When the Contax G1 was introduced, in 1994, I was immediately smitten. Leicas were out of my price range and, despite the accuracy of Leica’s viewing and focusing, the thought of composing through a viewfinder and not seeing exactly what the lens was seeing made me queasy, especially when out on assignment.
The G1 was different. It was a rangefinder camera, but it offered the choice of manual focusing or autofocus. You also had the choice of Auto, Aperture priority, or Manual exposure control, and TTL flash. The G1’s viewfinder automatically set frame lines to match the focal length of the lens and adjust for parallax, and it shot single-frame or continuous at up to 2 frames per second. It wasn’t a reflex camera, but the camera “spoke” to me.
Street scene captured with Contax G2, 21mm f/2.8 Zeiss Biogon T*
Compared to a Leica, loading film in a G-series camera was a cakewalk—you simply opened the film door, dropped in the film, closed the door, and it automatically advanced to the first frame. Auto-indexing set the film ISO and, when you reached the end of the roll, it automatically rewound the film back into the canister. Shutter-speeds ranged from 1/2000 to 16 seconds (or 1 second in Manual mode) with a top flash sync speed of 1/100-second.