1930s Voigtlander Bessa help?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by Ricochetrider, Jun 23, 2021.

  1. Howdy folks. I asked this question over in the MF forum page and although its been a couple weeks, have gotten zero response, so I thought I'd ask here also... sorry to be so persistent on the matter.

    My question is about framing a photo with the folding camera's folding metal frame viewfinder. I ran a roll of expired Portra 160vc through and the successful photos seem to be all aiming more to the left as seen below. in the past, Iused to super tiny little glass magnifier thing attached to the end of the lens/body- which is all but useless, really. Which is to say I find it nearly impossible to see through.

    SO this time around I used the flip-out metal frame/finder. Seems I could have trusteed it a bit more, pretty sure I was erring to the left here and it shows in my photos.

    How accurate does anyone who uses these old cameras think the metal frame/finder is?

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  2. AJG


    I have never used or seen one of these so I don't have anything specific to suggest, but a picture or pictures of the camera might help with diagnosis. Is the frame bent or twisted?
  3. Is it a plain frame finder, without glass lens elements? The only time I used one of those, on an Ensign Selfix, I too was disappointed with the framing. The position of ypur eye in relation to the rear opening of the finder might be important, depending on how large the opening is.

    You could test it by fixing a focusing surface of some kind over the film gate and compare the image projected through the lens, with aperture and shutter fully open, with the coverage of the scene in the finder.

    I expect when people were using these for family pictures, holidays etc, they weren't too particular about accurate framing.
  4. So here are a few phone pix of the viewfinder- I see I’m mistaken in thinking it’s just a metal fram there is actually glass in 2 parts, front and far of the finder


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  5. Try this. Not the most elegant but it has worked with several old folders. Clean the front lens of the viewfinder duo with alcohol. Use a magic marker and put a "small blob" of ink dead center of the front element. Looking thru your viewfinder assembly, a dark smudge will appear. More or less this should give you a reference point for your composition. Review you neg scans and move "the blog" around if needed. Chers, Bill
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  6. You need to practice. If there's no obvious damage to the viewfinder, then it's probably still aligned ok. Your scan of the Ford doesn't explain what you wanted, did you want more of the cab in the picture? Could you achieve that by moving the neg further along to the left in it's holder to scan more of the frame?

    John came up with a good idea, check the alignment of the viewfinder via the film gate. That's something I must do with my Zeiss 521/2, an important shot I took was spoiled by not concentrating on where the viewfinder side frame edges were. But I think it was more a case of my "first time use" rather than a bad camera, the 521/2 is in like new condition so I questioned myself more than the viewfinder. If I'm not mistaken, these pop-up viewfinders are classed as "sports finders" and we need to get back a bit when taking shots.
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  7. Thanks guys, really appreciate it. Here's one other shot I got out of this roll, similarly, There's a bit of dead or negative space on the left side of the frame. I honestly t think I was erring the left a bit, just uncertain of my framing as this was the first time I ever used this finder- prior to now I always used the little magnifier block at the end of the lens barrel.

    I can see how one's eye would form the 3rd element of the "sight line", and if the eye isn't aligned with parts A & B of the 2 part finder, the framing could be off somewhat. In the end, maybe it's not that critical? I guess I prefer to fill the frame for the most part but hey it's a 1930s camera and it has its quirks. This time around, I'm just pleased as punch to have gotten ANYthing- as I really thought I'd messed up the entire roll!

    So, meanwhile: shot 2

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  8. FWIW I use regularly a Zeiss Nettar with the same type of viewfinder. Eye position may produce framing problems. My technique is watching the rims of the metal frame, while composing. When my eye is correctly centered, I see that in all four sides there is a black band from the metal frame, with the same width. It works well for me.
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  9. I tell myself while reviewing the negs I'm going to remember where I have ie dead space ....but later I've forgotten where and how I can compensate. The photo of your camera shows it to be quite nice. While my similar version is less so..I've got the upscale options ie Compur shutter and Skopar lens. Many of these are dual format 6x9-6x45. As it was mine came with the 645 mask and I thought I won the lottery.. but using said finder in 645 is even a bigger joke . AT least in ly limited experience. at the time I also was fighting a light leak "NOT" in the bellows. I do like using the camera and since I am doing landscapes mostly .. the a few more steps back helps insure all is in the frame.
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  10. Thanks everyone! I really appreciate your comments and time.

    I had big ideas about shooting this camera over the past weekend... didn't shoot all of what I wanted to but did get a roll off at a Triumph vintage motorcycle rally. I experimented further with the viewfinder and had enough light to see thru the tiny swiveling magnifier too. I shot a roll of Fuji Provia 100f and am pretty certain I got all 8 frames- so we'll see how they come out!
  11. Hey here's frame 3 off that roll of expired Portra 160 for anyone interested that hasn't seen it elsewhere

  12. FWIW I used to use the metal frame(r) on the Marine Combat Graphic 4x5, but you simply cannot do tight framing with this sort of gear.

    You leave lots of space around what you MUST have in the image. You get used to it and the negative is huge, after all:rolleyes:. At that, this is probably the most accurate wire-frame finder I've personally used.

    If you need tight framing, use the ground glass.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2021
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  13. Just a note to say I shot a roll of Fuji Provia 100f thru the old Bessa recently, OnceI get the scans back fr om the lab I'lll be sure to follow up with some photos to show how my framing worked out this time. Far as I know, I successfully got off a full 8 shots this time so hopefully some of them will be OK?
    Watch this space (but not too zealously)


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