NEAR MINT 1938 Voigtlander Bessa Rangefinder, HELIAR LENS! 6x9, Freshly Serviced
Cleaned, Lubricated & Adjusted. Ready for immediate use
This week we have a freshly serviced Bessa Rangefinder camera. It’s a lovely camera that easily slips into a jacket pocket or a back pack and yet folds out to take 8 beautiful 6x9 exposures on normal 120 roll film. Bright exposures alive with all the vivid details and lovely colors that only medium format or larger can provide. When it comes to photography, bigger is better and with this camera you can create a negative that is about 6 times larger than the average 35mm snap shot. Additionally this camera is also capable of producing 6x4.5 negatives if you have a suitable reduction mask in your collection. (Mask not included.) So whether you’re interested in large prints, fine grain, rich tonal gradations or lovely colors, this camera will do all of that and may just become your favorite photographic companion.
This camera’s life is long and colorful. I can’t tell you the stories of where it’s been but I can tell you this camera was built in a time and a place when the world looked very different than it does today. It uses normal 120 film and features a coupled rangefinder which makes focusing quick and easy.
Because of its compact size and outstanding performance, WWII war correspondents on both sides of the conflict used the Bessa Rangefinder. They were in high demand and in short supply. These brave photographers often reached for the Bessa when they needed to produce a higher quality shot than a Contax or Leica could produce. They were used intensively and as a result many cameras were worn out, damaged or lost during the hostilities.
This camera’s built in rangefinder never leaves you guessing about the distance or the focus. Just point the camera at your subject, turn the knob and the rangefinder enables you to set the focus quickly and easily. The rangefinder works smoothly, accurately and is easy to use. The camera also has an additional advantage that it can close focus down to one meter. The ability to get in close with its 105mm lens is of course convenient for tighter portrait work. The reason the Bessa can get this close is because its lens and shutter moves together as a unit when focusing. Another nice feature is that if desired, you can also pre-focus the camera without opening it by simply using the distance scale located around the focus knob.
The Bessa is one of the best prewar designs. It folds open and closed quickly and easily. It has a good balance. It also features a shutter release lever which folds automatically out from the lens door. This shutter release is very smooth and requires very little pressure. This really adds to the joy of shooting and helps reduce camera shake at slow shutter speeds. I’m also fond of the black lacquer finish, the hint of art deco styling and how its overall looks compliments a black prewar Leica. Because of its excellent handling and performance, the Bessa is a great 6x9 medium format camera for a photographer with historical interest who wants to work with a classic camera regularly.
This camera is in exceptionally fine condition and it’s ready for immediate use. It’s been carefully cleaned, lubricated and adjusted. The rangefinder is easy to see, easy to use and works well. The bellows are supple and light tight. The top of the line Compur-Rapid shutter works very well and all speeds (T,B & 1 sec- 1/400th) are appropriate. The slow speeds buzz along smoothly and the fast speeds are clean and snappy.
The lens is a desirable f3.5/105mm Heliar lens. (A legendary design with five elements in three groups.) The serial number indicates that this lens was produced in circa 1938. What collectors and photographers love about this lens is the beautiful rendition in the fore and back ground. It’s something the Japanese refer to as bokeh. Simple said this lens has a very lovely bokeh. Open up the lens or narrow the depth of field by getting closer and the focus rolls on and off quite smoothly. This lens even has the original folding filter holder which is very fragile and often missing on most cameras. The lens is beautiful and looks almost new. It’s clean and clear. There are no scratches, just a couple of light cleaning marks (but you’ll need a magnifier to see them). There is no haze, fungus, crystallization, separated elements or other problems. And it’s capable of producing lovely photos with modern color and B&W films.
All in all, a wonderful classic camera. Load it with your favorite film and keep it handy for that perfect shot you’ve been looking for. You know the one... the one with the perfect Ansel Adams light breaking through the dark storm clouds that leaves you wishing you had a classic medium format camera with you.