The Mighty RTS III Professional Tool
A solid RTS III using 6 AA batteries or 1 2CR5 battery in 3 fps only.
The RTS III is probably still a very advance film body even by today’s standard. When using the RTS III, the only feeling is it is fast, and very fast in response. A huge and heavy body, featuring top shutter speed at 1/8000, flash sync speed at 1/250, spot metering mode, mirror lock up, 5 frame-per-second shooting mode, double exposure, TTL pre-flash evaluation, and still the only vacuum suction film pressure plate to ensure the best film flatness.
RTS III comes with a data back that prints data between frames (left);
It provides 2 metering modes (centre average and spot, right).
While the feeling of using RTS III is fast, the shutter lag of RTS III is slightly slower than the lightning fast RTS II, probable at the request of users. The RTS II shutter is so sensitive that it cannot be used to activate metering and therefore a metering button is provided at the front of the body. In RTS III there is the same metering button but the shutter button is good enough to activate the metering without accidentally trigger off the shutter.
On the right below the pentaprism there is a switch for mirror lock up and next to it a metering button (left);
Top shutter speed is 1/8000, flash sync at 1/250, lockable sync at 1/125. No programme mode for RTS III.
The RTS III provided a bright and big 100% view finder. Some users prefer the RTS II non-100% finder and find it better for critical focusing. The RTS III is using the unusual blue LEDs in the finder. Although the blue LEDs are sweet, they are prone to fading and is a very common problem in used RTS III, where the LEDs are either too dim to be used under strong sun light, or are totally disappeared due to old age. Thus when buying used RTS III this is an important point to check.
Various motordrive modes (left) including single shot, 3 fps, 5fps, double exposure and self timer;
The data back prints between frames and comes with a vacuum suction pressure plate (right).
There are few interesting features incorporated in RTS III. First the TTL pre-flash exposure check, where flash exposure can be checked with a switch, and even a non-TTL flash can also be used with this function. The other is the vacuum suction film pressure plate. According to Contax this function will ensure the total flatness of the film and thus will ensure sharpness of the picture. In practice I am not sure how significant this function is although I think it will be more prominent in the medium format Contax 645 model. Also I am not sure how to check this function when buy the camera used.
All in all, RTS III is a very professional camera body and definitely is a joy to use if weight is not too much an issue to you. However, you will need to check carefully a used one unless you are buying from someone you know very well.
The Light Weight and Elegant Contax
Elegant and sweet Aria
Probably the most reliable Contax body built, Aria is the last Contax film camera body with all the latest features. I believe Aria was designed with the intention to build a body that is light weight and small in size but not compromising performance. Within a very small package using more advance non-metallic material, the Aria houses 3 metering modes (including spot metering and the first time in Contax matrix metering), preview button, 3 frame-per-second shooting mode, double exposure, Contax latest 5-pin TTL flash metering contacts, using 2 CR2 batteries, the same usual large and bright pentaprism, and the ability to record photographic details on the first 2 frames of the film with the very expensive add-on D-9 data back.
Back view of Aria, with sophisticated D-9 data back.
I do have a few complaints about the Aria though. Firstly, it seems ‘slow’, although technically at 3 frame-per-second it is definitely fast enough, but somehow it gives me a shutter lag feel. Being light weight, it is a sweet body for travel but the balancing becomes not so ideal with heavier Zeiss lenses. As for the view finder LCD display, Aria has adopted the latest layout by all major film and digital camera makers, but personally I would prefer the older shutter speed layout but guess that is not the current trend anymore. Top shutter speed is a respectable 1/4000, but the flash sync speed is conventional at 1/125.
Top shutter speed 1/4000, 5-pin flash TTL contact.
With the 5-pin TTL flash contacts the dedicated flash can now transfer aperture settings to the body, but not the zoom settings.
3 metering modes: matrix (top), centre average and spot (bottom).
Aria is a nice and sweet camera. It cannot go very wrong for ladies, and for travel photographers. It will form a very light weight and high image quality package with the Zeiss 28-70 / 3.5-4.5 Vario Sonnar T* zoom lenses, which is also very light and small, and a lens of very high image quality.
The Selective Telephoto
135/2.8 Sonnar T*
135f2.8 2.8/135 135mm f2.8
135mm f2.8 Sonnar T*, with build-in hood extended (right).
135mm has always been one of my favourite focal length. At this focal length, the compressing effect is very apparent and I like the way 135mm renders a photo. I have a long time experiences with German 135mm as described here. With the Contax C/Y system, I am spoilt with choices of 135/2.8 Sonnar, 135/2 Planar and 100/2.8 Macro-Planar.
100/2.8 Macro-Planar is certainly an interesting lens, good for use as a medium telephoto with speed of f2.8, and yet a versatile macro lens up to 1:1 reproduction ration without additional attachments. However it is a much heavier lens when compared to the 135/2.8, and so is the wonderful and beautiful 135/2 Planar.
The Contax 135/2.8 Sonnar does not disappoint me either. It is much lighter and thus good for hand held photography. To me its performance is very good and I do not think it is far away from the mighty 135/2. At a much lower price tag the 135/2.8 Sonnar is definitely very good value for money, like the 28/2.8 Distagon.
RTS II, VC400, 135/2.8 Sonnar T*, 29 May 2009
Fish Eye Perspective by Zeiss
Contax 16/2.8 2.8/16 16mm f2.8 F-Distagon T*
Fisheye lens is not a lens for everyday photography. It is designed to view almost 180 degrees with barrel distortion purposely not corrected to create dramatic effect. To me it is a standard lens for church interior photography and you will find 180 degree of view is still not wide enough. For scenary shots when used carefully the distortion may not even be visible. For interior photography with curve lines at the edge the lens can be used effectively for nice composition.
Rollei HFT F-Distagon (left) and Contax C/Y F-Distagon T*
I like my Rollei QBM 16/2.8 F-Distagon very much, and the Contax one does not disappoint me also. I believe the Contax version is identical to the Rollei version. In Rollei days not many F-Distagons were produced and Rollei did not produced a mordern 3003 version of the F-Distagon and the latest version of lens exterior is the QBM 2-pin type.
Contax 159MM, VC160, f5.6 1-4sec, Manfrotto 190B/488RC2
Buddha Tooth Relie Temple and Museum 24 Oct 2009
The Long Range Close Up Shooter 100/2.8 Makro Planar T*
2.8/100 100 f2.8
Zeiss 100/2.8 Makro Planar T* fully extended at 1:1
One of the Zeiss Contax I was eyeing as this macro focal length was not provided in the Rolleiflex programme with a Zeiss alternative. It is a huge and heavy lens can when used at 1:1 the lens is very long, and it is with this lens that I realised that at that lens extension the f-stop actually drops about 1 stop so it becomes a 100/4 at 1:1 reproduction ratio.
Makro Planar with Heliopan straight metal hood
I find this lens equally good for portrait shoot and macro photography. While at 100mm it does provide more space between the lens and the subject, it also introduces some stability issue and a sturdy tripod is important. The picture taken by this lens is typical breath taking of a macro lens, where you begin to feel medium format type of resolution and smoothness in the picture.
Aria, UC400, f4 1/125, Manfrotto 190B/488RC2
RTS III VC160 Aria, f8/11 1/2, Manfrotto 190B/488RC2
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, Singapore
Aria, Portra 400, f5.6 1/4, Manfrotto 190B / 410 Gear, 7 June 2013