The amazing Contax AX and ‘forbidden’ photography

I mentioned in a previous post that when I could find some pictures I had been forbidden to take I’d do a post on ‘forbidden photography’, but having been able to finish the film with pictures of a junior football match I had been forbidden to take last year, and spurred on by a very recent post by Leanne in Australia (on which I felt compelled to comment), I thought I’d combine it with this post with other pictures from the Contax AX, a true engineering masterpiece.

All the above pictures were taken with the Zeiss 50mm, f/1.4 Planar on the AX at f/1.4 or f/2 (Retro 400S film) – no macro lens, no supplementary lens, no extension tubes – the AX does it all by itself.

I have mentioned before that I acquired the AX when I began to have problems focussing – age! But I wanted to continue to use my manual Zeiss prime lenses. The AX offers automatic focussing with manual lenses by a masterpiece of engineering. It does it in a way familiar enough to view camera users – by moving the film plane rather than the lens or elements of the lens. However, it is the only SLR capable of doing it. The whole mirror box is moved back and forth by a stepping motor but it can only do this fast and smoothly enough to give useable auto focussing because of the expertise of the developer – Kyocera – in ceramics. It does not, of course, focus as fast as the light, plastic auto lenses of today, but it’s no slouch. Considering the size and weight of what has to be moved, it is truly amazing.

From macro to telephoto

One of the things the AX does is offer macro photography with a standard lens and no add-ons. It does it by moving the film plane to one end of the travel by setting a small lever to ‘Macro’, then you can focus manually. Because I didn’t take a tripod on my short expedition last Sunday – carrying the AX with the Mamiya Universal was quite enough! – I set the lens on infinity and focussed simply by moving towards the subjects – berries etc remaining on the bushes.

But the autofocus, although not quite fast enough for dedicated sports photographers, which I definitely am not, does allow me to follow focus with a long lens sufficiently, which I could never do now trying to focus manually. So I took the AX with a Vivitar 100-300 f/5.6-6.7 zoom to take some photos of my nephew playing football one Sunday morning late last year. I was able to take only a few before I was told I could not take photographs; I was not in the changing rooms (there were none), where it might have been understandable. Had I not been there with my brother and nephew, not wanting to cause them future problems, I would have told the little Hitlers to “get stuffed” or something like that. As it was I came home and the pictures remained unprocessed till last Sunday.

I thought it was just in the UK that, since the fall of Communism, we have this ‘you can’t do that here’ mentality, but from Leanne’s post it seems to be more widespread – maybe it’s the English-speaking world as I have no such problems in Germany. Here a host of red herrings are hung out to justify the attempt to impose a host of restrictions – health and safety, human rights, child protection, data protection, the EU … … 

I have no quarrel with the ref who came and asked who I was, nor with the official (team manager?) who came and told me that some parents were complaining.

But to those parents I say


get a life! What goes through your sick minds I cannot imagine.

Retro 400S film.

I really do not not like anything about this film. I will not be buying any more. But I have a roll of 80S somewhere; I’ll have to dig it out and see if I get on with it any better.

Contax AX features/reviews

The Contax AX offers so many features it would take a very long post to cover them all and there’s no point as there’s a wealth of info on the net; just Google it.