Two things I appreciate are quality and bang for buck. It is easy to buy into a top notch experience. But it is very satisfying to find a more frugal path to an excellent experience, One example of this is the recent blog post I wrote for KEH.com comparing the Leica M3 to the FED 2. Another would be two fully manual, waist level viewfinder 6×6 cameras I adore. The Hasselbad 501c and Yashica Mat LM.
Much different spend, but both are capable of great things when used carefully. Just realized I have not posted anything on the Yashica Mat LM yet. Must remedy that. But that is not the topic for today.
Today we visit the Contax T2 and the Konica C35 AF2.The latter cost me $50 at the local camera shop while the former was quite a bit more dear. But even with this price gap there are a number of similarities. Both have:
- Autofocus rangefinder configurations.
- Accurate auto exposure.
- Viewfinder with close focus parallax markings.
- Very sharp f/2.8 lenses with great tone and color rendition.
- Sturdy, compact bodies.
- Built-in TTL flash that can be turned on and off manually.
- Unimpeachable keeper rates. 90% or more of shots come out as intended with human error being the primary cause of any lost or less than stellar shots.
Before I get to the differences I will post photos from both.
First the Konica C35 AF2:
Now the Contax T2:
So that concludes my visual presentation backing my contention that these are both formidable creative devices. What next? How about shared weaknesses:
- When these cameras die that about wraps it up.
- Ok, so a weakness.
Next I will list the advantages of the Konica C35 AF2:
- It cost $50. If that is reason enough for you stop reading here, find yourself one, and you will not regret it.
- Its inconspicuous plastic build gives absolutely no indication of how capable it is and draws near no attention when employed.
- Uses readily available, buy anywhere AA batteries.
- Being less dear also brings the advantage of peace of mind. Bring the camera everywhere and use it liberally since it costs so little and would not be a bother to replace.
- Manual advantage over automation. Wind. Advance. Put simply less stuff to go wrong and break.
- It… costs… $50.
Wait, what gives? Why spend the extra bank at all? Glad you asked.
- As Janet says “Control”.
- AF lock: You can half press focus and recompose with the T2. Not so with the AF2 which has no half press or other means of locking focus. Whatever you want in focus has to be in the middle of the frame.
- AE lock. Like focus AE exposure locks on half press.
- The T2 has a higher max shutter speed of 1/500s where the AF2 tops out at 1/250s and only 3 speeds (1/60s, 1/125s & 1/250s). Also the T2 can handle slower shutter speeds (automatically selected when LT is lit up in viewfinder) and bulb mode automatically when there is not enough light if you are so inclined (LT in viewfinder blinks).
- Separate AF and AE lock: Want to focus and expose separately? Easy. Use the power/focus dial to pre-focus w/ in viewfinder confirmation, then use half press to lock exposure… Sounds convoluted written down admittedly, but quite intuitive in use.
- Dedicated infinity focus lock dial setting.
- Has exposure compensation. (Exposure compensation dial on the left and AF override dial on the right in the photo below.)
- Both are solidly built and can take a hit, but it is unfair to compare sturdy plastic to a melee weapon in a pinch grade titanium build. Advantage T2.
- While the Hexanon name is nothing to sniff at Zeiss stands with few equals for a reason. Advantage T2.
- Manual aperture control with an honest to goodness click stop aperture dial on the lens. The AF2 is an all auto affair with no ability or even display of shutter speed. As a caveat f/2.8 also indicates program mode meaning that widest forced aperture available is f/4. While confounding on such a well thought out camera, as it would seem that all would be needed would be one more notch indicating ‘P’, this did not prove to be an issue at all in actual use.
- Slidey door beats easily lost press on lens/shutter cover.
- Easier in and out of pocket due to its smooth build and more compact profile when powered off.
- Now that I got the functional stuff out of the way the last has to do with the fluff items that do not directly impact use or function. Feel and sound. The T2 feels more significant in hand in a way that is hard to explain or quantify. It also sounds better. While both are relatively quiet depressing the shutter on the AF2 elicits an almost comical “Did I just break this thing?” click-pong while the T2 makes a very efficient and proper confidence inspiring shutter noise.
What do I recommend between the two? Depends. Only have access to or only feel comfortable spending $50? Get the Konica C35 AF2 (sample gallery) and happy shooting to you. Want more control and have more to spend? You cannot go wrong with the Contax T2 (sample gallery). No bad choice to be made here.