I Called the Contax T2 Overrated, This Reader Disagreed

I Called the Contax T2 Overrated, This Reader Disagreed

2800 1575 James Tocchio

Every Friday, I end the workweek by posting an Ask Me Anything on the site’s Instagram stories. Through these AMAs, readers of the site and customers of the shop get a chance to yell at me about something we’ve published or ask questions that have been nagging them about photography, cameras, and anything else. It’s a great way to engage with fellow photo geeks, and it’s a lot of fun.

Last Friday, a reader asked me to choose and list three cameras that are overrated, and three that are underrated. I did this, and I included in my trifecta of over-hyped cameras the Contax T2.

Another reader, Gabriel Fontes, disagreed with me so vehemently that he wrote in to let me know I was wrong (very politely, I should add – thanks for that Gabriel). We chatted for a while, and he shared his opinions and some images made with his Contax T2, which he says is one of the best cameras he’s ever used. He made some good points, though I won’t go so far as to say I’m totally convinced.

But rather than leave that conversation languishing in my inbox, I thought, why not put his argument on the site? I told people on Instagram that the T2 is overrated, why not let someone else have their say. 

In the spirit of community and conversation, here’s what Gabriel had to say about his experience with the Contax T2. And below, see some of his photos.

“I keep reading people saying that the Contax T2 is overrated and I reached out in defense of the camera because I don’t find that to be totally fair. I admit that the Contax T2 is completely over-priced right now, no doubt, and I do understand that there is too much hype around it. These things can cause some backlash among more seasoned photographers.

I got my T2 a while ago, after resisting it for a long time because the prices were just too crazy. I took it out immediately and started shooting. Even on that first day, my impressions couldn’t have been more pleasant.

The body is much sturdier that I expected, the viewfinder is hands down the best I have ever seen in a point-and-shoot camera and the autofocus seemed fast and reliable. Perhaps the grip could be farther away from the lens to prevent the occasional finger bump during focusing. But that’s all the improvement that I could think of.

The camera feels like it was really designed with absolute care. By the end of the day and three rolls later, it really felt like I’d found my perfect companion. It was just a hassle-free, nice experience and it made me want to shoot more.

Then the negatives came back from the lab. I couldn’t believe how much I loved the results. It’s all about the lens. I have a Contax G2 and the Planar 35mm, and I still don’t know if there’s any actual difference between image quality from the two setups. The Contax T2 is as sharp as the G2 with 35mm. Images show beautiful bokeh, and more micro-contrast than I could dream of in a point-and-shoot. That all leads to insane resolution. And the autofocus and light meter are reliable. I seldom get anything improperly exposed.

I had many point and shoot cameras before I had the T2, and none delivered to me the same experience shooting. Amazing lens paired with a sturdy, reliable, made to last titanium body with a good amount of features. And oh, it looks insanely gorgeous.

I must have shot more than a hundred rolls through it by now, and every time I pick another point-and-shoot to go out I get this FOMO [fear of missing out] feeling for leaving the T2 behind.

So yes, despite the high price, I do feel like this is one very rare example of the hype being real.”

So that’s one argument for the Contax T2. My argument is naturally the inverse, that there are plenty of point-and-shoots that will make the same quality images at a tenth the cost of the T2. But to really argue this I need to put together an actual shootout, rather than just make claims.

I admit, I’ve not yet reviewed the T2, even after shooting one for a few months. They’re lovely cameras, I just have a hard time justifying the cost. But Gabriel makes some good points, and this seems like as good a time as any to get to work on a T2 writeup. It is, after all, the most popular point-and-shoot in existence today. Look for that, coming soon.

Thanks to Gabriel for chiming in, and for sharing his photos. Plenty more can be seen at his Instagram.

How do you feel about the Contax T2? Or the T3 for that matter? Let me know in the comments, and tune in every Friday for our AMAs on Instagram. Maybe your conversation will get the spotlight next.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
17 comments
  • You can’t help feel the inflated cost is the elephant in this room here, if these could be had for £30 they’d be hailed as the ultimate bargain. Demand has outstripped supply. Its only natural that the value of the camera lies somewhere in between.

    That said the camera should always be secondary to the skill of the user 😉

    • First, the camera is not over-hyped. But Kendall Jenner might be, I don’t know.

      I’ve had this camera since the early 90’s.Got it right here on my desk. It STILL looks and works like new even though I dragged it on backpacking adventures all over Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Japan for several years and the image quality was always amazing.Was very expensive for me at the time but it’s outlasted and outperformed all the other compact film cameras I owned. The finder is a bit too small and it has limitations ( no close focus) but the image quality really is excellent with beautiful detail and smooth gradation.

  • Overpriced, over-hyped, yes. Hey, let’s go the whole hog – over-rated, too. But, let’s wait a moment. I’ve never owned nor used one, so have I just blown my arguments out of the water? Everything is subjective and personal. I’d still argue that they have been over-hyped and thus ridiculously over-priced for what they offer. I own two lesser mortals, and purchased them from new, the Ricoh GR-1 and the Yashica T4 and my feelings apply to these equally as well.

    But, can we say they are over-rated? I think this is a little more difficult argument, as we have to show compared to what: image quality, build quality, reliability, and even a feeling of pride in ownership and the pleasure that this can give.

    Who, in their right minds, goes out and buys these cameras at their inflated prices? Well, if you want a quality camera in a tiny package that will fit in a shirt chest pocket, these fit the bill, surely? Admittedly, I can do the same with any of my Rollei 35 offerings, and the Sonnar equipped 35SE produces images I’d suspect equal to the Contaxes, but I lose out on AF and AE, if these were important to me.

    My main concern with all these exotic little electronic marvels, is reliability. And given their price, personally now, I’d steer well clear.

  • I also disagree that the Contax T2 is overrated, although for sure the hype and price is at an all-time high right now. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite camera, but it is definitely my most often-used and versatile camera. It fits easily into a coat pocket, autofocuses reliably, and produces amazing results. I’ve taken some of my favorite images ever with it.

    Here are a few of my personal favorites from my IG:
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BnmlMxghD9S/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=qpkflr9078eg
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BZXWxkJBzq2/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=iwpdj3a6jdgl
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BYJ0_l7BaTe/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=1oa38ededj85k
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BlT64uChYrJ/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=n1e4xdqi7kok
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BqyISWLgkJy/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=anpd72ka5bul
    https://www.instagram.com/p/BrvooykAcMJ/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=hopac12utdcn

    Thanks James, love the site and the work that you do.

  • For a sec there I thought it would be Kendall Jenner writing in to defend it..
    😉
    I think it is a great camera, but absolutely not worth it at its current price point. It has become bizzaro land pricing.

    I will tell you what is the greatest point and shoot camera ever made.. the Rollei QZ35 series.
    What other P&S camera out there has program, aperture priority AE, shutter priority AE, and full manual all instantly accessible by either turning the aperture or shutter speed dials?
    What other P&S camera has a shutter speed range from 1/8000 sec to 16 seconds available in auto and manual modes?
    What other P&S camera has a meter range of EV 1 to 20?
    What other P&S camera has full manual focus with electronic rangefinder confirmation?
    What other P$S camera is designed by Porsche Design?

    Ok that is all well and good Sparky, I hear you say. But how is the lens?
    Well, I tested it at 28mm wide open at 2.8 side by side with my Leica Elmarit Asph 2.8 on my M7. And could not tell the difference.
    Downsides? It’s big. The same size as a Leica M camera. But the upside to that is that it is the same size as a Leica M!
    And it’s kinda noisy. But it is made out of titanium!

    But only about $500 for all that! How much is a T2 again?

    • A great spec, and I’m sure it is an excellent camera of its ilk. You guys in the States are really lucky if you can get one for $500. For us in the UK and Europe, things are somewhat different. Check out ebay UK and see what I mean.

  • Joe shoots resurrected cameras March 13, 2019 at 7:34 pm

    I’ve never shot it, and unless one turns up at a thrift store for $10-20 it’s unlikely I ever will, but that’s the same with nearly every camera I own. All these arguments are ones I’d take to Leica as well. Why spend $2000-3000 for a Leica when a $20-30 fixed-lens rangefinder gets you 90% of the way there? Don’t know just how good the lens is on the T2 but even if it’s the most amazing thing ever, there are plenty of good point and shoots that will get you most of the way there for a fraction of the cost. In that way overpriced = overrated, but again I’d say the same about Leica.

  • Hi James and thanks for your always thought-provoking columns.

    I think that I can offer comments on my T2 that are free from the influence of all the hype that has surrounded the camera from all of the celebrity attention, mainly because I purchased mine (dark titanium) in indistinguishable-from-new condition a few years ago from a Japanese seller and paid in the mid-$400s range. Not being smug here, just learned of it and fell in love with its appearance and form factor at a good time. There was no “celebrity cachet” that attracted me – just the camera’s classy appearance and the rugged build and Zeiss lens beauty I’d already come to appreciate from my G1 and G2 cameras.

    When it arrived, needless to say, it did not disappoint in quality feel and handling. Nor did the very first images I shot with it, on Kodak T400CN (C41 process B/W) and (expired but freezer-stored) E-200. It might be said I didn’t even give the camera its best chance to shine with my film choices, but here are a few T2 shots I rather like.

    https://www.fotocommunity.com/photo/canton-no1-steve-ember/36137726
    https://500px.com/photo/298127515/port-truck-stop-a-canton-impression-by-steve-ember
    https://www.fotocommunity.com/photo/panache-steve-ember/36398686
    https://www.fotocommunity.com/photo/through-here-to-the-sailboats-steve-ember/37902692
    https://500px.com/photo/197281905/ernie-s-mustang-by-steve-ember

    As I have several compact 35mm cameras with lovely lenses, I’m not about to make outlandish claims for the Zeiss lens on the T2, other than to say I’ve been delighted with its clarity and color rendering.

    True, the camera has an elegant feel and look and isn’t that a part of the user experience – especially when a fine lens is included in the package. It just feels good to be out and about with the T2. Especially knowing that enjoyment comes from the shooting experience and results – not any ephemeral stuff like celebrity hype. May this compact gem long function, but if it should suffer an non-repairable issue at some point, at least I’ll be left with a lovely ~$400 paperweight and not one that cost me ~$1,800 (which, as you’ve pointed out, does rather verge on the ridiculous).

  • Out of curiosity, which were the other under- and overrated cameras that you mentioned in your answer, James?

  • In my point pf view the reason I have a Contax T, it is because it is smaller, faster on the green dots positions, and more reliable, and cheaper, with the same lense, … so I have preferred to buy a Nikon 28 TI to complete my collection. The T2 and T3 are too expensive, now, I prefer the Contax T. It was Henri Cartier Bresson one last camera. The Nikon 35 TI seems to be a better choice than Contax T2. I am a Contax lover but by years I prefer the security of Nikon, despite Zeiss for Contax are very great.

  • leicalibrararian March 14, 2019 at 7:24 am

    I just bought a Yashica 110W zoom AF 35mm film camera, new and unused with box and manual for £8 from a charity shop. This is made in the same Kyoto factory as the T2 & 3. It appears to have a titanium skin. It all works perfectly and has a 28-110m lens, which looks rather similar to the vario Tessar lens in the Contax TD. I wanted a disposable camera to use during the Holi festival in India next week, without risking my Leica digital CL or film R9. I feel in the light of my £8 bargain, the T2 & 3 do look rather over-priced.

  • The two most important factors IMHO for a documentary / photojournalist photographer are lens speed and ergonomics. The first is easy to measure, the second much more subjective. On speed f/2.8 is a little underwhelming, even though you can shoot at much lower shutter speeds with these little guys than with SLRs. In this case that’s offset by high image quality. Still, for that money, f/2.0 would have been revolutionary. Ergonomics, the Contax T2 is a real winner. But — a big but — the smaller the camera, the more forgiving the ergonomics…I’m willing to squint a little, put up with chintzy or loud film advance, lack of certain controls…if the camera is small enough….this where the Canon MC, Olympus XA series, Lomo LC-A, etc., all shine at much lower cost. But the final factor, almost as important, is reliability. These are all electronic cameras with few/no spare parts. $500 or more is a big gamble. If your budget is unlimited or just about, then yes. Objectively it’s one of the best point and shoots ever made. The moment money comes into the equation, then it’s diminishing returns. If you want reasonable controls and features, decent image quality, and reasonable cost in the smallest package, Olympus XA. More automation, Canon MC.

  • Michael (TBM3FAN) March 16, 2019 at 1:26 am

    I have never used the camera personally. My personal opinion is that once a camera gets overhyped and overpriced, relative to what it is, then there is no way that it can live up to that or warrant that elevated status. Happens with far too many cameras as the crowd rushes to the latest and greatest based on a review. I refuse to take part in that.

  • shootfilmridesteel March 16, 2019 at 10:37 am

    I’ve only really been attached to three P&S cameras- a plastic pseudo-pano I love for it’s absurdity, an original Olympus Stylus with the 35mm Tessar, and the XA. You could argue the XA really isn’t a P&S but a tiny tiny rangefinder. That being said, I do love the images the T2 can produce. I’ve never used one, but I kind of expect a P&S to be a quirky shooter, so I think any oddness will be OK. I’d probably love to shoot with one. I know, like all of my beloved Contax cameras with electronics, that if it breaks that’s all she wrote. And it’s that last but that kills it for me.

    I can invest $200 on a camera that could become a brick with little thought about it. I may be able to go as high as $500. But T2 prices make that impossible.

  • Overrated or not, it’s a terrible value, especially because of it’s unknown longevity. A $1500 leica and/or leica lens has assurance that it’ll work for a while. A kyocera product is a risk

  • “I admit that the Contax T2 is completely over-priced right now, no doubt, and I do understand that there is too much hype around it.”

    I’m not sure how you can start an argument that the T2 is *not* overrated by pointing out that it’s over-priced and over-hyped – ie. ‘overrated’…

    No one is saying that it isn’t a good camera (by all accounts it seems to be a very good camera), just that it’s overrated. Which it is.

  • You buy a car and lose more money than the cost of this camera when you drive it off the forecourt. Why did you buy the car?
    I see comments referring to Leica also and the costs, I also agree that, damn, they’re expensive. However sell your Leica on and you’ll recoup what you spent.
    It seems the crux of the matter is the price and not that it’s overrated. What I mean is, if you bought a Contax T2 for a smidgen of the price it is now would we be saying its overated or a great little camera.
    I own and love my Contax T2, I’m never going to sell it nor am I going to try and convince you it’s worth x amount of money. All I know is I use it a lot and if I did sell it I’d probably profit in today’s market.
    Comparable cameras are probably Ricohs Gr range also very expensive and more prone to breakdowns allegedly, reading reviews. However get a good one and you’ll love the lens that come with that camera another legend is the Konica Hexar AF with an F2 lens that is comparable to a Summicron leica lens, but yet again you’ll be paying in excess of £500-£600 to get one that is in very good condition.
    So when you weigh up the costs of the competition to the Contax T2 you’ll see that price of all premium compact 35mm point and shoots is through the roof.
    Demand is obviously there for the products and supply is eventually going to run dry. So in summary the price will probably continue to rise until the product is no longer available. If you have a need it attitude and want to gamble on something that gives you a buzz then think of the pleasure and usefulness of the product your buying before driving off the forecourt with that loss.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio