My first and second Bessa, bought from Adorama, had alignment issues. But then they were both the same camera (Adorama sent it back to me as a replacement for itself)! I wonder how many of the other posts are about that same camera. The one I bought from B&H has been going strong for four years. There was a bit of a dust problem with the first roll, but after a little cleaning it was fine. Admittedly I am a little more gentle with it than I am with a Brick or Speed Graphic, but it doesn't sit in a display case. I did drop the 35/2.5 a few feet once, and the nameplate popped off-easily reglued. Once in alignment it seems to stay that way. And there isn't much else to break.
Originally Posted by elekm
I bought a Zorki 4K as my first foray into LTM lenses as well. The camera fell apart in my hands after one roll of film and it smelled bad too. However, I gave it to a friend who had it repaired and it has since moved on to someone who is very happy with it.
Originally Posted by Gatsby1923
I next bought a Bessa R and I'm thrilled with it. I have never had alignment problems, I have had it well over two years now. It has a few dings and scratches, I have not babied it - it has held up well. I'm pleased. Like you, I use older Canon LTM lenses (also A. Schacht and Steinheil, etc...heck, whatever I can find in LTM).
I have not owned a Leica II or III, but I have held a few and examined them. My thoughts so far - beautiful manufacturing quality. Bottom loading is not as easy as the standard backs used in today's cameras. Yes, one can get used to it, but it is still a bit of a slow-speed hassle. Viewfinder is squinty - I wear glasses, it may be worse for me than for others.
I would love to own - even if just to try out - a Canon P or similar. I am a Canon fan from way back, my favorite SLR is still the Canon FX, but I digress. I think it would be lovely, but as you said - older mechanics and no TTL meter.
I doubt you can go too far wrong in any case, but I'd still repeat my choice of the Bessa R. I still love mine.
Hope you find this helpful.
Note to Self: Tse-Tse Fly - No Antidote
I started with the usual suspects...Canonet, FED 5, Zorki 4. All were quirky in their own way, and the 1:1 VF on the Zorki led me to a Bessa R3A. I really like the Bessa, and it has replaced my Minolta X-700 as my principal user.
IMHO the quality/cost ratio of the Cosina product is excellent, and there seem to be many users out there who love their Bessas. The only recommendation I would have is to go with a body which accepts M-mount lenses. You can get M-mount to LTM adapters, but not the other way 'round; this opens up your lens choices quite considerably.
Just my $0.02
Max Power, he's the man who's name you'd love to touch! But you mustn't touch! His name sounds good in your ear, but when you say it, you mustn't fear! 'Cause his name can be said by anyone!
In your budget range, it's tough. The Cosina equipment has quality problems: out of five pieces of Voigtlander gear I've bought, bodies and lenses, I've had problems with four. Just returned a 90/3.5 to Adorama this morning because it would not focus right. Old Canon gear might be a better buy. Or get a Konica Auto S2 for $40 or so. They lenses are great (if flare-prone by modern standards), and the finder is a bit dim, but they're good cameras. Viewfinder and rangefinder are easy to service and align.
WOW I have gotten an amazing amount of advice hear. I do like my Zorki, but I think it needs new shutter curtain. I think I am going to do a little bit of all the advice I got. I think I am going to get myself a Zorki-6 from Fedka.com, and try and wrangle a Bessa R for my birthday this August. I am going to end up with a very international system. I already have a Russian Camera with Russian and Japanese lenses, and I am using an Imarect finder. I feel very eclectic.
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The long rangefinder base on the Zorki 6 is very nice. You may also want to look at the Fed 2 for the long base, or the Fed 3 and 4 for just overall handling.