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Voightlander Bessa

  1. silveror0
    A friend just returned from a visit to her family in Bulgaria, where she had come upon a Voightlander Bessa camera and knew I'd really like to have it. She was so happy that I accepted it. I told her that, although I'd sold all my roll film developing tools since going into large format work only, I'd re-acquire enough of them so I could show her some b/w prints made with its negatives - I feel I owe her that much at least. Should be fun. The model is not identified on the camera anywhere, but I've been able to find a photo of it online where it is ID'd as a Bessa, that's all I know about it. It takes 620 film, which I can still obtain from B&H as Tri-X 400. I've checked the shutter speeds - they are still accurate (amazing). Speeds are 25/50/100/B/T. The lens is a Voigtar Anastigmat; I've determined that the focal length is ~110mm FWIW. Apertures are from f/6.3 to f/22. Wish me luck.

    I haven't used a folder since college, when I used my dad's Kodak folder for snaps of classmates. Upon graduation my dad gave me a 35mm Minolta-A (their first model I believe). He had no idea what he started, because I soon moved on to a pair of Leica M3's with a large assortment of lenses, then to a Hasselblad arsenal, and eventually to Sinar Norma in 4x5/5x7/8x10. You get the picture....

    Photo (hope this works):

  2. jstout
    Yes, the photo works and it is a nice picture of the camera. Cool camera. The big roll film makes great pictures. I have a "Bessa I" camera that I found on a good deal and had to do a lot of work on but looks great now and works fine, except the shutter should be overhauled, something I can't yet do.

    Good luck with your Bessa. It looks like a nice camera.
  3. DWThomas
    Cool camera. For what it's worth, I would expect cameras of that vintage and European origin to take 120 film, not 620 -- is there anything on it that suggests 620? 620 and 120 film and backing paper are the same size and layout, but the spools are different. Some cameras may take either, but others are specific to one or the other. 120 is good, because it's still in production and available in a wide variety of emulsions. 620 is rare, and typically expensive because somewhere in the supply chain it is 120 film being respooled, perhaps even by hand.

    Voightlander cameras in general are relatively high quality, I own a Perkeo II 6x6 folder with 80mm Color Skopar which gives a good account of itself.

    Have fun with it.

  4. silveror0
    Dave, thanks for the tutorial on film size. I've done some more online research on the subject and have also found out more about the camera. I can't recall how I came to the conclusion that the camera uses 620, but I've just received a roll of 620 TriX (likely re-spooled 120) and a roll of 120 from B&H for a fit check; I had read that these film sizes are the same and that the spool for 620 has somewhat thinner flanges. That turns out to be true, comparing the two rolls received. In the meantime I found out that all Bessa models use 120. So I just finished trying both in the camera and, sure enough, the 120 fits snugly and the 620 does go in ok but is a bit looser as one would expect but will also work ok (fits like socks on a rooster - an old Missouri expression). I've found out the model I have is the 1929 vintage, the very first one to be marketed. I also located online the owner manual, which is a real hoot with its terminology of the day. At the end of the manual it describes the use of the self-timer (which is not installed in my camera but my bulb/tube attached to the cable release socket will do the job if I ever want to do that).

    I do have one question though. When I had my Hassy, the film advance had an automatic stop for the next exposure. But with the Bessa the film is advanced until the next frame number (on the backing paper) appears in the little red window. My question is: Do the backing papers used on modern 120 films still have the frame numbers printed on them, so I know when to stop advancing?

    Here is all I've learned about the camera so far:
    Voigtlander Bessa 6x9cm (1929)
    Shutter: Voigtlander 25/50/100/B/T
    Aperture label: 6.3 / 11 / 22
    Lens: Voigtar 6.3 / 105mm
    Folding framefinder
    Folding viewfinder
    Focus options at f/6.3:
    - Landscape 25 ft > Infinity
    (24ft ?)
    - Group 10 ft > 23 ft
    (9ft ?)
    - Portrait 5 ft > 8 ft

    There is a distance scale under the lens in meters, so I plan to prepare a pocket-sized chart for DOF at various apertures in both U.S. & metric values. So if you'd venture an estimate what circle of confusion is appropriate for this chart, that'd be useful; otherwise I'll just guess - probably be good enough considering the image quality with this camera.
  5. DWThomas
    The other difference between 120 and 620 spools is the slot in the end where the winder engages. The 120 has a larger slot. In some cases this can mean the 120 will work as a supply spool, but a 620 is needed for the take-up spool. As best I can tell there were a lot of minor variations over the years, so some cameras may work with either in one or both ends. My guess would be that a 620 spool would be more likely to work in a 120 camera than visa versa as the 120 is a bit larger diameter. Here is a shot of two 120 spools on each side, a 620 - genuine Kodak metal - in the center. Enough of the winding diameter shows to see that the 620 is smaller there also.

    As to the frame numbers, yes the modern films still have them. Several years ago I scanned some segments of three different films from Fuji, Ilford and Kodak during one of these discussions. See the image out here. I have seen some occasional difficulties where the red window and the numbers are a bit out of line, probably like many things in this world, the locations weren't standardized until dozens of camera models and makers had already put product out.

    Circle of confusion? Yes, I've been a member of the Circle of Confusion for decades! Both my Perkeo II and my Ercona II (East German Zeiss Ikonta 6x9) have DoF marks, but I confess to not knowing how they were derived. There are views there where you can see the DoF scale, but not really catch the focus distance scale. The Ercona (105mm Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar) shows that set to 15 meters at f/11 it should be in focus from about 8 meters to infiinity; set on 5 meters at f/3.5, about 4.5 to not quite 6 meters -- all for the 1.3 after tax cents it may be worth.

  6. silveror0
    Dave, thanks for the spool info and frame markings on the backing paper ... interesting.

    Regarding DOF, I found this link online for calculating it. When I input my 6x9 format, it comes up with a CoC = .07mm, so I'll go with that. It also gives the equations used for calculating both hyperfocal distance and depth of field. That's all I need to generate my field tables (in Excel), which I'm doing at the moment ... it's pretty straight forward. Then I'm off to do some shooting.
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