It highlights the move away from film to digital media that has so obviously taken place over the past five years. For the simple job of producing a low resolution illustration for a review, it was the tool of choice.

Iíve been pleased with the digital. It has produced excellent Ďsnapsí that have been ideal for uploading to the editor as .jpeg files, all ready to feed onto the magazineís server. If Iíve needed two shots Iíve been able to fire them off without having to run through a whole film. That has pleased my parsimonious nature.

But proper enlarged photographs for posterity are not the digitalís real forte, so when I wanted recently to have a permanent wall-hanger record of a really beautiful chub, I was a little disappointed by the result. Iíd pressed the digitalís abilities too far.

Having decided upon a return to film, I made a list of essential features, and looked hard to see what the market had to offer. I wanted the compactness of the digital, the quality of a really first class lens, the quietest and smoothest possible shutter, and the flexibility of manual exposure settings.

SLRís are very capable, but they are a bit bulky, and vibration from their flapping mirror system does make it difficult to hand hold shots at slow shutter speeds: a very useful feature in a camera likely to be used at dusk and dawn. Remembering back the almost imperceptible shutter action of my ancient and long-gone Leica, I wondered about rangefinder camera possibilities.

I can tell you, things have moved on in this area. I looked at all sorts of amazing stuff, but plumped eventually for the Contax G2. This camera has a Leica look-alikeness and a staggering specification that has wooed hundreds of top professional photographers away from their hulking SLRís and mega-expensive Leica systems. They love it for its whisper-quiet ability to take high quality candid shots.

A camera is nothing if it doesnít have a good lens. The Zeiss prime lenses supplied for the Contax G2 are quite simply the state of the art. You really have to compare results side by side to appreciate just how detailed, sharp, clean, and Ďrealí a top lensí images can be. The word that comes to mind when looking at the results from my 45mm Zeiss Planar f2 is Ďimmediate.í Image sharpness is aided by the highly effective auto-focus. Iíd previously thought Iíd use the optional manual focusing, but the auto-focus is so accurate, even in extreme low light, that I have hardly used manual at all.

To achieve really sharp shots at slow shutter speeds you need reasonable weight in the camera. The G2 body is a rigid titanium alloy metal job that feels quite substantial. The G2 shutter is just wonderful. The range of speeds is 16 seconds down to 1/6000, which seems to require that I add an exclamation mark! It is so smooth and vibration free that I can hand-hold down to 15th second, when necessary. It makes low light shots without a flash, a real possibility (1/15 second at f2 is real black cat in a coal cellar stuff). Where flash become essential, the tiny but powerful T200 flash unit clips onto the accessory foot, when all camera settings automatically set up for flash photography. Film advance is automatic, and it can be set to single or rapid multiple.

Exposures are automatic, shutter priority, or aperture priority, or complete manual. Metering is Ďthrough the lensí and I have found it to be entirely satsfactory. There is a facility for automatic bracketing of shots, and for those with enough experience to make the mental adjustments, a simple dial to give graduated over or under exposure.

For the first time in years Iím using my brain as I use my camera. Iím using differential focusing to draw subjects from their backgrounds, and moving the camera to he shot, rather than using a zoom lens to move the shot to the camera. Iím seeing more, and making better photographs.

I bought my G2 in order to be able to produce better images of my fish, fishing, and the beauties that surround them. A camera that costs around a grand is not going to be the obvious choice of many anglers, but there are quite a few who recognise photography as an essential extension of their sport, who would do well to interview the G2. The old saying is that you get what you pay for. If you compare the G2 to any other camera in its class (effectively only the rangefinder Leicas) you will discover that it is a remarkable bargain.

I shall continue to use the Olympus Camedia for Ďsnapsí and its digital convenience, but for images that matter, it will be the G2 and its blissfully sublime Zeiss optics.


John Olliff-Cooper