Camera: Contax G1 Rangefinder
Location: San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York
Lens: Zeiss Biogon 28mm f2.28 Contax G Mount Lens
The images shown here were from my first roll on the first Contax G1 film camera that I owned. The film was slide film, Provia 100F (I’m fairy certain!). I was neither a pro with rangefinders or slide film at the time, but shooting the subjects I wanted in interesting light on aperture priority with autofocus, it would be hard not to get a great roll. The Contax G1 is a beautiful looking camera that feels great in the hand and has an amazing yet small line of Carl Zeiss lenses. The Contax G lens line includes 6 prime lenses and a zoom lens. I say it has a small line of lenses but I should also add that that's all you really need. In fact most of my friends serious about film photography only use 2 lenses - like a 50mm and a 35mm. That's not right or wrong, that's just an observation.
I sold this particular Contax G with its Zeiss 28mm f2.8 lens after taking it on just one trip. And as you see this roll alone lasted though San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. I mainly used my Olympus OM-2 on this journey. Ultimately I found its electrically controlled features and pristine exterior finish not to be attributes I was interested in for an every day use camera, this was the same reason why I sold my Nikon 35Ti. I sadly only shot 3 rolls on this Contax G1. After buying it at a high price and selling it at a low one, it turned out to be my most costly per-picture expenses at over 8 USD per photo. Ouch! I would also not redeem myself 4 years later after buying another Contax G1 and 45mm lens only shooting 2 rolls before selling it. I guess the Contax G1 isn’t for me! The problems I have with the Contax G1 are simply a mismatch of personal preference and camera features. The camera in itself is wonderful as you probably already know.
Most rangefinders take the Leica approach to viewfinder mechanics which is, a viewfinder with a default magnification near equal to view the widest focal length it supports. Then with each supported lens you add, the frame lines appear inside the viewfinder that show you the square perimeter that lens will capture. So in most cases when you shoot a 90mm lens on a rangefinder you are composing within a small square centered on overall wide view.
The Contax G1 viewfinder is somewhat unique and does not follow these mechanics. It takes an approach [I've] first seen in some of the mid-century Canon rangefinders. Instead of a constant view with variable frame lines, you get a variable view without frame lines. While on the Canons this is done manually by a switch, the Contax G1 changes the magnification and borders of the view finder automatically as you attach each lens. I recall by default the viewfinder rests around a 45mm field of view. If you look through the viewfinder and add a different lens you can catch the viewfinder doing its thing. In a way the Contax G1 view finder is not different than any cheap compact zoom, as you zoom the lens so zooms your view through the finder.
In my opinion the Contax G line is sadly one of those film camera series that never got a chance to live out its product cycle. The second version the Contax G2, stopped production around 2003, a few years after digital photography had shown it was the new way forward in imaging. It's exciting to think what another decade of the Contax G line would have produced. Could you even imagine a Contax G3... or Contax G4?? And in that alternate reality there might have also been a Contax T5 and even a Contax 645 II.