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There's quite a few things I'd look for in a Contax 645 II.
Firstly a fix for the battery consumption, which forces many of us to use a supplementary battery holder such as the P-8 or the MP-1, which are also needed to cure the 16 second shut down time.
Secondly I'd like more than one, 1980's style auto focus point. And whilst on the subject of focusing, the available focus screens can't match the brightness or contrast of the Hasselblad Acu- Matte D screens, consequently for manual focusing I still prefer the Hassie 503CW or my ageing 500CM, which also benefit from the option of higher magnification finders making manual focusing even more accurate, for this Contax should offer a 45 degree prism finder which, because it bends the light path less, can deliver higher magnification without a ridiculously large prism. But the biggest focusing improvement would be for Contax to address the "flightiness" of the 645's system, it offers stunningly accurate auto focus, but it's very accuracy is also its undoing with respect to its inability to lock on if there's the slightest subject movement, I'd like the choice within the firmware of high accuracy or high speed.
Thirdly there's still too many gaps in the accessary and lens line up, where's the high speed synch flash, the leaf shutter lenses, the T&S lenses, the zooms, the fisheye, or even a full range of focus screens?
Finally Contax have plenty of room for improvement in terms of general ergonomics and useability, the eyepeice dioptre adjustment is poor compared with the competition, half or full stop bracketing is insufficient, there needs to be an option to more easily lock both focus and exposure (especially with just the single auto focus point), and adjustments are impossibly slow and fiddly with cold fingers.
This all sound like savage criticism, I own and use several medium format systems and rate the Contax very, very highly. However the launch of the Hasselblad H1 is yet more evidence that 645 is a format whose time has finally arrived, the competition will become very fierce and in that environment what were once endearingly eccentric foibles can quickly become fatal design flaws. I want the Contax 645 to survive and flourish, and for that to happen it will soon require a 645 II.
Here's a short winded response. IMO, multiple focus points are a bit of a marketing gimmick. Even with the latest AF 35mm SLRs the center focus point is the most sensitive, and the off center ones become almost useless in lower light by comparison. Contax does make a flip magnifier, I have one permanently mounted to the 645 for critical manual work (or W/A like when using the 35/3.5). I also use adapters to mount Hasselblad glass (including the Shift Mutar, and 110/2 F lenses)...as well as Mamiya lenses including a 24mm Mamiya 645 fisheye. I find the screen just as bright as on my Hassey 555ELD and 503CW, most likely due to the faster maximum aperatures of the Contax 645 lenses. Again, just an opinion based on using many AF and MF systems.
>Marc, let me give a practical ex&le to illustrate my perception of the deficiencies of the Contax 645. Imagine you're shooting candids at a wedding reception (I use this ex&le for two reasons, firstly wedding photographers are the backbone of the market from a 645 camera manufacturers perspective, without this group it's difficult to reach economic sales volumes, and secondly it demonstrates the holy grail of one camera system that reasonably satisfies most needs, medium format quality with 35mm convenience, and a flexible film or digital platform).
So after using a Contax 645 to successfully take the formal, tripod mounted shots, you're handholding the same camera and shooting two ladies engaged in an animated conversation against a background of dark shrubbery. However, in single AF mode the camera's meticulously precise but rather slow focus system may well fail to lock focus on the eye of one of the ladies as she moves her head fractionally back and forth whilst talking. Used to this problem you've set the Contax to continuous AF, but now when you've achieved satisfactory focus you have to press the Focus Lock Button (rather than simply half-press the shutter) and recompose. In the process you'll also lose auto exposure, especially if spot metering when you may over expose their faces as the centre focus & metering area is now over the dark shrubbery.
Using say a Nikon F5 or D1x (and I'm sure many others, just these are two cameras I use and I'm familiar with) you could select one of the off-centre focus areas. Far from being a "marketing gimmick" they'd work perfectly adequately in every light I've ever encountered, plus you'd get instant spot metering taken at that precise, off-centre focus point.
So, frustrated with the AF system on the Contax 645, you may choose manual focus. The flip magnifier solution you suggested isn't appropriate in these circumstances as you'd only see the middle of the frame, and it's far too slow to focus then flip the magnifier away and recompose. However, magnification is a key determinant of manual focusing accuracy, Hasselblad for ex&le offer a choice of angle finders with up to X3.3 magnification and virtual full field visibility. I don't know the Contax magnification but practical experience tells me it's not up to this level. Furthermore the Contax screen, like most AF screens, is a sub-optimal tool for manual focusing. I use the Contax MFS-1 screen and the microprism has a diameter of only about 7mm, insufficient to allow focusing for an off-centred composition, compare this to a 12mm microprism circle available for both Hasselblad and Nikon. And when I measure the brightness of the Contax screen in the matte outer field, using a remote meter from a large format camera to measure the light on the actual screen itself, I find it's nearly two stops darker than the latest Hasselblad screen, with both cameras carrying their respective Zeiss 120mm f4 macro lens. .
So our hypothetical wedding photographer taking reception candids is forced to conclude that although the Contax 645 can do the job in either auto or manual focus modes, other systems offer significantly better solutions for that particular task. The Contax tends to push the photographer into amateurish and repetitive central compositions, or risk missing the moment through equipment deficiencies.
And here's the rub, IMO that particular task is hardly some rare and esoteric application, it's fairly representative of a major part of the output of many, many photographers, from travel orientated street photography to simply capturing informal family shots.
I'm not rubbishing the Contax 645, its whisper quiet and beautifully d&ed mirror action makes a Hasselblad sound like an asthmatic mousetrap, and the exquisite Zeiss glass in the medium format roundly trounces any Leica chrome I've ever produced. What I am saying is "good" isn't "best", and Contax should divert just a little resource from their digital issues to take the 645 to the next level of development.
Gary, I appreciate the situations you set in a hypothetical scenario. Let's take it out of the speculative arena. I do shoot weddings, and use 3 different cameras because none will ever do it all.
A Contax 645, Nikon D1x (previously I used a Canon EOS1v), and a Leica M7, (the little Leica is slung over my shoulder at all times).
Oviously, the Nikon is the fastest focusing, but I still disagree with you as to the off center focusing
in low light. I've missed more decisive moments because of this "hunting" than any other reason.
In fact, the most reliable low light camera for me is the Leica M.
Now as to the Contax 645...to me, this cameras' best feature is its dual focusing ability. While shooting AF, I have my thumb on the focus lock button. When faced with a situation that you discribed I rough in the focus with AF, and touch it up manually. The focus confirmation green light still works when focusing manually, so I don't need a magnifier for work like this. Nor do I end up with all my pictures centered.
I do think the Contax is slow focusing, but the motor is moving a ton of glass with those fast Zeiss lenses. Even my Canon EOS1v with booster was a snail at focusing the 50/1.0. 85/1.2 and 200/1.8.
Can they improve the speed? A flash with a IR assist would help.
I'm new to the forum, this is an old thread and don't know if anyone is even still reading it but... The slow flash sync has been the key reason why I have been holding out on the Contax 645. I just don't understand why Contax would create such an otherwise great camera with such an inferior flash sync, especially given the wedding photographer market mentioned above. Leaf Shutter lens, a better flash, I don't care. Just give me a flash sync I can work with outside without having to stop down to the point of having everything in focus. Hassie recognized this, and if the Fuji lenses are good, (though I'm doubtful), I don't see why I would spend so much on a (Contax) camera that doesn't let me do what I need to do without stacking ND filters in front of such a fine piece of glass... I've contaced Contax/Kyocera several times to ask about the flash sync issue, and have yet to get a single reply...
I was shooting studio portraits the other day with the 645,and 140mm, and power grip. The camera just stopped functioning and the shutter speed displayed EEEE in the viewfinder. Switching on and off several times did not fix it. I switched between the lithium and NiMHd cells which also did not fix. I had to unscrew the pack to completely disconnect the power. When reconnected, no problem.
Has anyone out there seen anything like this before. Is it a one off or should I send it to Kyocera??? I only have one body and this would impact considerably if they have to hold on to it to investigate?
I wouldn't start this discussion unless I was NOT seriously considering the 645. I shoot with an Aria and I am looking to get an AX and 645 system to cover weddings and events more effectively.
Has anyone been monitoring the serious 645 battles going on ? I have been amazed. I tried the Mamiya 645 AFd this past weekend. While nice, it didn't have that natural feel of the Contax 645...and doesn't use Zeiss lense. Well enter Hasselbald with their new H1...but for some reason it uses Fuji lenses. Couldn't quite figure this out until I ran across the Fuji website
You can translate this on Alta Vista. Fuji will release an exact replica of the Hassy H1 in Q1 '03. Here's what I think has happened: Hasselblad a few years ago saw the growth of 645, particularly with the Mamiya systems and wanted to get into the game. They approached Zeis, but Kyocera had Zeiss locked into a long term agreement to produce 645 lenses only for the Contax brand. Hasselbald had no choice but to go shopping, but Fuji was shrewd. They said "Yes, we will produce lenses for you, but only if we can also sell the body under our own brand". Apparently it may have been an "offer they could't refuse" ! This is absolutely industrial marketing chaos ! Once more, I viewed the specs on the new Rolei 6008 Autofocus 6x6. They are startling. Not only have they managed to produce true autofocus lenses ( Not sure if they are Zeis or Schneider ), but autofocus confirmation works with all legacy lenses. If it just didn't use Nicad batteries and had a better U.S. support market...
My point ? Maybe there is none, but the decisions these companies are having to make ( And those we are having to consider ) are changing the landscape radically. It used to be just a choice between Mamiya and Hassy ( easy one...being a Contax user ), or which Contax body to purchase.
> The autofocus lenses for the Rollei 6008AF are to be made by Schneider > Krueznach. First is a 2.8/180 to be followed by a zoom and then a > normal 80mm. The battery issue is moot; just carry an extra. The > charger can recharge the battery for 50 exposures in 15 minutes if you > work where there are outlets. Like there isn't a battery issue with > the Contax 645! (grin)
Alan, your comments are interesting and are food for thought. My only comment to contribute is that the situation you describe is not new.
Fuji have been making the Hasselblad X-Pan for years, and are also selling their own version of that camera in Japan under the name TX-1.
Fuji also makes the Rollei AFM35 posh compact camera, and sell their own version of that in Japan under the name "Klasse".
It'll be interesting to see if Fuji ever announce their own version of the H1.
Fuji EBC lenses are superb - arguably equal to Zeiss in some cases. I have five Fuji medium format cameras, three 645 and two 6x9. They are great. What excites me most about the H1 is that it will have leaf shutter lenses, allowing flash synchronization at all shutter speeds. For me, this is the big selling point which might swing me away from buying a Contax 645 and to buy the H1 instead.
In conclusion, the Contax 645 really does need a rev&. Contax better be thinking about a "Mark 2" version of the 645, or the competition like the H1 is gonna catch up and pass the Contax 645.
I've seen the camera on a site...can't remember where, maybe an English retailers' web site if I recall.
It's all black, same camera. Don't know if the lenses are exactly the same but I would assume they are.
It is going to be interesting to see how this H1 system contends with the C645. I thought long and hard when I purchased the C645 just recently and there are no regrets.
The C645 is a wonderfully engineered camera! Besides the battery consumption issue + flash sync, I don't think are too many revisions needed. How far can one take technology into the medium format?
Its quite interesting to see how Hasselblad as a company has decided to outsource its engineering work to Fuji for the H1. I am not saying that this is a bad thing, its just that it makes people more comfortable if Hasselblad were to design, engineer and manufacture their own cameras (outside of the lenses of course). The whole thing about Fuji marketing the same camera with the same features and lenses in the Japanese market, in my opinion, is undermining the Hasselblad name. People who invest into Hasselblad, whether we want to believe it or not, do so because of the name and the quality it suggests. I don't blame them because Hassey produces a quality product (500,501,503).
I had the same problem with my new 645. In my case, it happened every 5 shots and the camera could not properly sync with electronic flash whether on hotshoe on through PC terminal. Fortunately, I was able to exchange it with a new one with the dealer. Never been told the reason of the malfunction though.
It is a very bad experience since I have never had such a problem with any of my new camera gears whether mechanical or electronic, new or used. I sent my complain email to Kyocera and they adviced that I contact local distributor which I did not.
I bought my Contax 645 last month and have only run a dozen rolls of film through it so far so I am very much a novice.
One problem that needs addressing on an updated version of this camera is the film back lock button which I find a pain to use. Pressing and twisting a button that is smaller than your finger tip and surrounded by an immovable shroud is not an elegant design.Perhaps this could be fixed by Contax long before a 645 model 2 arrives.
While I am not quick to defend a company that treats its' customers the way Contax does, I must say that the Lock button on the back works very fast and sure once you get the technique down. Give it a little time and it'll become second nature.
I also bought my C645 recently during the Contax day sale. The price was just to attractive to pass on. Besides, I was so sick and tried of the manual Hasse and Mamiya that I have used for years. They are great gears but out dated and not friendly to use. I did consider the Hasselblad H1 a little bit. But I like the idea that I can share my C645 lenses with my N system. And I know that the pricing for the new H1 will be out of my reach, especially when it just comes out without any rebate.
I love the C645, the handling is just great. I have also purchased a MP-1 battery and Polaroid back. I have done a lot of studio shooting with strobes and I have not have a single problem.
I did report (in a different thread) a problem with the Polaroid back earlier, which the camera will turn off itself and wonâ€™t wake up. The very next day, I decided to give it a try before I exchange it. Only this time it worked perfectly. I did a whole day studio shoot with the Polaroid back on and off more than 10 times and the camera never turned itself off anymore. Besides, I could wake the camera up using any buttons from the camera body or the MP-1 grip.
1. Old dog new tricks â€“ take your time to learn new gear. Since I was shooting in the studio, I mounted my camera on a tripod. It surely gave me a better and more stable position to mount the back, comparing to mount it on my lap. Now that I know there is no problem with the back, if it does not work, I know it is an operator error. After spending enough time on it, I am able to mount the back in any position without any problem.
2. Break in â€“ I believe things take time to break in. Especially the personâ€™s mind set and the way they used to the old habits.
However, I find that the Polaroid back is very difficult to mount comparing to the other MF cameras, especially with the MP-1 grip on the camera. To be able put the C645 with the polar back on a tripod, you need the MP-1 grip in order to give enough clearance. Unless you buy the expensive quick release adapter. Who needs the adapter when all of my tripod heads have QR plates. Besides, the MP-1 battery grip keeps the camera going for long, long time.
In summary, I am a happy man with the C645. I just like to share my experience with other Contax users.
This is to address Albert's comment on mounting clearance for the C645 w/a Polaroid back on a tripod... I found the Arca Swiss head with a Really Right Stuff anti-twist quick plate (for the C645) to be a good solution for me. It holds the camera very well in a vertical orientation with the 210mm and gives the Polaroid back plenty of room to be mounted. The center column on the Gitzo does need to be raised a couple of inches to allow some space for the Polaroid back in a vertical position, though.
Just to slightly break ranks for the ske of discussion. I made a mad dash to the store the other day to compare the new Mamiya 645 AFD to the Contax 645. I think they are two different animals. The Contax is extraordinarily smooth in it's AF lens movement, mirror action, winding and of course ergonomics. The Mamiya tends to be very "brutish" in it's actions and intent if you will. The manual focus override on the Contax is instant and "state of the art" while on the Mamiya, you really have to turn the camera to manual before the lens drive motors disengage. But these cameras are different in their "ideal" application. The Contax favors studio photography with the occasion of wanting to take the camera off the tripod and shoot freehand. The Mamiya system has NO timelag when you engage it...so grab shots at weddings are very achievable ... much more so than waiting 3-4 seconds for the C645 to warm up. If you have ever shot a fast moving event, 3 to 4 seconds can be a lifetime! So that's my opinion. Contax for the studio or "on location" model shoot...where the photographer controls ( or tries..) the flow and pace of the action. And the Mamiya for when you need to be more photojournalistic. I do hope that Contax brings a Rev. 2 to market quickly with improvements in speed, focus , and battery consumption. The Zeiss lenses truly deserve a best in class platform !