Contax RTS ii vs 139Q

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I'm primarily a rangefinder shooter (love my little Leica iif) who's looking for "my" SLR system as a compliment. I have an Olympus OM2 now, and love the small size but don't love the somewhat fragile feeling build and clunky film wind.

I've been thinking of a Contax 139. I love the design of the camera, I've heard they're very well built (even though yes I know it's Yashica building them), and access to a Zeiss lens system is very appealing. I normally avoid electronic shutters (the OM2 is an exception that I got very cheap), but I figure if I loved it and it died I could pick up an S2.

They're quite hard to find locally where I am in New Zealand though, and someone just offered me an RTS ii for a good price. I'm concerned with the size and weight of the RTS over the smaller 139, especially coming from my barnack Leica and OM2.

Does anyone have (or has had) both and could compare size/weight/handling of them? Another dream camera of mine is the Nikon F2, purely because of engineering quality, but I know I wouldn't get on with the heft of it.
 
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Madeleine Ostoja
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And on that point, does anyone know how both compare to something like the Nikon F3 or F2 in terms of weight and handling?
 

xkaes

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From what you've said, I'd bet you would be happier with the 139.
 

Paul Howell

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The F3 is more likely the size and wt you are looking for , Nikon lens are cheaper than Zeiss. For size but not the same build quality, fewer functions but can be had for lot less money Yashica FX3 which take all the Zeiss C/Y lens. Yashica lens are not bad perfomeres, will reslove Tmax 100, what Zeiss has is the T coating.


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McDiesel

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I wouldn't buy any 35mm SLR with a dead lens mount. Why? There are mounts that still have modern lenses manufactured for, like Nikon F or Canon EF.

If you like Zeiss glass, you have a menu of brand-new modern Zeiss F-lenses in multiple product lines from ZF to Milvus and Otus. Nothing even remotely comparable was ever offered for any other manual focus SLR mount. Moreover, Nikon's own glass is absolutely superb (like Leica, Nikon still offers brand-new manual focus lenses!). And on top of that you have a bunch of 3rd party currently manufactured F-lenses from Rokinon, Voigtlander and others. That's even before digging into old/used models. Nothing beats the F-mount when it comes to glass selection.

There are plenty of F-mount cameras to choose from, the closest to Contax 139 would be the Nikon F3. And if you want to have an option of battery-free operation, there's the FM3a which can do aperture priority, yet retains all shutter speeds even when the battery dies!
 
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Maybe it's just me but if I'm shooting film I'm very happy with a dead mount and older glass. One of my favourite lenses is the 1950s Tessar on my Rollei, if I wanted highly corrected glass and high resolving power I'd probably just shoot digi.

I definitely take the point about the breadth of the F system though, new or old, there's nothing like it.

I would have thought the closest Nikon to the 139 would be the FE? I used to have an FM2 but I really didn't get on with the viewfinder. Of all the Nikons the F2 with the plain DE-1 prism appeals to me most, later models all feel a little utilitarian to me.
 

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The Contax RTSII and the Nikon F3 are similar in terms of size and weight, and the Contax 139 will be smaller/lighter like the Nikon FE/FM bodies. Nikon F2 with a DE-1 plain-prism finder is about the same weight as the RTSII and F3, but larger in size.
I currently use all of these cameras, except the Contax 139, which I have never owned. I would guess it's closest match is the Nikon FE in terms of features like the vertical-travel metal shutter, AE and max 1/1000 shutter speeds. I have seen some good reviews of the 139, though. The RTSII is a great camera also, but I wish they had put the shutter speed dial in the traditional location, rather than around the rewind knob.
For simplicity and quality "feel" though, nothing beats the plain-prism Nikon F or F2 cameras for me. I regularly carry one of these along with a Leica M2 and I can easily switch between cameras without any problem. I usually carry a small handheld meter if shooting B/W film. If I'm shooting color slide film I'll take the F3 as it has the best meter I've used in a 35mm body.
If you're looking for a system in the long-run, I'd go with Nikon. The range of lenses you can use on many bodies is unmatched by any other brand.
 
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For simplicity and quality "feel" though, nothing beats the plain-prism Nikon F or F2 cameras for me

I keep hearing this, and it’s the main reason I keep coming back to it as an alternative. I know that I like compact cameras, but I also thought my Leica iif would just be a curiosity but instead it instantly became my favourite camera, I can’t even fully say why. I wish I could try a Leica M, but thats way out reach for me at the moment haha.

I think given that the RTS is the same size and weight as the F3 (or unmetered F2) I can probably rule it out. The Zeiss system is a huge draw card, but the Nikkors I‘ve used in the past have been excellent as well. The 139 (or S2) could still be a really good one though, since I know I don’t love the compact Nikon bodies.
 

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I have two Contax 139 cameras. One thing you need to watch out for is mirror slippage. The adhesive they used to attach the mirror is very unreliable. If one of those cameras gets warm, the mirror can slide down and then hit the back of the lens. That is also true of FX3 and FX7 cameras.

While the Yashica Contax lenses are good in terms of optics, I would rate them weak in terms of build. The Yashica ML 50 1.8 is, from what I can tell, just as good optically as the Zeiss, but costs less - with the same lousy build quality. All the lenses are prone to oil on the apertures. The focus stop in the Yashica Ml 50 is so weak, one fell apart in my hand trying to focus on something up close.

The Yashica DSB lenses I have seem to be better built, though. I did have to clean oil off the aperture blades of one, though.

As for the Nikon - I think the FE feels a bit more solid than the Contax 139. And the lenses, in my opinion, are more reliable.
 
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While the Yashica Contax lenses are good in terms of optics, I would rate them weak in terms of build

That’s super disappointing especially given the premium you have to pay for them. I would expect a pretty high bar for the prices they go for.

Maybe I should try find an FM/FE to look through again. I remember not liking the viewfinder on my FM2, but that was also in my early film days and when I’d just discovered how much I love rangefinders
 

Don Heisz

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how much I love rangefinders

I prefer rangefinders. My main camera is a Leica III. The main slr I use is a Yashica 137 - which is like a 139 with a motor - but the Leica III gets probably 10 rolls for every 1 that goes through that. Frankly, I don't find much difference between any of the manual focus slrs from the 70s-80s. And I don't think any of them will take better pictures than the OM2 you have. OM bodies are plentiful, so if it breaks, it's easy to get another. And I think the Olympus lenses are as well-made as any.
 

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That’s super disappointing especially given the premium you have to pay for them. I would expect a pretty high bar for the prices they go for.

Maybe I should try find an FM/FE to look through again. I remember not liking the viewfinder on my FM2, but that was also in my early film days and when I’d just discovered how much I love rangefinders

That's just one opinion. There are lots of users that think very highly of the Contax C/Y lens "build" -- and the Yashica C/Y lens "build" as well.

But this is an excellent point that was brought up earlier. If you are considering the Contax C/Y cameras, you should also look at the Yashica C/Y cameras. They all use the same lenses -- you would be hard pressed to see any difference between T* multi-coating and Yashica ML multi-coating -- and the Yashica models might offer the features that are important to you at a lower price.
 
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Paul Howell

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That’s super disappointing especially given the premium you have to pay for them. I would expect a pretty high bar for the prices they go for.

Maybe I should try find an FM/FE to look through again. I remember not liking the viewfinder on my FM2, but that was also in my early film days and when I’d just discovered how much I love rangefinders

If your joy is rangefinders, when do you use your current SLR?
 

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The Contax 139 I owned was a good, basic camera. I seem to remember some issues w/ their body cover material flaking off, mine looked pretty awful.

I wanted to downsize my 35mm SLR kit and went w/ Pentax. The MV, ME, ME Super etc are tiny, w/ smooth film advance, good meters, nice viewfinders, etc. They feel very much like a little rangefinder camera in your hands.

I prefer the Pentax lenses too. Zeiss lenses tend to be very sharp but bokeh isn't their strong suit. My cheapo SMC 50 2 is amazingly good, and once you get up to 85mm-135mm lenses you encounter some great glass. Not all are budget priced though. The SMC 85 1.8's are almost Zeiss prices, whereas the 85 2 is more reasonably priced and has better bokeh anyway. Then there's the various M42 lenses you can use w/ an adapter, the different Pentax soft focus lenses, etc.
 

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I agree that a MX would be the right size and weight, lots of Pentax in K mount around, and Pentax glass is as good as it gets. If needed there is the optional motor drive and focusing screens.
 

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I've had an RTS, and an RTS II, and they both died. Electrical failures. Done. RIP. Call it. They are notorious for this, so I cannot recommend them.
The 139 is meant to be much more reliable.
As for lenses? Well the "Zeiss" lenses that Contax used as made by Cosina - just like the Zeiss lenses they currently make for Nikon!!! The advantage of the Nikon F3 is that it will still be working, and you can also buy Nikon lenses for it!

I sold of my Nikon Fs because I much prefer my F2s. Everything that was "wrong" with the F was fixed in the F2. The F3 is a much more modern camera than the F2 - basically if you want AE, you want the F3. If you don't care, then the F2. Both my F2s (F2AS, F2 plain prism) needed to be serviced. The meter on the F2AS failed due to the common resistor ring failure. Sover Wong was able to fix that with a replacement part he makes.

Anyway, I'm not going to say get a 139, or F2, or... However I will say do not get an RTS/II
 

MattKing

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@TheFlyingCamera is or has been an extensive user of Contax 35mm equipment, and has posted about it several times. He may have useful advice for you.
 
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Madeleine Ostoja
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Thank you for all the advice! I think I’ve ruled out the RTS II, and the F2 is different enough to the 139 that it’s not really about cameras any more but what I want from them.

As much as I’m drawn to the F2 I currently use my OM2 when I want an easier shooting experience than the Leica or Rollei — accurate framing, AE, faster focusing, etc. — and sometimes just for a change. I definitely reach for my rangefinder far more often though. So the 139 is probably the more rational choice right now.

Another option is the Pentax LX, though I’ve never been that drawn to Pentax gear for one reason or another.
 

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I agree that a MX would be the right size and weight, lots of Pentax in K mount around, and Pentax glass is as good as it gets. If needed there is the optional motor drive and focusing screens.

+1
 

Paul Howell

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The LX has not held up as well as other pro level bodies of the 80s. I really liked the LX and considered trading in my F2, but my employer at the time paid half the cost of an upgrade to a F3P. The MX was the top of the line Pentax until the LX was released. The MX is all mechanical, batteries are needed for the light meter which seems to be holding up. Maybe a Canon F1new, same level of build as the F3, expansive line up lens, viewfinders and focusing screen. If you have a OM2 what about a OM 1? Or a 4 if you are good with a electronic shutter.
 

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That's just one opinion. There are lots of users that think very highly of the Contax C/Y lens "build" -- and the Yashica C/Y lens "build" as well.

But this is an excellent point that was brought up earlier. If you are considering the Contax C/Y cameras, you should also look at the Yashica C/Y cameras. They all use the same lenses -- you would be hard pressed to see any difference between T* multi-coating and Yashica ML multi-coating -- and the Yashica models might offer the features that are important to you at a lower price.

I have a "Zeiss" Planar 50/1.4 C/Y mount, made in japan, here, for service, and i'm not too impressed with the build quality, even less to see how the paint easily peels off in the similar way as the lower priced japanese lenses.

There's nothing on this lens to justify any superior price over the equivalent lens in Canon, Nikon, Minolta or Pentax fashion. I agree with @Don Heisz

Thus, i prefer calling them "Zeiss" instead of Zeiss. True made-in-germany Zeiss lenses like the ones for the Contarex are light years beyond the C/Y lenses in build quality. Or the post-WW2 lenses for the Contax rangefinder system.

The suggestion to use Yashica ML lenses is a good one, for the price those are great buys and sometimes the ML lens test as good as the "Zeiss". There are very good ML lenses out there.
 

flavio81

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Maybe a Canon F1new, same level of build as the F3, expansive line up lens, viewfinders and focusing screen.

I love the F-1 New, however if the OP is looking for light weight or small size, stay away from the F-1 New, it is for bodybuilders. The MX is truly a portable, light machine and they're nice in every regard.
 

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The thing I've noticed with the Pentax MX is age has not been kind to the exposure LEDs in the VF. They are very hard to see in daylight. I assume when they were new they were brighter.
If you want a 139, get one. They are tiny, jewel-like cameras.
 

benjiboy

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I love the F-1 New, however if the OP is looking for light weight or small size, stay away from the F-1 New, it is for bodybuilders. The MX is truly a portable, light machine and they're nice in every regard.

I agree with you Flavio Canon F1s are heavy as boat anchors, and although I have four of them I can't carry two of them at the same time, but they are as tough as old boots, they are great cameras,but I don't think they are what this lady is looking for.
 
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