The Contax 645: Not only a wedding ceremony digital camera

Six months in the past I modified cameras. Deciding that I wanted a brand new medium format digital camera was for me, each a troublesome and simple selection. There aren’t any prizes for guessing what I finally went for, it’s in spite of everything within the title of this submit, however first with the suitable degree of respect, here’s a little bit of background as to why, after a few years I gave up my beloved Hasselblad digital camera.

I had been capturing with a sq. format Hasselblad 500 c/m since 2012 and I believed it will be my lifelong photographic companion. So, think about my misery when a few years in the past, I began feeling a type of capturing frustration when utilizing it. This wasn’t associated to picture high quality or reliability; it was one thing else totally.

Through the years as my eyesight deteriorated, I discovered myself needing to put on glasses. No huge deal, however it sort of was when capturing. Utilizing the waist-level finder, initially, I composed my pictures with my glasses on. Nonetheless, once I lifted the digital camera and adjusted focus via the magnifying loupe, my glasses needed to come off. Then, I needed to put them again on to recompose after reducing the digital camera. Taking a step or two again or ahead, and the entire laborious dance was repeated. I felt that I used to be spending extra time twiddling with my glasses than taking photographs. What was as soon as a minor annoyance steadily remodeled into a real frustration. I tried an answer by utilizing an eye-level prism finder, which appeared to resolve one downside however highlighted one other: ergonomics. With the viewfinder connected to the Hasselblad, it felt like I used to be holding a brick in opposition to my face and an unpleasant one too. All of this was solely amplified every time I used my 35mm cameras; they confirmed me that having the ability to shoot comfortably at eye degree via a viewfinder was what I wished, even when capturing medium format. So, after preventing these emotions I felt I had lastly reached the tip of the highway with the 500c/m; it was time to contemplate one other digital camera.

I’ve all the time hankered after a CONTAX 645 there had solely been one factor stopping me previously, format. I had change into used to capturing squares and going to 4:3 involved me. When a sq. composition works it actually works, add that traditional really feel you get from sq. format and 6×6 photographs might be completely wonderful. On the flip facet, sq. compositions might be compositionally limiting and typically really feel unnatural and so the concept of capturing vertically and horizontally in medium format was nearly engaging sufficient at this level in my pictures for it to not stand in the way in which of my determination. There have been different causes that I felt this was the appropriate digital camera for me, fairly other than a correct viewfinder and ergonomic design it additionally has interchangeable backs and plenty of different trendy options like autofocus. However actually what made me need this digital camera is the Carl Zeiss Planer ƒ2 80mm lens that’s connected to it, furthermore this lens’s skill to make lovely portraits large open that was so engaging and thrilling. I took it with no consideration that it will work stopped down for all my different work!

Which may sound a bit of glib, however look on the net and almost all the pieces you see from this digital camera is large open breezy pastel wedding ceremony pictures and wedding ceremony portraiture. You’ll be forgiven for considering that’s all they’re good for. For positive, they should be good, as a result of every day tons of of professional photographers worldwide put their belief in these 20+ year-old cameras to operate and produce skilled outcomes for his or her purchasers. All this should be a testomony to the digital camera’s qualities and regardless of its disputed repute for being delicate the costs of those cameras have for the reason that 2010s all the time been elevated. Possession is actually a dedication and threat; with its 20-year-old electronics, it may be costly and troublesome to restore. So, once I acquired mine, I took my good friend, and sarcastically given the sub title of this weblog submit, wedding ceremony photographer, Viola Tavazzani’s recommendation, and located one domestically in one of the best situation doable, like her, resisting the temptation of importing one from Japan.

The CONTAX 645’s repute amongst skilled wedding ceremony photographers is plain, however it was not simply designed to try this job. Again in 1999, what now may retrospectively be thought-about the start of the tip of mass skilled movie pictures use, Contax made what was arguably the world’s most superior medium format movie digital camera system. Along with its vary of wonderful Carl Zeiss autofocus lenses, interchangeable vacuum movie backs, and in depth equipment, it turned a well-liked digital camera for a lot of skilled photographers. The CONTAX 645 was all the time a high-end skilled system, so, when Kyocera pulled the plug on the CONTAX model solely six years after its introduction in 2005, a legend was born.

Having used the digital camera now for some months the one phrase I’d use to explain it’s – Quick.  I feel this should have been one of many foremost design philosophies behind its conception. In contrast to different medium format cameras, the CONTAX 645 has autofocus lenses, computerized movie advance and wind-on in addition to interchangeable backs for swapping movie inventory mid-shoot, changing a completed roll will also be achieved much more shortly by merely opening the again, ejecting and loading a brand new pre-loaded movie journal. Add to this the brilliant viewfinder and nice ergonomics with its foremost management dials gathered collectively above the comfy grip that makes dealing with and utilizing this balanced digital camera simple.

You is likely to be eager about…


The CONTAX 645 has a light-weight high-strength copper silumin alloy chassis, the outer physique is clad in a tough satin black plastic with a rubberised overlaying on the grip space. That is the place the 2CR5 battery is housed. Every battery is nice for between 14-16 rolls of movie. It’s a good suggestion to hold a spare battery as a result of though there’s a low battery warning characteristic in my expertise it dies with little or no warning. Moderately than LCD panels the design makes use of conventional dials, every flip with a constructive click on and are dressed with Contax’s typical pyramid textured grip. The 645’s prime plate structure has the pace management, publicity management, publicity compensation dial and shutter all collectively above the grip. There are all the standard flash pictures options, which I’m not going to delve into primarily as a result of I don’t use flash! Different controls corresponding to mirror-up, DoF preview and drive mode are on the physique. On the again of the grip inside thumb attain is the main focus management, a rotary swap with a central button. I exploit it in M handbook mode by urgent the button to autofocus however it’s doable to make use of S single autofocus or C steady autofocus each managed by a half despair of the shutter button. Focus affirmation is confirmed with a strong inexperienced • within the viewfinder and any fine-tuning of focus can all the time be achieved by turning the main focus ring on the lens as nicely. The physique homes a vertical-travel steel focal aircraft shutter that operates between 8 seconds and 1/4000 of a second. Utilized in aperture or shutter-speed precedence it goes down as little as 32 seconds. On the prime of the physique is the detachable focusing display, with mine being the usual MFS-2 full matte. There’s a central circle to point the spot meter space that seems inside a rectangle that reveals the focusing space, the display is vibrant and last focus is simple to see. There are two different screens out there with the system a break up micro prism and a grid display. The physique additionally exposes reference information alongside the movie rebate edge on the appropriate facet of every body, this information consists of body quantity, aperture worth, shutter pace, mode, lens and movie kind. I actually like this analogue ‘metadata’ characteristic that completely data data on the movie, specifically the aperture and pace data of every body.


The usual again on the CONTAX 645 has all the standard options of a modular system digital camera, a counter, ISO dial, multi-exposure lever and a slot for secure storage of the darkish slide.  In addition to the usual again a uncommon Polaroid again was additionally out there and naturally, a number of digital backs were made by various manufacturers corresponding to Sinar and Part One. Though eye-wateringly costly these previous digital backs are nonetheless out there on the used market they usually provide an intriguing different seize technique to movie, one which I’d like to perhaps strive in the future. The again connects to the physique with a barely awkward twist and push button that in contrast to any of the opposite buttons and switches on the digital camera by no means feels fairly proper. Having stated that, except you might be altering movie kind mid-shoot eradicating the holder physique utterly is just not required to vary movie. On the rear of the again, there’s a door that flips down to realize entry to the movie journal. There are two kinds of magazines for the 645 and each are acquainted to any photographer who has used such a system digital camera earlier than with little of notice. Sadly, the vacuum again model, which makes use of the same ceramic based technology as the RTS III digital camera is restricted to 220 movie solely, which is regrettably now not out there. Having stated that, each magazines are straightforward to load with movie and are well-made finding into the holder with a satisfyingly constructive click on. As soon as within the holder, a press of the shutter and the motor winds the movie to the primary body and every body thereafter. In steady drive, the motor can advance as much as 1.6 frames a second. Lastly, after body 16 the motors winds the remaining portion of the roll prepared for elimination.


For me, this aspect of the design might be probably the most engaging a part of the digital camera. It type of jogs my memory of H.R Giger’s Alien head however with out the jaws. Lengthy and sweeping again it’s constituted of the identical materials because the physique. The prism finder is elegant and distinctive with CONTAX embossed throughout its low entrance. On prime is the flash shoe and a swap to swap between centre weighted and spot metering. There’s a built-in +1 to -2 diopter management and an eyepiece shutter swap to cease stray gentle on lengthy exposures. The eyepiece rubber is large and cozy. The display has a magnification of 0.8% with a 95% discipline of view. Under the display in inexperienced LED are the battery warning, publicity counter, meter mark, flash mark, focus affirmation dot, aperture worth, shutter pace and publicity meter strip. In addition to the MF-1 prism finder the CONTAX 645 might be fitted with the MF-2 waist-level finder. Clearly, given my causes for wanting a 645, I’ve the MF-1 and it’s my favorite a part of my digital camera aside from the lens.


Okay, so this has acquired to be one of the best a part of the digital camera and it appears like I’m not alone in saying that. I even learn someplace that ‘have been it not for this lens no one would put up with that physique’. I don’t agree however I get what the author was attempting to say. The usual Carl Zeiss Planar T* 80mm ƒ2 is undeniably one of the best lens I’ve ever shot. As soon as once more I’m not alone in feeling this fashion about it and like most different photographers who’ve used one it’s for a similar causes, plus a few my very own. Look! If in case you have examine this digital camera earlier than then all in regards to the lens’s capability to shoot sharp photographs large open at ƒ2 and the way it makes painterly portraits every topic standing out with lovely 3D separation from dreamy backgrounds. To not point out all that stuff about great bokeh. Yep, it does all that and it’s spectacular for positive, so spectacular an entire business makes use of it as a signature look, however that’s one other story. Nonetheless, there are another options that this lens additionally has that make it particular, it renders distinction and tone rather well with each wonderful highlights and shadow element. It handles color and readability fantastically too, that and it’s straight as nicely, when capturing buildings and features I’ve seen little or no distortion. I discussed earlier that I took with no consideration the lens’s skill to carry out nicely stopped down in spite of everything capturing city landscapes at ƒ2 is just not best. If this lens is sharp at ƒ2 then it’s razor sharp at greater apertures, I’ve been completely joyful at ƒ8 – ƒ16 with lovely scans of metropolis scenes simply satisfying my topographic goals.

However for me, it’s the mixture of an undeniably good lens and the digital camera itself. With the ability to shoot comfortably head to head to my topic with autofocus at no matter depth of discipline I select, mixed with a design that’s as trendy as you will get with movie has left me in little doubt that this transformation of digital camera was the appropriate determination.


Digital camera identify CONTAX 645
Digital camera kind Single Lens Reflex
Format 120/220 movie

Polaroid again

Picture format 6×4.5
Producer Kyocera Optical Units Division
Manufacture dates 1999 – 2005
Viewfinder protection 95% discipline of view: 0.8 magnification

Internally adjustable diopter +1D to -2D

Shutter Focal aircraft
Electronically managed

32 seconds – 1/4000 sec. in auto. 8 seconds to 1/4000 sec. in handbook mode

Digital self-timer with both 2 or 10 seconds

+2EV to -2EV publicity compensation

Lenses 35mm Distagon f/3.5
45mm Distagon f/2.8
55mm Distagon f/3.5
80mm Planar f/2
140mm Sonnar f/2.8
210mm Sonnar f/4
350mm Tele-Apotessar f/4
120mm Apo-Makro Planar f/4
45-90mm Vario-Sonnar f/4.5 zoom
1.4x Mutar Teleconverter
Equipment Metered and unmetered prism finders (40 and 90 diploma)
2x Waist degree finder (with non-compulsory diopter adjustment)
Focusing chimney finder
1.4x and 2x teleconverters
16 / 32 / 56mm extension tubes
6×6, 6×4.5, 4.5×6 and 4×4 movie backs
120/220/70mm/pack movie choices
Accent degree spirit degree
Accent degree chilly shoe
Pistol grip
Left handed grip
Metering Spot meter centre, Centre weighted common, Pre flash TTL

Movie pace: ISO 6 to 6400 selectable

ISO 25 – 5000 auto-detect

Publicity management Guide, Aperture precedence, Shutter pace precedence, TTL auto flash, Guide flash
Flash X setting at 1/125 sec. or slower
Energy 1x 6V 2CR5 battery
Weight 1370g (with out batter or lens) 2040g with battery and 80mm lens
141(w) x 138(h) x 145(l)mm

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