Voigtländer Bessa 66 and Some Shots with a Heliar Lens

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by John Seaman, Jun 10, 2021.

  1. This Bessa 66 came with a job lot from the auction site I bid because I could see from the picture that it had a 5 element Heliar lens – although the lens nameplate seemed to have three non-original screws which was a little concerning.

    It turned out that a previous owner had reasonably neatly drilled for and fitted these screws to secure the nameplate ring to the lens. I've seen quite a few of these 6x6 Bessas with the nameplate ring missing, so there's no way of knowing what lens is fitted. I think they had a hinged yellow filter which also carried the lens details, and this has a habit of getting detached. Some dirt in the lens was fortunately confined to the section behind the rear element, which was easy to unscrew for cleaning.


    The camera came in nice condition and in full working order apart from the "B" setting. It has a rather confusing film advance mechanism, with sliding levers on the front and back. It took me a few sessions with a scrap film to get my head round this. You wind on until number 1 appears in the red window, then close the window and reset the counter with the rear lever. The front lever releases the double exposure prevention and advances the counter to the next number after winding on. To be honest, I'm still not sure exacly what the procedure should be, there's no definitive instructions on line, but I did get 12 evenly spaced pictures out of it.

    These pictures were done on Ilford HP5 Plus 400 ISO film. I should add that this 66 may be either pre- or post-war and has an unsynchronised Compur Rapid shutter.






    The finder being tucked into the corner, gave me some grief, being a left eyed photographer. I soon realised it worked better for me with the camera held vertically.

    That's it, and thanks for looking.
  2. Wow! Overkill or what?
    Had they never heard of Evo-stik?

    And what's that looking like crumpled-up cellophane inside the lens John? Surely not the glass itself?

    P.S. The lens looks coated, which would definitely make it post WWII. Lens coating was apparently kept a 'secret' process by the Nazi regime until after the war.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2021
  3. The lens is fine, it's caused by a foil reflector I use to help light the pictures. It's not obviously coated although the pictures certainly have that look.

    A couple of other things, the shutter release is a little lever which comess out of a slot in the door as you open it, just visible in the picture. Also I couldn't get the back open at first, until I realised that it's locked until you swing out a hinged support foot on the base 90 degrees from the body.
  4. GOOGLE butkus.org. He has free manuals. There is an incomplete BABY BESSA 66 manual however there is a reference to BESSA 66 semi automatic film advance basic instructions notation. It appears to be the same as the BESSA 66
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2021
  5. Thanks Anthony. I had checked Butkus but missed those notes, they will be helpful if I decide to use the Bessa again.

    I have mixed feelings about these folders with semi automatic mechanisms. I've got a Super Baldax which also has a rather arcane procedure involving turning the knob back and forth in opposite directions. The trouble is that the simple red window system also has its issues, at least for me. The numbers are hard to see, especially with some films and when the red window is small and dark. It's particularly easy to miss the number 1. Perhaps I'll stick to my 3.5F in future.
  6. Wow lucky find! Are you saying this is a Heliar or it was doctored to appear so.. The photos are nicely rendered.
  7. I'm pretty sure it's a Heliar Chuck. I suppose it's possible that someone fitted the Heliar nameplate to a lesser lens, like the Vaskar or Skopar (not that those are bad lenses). However I have seen a lot of these on the auction site missing their nameplates, because they were on the hinged yellow filters which broke off. So I think it's much more likely that the original nameplate came off and was re-fitted with the three screws.

    The sharpness of the results also suggest to me a high end lens.

    Edit, the sites you pointed out show the nameplate on the lens itself, not on the filter. Hmm.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2021
  8. Ah, right. I wondered if it was a lastolite type refector, but it seemed too perfectly centred with the lens.

    If you're still not sure about the Heliar(?), you can get a good idea of a lens's construction from the reflections shown by a small penlight. Each air-glass surface will show a strong reflection, and a cemented surface will - usually - show a much fainter one.
    So the Heliar - with shutter and aperture open - should show 6 strong reflections and two faint ones. The central bi-concave reflections should be very close together in the middle of the lens.
  9. "The sharpness of the results also suggest to me a high end lens."

    I'm convinced :) Wish for the best! Those are really sharp. These vintage auto shows are a real boon Classic cars with classic cameras.

    Umm I just did a "random" Google and got quite a few hits.. so I think the weight of hits is quite convincing

    Note the three screws...

    Is this legitimate? Baby Bessa Heliar

    Note ..no screws

    Voigtländer Bessa 66

    No Nameplate??
    Voigtländer Bessa 66, 6 x 6 | eBay

    Can't see clearly but advertised Heliar...sold ummm nicely :)

    Voigtländer Bessa 66 Heliar 3,5/50mm Compur Rapid Shutter | eBay
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2021
  10. The three screws are clearly non standard, like mine. The second two have lost their filters, note the cut out in the nameplate ring to accommodate the hinge. mine doesn't have this. It does seem that both the hinged filters, and the nameplate rings have a habit of becoming detached and lost, I've seen a lot like that on the auction site..

    Unfortunately the B setting is faulty and I can't hold the shutter open. I can see three reflections from the front cell, suggesting a doublet, and the rear group is definitely a cemented pair - I unscrewed it for cleaning. So I'm pretty sure it is a five element lens.
  11. "I can see three reflections from the front cell, suggesting a doublet, and the rear group is definitely a cemented pair - I unscrewed it for cleaning. So I'm pretty sure it is a five element lens."

    That could be a Tessar 4 element design
  12. Tessars are sharp lenses too.
    Replace the front plano-convex element of the Tessar with a doublet, and you have a Heliar.

    If there's no 5th faint cement-line reflection from the front section of that lens, then it's likely not really a Heliar.
  13. There isn't 'a' Heliar. There are several variations of the design that are all true, genuine Heliar lenses.
  14. "If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck." - Judge Judy et al.

    As far as I'm concerned, my lens is a Heliar.
  15. Here are three more from the roll, taken before the Sun broke through:


  16. 'a' being the indefinite article. Not to be confused with 'the', which is the definite article, and would indicate one specific item.

    Furthermore, all (true Voigtlander) Heliar variants consist of 5 elements in 3 groups - two positive cemented doublets, one on each side of a biconcave negative central singlet.

    What's to argue with about that?

    However, what Cosina now label as a Heliar might be completely different.
    Ducks come in many species. That all swim, have much the same body shape and sometimes quack.

    If it takes sharp pictures, then it's a good lens. And to quote Shakespeare "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2021
  17. What's to argue?
    Simple: just another example of you confusing one of your strong opinions with fact. True Voigtländer Heliars came in a variety of formulae, and not all have the same number of elements.
  18. Yes, Rodeo Clown. And like those ducks coming in many species...
  19. Ricochetrider likes this.

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