimes be rather irritating and filmconsuming.
I wish my Aria had a seperate button to measure the light.

Sonny
 
G

Guest

Hi,
My RTS II needs a part that no longer available through Contax in Canada or the States. It needs a "sector gear assembly". I tried some independent repair places with no luck. Any lines on a part or "parts only bodies" would be great.
Thanks,
Jeff
 
G

Guest

Hi Folks,

Does anyone know if they ever made or make a Polaroid / NPC back for the RTS II ?

I think there is one for the 167 and the RTS III.

Thought I would check.

Alan
 
G

Guest

I bought a yashica fx3 10 or more yers ago dreaming Zeiss lenses. After tried Nikon and found the autofocus really not necessary also with my 300mm,I decided to go back and I bought 3 beatiful contax lenses.
So, last year was the time of my first contax body and it was an ST; I found it relly good but noisy and heavy.
Two mounths ago I sow a used RTS II in good condition, I bougt it and I falled in love with it, this is the perfect camera: relatively compact, not too heavy, silent, bright wiewfinder...

I don't understand what contax is chasing....maybe nikon or Canon!?

I don't think this is the right way, I found the contax-N so fat and without style.
If there will be new C/Y bodys, I would like to see a renewed RTS II (as leica R9 for exemple) and a mechanical S3.

PS: sorry for my bad english...I'm Italian!
 
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