Read on as Mike, Blurb’s Internet plumber and resident classic camera aficionado, shares his thoughts on his Contax RTS III and we he loves classic cameras:
Why Go Classic?
When people see my collection of Classic Cameras, two questions always come up…
What is the appeal of using camera equipment that is 50+ years old?
The following description answers that in part:
“The camera body is machined from die-cast alloy and finished in chrome and black grain leather. Moving parts and metal fittings are bright chromium plated. There is a hinged folding baseboard on the right-hand side of the body, which extends the self-erecting lens panel and attached folding leather bellows.”
Sounds kinda Steampunk, don’t it? I have always had a thing for finely machined tools and the cameras made in post-WWII Germany are some of the finest ever made. Their amazingly precise and refined optics are notable for their clarity and color rendition. And the cameras themselves are marvels of machined aluminum and sliding rails, with intricate shutter works and wonderful whrrrrllll-click-click noises.
Which is better, film or digital?
To me, that is an irrelevant question. “Better” is not the issue. The question should really be, “How do you use the inherent properties of Film or Digital to create the best image from the subject matter?” The capabilities of modern digital SLRs are absolutely mind-boggling, too many to list here. In spite of that capability, they can still take perfectly lousy pictures. Using film, especially in Classic Cameras, forces you to interact with the subject matter in a very aware way. The multi-variable conditions of lighting, distance, depth-of-field, focusing, etc. force you to consider the image from many perspectives. Of course, if you are shooting fast moving action then this process is a distinct hinderence. So the answer is: use the right tool for the right job. And I always like having the Right Tool.
About the Contax RTS III 35mm SLR camera:
Contax was an early pioneer in the compact 35mm camera field, starting in the 1930′s with a series of finely engineered camera bodies using the superb Zeiss lenses. From the start, Contax cameras were designed as part of an entire photographic system, incorporating a whole line of bodies, lenses and accessories.
The RTS III model was the end result of decades of continuous development and refinement. Released in 1990, it is a sophisticated piece of film camera technology. But true to its Teutonic technology, it has exactly what you need and nothing that you don’t. For the casual picture taker it is likely a pain to deal with. For the creative photographer it is an absolute joy to learn and use effectively.
About the Zeiss Planar f1.4/85mm lens:
In the classic mid-telephoto “portrait” focal length, this lens is impressive for several reasons. First, just picking it up gives the sense of something substantial. It has the mass and heft of a seriously solid piece of optical glass. The image bokeh produced from the available f1.4 aperature is smooth and very appealing to the eye. And mounting it on the RTS III body produces an integrated photographic tool that lends itself to very creative image capture.
The example image showcases these properties…the fine detail, background bokeh and color rendition are spot on. Bonus points if you can actually identify the subject matter.
[Engine detail from a 1972 Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7 - another finely engineered piece of German machinery]