possibly off topic: leica R vs. contax N

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At the moment I just own leica M and Hasselblad - but I would like an slr with similar quality lenses. I wonder what people think about the relative risk of leica r or contax n going bust/stopping being made. I notice that R8's are being discounted -perhaps a new model is in the offing. A related thought: what will, arguably, Leica's most famous sponsor/user/sponsee do (Salgado) without a mechanical (reliable) Leica R being made?

-- Steve Jones (stephenjjones@btopenworld.com), June 08, 2002


Steve: I do not think that either Leica or Contax are going to go bankrupt in the near future as they both have the support of a strong niche market. suspect that the answer to your question lies not in the number of bodies (old and possibly new ones) but in the quality and quantity of lenses. Simply put the Leica lenses and the Contax lensess are on the whole outstanding but Leica is ahead of Contax in two crucial areas, namely the number of different lenses and the zoomlens technology. There are only a few Zeiss lenses and the Zeiss zoomlens is disappointing. This is not a surprise given that zoomlens technology expertise is the result of trial and error and takes many years to accrue. Zeiss is only beginning whereas Leica has been in the game for several decades. Therefore, my advice is to forget the "box" and focus on the quality and quantity of lenses/zoomlenses. Using this rationale, you will see why the R8 "system" is the one to get.

-- Albert Knapp MD (albertknappmd@mac.com), June 08, 2002.

You really are as dull as people say you are aren't you Albert.

-- Steve Jones (stephenjjones@btopenworld.com), June 08, 2002.

I agree with Albert but disagree with his reasoning. The Contax (speaking of MM, not AF)zooms are every bit on a par with Leica's. The 28-85, 35-70 and 80-200 Contax MM zooms are superb optics; only the 28-70 is a weak performer, but so is Leica's 28-70 which is a rehashed Sigma lens. However the Contax line is an even slower seller than the Leica R line, which draws heavily on the Leica name and crossover sales from M users.

I am also a long-time M and Hasselblad user, with (unfortunately) a full complement of Leica R equipment as well. When I used Nikon AF for my wildlife photography I appreciated the R system, but since switching to Canon EOS and the IS lenses my R system just sits there. If (and it's a very, very, very faint "if") there are any optical advantages to the R lenses, the effect of Image Stabilization (even on a sturdy tripod) more than outweighs it IMO. In the rare instance I might acquiesce to a Leica R lens' superiority, it will be at the widest 1-2 stops, in which case it is not inconvenient for me to use it (minus auto diaphragm) with an adaptor on an EOS body. I have two brand-new R8 bodies with 4.5 years warranty left that are just sitting in their boxes.

-- Jay (infinitydt@aol.com), June 08, 2002.

Needless to say, Albert, I did not post that insulting response. Perhaps Tony would delete it.

-- Steve Jones (stephenjjones@btopenworld.com), June 08, 2002.

I didn't post that insult.

-- Steve Jones (stevenjjones@btopenworld.com), June 08, 2002.

For gods sake Tony, what kind of site are you running you retard?

Just delete him/her NOW!

-- Steve Jones (stephenjjones@btopenworld.com), June 08, 2002.

I have e-mailed Tony and asked him to delete this filth. If he is as efficent as he normally is then it should be gone by next christmas.

-- Steve Jones (stephenjjones@btopenworld.com), June 08, 2002.

While I agree with some of the posters here that some modern "bells and whistles" SLR systems are truly great, there is a place for a nitch SLR system that offers a similar philosophy to the M approach. IMO Leica should've complimented the M by upgrading the R6.2 as far as possible without giving up its' tough mechanical reliability and small size. Limit the lenses to some crackin' sharp FAST primes and a couple of the highest end zooms...and pour the real money into the M product for which the company is famous. They'll never beat Canon or Nikon at the SLR game, but neither has anything current to match the R6.2. Then again neither does Leica now do they?

-- Marc Williams (mwilliams111313MI@comcast.net), June 08, 2002.

Steve: What Jay said. Take a good hard look at Canon's glass and IS technology. Rent, beg or borrow a body (1V, 1N or 3) and a an IS USM and/or L lens or two and run a roll of transparency film through it.

-- Jack Flesher (jbflesher@msn.com), June 08, 2002.

If you're interested in Contax, I think you should also check out the new Contax NX. To me, this seems like a wonderful camera, especially for the price/performance ratio, and the camera Contax should have introduced instead of the N.

-- Glenn Travis (leicaddict@hotmail.com), June 08, 2002.

As much as I love my Leicas, for SLR use, its hard to beat what Canon is offering... unless you want a classic SLR (all mechanical etc). If thats the case, the new Leica and Contax cameras are out of the running as well.

The Canon optics can be very nice indeed if you pick and choose from their many offerings. Keep in mind that you dont need to stick with all "L" lenses to get outstanding optical performance. Both the 100/2.0 and 100/2.8macro are a cut above, as is also the 85/1.8. I'm not happy with the build quality of any of the non-L lenses, but they seem to be holding up in the short term at least. In the wide lenses, the faster 28/1.8 is a good lens for a "non-L" lens, although I'd rather shoot with the Leica in those focal lengths.

These days, I keep the SLR for long lens stuff, and extra wide angles (I really am beginning to dislike external finders). I do keep a 50/1.4 just to have it as well, but I never really use it.

You might want to tell us what focal lengths you're going to want to use, that might make a difference in which way to go.

-- Charles (cbarcellona@telocity.com), June 08, 2002.

Steve, at the risk of being flamed by the Canon lovers here, It's important to first asses what you want an SLR for. It seems you favor the more thoughtful, hands-on route afforded you by mechanical/manual cameras ( M and Hasselblad). Much of the jazzy stuff from Canon will be lost on you if that's the case. For long lenses Canons' IS technology IS hard to beat... AND to carry. Their L prime lenses are quite good image makers for the most part, but many of them are HUGE, heavy and slow focusing even on the "greasy fast" EOS-1v, a camera I recently sold as I wait for Canon to catch up with Nikon for digital work ( the Canon 1-D didn't cut it for me). which brings me to the point of this posting...IF you think you may eventually go digital, then invest in either Nikon or Canon glass ( Canon for IS long lenses, which are VERY expensive by the way) However, if you are happy with film, and the manual approach, then seek out some of the older Contax German AE Glass and get an RX, or locate a R6.2 and some sweet 3 cam lenses. The experiences are very different. Only you can determine what it is you want to accomplish with your SLR choice. Just my opinion.

-- Marc Williams (mwilliams111313MI@comcast.net), June 09, 2002.

Well I am an R afficianado too, but I never bought a new R camera until the R6 (all manual) camera appeared. Up until then I had "made do" with an SL. So although the R8 is now the only R camera still made the fact that it is an "electronic wonder" is not new - they basically all have been since the R3 (from 1976 to 1988 they had no manual R camera). The R6/6.2 was unusual and the longest lived of their reflex cameras. If you have a manual mindset then the appeal of electronics never takes root. I think if you like Leica M and Hasselblad then you will like Leica R. The R lenses are the best made of all 35mm lenses and usually at the top in performance for virtually all focal lenghts. They are more expensive, but s/h are often better value. If you need AF then Leica is no good for you, but Leica has the same virtues as the M and a Hasselblad system to my mind. I do think it is a shame that Leica may well abandon the whole philosophy of a manual camera for both the M and R lines which seems a distinct possibility.

-- Robin Smith (smith_robin@hotmail.com), June 10, 2002.

Steve, think long and hard about going AF, if you are even considering that. I recently went to the local camera store and started looking at R cameras (new and used) and lenses; also Contax. I really, really, really liked the feel of the Leica cameras and lenses. I presently use an M system along with Canon EOS-3 and several L lenses including a couple of IS lenses. Quite frankly they are nice for sports, but you also miss as much as you get. And in case you don't know, it is absolutely impossible to manually focus an autofocus lenses despite technically possible. The nice fresnal/ground glass screens are not there and makes it, at least for me, impossible to get accurate manual focus. Something to think about.

-- Dayton P. Strickland (daytonst@bellsouth.net), June 10, 2002.

Steve, another further thought. If you are thinking about extremes of wide angle and telephoto. the new AF cameras are very nice to use. Super W/As have always been difficult to manually focus on an SLR in low light. And telephoto with IS or VR technology does increase the no# of keepers. For most other focal lengths the gain just isn't all that great IMO. I recently moved out of a Canon EOS 1v and went back to a R6.2 and a couple of lenses. Life is so much easier that way. I also use a Contax N1 on occasion because it is very easy to override the automation just like it is on their 645 camera. But their Digital camera doesn't seem to be getting rave reviews, so I'll probably sell the whole system soon. Then the R6.2 and SL2 will be my only 35mm SLR cameras that use film.

-- Marc Williams (mwilliams111313MI@comcast.net), June 11, 2002.

I dabbled with Contax for a number of years and finally gave up on their line of SLR's. I had the RX and AX models, and also both G models. The G models were replaced by a Leica M6, and I've NEVER regretted it for a second, in any way.

The SLR's were replaced with Nikon pro gear. (At the time, the R8 was having real quality problems and I couldn't afford to take the chance.) What I found about the Contax bodies that I didn't like was: - Primitive metering systems. This held true on the SLR's and the G's as well. The metering systems are unsophisticated and need to be constantly compensated. A big contrast is my Nikon F5, which has the best meter I've ever used. - Poorly-performing TTL flash. I've never used a worse TTL flash system than on the Contax. None of the cameras had flash systems that worked consistently or accurately. - "Autofocus" on the AX just didn't work. You could set the camera on a tripod an repeatedly AF on the same spot, and get a different focus point each time. While this is true to a certain extent with any AF system, the variation was quite large with the AX and made it impossible to accurately use fast lenses like the 85mm 1.4. The camera was serviced several times and Kyocera insisted it was OK. In addition, the AX was utterly incapable of handling moving objects. As a contrast, I constantly use large-aperture telephotos like the 135mm f2 and 300mm f2.8 on the Nikon system, usually moving, and have an extremely high success rate on accurate autofocus, both single- shot and tracking. (95%) - Reliability. I've never had a camera brand that required so much service. Every camera except the RX had to be sent in for various problems.

I've looked at the new AF Contaxes at the dealer and confirmed the slow focus operation and same inconsistent autofocusing as before. I also compared meter operation with an F5 and found the same problems with the Contax as I had before-- The Contax meter couldn't handle backlighting without compensation, where the F5 didn't need it. The AF and metering on the Contaxes seems to be at the point where the Nikons and Canons were ten years ago, which doesn't surprise me since that is about how far behind Kyocera is on AF at least.

It's a real shame since the body ergonomics and lenses are, in my opinion, among the finest in the world.

In fairness, I did handle the Leica R8 and found it to be (like the Contax) a joy to operate, but the meter is primitive and the camera becomes a real tank with the motor drive attached. (And in that configuration, it can't compete with the sophistication of my F5.)

-- Randy Shafer (dilbertdroid2@aol.com), July 23, 2002.

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