Voigtlander Bessamatic: How Does It Work?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by steve_bellayr, Sep 18, 2011.

  1. I picked up a Voigtlander Bessamatic Deluxe this week with a 35mm, 50mm, & 135mm. How does the meter work on this camera. I can see the setting for the DIN/ASA which I can change but how does that relate to the EV and the f-stop and shutter speed? It also came with a Telex that fits onto the top of the camera's shoe. What is a Telex and how does it work?
  2. The Telex is a range finder. Helps you find what distance setting to use. Not needed with a reflex camera.
  3. The Bessamatic is one of the best 35mm SLRs ever made, when it works. In operation it is very simple in an over-engineered hyper complicated sort of way. That pretty much sums up the golden age of Voigtlander. You really should read the manual, but here are a few other things to check out. Wave the camera around and make sure the selenium meter is not dead. You should see the needle with the circle reacting to light in the viewfinder. If so, you might be in business. Load a test roll, wind on and shoot. A grinding noise (and feel) as you wind on is bad. They are notorious for shredding cocking racks. Fire the shutter and make sure the shutter does not hang up, especially on slow speeds. The drivetrain is ridiculously complicated and old stiff lubrication or wear on any of the components can cause bad expensive things to happen. Also, the camera works on the old EV system. F-stop and shutter speed are linked together by a mechanical linkage until you push one or the other to the extreme of its range. Once you match the needles, you can change shutter speed or aperture without changing the exposure value. Pretty darn cool for a mechanical camera.
  4. I can not download the files from butkus.
  5. Works fine here.
  6. The needle in the viewfinder will be the meter reading. You rotate the knob on top left until the tell-tale circle bisects the needle and then the exposure will be nominally correct. If necessary, you then rotate the shutter ring to select the combination of f stop and shutter speed for the correct EV that you would like to utilise. The two rings are coupled by a toothed differential gear which maintains the same EV for various combinations of shutter speed and f stop.
    It's best to first adjust the EV with the setting knob on the top left of the camera (below the rewind knob) and then use the grip on the shutter speed ring to select the aperture/speed combination you want. Gentle rotation of the knob will see it first run through the f stops. If also you need to move the shutter speed down further down the range, slight extra pressure on the knob should see the shutter speed ring slip through the detents for the various speeds. Beware of forcing the shutter speed ring beyond the stops at f/2 (for the Septon, or f2.8 or f4, etc. depending on what lens is fitted) and the f/22 marks. The f ring is designed to be driven by the top mounted knob, not to drive it, so the gearing mechanism won't appreciate being reverse-loaded at all.
    I am not sure why the manual file for the Deluxe is so large. But apart from the mini prism to reflect the shutter and f stop into the viewfinder, and the film counter reset knob that is only fitted to the Deluxe model, the rest of the features and operation should be the same as the original Bessamatic and Mike has the manual for that available to download in two smaller files of around 3 megabytes each.
    It is always worth carefully checking the rear capping plate/shutter for proper operation. Unlike, say, a Contaflex which is simply sprung loaded, in typical Voigtlander fashion the rear shutter has a small latch driven from the back of the centre shaft. Sometimes clumsy owners' fingers bend the actuating am for the back shutter and it doesn't latch properly. Light leaks will result. Gently wind the camera through a few cycles, observing the front and back shutters. The blades of the main shutter should not open until after the rear shutter is fully home and latched.
    I can only echo Matthew's comments. Although complex they're beautifully made and a delight to use. As much as I love Contaflice the Bessamatic has demonstrably better ergonomics and no 1950s viewfinder really has a right to be so bright. That they have such a poor reputation reflects in no small part to the cost of professional servicing and the reluctance of most owners to pay for this. Given this, they can work well, and I've put several dozen rolls through my own original example with no major difficulties.
  7. Dear Matthew Rubarsky,
    You seem to know a lot about classic cameras. What do you know about Nikon point and shoots?
    You know we know where you like to hang out. Every post you make here we (not just me) will bird dog you. Please return the camera. Just do it. I am not kidding. I will be in Baltimore in October for a business trip. I will visit your friend and find out where you are. Or just embarrass you.
    It's beyond annoyance now. It has been close to three months now. Just return the camera.
    tim in san jose
  8. Sorry Tim, the camera is already on it's way to Canada. I've Pmd you some details.
  9. Sorry for the intrusion. Perhaps a moderator could remove the last two postings?
    tim in san jose
  10. Yes, let's remove the unnecessary postings. This site is for information only. And, speaking of information I did download the manual. It is entitled "Voigtlander Bessamatic Guide" by Joseph D. Cooper. It appears that the meter on the camera is functioning which I find unbelieveable as the camera is 49 years old.
  11. I thought we were talking about Voigtlander SLRs here. Not sure where Nikon point and shoots came into it...
    The Voigtlander and Zeiss Ikon selenium cells aren't perfectly reliable but they do seem to often hold up well, and better than some other period equivalents. My own Bessamatic meter is still spot on. I'm not so surprised to hear yours is working, it may be reasonably accurate and for the late Fifties they had a massive ASA range too (up to 3200).

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