1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Welcome to the Amateur Photographer magazine online community.

    Why not create an account and take advantage of this free resource.

Contax RTS

Discussion in 'Classic Models & Marques' started by Alex1994, Jan 11, 2007.

  1. Alex1994

    Alex1994 Well-Known Member


    I'm posting this to kick some life into this forum for 2007!

    I can remember when the original Contax RTS was released. I read an article about it in the American magazine Modern Photography, and there was an ad for it that made it look incredibly desirable. I wrote to Photax UK, who were then the importers of Yashica, for more information. They said they had no details as the camera was so new, but would send me something when available.

    True to their word, a few weeks later I received two glossy brochures - one on the Contax RTS itself, the other on Carl Zeiss lenses for the system. The lens brochure addressed the issue of whether resolution or contrast was more important - it was the view of Zeiss than contrast is more important. As I recall, they showed two extreme enlargements from negatives taken with both a Zeiss lens and a non-Zeiss lens. The grain was clearer and sharper on the non-Zeiss lens, which had really high resolution. However, when you looked at both photographs at 'normal' size, the Zeiss one looked better - more contrast and, as a result, sharper overall!

    A few weeks after this, I took out a loan for £500 to buy and RTS with 50/f1.4 lens. I wish I had kept it ... I also wish I'd have kept the brochures! :)
  2. Roger_Provins

    Roger_Provins Well-Known Member

    Although I've had quite a few Contaxes over the years for some reason I never did get a RTS, don't really know why just didn't happen. I'm down to my last two Kyocera/Contaxes at the moment, a 159mm and a MA, and a few lenses. I do have some much older ones though (see avatar.) Over Easter I shall be visiting an old friend and hope to persuade him to sell me his AX (fairly sure he will - hope :)). Have you read "On the Trail of the Contax" and "Only Zeiss"? I'm always poring over them and dreaming :)

  3. Alex_M

    Alex_M Well-Known Member

    My first Contax was an RTS, and it was only about six years ago. I'd lusted after one since I was barely out of short trousers (the good old days, when we got sunshine on our knees), but could not afford one, even after I started working for a living. Instead, I went through a series of cheaper SLRs, and made one effort to get into the C/Y system by buying a Yashica FX-3 in 1980. Even so, the price of T* lenses was just so high, and I turned to other, mainstream marques like Olympus and Nikon. One day, a few years ago, I was passing a local dealer's window and saw an RTS there, with a 50/1.4 Planar. I went in to have a look, just intending to have a handle but not to buy. I looked through the viewfinder and focussed; the image came into focus so sharply that you could almost hear a 'snap'. I pressed the Real Time shutter release -- big mistake. The chap behind the counter looked at me, and said, simply, "It's the business, isn't it?" I was sunk, and I walked out of the shop with the RTS, case, autowinder, lens, and a Contax RTS system book thrown in as a manual. But not only did it feel 'right' in my hands, the first roll of film through it was a revelation, quite literally. The image quality was superb, I'd no idea 35mm could produce that. Later, I sat down and as an exercise, calculated approximately what I'd spent in cheap lenses and cameras over the years, and I'd spent more than would have kitted me out with an RTS & 50mm Planar. True, I had lots of photographs to show from the cheaper kit, but if I'd eschewed trying to get a range of wide/tele/zooms and assorted knick-knacks, I could have had one simple but superb system. Of course, the same general principle is true for any quality high-end system from the Big Five (or however many they are now), not just Contax. But my Contaxes (got four bodies now) are the best-handling cameras I've ever had.

  4. Iloca

    Iloca Well-Known Member

    I remember seeing Contax SLR's in a 'What Camera' type mag about 15 years ago. At that time I was using various OM's but the Contax really stood out from all the other SLR's. It took untill about 3-4 months ago before I actually saw/handled one. I don't know what model it was apart from it being an Auto-Focus SLR, the way the auto-focus worked surprised me, I quite liked it and it felt really well made even though it was fairly heavy. If you know any good links maybe you could post them, I'd be interested to learn a bit about them.

  5. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    I've got an RTS, 139 Quartz, 137 MA, 167 MT and an RX (which needs a service - as does the RTS). The sexiest SLRs ever made in my opinion - they feel right, and use superlative lenses. I love 'em.
  6. Alex1994

    Alex1994 Well-Known Member

    Unfortunately not, but I'll look out for them.

    I also had a 137MD, but sold them both, quite a while ago. A friend has still got (I think, it's been a while since I asked him) a 139.

    So far as the lenses are concerned, I suspect that they may even be better than Leica's SLR lenses - I think the cameras are better than Leica SLRs (I used a Leica R8 for a short time). I also remember the original RTS review in the British Journal of Photography followed, in subsequent weeks, by reviews of both the Carl Zeiss and Yashica lenses.
    According to the BJP the Yashica lenses were surprisingly good and a worthy alternative to the Zeiss ones.

    I do check eBay now and then to find an RTS in reasonable condition (i.e. with the covering still intact!).

  7. Alex_M

    Alex_M Well-Known Member

    Shush. Do you want everybody and his dog to find out? We've enough problems with good film lenses being pushed up on Ebay without this kind of irresponsible talk.

    My first Yashica camera (the still-going-strong FX-3) came with a Yashica DSB lens, which was pretty mediocre. It took me a long while before I learned that the ML series lenses were significantly better, with some approaching Zeiss quality. I've now got most of the MLs in the 21mm to 300mm range, including most of the zooms. The 28-85 is very good indeed, and I have some shots where it was only my photo notebook which told me which were taken with the Yashica 28-85 lens and which were the 50mm Planar used on the same outing. The 50/1.4ML is an excellent performer, though strangely enough, I've seen the 50/1.7 Planar go for less, and the P50 is definitely the best 50mm lens I have ever used. The 75-210ML is also a good lightweight zoom. The pair of these zooms make a good go-everywhere pair.

  8. Alex1994

    Alex1994 Well-Known Member

  9. rolloxan

    rolloxan Active Member

    Was just doing a bit of googling and came across this post. How interesting!

    I'm currently on exchange in Konstanz, Germany, and the other day I was walking through the annual Flea Markets held in this town. They're so big, that they actually extend from Konstanz all the way to Kreuzlingen in Switzerland. It takes about 6 hours to walk through the whole lot, if browsing.

    Anyway, I've been an avid photographer for years, and all photographic gear has always interested me. I started with an EOS 300 with 18-55mm, moved on to a Panasonic Z30 super zoom, and have since owned the Canon 50D, Canon EOS 3, Canon 5d Mark II and the Fujifilm X100, to name a few. And that is not to mention all of the different lenses along the way. My hobby and itnerest is specifically street photography - which is almost exclusively handled by my X100.

    My main goal at this flea market was to look for old camera stuff, particularly old glass that I could adapt to fit my 5D Mark II. I bought a total of 4 camera bodies that day, 2 of which turn out to be defective, and 6 lenses. However.. among the group was this little beauty - the Contax RTS (1) with Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T*

    Boy... What a camera. It feels absolutely amazing in the hands, and the Carl Zeiss lens on it is a cracker. Both pieces are in near mint condition - no scratches or marks to speak of. Just one small corner wear the glue holding the tape is beginning to wear out. But thats it. Mechanically perfect, and I would bet dollars to donuts, barely ever used.

    As soon as I saw the glass I knew what it was, and knew that I wanted it. They guy selling it also knew what it was. He wanted 250eur for it, and I got it for 220eur in the end. I was happy as Larry. He was also pleased to make a sale and through the RTS in for free. Boy am I glad he did! It's apparently worth near on as much as the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 itself in this top notch condition! Hoorah!

    I doubt I'll ever sell it though. After buying a new battery and a roll of Kodak Farbwelt 200 (pretty standard stuff), I loaded the film and went for a stroll through the streets of Konstanz. What an incredible experience.. Shooting with this camera feels almost zen like. I slowed down; was more careful with composition and timing; the focus, shutter and wind on are all buttery smooth; and perhaps best of all the fact it was a film camera left my anonymous subjects totally at ease and non threatened - I look like a simple hobbyist. One person actually reacted differently, and didn't appreciate their photo being taken. He asked me to delete it.. but what do you know, it's film. Not only did he stop when it was evidently undeletable - he actually encouraged me to keep shooting and posed in a shot with his daughter! This thing is magic!!

    I cannot wait to see how the pictures turn out. And when I get them developed, I'll be sure to post them up on here to revive this abandoned thread on this gorgeous camera.


    Oh and yes, in the background there I have a GDR made Praktica B100 Automatic, with a Prakticar 135mm f2.8 MC Pentacon attached. Also in near mint condition. That also came with a Prakticar 50mm f/2.4 MC Pentacon and a Prakticar 28mm f/2.8 MC Pentacon, all for 30eur. Such a great day!
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2012
  10. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    The CZ 50mm f1.4 is a delightful fast standard lens. Probably one of the best, if not the best of the type ever made.
  11. Alex1994

    Alex1994 Well-Known Member

    It looks beautiful.

    Free? I had to take a loan out to buy mine back when it was first released!
  12. rolloxan

    rolloxan Active Member

    ugh, *threw

    Yep, he threw it in for nada. He also had a 135m f2.8 CZ for sale, also in near mint condition, but all I had my eye on was the 50mm. I regret it a little bit now.. but not too much. This RTS/50mm f/1.4 combo is almost all I'd ever need!

    (read: not all I'd ever want)
  13. Alex1994

    Alex1994 Well-Known Member

    If you find one of the gold ones going cheap, let me know! :)
  14. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    The 135 f2.8 CZ is another superb lens, mine trounced a Canon 135 f2l. Best 135 I've ever used.
  15. rolloxan

    rolloxan Active Member

    Haha, gladly.
  16. rolloxan

    rolloxan Active Member

    So I've just yesterday had my first roll of film developed from the RTS/CZ 50mm f/1.4 combo. Wow. They look great, albeit the film is a crappy, cheap-from-the-chemist roll. But the whole experience was just awesome.. and I became friends with the developer along the way.

    *NB I've also just added the Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 28mm f/2.8 AEJ to my collection. Found it at a vintage camera store and couldn't help myself.. Looks like I'm an addict.
    Hmm... I can't seem to insert photos for some reason? Well, here are a few links to a couple I like, until I figure out how to actually post them (insert image link does nothing?).

  17. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    Contax equipment simply oozes quality, the feel of quality manufacture. There is also the advantage that Yashica lenses are the same mount and are generally solid performers, even though they don't have the same feel.
  18. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Yahica lenses are decent, but the Zeiss ones are so much better. That 28mm is another stunner, although not quite as good as the f2 version. The only Zeiss lens I've got that isn't an absolute stunner is the 25mm, and that's merely really good.
  19. zx9

    zx9 Well-Known Member

    I always disagree with Nick on this one, not been able to tell any real difference between the 25mm and 28mm f/2.8. For me the 18mm f/4 is the disappointing one, nice and sharp and does straight lines very well for a wide angle but very low contrast.
  20. Paul_Reading

    Paul_Reading Well-Known Member

    I worked in a camera shop in the 70's and the Contax RTS cost over £400 new, at that time the Olympus OM1 and the Pentax ME Super were £199 and the Canon AE1 (not programme) was £212. It was there son the shelf and we would sell over 20 SLRs a day on a Saturday and that Contax never ever left the shelf, except for me to admire.

    I remember thinking if only I could let all those people see and feel the Contax… but they would all have gone home dissapointed because few would have had the budget for the Contax. At that time Yachica was about as welcome as a Chinon so the association with Yachica was not helpful for the Contax brand.

    I still have a T2 and 645 and love them but I am finding it impossible to get anyone to produce decent colour prints from film. Everyone scan the films and that reintroduces the very thing I am using film to get away from! Consequently my film cameras are now just being used fro B&W photography.

Share This Page