I had dreamed of the Contax 645 for years. Mostly due to “gear acquisition syndrome.” I believed this camera would make me a better photographer. In the back of my head, I knew it wouldn’t, but I learned to ignore the rational voice. Six years ago, I finally reached a point where I could afford a Contax 645. Surprisingly, it did change my work for the better. With the camera, I could finally achieve the vision I had in my head. I was immediately in love! But the camera also has a dark side. I thought I would share my experience with others, so I created the detailed Contax 645 review video below.
To sum up my feelings from the Contax 645 review above, I would simply offer the following pros and cons –
- The legendary Zeiss 80mm f/2 planar lens – it’s a dream factory
- Available battery grip – easier vertical shooting, better battery life, and enables use of standard AA batteries
- Auto-focus and exposure meter unlike some older medium format cameras
- Ease of use – simple dials for major functions, good ergonomics, not too complex
- Price – popularity has driven the prices surprisingly high (too high)
- Parts availability – all spare parts are now gone. Any major problem will require cannibalizing parts from another camera
- Prima Donna – when the camera works, it’s amazing, but it’s known for random errors and finicky operation
- Film flatness – sometimes the film doesn’t lay flat on the film plane, causing weird focus issues. Solving this problem can be really tough
- The camera only operates in full-stops (no 1/3 stops), although the aperture can be set in half-stops
- It weighs a ton with the battery grip, albeit less than a Hasselblad H1
Thoughts to Consider
The Contax 645 is worth exploring if your photographic style necessitates this particular camera. If your style is built around shooting wide-open apertures for creamy backgrounds, then you should consider the Contax 645. However, if you commonly stop down the aperture, then the greatest asset of the Contax 645 is wasted. Because I was having film flatness issues, I decided to try a Hasselblad H1 with the equally legendary 100mm f/2.2 lens. Since that time, I’ve hardly touched the Contax 645, especially for professional work. If you’re seriously looking at the Contax, consider it’s problems, and whether another camera might be a better choice.
With all that said, I still own the camera and would buy it again today if I had to do so.
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