Contax G1 Premium Rangefinder Film Camera Review

It has always been my dream to own a Contax film camera, and I did a lot of research on the premium Contax G1 before ordering it online. The autofocus and rangefinder on the premium film camera are one of the most discussed topics among the Contax G1 camera owners. The vintage electronic rangefinder film camera has solid titanium-built body and is small enough to get a hold for travel and street photography use.

The 1994 luxurious 35mm autofocus rangefinder film camera with interchangeable lenses was one of the first autofocus with manual mode film cameras to be released onto the market. It was a game-changer in the world of photography, and it is still considered to be one of the best film rangefinder cameras around. If you are looking to get into photography, or if you are looking for a film camera, the Contax G1 should be at the top of your list.

How to Find a Mint Condition Contax G1 Rangefinder Film Camera?

I was doing a lot of research on eBay about the Contax G1 and found a trusted film camera seller from Japan. Before that, I know there are a lot of vintage camera shops in Bangkok and I thought long ago of getting a camera from there. The price range for a mint condition Contax G1 is about USD$800. I made the deal with a seller from Bangkok, Thailand at first and got the Contax G1 at around 29,000 baht (around $830) including the shipping fee and a Carl Zeiss Biogon 28mm F2.8 lens. The first day when I loaded up the batteries, I noticed there are some issues with the film camera. I was so obsessed with the Contax and eventually,y I returned the faulty camera to the seller in Bangkok and got a good condition from the Japanese seller on eBay instead.

DHL Express Shipping from Japan

As I am in Malaysia, the DHL Express shipping is very convenient, and fast, it took about 3-4 days for the camera to arrive at my doorstep. What surprised me was that I thought that the used film camera was about to get stuck for clearance at the custom for weeks, due to the pandemic just like what happened to my Yashica rangefinder film camera which I ordered from eBay as well. But no, the process is smooth.

All you need is patience and it also depends on the item you have bought. Eventually, my item was cleared in one day, with customs duty tax applied and paid on the spot upon receiving the item. I was so relieved and happy to receive the film camera a few days later. I would like to give a thumbs up to the seller and DHL Express for the fast shipping services!

The Contax G1 film camera that I bought from Japan is the Contax G1 grey-label version with the Carl Zeiss Planar T* 45mm F2 lens. The camera is in great shape, and mint condition.

What's The Hype About the Contax G1?

I love the beautiful Contax G1. It doesn’t disappoint me to own this premium film camera. The solid body is built to last and the luxury small body size makes it great to hold to take photos. The Contax G1 is a camera meant for those who want to take on the world. It is an excellent camera for travel and for those who want to capture amazing images.

The Contax brand by Kyocera was used by many celebrities around the world because of its high-quality build and its G Mount Carl Zeiss lenses can produce sharp images. This camera is an alternative to a Leica M7.

Although it is an aperture priority rangefinder film camera, the function can switch into manual mode for more control. What’s fun about using the Contax G1, it allows you to manually adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO sensitivity. You get to manually control the exposure, creating a unique experience. The camera is a 35mm film that auto-detect the film DX code, and its manual mode makes it a great camera for travel, landscape photography, street photography and portraits.

The Contax G1 comes in two different models, the grey label & the green label, which is a modified version of Contax G1. Green label is a modified version of Contax G1 that can use all the G series Carl Zeiss lenses including the Hologon 16mm, Biogon 21mm, Biogon 28mm, Planar 35mm, Planar 45mm and Sonnar 90mm. The Contax G1 also have an optional TLA140 flash that can be attached to the hot shoe of the camera.

The camera also has a hyperfocal distance feature where you can set a certain distance from 0.5 meters to infinity which is a great use for street photography or landscape.

The specs

  • Shutter speed: 16 sec – 1/2,000 in auto, 1 sec. – 1/2,000 in manual
  • Drive mode: AF single, continuous, bracketing
  • Flash sync speed: 1/100
  • Hyperfocal distance adjustments
  • Mode: Aperture Priority & Manual Mode
  • Dimension: 133 mm × 76.5 mm × 35 mm
  • ISO: Auto-read DX film speeds
  • Exposure Compensation: -2 to +2
  • Weight: 450g

Fall in Love with the Contax Film Camera

Back in 2020, I  was attracted to the Contax T2 point-and-shoot compact camera which was used by Whan P, a Thai actress (and I watched her TV show on Netflix… lol) and I immediately fell in love with the Contax brand. lol. From there, I told myself that this will be my dream to own a Contax film camera and so here I am, able to get a hold of a Contax G1 film camera instead of the pricey Contax T2.

So this is how the story begins and how I found out about the Contax film camera. It’s kind of cheesy but it’s true. Alright, let’s move on to the next topic.

Obsession with the Contax Film Camera

The Contax film camera’s price increased after it was widely used by celebrities around the world.

The Problem I've Encountered While Using the Contax G1

Well, the issues below happened to the film camera I bought from Thailand. The Contax G1 is powered by two CR2 batteries. I was quite surprised to see after I loaded the CR2 batteries and it started to make some electrical noise. The camera is not film tested before sending out for shipping and the rewind button is not working after I tested it.

  • Batteries Draining

It is a very thirsty film camera. The next day, when I was about out for a street and portrait photoshoot to test shooting Kodak Vision3 500T with the Contax G1 film camera, I realised that the batteries were completely drained out. I have to rush to a camera store to get a new pair of CR2 batteries. I’m thinking of getting a CR2 rechargeable battery, but have to do more research before using it on the Contax G1.

Not sure if this is the camera or battery problem, but this is probably one of the battery problems on the Contax G1 I have encountered so far. I decided to remove the batteries whenever I’m not using the Contax G1 and only load it when I’m about to go out for a shoot. This can save me from keeping wasting batteries and as you know these CR2 batteries are expensive too!

  • Loud Shutter Sound When Doing Street Photography

Sometimes I felt the Contax G1 shutter sound and film advance are really loud. It might not suitable in some street situations where the people will hear the loud shutter sound and start staring curiously like I’m a weirdo after taking the shot.

This is not an issue and I think the loud shutter and film advance sound are freaking COOL! It sounds vintage and not all cameras have this electronic film advanced kind of sound. Love it!

UPDATES: I have returned the malfunctioned film camera to the seller from Bangkok and got a refund. Tested the camera with a roll of Kodak Vision3 500T 35mm film. There are issues with the manual film winding button not working, some internal electrical short-circuit, battery issues and unable to take photos for the next few days. I eventually got myself another Contax G1 with the Carl Zeiss Planar 45mm T* F2 lens from eBay, which is in near-mint condition. It took only 3-4 days to arrive at my doorstep from Japan via DHL Express.

I would like to advise anyone that is reading this post and try to avoid buying film cameras on Instagram or Facebook because it is very risky and there is no guarantee, that you will get a full refund or worse, meet rude sellers and get scolded just like you’re the one that is breaking the camera. I suggest you buy film cameras via a trusted marketplace such as e-Bay for safety purposes. Make sure the film camera is film tested!

First Experience of Shooting with the Contax G1

Contax Premium Film Camera
Contax Premium Film Camera

It is a fun film photography experience with a premium film camera. I was doing some test shots and realized how easy it was to point and shoot with the Contax G1. I always hold the shutter button to autofocus on the subject and then shoot. I think with this autofocus method on the Contax G1, I won’t miss any focus. There are many Contax G1 reviews out there complaining about the autofocus in this camera, well, there might be some hiccups but I think it was great and I love this camera so much!

In my personal opinion, sometimes you don’t have to trust those reviews out there, everyone will listen, and say the same bad things and all others will follow. The autofocus is fine for me, lol. I was having fun shooting all day long. I only get shaky photos because of shaky hands instead of being out of focus. All you need is to know how to handle the camera properly and not be controlled by the camera itself.

The best way to get sharp images from the Contax G1 is to compose your shot, and half-press the shutter button to lock focus on your subject, or vice versa. The camera can take shots quickly under good lighting make sure to take note of the low shutter speed indicator when shooting in low light conditions.

Others might complain a lot about the small viewfinder, but I think it was fine because once you get used to it, you can shoot anything you want. I might consider getting the Carl Zeiss Planar 45mm F2 lens in the future, which is known as one of the best lenses ever made for 35mm film photography, on the planet.

Is Contax G1 Worth It?

If I’m given the chance to travel the world, I will bring along this luxury Contax film camera for sure, promising I have sufficient CR2 batteries for backup, just in case I’m running out of juice and also shop for 35mm films online before travel. Check out some of the photos I took with the Contax G1 and the Biogon 28mm during the camera testing session below before using them for my next creative portrait shoot. It turns out the image quality is extremely sharp in street photography photos or portraits. The test results are amazing and it didn’t disappoint me even though it is a camera from the 90s! Now I know why the price is very demanding and pricey for the Contax brand even after 28 years, especially for the titanium body and quality Carl Zeiss lenses.

Worth it.

Contax G1 Photos Sample

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Ivan Cheam - KL Photographer & Blogger

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