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Comparing the Contax T2 vs Leica Minilux, you have to know that these cameras are very similar in functionality and price. Both are rugged cameras made from titanium. The Leica Minilux has a brighter lens but a horrible viewfinder. The Contax T2 has an excellent viewfinder with a lot of displayed information and more consistent autofocus.
In the world of rangefinder film cameras, there aren’t many names that stand out. However, Leica and Contax are among the most popular, and for a good reason.
Leica is most known for its very high-quality rangefinder cameras reserved for people with the biggest budgets. Contax, on the other hand, is a brand name known as the functional alternative to Leica for people that don’t have Leica budgets.
A subgroup of cameras that attract attention from professional and amateur photographers alike are the higher-end point-and-shoot cameras.
Kyocera produced several well-known points and shoots, including the Contax T2. Leica has the Minilux.
- Film: 35mm, DX ISO 25-5000, Non-DX Default ISO 100
- Lens: Carl Zeiss T* Sonnar 38mm f/2.8
- Aperture Range: f/2.8 – f/16
- Shutter Speed: 8s – 1/500s
- Exposure Compensation: +/- 2 EV in ½ EV Steps
- Size: 119x66x33mm
- Weight: 296g
In the 1990s, point-and-shoot cameras were quite prominent, from disposable single-use cameras to cameras utilized by pro photographers. Kyocera wanted to compete with the big dogs in the game, and so the Contax T series was born. The T2 is the second generation and probably the most used one nowadays.
It is an excellent titanium-made camera that looks cool and packs an incredible 38mm Carl Zeiss T* Sonnar f/2.8 lens. It is pretty well suited for low light due to the wide aperture. The lens is super sharp, and the coatings work well to correct flare and chromatic aberration.
Having quite good autofocus, paired with the 38mm focal length, means this camera is and will be loved by street photographers. The 38mm versatility means that you can shoot anything with it.
The titanium build means the camera is as tough as nails and can take a beating. Just be careful about water, as the camera is not weather sealed.
Lately, celebrities favor the Contax T2 for the fashionable retro look, which is great for publicity but not great for the price these cameras will fetch on eBay.
- Looks excellent and retro, especially with the exposed titanium.
- The lens is sharp, and that produces ultra sharp photos.
- You can shoot it in full auto mode or aperture mode.
- Autofocus works well.
- The viewfinder is large and bright.
- Tough due to the titanium casing.
- You can’t use f/2.8 in aperture priority.
- At f/2.8, the fastest shutter speed is 1/200th of a second.
- Shutter speed readouts in the viewfinder can be confusing.
Contax T2 Photo Examples
There are some photo examples of the Contax T2 below, so that you can get an idea of how it behaves in the real-world.
Leica Minilux Overview
- Film: 35mm, DX ISO 25-5000, Non-DX Default ISO 100
- Lens: Leica Summarit 40mm f/2.4
- Aperture Range: f/2.4 – f/16
- Shutter Speed: 1s – 1/400s
- Exposure Compensation: +/-2 EV in ½ EV Steps
- Size: 124x29x43mm
- Weight: 330g
The Minilux has been around since 1995. It is intended to compete with the Contax T2 and T3, the Yashica T4 and T5, Nikon 35ti, Konica Hexar, and so forth.
In Leica fashion, the Minilux is well built and is a well-designed titanium brick wrapped in leather. Additionally, in Leica fashion, it has to have some great things about it and some “who thought this was a good idea?” type of quirks.
You can effectively operate the camera with one hand, which is excellent. It is rare to find a camera that is so easy to use. That said, you can shoot it with one hand, but you can’t see a thing through the horrible, small, and next-to useless viewfinder.
If you manage to make a good composition with the viewfinder, when you develop the photos, you’ll see that the 40mm f/2.4 lens is quite sharp, even wide open, and produces excellent images.
The exposure will be spot on 90% of the time if you understand how zone metering works, and the autofocus will be consistent most of the time. Due to the lousy viewfinder, you won’t know whether you missed focus until you get the photos back from the lab. Shiny, reflective, or far away subjects are a problem for the IR active autofocus system.
Unlike the T2, you can use the camera at f/2.4 in aperture priority.
- Great Leica design.
- Sharp and wide apertured lens.
- It will hold a good resale value for longer.
- It can be operated with one hand.
- Great exposure metering.
- Tough titanium build.
- Decent autofocus.
- Horrible viewfinder.
- No data in the viewfinder.
- Loads film upside down.
- It takes 45 seconds to rewind the film.
Leica Minilux Photos
Below are some Leica Minilux photo examples so you can get an idea of how it performs in the real world.
Contax T2 vs Leica Minilux Comparison
So we have covered the overviews of both cameras and what they can do. Let’s put their features side by side so you can make a well-informed decision on which camera is best for you.
Both cameras have great lenses, no doubt about it. Carl Zeiss and Leica are among the best, if not the best, lens manufacturers out there.
That being said, sharpness wise both lenses are equally sharp, and you’ll have a hard time discerning which one is sharper. Focal length-wise, the difference between 38mm and 40mm equals nothing. There is no advantage to either camera here.
Aperture-wise, now there are some differences and significant ones. The Contax T2 has a maximum aperture of f/2.8, which can only be used in full auto mode. Meaning in aperture priority, the widest aperture you can select is f/3.5.
The Minilux has a maximum aperture of f/2.4, and you can select it in aperture priority. So between both cameras, in full auto mode, the Leica is brighter by 1/2 of a stop. In aperture priority, the Leica is brighter by 1 and 1/6th of a stop. Yes, the math is weird; it is ⅔ + ½ of a stop brighter. Totaling 1 ⅙ stops.
So to sum it up, both cameras have equally sharp and well-corrected lenses. But the Leica Minilux is ½ stop brighter in full auto mode and 1 and 1/6th of a stop brighter in aperture priority compared to the Contax T2.
Autofocus and Manual Focus
In the focusing department, both cameras have essentially the same autofocus systems. Both fire an IR blast and use that to focus the lens, using a small zone in the center of the frame.
However, the Contax T2 is a bit more consistent in the autofocus department, and it rarely misses focus on infinity. On the other hand, the Leica has more trouble with reflective surfaces than the Contax, and it has more difficulty focusing automatically to infinity.
Additionally, both cameras use a dial to manually focus the lens using distance.
All in all, both cameras are similar in their manual focus capabilities, and they both use the same autofocus method. However, the Contax T2 is a tad more consistent than the Leica Minilux, especially around and at infinity.
Shooting Modes and Usability
Both cameras have auto and aperture modes. The auto mode on the Minilux is called professional and marked with a P for some reason.
In the aperture priority mode on the Leica Minilux, you can select all of the apertures available on the camera. However, the T2 can’t select the widest f/2.8 aperture, rendering it handicapped by ⅔ of a stop when using aperture priority.
Both cameras can select all of the apertures in auto mode, but if the Contax picks the f/2.8 aperture, its maximum shutter speed is 1/200s.
So, the Leica Minilux has an obvious advantage when it comes to aperture priority.
There is no aperture readout in auto mode on the Contax T2, but the Leica Minilux reads out shutter speed and aperture in auto mode on the top LCD by alternating between them rapidly. Moreover, it is easy to operate the Leica Minilux with one hand since you need two fingers to change most of the important settings. On the Contax, you need to twist a ring on the lens with your left hand to switch between auto or aperture priority.
The Contax has an excellent viewfinder, which displays shutter speed, whether you have exposure compensation turned on, and whether you are in focus or back/front focusing. In essence, you get all the necessary information from the viewfinder, and it is an excellent and big viewfinder at that.
The Minilux, on the other hand, displays information via two blinking LEDs, and you’ll have to remember what they mean. The viewfinder is small and almost useless.
If you want to set exposure compensation on the Leica, you must cycle through all the settings via a small button, while the Contax has a nice dial.
In summary, useability-wise, the Contax has a better viewfinder that displays more information, it is easier to use the autofocus due to focus confirmation in the viewfinder, it is faster to set up exposure compensation, and it rewinds film faster. The Leica can be operated with one hand easily as long as you don’t need to change exposure compensation.
Style and Design
When it comes to style and design, both cameras fit the bill for the stylish retro look. The Contax T2 is a titanium and plastic brick that looks and feels industrial almost, while the Leica Minilux is a titanium and leather brick that looks a bit more thought out. In other words, the Contax T2 looks as if it was designed by a computer almost, while the Leica has that human touch.
Looks aside, both are titanium built and will go haywire if they get wet. So they are durable and rugged as long as they are dry.
Weight and ergonomics-wise, they are quite similar here too. The Contax is a bit taller and thinner, while the Leica is shorter and thicker. All in all, with the lens retracted, both can fit in the pocket of your cargo pants.
All in all, style and design-wise, it is a tie. It all depends on your personal preferences here.
Even though the Contax T2 is not Leica, because it found its way into the hands of some celebrities, the prices have skyrocketed. Leicas, on the other hand, are always costly. So, in this case, your budget has to be a bit larger if you want to get either camera.
That means if you want a mint condition Contax T2, it will set you back around $1000, while the Leica Minilux will cost you around $1200.
So, price-wise, it is almost a tie. The Contax is a bit cheaper, but the prices for it vary depending on how popular it is at the moment. In contrast, Leica prices are more stable over time, and so make a better long-term investment.
Which is the Better Option Between the Contax T2 vs the Leica Minilux?
There is no clear winner here. Which camera is better will depend on which cons you can handle and which you can’t.
The Contax T2 has a darker lens but is equally as sharp as the brighter Leica lens. On the other hand, the Leica has less consistent autofocus and a horrible viewfinder.
You can shoot the Leica with one hand, but you can set up exposure compensation on the Contax without clicking a button several times.
Both look cool, both are built from titanium, and both can take a beating as long as they are dry. Both have a similar price.
So the choice is a brighter lens versus a superior autofocus system and a larger viewfinder with more information. If you care about the lens more, then the Leica Minilux is for you. If you want to see what you photograph via the viewfinder, then the Contax T2 is for you.