Classic SLR Series
Contax TLA Auto Electronic Flash System
One of the greatest advances in the RTS update incorporated into the Contax RTS II Quartz camera body was the capability to take full advantage of the unique advantages of the Contax TLA Auto Flash System.
This advanced TTL flash system employed offers a number of unique benefits for flash photography, including Through-The-Lens metering of flash exposures at the film plane (TTL OTF), automated control of flash/shutter synchronization, full viewfinder information on flash system status and off-camera/ remote flash use. Equipment in the TLA System includes: the Real Time Flash 540 (with TLA adapter), the compact TLA 30 and mini-sized TLA 20 flash units and also TLA Multi-Flash Setup / Extension System accessories. It was also form the basis of how this flash system that eventually leads to the development of the highly advanced pre- flash TTL spot metering system developed for the RTS III that followed.
Below are the various system flash tools and accessories that were made available for the Contax RTS II QUARTZ during the eighties. Newer flash units were being introduced over the years and most of them can also be used in TTL, AUTO and MANUAL modes with no compatibility issues arise from such combination, except of cause minus any AF flash functions when an AF flash is used. There are basically two major flash types*, one is the compact, portable flash design while another is using off camera mounting bracket flash which usually has much stronger power output and faster recycling time.
In terms of feature list, all of these original factory designed CONTAX flash units bear specifications and quality rivaling any of the best you can find in the industry. Naturally, you can also opt for third party flash units where some popular brand such as Metz, Sunpak etc. produce some SCA adapters to retain certain specific functions such as TTL and auto sync shutter speed control. I am not too familiar with those units and have no reference to their reliability but these off-brand units are generally priced lower in retail prices than original units and have been around for quite sometime and they have their own set of faithful users.
* The latest AF flash unit designed specifically for the CONTAX AF cameras can be categorized as one while the Medical 100DX Macrophoto System has a specialized Ring Flash design can also be defined as one, if you like.
The Contax early flash system comprised of an extremely powerful Contax Auto RTF 540 unit which has a powerful guide number from GN40 to GN56 and a host of impressive features such as motorized synchronization of stroboscopic effect of 5 flashes per second on a single frame; tilt and swivel flash head, detachable sensor(s) and works on multiple power sources.
The awesome RTF 540 was updated with an TLA Adapter when the CONTAX RTS II QUARTZ introduced the TTL flash capability which allows taking full advantage of the TTL flash exposure control.
In addition, it features its own built-in-shutter release button and it features its own built-in shutter release button Other features include a swivel flash head; detachable sensor unit.
System accessories include wide-angle panel, color filter panels, a slave unit and a choice of three power sources. This awesome bracket flash was replaced by the TLA-480 Set when the RTS III new second curtain sync feature would need an updated flash to synchronize its function. Naturally, the new series of flash can also be used for older bodies but with restricted function with the original RTS camera mode.
Credit: Two very well taken shots of the CONTAX TLA 20 and TLA 30 flash units contributed by Mr. Timothy Daley of www.alkit.com <cameras@AS400.alkit.com>
Flash Instruction Manual Update: I have just bought a used Instruction Manual from a friendly someone via an online shop, and hopefully I can find sometime to convert the User's Manual into a HTML format site. However, I don't think I would like to go through the tedious process of searching for another TLA 20 or T450 Manual and followed by another round of busy process of buying bank drafts, express mail, numerous emails for confirmations etc... . IF you have the time, can you think anyone of you can create one for this site ?
Among the many older options for selection of dedicated flash for RTS and RTS II, compact shoe mount units such as the Contax TLA 30 and the smaller Contax TLA-20 remained as the main sales mover in the Contax flash product line those days, as both of these flash units offer a far convenient and practical solution for day to day usage rather than the cumbersome bracket mount flash like RTF 450 nor the newer units such as TLA 480 introduced at later stages. With the development of many Contax SLRs introduced over the years, other than the top of the line RTS series camera models, Contax has also introduced quite a few units of compact flash which can be used with all other RTS SLR models.
( New Upload ) Instruction Manual for CONTAX TLA 30 is available NOW !
The Contax flash group published in a 1990 Sales Manual has only mentioned flash models such as TLA-360, TLA280 with an ultra-slim TLA-140 added up to the lineup (replaced by a TLA 200 at later stage). Although the Sales Manual didn't mention older flash units such as the evergreen TLA30 nor the TLA20 in it but seemed like the updated info suggested TLA-360, TLA280 seemed more like an replacement units rather than added on Contax alternatives.
Technical Highlights of the CONTAX RTF/TLA Flash Units:
Through-The-Lens Metering: All TLA flash exposures are metered directly at the film plane by a special SPD cell in the camera body. When just the proper exposure has been reached, the camera automatically cuts off output from the flash unit. This means that no compensation is required for such factors as filtering, since exposure measurement takes place at the film plane itself. This system has opened up tremendous possibilities in many macro and multi-flashes setup as tedious exposure calculations has greatly simplified.
'Fail-Safe' Flash/Shutter Synchronization Dedicated electronic circuitry in the flash unit and camera body insures that the camera will always be set at a proper X-sync shutter speed when the flash is used, and will revert to the accurate ambient light shutter speed when the flash unit is turned off, or is recycling. At the same time, the photographer is completely free to employ Manual or AE Lock modes to obtain shutter speeds slower than the maximum X-sync speed (1/60 sec. for RTS II Quartz).
Viewfinder Flash Data Display: Whenever a TLA Flash unit is attached to the RTS II Quartz camera, the viewfinder data display provides full information on flash system status. If the flash unit is "On" and ready to fire, a special green "" LED lights to indicate this, while the display shows an automatic shift to the proper X-sync shutter speed. The LED will not light while the flash unit is recycling, or if it is turned off, indicating that the flash will not discharge if the shutter is released. Also, whenever the flash unit is not ready to fire, the camera will automatically revert to the proper ambient light shutter speed, which will be displayed by the viewfinder LEDs. If Manual or AE Lock modes are activated to employ a shutter speed slower than the maximum (1/60) X-sync speed, these will also be indicated by the display. After each shot, the green "" LED will flicker as a 'Confidence Light', to show that exposure was accurate. In case a smaller aperture setting is required to prevent over exposure during flash use, the "OVER" LED will light.
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Credit: Mr. Timothy Daley of www.alkit.com <cameras@AS400.alkit.com> for both of his images on TLA20 and TLA30; 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.