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


And some color shots:

Color-Skopar X



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

Certo Dollina

Ihagee Exa

  • Version: 4
  • Serial No: 504555
  • Manufactured: 1957
  • Manufacturer: Ihagee, Dresden, Germany
  • Shutter: “Guillotine-type” Exa specialty
  • Speeds: 1/150, 1/100, 1/50, 1/25, B
  • Lens: Meyer-Optik Görlitz Trioplan 1:2.9/50
  • Lens No:1996718
  • Apertures:2.9, 4, 5.6, 8. 11. 16. 22
  • Lens mount: Ihagee/Exakta/Exa bayonet
  • Last CLA: unknown
This is one of the best looking things ever made. No doubt about it. Look at this picture. Something you want to possess immediately, isn’t it? The good news is that you can buy one for less than EUR 50 on ebay.

Ihagee Exa

This camera is the older brother of the Exa Ia, I’m going to compare with. People often call it Exa 0 to distinguish it from the latter I and II models.

The most striking difference is the look. The Ia was a nice camera but the 0 is simply beautiful. Sparkling metal everywhere, knobs and buttons, and this nice engraving on the front plate, all in all, this camera is a dangerous seducer.

Ihagee Exa

The cheap feel of the Ia is not present when you hold the Exa 0 in your hand. It feels solid and precise. And it’s so damn good looking that you tend to forgive anything anyway. Even the sound of the shutter which is the same empty can noise as of the Exa Ia. But don’t hear, look!

There is charm everywhere on this camera. You can set the shutter speed with a stick for example. Isn’t it delightful? Of course it is.

Ihagee Exa

Now let’s see the handling. This camera have a Trioplan lens which is great but it doesn’t include automatic aperture stop down so you have to set focus on maximum aperture and stop down manually before the exposition. Another issue is the finder. There is no focusing aid in the prism so using it is more difficult than the finder of the Ia which is brighter, have better loupe and gives us the comfort of a microprism. So the Ia is much easier and faster to use.

But the Exa 0 is a piece of gem and it even provides us with a “sport finder”. Or at least a hole that can be called this way. It cannot be used to focus or set anything but it’s so nice that it even exists.

Ihagee Exa

Ihagee Exa

Maybe beauty is not everything but it is almost. That’s why we love this camera. Finally some words about the lens. I love the Trioplans since I tried one on my Altix. They render beautifully, especially compared with the Domiplans. The Domiplans are boring, the images are unsharp and the colors need lots of digital post-processing not to be dead-grey. The best you can tell is that they are reliable and even the old ones are in generally good shape. But don’t go for it. There is a large lens selection for the Exas. Tessars for example. But the best choice can be the Trioplan. It is a mid-priced lens and this suits well for the cheap-SLR concept of the Exa family. Trioplan is the best on the mid-priced lens palette, standing out the same way as the Exa stands out from the other cameras of its price range. Or even more.

Some test shots in BW

Before hitting the road

On the road

And here is the undeniable evidence of the superiority of the Trioplan lens. Look at them in full res. Look at the textures. And the bokeh. Crisp like nothing else. I love it.

I'm in love with Trioplan - 1

I'm in love with Trioplan - 2

She's out of focus

Lookout tower