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  1. #1
    Todd Adamson's Avatar
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    Bessa R3 A vs. M long-term viability

    I've been doing a ton of reading on Rangefinders. I've never used one, never even touched one. I was on the verge of spending fifty or a hundred bucks for a cheap classic setup, just to have the experience, in case I decided that RF shooting was not for me. However, I've decided that possibility is remote, so I will put together funds for the setup I want, and buy it as soon as I can. At this point, I'm 99.9% sure the system I want is the R3. Possibly the R4, but my question is the same in either case: do I get the A or the M?

    With my SLRs, I've always been a full manual shooter, but lately I've done some shooting with two classic cameras, most notably the Pentax LX. The meter is so good, and shooting in aperture priority is, surprisingly, my preference with this body, as well as with the Contax RX. So when I consider the ease of being able to adapt to rapidly changing situations, and also the quieter shutter of the A, I'm leaning toward that model.

    However, I like the idea of a fully mechanical camera, and I'm perfectly comfortable with manual operation (though of course I've never done this with a rangefinder). Yet taking into account where and when I shoot, and all of my available options (I generally have at least two cameras in close proximity, often a bag with batteries, film, memory cards), being able to shoot without a battery doesn't really resonate with me as an important feature. Again, that pushes me toward the A.

    But what I don't know is this: can I expect there to be a difference in propensity for failure of a mechanical vs. an electronic shutter? And, if I have an issue, would one be likely to present a higher repair cost over the other? My instinct leads me to think that an electronic shutter could fail at any time, with no possibility of repair, but that a mechanical shutter might stray in accuracy over time, and require calibration.

  2. #2
    Rol_Lei Nut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Todd Adamson View Post
    My instinct leads me to think that an electronic shutter could fail at any time, with no possibility of repair, but that a mechanical shutter might stray in accuracy over time, and require calibration.
    While that's often true, the shutters used in the Bessas have been used in many different camera models over several decades, so at least the "unrepairable" factor shouldn't hold true in this case.
    M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa

  3. #3
    Katie's Avatar
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    Like you, I jumped right into real rangefinders, and skipped the "intro" models. I have always shot manually (no other way on most of my MF cameras) but noticed how EASY and right it felt shooting in aperture priority on my Minolta 35mm bodies. I decided for the USE I intended in 35mm (catching fleeting moments, using it on the go, etc...) that an automatic body was the way to go. So far my R4A has exceeded my expectations. It is small and light, making it really easy to carry literally everywhere; and the automated functions make it shootable at all the moments I need. Unlike my Hassy and such, where composing, focusing and metering and adjusting SS takes me minutes - I can whip out the Bessa (or Mamiya 7) focus and snap in seconds. That is a really nice option to have.

  4. #4
    segedi's Avatar
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    I'll add that the bessas have a very easy to adjust the exposure compensation dial. Which makes shooting in A mode quite nice. If you think a scene needs a bump in exposure just turn the dial. For quick grabs a la Katie's workflow, the aperture priority mode is really nice. Not that you can't be quick with full manual, but for me, A is great.

    Batteries for the bessas are also cheap and plentiful. But no battery, no shutter on the A models. At least the Leica M7 retains two mechanical speeds if the batteries die.
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  5. #5
    dehk's Avatar
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    If you are that comfortable with full manual. go with full manual. Don't think too much over it.

  6. #6
    arealitystudios's Avatar
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    I asked myself the very same question when I purchased a Bessa and ultimately went with the R3A. Thankfully I have not regretted that decision. My logic for doing so was really two fold:

    1) I can always shoot in pure manual mode at anytime with the R3A so if that is how you like to shoot the option is still there.

    2) Having Aperture priority is really nice when using the super wide angle lenses (i.e. the 12mm or 15mm). Shooting ultra wide was my main reason for getting into the Bessa rangefinders and I wanted to be able to use those lenses in a more "snapshot" style. In other words, I don't want to take my eye away from the top finder after I compose and I'm comfortable just letting the camera choose the shutter speed.

    No matter which one you choose I think you'll enjoy the Bessa R system. I find mine to be a solid camera at a reasonable price.

  7. #7
    Todd Adamson's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the replies. In the future, somebody slap me if I ever say anything like this:

    Quote Originally Posted by Todd Adamson View Post
    I'm 99.9% sure the system I want is the R3.
    Because I'm already wavering. I was initially sold on the Contax G2, then switched to wanting the Bessa. Now I think I'm going back.

    Ah, well, it will likely be a month or two until I can get one, so I've got time to change my mind a few more times yet....

  8. #8
    dehk's Avatar
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    Regardless what you're getting, I hope it serve you well and we get to see some good stuff. Cheers.

  9. #9
    Katie's Avatar
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    HAha, Todd! I knw what you mean! I was set to get a Nikonos underwater 35mm and ended up buying a 43mm lens for my Mamiya 7!

  10. #10
    Todd Adamson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dehk View Post
    Regardless what you're getting, I hope it serve you well and we get to see some good stuff. Cheers.
    Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Katie View Post
    HAha, Todd! I knw what you mean! I was set to get a Nikonos underwater 35mm and ended up buying a 43mm lens for my Mamiya 7!
    LOL, that might be worse than me.

    It's weird, I've been obsessing over this, but I had a moment of clarity this morning (which in retrospect was simply a lack of sleep), and "knew" I wanted the Bessa. Then it faded and I'm back to the G2. Just put in an email to KEH...I'm thinking of selling/trading off my last two AF Nikkors to get set up. All of my professional shooting (digital) would then be manual, and my fun, recreational, retro film body of choice would be (gasp!) autofocus. Hrmmm.

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