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139 Anniversary

Discussion in 'Classic Models & Marques' started by Steve L, Aug 15, 2001.

  1. Steve L

    Steve L Well-Known Member

    During one of my quieter periods in work today, it dawned on me that I bought my first Contax SLR 20 years ago this month. It was my present to me for passing my HNC.
    I went into the shop to look at a Nikon F3 and the assistant showed me the 139 whilst I was fiddling with the Nikon. It was love at first sight! As soon as I picked it up I knew I would buy it. It was so small and light yet superbly put together and was smooth and whisper quiet. It oozed class and the Nikon (which is a fine camera) looked and felt like a brick in comparison.
    The 139 now looks a little worse for wear but it's never let me down despite all the years of abuse. Us landscape photographers are heavy on the cameras. They get wet, cold, hot and get stuffed in and out of rucksacks but it's still going strong.
    6 months later I bought a second one, which I dropped down a gully about ten years ago. It still works but the pentaprism got bend out of shape and it's difficult to focus accurately.
    In 1985 I bought my RTS 11 and this with the original 139 now constitute my main 35mm cameras. I don't do as much 35mm work as I used to, but the 139 is still the first choice if I want to travel the wilds of Wales light.
    Steve (a lump in my throat) Lewis.
  2. BigWill

    BigWill Gorgeous oversensitive Nikon-loving cream puff

    You old "Contax smoothie" you! BTW Why the hell didn't Contax's ever catch on?
  3. Canonball

    Canonball Well-Known Member

    Thank Gawd for that! For a mo, I thought it was some poor bugger's 139th wedding anniversary. Theres only Fangs and Slimey that old though, isn't there?/img/wwwthreads/wink.gif

  4. Steve L

    Steve L Well-Known Member

    Beats me! Contax are one of the best kept secrets in the photographic world. They’re classy, smooth, with superb handling and the best lenses in the world bar non (including Leica).
    I think they’re biggest mistake was when they sold out to Kyocera in the early 70’s. In the publics mind, this associated them with Japan and pitched them against the ‘big five’.
    Contax should have traded on they’re heritage, class and quality. This would have put them head to head with Leica. Instead, Contax’s decision to take on the big five left this field empty for Leica’s advertising dept. It’s easy to be ‘the best’ in a field of one.
    Someone once told me that a Contax was a poor man’s Leica. I told him I was happy to be a poor man, but that comment summed up Contax's problem. People viewed Contax as either a cheap Leica or an expensive Nikon. They had fallen between two stools but they’ve gone a long way towards redressing this in the last 10 years or so with the ‘G’ series cameras and the RTS 111. Non of the 'big five' make a rangefinder to match the 'G' series and Leica cannot make a quality SLR. Contax now have a nice little niche for themselves.
  5. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    But the G series aren't rangefinders!
    And Contaxes certainly aren't expensive Nikons - decent Nikons, maybe.
    I would say that Contax SLRs are, quite simply, the best 35mm manual focus SLRs available.

    Nick IRIPN
  6. Steve L

    Steve L Well-Known Member

    Hi Nick
    Or course, I stand to be corrected but I think you'll find that the 'G' series are rangefinders, albiet with autofocus as well as manual focus.
    I do agree wholeheartedly with your last statement though. Just don't tell the rest of the world. The prices will rocket!
  7. Brian

    Brian Venerable Elder


    You state "Leica cannot make a quality SLR" I would be very interested to know what basis or experience you have which enables you to make that statement.

  8. Steve L

    Steve L Well-Known Member

    Hi Brian
    Over the years, I've taken a look at various Leica SLRs with a view to buying. Without exception, they're main problem seems to be in the handling dept, something which Contax are fairly good at.
    The Leica SLR's I've tried (R4, R6 & R8) were poorly balanced and the controls an ergonomic nightmare. They just seemed clumsy and didn't 'feel' like the quality cameras they were proported to be.
    If Contax, Nikon et al can make tough, versatile and reliable SLRs handle well, then I think Leica should be able to do the same. Unfortunately, my experience of them is otherwise.
    We've not had a new SLR from Leica for some time now. Could it be that they've decided to stick to what they know best; top notch (albeit overpriced) rangefinders? ;-)
  9. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    No, Steve, there is no rangefinder in the G series. They are really AF compacts with interchangeable lenses. Yes, they can be focused manually, but only by manually selecting the distance required - there's no camera assistance other than the distance being indicated on the LCD, and there's no depth of field scale either. Nice cameras, but if they did have the spec you're suggesting they would be close to unbeatable.

    Nick IRIPN
  10. Brian

    Brian Venerable Elder

    Hi Steve,

    I have used SL2's SL2 MOT's, R3's and R4's for many years. I only switched allegiance when the Leica design started to incorporate too many of the current gimmicks. Optically the Leitz range is the one that sets the standards. You state that the R8 hasn't got quality because on the strength of cursory examination you didn't like the feel or the ergonomics. Well I would suggest that buy one, use one and then you might change your mind.

    You suggest that as Leitz haven't brought out a new camera for some time that they might have given up. The M6 has been in production for 17 years, Nikon made their two finest cameras the FM2 and the F3 for twenty years.

    You suggest that the Leica rangefinder is over priced, nonsense, the fact that people are willing to pay for quality doesn't make the product overpriced. A pair of Lobbs shoes cost £2000, a Breguet wrist watch starts at £7000, and a Purdy shot gun £60000. Now a pair of Prada shoes at £1000 does strike me as overpriced! But don't you think this is just another example of " Rip Off England"? I have just purchased a brand new M6 for £1099, now go down to your friendly Jessops. They will tell you that the R.R.P. is £1798 but they will do you a favour and let you buy one for £1545. Who is doing the overpricing. M prices quoting from Jessops current catalogue. and they have the cheek to insert a banner proclaiming " Save £250"!!! They then state Leitz will give you a £100 cashback.

  11. Steve L

    Steve L Well-Known Member

    Hi Brian
    What I actually said was that Leica haven’t released a new *SLR* for some time and yes, there are manufacturers who produce cameras for many years, but not as their only SLR camera as they continue to release other ones. IMHO, I think Leica may have given up developing SLR’s because they do not do SLR’s very well. They may have (wisely) decided that the rangefinders are their forte.
    As for the lenses, when you get to this end of the market, it’s impossible for anyone to tell the difference in lens performance without a lab, so it’s a bit of a moot point.
    The manufacturers charge what they think they can get away with, not what the product is worth. You make this point for me by shopping around to find the best deal. We all do (or should). The fact that people are willing to pay a lot of money doesn’t only mean the product is worth it though. It could mean that those people are rich, stupid or both. Ultimately, something, in this case a camera, is only worth what people are prepared to pay for it.
    You think that a Leica suits your needs, are therefore worth the money and are prepared to pay the price. Fine, I have no problem with that. I think they’re overpriced because I have found other, better quality cameras that suit me needs for a lot less money.
    Finally, my examinations of any cameras that I may buy are never “cursory” and I certainly would not buy a camera on the off chance that I may like it. I for one cannot afford to make that kind of mistake.
  12. Brian

    Brian Venerable Elder

    Hi Steve,

    Your remark re lens performance is relevant. At this end of the market several companies produce lenses whose performance meet or exceed the needs of the users. But in measured optical tests Leitz consistantly set the targets. But Leitz lenses have a quality which is almost indefinable, it's an ability to resolve detail in an almost indefinable way. But lets forget optical performance. Pick up a AF 85mm f1.4 Nikor, then a manual version, the difference in build quality screams at you. Leitz do not make cheaper versions of anything, they produce the best that they are capable of and that's it.

    Both Nikon and Canon set a standard of 140,000 operations before a camera should require repair or major service, Leitz standard is 400,000 this costs money, you get what you pay for.

    You say that I prove the point that manufacturers charge what they think the market will stand, not really, I was saying that to a large extent the price is set by the retailors.

    But you are probably right, there are plenty of cameras out there which are far better then Leicas at half the price. So as I'm not rich I must be stupid. But the pleasure I get each time I pick up my 111f or my M6 means more to me then mere money.

  13. Steve L

    Steve L Well-Known Member

    <But the pleasure I get each time I pick up my 111f or my M6 means more to me then mere money.>
    As I feel the same about my 139 and RTS11, I couldn't agree more Brian.
  14. Brian

    Brian Venerable Elder

    And how do you price out that pleasure Steve? I knew we would agree in the end.

    Slimey /img/wwwthreads/smile.gif

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