Contax N Digital Camera

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Contax N Digital Camera

Contax N Digital Camera

Introduced in 2000 and brought to market in 2002, the Contax N Digital Camera is the world’s first 35mm full-frame DSLR.

Many people mistakenly believe that the popular Canon EOS-1Ds of 2002 was the first, but it wasn’t. The 1Ds may have caught the public’s attention in 2002, but the short-lived N Digital was actually the first.

The Contax N Digital sported a 6mp full-frame sensor made by Phillips of the Netherlands. The camera was designed to take lenses from the Contax “N” series of Carl Zeiss autofocus lenses. As expected, many of the lenses were outstanding.

Contax N Digital Camera

The Contax N Digital is pretty rare on the used market, although they show up once in a while on eBay, and once in a blue moon on KEH’s website. Prices are trending at $2K or above for minty, working samples.

Now here’s the CAVEAT…A few months after giving back the camera, my friend reported that the camera had a sensor failure! Thankfully, I was not to blame 🙂

With my help, we sent the camera back to Tocad, who were still servicing Contax cameras at the end of 2013. I am not sure if they still are.

Anyway, Tocad sent the camera back to Kyocera in Japan for servicing. Guess what? It came back a couple months later, UNREPAIRABLE. I guess if the sensor is gone, you have $2000 brick as a souvenir .

Contax N Digital Camera

I felt bad for my friend, but he took it all in stride. Still, this is a lesson to be learned especially when buying older and expensive digital cameras. They are not a good buy.

And while I loved the Contax brand, there has always been one thing I’ve known since using Contax film cameras in the 90s: They are fragile. They may feel tough and well made, but the insides are brittle, especially the electronics which are prone to failure.

I still use Contax film cameras now and then, but would never buy a Contax N Digital unless the price was really, really good. That said, there is no denying that the Contax N Digital was a pioneering camera. It was full-frame digital before anyone even thought about full-frame digital! In working condition, when mated to those spectacular Zeiss lenses, the N Digital is capable of superb images.

Contax N Digital Camera Review

Body type
Body type Large SLR
Sensor
Max resolution 3040 x 2008
Other resolutions Unknown
Image ratio w:h 3:2
Effective pixels 6 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors 6 megapixels
Sensor size Full frame (36 x 24 mm)
Sensor type CCD
Image
ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
White balance presets 5
Custom white balance No
Image stabilization No
JPEG quality levels TIFF, Fine, Normal, Basic
Optics & Focus
Autofocus
  • Phase Detect
  • Multi-area
  • Selective single-point
  • Single
  • Continuous
Digital zoom No
Manual focus Yes
Number of focus points 5
Focal length multiplier 1×
Screen / viewfinder
Screen size 2
Touch screen No
Live view No
Viewfinder type Optical (pentaprism)
Viewfinder coverage 95%
Viewfinder magnification 0.73×
Photography features
Minimum shutter speed 32 sec
Maximum shutter speed 1/8000 sec
Aperture priority Yes
Shutter priority Yes
Built-in flash No
External flash Yes (hot-shoe & sync)
Flash modes Unknown
Continuous drive 4.0 fps
Self-timer Yes (2, 5 or 10 sec)
Videography features
Storage
Storage types Compact Flash (Type I or II)
Storage included None
Connectivity
HDMI No
Remote control Yes (Wired)
Physical
Environmentally sealed No
Dimensions 152 x 117 x 69 mm (5.98 x 4.61 x 2.72)
Other features
Orientation sensor No
Timelapse recording No

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