The Contax T was the start of the desirable T line. It launched in 1984 as a ultra compact, high quality, range finder manufactured by Kyocera.
The Contax T was produced by Kyocera, who had just taken over Yashica (1983), who had licensed the Contax name. The design was done by Porsche Design Group. The lens is a Zeiss designed 38/2.8. Got all that?
Enough history. This is a very small camera. It is resembles the Minox 35 series in form and size. The lens is retracted and covered by a drawbridge style front cover. The construction is high quality with an aluminum body and titanium cover. It is deceptively heavy for the size.
Controls are on the lens with aperture on the inner ring and focus on the outer ring. There is a rangefinder with a focus patch that is sharper than expect for such a small camera. Shutter speed is dictated by the camera with a maximum speed of 1/500. ISO is manually set. Frame count is an LED on the top plate. The T is an aperture priority camera. LED in the viewfinder tells you an approximate speed or if the shot is overexposed.
Focus options: This is a range finder but it is a very small camera. As with other small rangefinders I have tried, focus was more difficult than on a full size range finder. No surprise there. For me the way that seemed to work best was to hold the camera with both hands and use the index finger from both hand to adjust the focus. A guy my size holding a tiny camera with both hand reminds me of a comedy sketch about a big guy in a small jacket. Worked by not very elegant. Next option was to just zone focus. Scale is in meters starting at 1 and progressing nicely to 4, then jumps to infinity. So 4 to infinity is a guess. Not to worry the mighty T has you covered. Hiding in plain site on the lens (and in the manual) is the answer. f8 is painted green and on the distance scale there is a green dot just short of 4 meters. On each side of the dot is a green line that goes from just under 3 meters to infinity. f8 and be there. As long as the light is not too low or too bright for the camera to use f8, everything from 2 meters to infinity will be in focus. Problem solved. Put it on the green 8 and the green dot and you are ready for quick deployment.
I love the size of the T. It is very much like the Minox 35s that I also like. But on build quality and image quality, it is much better. The original Contax T is often overshadowed by the T2 and the especially the Contax T3. I have the T3 and would argue that it is a better camera - mostly. My only issue with the T3 is that it has become so expensive that I worry about using it. I feel like I should handcuff it to my wrist and be accompanied by an armed guard when I use it. I don’t feel that way about the T. I know it is not as cheap as a Minox but it hits a balance of quality vs price. But the interest in the T2 and the T3 seem to be pushing the price of the original T up. But for now it hit a nice sweet spot for me.
Film: FujiColor 100
Lens: Carl Zeiss Sonnar 2.8/38 T*