Contax T3 Apex compact camera with great resolution and a three-dimensional feel that can be used from the widest aperture.

The price of the Contax T3, which costs three times the list price, has not stopped soaring in the used market, and its popularity overseas seems unstoppable.

I used to have a Contax T3, although it is now a completely premier camera that I can’t afford. Unfortunately, I lost it in a theft during a trip, but I would like to look back on the beauty of the T3 with some examples of my work.

Contax T3 Specifications

Release date2001
TypeFully automatic lens shutter type with built-in 35mm strobe
screen size24×36mm
LensCarl Zeiss Sonnar T*35mm F2.8 (6 elements in 4 groups)
ApertureF2.8~16 (depending on aperture dial)
Shooting range0.35m~∞
FocusAuto focus (manual focus can be set by mode button)
FinderLight-harvesting frame finder
camera shutterDouble-vitro lens shutter
P: 16 sec ~ 1/1200 sec (fastest at maximum aperture setting of 1/500 sec), longest at LT setting of 180 sec
Exposure ControlProgram AE, Aperture priority AE ±2EV (1/3 step) (1/2 step switchable with CF)
Photometric method2-segment external metering (using SPD element) with automatic backlight strobe flash
Ranging systemPassive system with AF auxiliary light and focus lock mechanism
Finder TypeReverse Galilean viewfinder, magnification and field of view 0.5x 85% (3m)
self-timerElectronic, 10 and 2 seconds activation time, deactivation possible during the process
Battery1 x 3V lithium battery (CR 2)
FeatureLighter and smaller than a 28mm SLR interchangeable lens, but with equal or better imaging performance and manual aperture priority exposure
Weight230g (excluding batteries), T3D: 235g (excluding batteries)
Price98,000 yen

Contax T3 Features

Since this is a high-end compact camera released after the year 2000, it is clearly more modern than cameras released in the 1990s, and its features are superior to others.

Only FUJI FILM’s KLASSE S and W, released in 2006, can compete with the T3 in terms of modern imaging and features.

Depiction of the new SONNER lenses

Anyway, the resolution is high and does not break up even in strong sunlight. I think it is characterized by strong contrast and tight “blacks”.

When I first started using the T3, I was most surprised by the resolution and clarity of the indoor shots. I shot under fluorescent light and the clarity and resolution were perfect.

Normally, indoor shots tend to be taken under-exposed, and even the GR1 and other lenses produce quite a bit of noise, but this is not the case with the T3. Even photographs taken at dusk with under-exposure showed almost no noise, so it can be said that this lens is strong in depicting shadows and can withstand use in environments where under-exposure tends to be a problem.

Characteristics: High resolution, tight blacks, and photos that do not break down under any shooting conditions.

shutter speed

Compared to shutter speeds of up to 1/500 sec with the GR1 and 1/250 sec with the Konica Hexar, the Contax T3 has a shutter speed of 1/1200 sec. The difference is overwhelming.

Even on sunny days, I can shoot near maximum aperture, which greatly expands my shooting range.

Shortest distance 35cm

The shortest distance of the T3 was 35cm; the GR1 with a 28mm lens was 35cm and the Minolta TC-1 was 45cm, making it the closest camera among the high-end compact cameras up to that time.

This is a major evolution, especially since the T2, its predecessor, had a shortest distance of 70cm, making it impossible to take close-ups of people or objects.

I think there were many people who liked the descriptive performance of the Contax T2 but were reluctant to purchase the T2 because of its inability to get close. Also, there is no loss of resolution near maximum aperture, which was a complaint of the T2, so there is nothing to fault with the T2.

Why I chose Ricoh GR1 instead of Contax T3

Although the T3 is a compact camera with no complaints in terms of functionality and description, my main compact camera is Ricoh’s GR1s.I also had a Contax T3 once, but it was stolen during a trip and I had to give it up unexpectedly.

However, even though I have re-purchased the GR1s three times, I did not purchase the T3 again. I would like to tell you why.

I did not like the description of the sunny day.

Contax T3 example
I don’t like the picture of these perfectly clear conditions.

I usually walk around taking pictures, but my focus was on “Asian street photography”. Basically, I had only been to hot countries, so there were many sunny situations.

The T3, or rather Contax lenses, tend to be dramatic in their rendering, for better or worse. Also, the T3 has strong contrast on sunny days, so it did not fit the photographic image I wanted to take.

It was not suited for taking pictures as quickly as the GR1.

I carry my GR1 in my pocket. In terms of surface area, the T3 is a smaller camera than the GR1, but it weighs a little more and is deeper than the GR1.

It was difficult to take out of my pocket, and it was made of titanium and had no grip, so it was slippery. I had no choice but to buy a rapid-fire case and carry it diagonally across my body, but it is difficult to take stealthy shots, and the shutter release is delayed by about 2 tempo compared to taking it out of my pocket.

I had other cameras that I could have used instead.

To be honest, I had many doubts about purchasing the T3, but one of the reasons that finally stopped me was that I had a Contax TVS.

TVS is a camera with a SONNER zoom lens that improves on the T2. It is not new in construction and is not quite as good as the T3, but it takes moderately good pictures.

The compact camera was treated as a sub, which is why we decided to use TVS.

High price

Compared to now, I was able to buy a T3 for less than 1/3 of the price before 2010, but since other cameras were also less expensive, I still gave up on the T3 because I thought it was too expensive.

By the way, I bought a T3 in 2007 for 63,000 yen; the GR1 was 23,000 yen.

Contax T3 sample images

I chose the GR1, but the T3 has more photos that give me a huff. I will include some examples of my work, including some situations that I am not good at. All films are PORTA 400.

Contax T3 example

Shadows are wonderfully rendered. Saturation is a bit jumpy, but the resolution of the shadows is superb.

Contax T3 example

T3 is good at this kind of soft light and gives a three-dimensional effect. Although it is backlit, there is not much shadow crush.

Contax T3 example

This was probably taken with the aperture wide open. The overall picture is soft, but the focus is solid. It is really good at depicting soft light through a window like this.

Contax T3 example

Mixture of strong sunlight and shadows, which the T3 does not do well. Resolution is great, but the contrast is too strong for my personal taste.

Contax T3 example

This is a shot on an island where the light was even stronger. The contrast was too strong, so I lowered the bright areas and raised the dark areas a bit, but it is not ideal for this type of situation. The resolution is just amazing.

I sorted through the photos when writing this article, and I have to say that it is a great camera. The images taken with the aperture wide open have a three-dimensionality and description that T2 and TVS cannot produce.

Well, I’m still reconsidering buying it again.



  1. Great resolution (normal rendering from aperture F4)
  2. Shadows are not crushed.
  3. The three-dimensionality and depiction in soft light (like through a window or lace curtains) is wonderful.
  4. The description of the open aperture is amazing.

The bottlenecks are the weak point in strong light and non-contrast scenes, and the price.

However, some stores still accept the camera for repair, so I still have to buy the T3. I will be thinking about how to raise the initial cost.