Voigtlander Bessamatic

  • Serial No: 66717
  • Manufactured: 1958 - 1960
  • Shutter: Synchro Compur
  • Shutter speeds: B, 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500
  • Lens: Color-Skopar X 1:2,8/50
  • Aperture: 2.8 - 22 stepless
  • Lens No: 4970657
  • Lens mount: Bessamatic bayonet (very similar but not identical to the Retina Reflex mount)
  • Last CLA: unknown

Voigtlander Bessamatic set

Big? Yes, it's big but there are other big cameras as well. Heavy? Like a rock but it's still not a unique feature. If I had to use one word to describe the Bessamatic it would be the quality. The unimaginable Voigtlander quality is what makes this camera outstanding. And the handiness.

By the way, this was the first camera in the World wich had a zoom lens, the 36-82mm Zoomar as an accessory. On my wishlist. But let's get back to the camera itself.

Bessamatic was the last in the line started with Contaflex and followed by Retina Reflex, both with leaf shutter and interchangeable lens. These SLRs were quite compicated with a lens shutter and a second shutter behind the mirror. The push of the shutter release button triggered a series of complex events which had to take place very quickly: close the lens shutter, reduce the lens aperture to the preset f-stop, raise the reflex mirror, open the second shutter and finally open and close the lens shutter to expose the film to the light. You could hear the noise of slim metallic parts busily swirling.

Voigtlander Bessamatic

I'm not sure which camera was the first with the meter match needles displayed in the viewfinder but lots of photographers were thankful for this feature. The designers of the Bessamatic tried to make the whole picture taking process as easy as possible. You just have to turn the topleft dial to match the needles in the viewfinder and turn the aperture/speed ring to shift between the corresponding aperture and shutter speed values. Or set the speed first with the ring and find the appropriate aperture with the dial. Two moving small red indicators show the dept-of-field for the given aperture as you set it with the dial. Focusing is guided by a split image prism. Everything feels so natural.

Voigtlander Bessamatic

Here are some field experiences with the Bessamatic. It's too heavy to told it in your hands for long time. It's too heavy to hang it on your neck using the neck strap of the ever ready case; it causes muscle pain after a while. It's too heavy to bring with you everywhere but it worth the effort. This camera can cause a sort of addiction. You don't want to use anything else after you tried it. It's so precise, it works like a clock. It operates easy. Everything on it is extremely good quality.

For night shooting the Bessamatic is almost as good as the Werra Matic, however, you can have difficulties seeing the speed/aperture settings in the dark. Be aware that he otherwise precise selenium cell is not accurate in low light conditions. Here are some sample shots on a high ASA Ilford Delta film:

The Muflon Drinking-Trough

First staircase

Hatshop

And some color shots:

Color-Skopar X

Pioneers

Somló

I love this camera. Here is a last shot using the macro extension lens:

Certo Dollina

17 comments:

  1. I ´m a happy owner off one, and with one 50 mm and one 135 mm

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  2. Lucky you. I'm still hunting for the 135mm lens.

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  3. Today I am getting my dad's lovely Bessamatic camera from service after 38 years of uselessness.I am anxious to load the first B/W film...

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    1. You will enjoy it I can assure you :-) Please share some photos you take.

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  4. I just picked one up today for $50, I think it needs to be fixed as the winding mechanism doesn't re-open the view finder (not sure if that's just because it has no film or not) but hopefully it's an easy fix or just me doing something wrong but I can't wait to try it out!

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  5. Good luck with your Bessamatic, James!

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  6. Got one in good order in the mail today, 35mm-50mm and the 135mm with all the fokar abc and d. Plus the place 4-2m converter lens for the 135mm. All in the big case and with the always ready case. 110 euro's...
    Lucky me. Tomorrow I load it up and shoot.

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  7. Yes, lucky you :-)
    Let me know how that first shoot came out.

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  8. What size film does this camera take? I bought one at a thrift shop about a year ago for $4 and have never used it since, sort of a shelf piece but after reading about it if love to bring it back to life!

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  9. It's the most common 135 film you can buy almost everywhere. Nothing special.

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  10. Hey, nice page. I have recently got a Bessamatic CS with the Zoomar lens; it is a beast :) Love Voigtlanders generally. Now I am looking for another lens for it which doesn't add nearly 2lbs to the front ;) It's difficult to tell whether you can only use Voigtlander lenses or whether other brands have the same mount.

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  11. There were cameras by Kodak with similar but not identical mount. I think one can use the lenses of thos eKodak cameras with small modification but I'd suggest to go with the Voigtlander lenses.

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. I just found this camera in my late grandfather's basement but it only had the camera and the case. Are there any places where I can get the film for it? Or the other items in the first picture above?

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    1. Hi, for sure, you can buy standard 35mm film for the camera. This is he most common film type so this souldn't be a problem. Most camera stores and all lomography stores have it. As for the other accessories, you can buy them on ebay but you will not need them to start shooting.

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