A long-time fan of plastic cameras, Argentinean writer and photographer Lorraine Healy (@lorrainehealy) is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera. In this article, Healy explores her first experience with a top-rated camera, the Contax G2.
I have never been someone who spent a lot of money on expensive equipment, be it cameras, lenses, or accessories. I started out with a Yashica 35 rangefinder, moved up to a Canon A-1 with cheap lenses, and never gave a thought to the quality of filters I used, the real sturdiness of my tripods, or any other matter other than making images that I found pleasing. Of course, this made me an absolute natural for the world of plastic and toy cameras—in my opinion, sharpness was overrated and pristine depth of field was rather a bore. Holgas, Sprocket Rockets, Lubitels, even Polaroids were inexpensive, funky, and gave me the kind of randomness that surprised me every time.
As I moved deeper into medium format, I found myself attracted to cameras that were more up-market than my usual Holgas and my occasional Diana. Somehow the bigger negative made me appreciate a different kind of image, and I fell hard for a Mamiya 67. There is also a Yashica 124G TLR that I will never let go, even if I now find the weight of it a bit too much to carry all day.
They say that most of us photographers suffer from G.A.S.—Gear Acquisition Syndrome, a feeling that if only we had a better lens, that pro camera, that whole new kit, we would take the perfect images we envision in our minds. And that we all have a secret (sometimes not so secret) wish list, and it takes us to those auction sites where we look and dream. One of those cameras for me was the Contax, in both the G line (interchangeable lenses) and T line (fixed lens).
The Contax camera was Kyocera’s answer to the Leicas and Ricoh GRs— 35mm rangefinder film cameras widely considered to be the best of the best. Each brand and model of these high-end cameras has its own die-hard fans, and it is not my intention here to try to convince anyone about the superiority of any one of these fantastic systems. The Contax happens to be the one I kept looking at, time and again. This is not an inexpensive camera system by any means, so the problem with checking auction sites was wondering whether I could trust a seller before plunking down a significant amount of money. When a Twitter friend who is an awesome photographer announced he was selling his Contax system because he wasn’t using it enough, I jumped at the chance. I had seen the work he shot with the camera, and I knew this was one particular camera and seller I could trust.
It is not a strictly mechanical focus rangefinder, sporting an insanely fast AF electronic capability, but it can also go full manual, if desired. As a matter of fact, the AF system and the shutter itself are so insanely fast that I have ended up taking some shots entirely unprepared, thinking I was merely focusing before re-composing and shooting. I am slowly learning the intricacies of shooting with this wonderful camera and it is clear to me that only time with it and practicing lots will make me a worthy handler of such a tool. It is not that one cannot take great images right away with it, but I would like to get to know it like I knew my A-1, or like I know my Holgas.
On a recent trip to Portland, Oregon, I kept making mistakes, like not really remembering how to shoot long exposures, or getting flustered because I was unable to get the images I knew I wanted. The learning curve with a really good camera, if you haven’t used one before, is more uphill than we realize. Still, I’m keeping the Contax and I’ll be using it lots. Some of the images below convinced me it will be worth the time and effort.
Does this mean I am giving up on my Superheadz, Sprocket Rockets, LCAs, Debonaires, and every crappy camera I own? Not in the least. But just as I discovered a long-dormant passion for pinhole cameras this past year, I think 2018 will be a year in which I will explore making a different kind of image with a top-notch camera like the Contax G2. It’s all about not getting stuck in ruts and always feeling the excitement and pleasure of film photography, right? And, on that note, I wish you a fantastic 2018, great light, an abundance of film, and all of your favorite cameras to put it through!
Lorraine Healy (@lorrainehealy) is an Argentinean writer and photographer living in the Pacific Northwest. A long-time fan of plastic cameras and she is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera, available as an eBook from Amazon.com.