Week 24 – The Voigtlander Bessamatic
Well I don't know where to start! A bit of a funny week that really kept me on my toes. I will try to keep it short but it won't be easy. I arrived at Russells to see what was in store and he pulled out this little package – A Voightlander Bessamatic c1959, a 35mm SLR with a F2.8 colour Skopar X 50mm lens attached. With it also - a Skoperex f3.5 35mm wide, a Super-dynarex f4 135mm prime, a set of Voigtlander filters and a hood – a great kit! At 2lbs in weight it is heavy and built like a tank, but a tank with finesse! Really superb build quality all round. I would advise looking at many review sites as the complicated mechanical workings that make this one of the most enjoyable cameras I have used would take far too long to go into here but quickly - You have to advance and cock shutter to view through the big bright viewer, you focus via a fairly standard split prism. First dial in using shutter ring on the front a desired speed, then on the right side of viewer are 2 needles > turn large knob top left until they align. The interlocked shutter aperture mechanism has now given you a pair of suitable settings that by turning the shutter ring can be changed for any preference retaining the same EV value! Pretty cool eh! Thats not all, at the same time two further pointers on the lenses open or close synced with it showing the D of F your settings will give you! You want to use an external meter? Easy, just set the shutter speed FIRST then turn the meter knob until the aperture you want lines up…easy as, it really is.
Roll 1 – I fancied some fun so went for a slide colour film, an expired Provia 100f that I would cross process as c41. It is a straight forward load – I decided to run this one on the cameras meter then go spot meter on the second roll. I had to hump the block of iron in my hand as there was nowhere to attach a strap and no case, I think Russell will be getting one. It really was simple and enjoyable to use, the advance lever in the standard top right corner purrs on the out and in stroke, you find yourself deliberately doing it slowly just to listen. When it comes time to press the shutter button there is a lovely metallic swish that is gorgeous. If you recorded it and played it backwards I swear it must whisper “buy me”! I quickly ripped through the roll and had it in fresh developer ASAP. I looked at the negs and was worried – looked at scans and was horrified! They were massively over exposed, I checked the meter against many of my own and it was fine, I did every possible check to camera and it seemed sweet. There must have been a reaction during processing which can happen. I have included some images – some untouched so you can see, others heavily adjusted or BW conversions just to have something – My apologies!
Roll 2 – I decided to run a second, FP4 B&W. I mixed up the metering with on and off camera, I wedged it into half a case and went about it all over again. Having a strap is even better, you just look down and everything is there for you the see and adjust. I had a great afternoon shooting, it begs you to use it. Back to process and a massive relief all was good, very good I thought.
I loved this camera, it is super easy to use whichever way you meter, you lose some shadow detail with the on-board but it is good enough. It sounds and feels superb like a fine time piece. Lenses switch out easily and are very sharp. Ah, I forgot the filters. There is a nifty scale by the meter knob matched to their values, and you simply turn the meter knob and line up the markers to the clearly marked values. ANYONE could use this fully manual camera and get good results while experienced folk can delve as deep as they want. The one down side is all those trick mechanisms will be costly to repair and service. If you ever see one on a shelf and pick it up, I doubt you will want to put it down. I made a bold claim to Russell – I would trade ALL my 35mm cameras for this one and I stand by it. Hope you enjoy the FP4s and the Provia gives you a giggle.
Click below to see photos