Contax 645 medium format camera for digital backs.

In August 2005, there was no link for new news releases on the ContaxUSA website (ToCAD), as if everything was in limbo since February. There was absolutely no mention of the fact that production of the cameras and lenses had stopped.

When you go to the Contax 645 page, same thing. No information that the camera no longer exists (in the sense of, there will be nothing new, indeed nothing at all is being manufactured). "Reviews and awards" date to 1998 through 2002 as if time was frozen.

It is not fair for a company that is shutting down, bankrupt, or otherwise not capable of continuing when they pretend that nothing is happening.

Contax was once a great camera system

Contax camera
Since we don't yet have a Contax 645 we continue to use Hasselblad and Mamiya 645. We are interested in the Rollei 6008 AF as well. We have two Hasselblad ELX cameras which can accept digital backs. In the snapshot here the FLAAR evaluation team is using a Hasselblad H1 with an Imacon Ixpress 528C back.

I instinctively like cameras with dual manual-auto focus and manual override for auto focus. But I will have to try the Contax 645 out to see how intuitive it is when in a real world shoot out on location.
A self-timer and remote shutter release is also a feature I need. I desire an easy mirror lock-up to reduce camera shake and an easy auto bracketing system for my style of luminescent lighting. I take several lighting values of the same scene and have them merged in Adobe Photoshop so there is detail in my shadows, brilliance in the overall scene, and detail with surface texture clearly visible in the highlights. All work is done on a sturdy Gitzo or Manfrotto tripod.

And a right angle viewfinder or waist-level viewfinder is not for shooting from the hips, but for photographing oil paintings for giclee from a reprographic copy stand. When the camera such as the Contax 645 is high up on a copy stand you can't see through a normal viewfinder. The Mamiya has a fixed viewfinder: you can't change to a more convenient one, so for giclee, the Contax camera would be a better choice.

A Contax "magnifier F-2N" might help in photographing pistils and stamens of flowers.

Medium format alliances are beginning to form to insure survival

Bronica has disappeared from the scene due to inability to adapt fast enough to digital reality in the realm of medium format cameras.

Jenoptik digital backs have allied with Sinar cameras to hold the backs.

Imacon digital backs are now allied with Hasselblad cameras

So that leaves Leaf and Phase One digital backs as having no camera partner.

And Rollei and Contax have no digital back partner. At PMA Rollei showed a nice 6008 AF with a Phase One 16-megapixel back at a reasonable price, but other than this, there is no formal relationship.

Mamiya cameras has created its own digital backs and integral digital camera, the ZD. Pentax cameras is creating is own medium format digital camera. This R&D would be too costly for Rollei or Contax. Whichever of these companies allies with one of the industry leaders will survive as a viable corporation. Leaf is in limbo because Kodak just bought Creo, so Kodak owns Leaf cameras too. Kodak is already laying off the key Leaf personnel in Israel.

Carl Zeiss lenses are legendary

But merely flaunting the name of Carl Zeiss this was not enough to keep Contax alive.

I have used Hasselblad cameras with Zeiss lenses for decades. I have recently tested the Mamiya 645 AF with a Leaf Valeo 22 wireless. Last month I evaluated a Hasselblad H1 and Hasselblad ELX with an Imacon Ixpress 528C back. I have never used a Contax camera so I am not able to comment on them. But the FLAAR Medium Format Digital Initiative is open to all camera manufacturers, so we would welcome Contax. Unfortunately Contax disappeared before we could evaluate their system.

I especially like the Contax Mount Adapter MAM-1 that would allow me to use my Hasselblad lenses on a Contax. But with Contax out of business there is no incentive to switch.


Most recently updated March 1, 2006.
Previously updated August 1, 2005. First posted April 21, 2005.