Voigtlander Bessa Info

My Rangefinder The Voigtlander Bessa R3M


A couple of months ago, after feeling increasing disappointed with my digital cameras, I purchased a Voigtlander Bessa R3M with 50mm heliar classic from Cameraquest.

What Is A Voigtlander Bessa R3M

The Voigtlander Bessa series of rangefinder cameras are small lightweight cameras made mostly out of metal by a Japanese company with a German name. I have had people tell me that they look like old german cameras and they do resemble older Leicas a little bit.

The Voigtlander Bessa R3M Body

Some psuedo-official technical information.

The Voigtlander Bessa R3M is a 35mm film rangefinder camera built in Japan by Cosina-Voigtlander. It shares a name with, but has no relation to the classic Voigtlander cameras of years past. Cosina-Voigtlander makes a few different rangefinder cameras  including the R2A, R3A and R4A. I bought the R3M because the R3 models features a special viewfinder with 1:1 magnification that allows you to shoot with both eyes open. Of the R3 models, the R3M is a special version that has full manual controls and a mechanical shutter. That means you can use it even when your batteries die. It also says 250 Yahre on the top of it to celebrate 250 years of Voigtlander optics and cameras.

Why I Bought My Bessa and Why You Should Buy One Too

  • The R3M Rangefinder: Rangefinder focusing is fun and fast. All you have to do is make two images line up and there you go. This is a great alternative to autofocus and is particularly useful if you shoot in a lot of low light situations. The Bessa R3M rangefinder is great because you can use it with your left or right eye.
  • Leica M Mount: I’m poor now, but my life plans call for me to become much less austere. As I can afford it, I can  buy wonderful Voigtlander lenses for my R3M or ultra amazing Leica glass. I can even take my Voigtlander lenses and put them on a micro four thirds or EVIL camera should I decide to go digital again. One set of lenses for digital and film is a big selling point for me.
  • Manual: My Bessa R3M is totally manual and can operate without a battery. I have tested this and it was wonderful. This makes bessa the complete opposite of a point+shoot. It is more like a point and fiddle. The R3M slows me down and makes me think as I compose each image which has led to some amazing images.
  • Compact: Bessa is small and goes everywhere with me.
  • Voigtlander Lens Quality: There has long been a debate about wether or not rangefinder lenses are better than SLR lenses. I can’t say that I can prove that lenses for the Bessa R3M are better or worse than for comparable cameras but I’ve been extremely pleased so far with my Voigtlander glass.

My Voigtlander Bessa R3M So Far

I am about to have my one year anniversary of life with Bessa. Looking back at my negatives I can say it has been an interesting year. I’ve learned a lot about the mechanics of photography. There are a few things worth noting about the qualify and design of the R3M. The R3M is mostly metal and because of that, it gets really cold in your hands. I did a shoot when it was around 6 degrees outside and my R3M became physically painful to hold and the batteries died. The fit and finish of the R3M are not bad but definitely not great. I have been noticing minor problems with certain aspects of the camera as time goes on. Little things like screws coming loose most the camera feel a little cheaper than when I first bought it. However, I am still in love with it and more importantly still a huge fan of rangefinders in general.

My Voigtlander Lenses

Voigtlander Heliar Classic 50f2 Lens

As part of the 250 year special kit, my R3M came with a 50mm heliar classic lens. I have described the 50 Heliar  Classic as making all of my images look like they belong in vintage Life magazine. I like the lens, it is sharp and fun. It is also really small and lightweight. You can buy the Heliar Classic 50 separately as a limited edition lens. I sort of wish I had bought the 40mm nokton.

Voigtlander 15f 4.5 Heliar

I decided to buy the Cosina-Voigtlander V 15f4.5 lens from photo village because I fell in love with the images online. I describe it as so wide that it photographs everything including my pores. Luminous landscape has a good review of the Voigtlander 15mm on a digital Leica.

Lenses I Want To Buy

Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.1 Fast, reasonably wide and the bokeh is supposed to be amazing.
Avenon 28 A rare lens made in Japan by one man. It have seen some amazing images with it.
Industar Russian lens in LSM format that seems pretty cool.
Jupiter 3I’ve heard and seen great things from this lens made in Russia. A Jupiter-8 might also be fun too.

Voigtlander Links

If you are thinking of buying a Vogitlander Bessa R3m, I recommend it, here are some links.

Shutterbug has a cool review of the R3M. I read it before buying and it sold me on the R3M over the R3A.
Sleepycity.net is a blog of really amazing, wonderful things, many of them photographed with a Voigtlander R3A.
The Unoffcial Cosina-Voigtlander page has lots of good Voigtlander info and reviews.
Ken Rockwell has a review of the Voigtlander 21mm lens.

Interesting article about the origin of Voigtlander’s heliar lenses.

Where To Buy Voigtlander Bessa R3M and Other Voigtlander Cameras

Buy Voigtlander Stuff In the United States
Bessa R3M on ebay: I buy most of my camera gear on ebay.
CameraQuest: Where I bought my voigtlander.
Photovillage : Voigtlander distributer in NYC.