Voitlander Vs Canon Vs Leica Vs Zorki What to get on a $400 budget.
Last year I picked up a Zorki 4K body at a local flea market from a very nice Russian man. I have been snapping away happily for a year and decided a rangefinder was better than my SLR for incognito public shooting. I have small collection of Leica Screw mount lenses (Some Russian and old canon lenses.)
So now that I am to be a rangefinder man, I must ask myself, what camera should I buy now? I have seen the now discontinued Voitlander Bessa R’s with a 35mm lenses running about $400 new with warrantee card. One guy will even throw in a Bess L for a dollar more. I have heard mixed things on how reliable they are, but the TTL Meter and built in frame lines must be nice. So if any one is using or has used a voitlander Bessa R let me know what you think of them.
Next on my possibles list is one of the old Canons. I can find one for under $300 but they are all over 50 years old now. Step up in price just a bit and the same goes for most Leica III’s and IIIa’s. A IIIf seems just out of my price range but has that handy built in flash sync.
Finaly I have the lowly Soviet era LSM Camera. For $400 I can get a dozen of them, but I’d rather just have those boys for beaters and “beach” cameras. So if you had a $400 budget what camera would you want?
Some Canon and Leitz lenses will not (and should not be used) fit on Zorki and FED cameras. Lens RF coupler cam shape is root of issue. Canon and Leitz lenses with tongue shaped coupling cams will catch on the sloped RF feeler in FSU LTM RFs. At best will upset the camera's RF, at worst, lens will be impossible to remove without drastic measures.
I have a Bessa R and also several Canon RF cameras, including an few older Leica-copy Canons, and a couple of Canon P's. The more recent Canon cameras are very good shooters, but most will probably require a CLA to function properly. Figure $75 or $100 for that into the pricing.
The FSU cameras are great if you get one in proper working condition, or are handy with tools, but few people will repair them, so any problem can make the camera a junker.
The Bessa R is a great camera with a built-in meter. I can't comment on the longevity of the camera (mine's worked great with no problems), I do think you get an awful lot for the money going that route. The beauty of the Voigtlander LTM line is that they will take any of the many, many LTM lenses that have been made over the last 80 years or so. The lenses they make are also great value as well.
In my mind, about the only Canon I would consider over the Bessa R is the P. It has a simple function, and the viewfinder works very well. It is a 100% viewfinder. Other of the the Canon RF cameras are good, but often more rare and a bit more expensive than the P. The 7 or 7S are also fairly common, but a bit bigger and bulkier, and I do not believe they were made as well. The meter in most of these is most likely shot, so unless you were serious about using the .95/50 that Canon made, I'm not sure I would select one of these over a camera like the Bessa R or the Canon P.
I use the R when I really don't want to have an external meter, otherwise, I normally shoot with the P's.
If thw Zorki camera is doing a good job then I would stick with it. $400 buys a lot of film and paper.
Claire (Ms Anne Thrope is in the darkroom)
I have a Bessa R and have it to be very reliable and a pleasure to use. One word of caution -- collapsible lenses should not be used on the Bessa cameras as they can damage the shutter curtain when in the collapsed position.
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I've owned & used all the cameras you list (still have some, including a IIIa, though no Canons for years) and I'd go for the Bessa-R for sheer usability. Old Leicas have terrible viewfinders -- arguably worse than the Zorkii -- and old Canons are well, old. There's a great pleasure in a good, old camera but a lot less when it needs repairs.
But bear in mind Claire's advice too, possibly with a new accessory viewfinder.
I have a wide range of Zorkis and Feds, a Canon L, and a Bessa R. From a shooting standpoint, there is no contest. The Bessa has a brighter clearer viewfinder with multiple sets of framelines and a built in meter. The Canon has multiple magnifications, but no framelines, and the rangefinder is closer in brightness to a Zorki than a Bessa. Is the Bessa as sturdy as a Leica? No, but if you are going in harm's way, carry the Zorki. But if you are really strapped for cash, why not keep using the Zorki? It is certainly competitive in usability with any LTM rangefinder except the later Canons and the Bessa. $400 will buy a lot of film.
If Zorki works for you keep it. Do not waste energy on equipment. You will find that Leica will be just on your way and you will always try to hide your low creativity behind the Leica camera. High cost equipment is proved to be very bad choice if you really do not need it. Just in the case if you think Zorki do not assist you good enough look further.
Leica is nothing better than Zorki. The best camera is one you like and it make pictures you want.
Okay, I think I'd spend the money on film and paper in the first place if you still like the Zorki. I've used the Fed 3, Leica M4 and IIIf. What I gained from this, is that the mechanical feeling of the cameras are different but they all make wonderful photos if you're willing and able and the camera is in good enough shape.
The Fed went away, the M4 hardly gets out of the box because I paid so much money for it, I am always agonizing over "what if I drop it". The IIIf comes along just about everywhere because it's so small. So, in my case the most useful camera is the IIIf. And it's always, always loaded with film.
“Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.” - Lao Tzu
There's a lot of good advice here. When you do end up buying another camera, be sure to handle the cameras, if at all possible. That will also assist you in making a decision. Don't buy simply on price or brand name.
The Bessa-R is really a sweet little camera. The Voigtlander lenses are excellent.
Long-term durability seems to be decent, despite the moderate use of plastic. The primary weakness of all of the Bessa rangefinder cameras is Bessa's apparent inability to properly calibrate the rangefinder. That's judging from the number of comments on various discussion boards that all point out this problem.
My own Bessa was fine. However, my Rollei 35 RF (Bessa-R2 clone) is out vertically.