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 Bangkok on Instagram. 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 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.

It was a much faster and nearer distance from Bangkok compared to buying through eBay which shipped from Japan.

EMS Shipping from Bangkok, Thailand

As I am in Malaysia, the EMS Thailand shipping distance was cut to half instead of Japan which made the shipping much faster and cheaper. 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.

Because of the pandemic and if there are holidays in between the date of the shipping, there will be delays in shipping. Make sure to check the parcel tracking from time to time. From my experience, the parcel tracking won’t be updated from time to time if the item is still in transit. So it might look not updated in the tracking system. All you have to do is wait for the item to reach its destination hub.

All you need is patience and it also depends on the item you have bought. For me, holidays are falling in the first week, so it took roughly about two weeks for the parcel to arrive at my home and was considered fast. Eventually, my item was cleared in one day, without any customs duty tax applied and was proceeded to the post office for delivery. I was so relieved and happy to receive the film camera the next day. I would like to give a thumbs up to EMS for the fast shipping services!

The camera that I received is the Contax G1 green label version. 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 which 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.

The Problem I've Encountered While Using the Contax G1

The Contax G1 is powered by two CR2 batteries. I was quite surprised to see after I loaded the CR2 batteries (which I bought online) with the camera turned off, the indicator will be on all the time. Then I thought it is alright, and I left the batteries in the camera overnight.

  • 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 a 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 advance kind of sound. Love it!

UPDATES: I have returned back the malfunctioning film camera to the seller from Bangkok and got refunded. There are issues with the manual film winding button not working, some internal electrical short-circuit, battery issues and unable to take photos 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 all the way from Japan via DHL Express.

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

First Experience of Shooting with the Contax G1

Contax Premium Film Camera
Contax Premium Film Camera

It is a fun film photography experience with the 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, promised I have sufficient CR2 batteries for backup, just in case I’m running out of juice. Check out some of the photos I took with the Contax G1 and the Biogon 28mm during the camera testing session below before using it 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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