The exceptionally fine Voigtlander 6x6 medium format camera was produced in Braunschweig Germany circa 1936. The camera was called the “Klein-Bessa” and was designed as a companion for the larger 6x9 Bessa. “Klein” means small in German and with small in mind, Voigtlander designed the smallest 6x6 in mind. It’s so small that a roll of 120 film just barely fits into this camera. In fact you have to swing the film clips up and out of the camera, to insert a roll of film between them and then fold it back in. This isn’t difficult but it does illustrate to what extent the designers went to make sure everything was as compact as possible.
This little camera is popular with the people that own them and it’s easy to see why. It is certainly one of the nicest, smallest and best handling prewar 6x6 cameras ever produced. I’ve owned more than my fair share of cameras over the years, but I’ve always been quite fond of auto-stop winding, the sculpted lines of the lens door, the smooth ergonomics, the drop-down shutter release lever and the quirky styling.
The early Bessa 66 with auto-stop winding can be a bit tricky to use the first few times. If you follow the instructions, which I’ve written based on my experience with them, it should work just fine. (The only caveat is that the exposure counter works correctly. This isn’t always the case if you didn’t buy it from us.)
- Before loading film into the Bessa 66 the film counter, it’s very important that the film counter on top of the camera indicates 0. (In this position the wind knob is unlocked and can be turned an unlimited amount of turns.) If the counter is not at zero you will have to manipulate the large film roller inside the camera and fire the shutter release until the 0 position is achieved.
- Put fresh film into proper side of the camera.
- Thread the free end of the film onto the empty pickup spool and wind up some of the paper backing until is snug and you’re sure its carefully centered.
- If your camera has them, extend the film clips that are located in the chamber below the wind knob (you’ll need to lift the wind knob to release them) and insert the pick-up spool between them.
- Push the spool & clips back into the camera.
- Close the camera and turn the wind knob carefully until exposure no 1 appears in the red film counter window on the rear of the camera. (After this step you won’t have to use the red window again.)
- Slide the counter lever (on the rear on the camera near the wind knob) to the left and then release it. The film counter on top of the camera will now move automatically to #1.
- Do not move the wind knob. Just cock the shutter and you are ready to take a photo. After you’ve taken a photo. Simply wind the film advance knob until it stops. Cock the shutter and take the following photos.
- Repeat for all the following exposures. After #12 has been taken the counter will move to the 0 position unlocking the system once again.
- ALWAYS push the shutter release all the way down (even if you hear the shutter fire). It is the shutter release leaver which operates the film counter system. If you do not move downwards enough than that can cause a counting error.
- Never force the wind knob to turn if it is locked. Doing so will damage the camera.
Peter and Petra