Leica M3 vs. Voigtlander Bessa R3A

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by daniel_katz|2, Nov 24, 2005.

  1. Well guys I finally decided I will settle on a rangefinder, mainly
    because of size. An SLR is just too big and bulky to fit into my
    little backpack to take to school. I really need a camera that will
    last me a while and that I can take everyday out to do street
    photography on my way to school and back and wherever I go really
    just carry it in my backpack. I have decided I need a high
    magnification because I will be doing a lot of night shooting either
    with an f1.4 or f1.2 lens and in the future I wish to buy a Noctilux
    once I can afford it. I therefore really need super accuracy in
    focusing and thinkg that maybe a higher magnification finder will
    help me, especially since I am a beginner. I know the Leica M3 has a
    0.92x finder and that the Voigtlander Bessa R3A has a 1:1 finder.
    The Bessa new is $560. I am sure the finder in the Bessa will be
    brighter and maybe more contrasty since it's new but I have used a
    Bessa R1 before and it seemed a bit cheaply made. I dont know which
    to chose between the two? As far as wide-angle lenses I will only
    use something wider than 28mm anyways so I will need a seperate
    finder with any camera I buy. The Leica seems like it will last
    longer and is more sturdy? But the fact that the Voigtlander is new
    and has a 1:1 finder and will be easier to load film into and has a
    built in meter, those are all pluses. The problem is that the
    Voigtlander has an electronic shutter which would be a problem if my
    battery died, and I doubt it would last as long as an M3. M3s have
    stood the test of time but Voigtlanders, especially the R3A are
    extremely recent. Also the M3 I am sure will go up in price over
    time because of being the first Leica M.
  2. If you decide on an M3, factor in that if it hasn't been CLA'd (clean, lubrication, adjustment) recently you should have that done to make sure that the shutter is acurate and give the old girl a little TLC. This may also include having the range finder services which should improve/restore brightness. The lack of a meter will grow on you, and after a whild you don't really think about it (I don't with my M4-P). The M3 is built to last, the Besa probably less so.

    Go for the M3 and get Leicanisis like the rest of us. It is very very addictive. ;-)

    Good luck in your deliberations and watch out for Nocti scams on *Bay.

    - Carl
  3. gib


    well, I have a Bessa R and your cleary entitled to your opinion and I have seen others
    question the build quality, but I just dont see it as a major league problem with the R. It
    seems as robust to me as many lower priced manual SLRs - like a Nikon FM - maybe
    better than a Yashica Fx-3, which feels more plasticky to me than the Bessa R.

    I have not held a Bessa R3A but I have read opinions that the CV Bessas have improved in
    apparent build quality and finish quality with each new model from the R onwards.

    i wouldnt hesitate using a Bessa R for street photography. Just my 2x 1 cent view.
  4. Can't help you much with your dilemna, but some additional info to consider: The Bessa
    R3A may have a 1:1 finder, but it has a narrower rangefinder base which may make it less
    accurate for the faster lenses.

    The M3 has actually gone down in value not up over the last few years, except perhaps for
    absolutely mint examples.
  5. I'm with WJ Gibson. I've still got an R that's been backpacking, battered, in cycle panniers - thrown in with oily spanners for long bumpy rides etc, in rain, snow, heat...and works as fine as the day it was bought, rangefinder aligns perfectly and the body hardly looks touched. Considering I got it as a metered "not important" rangefinder for possible maltreatment I'm surprised given some of what I've read on the web.

    I've also got an R2A, which feels even more strong - it doesn't feel as robust as an FM2 but then nothing else I've ever held does.
  6. I agree that the Bessa R is a very good camera, but I think Daniel is correct to be considering the longer EBL rangefinder in the R3a since he has expressed the desire to use fast lenses. I don't, never did, think that the battery dependence is a big deal. Carry extras, they are light. Even with the 1:1 finder, the R3a is not as accurate a focuser as the M3 (I sold my R3a and bought an M3). I am a little leary too that the finder of the newer Bessas are a little too delicate. Too many comments made about the finders being out of alignment. Mine was fine, but I have heard of many from not "just pop in to complain" members of forums like this that seem at least relatively credible to me. An M3 with a good finder is a wonderful thing. Ultimately, even if you find one that does not need a CLA, it will be a little more expensive than an R3a. The next step up price wise is the new Zeiss Ikon. Made by Cosina, but it has a totally different finder with a much longer base length.
  7. So the M3 will be the most accurate focusing out of any M-Mount camera? Because I need the most accurate focusing as possible for hte f1.2 and f1.0 lenses I will use in the future as well as to learn focusing properly on a rangefinder. Would the M3 finder be as bright as the Bessa R3A finder?
  8. rj


    If I was going to buy a camera to use with a noctilux, it would either be a user m3 that I would send off to DAG to get cla'd and have him make sure the rangefinder is aligned correctly for a noctilux, or it would be another newer leica with the 1.25 finder attached and also cla'd. The m3 finder is almost perfect for a 50mm lens, clear, bright and the rangefinder patch is easy to see, the 50mm framelines are big and easy to see. It is a different color than the newer cameras like the m6ttl. The finder is bluer and the rangefinder patch is clearish yellow.
  9. My answers to your questions and points.....

    The R3A may have a slightly shorter effective RF baselength, but IMO the newer (not 50 year old) viewfinder may very well be cleaner, clearer, and easier to focus than the M3 VF. If you've used an SLR before and enjoy the easier film loading and a built-in meter, then that's another reason you should choose the R3A. The 1.5 volt batteries they use are available everywhere, are cheap, and they take up no space in your kit. There's no reason not to have 2 or 3 sets on hand. The R3A and R2A are built better and have a better, stronger "feel" than the earlier Bessas. Also, with today's better, faster films, you may not need that 1.2 lens at all.

    Another, possibly blasphemous suggestion (here on the Leica forum anyway) for you is buy an Olympus OM-1 SLR and a 50 or 35mm lens. (The 50s come in 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8 versions, the 35mm in am F2) This combo can be had cheaply- certainly around $150. There's nothing smaller, not even an M3, nothing stronger, has a large, bright viewfinder, works on the extremes of heat and cold, and the battery powers only the meter, without one, the camera is still usable. The original battery is a now discontinued mercury, so you'd need one of those or have the camera adapted to use a silver oxide.
  10. nrb


    George, I concur with your opinions on this subject. And am certain Daniel will make a wise choice.
  11. Dear Daniel,

    Having used the 50/1.5 Nokton with most Bessas (R, R2, R3A, T) I'd back the M3 hands down: I have really not been very happy with my own focus accuracy with the Nokton at full bore on the R3A, whereas I had no problems with even a 50/1 Noctilux on M-series (MP and M4-P). Both the actual base length and the effective base length of Ms are significantly greater and I've certainly found it easier. Others may disagree.

    Actually I'd go for an M2 but that's another argument.


    Roger (www.rogerandfrances.com)
  12. Just a brief comment or 2 on the OM-1 suggestion. If you do go that route, I would go for a 50mm rather than the 35mm F2, which is my least favourite Zuiko. I find it (relatively) oversized, and not as good as some of the more recent 50 1.8 lenses. As far as battery goes, I have not had my camera adjusted to take the no longer available non-Mercuries, and use it these days without a battery, depending on a handheld meter. The battery is only for the meter; the camera operates fine without one.
  13. I wouldn't worry about the price of used M3 bodies going down. Over the years they've gone up and down depending on market demand but the overall trend is up. I picked up a nice double-stroke M3 for $100 - back about 1969 - and used the hell out of it for years, seling it in beat-to-crap (but working just fine) condition for over $400 a year or so ago when I got a great deal on a bunch of Leica stuff at an estate sale that included a nice single stroke M3. I doubt the Bessa will last that long or become collectible. Long term you'd be kissing your money bye-bye.
  14. While the M3 is built to last and the Bessa probably not so, you have to factor in that the M3 is allready a couple of decades old and we only guess if they can stand another 40 years :)

    So beside the nearly uninvitable CLA you may need some hard to get and pricey spare parts. The rangefinder assembly is one of those.

    So this beeing said, I'd buy the M3 because the Bessa is plain ugly in my eyes :)
    I'm still undecided, at my local camera shop they have a completly rebuilt M2 with selftimer and button rewind. It has been converted to the quickload system of the M2-r and comes with a one year waranty at 1100 Euro.
  15. Al,

    As far as "kissing your money goodbye", how many things do you buy in life and consider an investment? Your car? Your refigerator? Your TV? Of course not. You buy them because you need them, and you accept the fact that after using them for a set number of years you buy another one when that one wears out. If we were to watch every dollar closely, then we'd all be using $50 used cameras, because we wouldn't want to throw our money away. Who's to say that that $900 M3 Daniel may buy won't be worth $5 20 years from now when you can't find film anymore? (Not saying that's going to happen, just one scenario to consider). No camera that's to be used and not 'collected', film or digital is an investment. I can reasonably expect that R3A to last me at least 5 years. Can a used M3, purchased for double that, last me 10 years without having to put money into it? Maybe, maybe not.
  16. George, it's really little different that buying and selling stocks or real estate. You make a decision based on past history, the current market, and where you think things are headed. And things change. Thirty to forty years ago dealers couldn't give away those "cheap Japanese Leica copies" that came with Nikkor lenses. When they broke they got trashed. Now Niccas are sought after by collectors, and an investment in $10 clean Nicca bodies back in the 1960's would have given you a better return than buying Leica IIIA bodies over the years. It might happen with Bessa bodies. I love my Bessa L, but it doesn't compare in workmanship or "feel" to my old M bodies.
  17. Roger Hicks , nov 24, 2005; 10:02 a.m. "...Both the actual base length and the effective base length of Ms are significantly greater and I've certainly found it easier. Others may disagree. Actually I'd go for an M2 but that's another argument."

    Roger, as someone who's on the fence bewteen an R3A, M2 and M3, let's hear your reason for preferring an M2!
  18. Al, I still respectfully argue that I don't look at a camera purchase the same way I look at my stock picks. I consider it a hobby, a pleasure, the money spent is disposable, not something to consider as an investment, no gain is expected from the purchase. If I fret over what my camera will be worth in say 10 years, the hobby will stop being fun. Have a happy Thanksgiving!
  19. Dear Gary,

    Why the M2? Simply that it has a 35mm frame. Sorry it's nothing more interesting. The M3 is smoother and better made (at least, that's true of all the ones I've had in the last 30+ years), and has a self-resetting frame counter (though you still need to pull the load spool even if you have the fast-loading spool installed) but as 35mm is my standard lens it still has to be M2.


    Roger (www.rogerandfrances.com)
  20. George, Daniel is the one who brought up the subject of investment value in his original question about which camera to get. I was just trying to give him my take on that aspect of his question.
  21. I think when it comes down to it if I clean the viewfinder on the M3 it will probably be close to as clear and bright as the R3A. Also if I want to sell my M3 in case I dont like it I can sell it for probably the same exact price I bought it for and there will be a lot of interested people, but when it comes down to selling the R3A, especially in a few years time it will be worth half as much but the M3 if it does drop in price in the next few years it wont even be close to as dramatic as the R3A. Also the M3 is a peice of camera history and eventually might become an antique which will be worth maybe more than it is now, but investment aside, this isn't going to be a money investment as in an investment in photography. Either way it's always going to be easy to sell the M3 or maybe give it to a future girlfriend or future son one day to cherish and learn photography from basics without the use of an electronic shutter, the electronics might go bad as well especially since these Voigtlander electronics havent really stood the test of time properly. As far as the Light Meter is concerened I havent used one for over a year now and still get amazing pictures. Sometimes I use the sunny 16 rule. At night I just take pictures at the maximum aperture (lowest f-stop number) available and at the lowest shutter speed I know I can handhold at without getting too much motion blur. For instance a 50mm I would take at 1/60 of a second at f2 inside a resteraunt at night and the exposure will be near perfect. I shoot my 501C Hasselblad without a lightmeter for the most part and 90% of my pictures come out near perfect, plus built in light meters are a bit of a distraction for me when I am composing a shot and they go bad over time most of the time. As you can below the picture I took handheld with a 58mm lens on a Zenit SLR by brasing myself against a poll at 1/30 of a second at f2 with Astia 100 ISO slide film pushed 2 stops. Yes lightmeters give you more accuracy but it's a small convenience that I am willing to sacrifice and which I havent used for quit a while now anyways, and if I were to ever need one for an important shoot I would use an incident meter that would be around my neck anyways which would be more accurate than any reflective meter built into the camera.
  22. The Noct here was bought used in the late 1970's; for 400 bucks. While not really an investment; it just has not dropped in resale value like my other photo gear bought new or used in the 1970's. (ie Nikkormat Ftn with 50mm F1.4 Nikkor SC was 301 bucks new by mailorder in 1975) Imagine somebody selling a Nikkormat on Ebay for a grand. My Summarit 50mm F1.5 LTM was only 28 bucks in the late 1960's. What if I had bought a Petri rangefinder, Philip Morris stock; or one of the mystrey "TRON" stocks that died during the nifty fifty crash of 1968 to 1973?<br><BR>The noct is often sold after the first year; after the honeymoon phase. You might what to try one before getting married. Here I use a M3 and Noct; and sometimes a Zorki3C or Bessa R with the canon 50mm F1.2 in rougher/riskier areas. The zorki3C is alot more robust thatn my Bessa R; which the rangefinder has been knocked out of alignment several times. A Zorki with a 50mm F2 Jupiter-8 is a really low cost rig. Before 9/11 they were only 10 dollars; about 17 to 18 with airmail from the Ukraine. <BR><BR>Having some great gear and some average gear can be fun. The low cost Russian stuff varies widely in quality. The Bessa series has a full roller cam; the Russian stuff a pie cam, which only uses a subset of LTM lenses. The Russian Lennigrad uses a further truncated LTM len set becuase of its recesssed LTM flange.
  23. Here I often use the Orion-15 28mm F6 and the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 LTM on the Leica M3; Zorki's; Bessa R or Lennigrad with no external finders. With my Bessa R; I can estimate decently the coverage beyond the frame lines. The 28mm fits well on my Bessa R; and meters too. Some folks Bessa R must be abit different; since they state the Orion fouls and scrapes during lens mounting. My Bessa R is really old; bought prior to 9/11 from Hong Kong via Ebay for less than 300 bucks. <BR><BR>With a F1.4 / F1.5 or F1.2 50mm lens and asa 800 Fuji color print film; often I dont really need to use the Noct. Having a low cost rangefinder fast lens settup doesnt have to be exotic; if one doesnt tread into the F1 zone.
  24. Hi Daniel:

    I'm kinda with Al K on this one. Generally, if you buy quality, even at top
    dollar, you only cry once.

    Happy snaps.
  25. Ok, thanks for everyones help. You have all helped, my choice is, drumroll please... a Leica M3. Now I just need to find one in OK condition, preferable a single stroke, for under 600 preferably CLAd recently. If anyone knows of any being sold please let me know, I will not buy one for another couple weeks but I need to start looking now :). Thank you all for your patience with me :).
  26. " But the fact that the Voigtlander is new and has a 1:1 finder and will be easier to load film into and has a built in meter, those are all pluses."

    "As far as the Light Meter is concerened I havent used one for over a year now and still get amazing pictures."


    It seems your needs have changed from the starting question to how you now feel. First, the lightmeter was a plus, now it is not. I see the same with regard to your feelings about the electronic issue. I don't know if your mind was already made up at the start and you got us to comment, or you were leaning toward an R3A and the comments shifted you toward the M3.

    Either way, lots of luck finding a good condition SS M3 that was recently CLA'd for under $600! The price will likely be $900 to $1K, I've been checking prices too for a while.
  27. Gary: like some people, I purchase each item of photo equipment for a specific purpose. If
    I don't have a specific purpose, then I do not purchase. As it happens, I own/use a Leica
    M3, a Leica M2 and a Bessa R3A. I have one or more specific uses for each camera and one
    or more specific lenses to use with each camera. I haven't gone into more detail for fear of
    putting other members to sleep, but I hope you get the idea.
  28. Each camera will make excellent photographs. The Bessa will be less expensive, both now and in the future but the M3 is a timeless piece of functional beauty that also makes photgraphs.
  29. Dear Daniel,

    Thanks for letting us know your decision -- it's always nice to know that someone actually DID come to a decision after all those answers. I second the thought that you'll be lucky at $600 but good luck anyway.


  30. You know, you guys talk about photo gear investments: I remember in the early 40's, Al Kaplan & I used to walk along the marshes on Collins Ave in Miami and I distinctly remember Al saying to me that someday Miami real estate would be valuable. I paid him no heed: he bought 15,000 acres of oceanfront Miami property from 10th Street to 125th Street -- and retired in 1952 with a net worth of $17 billion plus 2 M2's & a 15mm V/C Heliar. Listen to his advice. I wish Ihad. . .
  31. That's a great story Paul. I wish it was true! Unfortunately it wasn't until Johnny G shot that gawdawful ugly picture of me (you were there!)that James Mitchell put on those first T-shirts that the Big Bucks started rolling in. Then when Marc Williams shot the second T-shirt photo, the one in your photo of me above, I insisted that he pay me a modeling fee equal to what he pays on his big advertizing shoots. Between that $35,000 and the $.03 James gives me for every T-shirt he sells I've finally been able to start buying my own pristine used Leicas instead of stealing them from the tourists on the beach. The money is just rolling in. One or two days a week I hang out at the park, hand rolled cigarette dangling from the corner of my mouth, Bessa L in hand. The other hand has a tin cup with a sign "Take my picture ~ $35,000". I might raise the price in January. Hell, I might throw in a free T-shirt too.

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