This is my first real rangefinder camera. Voigtlander is a German name but after disappearing many years ago Japanese manufacturer Cosina was able to acquire the rights to use this legendary name and began producing a highly acclaimed series of rangefinder cameras and lenses. The Bessa R rocked the market when it was released in 2000, a market that has long been dominated by Leica. Leica has always made the best rangefinders out there, and that is why they can charge $6-7,000 for a little point and shoot camera, or in the case of their latest special edition M9 Titanium Rangefinder, a cool $26,000! Even on the used market an old film Leica rangefinder will often cost more than $1000.
One of the trademarks of the Leica rangefinders was the extremely bright viewfinder. So imagine the stir Cosina caused when they introduced the Bessa R, a low cost, high performance rangefinder based on the Leica design and gave it a viewfinder that is actually brighter than the legendary Leica M2 and M3! And they sold it for $500!
To date no one has made a significantly brighter viewfinder than the Bessa R. It really is that good! The build quality is not anywhere close to the Rolex like jewel quality of the Leica, but as far as cameras go it is built very well, looks sharp and works like a charm.
I’ve been itching for something small, portable, but with exchangeable lenses and this Bessa R fit the bill. It sells for a fraction of what it originally cost and so I decided to take the plunge.
There are almost endless lens options but I was able to find a Canon 50/1.8 in so-so condition for a great price. I disassembled it at home and cleaned the optics and it looks really good now! I also picked up a Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f/2.5 lens. This is a relatively modern lens made for this body and yet it has a bit of a classic look to it. Needless to say, it looks really sharp on the Bessa.
I picked up the side grip for this little camera. I’m not sure if it adds anything or not. Some say it improves the holdability, but it really doesn’t add much at all.
Here are some photos taken with this camera.
I sold this camera in June of 2012 to help pay for the Fuji GF670. The Bessa-R is a very fine camera as far as 35mm rangefinders go. It was one of my nicest looking cameras. But the bottom line for me is that if I’m going to wander around with a rangefinder it is more than likely going to be a medium format camera. I just don’t find 35mm all that interesting after diving into the world of medium format. So now it’s gone and I will especially miss the Voigtlander 35mm lens which was a lot of fun to use on my NEX5 as well.