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Bessa-questions from a newbie
Old 01-17-2005   #1
EmilGil
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Question Bessa-questions from a newbie

Hello guys,

I found this marvellous site a few days ago surfing the net for information on the CV Bessas. Their rather modest price and the brilliant optics caught my eye the other day as a back-to-basics-camera but I have a few questions. My biggest problem is that I live in Sweden and I have only found one retailer here, conveniently located on the other side of the country. It's some 4h by train away so I can't just stroll over and have a look. This retailer also charges well over $1000 for a new Bessa R2A/R3A, but from what I understand both Steven Gandy and Robert White are professional dealers that ship to Sweden. I won't buy without touching one though, I guess I'll just have to take a weekend trip later this year.

My questions are:
I'm thinking of going completely manual, i.e. the R2, to have a working camera even without batteries. I have a Hasselblad, but it is a bit bulky to take along for a Sunday walk even though you certainly look professional to many people when you're using it. Buying a R2 will almost certainly mean buying second hand. Is the aperture priority on the R2A worth it? I like the idea of being totally battery independent...

I searched the forums a bit to find information on the combination of RF and glasses but I didn't find much. I've abandoned the R3A because of this, from what I understand it is pretty hard to use with glasses. How are the R2/R2A's from this point of view?

Which lens(es) do I choose? My first idea was to get just a 50mm, but on the other hand I like candids and portraits for which this focal length might not be ideal. Is the combination 35+75mm a better option? Its a few hundred $ more though... I bought a 50/1.8 with my SLR but after acquiring a 85mm I never use the 50mm. A 35 Ultron and a 75 Heliar is approx. $700 at Cameraquest, a 50 Nokton is half that. My getting-back-to-basic idea was to have a small camera for taking pictures, not to worry about whether I have the right lens mounted. What do you say?
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Old 01-17-2005   #2
Rex
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Hello~ I am also new in RF, but i think i can give some opinion for ur reference.... (Cause i have the same question before i bought the camera...)

If u r thinking about a R2/R2a, it is a 0.7X Finder,
and u wear glass, too. So that u will feel hard to focus in 75mm lens because of the samll patch......

In my opinion, i never buy(even think) a lens which is longer than 50mm for my rangefinder.....
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Old 01-17-2005   #3
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I agree with everything Manolo has said. You have to decide if AE will be a benefit to you. It will make shooting some shots quicker, but, you also can use the R2a in manual mode too.

Lenses, I started with the 35 Ultron and 75 Heliar myself. Both are excellent lenses. From what you are saying, it does sound like 35mm will be a good "standard" lens for you. My opinion, the R2 was made to focus a 35mm lens. Every time I pick it up it seems to already be in focus. A match made in heaven. The 75, in my eyes, is the best CV lens I have tried or viewed images from. It matches what I like very well. Regarding the focusing of this lens, it isn't a problem. You do have to be a bit more careful with the focus if you are close to your subject and have the aperture wide open, but it is not a problem. You just have to really pay attention in that situation.

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Old 01-17-2005   #4
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Welcome, welcome, welcome!

R2, or Leica/ Leitz Minolta CL, or an M3/ M2? Second-hand they all cost nearly the same (around $500) depending on the state it's in.

CV lenses are damn good but the Summi 40/2 (or Minolta Rokkor-M) are great too, and don't cost too dearly. The Leitz Elmar 90mm lenses are good too, and cheap as well. than there are the Russian Jupiter lenses: J-8 (50/2), J-3 (50/1.5), J-9 (85/2), J-12 (35/2.8), J-11 (135/4). All go for a maximum of $75 each. The wonderful Jupiter-8 is one lens that should have a place in your bag, and at $25 it can't be beat.
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Old 01-17-2005   #5
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Hi, Emil, welcome to the conversation.

Regarding the comparison of the R2 and the R2A, the R2A has a minimum focus distance of 0.7 m, while the minimum focus distance of the R2 is 0.9 m. Of course, the minimum focus distance of the lens in use is also a factor in any specific picture taking situation.
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Re: Bessa-questions from a newbie
Old 01-17-2005   #6
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Re: Bessa-questions from a newbie

Quote:
Originally posted by EmilGil
Hello guys,

. . . CV Bessas. . . from what I understand both Steven Gandy and Robert White are professional dealers that ship to Sweden. I won't buy without touching one though.

My questions are:
I'm thinking of going completely manual, i.e. the R2, to have a working camera even without batteries. Buying a R2 will almost certainly mean buying second hand. Is the aperture priority on the R2A worth it? I like the idea of being totally battery independent...

I searched the forums a bit to find information on the combination of RF and glasses but I didn't find much. I've abandoned the R3A because of this, from what I understand it is pretty hard to use with glasses. How are the R2/R2A's from this point of view?

Which lens(es) do I choose? My first idea was to get just a 50mm, but on the other hand I like candids and portraits for which this focal length might not be ideal. Is the combination 35+75mm a better option? Its a few hundred $ more though... I bought a 50/1.8 with my SLR but after acquiring a 85mm I never use the 50mm. A 35 Ultron and a 75 Heliar is approx. $700 at Cameraquest, a 50 Nokton is half that. My getting-back-to-basic idea was to have a small camera for taking pictures, not to worry about whether I have the right lens mounted. What do you say?
Emil, you have several options for buying the Bessa R2 new. Many dealers will accept returns, no questions asked. You might make the purchase so you can handle the camera - & then return it if you don't like it. Inquire about the return policy first. Some dealers have a restocking fee for the privilege of return - & also because some customers were using this service to acquire a camera for use for a day or weekend instead of renting. While this process involves the cost of shipping & possible restocking fee, so does the train trip across Sweden - not to mention your time. You might consider these costs a rental fee, which is no cost if you keep the camera.

New Bessa R2's are available from Stephen Gandy at www.cameraquest.com for $599 or from Rich Pinto in New York at www.photovillage.com for $550. Both ship internationally. Stephen only has a couple left.

Your other option is to consider the Rollei 35 RF, which is a special edition of the R2 & mechanically identical - except that it rangefinder couples to 0.7 metes, or 8 inches closer focusing than the R2. The only other functional difference is that it has 40/50/80 frame lines. It is available for $599 from B&H Photo in New York at www.bhphotovideo.com which also ships internationally.

In regard to your question: "Is aperture priority worth it?", I have AE on my Nikon FM3A & like it. It's a nice feature to have & makes shooting quicker. I also enjoy shooting without it & don't find that I'm lost without it.

In regard to your question about viewing with glasses, I haven't heard of any problem viewing the R2 35 mm frame lines with glasses. I use the Rollei 35 RF, which uses 40 mm frame lines in place of 35 & which may be even more viewable because of the slightly narrower field of view. I have no problem with the 40 mm view.

Re choice of lenses, I have a 40 & 75 lens combination - very close to the 35 & 75 combination that you suggested, and I agree that this is a good combination. I use 40 a lot more than 75. I also find that using the 80 mm frame lines with the 75 mm lens is no problem; it just means that the frame lines are showing about 81% of what the lens is seeing rather than the standard 87%. When purchasing lenses for the R2, keep in mind that you must purchase an adapter with some lenses, which is an additional cost. This is because most Voigtlander lenses are made in screw mount & the R2 is an M-mount camera. You have 2 choices for adapters. You can buy the Voigtlander adapter for $55 or you can buy a generic adapter for $33. Stephen Gandy is the only one I know who carries the generic adapter. The 35 Ultron & 75 Heliar both require adapters. The 40 Nokton, which would be the alternative standard/wide-angle lens to the 35 Ultron for use on the Rollei 35 RF, is an M-mount lens, which does not require an adapter. So, the 40 Nokton @ $349 is the cheaper option vs the 35 Ultron @ $432 ($399 + $33 generic adapter). With 2 generic adapters, the 35/75 combination will cost $766. The 40/75 combination with 1 generic adapter for the 75 will cost $681. An additional benefit of the 40 Nokton is that it is much more compact than the 35 Ultron - despite its faster speed. On the other hand, if you have found in the past that you like the 85 mm focal length & not the 50, why not just get the body with one lens? The 75/2.5 Heliar is reasonably fast, is close to the 85 focal length, & is much less bulky than an 85 mm SLR lens. You can always add a lens as your shooting needs dictate.

Good luck with your decision.
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Last edited by Huck Finn : 01-19-2005 at 09:11.
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Old 01-17-2005   #7
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Just want to add... The Rollei 35RF is available for a special 489 GBP plus taxes at www.robertwhite.co.uk The package includes the camera, the Sonnar 2.8/40, an extra lens hood and a winder. They ship anywhere without problems. I ordered my CV lenses there and they deliver really fast.
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Old 01-17-2005   #8
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Hi!

Emil, you probably already know this, but in case you don't: If you buy the camera from the US the swedish customs will add 25% VAT and 7% customs fee to the total price. Sometimes parcels may slip through customs without fees, though, but that has not happened to me so far. :-/

/Anders
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Old 01-17-2005   #9
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Wow guys, I never expected so quick replies! In other forums I visit on regular basis you'd be lucky to get one line of feedback unless you write something provocative on N*kon vs C*non...

Thanks for all your opinions. As I expected, they differ a bit but you've nontheless answered all my questions. To start from the top, Manolo, you've got a good point in your opinion about battery-free cameras! I use my Hassy a lot but seldom without my light meter (exactly, battery dependent...). When using my SLR, I seldom use anything else than aperture priority (except manual mode with flash or studio flash) and I've found a way to work that works fine to me. Thus, AE might not be such a bad idea after all. As Rover mentioned, there's always the possibility to go manual if I should prefer that.

Huck, thanks a lot. You've made quite a few points in your post although I still hesitate about the choice of lenses. Taking a trip to Stockholm is not that bad, I got some family there and other stores to visit if I go there, I'll just have to find the time for it. But buying a body and two lenses makes some $1200-1300 which is quite a lot of money. Maybe I'll go for just one lens to start with, after all I once started with a Pentax MX and a 50/1.7 which was a perfect beginner's camera. Did I bring that camera everywhere or what... A lot of people seem to like the russians too, they might be worth giving a try.

Regarding your VAT reminder Anders, I hope to have registred a VAT-number by the time I order a Bessa so I'll get that money back in a year or so. If I order from Robert White (UK), I'll never have to spend that money, I just supply them with my VAT-number and they won't charge it.
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Old 01-18-2005   #10
EmilGil
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Quote:
Originally posted by rover
I agree with everything Manolo has said. You have to decide if AE will be a benefit to you. It will make shooting some shots quicker, but, you also can use the R2a in manual mode too.

Welcome to the group.
Thanks, just one question that struck my mind the other night: How do I know which speed the camera has chosen in AE priority? I know there are arrows for the exposure meter in the VF but can I also see the shutter speed there? Do I still see it if I change to manual?
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Old 01-18-2005   #11
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I own the R3A and there are no arrows like on the manual-only Bessas. The times are directly displayed. Even if you switch to manual. Switching to manual shows the selected time permanently and the AE suggested time flashing. R2A should be the same.
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Old 01-18-2005   #12
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There are LED lights for each shutter speed along the bottom of the viewfinder. The shutter speed in use lights up. You just keep adjusting in manual mode to line up the arrow and illuminated LED.
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Old 01-18-2005   #13
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About lenses, I will make a radical suggestion: Since you say your most-used lens on your SLR is an 85mm rather than a 50mm, why not start out buying only the 75mm lens for your camera, and then see where your interests take you beyond that?

After using it for a while, you may find that rather than adding a 35mm lens, you prefer to add something more drastically different: for example, your final outfit might be a 75mm and a 21mm, or even a 75mm and a 15mm or 12mm.

Or, you might discover that you are perfectly happy taking all your pictures with the 75mm lens, and then you don't need to buy anything else!

One thing to note: both the R2 and forthcoming R2a have M-type bayonet lens mounts, while most of the lenses you are considering have screw-type mounts. So, be sure to budget for the adapter you will need to mount each lens on your camera body.


Why I think a 75mm alone might be a good place to start: lately I have been doing most of my photography with an Epson R-D 1, which is basically a digital version of the Bessa R3a. The two lenses I use with it are a 35mm and a 50mm, which (accounting for the Epson's 1.53x 'crop factor') are like shooting with a 50mm and a 75mm lens on 35mm film.

Of the two, I find I use the "75mm" much more -- it just works well for my way of seeing and the types of pictures I prefer to take. It gives a natural-looking perspective and lets me produce tightly framed shots from a convenient distance. If you prefer an 85mm over a 50mm as your only SLR lens, you may find your preferences are similar.
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Old 01-18-2005   #14
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Look here to see how it works in the viewfinder:

www.cameraquest.com/voigtr2ar3a.htm
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Old 01-19-2005   #15
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Hi! Everybody, I am a newbie here.

From my recent trip in the North Eastern part of China, I found that I need/like a R2 more than a R2A (not R3A). During the trip, I shot many pictures below -20 degree Celsius without shielding/protection from wind and snow over 3 hours. Of course, I use a separate handheld spotmeter which was covered by my down coat. After the trip, I bought one more R2 (olive, this time) as a backup body due to its fully mechanical shutter. Hope this information is useful to you guys.

However, I will also buy a R3A in the future due to its 1.0X viewing magnification. :-D
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Old 01-19-2005   #16
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Welcome Cloudy!

Reminds me of a recent trip to Toronto. One day, it was -35C with the windchill. I went out to shoot with the Contax G1, but it was just to hard to handle. My hands felt like big ice blocks, even with gloves on. The AF was working really really slow and I couldn't seem to work the MF dial very well with my hands like that.

So out came the trusty bessa-L, with the VC 25/4. This is one time I was glad for its very shifty aperture setting. Not much effort to move it, only hard part was the rather stiff shutter speed dial. It performed flawlessly. Granted I probably did not stay out there 3 hours, and I also took breaks where I would run back to the car and turn on the heater & warm up.

Bessa-L is very reliable too in this weather - it really saved the day and I feel like I got more than moneys worth out of this inexpensive camera on that trip alone.
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Old 01-21-2005   #17
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If the Bessa had come in a AP auto model when I bought my R, I would have bought it insead. It's so handy to set the aperture, focus and shoot and let the camera pick the shutter speed. That's the one feature I love about my 20 some year old Nikon FE. Most of the rest of the garbage they are building in to modern SLRs I could live without including AF. Just enough automation, but not too much.
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