Contax RTS

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In the early 1970s, production of Zeiss Ikon cameras had ceased but the desire to build a high-quality system using Zeiss lenses remained.

In 1973 the Contax name was licensed to the Japanese maker Yashica to create a prestigious brand of 35mm cameras and interchangeable lenses in cooperation with the German company. By that time, Yashica was a production giant with considerable electronic camera experience, and was seeking ways to expand sales and improve brand name recognition in the highly competitive 35mm SLR market. Thus began ‘Top Secret Project 130’, a collaboration with Carl Zeiss to produce a new, professional 35mm SLR with an electronically-controlled shutter, bearing the Contax brand name, along with a new line of premium quality lenses. The F. Alexander Porsche Group was hired to complete an ergonomic and styling study of the new camera. The result was the all-new Contax RTS, which appeared at Photokina in 1974, and proved an immediate hit.

The RTS featured an electronically-controlled, horizontal cloth focal plane shutter with speeds of 1 - 1/2000 sec. plus B, interchangeable focus screens, and the ability to accept a number of professional accessories including power winders, professional motor drives, and both infrared and radio-controlled remote releases.

Before being replaced by the RTSII, an interesting variant of the RTS was produced in small quantities: the Contax RTS Fundus (also called Scientific/Medical; presumably for ophthalmic photography). This was essentially an RTS with two additional features. Firstly, below the shutter speed dial on the front of the top-plate, a locking button was added that prevented the dial from being accidentally knocked from its X-sync (1/60) and Auto settings. The second change was even more useful: the electronic shutter release of the RTS was very sensitive with a depression of less than 1mm to activate the shutter; but in a laboratory, for example, where the operator may be wearing gloves, accidental firing of a standard RTS was a problem. Contax solved this by modifying the top plate further and adding a 2mm guard ring around the shutter release button. Most - but not all - of the RTS Fundus cameras had 'Scientific/Medical' stencilled in white on the base plate. A very small number of these bodies also featured additional mirror-damping.

Since the advent of the RTS, Contax cameras were made by Yashica in Japan, with some lenses made by Carl Zeiss in Germany, some in Japan by Yashica (later Kyocera). The cameras were noteworthy for their advanced electronics. The Contax Zeiss T* lenses, in particular, soon gained a reputation for superb optical quality. Since manual-focus Contax and Yashica manual-focus 35mm SLR cameras share the same bayonet lens mount, their lenses may be used interchangeably.

The success of the RTS led to other Contax cameras (see Contax (Yashica/Kyocera)). In the Contax model range, the most professional and most expensive body would always have a name beginning with RTS.

In 1982 the original RTS was replaced by the Contax RTS II.

In 1991 the RTS II was replaced by the Contax RTS III.


Introduction 1975 1982 1991
Shutter speed 4 to 1/2000 4 to 1/2000 4 to 1/8000
16 to 1/2000 32 to 1/8000
Flash sync 1/60 of a sec 1/250 of a sec
Metering modes Center-weighted
Metering range -1 to 19 EV 0 to 21 EV
3 to 21 EV spot
ISO 12 to 3200 6 to 6400
DX 25 to 5000
Finder 92% 0.87x 97% 0.87x 100% 0.74x
Film Advance crank motor
Battery 4LR44/PX28 6x AAA or 2CR5
Dimensions 142x90x50mm 142x90x50mm 156x121x66mm
Weight 700g 735g 1150g


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