Voigtlander or Leica?

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by matchat, Jun 6, 2005.

  1. matchat

    matchat Member

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    As i'll soon be off to Uni and getting my student grant to back up what i've saved so far I wondered if anyone would like to venture their opinion on which is best the voigtlander bessa R/R2 or a leica M2/M4?
    I want a rangefinder with a bright focusing spot for low light (i'd heard the voigtlanders were better than the old M2 and possibly than the M4 or at least equal). Build quality is an issue but really it's just a question of whether the leica bodies justify the extra money (after all money saved on a body is money available for better lenses). What should I be looking to pay (AP states a good M2 can be had for roughly £300 though i've never seen them at that price) and where should I look? (are the camera fairs any good or can problems arise over gaurantees?)
    Finally as I prefer wide lenses which ones are best (i'd like a 35/50 mm and possibly something wider)
    Although i'd like to get a bargain I wouldn't mind shelling out that much extra if the quality is really that different.
     
  2. Magnus W

    Magnus W Member

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    I have no actual tip to give other than keep in mind that the measuring base on the Voigt's rangefinder is narrower than that on the Leica. You might also want to consider the upcoming Zeiss Ikon. www.zeissikon.com

    -- MW
     
  3. David H. Bebbington

    David H. Bebbington Inactive

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    For someone in your position, I'd say Voigtländer every time. A new one should keep going until you graduate and well beyond without attention, and its rangefinder will be much brighter than an old Leica. An M2 for £300 would certainly be a basket case, I would think you'd have to pay £550 to £600 (body only) at least for something worthwhile. The only aspect in which a Leica absolutely has the edge is quietness - Voigtländer cameras have an extra white-painted baffle in front of the shutter used for metering (which is center-weighted and quite good). This has to drop out of the way to take a picture and makes a certain amount of noise doing this. Whatever focal lengths you like, Voigtländer has them - 35, 28, 25, 21, 15 and 12. Lens performance is consistently good, although the 50 mm f1.5 flares against the light a little more than a state-of-the-art modern lens. For me in the UK, the biggest downside of owning a Leica (my last was an M3) was the need to send it to Leica UK for servicing - shatteringly expensive and not very good!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 6, 2005
  4. zinzin

    zinzin Member

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    Hi Matchat,

    I bought a Bessa R2 few months ago and very happy about it. It is the camera I use most now. Never used a BEssa R but comments that i read and heard the build is not as good as the R2 and new R2a/3a (a bit plasticky maybe?) nevertheless people happy about the performance. BTW below a link for a R2A just seen on eBay
    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&category=15234&item=7521152516&rd=1
    there are also a few R and L's.
    I use a 35 and 90mm for mine. The Bessa allows you to adjust the viewfinder for the different lenses (or some of those).
    The following sites sell rangefinder and you may want to browse a bit.
    http://www.robertwhite.co.uk/
    http://www.cameraquest.com/
    Also you may find this other site of interest (maybe you know it already)
    http://www.rangefinderforum.com/
    hope it helps
    cheers
    zinzin

    PS. if you do a search on this forum you should find a few thread with similar queries to yours and plenty of good advises. Hoper you enjoy your RF

     
  5. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Good information so far, but I'd add a bit.

    Picking nits: the Voigtlander secondary shutter is grey, not white. It's there because the shutter design is adapted from an SLR shutter, which relies in part on a mirror to be completely lightproof.

    The effective baselines for different Cosina Voigtlander models vary. The T has a nice long baseline, and the R3A a longer effective baseline than the other R series. See cameraquest.com for accurate info on rangefinder effective baselines for the new Voigtlanders and many of the Leicas. The info is spread around, and some of the superlatives; longest baseline, fastest lens version, only 40mm lens, are out of date as newer Voigtlander models come out.

    A cheaper older Leica may need a CLA to shoot in spec, and a CLA may be the price of a used or new Voigtlander rangefinder. Leicas are better made, and will last longer. Voigtlanders vary noticeably in ruggedness of build. See cameraquest.com in that regard. Lower quality in the R and L bodies, better in the T and R2, and perhaps even a little better in the R2A and R3A. I'd call the T decent quality, the R2 fairly rugged, and the R2A/R3A very solid relative to most other makes.

    M2/M4 will require a meter, Voigtlander makes a nice one for the hot shoe, or you can buy a Leica meter or handheld for them. The Bessas all have good accurate meters built in, reading off the gray front shutter.

    I really like the 1:1 finder and focusing in the Voigtlander R3A, but I also like the R2 and T a lot. The T needs auxiliary finders, and the R3A has built in finder frames only out to 40mm. The R2 and R2A will get you out to 35mm with built in frames, but have shorter effective baselines.

    If you want to buy an RF that your kids can use in 50 years, get a Leica. If you want to save some money and have a shorter life expectancy in an otherwise sound and well built camera, look at the C/V Bessa T, R2, R2A, or R3A. Cheaper and less well built, but still servicable are the L and R. Most of the C/V lenses are relative bargains. Careful reading at cameraquest.com or online searching of reviews by Erwin Puts and others will tell you about the lenses. I'm particularly happy with the 75mm f:2.5, 21mm f:4, and 15mm f:4.5 that I own, but others that I don't own get great reviews as well. The wider C/V lenses include auxiliary finders in the price.

    Best places I know of to buy C/V new would be cameraquest.com and perhaps photovillage in the US, and I hear good things about Robert White in the UK(oGBaNI). Used Leicas are all around, and prices vary, but I have no good ideas for UK purchases. A "bargain" used Leica from KEH could be a very good shooter. It looks to me like the new offerings from C/V and others are driving down used Leica prices over the last couple of years, especially on bodies.

    I've heard the reported problems with UK official Leica service and prices. There are several good independent Leica repair services in the US. Perhaps someone on the list can refer you to a good independent UK service person.

    CVUG, Cosina Voigtlander Users' Group, subscribeable from cameraquest.com is a good place to ask questions and browse archives on new Voigtlander equipment.

    OK, so perhaps I added more than a bit. Hope this helps.

    Lee
     
  6. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    I have no personal exerience with the Voightlander cameras. I do believe from whar I have read that they should do what you want. Precise focussing with a 35 or 50mm is an easy target for a well made rangefinder. There is one more choice that seems to be readily overlooked. The Konica Hexar RF is said to be a reliable camera. The feature of a built in motordrive may be desirable. The lenses are also said to be very good. At this time it seems the camera is discontinued and available at what may be very decent price. If you can find a nice kit with the lengths that you desire and a favorable price you may be very happy. Also I believe that the Hexar RF also has a frameline for 135mm.
     
  7. Frank Petronio

    Frank Petronio Inactive

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    I've had beat-up M2s and cheaper, older Leica lenses before, and I think they are wonderful but also false economy. Of course a Leica is great but it should be a good servicable one. In the USA you can find a good M4 or M6 for $900 to $1200. A nice M2 or M3 might be found for $7-800. A decent 35/2 Summicron runs $800, or you could get a Voightlander lens for $300 or so.

    Leica quality feels much better in your hand, without question. I feel like I make better photos with the Leica, but it is an intangible feeling - maybe it is respect for the camera or knowing that the camera will not be the weak link in the chain? Or simple pride of ownership?

    If that is too much by all means check out the Bessas. Or, in terms of quality for the money, a good 1980s Nikon SLR with manual AIS lenses is an even better bargain and excellent for students. Look for a Nikon F3HP or the FM2n, plus the better AIS lenses like the 24/2, 35/2, 50/1.4, and 85/2. They are excellent and dirt cheap.
     
  8. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Member

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    I have both and love my Bessa R. It should be fine for you and you can always add a Leica after the impoverished student phase and still use the same lenses for both. My only reservation is that the Bessas have a shorter rangefinder baseline so their focusing isn't quite as accurate. Most of the time you will never notice, but you might if you use longer focus lenses wide open at any distance.

    David.
     
  9. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    I also have both and agree with David - except for one small point. My Voigtlander is the T model which has a long rangefinder baseline. Different Voigtlander models have different rangefinder baseline lengths.
     
  10. mikeg

    mikeg Member

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    Hello,

    You don't give a budget, but I would go for a Voigtlander. I own a Bessa R2 and love it. I've handled an R in the shop before buying the R2 but I haven't seen the latest R2A & R3A. The R felt OK but was a bit plasticky over the R2. As for lenses, again I would go for Voigtlander as they provide very good value for money. I've got the 35mm f/2.5 Classic, it's excellent -- light, small, very sharp and reasonably priced. As far as wider lenses, the 21mm and 15mm have excellent reviews, but if you don't want to go that wide then don't forget the 25mm, again it's reasonably cheap and good quality. It's not rangefinder coupled, but you won't need it as the depth of field is enormous.

    Robert White is the best place to buy new here in the UK. Remember to mention APUG if you phone or click through on the advert here on APUG! If your budget won't stretch to new but you want the guarantee of a dealer then take a look at FFordes at www.ffordes.co.uk. They have quite a few 2nd hand Voigtlander bodies and lenses. I've brought a number things through them and they've been very reliable.

    Mike
     
  11. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    rangefinder baselines

    Hope this formats OK. Data is from cameraquest.com and other sources. Base is baseline of rangefinder in mm. Magnification is effective magnification of viewfinder relative to life size. EBL is effective baseline, or Base x Mag. The last column is effective baseline as a percentage of the effective baseline of the M3.

    Camera Base Mag EBL % of M3
    Bessa R3A 37 1 37 59%
    Bessa T 35.8 1.5 53.7 86%
    Bessa R,R2,R2A 37 0.68 25.16 40%
    M3 68.5 0.91 62.33 100%
    M2 68.5 0.72 49.32 79%
    M4 68.5 0.72 49.32 79%

    Any mistakes are mine. The order is random. This isn't the only criterium for making a choice, but the info may help when you've chosen other factors that are important to you.

    Lee

    Well, the preview looks like column formatting is lost, but the data are there.
     
  12. atenlaugh

    atenlaugh Member

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    Ted Grant said in a Photographer's Forum interview:

    "...When I got my first Leica M4, I felt a psychological change come over me. I identified with Cartier-Bresson and Eisenstaedt. They used a Leica, therefore so would I. I know that the brand of camera means nothing. But it raised my own expectations, and my photographs got better."

    Kind of a side-track, I know, but it's interesting, how these things work.
     
  13. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Member

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    I agree. I only got the R because I use the self timer a lot and the accessory ones that screw into the shutter button don't survive muddy dig sites too well. Plus I already had some L39 lenses, although you can put them on Leicas and later Bessas with an adaptor. I think the later Bessas might also be a bit less noisy.

    Tom is quite right that not all Voigtlanders have the same RF baseline, again I was just quoting the R.

    David.
     
  14. matchat

    matchat Member

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    Thanks for the advice, I'd seen M4-2's in various dealer ads in the back of AP for roughly £500 (body only) on occassions so I dont mind paying this sort of price and then however much more for a couple of lenses (a grand and a bit?). My biggest worry was that if any damage should occur to a Leica i'd be devastated (and no doubt suffer the financial equivalent of being 'tombstoned') which is why I considered a Bessa. I'm impressed however with the Bessa's on sale at Robert White so I might look into those, also I recently met a professional photographer covering the behind the scenes action at the crucible (sheffield - world snooker championship) using an Epson RD-1 (basically a Bessa R3a right?) who seemed quite happy with it (he was using it instead of his Leica's)
     
  15. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    The M4-2 is not an M4, and the M4's command higher prices. Look here:

    http://cameraquest.com/mguide.htm

    for a discussion of some of the differences, and of manufacturing changes to the M4-2 over its production life. There are other places to find more info as well that you should find with a google search. You should just be aware that you shouldn't pay M4 prices for an M4-2, and that what you've heard about the M4 may not necessarily apply to the M4-2.

    Actually, this page is a good read for anyone thinking about buying Leica rangefinders, as it covers the whole range and discusses the main pros and cons for each model.

    Lee
     
  16. Dr.Kollig

    Dr.Kollig Member

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    I do not know the current price situation in UK, but in Germany prices for M2 and M3 are going down, roughly 400 GBP on a sound M3 in Cologne. In Hamburg (Leica by Meister) 400 should get you a reasonable one as well. Actually it is harder to find M2 than M3. M4 are going at higher prices like 600, while the later M4-P is closer to 500 GBP. First decision would be 35 or 50 mm shooter? If you are using 50+90 mm lenses the M3 is first choice, if 35 mm is mostly used M2 suits you better. I assume you've read the page at cameraquest before reading this.

    Service: Do not worry, CRR Luton does a great job, a complet service is 150 GBP. I picked up an M3 in messy conditions and he did an excellent job getting it back to life and a black paint job as well. Only downside: he is very busy.

    So based on a budget of 1000 GBP, you should be able to squeeze in a 50 mm and a 90 mm lens, like a 50 mm Summicron and a 90 mm Summicron Canada, the later can be found in Germany at 250 GBP as a black lens, early chrom ones costing 700 GBP!

    Voigtländer:

    I would rather get a Leica body and Voigtländer lenses, a new 35/1.7 or 50/1.5 could be cheaper than a used Leica lens. Leica 90 mm used lenses are rather cheap so I would see no reason to get the 90/3.5.

    Regards,

    Wolfram
     
  17. Eric Rose

    Eric Rose Subscriber

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    I have a Bessa R with 35mm VC lens and 90mm Leica lens. I have never had any problems with it, the focusing works well. My negs are tack sharp and well exposed. I have the camera in everything from deserts to jungles and it hasn't missed a beat.