The Contax G1 is the predecessor to the Contax G2 camera, the most advanced 35mm rangefinder ever made, and arguably the one of the finest 35mm cameras ever made. With the addition of the Carl Zeiss T lenses which have been tested to be some of the sharpest lenses ever created for 35mm, you have a combination that can produce outstanding photographs. Even through 2015 serious photographers are still using the Contax G1 and G2 camera systems.
The Contax G1 FAQ is written and maintained by me, Allan Hall
Specifications of the Contax G1
Size – 5.3in x 3.1in x 1.7in
Flash sync – 1/100 sec
Motor speed – 2FPS
Operational Modes of the Contax G1
Manual Mode-Full manual control from 1/2000sec to 16sec
A Mode-Aperture Priority control. You set the aperture, it sets the shutter speed.
AF Mode-Camera uses auto-focus system.
MF Mode– Manual focus system.
Other functions of the Contax G1
ASA/ISO Setting– DX from 25-5000, manual setting 6-6400.
Exposure Compensation– up to +2/-2 stops in 1/3 stop increments.
TTL Flash Metering– Full integration with TTL flash units, compatible with all Contax TLA units. Has a connector for a sync cable.
Timer– Yes it has a timer to trip the shutter after 10 seconds.
Optional Accessories for the Contax G1
GD-1 Data Back– Imprints date and time within the picture area, CR2025 battery.
TLA140 Flash– Designed expressly for the Contax G1, guide 14 (matches 28mm), TTL/Auto modes, 1xCR123A lithium battery
TLA200 Flash– Designed expressly for the Contax G1, guide 18-25 adjustable, TTL/Auto modes, 2xCR2 lithium batteries
Contax G1 Lens availablilty
16mm f/8 Carl Zeiss Hologon T*
21mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Biogon T*
90mm f/2.8 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T*
(1994, Popular Photography said this was the sharpest medium tele lens they ever tested)
General Information about the Contax G1
The Contax G1 debuted in 1994 and is built on and aluminum alloy chassis with titanium outer panels which makes it a very rugged body. The lens mount is stainless steel. The finder is non-focusing and covers only the lenses in the G line from 28mm to 90mm (there are accessory finders for the 16mm and 21mm) with parallax correction. The G1 may not use the 35-70mm zoom.
The shutter in the Contax G1 is a Titanium leaf vertical travel focal plane model that runs from 16sec to 1/2000sec. Metering is accomplished with a center-weighted meter off of the shutter curtain. No spot metering etc is available.
The Contax G1 original price was somewhere arount $3,000 for the full kit when released.
Q&A for the Contax G1
Q:Why can I not use the 35mm-70mm G series Zoom lens with the Contax G1?
A: Originally the G1 was built with five contacts for the lens, the zoom requires seven. Also, there is no programming for this lens.
Q: Is there any way to use other lenses?
A: Yes, you can use Contax SLR lenses with the GA-1 lens adapter. Keep in mind that anything outside of 28-90mm the viewfinder will not show a correct image for, and AF does not work at all with these lenses.
Q: Can I shoot macro shots with this camera?
A: I suppose you could try, but rangefinders are not designed for this, and you will not find any macro lenses. A SLR is a much better choice for macro photography.
Q: I see some cameras listed as “green” stickers or labels, what is this?
A: The original G1 could not use the 21mm and 35mm lenses, a correction was made and cameras that could handle these lenses had a green label instead of the older silver label inside the camera where you drop in the film. The original silver versions could be “upgraded” to green labels by sending the unit in to Contax. Many came with a certificate to allow you to send your camera in and have it upgraded for free.
Q: I have heard that the lenses for this camera are better than <insert brand here>, is that true?
A: The G series lenses are among the best in the world. You will not find any 35mm lens from any manufacturer that is better in any significant manner. On the other hand, certain other manufacturers such as Leica also offer excellent lenses that rival or beat the Contax G series lenses, albeit not to any significant degree.
Q: Why a rangefinder?
A: Rangefinders have lenses that are mounted much closer to the focal plane (film), this allows for much sharper images than SLR type cameras. In addition there is no vibration from the mirror flipping up and down since there is no mirror. A Rangefinder will almost always take better pictures than an SLR (except in macro) assuming all other things being equal.
Q: Can you still get the green sticker upgrade or other factory work done (Contax G1 green label)?
A: No. Contax, lastly a division of Kyocera, ceased operations in 2005.
Q: Why film?
A: Today (2009) there are many digital cameras which are excellent and top out at over 25 megapixels. While it is true that cameras of this caliber have a resolution that match most films, you have to see the results to understand. Try taking a picture with a top of the line Nikon or Canon digital camera, swap out for a G1 running say Ilford Pan F+ film, print both to 8″X10″ and compare. It just is not the same. Not to say digital is bad, I do all my macro with a digital.
2016 update: Digital camera are even better today, as are the software tools to process the images. You can now create images in digital that will fool 90% or more of people into thinking it was shot with film. Film is still fun to use and unique which is why the G1 body still sells for around $100 on auction sites while the 28mm 2.8 Biogen sells for approximately $300. Even after twenty two years there is good demand for these cameras and accessories.