The Contax G1 Film Camera Review: A Retro Revolution in Photography

Jan 6, 2023
10 min read

Are you tired of lugging around a heavy, clunky digital camera that drains your battery life faster than a fifth grader on a sugar high? It might be time to consider ditching the digital and going old school with a film camera. And if you’re in the market for a film camera, you need to check out the Contax G1.

This sleek, compact camera has a cult following among film photographers, and for good reason. It’s got a beautiful design, a wide range of lenses to choose from, and it takes stunning, cinematic shots. But is the Contax G1 right for you? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive into the history, specs, pros and cons, and common questions about the G1. Plus, we’ll compare it to the G2 to help you decide which one is the best fit for your photography needs.

So grab a cup of coffee (or a film reel, if you’re feeling extra retro), and let’s get started.

Contax G1 History

The Contax G1 made its debut in 1994, and it quickly gained a reputation as a high-end, professional-grade film camera. It was the first camera in the Contax G series, which also includes the G2 and the G3. The G1 was developed in collaboration with Carl Zeiss, a German company known for its high-quality optics, and it was designed to be compact and lightweight while still offering professional-level performance.

The G1 was well received by photographers and critics alike, and it became a popular choice among professionals and advanced amateurs. It was discontinued in 2005, but it remains a beloved camera among film photography enthusiasts to this day.

There have been a number of famous photographers who have used Contax G cameras over the years. Some examples include:

  • Helmut Newton: Helmut Newton was a German-Australian photographer known for his iconic fashion and portrait photography. He used a Contax G2 extensively throughout his career, and many of his famous images were captured with this camera.
  • Jay Maisel: Jay Maisel is an American photographer who is known for his colorful and expressive street photography. He used a Contax G1 for many of his photographs, and has spoken highly of its capabilities and image quality.
  • Andreas Gursky: Andreas Gursky is a German photographer known for his large-scale, highly detailed images of landscapes, cities, and other subjects. He has used a range of Contax G cameras throughout his career, including the G1 and G2.

These are just a few examples of famous photographers who have used Contax G cameras. There are many other photographers who have also used these cameras and have achieved great success with them.

Contax G1 film camera review

Contax G1 Specs

  • 35mm film camera
  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Interchangeable lenses
  • 1/2000 second maximum shutter speed
  • Continuous shooting speed of 2.5 frames per second
  • LCD screen for camera settings and playback
  • Uses CR123A lithium batteries

Contax G1 Shooting Modes

The Contax G1 film camera has a range of shooting modes that allow you to control the exposure and other settings of your camera. Here is a list of the shooting modes available on the G1:

  • Program auto: This mode allows you to set the aperture and the camera will automatically set the shutter speed to achieve a properly exposed image.
  • Aperture priority: This mode allows you to set the aperture and the camera will automatically set the shutter speed to achieve a properly exposed image.
  • Shutter priority: This mode allows you to set the shutter speed and the camera will automatically set the aperture to achieve a properly exposed image.
  • Manual: This mode allows you to set both the aperture and the shutter speed manually, giving you full control over the exposure of your images.
  • Bulb: This mode allows you to keep the shutter open for an extended period of time, allowing you to capture long exposures.
  • Flash sync: This mode allows you to synchronize the camera’s flash with the shutter.
Contax G1 film camera review

Contax G1 Pros & Cons

Like any camera, the Contax G1 has its pros and cons. Here are some of the main points to consider:


  • Compact and lightweight design: The G1 is easy to carry around and won’t weigh you down like a brick.
  • Wide range of lenses: The G1 has a diverse lineup of lenses to choose from, which gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of the types of shots you can take.
  • Stunning image quality: The G1 produces beautiful, cinematic shots with rich colors and sharp


  • Limited ISO range: The G1’s ISO range tops out at 3200, which can be limiting in low light situations.
  • Slow autofocus: The G1 does not have the best autofocus, which can be slow at times.
  • Expensive: The G1 is a high-end camera, and it comes with a high-end price tag.
  • Silver Label not compatible with all G-Mount lenses. Prefer a Contax G1 Green Label to ensure a maximum of lenses compatibility.

Contax G1 common questions

Is the G1 good for beginners?
While the G1 is a fantastic camera, it may not be the best choice for absolute beginners. It lacks some of the features that make other film cameras more user-friendly, such as autofocus and a built-in light meter. That being said, if you’re an experienced photographer looking to make the switch to film, the G1 could be a great option for you.

If you’re a beginner looking to get into film photography, you may be interested in more affordable options that are still user-friendly and easy to learn with. Here are a few examples of film cameras that could be a good fit for beginners:

  • Canon AE-1: The Canon AE-1 is a classic film camera that is known for its ease of use and durability. It has a built-in light meter, a range of automatic shooting modes, and an affordable price tag. It’s a great option for those who are just starting out in film photography and want to learn the basics.
  • Pentax K1000: The Pentax K1000 is another classic film camera that is popular among beginners. It’s known for its simple and straightforward design, as well as its affordable price. It has a built-in light meter and a range of manual and automatic shooting modes.
  • Olympus OM-1: The Olympus OM-1 is a compact film camera with a range of manual and automatic shooting modes. It has a built-in light meter and is known for its high image quality. It’s a bit pricier than some other beginner-friendly options, but it’s still a good value for the features it offers.

These are just a few examples of affordable film cameras that could be a good fit for beginners. There are many other options out there as well, so it’s worth doing some research and seeing what might work best for your needs and budget.

Does the G1 have a light meter?

Yes, the Contax G1 has a built-in, center-weighted average light meter. The light meter is used to measure the amount of light in a scene and determine the correct exposure settings for the camera. It is located inside the camera body and is activated when the camera is turned on. The G1’s light meter can be used in both manual and aperture priority modes, allowing you to have control over your exposures.

What is the maximum shutter speed of the G1?

The G1 has a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second. This is a fast shutter speed that allows you to freeze fast-moving subjects and shoot in bright light conditions without overexposing your images.

Contax G1 film camera review

Contax G1 Common Issues

Like any camera, the Contax G1 is prone to a few common issues. Here are some problems you may encounter:

Light leaks: The G1’s film compartment is prone to light leaks, which can result in blurry or overexposed shots. To prevent this, make sure the film compartment is securely closed and keep the camera away from strong light sources.
Battery drain: The G1 uses CR123A lithium batteries, which can drain quickly if you’re using the LCD screen frequently. Make sure to carry spare batteries with you when you’re out shooting.
Shutter sticking: The G1’s shutter can sometimes get stuck, which can cause the camera to stop functioning. If this happens, try gently cleaning the shutter blades with a soft, dry cloth. If the problem persists, you may need to have the camera serviced by a professional.

Contax G1 Silver VS Green Label

It’s also worth noting that there are two versions of the G1: the silver label and the green label. If you’re not familiar, the original silver label G1s couldn’t use the 21mm and 35mm lenses. But fear not, a correction was made and cameras that could handle these lenses were given a shiny new green label (located inside the film compartment). If you were a proud owner of a silver label G1, never fear – you had the option to “upgrade” to a green label by sending your camera to Contax (many even came with a free upgrade certificate). Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to upgrade your G1 since Contax has ceased operations. So if you want a G1 that can rock those 21mm and 35mm lenses, make sure to snag a green label version.


Contax G1 Comparison with the G2

The Contax G2 is the successor to the G1 and was released in 1996. It features a similar design and the same interchangeable lens system as the G1, but it includes a few upgrades. Here’s a comparison of the two cameras:

  • Autofocus speed: The G1’s autofocus is slower than the autofocus on some other film cameras, such as the Contax G2. This can be a disadvantage for photographers who need a fast autofocus system, especially when shooting fast-moving subjects or in low light conditions.
  • Size and weight: The G1 is a relatively large and heavy camera compared to some other film cameras. This may not be an issue for some photographers, but it could be a drawback for those who are looking for a more compact and lightweight camera.
  • Price: The G1 is a high-end film camera with a premium price tag. It may not be the most affordable option for photographers who are on a tight budget.


The Contax G1 is a classic film camera that has stood the test of time and remains a popular choice among film photographers. Its compact and lightweight design, wide range of lenses, and stunning image quality make it a versatile and capable camera. While it does have its drawbacks, such as a limited ISO range and no autofocus, these may not be deal breakers for experienced photographers.

In terms of comparison with the G2, it really comes down to personal preference and your photography needs. If you need the convenience of autofocus and a larger LCD screen, the G2 might be a better fit for you. However, if you don’t mind manually focusing and are on a budget, the G1 could be the way to go.

One thing to keep in mind when considering either the G1 or the G2 is that they are both high-end cameras with a premium price tag. If you’re just starting out in film photography, you might want to consider a more budget-friendly option to see if it’s something you enjoy before investing in a high-end camera.

In conclusion, the Contax G1 is a fantastic film camera that is well worth considering if you’re a film photography enthusiast. Its wide range of lenses, beautiful design, and stunning image quality make it a versatile and capable camera. Just be prepared to shell out a little extra cash for the privilege of shooting with this classic piece of photographic history.

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