Voigtlander Bessa RF

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by tony_lockerbie, Jun 13, 2013.

  1. I must admit that I am a great fan of Voigtlander products. The Brunswick company was responsible for a great many interesting and beautifully engineered cameras, and the lenses are equally impressive.
    Some of their designs were a bit left field, the engineers stuck to the "shortest distance between two points is a circle" theory, but gave us gems like the Prominent, Superb and the Vitessa series.
    The Bessa RF on the other hand is a quite normal design, similar to so many other folders at that time, albeit a bit prettier and better finished. It was the pre-war fore-runner to the popular Bessa 11 from the fifties. The main difference is the 11 has a single finder with the RF combined, while the RF had separate windows. Of course the lens on the RF is not coated.
    Both Bessas were available with the excellent Skopar and even better Heliar. Mine is blessed with the five element Heliar and is my favourite lens design. One problem that can afflict the Bessa cameras is that the somewhat delicate strut mechanism can cause poor alignment between lens and film plane, and some have been bent by ham fisted attempts to close them without releasing the catch.
    I'm lucky that mine is still parallel and in nice condition with a clear lens and an accurate shutter. It even still has the light yellow hinged filter still attached!
    A few shots that were taken at Raymond Island, near Paynsville on the East Gippsland coast of Victoria.
  2. Closer to the camera.
  3. 3, Sorry about the size..thought I could get away with 800 size :)
  4. Once again sorry for the size, but I didn't want them too small. Film was TMax 400 developed in ID11 1:1 and scanned on an Epsom V750.
  5. Damn those are wonderful. The trestle is tactile. What a sweet folder.
    You're right about the lens standard alignment issue and it's not limited to Vlander folders.
  6. Ah, the Bessa pics...That Gippsland coast area is a beautiful area, for sure; I even contemplated moving there, once. Great images, Tony, and a very fine camera in great condition. "Old Tree" has a nice sweep to it, and I'm at home with the trestle bridge, such structures being a feature of our back country.
  7. Thanks Gene! One thing that the Bessa has is that the whole lens standard moves for focusing rather than just front cell focusing like most folders...including the much vaunted Super Ikontas.
  8. Thanks Rick. The trestle bridge is at Orbost just over the Victorian border and is a bit of a landmark. You wouldn't want to be in East Gippsland today, very wet and wintry! I think that Tasman Sea low might be heading your way.
  9. Australians are naturally much brighter as we have more blood in our heads :) I have a Vito 111 somewhere, but prefer the Prominent...interchangeable lenses and all.
  10. Looks like I will have to do the Prominent next. They are a bit fiddly, a lot really, but so is a Contax but we tolerate them for the lenses...ditto for the Prominent.
    Of course the original Prominent is the one I would like, another 120 camera and nothing like the post war Prominent. Alas, collector interest and rarity have sent prices through the roof.
    Do send one to Rick, I'm sure he will get something special out of it as the Ultron and Nokton lenses are rather good.
    The Nikon RF lenses are Contax bayonet and they will interchange with the Contax but the focus will be a bit off, no problem with the wides, but the fast lenses are best not used.
  11. I wish I had never sold mine, but 6x9 red window knob wind is not for everyone. They're considerably lighter than the Bessa II cameras, but still quite a handful when you unfold them. You have to pay keen attention to framing too, as the little finders are not that accurate and you need experience to know what you are actually going to have within your negatives. They're beautifully and intelligently designed works of art, as well as incredible picture takers. How many cameras can you say that about?
    The focusing knob system is pure genius. I quickly discovered there was essentially no difference in IQ between my RF and the later Bessa II I owned, even though the II had a coated Heliar lens compared to the RF's uncoated one. Heliar lenses are sorta funny. Some people don't see what all the fuss is about, and the Skopar lenses are amazing for B&W. But if you nail the exposure, if your camera is holding the film flat, if the lens is clean, you can get some amazing shots from them, like your last shot. The urban myth is that folders can't get sharp shots across the film plane, but trust me, if you have good technique and a straight camera they are certainly capable of that. There's the cost angle too. A RF will generally sell for 1/3rd to 1/2 of what a Bessa II sells for.
  12. Great results. I've looked at several of the Bessa RF's but so far every one I've encountered had shutter issues. Your results indicated that I should keep searching. Thanks for posting.
  13. Wow ... What incredible results. They are all way above average! I loved the first one and then when you showed the same pier at sunset.. WOW!! My favorite though I think is the Old Tree. I have lusted after a Heliar before! One of these days.. I need to be diligent!
  14. I have one of these and haven't been using it enough. Maybe I should take it with me to Hawaii instead of the Leica IIIc. I love that Heliar lens!
    Kent in SD
  15. Thanks for the positive comments. As Steve has indicated, the results will depend very much on the Camera being in good condition, and with a unit that is over 70 years old, that can be a challenge!
    I used to have a Bessa 11, but the alignment was out, so I sold it years ago...should have kept it and sold it at today's prices!
    The Heliar lenses have a sort of cult status these days, partly deserved, but a shame that it has forced up prices to sometimes ridiculous levels...have you seen current prices for the Apo-Lanthars?
  16. Tony, I'm late to the thread but may I ask at what aperture those beautiful pictures were made? In addition to the Heliar and Skopar that you mentioned, this camera also was available with the Helomar triplet. I've got one of those. Your pics look like what mine can do only in f/8 - f/16 range; was your Heliar wider open by chance?

    I must say, like Steve, I admire the focusing knob design. What I don't like is the inside of this camera (my example, anyway). It's basically bare sheet metal, and also the take-up side (winding-on key) simply turns in its hole without anything to smooth its rotation. While these things are usual to all folders of the period, somehow my 6x9 Super Ikonta of same vintage has much smoother film advance. Also, at least for those of us who wear specs, the Bessa's rangefinder ocular is awfully squinty. I want to love this camera, but it's hard work...

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