Contax 645 + Planar 80mm f/2 + Distagon 45mm f/2.8

Contax 645 AF
Planar 80mm f/2
Distagon 45mm f/2.8

Ilford Delta 400
Ilfosol 3
8 min

From time to time I go back to the pictures taken with this camera.
Sometimes I feel I made a mistake by selling it to get the Hasselblad and sometimes I feel I made the right choice. So here’s a little list of some of the reasons that made me change from the Contax 645 to the Hasselbad 500CM.

1 – I wanted my medium format kit to have Zeiss lenses. They both have. (tie)
2 – I never use tripod. The Contax is a heavy beast, the Hasselblad is a small box. (+1 Hasselblad)
3 – Overall weight of both kits with the 80mm lens. (+1 Hasselblad)
3 – They both have an 80mm lens as a standard lens but the Contax opens at f2.0 (which makes it beautiful) (+1 Contax)
4 – The Contax is a battery eater. The Hasselblad is always ready. (+1 Hasselblad)
5 – The Contax has a great viewfinder and internal metering. The Hasselblad has a gorgeous 3D like screen but no metering. At least with the standard WLF of course. (tie, just because I’m lazy and I like internal metering)
6 – The Contax has AF, MF and aperture priority. The Hasselblad is… doing things by hand. (+1 Hasselblad. IMMO the coupled speed/aperture on the Zeiss lenses for the Hasselblad makes aperture priority a non issue)
7 – Format, 6×4,5 on the Contax, 6×6 on the Hasselblad. (+1 Hasselblad)
8 – Sheer joy of using one or the other. (+1 Hasselblad)
Total: Hasselblad 6, Contax 1

It looks like the Hasselblad won by a mile so… why do I sometimes feel I made a mistake selling it to get the Hasselblad…

PS: Without Joana and Maria this would not be possible. Thank you so much ladies for getting up early on a Sunday morning.

Joana 3Untitled-41 Untitled-52 Untitled-29 Untitled-25 Untitled-22 Untitled-16 Untitled-3

  1. jeremy north said:

    I have both cameras and your reasoning is ridiculous. Point 1 is irrelevant, given the question you pose, 2 & 3 are the same,besides, it is easy to shoot one handed with the contax, it is not heavy, impossible with the 500cm . 3 again (you have two 3s ) you hardly ever use f2 anyway, though it is lovely; 4 the Contax 645 is not a battery eater, batteries last for ages. 5&6 , you can shoot both in manual mode, you don’t mention that the 645 prism view is corrected as opposed to the Hassie WLF. Of course there is a prism for the Hassie which you don’t mention. Neither do you say that there is a plus point for the Contax for having a meter. You give a point to the Hasselblad for being 6×6 but not one for there being 16 frames on a roll for the Contax.

    Your comments are at best just thinking out loud, but without much thought.

    While the Hasselblad 500c/m is a lovely machine; silky smooth, precise and ultra cool, it has a poor layout, the aperture & shutter rings are linked in the wrong way, the finder is not that good, it is possible to remove the dark slide from a film back when loaded.

    The Contax 645 is on the other hand the easiest MF camera I’ve ever used, it is point and shoot easy. Its only fault is the fiddly twist and press button to change the back.

    I suggest that you made a big mistake getting rid of your 645. You should have saved up to buy the 500c/m and had the best of both.

    I’m glad you didn’t choose between Joana and Maria, they are both lovely ladies. I think that makes my point

    • Hello Jeremy

      So your conclusion is that I made a mistake. I can’t say you are wrong as the Contax 645 is a camera I often think about and regret not having.

      And please do keep in mind that this is just me thinking out loud. Obviously I’m not a professional photographer and all my thoughts and experiences are through my limited amateur use of any kind of cameras, films or developers.

      Point 1, The truth is I has not that happy with the Contax. I’ve used Mamiyas and Bronicas but I really liked the results I had with Zeiss lenses on my old Rolleiflex 6006. So I wanted to stick to Zeiss lenses.

      Point 2 and 3, I could never use the Contax with one hand only (MB-1 included). I’m an avarage guy but after a day of using the Contax, my arms, specially my shoulders and my neck, started to give me trouble. I feel much more comfortable using the Hasselblad. The Hasselblad is a box but, personally, I like the way it fits the palm of my hand.

      Other Point 3, Yes I do use f2 very often. The G35mm on the G2 and the Summicron C 40mm on the CL. Both f2 lenses as you know and I use the f2 aperture. And again I must say that I use these cameras as an amateur for my amateur needs. Indeed I find the 80mm, at f2.0, for the Contax the most beautiful portrait lens I’ve ever used. Again as an amateur my experience with lenses is very limited. I just have the 120mm f4 and an old 60mm for the Hasselblad but I really would like to try out the 110mm/f2 Planar. Meanwhile I also use the 21mm extension tube very often. I like shallow depth of field.

      Point 4, it was a while back but I remember thinking that the ratio between baterry life and rolls taken was small but with the Hasselblad I don’t even have to think about it.

      Points 5 and 6, Yes that “tie”. I gave a plus to the Contax for having internal metering. That’s one of the things I miss, like I said as the lazy amateur photographer that I am. And yes the viewfinder on the Contax is the best, period. Much better than the ones on the Mamiya 645 AFD or the Pentax 645N. But allow me to say that… there’s something special about looking at that square on the Hasselblad through a good focusing screen.

      Yes I know that the prism on the Hasselblad is inverted and I did mention: “3D like screen but no metering. At least with the standard WLF of course.” It’s my option not to use the metering prism on the Hasselblad because that would make the kit heavier. It was kind of “internal metering and amazing viewcorrected finder (Contax) against using an external meter and an inverted but more than amazing finder (Hasselblad)”. I do like that square 3D sceen.

      Yes 16 frames against 12, but the Contax is 645 and the Hasselblad is 6×6. I get less but I get them bigger 😉

      The Hasselblad and the Contax are very different and I feel that you are thinking I didn’t like the Contax. That was not my intention quite the opposite.

      The idea is “if I love so many things on the Hasselblad over the Contax, why the hell do I miss that camera so much?”

      • jeremy north said:

        Point 1 is irrelevant in that you are comparing two cameras which have only Zeiss lenses I agree with you that they are the best.. You said that you were putting down reasons why you changed the 645 for the 500cm

        point 3 Yes you may well use f2 on your G2 etc, but f2 on a medium format camera has the DOF equivalent to f1.2 on a 35mm and is therefore very limiting. I agree that it is a stunning lens, it is probably my favourite too, I just rarely shoot it wide open. I’d love to have the 120 Makro Planar though.

        There is a non metered prism for the Hassie which is what I have, it is no less 3d than the WLF but is easier to use. The one on the 645 is superb, and has a corrective diopter which is great for me.

        The reason 645 was brought in is that most of the time people crop into a square frame, hence waste a lot of film. The 16 frames is a huge advantage in that case.

        The 645 is my favourite medium format camera, though the Hasselblad has cool factor which is unequalled. My favourite 35mm is the Contax G2 of which you are well aware

        If I were to compile a list it would be
        1 The Hassie is completely mechanical,
        2 It is square format
        3 Very light yet beautifully solid.
        4 It is ultra cool
        5 it is ultra cool

        Things I don’t like
        1 The EV coupling of the aperture/shutter speed.
        2 limited to 1/500
        3 The viewfinder
        4 The dots must match up between the back and the body.

        The Contax
        1 Fantastic to use
        2 Great viewfinder
        3 Auto focus option
        4 Build quality
        5 645 format

        don’t like

        The back release button
        Very expensive (worth it though)

  2. Thank you for answering back Jeremy.

    Above all it’s a pleasure talking about these “tools of the trade”… and at the end of the day what really matters is that we use what we feel more comfortable with. I thought about your words last night and I came to the conclusion that I was not ready for the Contax 645… Maybe I was too anxious to be “blown away” by that camera and I totally missed the point.

    It is my photographic skills that need to evolve as the camera (any camera) does not take pictures by itself. I did not understand the potential of the Contax and I kept on thinking about how great the Rolleiflex 6006 was… I ran away from understanding the Contax and went back to a certain “safe zone” with the Hasselblad.

    That’s one of the reasons I’ll never be a photographer because the most important thing isn’t about cameras, it’s about myself and my skills to use them. I’m not a purist in any way and I do like all the advantages of a modern camera. I like AF and I like in camera metering, I like having the choice of using a large aperture without having to be concerned about the limitation of 1/500s…
    I’m also a Contax G2 lover.

    My lame list is, in fact, me trying to convince myself that I did the right choice.

    You know what’s funny? I sold a G2 once to get the little Leica CL and after two weeks I got another G2 because I soon realized that the CL was too limited for me. I wanted to love the 645 as fast as I loved the G2 but, like the song says… “you can’t hurry love, you just have to wait…” 🙂

    It was an impulsive decision selling the Contax to get the Hassel… until this day I regret it.

    Thank you again Jeremy, for taking the time to comment.

    • jeremy north said:

      Thank you for your comment. I really like your blog, even though I have been critical on this post.. There’s nothing wrong with you as a photographer, or your photographs. Let’s face it, succeeding as a photographer is 5% skill and 95% self promotion and BS. I’m no good at that either.

      I think you chose well to get the Hasselblad, it is an icon. I just didn’t agree with your relative ratings. You should have kept the 645 and had the best of both worlds.

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