Contax T2 Point & Shoot Film Camera
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)
- Weight 295g / 10.4oz (without battery) (Leica M3 = 580g / 20.4oz without lens)
What I love about this camera
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.
- Joby Micro Tripod – https://geni.us/Lsfof
Does the Contax T2 have flash?
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.
TTArtisan 28mm f5.6 on the Leica CL vs Contax T2
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.
I was really impressed with this film as i’ve not used it before. In the past I used mostly Kodak T-Max 400 / Kodak T-Max 100 and budget black and white films like Kentmere 100 / Kentmere 400 and Fomapan 100 film. See film stock reviews here.
Spain cycling photography workshops
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).
Contax T2 travel camera
There is no doubt the little Contax T2 is pretty much the perfect travel camera. Yes Leica M and Leica iii cameras (especially) are beautiful and fun to use but if you are with others, perhaps a family holiday and just want to grab a quick holiday snap this camera is brilliant. Light enough to carry all day and not notice, you never miss the shots. Here are more full res sample photos from the Valencia region of Spain. Again on Kodak Pro Image 100 film.
Problems with the Contax T2
Is the Contax T2 really the best thing since sliced bread (as some say!)? No like every camera it has it’s fair share of quirks. Here are some limitations/ problems with the Contax T2 that might be worth noting if looking to buy this camera.
Close focus distance of 0.7m
With a small point and shoot camera it is very easy to want to be closer to a subject than 0.7m especially with a 38mm lens and perhaps a smaller subject. If you browse Contax T2 Flickr photos many are not sharp as they were taken too close (<0.7m). Portraits for example. I should be used to this being a Leica M user where those cameras are also limited to 0.7m so I purposely stand back more before taking any photos.
Contax T2 rewind film
This isn’t the fault of the camera and it’s just more a pet hate of mine regarding more automated cameras. I like manual everything cameras as I can manually rewind the film to leave the film leader showing. The Contax T2 auto rewind means it rewinds all the film back into the cartridge (like most electronic cameras I think). So not my favourite feature but the Hasselblad Xpan does exactly the same.
Finger hitting the lens
One issue I noticed many times when using the camera is when you turn it on, if I am gripping the camera as if ready to take a photo, when the Contax T2 lens extends it brushes past/ hits my finger tips. I have smallish hands so anyone with average-big hands will have the same problem I think.
Contax T2 focus problems
In terms of hit rate I think I was getting 30+ of 37-38 exposures reasonably sharp depending on the conditions and only 1 or 2 shots per roll where the Contax T2 autofocus completely missed. I did pre-set infinity focus for landscape shots after reading that it is safer to do this in case the camera focuses on something unexpected. To the most part I was happy and saw minimal Contax T2 focus problems. I did also help myself by often shooting in good light so autofocus in low light might be a different experience.
Framing and composition
Yes I know I am expecting too much from this little camera but sometimes my framing in the final photo was off compared to what I saw through the camera. Framelines are only supposed to be an approximate composition I realise but I enjoy careful framing so the Contax T2 let me down here on some occasions. Worse when closer to your subject as impacted by parallax though the viewfinder does try to help by shows the offset frameline for closer subjects. See this example on Flickr also shown above – Contax T2 bad framing example
Fingers / camera cord in the photos
I’m used to small Leica cameras but I found the long camera cord (or the small clear plastic bag I carried the camera in when running) got in some of the photos. Clutching the camera and the cord and sometimes a bag was perhaps a mistake. I think I need to let the Contax T2 camera cord hang down in future rather than trying to gather it in my hands.
Contax T2 repair
For me the main Contax T2 problem is that fact that it’s an electronic point and shoot camera. There is a chance you might wake up one day to a dead camera / paperweight. Some photographers love electronic cameras but I try to buy full mechanical cameras or mechanical shutter cameras that only require a battery for the light meter. I’m not sure how many places offer Contax T2 repair and even then if they are easy to fix.
Tips for taking better photos with a Contax T2
After using the Contax T2 for I think 8 rolls of film and from seeing my own results here are my tips for taking the best Contax T2 photos:
- Shoot in bright (+directional) light for the sharpest looking photos
- Set the focus to infinity for distance subjects such as landscapes
- Use fine grain premium films for the best possible image quality
- Check not to close to you subject so the camera can focus (0.7m or more)
- Estimate and set the distance for off centre subject self timer photos
- Get a small tripod like mine to use the camera in low light + selfies
- Practice and enjoy it! Shoot a lot and photos will continue to improve
Contax T2 28mm version
I’m not a huge fan of fixed lens/ fixed focal length cameras as I often prefer a wider, longer or faster lens for a given situation. When it comes to the Contax T2, if they made a 28mm lens version, that would be really useful. 38mm is too narrow for me in many situations. The digital Leica Q and Leica Q2 cameras have shown just how popular the 28mm focal length is and of course our smart phones are 28mm too.
There are some fixed lens point and shoot cameras with a 28mm lens but still prefer manual focus lens cameras so I use those instead. There are some amazing 28mm lenses out there for interchangeable lens cameras. Leica Elmarit 28mm f2.8, Voigtlander Ultron 28mm f2 and even the TTArtisan 28mm F5.6 to name drop a few.
Manual focus verses autofocus
Point and shoot full auto cameras are very popular with the new generation of photographers. Sometimes people like the look of film but don’t know (or care) what f stop or aperture is. (Some of the models I work with own film cameras and most don’t want to be bothered with manual settings). Perhaps I like to be in control but I like manual focus as I decide what is in focus rather than the camera. Autofocus cameras do give the benefit of one handed operation and I’ve seen users taking photos while riding a bike or similar.
Is the Contax T2 worth it?
If you’ve checked the current Contax T2 price on eBay you might be shocked. These cameras are not cheap. Quite the opposite in fact. The T2 was already reasonably expensive a few years ago but once a few cool kids showed them on TV and YouTube the prices rocketed to where they are today. The current price is probably a combination of over inflated prices during Covid (and the FED printing free money), the rise of film, the fact that it was a premium camera when released and a bit of hipster hype thrown in too.
Contax T2 Price
So in summary is the Contax T2 worth the high price tag? I’d say no just because of all the limitations it brings. You can get a lot of film camera for the same money including some big names and even medium format options. The last time I checked you could buy amazing cameras like a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II, Hasselblad 500CM, Leica R cameras, Leica iii cameras, Nikon SLR cameras all with 1+ great lenses included for the same price.
Contax T2 cheap alternatives
There is no shortage of affordable point and shoot cameras to chose from. Although many Contax T2 alternatives now come with inflated prices due to demand you can find cheap options. The key is find a camera that isn’t popular and hasn’t been hyped by famous influencer, but can still take nice photos. You get what you pay for to an extent but you can probably get 70-80% of the image quality for 10-20% of the price.
Medium format point and shoot camera
Did you know you can get medium format point and shoot cameras? You get all the benefits of similar auto features yet a much more impressive higher res 6×4.5 format film negative. The camera I have experience with is the Fuji GA645. The amazing Fujinon lens gives a 35mm focal length MF equivalent.
Best bang for the buck film cameras
Here are a few cameras that might suit new photographers looking at point and shoot cameras. They are not point and shoot but they will absolutely take better photos and teach you photography at the same time. To add to that they are a fraction of the price of a Contax T2.
Cheap SLR 35mm film cameras
These cameras seem popular from my videos but look at the Minolta X300, Nikon F80 and others too.
Low cost Soviet rangefinder cameras
If you like the idea of rangefinder cameras but can’t afford Leica look at older Soviet film camera for some amazing deals.
Affordable medium format film cameras
For medium format the Mamiya 645 continues to be one of the most popular.
Cheaper Leica film cameras
As if you are here for Leica, not all Leica are equal. Some are affordable. Definitely look at Leica Barnack cameras and Leica R cameras.
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