I’ve always love film cameras, the process of opening a box of film, taking it out of the canister, lining up the sprockets, winding the film loader, etc. are all very therapeutic and enjoyable to me if I’m shooting for myself. I wouldn’t trade all the high-tech DSLR gear for that experience if financials aren’t part of the equation.
Like most other film era oldies, a Leica and a serious medium format camera will always be a dream collection. However, most of us won’t have that budget to plunk down and we look for alternatives.
The Voigtlander Bessa series is one of the last “new” production film rangefinder cameras, and they’re beautiful to look at and use. They also use the classic Leica M mount so when the time comes when you can afford a Leica, they’ll plunk right in.
While I admit that digital equipment these days produces really high quality output that really is a better medium commercially and economically, they’ve already become appliances more than anything else. I’m not going to debate about film vs. digital here as I love both almost equally, though.
I asked two good forum friends on mine to chime in with their respective Bessa cameras for your entertainment and I hope you consider owning one too before economics may push manufacturers like Voigtlander to extinction.
From Sonny Thakur:
I chose the Bessa R4A because of the guide lines that were available for it. I shoot
mainly street, so 28~35mm lines are perfect for me, and if i ever need to shoot archi or
landscapes, I can go as wide as 21. 50mm on the long is, is merely a bonus for me because
I shoot my film portraits with my A1 + 50 1.4 FD Combo. I knew I had to get a rangefinder
for street when I was taking photos of people in a 4 story building with an atrium, this
was Fully Booked, a bookstore at the Fort Global City near Makati. Everytime I released
the shutter on the A1, it would sound like a 50cal had gone off, I felt like a doofus.
I got to put the Bessa to the test on my trip to Hong Kong, which I chronicled here
(http://ahappycamper.wordpress.com/2008/10/01/hongkongatho/). The Bessa is light, and
feels very solid. Coupled with the Nokton 35 1.4, the Bessa is unintrusive, very
discreet, and made me feel more confident. I really prefer shooting with manual focus
cameras because their lenses more often that not have DOF scales which makes for easier
pre focussing and hip shooting. The colors rendered by this lens are great and show deep contrast vs. the single coated Nokton which has slightly less contrast but more detail in
the shadows, this was my initial choice, and I sort of regret not getting that one
instead. Overall, I am very happy with the capabilities of the Bessa + Nokton combo and
wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world when I shoot street.
I continue to use the Bessa almost everyday, I take it with me no matter where I go and I
always make sure it’s loaded with some HP5 or TX400, and the occasional Portra 160/400.
Some of Sonny’s photos:
From Daniel Go
I am happy with my R2a, it’s a great camera, it’s light and it works. The Nokton Classic 35mm f/1.4 lens is awesome. It’s sharp, contrasty but does produces a slightly messy bokeh. The Bessa is such a joy to use because it is quieter than a SLR and focusing is fairly easy. I do wish they had placed the camera strap lugs properly on the sides instead of slightly on the front as it makes it a bit awkward to hang around the neck.
Leica is Leica, given a choice between the two, in hindsight I wish I saved up for a M7 instead which is still my goal once I made a final decision to go ahead and start saving for it, I will sell my Bessa for a chance to own the Leica. But in the meantime I hope to get my hands on a R4a because I realized that with Range finders I prefer to shoot wide.
Some of Daniel’s captures:
Personally, I want to save up for anything between the M3 to M7 as well. The body may be feasable, but the higher end primes are very costly, however, carrying one rangefinder and 3 prime lenses is lighter and smaller than carrying one DSLR with one large zoom lens. I’d take the former as I get older and can’t lug around as much gear while walking around town.
The Bessa is a more “soon-to-buy” item than a Leica, which is more “wish-I-could-buy” scenario, so hopefully, with an improving economy and a more stable job market, I’ll give my first hand review as well soon. For now, I’ll just stick to my Altix, Yashica, and Konica rangefinders.
By that time, most thugs and robbers are young enough to not even know what a film camera is! LOL.
Thank you Sonny and Daniel for your contributing your experiences with your Bessas!