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No one has answered this question for over half a year. Althought I've only had the limited edition (70 years Anniversary) for just over a month and played with a friend's standard polycarbonate black version for a while, I am rapidly becoming allured by the material beauty of this camera. The silver Aria has come to define me and my photographic work! I find I am relishing being just me behind the Contax label sported by the discrete silver Aria. Behind the label! How thrilling it is to be just me possessed by the beguiling strokes of Contax workmanship!
On to answering your question. I've added a review for anyone who might be fortunate enough to find one for sale. Otherwise excuse me otherwise for taking up email space.
Yes, there are differences apart from the colour being silver vs black and the engravings.
The Special edition comes in a two tone colour scheme: silvery coloured metal and a rubberised black contact patch. The top and lower plates are cast in a soft coloured silvery metal - possibly aluminium as opposed to silver coloured plastic. When I'm fantasising, I like to pretend its titanium, but reality keeps on getting in the way.
The body and the hand-grip are moulded from the high quality beautiful rubberised substance which we've come to associate with Contax. A sticky finger delight. This is no doubt identical to the stock Aria.
On the top plate, all of the buttons, from the operating switch to speed-dials are cast from metal as well. Hence the stiff AEL lock, Exp. Compensation and twin button switches etc are all metal covered. Yet unlike the fads of silver Ford Escorts this century, Contax' philosophy remains understated and has directed the limited edition Aria along the appearances of a classic artisan rather than a slaked hash of a Hopper which would appeal to a post-modernist crowd in a Salsa bar. Think of it as the SLR brother or the maturity of a T2 in the making. The metal button add to the character and construction of the rigid AEL lock, and the moderate lightness of the body still exudes T2 luxuriance, rather than benighted practicality.
Gone too are the first impression dodgy looks of the standard polycarbonate Aria, which requires caressing to reassure that it is not as tacky as it might look in 2-D magazines. (Only Contax users of the standard Aria will know that this is definitively not the case). The visual effect of the metallised changes are aesthetic: one leaps easily between admiration and wonder for such workmanship, and then the sudden bound of joy which recognises - it's mine! All mine! Heh heh heh. (Muttering a prayer frantically that it won't smash when one slips on the ice after such crass indulgence).
The bottom plate is also silvery-metal and slots neatly to hug the camera base. The union between the rubberised black and the slick metal lines of the base plate define the 70 years limited edition Aria: here is progress; classic structures moulded to grasp the novel and impermeable rubberised modernity of the present. Darkness of sweat and grime from a sea boundaried by a line of metal, whose evolution is unclear.
Once again, with respect to the engravings,"Aria" is no longer plastered on the anterior left-hand side of the camera body; it is written discretely in less than size 12 font Times Roman on the posterior aspect of the right-hand side of the camera body. The new engravings are italicised, and add to exclusivity of ownership, marking out the limited edition, and the history of the Contax line. One feels inclined to treat this Aria as a piece of portable history. A museum, tool and ornamental alternative to the repetitive digital activity of mobile phone users, who use their mouth and not their mind. I'm not a collector, however this camera might change my mind. No doubt, for photographic subjects, admiring the limited edition Aria from the front will mesmerise nymphs into ecstasy as they adulate over the sleek metallic lines framing the indecipherable darkness of rubber. The rest of Aria users no doubt will have to contend with the boggle-eyed stares from bemused and ignorant victims disposing of polycarbonate Arias into the same classification as all those other black cameras out there. Wondering thus; "Why do Japanese cameras all end in -tax or -nica, such as Contax, Pentax, Eltax and Konica, Bronica?".
But we Contax forum users know better than that. The only reason i feel secure is because I'm validated by my peers.
Peering into the diminutive Tessar lens I am reminded of my father's Konica's C35 during his youth. The Aria unleashed an association of silver-black camera bodies (yes, I'm sure its been done before, to the point of extermination of black cameras, however..) its two-tone silver-black body and the purplish hue from the multi-coated razor-sharp Hexanon f2.8 aperture which I caught glimpses of, as the shutter clicked recalled my life at 2 years before I had learnt to hold my first Fisher Price toy. When he photographed me, running my lofty enterprises, (not quite Canary Wharf, yet the same unimaginable heights of childhood imagination) like all children, I was drawn to the circular aperture. Lenses, glints of light, reflection, transformation of the straight line - Daddy's looking at me through a camera!) and the fascinating process of hide-and seek behind a camera-box. Besides, smartie-sized circles attract. Toddlers and ilk. For me, mysterious processes of light took place in silver and black boxes: I had forgotten that. The limited edition Aria recalls what I had forgotten. Hence, I doubt this boring camera will do the same for you
The limited edition 45mm Tessar is not quite that stock. Its richness is vivid in its history, and clearly I associate something with it which I had lost during my obdurate search for images. From being imaged, to imaging. From being photographed, to photographing: grasping reciprocity through the axis of normality and perspective of field. 45mm shows planet amoeba to one's dearest on equal terms. No distortion, no conflation nor exaggeration. As it is. On the limited edition Aria, the Tessar's construction is metallic, unlike the plasticised nature of the stock Tessar (is this true for all Tessars? Doubtful). The engravings are subtle, as are the best things in life; there is no mark of show and tell on this lens, except for the "100 Jahre anniverary..." on the underside of the lens barrel. This is more a case of see and behold. The current contemporary stock Tessar shares similar dimensions, however has a size 49mm filter ring. The 100 Jahre Anniversary Tessar has a filter ring of 46mm and a special metal two-tone Contax cap, which will be very difficult to replace once lost. Again, this reminds me of my the Konica C35 filter thread. In use, the limited edition Tessar operates like the original, with the focusing ring closely juxtaposed to the aperture ring. With minimal practice, tactile differentiation enables the user to grope swiftly for the focusing ring, without making a horlicks of the aperture settings on the way. What I enjoy about the Tessar 45mm, unlike any other Carl Zeiss lens which I use, is the fact that it has no half-stop pit-stops in between the standard f-readings. Hence when I use manual mode, I calibrate the exposure meter with a Sekonic L608 1% spot light-meter, and can adjust the aperture to as close as estimable, to either a 1/3rd or 1/4 stop of an intermediate aperture reading. Perhaps such a design for half-stops could not be integrated without extra bulk and weight.
The focusing travel distance between 0.6m to infinity is rapid and acquired within a turn of a wrist:a quick flick controls the focus travel more rapidly than I have ever succeeded on a 50mm lens.
Perhaps then it is not a co-incidence that I've alluded to a rangefinder: this parcel with the Tessar brings forth the design philosophy of smaller cameras. The 45mm Tessar had previously struck me as a waste of money, since I regularly used a 50mm CZ. The subtle travel aesthetic created in this package is delightful. It's shown me how I've suffered from 50mm ignorance.
Although, I'm not too pleased that you've made me want yet another camera body, I loved the write up. Very well written and fun to read!
Now, when was this limited edition available and why on earth didn't they put something like this out permanently? My only objection to the Aria some years ago was its plastic feel. I would have been perfectly content (not content, elated) with the one you've just described. I loved the way things were laid out when looking through the view finder. I loved all the control settings etc. However, I couldn't get over the feel of plastic and bought a used 167MT at the time, even though I hated the layout of the readings in the view-finder (and never got used to them), the 167 felt solid. I'd love one of those limited edition Arias. How much do they/did they go for?
Thanks, -Lynn L. PS: And I do forgive you for making my camera wish list grow!
as Dirk doesn't like vendor recomendations here and you didn't leave your e-mail address, mail me for an address of a vendor I'm satisfied with and who may have the 70 year addition plus 100 year Tessar in stock.
Have you seen the same episodes of Thunderbirds as I have! You're right - I need to get out more.
The limited edition Aria came out last summer - maybe a month or two after the initial post went up. If you check up the history of Carl Zeiss, it should be obvious which month, since this co-incides with Contax's 70th anniversary (phooey - another 10 years to wait before another special edition - or maybe they'll round it off to 75 years? No, maybe version 70.1 with the digital revolution...). Around 500 limited edition Arias were shipped to the UK - goodness knows how many are floating around in Europe. I wonder if the States didn't get any). Most were probably grabbed by collectors from the outset.
Lynn, I've worked and lived with a 167MT for years and had the same reservations as you about the Aria; however I worked and did assignment work with the 167MT (and a Bronny) for years doing freelance ranging from cd album covers to weddings, and landscape prints, before deciding that professional committment zapped me and dropped it in favour of valorising light when it suited me.
If you live in the United Kingdom and read the most widely read weekly photography rag whose density of adverts outnumbers scanty articles, you'll see three or four advertisements listed for the special edition Aria, all retailing at a fixed price of Â£799, plus or minus Â£50 if its a demo model. New. Includes Wales and England. Provincial places are more likely to stock it, particularly mail-order places where the beauty of the Aria lies hidden in a box collecting dust whilst the advertised print fails to impress.
As for why this was not mass-produced: for that price, I doubt an Aria would be particularly competitive against digital, autofocus and manual comparisons. It has niche appeal, not mass appeal. A dithering consumer is unlikely to pick a silver Aria off the shelf for that price in a hurry. However, for a Contax user, this is like gold-dust: far too valuable to throw away for a collector.
It struck me how different the Aria's fate is from the beautiful Konica Hexar RF limited edition with a f1.2 lens: that is now even rarer than the Aria to track down; possibly only 2001 copies made compared to the Aria's 2000 (I think). Oddly, America's B&H,still advertse the Konica for such a snip at $2500, at least $1000 less than the advertised UK price. Konica still sell it in Japan, however once they merge with another Photo giant, that'll be the last of the Konica brand. Sad, really. Contax's loyalty...also comes in a limited edition
I had picked up a used 167MT with 50MM 1.7 lens a couple of years ago at a Wolf Camera out in Denver. I recently added a used 45mm pancake lens and pretty much leave that lens on the camera all the time. It makes for a very compact and fairly light package to wear around your neck when traveling. My only complaint is that it can be difficult focusing the 45mm because of the very thin focus collar, which does tend to get in the way of the aperture ring.
Otherwise, not sure that the Aria would be much smaller anyway.
The 70 years edition is not entirely of metal. The silver parts are, but a very light-weight metal. Comparing the weight to the FM3, the Aria is lighter by around 130g.
I've got a silver FM and comparing the silver on the two cameras, I personally prefer the Aria - it seems a little classier to me.
If you want a rugged workhorse I would go with the Nikon. The Aria is stronger than it looks and is gorgeous when you see it (no picture ever does it justice) - try and see it before you buy. But hold it at your peril - you will not want to put it down!!
Elton, The Aria as Saras has already mentioned is beautiful when seen with the matching 45mm Tessar lens, this body was for 70 Years while the lens was for 100Years of the Tessar Lens. Don't know if you are in England but im told they got the last few available in Europe. If you want a new one I would notleave it to long from what I hear.