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Voigtlander Bessa Leica Mount Cameras Made in Japan by Cosina in partnership with Voigtlander, the many modern Voigtlander Leica Screw Mount and Leica M mount bodies offer inexpensive and often unique options into entering the world of Leica rangefinder photography.

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Ode to the Bessa R2
Old 01-09-2019   #1
egardner
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Ode to the Bessa R2

Some impressions of the Bessa R2 after 3 years of real-world use, in the hopes that some here may find them interesting.

Three years ago, I decided that I would take my budding interest in film photography to the next level and buy one of these "rangefinder" cameras that I had heard so much about. The touted advantages of these cameras (small size, simple and intuitive controls, an unobtrusive profile, and great lenses) sounded really appealing, but I couldn't justify the cost of something like an M6 to myself. This was just a hobby after all.

Instead, I settled on the humble Voigtlander R-series as the best way to get into this kind of photography without spending a fortune (shoutout to Stephen Gandy / CameraQuest, whose site was really useful here). I purchased a mint-condition Bessa R2 and a Canon screw-mount 50mm f1.4 lens (aka the "Japanese Summilux"), both from Japan. I spent around $700 for both items in near-mint condition.


Pulling Shots by Eric Gardner, on Flickr

Three years later, I have never enjoyed using a camera as much as this one (though my Yashica TLR also holds a special place in my heart). It is so simple – the Bessa R2 is an exercise in functional minimalism. This makes the camera a real pleasure to use, and it has ended up accompanying me at a lot of important moments. It has become a pen that produces the diary of images of my life.


Joshua Tree, CA by Eric Gardner, on Flickr

I've experimented with a few other lenses (the 15mm Heliar is really amazing, and the 35mm Nokton is great but fickle in my opinion). But I keep coming back to the 50mm. It balances perfectly on the camera and feels really solid. The standard perspective, crisp-but-not-overly-sharp focus, and painterly out of focus backgrounds give the images it creates the character of real life, only better. Kind of like memories.


View of LA from the Getty Center by Eric Gardner, on Flickr


Joshua Tree by Eric Gardner, on Flickr

Aside from requiring a rangefinder re-calibration due to falling off of a bicycle (thanks, Blue Moon Camera!), the Bessa has functioned flawlessly. The built-in meter "just works", though the wide latitude of negative film probably helps here. I don't even recall changing its batteries. Everything else is 100% mechanical, meaning I never have to worry about the camera dying in the field (can't say the same about my OM-2s, sadly). Finally, the 1/2000s shutter speed was a god-send when I lived in sun-drenched Los Angeles (haven't needed that setting so much since moving to Portland earlier this year).


Cathedral Park by Eric Gardner, on Flickr


Wildflowers by Eric Gardner, on Flickr

In the years since I purchased it, this camera has really delivered on the "rangefinder experience", and it has changed the way I photograph. The Bessa is a great (but under-rated) tool, and I encourage anyone curious about this style of photography to give one a try.


Manzanita by Eric Gardner, on Flickr


Sunset 1 by Eric Gardner, on Flickr
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Old 01-09-2019   #2
jorgef2002
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Hello Eric.I agree 100% with you.

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Old 01-10-2019   #3
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I agree with you, I am also a proud owner of this device
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Old 01-10-2019   #4
Ko.Fe.
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R2 is probably most nice in these series.
If I had invested in half-case for R, who knows, maybe I'll still have it in use.
I often look at images taken with R and Jupiter 8 lenses and they are not so much different from M and Crons images.
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Old 01-10-2019   #5
Swift1
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Good story and very nice photos.
The Bessa cameras are great little cameras with superb finders. I have a Bessa R, but would probably prefer an R2 for the better build quality.
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Old 01-10-2019   #6
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I had two Bessa-R cameras in black at one time and used it to shoot weddings back when those cameras were new! I really liked the viewfinder and the 75mm lens but ended up selling them both...they felt sort of cheap and plastic-y. Went down the vintage Leica and Canon rangefinder road from there but always sort of missed the viewfinder and built in meter

The R2 sounds better/great but they aren't cheap now (always were more than the R-of course)
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Old 01-10-2019   #7
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I am all for cameras like the Bessa. I have been following film photography on instagram and camera fashionism around Leica M6s and Xpan is nauseating. A camera is a machine not a glamour gadget FFS,
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Old 01-10-2019   #8
egardner
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Thanks for the comments, everyone.

I totally agree – for me the R2 hits the sweet of having nice ergonomics (never used an R, but this camera does not feel flimsy) without being too precious. It's a tool that exists to be used. If only Cosina would make a digital version again...

Also Colton, I've seen your work in various places and I appreciate your approach (especially your colors!), thanks for the kind words.
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Old 01-10-2019   #9
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I have both an R & a L. Bessa’s have an excellent vf IMO. Glad to read your love for the R2 & rangefinder cameras. I enjoyed your photos. Hope you can keep posting your work.
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Old 04-27-2019   #10
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Great write up! I just bought myself an Olive R2 and am now waiting for a Color Skopar 35mm 2.5 to show up in the mail. Can't wait to get shooting with it!!
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Old 08-11-2019   #11
cassel
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I owned 2 of the Bessa R cameras in black - bought them both new back when they came out and used them to shoot a couple of weddings! I didn't keep them long in spite of really liking the viewfinder, the meter and the feel with the 75mm lens... Why did I sell? Felt too light, loud, cheap and "plasticky".

After 15 years - I found and recently bought an R2 - It really does feel better/stronger and that viewfinder is as good as I remember.

Now, I don't own any M-mount lens, but that's OK - an adapter has already helped me try out the Super Rokkor and some Canon S lenses. So far, so good...it's no Leica ( but we should all know that by now ) and the advance and and shutter are still sorta crud but I have a feeling it's gonna be a fun, compact, and tough-enough RF

Here it is -

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Old 08-11-2019   #12
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I've got the R2S for my Nikkors, and have been very happy with the feel and function of it, especially since it has a viewfinder selection for 85mm.



Curtain Of Rays by P F McFarland, on Flickr


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Old 08-13-2019   #13
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Love the images and story. I hope to find a camera that I will love and keep for a long time. Still searching, and I have a R4m.
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Old 08-31-2019   #14
cassel
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cassel View Post
I owned 2 of the Bessa R cameras in black - bought them both new back when they came out and used them to shoot a couple of weddings! I didn't keep them long in spite of really liking the viewfinder, the meter and the feel with the 75mm lens... Why did I sell? Felt too light, loud, cheap and "plasticky".

After 15 years - I found and recently bought an R2 - It really does feel better/stronger and that viewfinder is as good as I remember.

Now, I don't own any M-mount lens, but that's OK - an adapter has already helped me try out the Super Rokkor and some Canon S lenses. So far, so good...it's no Leica ( but we should all know that by now ) and the advance and and shutter are still sorta crud but I have a feeling it's gonna be a fun, compact, and tough-enough RF

Here it is -


Quoting myself here to share the first couple rolls out of my Bessa R2 - very happy so far - easy to focus and get consistent exposures and compositions:





























These are a mix of -
Canon 50mm f1.5
Super Rokkor 50mm f1.8
Travenar R 90mm f2.8
Kyoie Acall 35mm f3.5

Not a "M" lens among them...
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Old 10-04-2019   #15
cassel
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Just ordered a 7artisans 35mm f2 for the Bessa R2
Also considering the 50mm f1.1 and/or a good 50mm Elmar f2.8 collapsible.

Some of my screw-mount lenses are a bit stiff in operation and using an adapter on the Bessa doesn't help!
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Old 10-04-2019   #16
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I bought the R about ten years ago. I got it because my first Leica was a IIIc so I had some lenses. My wife who doesn't know a camera from a refrigerator asks me why I'm always using the R (to her that camera). I use it for all the reasons the OP gave.
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Old 10-04-2019   #17
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So simple, so dependable, such a beautiful viewfinder and a competent meter to boot - what's not to love?
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Old 10-04-2019   #18
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R2A was my favorite camera and produced the most keepers for me. I liked it even more than an M6 because of the simpler film loading. true classic....
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Old 10-04-2019   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cassel View Post
Just ordered a 7artisans 35mm f2 for the Bessa R2
Also considering the 50mm f1.1 and/or a good 50mm Elmar f2.8 collapsible.

Some of my screw-mount lenses are a bit stiff in operation and using an adapter on the Bessa doesn't help!
I wouldn’t buy collapsible lens for Bessa.
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Old 10-04-2019   #20
cassel
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
I wouldn’t buy collapsible lens for Bessa.
Already did a test-fit with a black '99 Elmar f2.8 - worked fine- but I understand you gotta be careful and some don't work at all!
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Old 10-04-2019   #21
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Right now I have an old 90mm Elmar, a 50mm f3.5 Elmar, and a Canon Serenar 35mm f3.5 that I use often all work perfectly on my Bessar. I also have a 135mm Elmar (1953?), and a 100mm Canon Serenar that also seem to be fine, but I don't use them much.

90mm Elmar:

Tmax400 HC-110h by John Carter, on Flickr
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Old 10-05-2019   #22
robert blu
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Egardner welcome to RFF!

You are correct, Bessas are good cameras! I never had the R2 but I still use my R !
Not sure which is the main difference between R and R2 , I'll look for that.

I like your photos! The coffee maker's shot is great!

robert

Edit: I just checked the differences, ok now I desire one
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