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Voigtlander BESSA-R Rangefinders

4.03 star rating
                      4.03 / 5 (38 Reviews)
MSRP : $1090.00

  • Lens MountVoigtlander L
    Camera TypeRangefinder
    Film Type35mm
    Focus TypeManual Focus
    Interchangeable LensesInterchangeable Lenses
    Shutter Speed1 - 1/2000 sec
    ISO Range - Manual SettingISO 25 - 3,200
    Light Metering ModesCenter Weighted • TTL
    Self TimerYes
    Viewfinder Frame Coverage87 %
    Viewfinder Magnification0.7X
    Depth1.3 in.
    Height3.07 in.
    Width5.31 in.
    Weight13.93 oz.
    Product ID44012

Product Description

Available in both retro silver or black bodies, the BESSA-R is composed of an all aluminum die-cast metal casing with a streamline body that fits comfortably into the palm of your hand making it a paradigm of design simplicity. It is lightweight, precise, and extremely durable with excellent corrosion resistance. This camera offers precision and reliability under all photographic conditions.

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Reviews 1 - 5 (38 Reviews Total) | Next 15

User Reviews

Overall Rating:2
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Bryan Wilson Rieth a Expert

Date Reviewed: June 8, 2009

Strengths:    Bright, clear, sharp view/rangefinder
Overall good construction
Wide lens selection from many manufacturers

Weaknesses:    Over-complicated shutter
Weird strap lug placement

Bottom Line:   
I was very impressed with this body when I first bought it. It was a definite step forward when compared to my "beginner" FSU body. When I received it, it has the dreaded rangefinder misalignment, and after a bit of DIY repair it was ready to go. It served me well for many months and was my go to camera. The rangefinder getting knocked out of alignment while getting moved about in the bag was my biggest complaint. I got to be pretty good at taking off the hot shoe cover and getting it back into alignment =p. Then, one day, the shutter started to hang open at the lower speeds. Then the high speeds went. Now I have a nice little paper weight, since i bought it (cheaply) second hand and don't have any sort of warranty. The shutters on these cameras are far too over complicated and are just begging to break down. But other than that, I guess I really enjoyed it. The plastic didn't bother at all like I thought it would. I bought the grip so that it wouldn't hang around my neck at a weird angle. It's a good solid camera, just make sure you get the warranty on it so that if you have a problem you can fix it.

Expand full review >>

Duration Product Used:   6-10 years

Price Paid:    $180.00

Purchased At:   APUG Classifieds

Similar Products Used:   Leica M3
Leica IIIc
Canon Canonet GIII QL17
Zorki Id

Type of photography:   People

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:4
Submitted by Greg McCary a Expert

Date Reviewed: November 23, 2007

Strengths:    Simple design
Easy to meter and use
Compact size
Quiet operation
Light weight

Weaknesses:    None

Bottom Line:   
I find the Bessa R to be a very simple reliable camera that is fun to own and use. The metering system is as simple as it gets. Three leds in the viewfinder indicate exposure. I also have the Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm lens. This is a splendid compination that creates stunning B&W prints. If you are looking for a entry level Rangefinder this one certainly should top the list. The viewfinder is also big, clear and bright. A selector switch at the top of the camera moves lines inside the viewfinder for different lenses. You will enjoy this camera.

Expand full review >>

Duration Product Used:   2-5 years

Price Paid:    $135.00

Purchased At:   E-Bay

Similar Products Used:   Canon Canonet QL-17

Type of photography:   Other

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:4
Submitted by nemogang a Intermediate

Date Reviewed: December 23, 2003

Strengths:    Weight, Size, Lenses

Weaknesses:    Viewfinder, Strap Lugs, Rewind Knob

Bottom Line:   
I've had the Bessa R for over 18 months now - and despite worries about some of the design points such as a plastic back and ridiculous sunken rewind it has proved to be a faithful companion. I don't drive, like to travel with as small a bag as possible and this does me proud ! I had a period a few months ago when the shutter seemed to stick and then go off at random, but that seemed to cure itself. The body, after all, is only a box to hold the film and screw a lens in - anything else is a luxury. I must admit that I've never been into auto-focus or even fully auto exposure ( I prefer the illusion of control ) so I don't miss either of these. The lenses are great and I really can't justify buying Leica or Canon lenses to fit even if I could afford it - they can't be that much better. I do find the lenses a bit on the cool side, however. I agree with comments made about the viewfinder - at first I thought that it was my vision, not the camera ! And those strap lugs - aargh! But, based on results, I have to say that this camera has encouraged me to take the best pictures of my life.

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Duration Product Used:   21+ years

Similar Products Used:   Zorki 4K

Type of photography:   Other

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:5
Submitted by PhotoFrans a Expert from Waddinxveen, The Netherlands

Date Reviewed: July 22, 2003

Strengths:    1. Takes most LTM lenses
2. Reasonably build quality.
3. Spot-on exposures with build in exposure meter (within its limits).
4. Light weight and small in size.
5. Unobtrusive
6. Takes widely available SR/LR44 batteries for the exposure meter.
7. Can operate without batteries.
8. No time lag as with AF cameras.
9. One can see the flash go off through the finder.
10. Bright and accurate enough rangefinder for VC lenses.
11. Clear, distortion free viewfinder with clearly visible framelines.
12. Film window
13. Easy film loading and unloading.
14. 1/125th flash sync speed.
15. 1/2000th top shutter speed

Weaknesses:    1. Too bright LED readout under dim lit conditions.
2. No TTL flash.
3. Camera shakes a bit because it’s too lightweight.
4. Disappearing rangefinder spot.
5. Body easily smudged with fingerprints and dirt.
6. Exposure meter range, weighting and brightness.
7. Strap lugs placement when using lightweight lenses.
8. Not a ratcheted wind lever.
9. No 28 mm framelines/viewfinder
10. Manual exposure only (I love half automatic exposure).
11. Rangefinder base could be bigger.
12. Life expectancy?
13. Heavy rewinding.

Bottom Line:   
The black body looks quite nice but is easily smudged with fingerprints wherever you touched it.
The placement of the strap lugs is well chosen when heavier lenses like the 75/2.5 and 50/1.5
are used but when a lightweight lens is screwed on the camera it keeps flipping 45 degrees towards its back.
The 35/2.5 and 75/2.5 CV (Cosina Voigtländer) lenses I own are of excellent optical and mechanical quality.
The Bessa-R handles well and I have seen no mechanical problems yet.
I do not expect these cameras, however, to last as long as my Nikon gear, but they might surprise me.

If you’re in love with Leica’s and the famous Leica build quality then buy a Leica and NOT Voigtländers. If you cannot afford a Leica or just want a very useable LTM (Leica Tread Mount) rangefinder camera with a built-in exposure meter then go for the Bessa-R (Russian cameras are Spartan and heavy compared to Bessa’s) and take the camera for what it is; a relative cheap body with a very nice range/view-finder and built in exposure meter.
Screwing the lenses on and off is often quite a time consuming job. The frames have to be set manually on the Bessa-R, doing this can be easily forgotten when changing lenses in a hurry.

I do not dislike the plastic parts on the R as well as I do not dislike plastic parts on my Nikon F801. In fact, plastic can withstand small shocks better than metal does (will dent). This makes the camera very lightweight, which is fine for travel.

The Rangefinder spot and framelines are very bright and do not flare.
In bright as well as in dark situations the Bessa-R is very easy to focus.
One of my R’s has (slightly) slanted framelines, enough to get slanted horizons when composing with respect to these framelines.
This I have seen with more R’s that I checked out so be warned, the framelines in my other R are unslanted.
You will have to position you’re eye very carefully in the centre of the viewfinder to be able to see the bright double image focussing spot. Strangely enough, when the lens is set on infinity and you position you’re eye so that the focussing spot is clearly visible and then focus to the closest distance the focussing spot disappears and you will have to re-position your eye to be able to see it again. This has to do with the automatic parallax compensation, which is a nice feature but has this drawback.
No vertical rangefinder misalignment with either of my R’s.

The Exposure meter is easy and fast to use under ‘normal’ light conditions. 2 red arrows with a plus and minus in them and a red dot in the middle for correct exposure are clearly visible in the bottom of the viewfinder. The exposure meter is almost as sensitive in the upper and lower part of the image as in the centre but not sensitive on both sides of the frame, therefore, you will have to exclude the sky when metering!
For shutter speeds below 1/8th (800 ASA) the exposure meter cannot be trusted anymore for correct exposure.
When photographing in low light-levels there is another problem with the exposure meter readout, the LED’s are far too bright under these conditions and the viewfinder can be completely ‘showered’ with a bright red glow and an almost blinding LED readout makes focussing very difficult.

The shutter itself runs smooth but has a high-pitched click not suited for shooting in quiet surroundings.
You can feel the body shake a bit when the shutter runs off.
Shutter noise is not excessive but a bit too loud for my taste.
The shutter speeds range from 1 second to 1/2000th and the flash-sync speeds up to 1/125th, which I like a lot.

A flash can be connected on a hot-shoe AND via a PC connection.
No TTL flash, alas… this I miss dearly.

Winding is smooth but not ratcheted.
Pulling out the rewind lever isn’t a hard thing to do, just hold the camera upside down while prying it out.
Loading and unloading film is very easy and the film window is a very underestimated big ‘plus’ for this camera.
Film rewinding drags a bit and you can hear the film ‘scream’ a bit while rewinding.

Expand full review >>

Duration Product Used:   6-10 years

Price Paid:    $390.00

Purchased At:   CameraQuest

Similar Products Used:   Leica CL, Leica IIIC, several Zorki’s and FED’s , and a lot of fixed focal point rangefinders.

Type of photography:   Other

Overall Rating:1
Value Rating:1
Submitted by Lensman99 a Expert from Marietta, GA, USA

Date Reviewed: March 15, 2003

Strengths:    Price
Bright and clear viewfinder
1/2000 sec top shutter speed
1/125 sec flash synch

Weaknesses:    Fidgety, complex shutter leading to lockups
Overall poor quality control

Bottom Line:   
I wanted to like this camera. Cosina's concept of a budget-priced Leica Thread Mount body, as well as its revival of a time-honored camera manufacturer's name, was very appealing to me. Having watched the new Voigtlander line from a distance, once the prices fell to under $300 for a new Bessa R, I committed. It was not long after receipt of the R that disappointment set in solidly.

I did not have issue with the oft-criticized plasticy construction. I actually prefer a lighter body and was willing to tolerate a bit of polycarbonate. Indeed, the R is lightweight, making it easy to forget I even had one around my neck. What a wonderful relief from my heavy, bulky 35mm SLR gear. I found the R to "feel" fine. Rather, my complaint with the R is the fact that, in only one outing and three rolls of film, I experienced camera malfunction and serious quality control shortcomings. Where shall I begin?

With my particular R, I found (too late) that the framelines and everything else that displays itself inside the viewfinder were substantially slanted, downward and to the right. If you composed according to the framelines, the result images had correspondingly slanted horizons. Very annoying. Yet if you composed according to the inside edges of the viewfinder itself, ignoring the framelines in the process, the resulting images had level horizontals. Unacceptable.

As I advanced to the 24th frame of a 24 exposure roll, I suddenly found the film advance lever jammed mid-stroke, locking everything up completely. I pushed the film rewind button and tried rewinding the film, but nothing budged. I tried nudging the film advance lever forward, but met with complete resistance. Fighting off panic, I performed an unrepeatable sequence of pushing the rewind button in, applying light pressure to the rewind lever, then walking the film advance lever gently forward, and in about 30 seconds everything freed up, thankfully but inexplicably.

Upon receipt of the processed film, I found on all three rolls that the negs began on frame #2. I also lost the last image on each roll, with only half of the exposure on the film. As it turns out, the film counter was off by 1.

Having purchased the R at Cameraquest, I contacted the proprietor to report these problems. I was advised that I would like the R2 better, because it was an all metal body, and it "felt" so much better. Return of the R for credit and acquisition of an R2 was offered as a solution. I had to remind Cameraquest that my complaints were not at all about the "feel" of the camera, but the fact that it simply didn't work. After my persistent complaining, I was told I could return the camera for inspection. Once returned, Cameraquest acknowledged that the framelines were slanted, and advised that the other R bodies he had in stock were similarly slanted. I was finally offered a full refund, which I accepted.

Cosina obviously lacks quality control. My particular R was trouble from the onset, and I note that Cameraquest admitted all their R bodies in stock had the slanted framelines.

As far as handling, the camera strap lugs are poorly placed, on the front of the camera body, causing an unnatural and undesirable backward slant of the body, with the viewfinder always attempt to drill its way into your chest. The camera back is constructed of an odd rubberish material that, while grippy, tends to show every little mark. The paint (I had the black R) is very flat and smooth, also tending to show marks. The R and R2 have an odd film rewind crank that is recessed into the body. It usually takes several frustrating attempts to coax it out of its den to do its duty.

The R is not suitable, due to its short rangefinder base length, for accurate focusing of either fast or long lenses. The Bessa T is much better for this.

I own, or have owned, the Bessa L, T, R and R2 bodies, and can say without doubt that the R is the least desirable of these. I cannot recommend it. Cosina should either strive for improved quality control, or abandon the R entirely.

I will not, as many other reviewers have, discuss the Voigtlander lenses available for the Bessa R, as this review is for the R body itself.

Expand full review >>

Duration Product Used:   21+ years

Price Paid:    $275.00

Purchased At:   Cameraquest.com

Similar Products Used:   FED 3
Bessa L
Bessa R2

Type of photography:   Other

Reviews 1 - 5 (38 Reviews Total) | Next 15

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