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Contax T2 Review (Premium P&S)

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) .

Thanks Richard!

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.

Contax T2 Budapest

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 Review
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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 selfie

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.

Contax T2 by Leica R7

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!

Contax T2 Zeiss Sonnar 38/2.8
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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.

Contax T2 Testing (As seen on YouTube)
Contax T2 Testing
Contax T2 Testing (2)
Contax T2 35mm P&S
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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.

Contax T2 Selfie Timer Test

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.

Contax T2 Selfie!

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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 cycling
Cycling in Spain with the Contax T2

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.

Contax T2 Portrait + Review
Contax T2 Portrait
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Contax T2 Portrait
Contax T2 Portrait

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.

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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).

Expired Fuji Superia 800@400
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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.

Running with the Contax T2
Budapest Morning View
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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.

Contax T2 Travel Camera
Contax T2 Cycling in Spain
Contax T2 - Spain Cycling
Contax T2 in Spain
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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 Cycling
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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.

Contax T2 / Leica R7 Double Exposure
Accidental double exposure shot of my Contax T2 camera

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

Check today’s prices on eBay – eBay US / eBay UK

My verdict

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. 

Leica M4P vs Contax T2
Contax T2 shot with Leica M4-P + Voigtlander 50mm f2 APO lens
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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.

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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.

Happy shooting!

I hope you enjoyed the article and perhaps it has inspired you to buy a cheap P&S camera to play with. You can now Follow the blog so not to miss future reviews or catch me on YouTube or Patreon.

Thanks Matt

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Romania Trip / Models 2020

Romania Trip & Romanian Models 2020

Photo Trip Blog Diary (Written March, 2020)

Summary of my first photography trip to Romania for model photography.

Leaving with mixed emotions..

After 2.5 days in Romania I leave the city of Cluj (Cluj-Napoca) with mixed emotions. Beautiful city and beautiful people but at the same time so difficult. Let me explain!

Cluj-Napoca visit

So after finding a cheap flight from my UK home airport I decided to visit Cluj-Napoca, Romania for the first time. That was the only criteria for choosing this city although it would be nice to now tick Romania off my todo list. It was my attempt at being more adventurous this year with multiple new destinations booked (Rather than Poland, Hungary, Poland, Poland, Hungary..!).

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Canon 35mm LTM Portrait

Cameras for Romania 

I would have happily shot only 35mm film for this trip but I had some new 120 film stock to try. That and a 6×9 folding camera to test out (which takes 120 film). My final camera lineup for the trip was –

Leica Minolta CL Camera

Running in Cluj

As you may have seen from one of my early YouTube videos, I enjoy running as a mode of transport when visiting new destinations.  I took my trusty hydration vest and running belt as shown previously, to carry cameras with and selected cameras that were small and compact to suit my needs. When I run in Poland I usually only carry one camera as I’ve been before so know what to expect. In Romania I ran with three cameras to avoid fear of missing out (“FOMO”)! I wanted the option to shoot both 35mm colour film and 35mm B&W film and 120.  

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Part of this was to test new cameras or film stocks and partly the cameras were all so compact that just could carry 3.  (See the Patreon video I shared, shot live in Romania). The 6×9 Agfa Billy 2 camera was particularly impressive at how small it was. (Smaller than the 645 format Fuji GS645 and slimmer than a Leica M camera with lens is attached. 

Minolta Rokkor 40mm f2

I got up for sunrise both morning and went exploring.  After seeing photos of the city on Instagram I knew there was some high ground with a view across the city.  I checked the map and headed for the biggest hill.  This is what I normally tend to do anyway, wherever I am.

It reminded me a little of my visit to San Francisco and running up to the Twin Peaks for sunrise, but on a smaller scale.  Much less height to climb and a less grand view at the top, though nice all the same.  Once I was up on higher ground I needed something else to photo so I ran towards the railway station.  I seem to gravitate towards stations and railways as there is usually both infrastructure to photo and the potential of older things.  

Hasselblad Xpan Cityscape - San Francisco
San Francisco – Hasselblad Xpan

Like many photographers I think I much prefer old vs new for pictures. Urbex photography interests me but I usually do it to a lesser extent. I enjoy geometric shapes so railway tracks and platforms give me structures to work with. I much prefer this to being in nature where it lacks such structures.  I guess I like to photo old man made structures, in a nut shell. Not old as in castles but old as in war time or industrial.  I want to photo the old trains and structures before everything is replaced with modern.  In the UK we don’t really see the old trains so much, unless on a preserved railway.  Also security is so tight in the UK and Western Europe you often can’t get anywhere close because of health and safety measures. 

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Leica iiia Photography

So I’m not a train spotter I just find railways a good source of old stuff to photo!  In EU countries most of the older cars are long since gone after countries offered scrapage scemes to incentivise replacing old with new. The cars in Romania were no different to the UK so there was no interest there in that regard. In contrast Ukraine is non EU so it still has it’s older cars and vehicles which I love. 

Russian Old Truck (ZIL-130)
Russian Old Truck (ZIL-130) shot in Ukraine

I tried my luck as a tourist and got really close to the railway in places that I should not have been. There were not fences but the signs seemed to indicate I was in the wrong place. On day one I was feeling quite confident until railway workers shouted at me from a distance.  I couldn’t see them so I took my photo anyway.

What pained me the most is I took this average photo looking in one direction then behind me I see two railway workers speeding past me in their DIY chopped off vintage van (road vehicle that had be re-mounted to a railway bogie!) (wheels to fit the railway tracks). Painted bright yellow and the guys pointing and shouting at me. They went out of view before I had chance to turn on the camera but what a great sight and gutted at the missed photo.

By day 2 I’d lost my nerve a bit so didn’t stray beyond no go signs. Disappointing as there was a whole playground of cool things to photo just in front of me.  Local dogs started barking as I got close raising the alarm of my presence so I gave up and headed back into the old town of Cluj for a few tourist photos. 

Nikkor H.C. 5cm Portrait
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Getting out my comfort zone

After 10+ years of model photography it’s all quite easy now.  I use a wide array of analogue film cameras to keep it interesting for me.  I like to be always learning / progressing so I would really struggle if I shot digital only. The photography aspect is comfortable for me but so to are the places I visit.  I needed to get out my comfort zone that is Poland, Hungary, and to a lesser extent Ukraine. In these countries (or the specifically the cities I visit most – Gdansk, Budapest, Uzhhorod respectively) I have a pool of models, especially in Poland, so I love to visit to see friends/ acquaintances. I know the airports, the hotels, the bus routes and the trains. I have my go to grocery stores and everything is just very easy and familiar. That’s one reason why I visited Romania. To have new experiences.

Leica iiia + Shutter issues

Discovering new talent

In addition to working with familiar faces in my favourite mentioned cities I always try to find a few new people each trip.  I love discovering very talented and beautiful people, especially if they are not agency models and are relatively unknown in that regard.  I’ve managed to scout a few models over the years and get them placed with model agencies.  I seem to be able to spot strong talent easily from a crowd. 

Gene pool

Each country has their own common look with similarities with regards to certain features.  In some countries people are generally taller (the Netherlands), some countries blue eyes and blonde hair may be more common. Elsewhere brown eyes and darker skin perhaps.  Some nations are generally slimmer and others more rounded.  I love the look found in Poland and Hungary as it really suits my personal taste.  With that said, there may be beautiful people with features to my taste in other countries too so I feel it is good to explore.  If I never try new countries I could be missing out on a goldmine of model talent. This is why I want to try new countries.  If they are not as good as my listed favourite countries at least I know for future reference.

It is worth me noting for clarity that there are beautiful people in every country and every city.  What I am looking for is where those individuals that are above average beautiful and a higher percentage of pretty people from a total population.  Having one amazing girl in a city is no good as the chance of me working with them are minimal. When the average girl walking down the street in her day wear looks good and so do her friends and her friends friends then the likelihood of me finding people for photos is much higher. It’s simply a numbers game!

Lomo 800 Night Photography
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Romanian girls 

I think it would be said that Romanian girls are generally attractive.  Some countries are famous for their girls, perhaps Russia or Ukraine and others it is never mentioned as a fact.  I think Romania is closer to the upper end of the ‘positive spectrum’. 

I find I can get some idea of this if I search a city hashtag on Instagram.  Local people will be tagged and it’s a way I search for models.  It was a little worrying at how difficult I found it to find people I wanted to photograph using this method in Romania.  Some nationalities use social media and specific apps less than others.  The French seemed to use Instagram very little so I really struggled when I visited France last year for photos.  Romania was going to be equally challenging but for different reasons.

Romanians are extremely cautious people 

From my experience and in this scenario I discovered Romanian girls to be extremely guarded and untrusting.  I spoke to perhaps 30-40 models before the trip and many showed interest in meeting at first. One by one they all exited the chat as politely as they could in their own unique ways. I couldn’t understand what was happening as I’ve never experienced this before.  When two courageous individuals did start talking with me at length I asked them.  They told me Romanian girls are careful and they themselves were worried to meet me but would do some research on me beforehand. 

3 Photoshoots in Romania

One girl who wrote to me asking for photos was a professional photographer and photographed people too. She kindly put me in contact with a model friend of hers so that gave me three models (including her) to work with. I always aim for as many girls as possible but in hindsight 3-5 was about perfect.  A good balance between taking photos with girls, often in the apartment, and me getting out to explore this new city.  

Minolta Rokkor 40mm f2 Bokeh
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Big thanks

Firstly a big thanks to the three girls who trusted me enough to meet. They were the minority in Cluj, sadly. 

Of the 3 shoots one session was similar to how I often work in Poland. The girl was super relaxed about her body and with me so the photos came easily. Another girl was more cautious towards her clothing (verses her usual work) so tried to stay mostly covered but I still got nice portraits and headshots.  

The photographer girl was so careful she didn’t even want to step into the apartment and said initially she’d wait outside.  I’ve never seen that in 10 years of photos!  We had planned to shoot in the street anyway and lucky after a short time we were best buddies and had a great laugh. I love to meet new cool people in this way. The social aspect can be as fun and the photos themselves.  Sometimes it just clicks and it’s enjoyable just hanging out. I get the opportunity to learn about the city and local people from them and they often ask about the UK. 

Leitz CL Camera

Sad to see good talent miss out

What disappointed me the most in Cluj is how many attractive girls missed out on great photos.  I’m not bigging myself up saying I’m amazing but I know I can make people happy with my photos.  I don’t remember a model not liking their images. This confidence is what drives me forward so strongly.  As a natural introvert the camera gives me the confidence to approach anyone online with regards to photos. I know I could have made great images with the masses of girls that were too scared to meet. Why were they scared. I think some of my slightly sexy images on Instagram put them off even if I suggested outside photos only and to bring a friend for support. 

Leica iiia + Canon 28mm f2.8 LTM
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Will I visit Romania again?

Until the final photo session I would say 100% no but then she was so good maybe a should. The city of Cluj is beautiful and easy to travel to for me. This is a plus.  I would just need to confirm models in advance if they reply once I have example photos from girls in their city.  I just don’t know if I have time to write to so many people again when I got such I low success rate.  In Poland I have more models than I ever have time to photograph (that I’m in contact with) so going there is just productive and positive.

Camera choice – Was I happy?

Digital Leica CL

I shot almost all digital image with the Leica APS-C mirrorless camera. It is such a great camera for travel being so small. Normally I pair the CL with a 35mm prime lens for a 50mm equivalent shooting experience. I posted mostly film images from the trip but here is a digital sample.

Canon 35mm LTM Portrait
Leica CL film camera 

The analogue Leica CL camera rangefinder is very poor for portraits due to the low magnification and that made it very difficult to use. For stopped down landscape photos it was fine but for portraits and street photography it was a waste of time. I did try both but I will wait to see if the portraits are in focus (at f4!). On the street I was missing 7 out of 10 opportunities and I couldn’t focus fast enough to get the image. Very annoying.

35mm Leica CL Film Portrait
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Leica CL / Minolta CL
35mm Leica CL + Minolta Rokkor 40mm Portrait
Leica M3 + Kentmere 400 film

Tried and tested. The Leica M3 works great for portraits but is too heavy to run with as a lightweight camera.  (There are lighter options).

Leica + Minolta 40mm Portrait
Leica M3 + Kentmere 400
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Nikkor HC 5cm Portrait