Overview

Right... as you may know I have been (ahem) *trying* to keep it simple, but once I bought into the Adaptall-2 system it became easier to justify an SLR with a lens mount that was outside my M42-Pentax K-Konica trinity. So since I got a Contax/Yashica adapter with one of my Adaptall-2 lenses, here we are. Suddenly a new camera is an instant kit!

When Yashica recieved the right to produce Zeiss-branded lenses and Contax-branded cameras (1973?), they also began producing alongside the Contax SLRs a lower-priced, scaled down line of Yashica-branded SLRs with the same bayonet mount. What this means to you is that the cheapest path to Zeiss glass for Contax SLRs is through a late-model Yashica. The first series was the excellent FR (not unlike the concurrent Contax RTS), the FR-1 and FR-2, and on the other side the no-frills FX series: FX, FX-2, FX-3. The FX-3, our subject here, marked a change from the heavy metal-bodied mechanical SLR with a cloth focal plane shutter to a lighter weight model with a mechanical metal focal plane shutter. Later came the FX-7, the FX-103 and 107, and the Super series with a different body grip and higher speeds (in the FX-3 Super 2000). For details on all the model variations see CE DeGroot's page here.

As for this particular sample, t'was a hand-me-down from my good friend Bill, who by then had acquired a nicer one with a kit of ML lenses, and no longer needed the beater he got for free. Especially once he had a two-body kit with a Yashica FR, which I got to play with and it is indeed a cool and very solid camera.

What I like about the FX-3: the easy mechanical focal plane shutter, which seems very similar to one in the Nikon FM2 -- quick and virtually vibration-free despite the lack of camera mass. And in that vein, I discovered that like the earlier Konica Autoreflexes, this little guy has mirror lockup during self-timer action, in case you need that extra degree of sharpness with scenics when you've got it on a tripod. And when you don't you'll find it's very comfortable to hold, it's a great size and weight and feels very well-balanced in the hands. Nice lens, nearly a pancake lens, short and with a fairly short turning radius. Focuses down to .5m. In fact the whole thing reminds me a lot of the Autoreflex TC in size and weight, but without the AE and nice meter of the TC. Which brings us to what I don't like, the basically useless meter. Requires not one, but two batteries, just to power a little + o - LED readout in the viewfinder. I far prefer a match needle to that, and after seeing the nice LCD readout in the FR I was pretty underwhelmed. Sunny-16 is better to me than a over-under LED.

Now, the lens thing. You could certainly get an inexpensive Yashica SLR body and then invest in the nice Zeiss T* lenses, no question. First let me tell you that I actually did once borrow a Contax SLR and excitedly shot a roll with the f1.4 Planar. May the gearfetish hordes strike me down, but I was singularly unimpressed. It was not only NOT noticeably better than the good glass I already own in other mounts, but the out-of-focus areas were positively ugly at wider apertures. I think I may actually have said 'blech' when I saw some of the samples. I'll keep my SMC Pentax, my Hexanons, and yes my Volna, thank you. Besides, I love my other Yashica glass, they do make damn good lenses! Pick up a $15 GSN and shoot it next to your Nikon, you'll see what I mean. SO to come full circle, I'd say that even though this is a great way to get into the Yashica-made Zeiss lenses, IMO you'd be just as well to stick with the Yashica ML series. ML is for multicoated, it was a cut above the single-coated DSB series. Not to mention that most camera lenses are based on Zeiss designs anyway....

Repairs

Needed new light seals. Luckily Bill had already used this as a light seal replacement guinea pig and I didn't have to do it for a change. Now, the outer skin of the fake leather has peeled off, revealing a kind of charming soft fuzzy covering. I peeled the last scraps off myself, thinking I would like it that way but though comfortable it was a little more slippery than I expected. This cheesy covering cracks and peels on all the later FX and Contax SLRs from what I understand. SO if you want to do it right I suggest you head over to http://www.cameraleather.com or http://www.aki-asahi.com and get a kit for it. I got an aki-asahi kit from one of the seller's ebay auctions at a bargain price, shipped quickly from Japan and I did the whole job including removing the old covering in about 15 minutes. Sweet!

The other thing was the wobbly wind lever with the missing leatherette circle. The reverse-threaded screw that holds down the plastic wind lever wouldn't stay tight. I tried gluing it in place with a little Pliobond on the threads, thought it would provide more traction than the usual dot of clear nail polish, but it didn't keep. So then I put a small piece of the old sticky covering in with the screw threads to take up some of the slack. Time will tell.

Tips & Tricks

I mentioned the MLU already, the only other thing of note is that the meter is battery-activated by pressing the button by the eyepiece with your thumb. Saves battery but like I said, I hate + o - LED meters, I find them completely useless compared to either full-readout meters or my favorite, believe it or not, the trusty match needle. You know, I prefer analog watches too... no surprise there eh?


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