Contax G1
Contax G1

Although the Contax rangefinders (G1 and G2) have been called "expensive point-and-shoot" cameras by some, there is no doubt that the G series Zeiss optics are first rate. In fact, check out this article on Luminous Landscapes. The camera itself is nicely made and has a very solid, precision feel. The auto focus feature is handy and I've found to to be accurate. However, using it quickly and with moving subjects requires practice. It's a bit slow and a bit noisy when compared to modern auto-focus SLR cameras, but for me, it has worked flawlessly for two years of very regular shooting.

The lens I got along with the camera originally was the 35mm f/2 Planar G, which is a focal length that many consider to be slightly "wide". However, I'm more comfortable using short focal lengths and I consider 35-40mm to be "normal". This lens is very good, although there are those who claim it is the "weakest member of the G-series lenses". To me, it is a world-class performer with very sharp image quality, excellent color rendition, and very little distortion. What distortion it does have looks to be barrel distortion, in other words straight lines towards the edges of the frame tend to bend outwards from the center. This anomoly is slight, however, and does not tend to be noticeable in most situations. Construction wise, the 35mm Planar G is outstanding, being all metal and with a nice precision feel. It is also small and light, making for an ideal lens for traveling. I always use the metal lens hood and cap with this lens.

The next lens I purchased was the 90mm f/2.8 Sonnar G. Although one of my favorite lenses of all time has been the 85mm f/2 Zuiko, I was surprised how sharp this Zeiss lens turned out to be. Also, the Zuiko exhibits a slight degree of pincushion distortion, and the 90mm Sonnar, at least to my eye, shows no distortion whatsoever. Like the other lenses in this series, the construction is superb, and the image quality is second to none. I also keep a hood mounted on this lens, capped with a hood cap.

Probably the lens I enjoy using the most with this, or any camera, is the 21mm f/2.8 Biogon G. With a 90 degree diagonal field of view, and next to no distortion, this lens is wonderful for a truly "wide" perspective without seeming too much like a special effect. But beyond the focal length and lack of distortion, this lens provides what is arguably the finest wide angle image quality available. Super sharp and with great contrast, this lens produces very vibrant photographs with eye-popping color. The accessory finder is a bit cumbersome to use, but I've gotten used to the routine of focusing and metering with the regular finder, then using the accessory finder for composition. There are no hoods available for this lens, but I've rarely found flare to be a problem.

Perahps strangely, but the last lens I bought for this camera is most likely the one every other G1 or G2 owner purchased first: the 45mm f/2 Planar. At first, I resisted getting this lens because I've never been overly thrilled with the "standard" perspective. But after seeing great photo after great photo on the Contax G Pages, I finally ended up purchasing this lens. And I have to say, subjectively it is the sharpest lens I've ever owned, and the color and contrast are also second to none. I don't use it as often as the 35mm or even the 21mm lenses, but when I do take it out, I'm never dissatisfied with the results. Like most of the other G lenses I own, I keep a hood permanently attached and cover it with a hood cap.

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2002, 2003 Karl Winkler