Voigtlander Experiences?

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by snegron, Nov 20, 2006.

  1. snegron

    snegron Member

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    I have never owned a rangefinder camera and have been considering getting one. I have always been drawn to the Leica mistique, but the prices scare me. On several occasions I have been about to order an M6 or M7 with a lens, then reality sinks in and I come to the conclusion that I can get a few Nikons with a couple of great lenses for that price.

    I would like a rangefinder because of its quiet operation, low profile, sharp optics. I have been thinking of candid portraiture and I think a rangefinder will stand out less than one of my Nikons with lens attatched.

    What can I expect from a Voigtlander Rangefinder? Why are they so inexpensive compared to Leica and others? Is it a reliable camera? What are the differences between the R2 and R3a? Are the lenses any good? Will I get images comparable to my current Nikon system? Will I be better off getting a used Leica or a new Voigtlander?
     
  2. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    I am not a rangefinder owner, but I have toyed with both a Leica and the R2M Bessa, and the sad thing about the Bessa is that it's got everything right except for the shutter sound. It has a springy/metallic sound that is high-pitched enough to be detectable. Otherwise it's a fine camera, has TTL metering, great lens selection, good price, etc. The Leica is mute silent in comparison, almost quieter than a leaf shutter.

    I've also compared the sound of Kiev and Zorki RF, and these two surprised me. They're not silky silent, but they are damp enough that they don't emit springy noises. All the sound is in the lower frequencies, which may be harder to detect against background noise (if you're doing street photo, say).
     
  3. matt miller

    matt miller Subscriber

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    I owned an R3M for a short while. I just couldn't get used to the RF patch. It seemed small to me and I had to align my eye in the viewfinder just right to see it well. I own a Canonet QL17 and find it easier to focus, but I'm sure it's just me. The camera felt solid and worked great. The 50/2 Heliar that came with it was a sweet lens. I couldn't get use to it and didn't use it, so I sold it. I'd like to try a Leica someday.
     
  4. livemoa

    livemoa Member

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    I have an M6 and a Bessa R2. The M6 was second hand, never had a problem. The Bessa, well that is a different story, rangefinder goes out of adjustment, things keep breaking or falling off. The Cosina lenses are good, but make sure you check them out, some are better than others.
     
  5. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Cosina, to me, is like a good clothing brand comapny trying to make good quality shoes, but it's not quite working.

    In my experience, Bessa R is well-made for its low price, but beyond that, I'm not so sure. I would certainly go back to the older, the more traditonal shoe makers to find a nice pair before coming back to the new brand.

    When Bessa R2 came out, I tried one in a store. I liked it because it was new, but I didn't find any other reason to buy it. Lately I tried the Zeiss Ikon RF, but I was not really impressed by the feel of the camera.

    Meanwhile, my Leica M3 is getting really old and beatup, but there's still something I feel comfortable using it. I feel this about my SLR system, too. I've been using my New F1 so much that I cannot move on to use the EOS bodies. There's something I don't feel right about the newer stuff, but I don't mean plastic bodies, etc.

    So, you should try whatever desires you first and decide whether to keep it or not.
     
  6. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    For "candid portraiture", although I don't know what you mean exactly, I'm not sure if it would necessarily require a quiet RF camera. Do you know, or at least have any idea about what situations you will be shooting mostly?

    Since you said you already have Nikon, why not get a used original F body? The original F has a very quiet shutter noise. and the used ones run from 300USD or so. The F's prism is easy to see, and if it needs a replacement, it can be done pretty inexpensively like 100 to 150 USD (at least in Japan).
     
  7. Biogon Bill

    Biogon Bill Member

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    The requirement that you align your eye peperly with the RF patch is actually a sign of a superior rangefinder. The same is required on an M3, the best rangefinder focusing system that Leica ever made. They cheapened their rangefinder mechanism after that.

    There is something called rangefinder parallax, which results in focusing errors due to proper eye to RF patch alignment. Not a good thing. Obviously it is an issue primarily in situations where critical focus is required.

    Developing proper eye to RF patch alignment is easy & it becomes second nature within a short time.
     
  8. Leon

    Leon Member

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    well - I've had my r3a with 40mm nokton and 25m skopar for 18 months now. I LOVE it - unhealthily so. I couldnt afford a new leica m and through buying problematic used goods in the past, I decided I had to buy new with manufacturers warranty. I've had no problems, the build quality is adequate for all my needs, and so what if the shutter is load? people will only register the noise after the shot is taken anyway :smile:
     
  9. Biogon Bill

    Biogon Bill Member

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    There are multitudes of happy Bessa owneers out there. I wouldn't hesitate for a minute to get one if that is your cup of tea. Cosina has been improving them with each successive series over the past 8 years. Yes, there are incidents of misaligned rangefinders, but there are with Leicas too. A rangefinder is a delicate instrument & must be treated properly. I, for example, never put my camera bag on the floor of my car where vibration can cause a misaligned shutter. It's always on the seat. I owned a Bessa R2 for a year & never had a problem. A new camera comes warranteed, so any initial problems will be corrected by the manufacturer.

    The importance of shutter noise is wildly exaggerated IMHO. First, the shutter sounds louder to you that it does to anyone else because you're holding the camera right next to your ear. Second, a Leica is not silent - especially at slow shutter speeds. If a silent camera is required, there are better options. Third, there are situations in which it is important to have a quiet camera & in these situations a Leica is preferred. Right tool for the job. Only you can determine if this feature is required for the photography that you do. This feature certainly does not make a Leica universally better. If it did, professional photographers who switched to SLRs 40 years ago would have stopped using them as soon as Nikon abandoned the cloth shutter. The shutter in any of the Bessa cameras is a standard focal plane shutter made by Copal & used in numerous SLRs. There is nothing unique or especially loud about it. Just different than a Leica. The use of a half case on a Bessa can help to muffle the shutter sound if that's important to you. A Bessa is still quieter than any SLR built in the last 20 years because it doesn't have mirror slap accompanying the shutter & it doesn't have motorized rewind.

    Another alternative for you is the Zeiss Ikon, priced between the Voigtlander Bessa line & the Leica M's but closer to a Bessa ($1250 at www.popflash.com). What distinguishes it from a Bessa is that it has the focusing precision of a Leica due to its long base length & its viewfinder has 28 mm frame lines which the Bessas do not. It's viewfinder is generally regarded as better than a Leica's & it's immediacy of response is as good as a Leica (no shutter lag. The shutter noise is sort of a quieter Bessa type noise but not the muted sound of a Leica. Some resources on the Zeiss Ikon are www.zeissikon.com, www.zeiss.de, www.elekm.net/zeiss_ikon/
     
  10. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    I don't know if anyone does this, but when I have to shoot in a quiet place and I know my camera makes unwanted loud noise, I fake-cough a few times first and see how other people will react. Sometimes I do fake-cough at the same time I press the shutter of my camera, so no one hears just the shutter noise.
     
  11. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    Yes, and I am one of them! I also am a happy Leica M3 owner (a single stroke M3 and a dual stroke M3). I also own a Zeiss ZM.

    My first Cosina/Voightlander was a T model. It is a delightful little camera that I carry in a pocket of my jacket. I have put many dozens of rolls of film through it without a single problem.

    I now have a CV 3a and a 3M as well and I like them too.

    Buy a CV and shoot some pictures. In the process you will learn how to use a rangefinder. If you find that you don't like it, sell it and buy something else.
     
  12. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

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    I have a Bessa R2 and two L's and have never had any problems with them. They are easy to use and the metering is very consistant. Really like them. As you get older it becomes harder and harder to focus SLR's. The microprism part of the finder becomes difficult to see and a split prism finder only works well near the normal lens focal length.
     
  13. snegron

    snegron Member

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    Thanks for all the responses! I guess I should have elaborated a bit more about my intended use. I will be working on an experimental project soon in which I will be interviewing several families and recording their everyday life. I currently own Nikon SLR's (a trusty and beautiful F with FTN finder, F2A, F3HP, FM2, and several prime and zoom lenses). The only reason I was thinking about a rangefinde is because I would like an unoticeable/unobtrussive camera, a camera that won't stand out or draw too much attention. The shots will be taken in settings where these people work, eat, worship, etc. They will be aware of the camera, but I don't want to draw attention from people surrounding them (somewhat candid). I feel that if I use any of my smaller SLR's, like the FM2 or the F2A, they will stand out. I want to look like someone taking a picture, not a photographer (stereotype photographer with bulky SLR, big lenses, visible from several hundred feet away).

    I thought also of a rangefinder because I want high quality optics as well. Most of the shots I have in mind will require a 35mm and maybe 85mm focal length lenses. I have thoght abot a used M3 or such, but I am really afraid of getting a used Leica for several reasons.

    First, I have never owned one so I don't know what to look for (I know what a good Nikon F is supposed to look like and perform like, so if I got a lemon Nikon F, I would know).

    Second, I have noticed that Leica users tend to hold on to their gear longer and put their cameras through several thousand rolls. Although a highly used camera is a risk whether it's a rangefinder or an SLR, it hurts less to have a $300.00 Nikon F die than a $1,200.00 M4 die on me.

    Third, how will I know hich used Leica to get? Which will be a reliable picture taker at a relatively decent price?
     
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  15. elekm

    elekm Member

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    I've always felt that Cosina improved each model of the Voigtlander Bessa cameras, sort of like how digital camera makers offer incremental improvements or advancements.

    The L was the first and has a lot of plastic in it. The one I have hasn't given me any problems, although it feels a bit flimsy.

    The R was the first Cosina Bessa rangefinder and really helped to establish itself as a serious player in this market segment.

    The R2 was an improvement, bringing in the M mount and more metal in its construction. The T followed and then the all-electronic R2A and R3A and more recently the R3M with a couple of specialty models in between (old Contax RF and Nikon RF mount).

    In general, the R is a very solid performer. It has a bit more plastic than I would like, but I found it to be very usable and very friendly, if you can say that about a camera. I also have the Rollei 35 RF (a rebadged R2). It's really the same camera as the R except it uses the Leica M mount.

    Either is a fine camera and would serve the purpose of shooting a bit more unobtrusively. The Copal metal shutter is louder than a Leica but it's tolerable. And as Biogon Bill points out, it's the same shutter that has served SLR cameras for a couple of decades.

    The suggestion to use a case is a good one. It does help to muffle the sound of the shutter.

    For the price of the Leica M7 body, for example, you can buy the R (from Stephen Gandy), about six lenses and probably about 100 rolls of film and still have change.

    The Leica is a sweet camera and a testament to excellence in engineering and that high-quality hand-built goods still matters in the era of mass-produced goods that roll of an assembly line in a an unknown shop in an Asian country (these days, it's China).

    Make no mistake, the Leica is an excellent camera, and anyone who has owned or used one can appreciate that.

    However, in the end, it's still just a camera. It won't make you a better photographer or a better human being.

    Try to find a place where you can handle both cameras and select the one that feels right. You are the one who will be using it, and that's most important of all.

    My write up of the Bessa-R
     
  16. snegron

    snegron Member

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    Thanks for the feedback! I wish there were a place her in Florida where I could see and compare both cameras.

    As far as size and noise factor, how does a Voigtlander or M6 compare to an SLR like a Nikon FM2?
     
  17. DBP

    DBP Member

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    For the ultimate in quiet, something with a leaf shutter and no moving mirror is ideal. That encompasses a great many fixed lens rangefinders in 35mm, all TLRs, and some larger rangefinders. Compared to my FE2, the Bessa R produces about the same amount of noise, but is higher pitched. The higher end Bessas should be a bit quieter, as the bodies are heavier. I don't have a working Leica here to use for a side by side comparison. The quietest non-leaf shutters I have heard are on the Kievs and Contaxes.

    If it were my assignment I would use a TLR.
     
  18. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    If I were you, I would get a Leica M3 with a 50mm F2 lens and also use a Nikon F with a compact Nikkor Auto 35mm F2.8 lens for the project. If you already have a 50mm for Nikon, that will work as a backup.
     
  19. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Switching to a new camera that you have no experienece of using, would probably make things more difficult for you. Why not choose one particular Nikon camera from your current collection and start looking for one that would match in terms of the usefulness? If you really want to go with your FM2, well, you can pretty much go with any 35mm RF cameras. :smile:

    I have a Nikon FM, and I've used it in some places that ideally required a quieter camera, but I've always had good results. It has more to do with how well I communicate with my subjects, I think. Using a trusty and comfortable camera enables me to do things I want to do.
     
  20. matti

    matti Member

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    Don't be afraid to buy a second hand Leica M6 for example, from a reputable dealer. I am happy with that and the Summicron 50. I actually almost never use any other lens.
    That said, the Voightländers can be great cameras. I had an R2 and it was a really well built camera. I never had any trouble with it until I crushed it under a tree...

    Since I tend to run out of batteries at inconvenient times, I like mechanical shutters. In the current lineup of Voightländer cameras I am sure the R2M is great.
    I had a Color Skopar 35 mm lens that was compact and contrasty. Maybe a little slow.

    I generally find the Leica and Voightländer quicker to focus with than my two SLR cameras (Nikon FM2 and Mamiya 645). It can take some rolls to get it. I chased my kids around with the rangefinders to get fast at it.

    /matti
     
  21. kdanks

    kdanks Member

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    I have a CV R2a and an FM2. Size wise there isn't a lot in it, the R2a is a bit taller, and weight wise they are about the same. Shutter noise sounds to me to be around the same kind of volume, but the R2a has more of a high pitched metalic "ping" to the FM2's click.

    Kevin
     
  22. Sportera

    Sportera Member

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    I have an M6 I bought used a few years ago. Its become my daily camera. I love it dearly but be aware that it has its uses like any other tool, however for a quiet extremely high quality camer that I can focus in worst lighting conditions it is simply the best.

    I also have the 90 APO Lanthar, 35 Skopar F2.5, and the 21mm Skopar. All are gems. Great lenses and you can't beat the price, I recently purchased a Zeiss 35mm ZM to replace the 35mm Skopar. I just wanted a bit more speed.

    Ive never held a Bessa so I can't say much about that. I would recomend you seriously look at an M6 or M7, if you realize you don't like rangefinders you can always sell it for what you paid. Leica keeps its value.
     
  23. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    I have a Bessa R outfitted with a 35mm Skopar and a 90mm Leitz Elmar. I have used both Leica and obviously Bessa products. For the money you can't beat the Bessa. I've beat the crap out of it and the only problem I had was when I was trying to take pics to past and tried to crank the wind lever while the shutter was still working. This resulted in a jam which was easily and cheaply fixed.

    Another issue for me was the weight. Leica's at least for me are to heavy to travel with as I have lots of other stuff that needs to go along too.

    You can purchase a bunch of Bessa's, wear them out and chuck them for the price of one Leica.

    If you go to my website and then the Travels gallery you will see pics taken with the Bessa R. All pics done with FP4 souped in PyroCat-HD.
     
  24. Biogon Bill

    Biogon Bill Member

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    Sounds like an intereesting project! Good luck with it.

    It doesn't sound like the time to be breaking in new camera skills to me. If I were you, I would rather be using a camera I don't have to think much about. My Nikon 85/2 isn't all that big. I'm not sure that a rangefinder with a 90mm lens would be all that much more compact than an 85/2 on an FM2.

    I don't have a 90mm RF lens; my longest is 75 - a more compact size & one you might want to consider for your project if you do go the RF route. The most compact RF 90 I know of is the Konica Hexanon 90/2.8, which is a very high quality optic.

    Important questions . . . Are you shooting indoors or out? Are you using flash or available light? How fast a lens do you need?
     
  25. snegron

    snegron Member

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    Thanks again for all the responses! I think I am leaning now in the direction of either a Bessa R2A with 40mm Notcon 1.4 or stick with my FM2 for this project. I have been checking prices on used Leicas (M3 single stroke, M6, M7) and lenses and they are way out of my budget at this time. I would love to own a Leica M series rangefinder someday, but maybe after this project it might be feasible.

    The project will take several months to complete, so I guess I will start with the FM2. If all goes well I might finish without having to buy anything new for now and probably save up for my 2007 (or 2008) Christmas present to myself, an M6 or M7!

    Biogon Bill, you are probably right that experimenting with a new camera on a new project might not be a good idea. I will be shooting mostly available, low light, both indoors and out, leat amount of flash as possible.

    Eric Rose, thanks for the link! Outstanding shots! Did you get all of them with a Bessa?

    Sopreta, you have a very valid point about the resale value of Leicas. It seems like they never go down in price, not even older used models!

    Kdanks, thank you for the comparission between the FM2 and the R2a. If that is the case, then it is more of a reason to stick with what I have for now.

    Matti, I would be really curious to hear the story about the tree!

    Firecracker, another vote for staying with my FM2!

    DBP, you are right about the quietness of leaf shutters.Problem with a TLR is that they stand out quite a bit and I am trying to keep a really low profile. Nothing in 35mm would match what a 120mm TLR could do, but for this project I have in mind 35mm has more advantages.

    Elekm, thank you for the detailed feedback! I agree with you in that in the end a camera is just a camera and it won't make me a better photographer. One of the main reasons I would like to own a Leica M series one day is for what you mentioned, they "are a testament to excellence in engineering".

    Livemoa, Was your Bessa purchased new or used?

    Leon, great images on your website! Did you capture tham with your Bessa?

    Tom Hoskinson, do you currently use a handheld meter with your R3? I noticed that the prices on used R3's is tempting and not so out of budget for me. It might pay to consider this option together with a handheld meter.

    Gerald Koch, I have often wondered which is easier to focus with, a rangefinder or an SLR?

    Matt Miller, coincidence! I too owned a Canonet many years ago but lost it! I actually still have the box though. You are right. it was a great little camera. If it only had interchangeable lenses though... :smile:

    MHV, judging by all the positive feedback on the newer Bessa models, I am sure that they will make a quieter version sometime soon. There appears to be a good following and I have not heard any rumors that they are going out of business, so we might have to cross our fingers!
     
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  26. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    Thanks for the kind comments. Yes all pics in that gallery were taken with the Bessa and for the most part the 35mm Skopar lens.