Voigtlander Bessa R

Voigtlander is one of the oldest brands of camera makers, founded by Johann Christoph Voigtlander in the year 1756 in Vienna (Austria). The company is now owned by Japanese company Cosina, and is sometimes referd to as Cosina Voigtländer. Now some purists will get on their soap boxes and complain that this is not a real Voigtlander. But I take the view that it is nice to see these classic brands continuing. Even though it is nolonger German, Cosina is a very respectable brand it it’s own right.

The Bessa R is a coupled range finder, using Leica Screw(thread) Mount (LSM or LTM), it has a double focal plane shutter. It has centre weighted TTL metering. The camera is fully manual with no auto exposure control. It was introduced in 2000 and replaced by the R2 in 2002.

The camera feels very much like a SLR and looking at the body you can really see that they built it on that basis. ALthough of course being a RF camera, it doesn’t suffer from mirror slap and make for a quieter shutter action. The big advantage of this camera over the other 35mm RF’s on the market is the screw mount which allows a very great number of lenses to be used. The camera has a selector switch on the top of the body, which allows switching the frame lines in the view finder to different focal lenght of lenses.


The camera’s built in center weighted meter is spot on. It displays metering via 3 LED’s in the viewfinder like the Nikon FM with an accuracy of 1/2 a stop. I used this camera with a Russian Jupiter 8 lens and the results were outstanding, for 35mm. In fact I would say better results than my Nikon FM with a Nikon 50mm lens. The View finder is nice and bright, but doesn’t have any markings for parallax error, which is not a huge biggy anyhow.

Out and about the camera is nice an light and slung over ones shoulder it’s out of the way, but there when you need it. You can walk around all day with it quite comfortably, unlike some cameras! Many have said it is a poor-mans leica and that if you want to shoot a 35mm range finder then the only choice is Leica. Well I disagree, if you want Leica quality without spending Leica Prices get a Voigtlander Bessa R

4 thoughts on “Voigtlander Bessa R

  1. Marc Evans

    I agree with everything you say about the Bessa R. Having used Leicas for 40 years (traveled the world with a black M4 with 50mm Summicron f2 lens) and loving my Konica Hexar RF (the best Leica that Leica never built), I would say my Bessa is my second favorite.

    Most of the time I use the excellent 35mm V-Lander lens but when I have the chance, enjoy using the 15mm lens. Wonderful for narrow streets in Venice or using it hand held at 1/8th of a second (something a steady hand an RF camera allow) for fun indoor shots.

    Alas, six years ago, I surrendered to giving up 35mm for a tiny digital appliance (I think I have three Canon Elphs in my desk drawer). But, lately, have renewed my interest via having film developed on a digital disc.

    My favorite RFs are: the Konica Hexar RF, the Bessa R, any of my Leica Ms (M4, M4P, and 6), Canon P, Konica IIIc (a genuine jewel), Leica IIIg and Canon IVSB2 (both of which I love to use, hate to load), and a vareity of LTM Russian cameras (easy to load with camera backs that open! And the Jupiter 3 lens is a sensational copy of the Zeiss lens).

    Reminds me of Cunard in their 1930s prints ads, showing a Waspy couple leaning on the railing of some fine steamer heading to Europe….’Getting there is half the fun.” And while I am thrilled at the ease of having a tiny Canon Elph with 9,999 photos available on one SM card, built in flash, and zoom lens, ‘getting there (with a fine RF camera) is sometimes half the fun.


    1. steve Post author

      Thanks for the reply, Its a very capable camera unfortunately it doesn’t get out as much as I normally take my M6.

  2. mhd

    Hi, you said it does not have marking for parallex compensation. No, it doesn’t. because the framelines go up and down to do so!

    1. steve Post author

      Later models have frame lines that move with the focus, like the Lieca M6. But this model of Bessa R doesn’t.


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