Anybody familiar with Contax AX? Please school me on this camera...

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by harlequin, May 25, 2018.

  1. harlequin

    harlequin Member
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    Dear Apug Members,

    I had recently a chance to use the Contax RTS2 with normal Planar lens, the photos were great,
    then last weekend saw someone with AX model who swore by the quality of it.

    a) Anybody have experience with this model? Anything to look out for??
    b) It looked Robust like cross between F5 and F1n
    c) Major differences from RTS2?
    d) I would have purchased RTS 2 however body was stickier than my old Nikon F100
    e) Any photo examples from this camera would also be appreciated.
    f) I have a normal 50mm lens, just looking for a decent body...

    Many Thanks!!

    Harlequin
     
  2. chip j

    chip j Member
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    It is autofocus w/o autofocus lenses--the inside of the body moved back & forth to achieve autofocus w/manual-focus lenses.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2018
  3. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Subscriber
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    I've held one, once or twice, as I recall the bodies are rather deep to give room for the AF to move. The AF with a 50mm seemed decent at the time. Other advantage is that can use Yashica C/Y mount lens.
     
  4. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council
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    It's a big, fat, chubby camera that will let you autofocus with manual focus lenses. You normally set your lens to the infinity focus position, then leave it there and let the body do the work. As a bonus, the autofocus mechanism gives you the equivalent of a perhaps 10mm or so extension tube for additional macro capacity if you manually focus the mounted lens to its minimum focus distance. The autofocus is smooth enough, and fast enough that you're not going to miss shots of a relatively static nature, but don't use it for doing high-speed action photography.
     
  5. Patrick Robert James

    Patrick Robert James Subscriber
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    Scott pretty much covered it in his post above this one.

    I remember the auto focus being a little clunky and slow. It has to move the film, and the whole mirror box IIRC. Kinda funky. Not sure why anyone would want one these days aside from novelty. If it breaks I imagine it would be difficult to find someone willing to fix it. It was a neat camera back in the day. Big, bigger than the RTS III which was a lot better of a camera, vacuum pressure plate and all. You might want to consider the III, the ST and the RX. I think those are the best Contax cameras. I have an ST and it is just about perfect in every way. The ST was designed to be the little sibling to the RTS III and it shows. The RX has a focus confirmation light.

    Hope that helps you.
     
  6. flatulent1

    flatulent1 Subscriber
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    I have the AX. It feels similar to a Nikon F4, it's a big meaty handful. It's my favorite Contax, over the RX, ST and (barely) the RTSIII. Mine needs a trip to the doctor as it doesn't seem to want to fire when there's a lens attached.
     
  7. Sirius Glass

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  8. RJ-

    RJ- Member
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    Hi there,

    Another Contax AX user here.

    The glitch described below, where the AX fails to mate with the C/Y lenses is repairable. This happened once to mine, about 15 years ago. The linkage system is a weak point, but otherwise a very fascinating and innovative design, perhaps overengineered albeit superb for critical focussing.

    The major difference between the AX & the RTSII in practice, is the absence of any default mechanical shutter. Your RTSII will work with complete battery failure, using the mirror lock down emergency shutter speed (around 1/60th and Bulb) whereas the AX becomes powerless. The battery drain is higher, if you are used to mechanical SLRs like the Contax S2/b or the more antique Contax S/D SLRs. The photographs from the AX depend on the lenses and the photographer - you can find them on the Flickr Zeiss Contax pages.

    Body build, is certainly on the larger volume size, rather than heft. The Contax RTSIII is noticeably slimmer and more brick rugged whereas the AX lifts with a lighter feel. They sit well with a 50mm lens - the Planar 50mm f1.7 & f1.4 lens focus reasonably fast under the right conditions - telephoto lenses can hunt for longer due to the shift in the film plane.

    RJ
     
  9. kmg1974

    kmg1974 Subscriber
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    the biggest issue you have to look out for in contax cameras is the mirror detachment issue.
    When the camera gets too hot (in a car/summer), the glue holding the mirror to its base loosens, and the mirror slides down. This can cause the camera to lock up. there is a quick fix for that (using a hair dryer).

    As the autofocus is in the camera, you can get autofocus with all lenses you can adapt to it (you can buy a fotodiox hasselblad to contax adapter, for example)

    I have several Contax cameras, and I must say that the AX is one of my favorites (I also like the smaller, 139/159 and the RTS II). I am going to offer a few contax bodies (all working perfectly) soon (an RX, a 167mt and a 139 q), I also have a few lenses I am thinking of selling, pm me if you are interested.
     
  10. choiliefan

    choiliefan Member
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    At least one of these big Contax SLR's has a vacuum pressure plate as well, no?
     
  11. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council
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    That was the RTS III, which also had the ceramic film pressure plate (I think the ceramic plate was also in the ST, but not the vacuum).
     
  12. naaldvoerder

    naaldvoerder Member
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    Sounds like your camera suffers from a touch of mirrorslip. You can google it and probably repair it yourself.
     
  13. flatulent1

    flatulent1 Subscriber
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    Interesting thought, I know about mirror slip but never considered it. Hmmm...
     
  14. GarageBoy

    GarageBoy Member
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    I had one for a brief moment - would fire, not close the aperture, and jam.

    I got sick of post rts ii contaxes... My Rx, ax, 167mt all had issues and I got rid of them all.

    My fxd runs like a champ, though
     
  15. ContaxRTSFundus

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    The AX remains a firm favourite, especially when combined with the D-8 Databack which also functions as a remote timer/controller. One of the supreme advantages of the unique Contax AF design is that every single piece of C/Y glass can be turned into a macro lens.

    Under poor light or low contrast conditions, the AF can sometimes go hunting but you can switch instantly to manual focus to get around the issue; using the 1.2, 1.4 or 1.7 Planars or 1.4 and f2 Distagons and Tessars will of course make focusing under poor light easier. I love the extra size of the body - despite being physically larger than the beautiful ST or the RTSIII - the ergonomics are very good, something it shares with most Contax 35mm cameras and the 645. The only warning I would give is that the mechanism which moves the film plane back and forth can jam in its rails if the camera is subjected to a heavy jarring; while the RTSIII is designed to take a pounding, the AX is not so robust.

    As with the RTSIII, my only real gripe with the AX is that no bulk back was made as you can use a roll of film in a matter of a few seconds with the drive on maximum. I still use my 1977 RTS with the old 5fps PMD/W7 motor drive and 250 back if I'm shooting movement - they've only needed 2 services in 40 years of operation! I love the flexibility of the AX - MF, AF and Macro - especially when combined with some of the best glass ever made and will be devastated when the day comes that it stops working. I have 3 of them that work and 2 with different faults so that I have enough donor bodies that, in years to come, with the help of a good camera technician, I will have a good chance of keeping at least one AX fully operational. It's a clever work-around to enable MF glass to be used in AF - amazing for its day - and it's still a great camera.
     
  16. flavio81

    flavio81 Member
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    Contax AX? That thing came from extraterrestrials who came from the future.
     
  17. ContaxRTSFundus

    ContaxRTSFundus Member
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    You are quite right about the ST's ceramic plate but did you know that about a dozen 167ST's were produced (don't know why) which were the 167MT with an ST ceramic back-plate? I decided to make my own by changing an ST's back for a D-7 and switching it into the 167MT. I was surprised that Contax didn't use the ceramic plate on the AX but to be fair, the standard pressure plates always worked OK, even with Zeiss' most outstanding pieces of glass. Back in the day, I ran a comparative test of the RTSIII, ST and AX using the Zeiss 55 1.2 Planar, 21 f2.8 Distagon and the 100 f4 Bellows (Zeiss' 3 most exacting lenses) to see just how much difference the vacuum ceramic vs ceramic vs standard pressure plates would make - to be honest, I could not see any corner difference even when prints were blown up to A2.
     
  18. Maurizio

    Maurizio Member
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    The pros of the AX are the following:
    Possible to use macro without the use of rings,
    possibility of data back;
    autofocus is good in low light but not for moving kids, it will be a bit too slow;
    As many of this electronic cameras, very good shutter speeds... I measured the shutter speeds and they are absolutely flawless until 1/1000, while 1/2000 and 1/4000 are not corresponding.

    the contras are
    loud aspiration sound when shooting
    totally dependent by battery (that's why I own also a S2b)
     
  19. bimmey

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    I'm an RTSII user as well. Handled an AX once and found it to balance the large Zeiss Contax lenses very well. It just seemed too large for a 35mm rig. If I found a good sample for cheap I might pick one up, but that would be after acquiring a RTS III.
     
  20. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council
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    Under the heading of "I don't know that it's true, but I believe it", having shot a lot of film through a 167mt, an RX, and an RTS III, to my eye there seems to be some perceptible difference in image quality between the RTS III and the others, using the same lenses. They feel a little bit sharper, a little bit crisper. Theoretically, the vacuum plane and the ceramic pressure plate shouldn't make that much difference especially on 35mm where the film isn't that big in the first place. It made more sense in the 645 camera, but it only worked on 220 film (the backing paper on 120 would interfere with the vacuum), so trying to use the vacuum back on a 645 is pretty much pointless these days.
     
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