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The fashionable over-hyped over-priced 35mm point and shoot film camera. Contax T2 review and photos comparing to Leica (+YouTube) .
A special thanks to Patreon Richard for gifting me his beautiful Contax T2 camera together with a Contax RX and a pile of film. Thanks so much!
The hyped Contax T2 35mm P&S film camera
If you’ve browsed my list of film camera reviews or follow me on YouTube you’ll know that the Contax T2 camera is a little different. Many of my film cameras are interchangeable lens cameras and almost all offer full manual controls. The Contax T2 is a fixed lens point and shoot 35mm film camera so is a little bit outside my comfort zone.
I’m always uneasy when a camera decides the outcome of the final photo rather than me so I was interested to see what I could achieve with this little camera. This article shares lots of example images using the Contax T2 for different types of photography and compares it to a few Leica cameras and modern lenses.
What is a Contax T2 camera?
So in brief, the Contax T2 was released in 1991 aimed at the luxury end of the camera market. It’s premium titanium body and desirable Zeiss Sonnar 38mm f2.8 lens meant this camera competes with other high end point and shoot cameras such as the Leica minilux. A camera for serious compact photographers looking for the maximum image quality from their compact camera. The Contax T2 feels well built and offers aperture priority, auto mode, autofocus and all the other mod cons.
Gold, silver, platinum, champagne..
When a camera is released with a titanium body and then sold in silver, gold, platinum, champagne, black colours you know it’s going to be aimed at the serious photographer. Even Leica tend to use only black or silver but there were a few gold ones in the past!
Contax T2 features
I won’t list every feature of the Contax T2 as this write up is more of an overview with sample photos. Some of the main camera specs details are –
Zeiss Sonnar 38mm f/2.8 T* multi-coated lens
Fast maximum aperture f2.8-f16 (retractable autofocus lens)
Program AE + Aperture Priority AE (Can only use f2.8 in low light*)
Built in flash (fixed/forward facing) (anti red-eye option)
No hotshoe/ coldshoe (Can’t fire off camera flash easily)
Fast film loading hinge back design + film preview window
DX camera – auto readers ISO of film (default setting is ISO 100)
Shutter speeds 1/8 – 1/500 (limited to a maximum of 1/200 at f2.8*)
Exposure Compensation adjustment +/-2 (in half stops)
The compact size and low weight of the Contax T2 camera are big pluses for me. (It’s all relative – I use Leica cameras and the Contax is both smaller and lighter than cameras I’m used to. Others write that this camera is chunky and heavy but perhaps they use plastic cameras). The Contax T2 is automated but it gives a few manual overrides such as setting the focus distance to pre-set ranges which I like.
Contax T2 lens – Zeiss Sonnar 38/2.8
Did I mention the lens? One of the reasons the Contax T2 is so popular is it comes with the seemingly famous Carl Zeiss Sonnar 38mm f2.8 multi-coated T* lens. The lens optical design is 5 elements in 4 groups and retracts into the camera body when not in use. As you would expect, this is a fixed lens but it does offer aperture controls on the barrel of the lens. Before you get too excited, even if you set the lens to the maximum aperture of f2.8 it defaults to slower (sharper) apertures in bright conditions. It only fires wide open at f2.8 when there is insufficient light for f4. For most images in the review I imagine the lens was working at f8-f11 in the bright conditions.
Carl Zeiss Sonnar 38mm f/2.8 Lens – Sharpness
How sharp is the famous Carl Zeiss Sonnar 28mm f2.8 lens compared to the high end Leica and Voigtlander lenses I’m used to? In bright directional light and optimised in editing I would say excellent and difficult to tell apart from expensive Leica M lenses. Impressive stuff!
Shooting a test roll in Coventry
As soon as the Contax T2 arrived in the post from Patreon Richard I was excited to find anything or something to photograph to test it. I jumped on my bike and cycled into the centre of Coventry to look for subjects that caught my eye. Being Coventry the best subject was to my eyes my bike so I ended up with quite a few bike shots haha.
Sunstars and lens flare
So how does the little Contax T2 perform when pointed directly at the sun? To my surprise you can actually get Contax T2 sunstars! Yes there is some lens flare but that’s to be expected. I still like the overall look of the images and I would shoot at the sun again for Contax T2 lens flare shots and sun stars.
Contax T2 vignetting
Lens vignetting. I like it, others seem less keen and try to remove it in Photoshop/ Lightroom. Even when shot in bright conditions there is some Contax T2 vignetting. I would expect less darkening in the corners in bright conditions as the lens should be more stopped down, ie. f8-f16.
Does Contax T2 have self timer?
Yes the Contax T2 self timer means I can now do film selfies without needing a mirror! (Normally I try to do one film selfie per roll of 35mm film to remind me what camera I was using when using lots of cameras). Knowing this feature I carried a super small Jobo tripod with me in my running belt together with the Contax T2 camera.
Contax T2 self timer selfies
Here is my testing the Contax self timer function before flying to Budapest. For all selfies I pre-guessed the distance and then dial in a pre-set focus distance in the camera (rather than autofocus). If you are centre frame it might be safe to use the standard Contax auto-focus but with me standing off centre in the running photos the AF would have focused on the horizon I think.
Here are some Contax T2 self timer shots when out running along the river Danube in Budapest. I positioned the camera by mounting on the Jobo micro tripod (normally designed for mobile phones but you can use half of it attached to the Contax T2 or any other small camera. Crazy small!) See Patreon for BTS videos of my out and about with cameras in different countries.
Yes the Contax T2 built in flash is a great option for low light shooting. It’s said to be effective from 0.7m-3m at ISO 100. As I was taking photos in bright conditions i’ve yet used this feature. Once I try Contax T2 flash photography I will update this section with sample photos*.
Best film camera for running and cycling
I have quite a few film cameras and really appreciate the small lightweight ones especially. The Leica M camera system is known to be small but it’s not super lightweight because of the precision engineering metal design. The Leitz CL or Leica CL is my smallest Leica M mount film camera but Leica iii cameras are tiny too. The Leica ic screw mount camera is my lightest Leica so I select that first for size and weight unless I need Leica M mount for a specific lens.
Running with cameras
When I run with a camera I often carry it in a mesh waist belt. You can see it in my old running with cameras video. The size must be small enough to fit and then the weight light enough not to jump around excessively. The Voigtlander Bessa L is one of my favourite running cameras although the Contax T2 is now both smaller and lighter. The Olympus 35RC is also very compact. If I am backpacking and somewhere exotic/ exciting I’d prefer to take an interchange lens camera with a trio of nice lenses to be ready for most conditions.
Cycling with cameras
For cycling compact is more important than low weight but a combination of both is ideal, especially when there are mountains to climb! I’ve cycled with Leica M film cameras and Voigtlander Bessa cameras but again for an important trip I might take a backpack and larger cameras. (I used a Mamiya 6 + 50mm / 150mm lens for one trip). If I was planning a bike packing trip where every gram counts the Contax T2 would be very high on my list as a tourist camera. Even for a pro it makes the perfect backup film camera.
Contax T2 street photography
I’m more of a portrait photographer guy than a street photographer but I thought I should try to see what I could achieve with the autofocus Zeiss Sonnar 38mm f2.8 lens. Here is my limited attempts at Contax T2 street photography in Budapest.
Contax T2 portraits
As a photographer that normally photographs female models I wanted to try some Contax T2 portraits with the Hungarian girls in Budapest. See my Patreon for the behind the scenes videos from these photoshoots.
Leica vs Contax T2 comparison
How does this Contax T2 compare to my usual Leica cameras? I was interested to see some Contax T2 vs Leica sample photos side by side. As I had the Leica CL film camera and a Leica M4-P with me in Budapest it was the perfect opportunity. I expected the interchangeable lens Leica cameras to win easily as I can use any lens on those. Here are a few tests with different lenses.
Leitz CL vs Contax T2 (Voigtlander 35mm f2 vs Zeiss 38/2.8)
First we have the Contax T2 Zeiss Sonnar 38mm f2.8 vs the amazing Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f2 on the Leica CL. To my eyes the Voigtlander is sharper as I would expect. The Contax T2 image is fine for say social media such as my Instagram or if I had nothing to compare to but in low light it’s not at it’s best.
Leica M4-P vs Contax T2 (50mm f2 APO vs Sonnar 38/2.8)
Next up the Leica M4-P with the crazy sharp Voigtlander 50mm f2 APO lens vs the T2 Zeiss 38mm f2.8 Sonnar lens. Not exactly like for like but I was still keen to put the Contax T2 up against one of my sharpest lenses. I’m not sure if I screwed up the APO lens photo but to my eyes the photos are quite similar.
Lastly here are two more images to compare taken during the same photoshoot. You can see quite how small my Budapest apartment room was (and all the cameras on the table!)(always testing!). For this shot I was using the wider TTArtisan 28mm f5.6 Leica M lens on the Leica CL camera. Make up your own mind on which was the winner by swiping between the two images.
Leica Minilux vs Contax T2
Sorry I know what you are thinking. You were probably hoping for a true luxury P&S shoot out test. Leica Minilux vs Contax T2 head to head. Sadly I don’t own the Minilux and have never used this camera. If I get an opportunity to test one I’ll be sure to feedback with the results. To give you more info the Leica Minilux Summarit 40mm f2.4 lens is slightly faster than the Contax T2 Zeiss Sonnar 38mm f2.8 but not quite as wide. Both cameras are said to be excellent premium compact cameras.
Contax T2 photos – Colour film
Ok time for more sample photos. Perhaps not a great choice of film to show what the Contax camera can achieve but these photos are shot with expired Fuji Superior film. A mix of Fuji Superior 400@200 and Superior 800@400 all taken in Budapest Hungary during a run(s).
More Contax T2 sample photos – B&W
As you may know I tend to prefer black and white film to colour for most occasions. Here are some more Contax T2 photos from Budapest but this time using B&W film. All pictures were captured with expired Fuji Neopan 400@200, home developed and home scanned (like all images) using my Epson V800 flatbed scanner at 3200dpi.
When I was in Spain planning future cycling photography workshops with escapar.cc cycling retreat I had the Contax T2 with me loaded with Kodak Pro Image 100 film. Here are a few shots of their 200 year old villa. My base for the week and I was back again this month for photoshoots. (Blog info to follow).