Contax G1 test roll + G2 comparison

by Todd on June 13, 2012

This is your lucky day, know why? Because you get to see a bunch of boring pictures of the same shit I always shoot when I don’t have an immediately available subject. When I get a new camera, I like to run a couple of rolls through just as soon as I can, so I know if I might need to send it back. Like I recently did with the G2. KEH didn’t have an “EX” G2 ready to replace the mis-graded (IMO) one I sent back to them, and I didn’t want my Zeiss 45/2 to sit idle, so I ordered a G1 to use until I can find the perfect G2. After reading many comparisons of the two cameras, I am at least somewhat hopeful that the G1 might be all I need. We’ll see.

Here are the reasons the G1 is better:

  • It’s smaller and lighter. I don’t know the exact specs, but in handling the camera, it’s significant.
  • I like the manual focus dial better. This isn’t too important, as I’m guessing I’ll be using AF 99% of the time. Manual focus on either one of these cameras pretty much blows. But if you’re zone focusing under reasonable DOF conditions, they’ll work, and if I were doing that, I like the top dial better than the front dial.
  • The G1 is less noisy. This is my opinion, and differs from that of some people. Not sure if anyone’s measured this, but both the AF and the film advance seem to me a bit lower in pitch than those functions on a G2, and that means they’ll attract less attention. I should say explicitly, though, that neither of these cameras is exactly stealthy. Compared to most SLRs, they’re both quiet (although my Contax RX isn’t a whole lot different), but there are many rangefinders that a ninja would prefer over the Contax G system.
  • The G1 costs a LOT less. You can pick up one these for under $100 if you keep your eyes peeled. An “EX+” G2 from KEH is $645. The G2 has significant improvements, but I don’t understand why the used market is this different on these bodies.

And here’s where the G2 wins:

  • The shutter speed goes to 1/6000th of a second. With the G1 you only get 1/2000th. This is a pretty big difference, though not a total deal-breaker for me, and insignificant if you’re using it inside. I shoot with the Pentax MX from time to time, so I’m used to seeking light and adjusting aperture for a camera that only goes to 1/1000th.
  • The G2 has a focus button on the back, so you can use your thumb to activate the AF, without fear of taking an unintended photo. The G1 is the standard half-press to activate the AF, full-press to shoot; and it’s a little bit touchy. For me, this is probably going to be the most important difference.
  • The G2 focuses faster. Supposedly. Meh..I’m not shooting sports with a pocket-sized rangefinder, so I don’t care. I also can’t really detect an obvious difference, but I don’t have them side by side, since the G2 has already been returned.
  • The G2 has better AF detection. It’s got an additional infra-red system that the G1 doesn’t have. This means you can pretty much focus in the dark with a G2. That’s awesome, and in the long run may be important to me. But generally, when I’m shooting film, I’m looking for good light, so it’s also not a deal-breaker. For most of the situations under which I’ll be using the camera, I’ve heard many claim the real-world difference in focus accuracy is negligible, and I’m guessing I’ll eventually draw the same conclusion.
  • The G2 has a much bigger, clearer viewfinder. It’s not as nice a viewfinder as most of my SLRs, and everyone says it’s nothing compared to a Leica; but it’s reasonable, especially considering that you’ll probably be using AF with this camera. The G1 has one of the shittiest, most anemic viewfinders I’ve personally ever looked through. But again: auto-focus. I’ll deal with it.
  • The G2 will mount some lenses that the G1 will not: the 21mm, the 35mm and the 35-70mm. The G1 can be modified to mount the 21 and the 35, but not the zoom. I don’t care. The 45 is amazing, and all I really need. Both cameras mount the 28, the 45, and the 90. I’d like to have the 28, but I’m not itching for it or anything. I’ll probably get the 90 eventually, because it’s cheap (I’ve seen them for $200, though $250 to $300 is more common).

Basically, the raison d’ĂȘtre of either of these cameras is to be a light-tight box to which you can attach the incredible G-lenses. I’ll probably get around to getting another G2 eventually, but it’s not at all clear which one I would pick up more often if I had both. I really like the size and weight of the G1, but the shutter speed will probably limit me some, and the half-press AF thing could wind up being a major annoyance if I don’t get the feel for it. I’ve only shot a couple of rolls with each camera, but I’m not expecting the difference in AF systems to be a factor. In fact, my focusing has thus far been more accurate with the G1 (though that could obviously be just a sampling error). I had about a half dozen inexplicable instances of missed focus with the G2, and none with the G1. Of course, I’ve had almost that many unintended shots with the G1 due to the touchy shutter button, so it might be a wash. With both cameras, it’s important to check up on the chosen focus point by keeping an eye on the distance scale, because they will miss sometimes. The G1 focus area only detects vertical lines. I think it’s the same with the G2, but I may well be incorrect, and if I find that I am, I’ll edit this post to reflect that.

For now, I’ll share the boring test shots I mentioned earlier. It’s worth noting that many of these were shot handheld between 1/15th and 1/20th. The ability to shoot slower with more keepers is a property of both cameras, since there’s no mirror. These shots were on Kodak Plus-X 125, rated ASA 250. Stand developed for 40 minutes in 1:80 R-09.

Leave a Comment

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

mchgst June 13, 2012 at 6:05 pm

yep you had it right! true also the fact the g2 has a higher pitch on operation sounds, but i’m not sure which is the loudest! having a tla200 flash i find the focus of the g2 more reliable in dark conditions, and i think the focus lock button is a real pleasure to use! the g1 is still a great and cheap camera, i’m selling the body to get some money and buy a 28mm, but if i could i would keep it as a backup! the auction is ending tomorrow, i may change my mind and delete the ebay auction!:)

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Todd June 22, 2012 at 7:09 am

So how did the auction turn out? I may be in the same position soon, but I will likely keep them both for a while, just to be sure I really use tne G2 more. The missed shots I’ve been having are really making me think I’ll require that back button.

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eva June 22, 2012 at 3:18 am

That’s a really nice review. I was thinking about getting a Contax G and I was really surprised at the price differences between the two.

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Todd June 22, 2012 at 6:59 am

Thanks, Eva, glad you liked it. I’m through a couple more rolls now with the G1. It’s still nice when it works, but the AF has given me fits a few times, and I’m still taking pics I didn’t mean to. I’ve already got another G2 on the way.

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Mr Rugged July 24, 2012 at 11:02 am

Thanks for the review and for the highlighting the good between the two bodies. Let me add my bit. I have used both the G1 & G2 extensively, and I mean extensively. I have used them around the world and in some impossible situations, check out my web site for the results. And it is the results that count and you cannot tell either camera from these. My main lens has always been the 90mm. I have never had an out of focus picture from either the G1 or G2 – repeat, never. I have had both cameras refuse to focus (with any lens but more so with the 90mm) and this is entirely due to the focusing area of the lens and the way the autofocus system works – it doesn’t like straight lines – it’s all there in the manual but I’m guessing too many people don’t read it. Any difference between focusing speeds, again mainly with the 90mm, is so little that I have never detected it. But here’s why I prefer the G1: It is lighter, any benefits that the G2 focusing has or doesn’t have are lost on me by additional weight. The G2 has a wheel on the top plate for single/multi/timing/multi shots. This gets knocked in the bag and time and time again has cost me shots because it has moved itself to where I don’t want it. There is a manual/single/continuous button on the back of the G2 – this too gets knocked in the bag or when taking it out and again it’s a pain. You cannot do this without both hands on the G1 and it never gets knocked. I don’t like the manual focus knob on the G2, it gets in my way. Yes the G2 has a better view finder but on auto focus this really doesn’t matter. Now, I also use a Leica M7, and again I have used this extensively with both a 90mm Cron and 90mm Emlarit. I cannot compose and focus either of these lenses on a M7 in that tiny frame line box anywhere near as quickly as I can with a G1+90 and auto focus. Others might think they can but I won’t believe you. My only concern with both the G1 & G2 is that sometime neither of them focus for the reasons I said, you learn to live with this short fall because every camera I have ever had has something against it but no camera I have ever used in the real world has had more going for it than the G1 – and that includes my Leica M7, Minolta cle and Nikon F6.

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Todd July 24, 2012 at 11:25 am

Thanks for your thoughts. :)

I’m in agreement with you about the handling of the G1, as well as the manual focus knob. My biggest problem with the G1 is that when it misfocused (as either camera can do, as you’ve pointed out), I occasionally took the shot–accidentally–anyway. That’s annoying. Maybe with practice I’d acquire a better touch, but I really do appreciate the back focus button on the G2. And while it may simply be sample variation, in my hands the G1 mis-focused more often than the G2.

I tried to visit your site, but it seems to be out of commission at the moment. :(

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Victor Valdez February 27, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Todd
Just picked up a G2 w 45mm F/2 lens. Anxious to get started and shoot a few rolls of B/W. I primarily shoot landscapes, do you have any recommendations on b/w film?

Thanks

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Todd February 27, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Victor, congrats! You will love the 45/2. It astonishes me every time I use it. As far as film, there is such a range of preferences for the different characters, and of course processing plays a big role in the final outcome. I would recommend trying three or four different ones and see what you think.

I happen to love the look of Neopan 400 and also the inexpensive Arista 400 film processed in Rodinal, but that’s got more grain than most people like, and probably especially if you’re shooting landscapes. Legacy Pro 400 is the same as the Neopan, I believe.

A lot of people like Acros for the low grain, but in my limited experience it doesn’t really “pop” with my own processing. Same goes for Kodak Plus-X, but I think that’s off the market now, anyway. Probably some floating around, though.

My favorite low-speed B/W so far is the Ilford FP4 Plus 125. There are a couple of shots with that film here:

http://no-exif.com/2011/07/09/some-new-for-me-ilford-films/

Though again, that was pushed in Rodinal, which brings on the grain. I’d love to see what it looks like more conventionally processed. I’d say try a variety, but make the FP4 one of them. :)

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