Strangely, the RTS was heavily engaging with electronic inside out in its design. But personally I think its design foresighted by spearheading technologies beyond its time which was still very much dominating with users of hard-core mechanical cameras. Another attempt was by the Minolta XK/XM/X1 camera which packs even more electronic inside. The Contax RTS's approach was mid between but still half a decade ahead of camera such as Nikon F3 in its basic operational concept.
This is evidenced by the incorporation of some mechanism that was mechanical driven like the backup speed of 1/50 sec which is battery independent, obviously, mainly to satisfy users input and also signifies the main draw back of the original RTS. After all this is the first camera after a lapse of close to over 40 years since the last Zeiss Contax IIIa being discontinued in 1961. In the Contax photographic system, other than the lens system and truly functional body design, the Contax RTS was a camera originally conceived to take advantage of advanced electronic circuitry both in its camera operations and in its system accessories. The electronic systems as well as the other systems of the Contax RTS are totally integrated so that lenses, camera and accessories function as one with the integrated whole.
The electronic circuitry controls exposure and automatic diaphragm action of the lens; it also extends through to the auxiliary release socket and other contact terminals on the camera body to enable proper synchronization of electronically controlled accessories which incorporate their own off-camera releases. For example, when using the cable switch (Electronic wireless cable release), the same electronic pulse that trips the shutter internally may be used to fire the camera, together with the motor drive, flash and other accessories attached, from even up to 10 meters away.
Likewise, although through a different terminal, the integral release button on the motor drive’s power pack hooks up for remote control release. In addition, the integral release system synchronize even with the internal circuitry of a Contax's dedicated flash unit (stroboscopic flash at 5-flashes-per-second is also possible with the most powerful Real Time Flash 540).
Although it sounds 'primitive' if measures by modern SLR technologies. But if you try to visualize that was a concept designed 30 years ago, you have to learn to respect its creator. The same working principle applies to the Infrared Controller, or wireless remote controller as popularly referred, it transmits electrical pulse, via infrared rays, to the receiver unit and relays the pulse to activate the shutter. The Professional Motor Drive and Real Time Winder also work on the same principle as well via their own contact terminals which relates to synchronization of shutter timing and film advance. Even the Contax Auto Bellows unit operates the lens diaphragm electronically, using the same pulse via a special connector cord. There are many other system accessories that integrates properly with one and other.
A simple illustration of how individual system accessories integrate with one and other.
Wireless release Infra-Controller
Integral shutter release button of RTS 540 electronic flash.
Professional motor drive unit featuring dual release system: one on the hand grip...
Release socket on camera body. A terminal for hook up of various of camera release accessories.
...and one on the Power Pack.
Electro-plus firing, off-camera cable switch
Although that sounds very simple here simple, but the Contax has an absolute advantage from having to design the system from ground up and integrated as a whole to make this possible. This is one reason why many quoted original Contax system as trend setting. While other manufacturers will continue to come out with partial imitations, they would have to revise their systems completely from scratch - making their existing equipment obsolete - to attain the degree of functional integration offered by the Contax System. This is evidenced by many accessories that are still operational with the next upgrade of camera models and among the flagship, midrange or entry models.
One of the most eye-catching feature in a Contax SLR camera is its smooth contour and the unusual artificial leather it uses. In designing the Contax RTS body, the Porsche design team has put a lot of emphasis on human engineering design, but in the mean time maintain its exterior design as functional as the sophisticated electronic systems housed within. But for those who were so used to the hard textured artificial leather on other camera may feel a little defensive -because it didn't portray a solid feel of the camera. Some of the users did complaint on the worn-off of the smooth leather after a 'generation' of use. Frankly, I was almost became a Contax user, if not of two things that put me off - first is the exterior artificial leather used and secondly was the highly debatable location of the switch of position between the shutter speed dial and film speed dial.
A very well made and features-riched Contax Aria by Kyocera should be a well received Contax body by followers and potential new SLR users.
Here I am not questioning the integrity of the designing concept - but rather representing a segment of potential users of how one felt with the layout and interrelates to possible two hand camera operation. Anyway, there could have been a few million happy Contax users now, some of the latest SLR bodies are still adopting the original layout of the film speed and shutter speed dial, may be my remarks are a little of 'out of phase'... Err..
The RTS has a fairly large, bright and easy to understand viewfinder. All the essential information pertaining to exposure control are concentrated in a total information viewfinder. When operates in auto mode, a bright, LED dot indicates the continuously variable shutter speed chosen by the exposure e system in relation to lighting conditions. Shutter speeds may also be varied simply by changing the aperture setting. For manual shooting, simply set the green pointer to desired speed by turning the shutter speed dial. On manual, the LEDs continue to light, indicating the camera’s recommended shutter speed.
The aperture setting in use, but changes each time you change lenses to also give the maximum and minimum aperture of the lens in use. At the base of the finder, a ring-type exposure compensation is being employed to remind the photographer if the exposure compensation has been activated. In the center of the finder is a microprism focusing spot which brings the image in sharply when you are focused properly. In addition to the standard microprism focusing screen, six additional interchangeable screens are available for close-up, photomicrography, astrophotography and other specialized applications.
Some features worthy mentioned in the RTS
As you rest the camera in the palm of your left hand, your right index finger falls naturally atop the extra-large magnetic release button, poised to trip the shu tter. With the film advance lever partially extended, your right thumb sets comfortably behind it, ready for rapid wind with a 140 stroke as soon as you trip the shutter. In contrast, as you bring the camera to your eye, your left thumb can easy operate the shutter speed dial on the opposite side of the camera - when shooting in the manual mode.
Contax/Yashica Mount A product of the close-knit teamwork of optical, mechanical and electronic engineers, the highly acclaimed three-claw Contax/Yashica Mount accepts the full range of precision-plus Zeiss T* Lenses designed especially for the Contax RTS. Not only is this the largest diameter bayonet mount available, affording greater versatility in lens use, but its well-calculated setting angle and fully coordinated internal linkage system have been optimized to instantly transform the lens or accessory in use into an integral part of the camera body. Focusing screens are easily changed through the large aperture of the mount.
UPDATE:- Hello, First, thank you for an amazing site! I feel that your page on Contax focusing screens could be improved a bit. Are you aware that the RTS II screens do not fit the original RTS? The screens for the original RTS are a bit smaller and the tab is located in a different place. Searching the net it's very difficult to find information on which screens fit the original RTS and based on KEH's pages the correct answer seems to be screens without a prefix like #1 = microprism or #3 = split-image 45 degree while the numbering is the same as the RTS II FS-series screens. It would be great if you could add this info to your page and maybe prevent others making the mistake of getting a RTS II screen for the RTS. A separate row for the RTS in the quick reference table would be very nice.
Best Regards, Petri Rahikkala <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Handy Shutter Speed Dial The shutter speed dial, is functionally positioned on the left side of the camera surrounding the film rewind lever. It normally remains locked on the “A” (AUTO) setting. On Auto, speeds are continuously variable from an ultra-fast 1/2000 sec. to 4 full seconds; while the manual speeds range from 1/2000 sec. to 4 sec. in 14 click stop settings, plus B. The film rewind crank handle fits neatly into the hub of the “A” setting of the shutter speed dial and features a built-in clutch which allows it to remain stationary during film advance.
Lens Release Button Located on the top left hand side of the lens mount, the convenient lens release button enables quick, “ one-action” lens changing. To detach the lens, simply press the button and give lens a 72-degree twist to the left.
ASA/DIN Film Speed Dial Located beside the magnetic release button, the ASA (DIN) Film Speed Dial has an extensive film range from ASA 12-3200 for use of both general and special purpose films. Film speed is easily set by lifting the coller around the dial and aligning the desired film speed with the index mark.
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Basic Instruction Manuals: 6 Parts
Beyond the User's Manual, addressing other Issues : 4 Parts
Scanned early Contax's system accessories files in PDF format: Motor Drive | Winder | Macro | Databack/Remote | Flash | Early Lenses 1 & 2 | Accessories
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Camera Models: | Contax RTS | RTS II | RTS III |
Shared Resources:| Motor Drive- PMD W6| Winder - RTW-W3 | Screens | Flash | Macro | Remote | Databack | Accessories | Zeiss T* Optic | Instruction Manuals: Contax RTS HTML | PDF | Contax RTS II Quartz HTML | PDF | Contax RTS III (3 parts PDF by email@example.com, M. Butkus, NJ. Part A | Part B | Part C |
OFF TOPIC:- Personal Note
Main Reference Map:
RTS - HTML | PDF (206k)
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RTS III - HTML | PDF
RTS - HTML | PDF(159k)
RTS II - HTML | PDF(66k)
RTS III - HTML | PDF
1982: RTS II
1990: RTS III
List of Carl Zeiss T* lenses for Contax SLR cameras
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Credit: MClau, joint maintainer of the Contax RTS MB. Some of the content are extracts from: Cees De Groot, who maintains a Contax FAQ site and Tim Roger website on Contax SLR cameras, A few of the images on Zeiss lenses were downloaded from Contax US website. My buddy, Yeak † & Rizal Yahya, for their cool programming with Contax RTS's Message Board, Note:certain contents and images appeared in this site were either scanned from official marketing leaflets, brochures, sales manuals or publications published by Kyocera over the years and/or contributions from surfers who claimed originality of their own work solely for educational purposes. The creator of the site will not be responsible for any discrepancies that may arise from such possible disputes except rectifying them after verification."Kyocera", "Yashica", "Contax" & "Carl Zeiss T*" are registered trade names of Kyocera Corporation Inc., Japan. A site made with an Apple IMac, dedicated to all fans of Contax cameras and Zeiss Optics.