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Rare! (leather version) 1948 Voigtlander Bessa Rangefinder with Heliar lens! Freshly Serviced, CLA'd.


Rare! (leather version) 1948 Voigtlander Bessa Rangefinder with Heliar lens! Freshly Serviced, CLA'd.

$ 845.00 USD

Cleaned, Lubricated & Adjusted. Ready for immediate use!

This is the hard to find black postwar Bessa rangefinder camera. It’s in near mint condition, it’s been freshly serviced and everything works as it should. 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 a 120 roll film. So whether you’re interested in large prints, fine grain, rich tonal gradations or lovely colors, this camera can do all of that and may just become your favorite photographic companion.

The Bessa rangefinder is a famous design and features a coupled rangefinder that makes focusing quick and easy. However what makes this camera special and sets this camera apart from all the other Bessa RF’s we’ve sold and serviced is the fact that this example is a rare black leather post-war version.

Many collectors assume that the black 6x9 Bessas rangefinders were produced prior to WWII and that the chrome Bessa II replaced it after the war. But the history of these legendary cameras is more complex than that. After WWII, Voigtlander managed to produce a small number of black Bessa rangefinder cameras. Presumably they were constructed from parts that had managed to survive the war and received subtle updates in fit and finish to increase their desirability. If you compare one of these rare postwar cameras side by side to a prewar Bessa, the changes becomes apparent. The later camera is covered with thick Moroccan leather (instead of the original cloth based leatherette), it’s fitted with a black faced Compur shutter (without the Voigtlander logo), the lens is set in a new style mount that allows the use of slide on filters and very interestingly the, the rangefinder cover is a few millimeters longer. Which hints at the development of a new rangefinder array which was ultimately fitted to the Bessa II.

This model was sold to help finance the restoration of the Voigtlander plant and the development of the chrome Bessa II. After this new model went into production they never produced a black version again. 

Some sources indicate that only perhaps 2000 of these black postwar cameras were ever built and sold. Others mention even lower production numbers. Personally I suspect that only a few hundred have managed to survive to the present day. In any case, 75 years later this is a very difficult camera to find and acquire. I’ve been serving and selling vintage cameras for about 25 years now and in that time I’ve only seen only seen three or four of them.   

I’ve been collecting and using classic cameras for many years and the Bessa rangefinder are one of my favorites. They are great cameras and I often recommend them to friends. I’m fond of its black lacquered finish (and how it complements my black Leica II which I also enjoy using.) I also appreciate how easily the Bessa fold open and close, the excellent handling and especially like the shutter release lever that 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 also helps reduce camera shake at slow shutter speeds.

This camera has been carefully cleaned, lubricated and adjusted and it’s ready for immediate use. Everything works as it should. The rangefinder has also been cleaned, the image very bright and focusing works smoothly and easily. The bellows are supple and light tight. The quality Compur Rapid shutter fires smoothly and all the speeds from 1 sec to 1/400 are appropriate. The slow speeds buzz along smoothly and the fast ones are clean and snappy.

The camera is fitted with a very desirable f3.5/105mm Heliar lens. (A superb legendary design with five elements in three groups.) This is the rare, first production version of the postwar Heliar and features a subtle light blue coating. Later versions would be engraved as “Color-Heliar” for marketing reasons. The lens serial number 3006575 indicates that it was produced in circa 1948.

The Heliar lens is exceptionally fine condition. It’s clean and clear, there are no scratches and it’s capable of producing lovely photos with modern color and B&W films. 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

It comes complete with a 6x4.5 reduction mask which gives you the option of setting up the camera to produce 6x9 or 6x4.5 format negatives.

All in all, a wonderful rare rangefinder camera in superb condition. 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 clouds that leaves you wishing you had a classic medium format camera with you.

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