I've been a pretty happy Nikon 135 shooter but have recently ran into a few situations where I've begun to think about moving to a Bessa rangefinder instead.
I like shooting in natural light (even in dark areas) and really need a good silent camera. I love my F3HP but it's really hard to focus in dim light without an F1.4 lens on it and a really good screen (in progress of finding a G or H screen still).
So I've been thinking about possibly selling off a good chunk of my Nikon gear and going Bessa rangefinder instead. However, the Bessa would most likely be new and the Nikon system would not be enough to cover it so it's extra money out of my pocket to play. So, with that in mind and before I go and make this drastic move, I'm wondering what I gain from going Voigtlander Bessa? I'm looking at the R2M or R3M and maybe a 35mm or 40mm lens. Need fast but affordable :)
Off the top of my head, are rangefinder lenses more "sharper" at F1.4 than SLR lenses? Seeing as how I shoot a lot wide open this could be a deal breaker for me.
Current lineup I have and am hoping to get something similar with a Bessa setup:
Nikon F90x + 35mm F2 Ai lens
Nikon F3HP + 50mm F1.4 Ai(s?) lens
Thanks in advance. This forum has been really really helpful!
With an SLR there is always the problem of camera shake when the mirror comes up which degrades lens sharpness. The Voigtlander lenses are excellent and compare favorably with Leica lenses. I have 3 bessa's and love them.
I can't speak to the relative merits of RF lenses being sharper than SLR lenses -- because I've never done a verifiable test -- I CAN tell you that as I've aged to my present 60 years of age I find RF cameras, be they Leicas, Canons, Nikons, Zeiss Contax or Yashica, to be much easier to focus in marginal light and/or in situations where there are no obvious lines to facilitate use of the split image on the SLR focusing screen. And, obviously, my whole mental grasp of the image is very different between an SLR screen and the RF direct view. I've got lots of SLRs, but I find I am increasingly using RF cameras.
I just picked up a Pentax MX with a 50mm f1.4, and Leica M3 and did a side by side comparison in this very dark living room. Both are pretty much best in class in terms of viewfinders. The MX finder with f1.4 lens is brighter to look through, but the rangefinder is definitely easier to focus in the darker parts of the room, on subjects where there are no hard edges to use the split-image section of the SLR finder. However, in the lit areas of the room [still pretty dark] it evens out a lot more, and it's easier to focus the SLR on textured subjects like an expanse of fabric as the microprism ring in the finder makes that a lot more obvious than the rangefinder does. The SLR will also focus a lot closer.
I'd expect I could nail accurate focus with the M3 more often than the MX for the sorts of subjects [people] I'd want to be shooting in low light, and I find myself hunting for focus a little less with the rangefinder. I'd still be happy enough shooting the MX with the f1.4 in any situation where there was enough light for me to hand-hold it, but the rangefinder would have preference.
N.B. the MX has a much higher viewfinder magnification than most SLRs, and that's with an f1.4 lens. If the lens was a stop or two slower, or the finder magnification/brightness a bit less, the rangefinder would have a significant advantage. I'd definitely prefer the rangefinder with wider lenses, too.
I've had much better success shooting at small gigs and social events with a rangefinder (or, to be fair, with a Hexar) than I have with an SLR.
On the other hand, I don't think you'll see much real-world quality difference with the lenses. Good quality fast primes in normal focal lengths -- 35mm, 50mm, etc -- are going to be excellent on both rangefinder and SLR systems.
If you're having trouble focusing those rather fast lenses, what about getting a Nikon body with good AF, e.g. an F100, or at least a good electronic focus indicator. If you want, you could affix an external viewfinder to the body for ease of composition and then just let the AF do its thing ;)
Yes, an RF will provide you a nice big viewfinder, but you'll still have to focus using the patches. I wouldn't assume that'll be any easier without trying first- some people find it difficult. (I happen to like RF focusing and not looking through the lens)
Most recently, I picked up a bessa T, which I bought just to use the 21mm color skopar. Terrific combination. The external VF is so much fun to use.
I'm 57, and I find my Bessa R2a very easy to focus in marginal light. I love my Bessa, it's favorite camera body and I have shot Canon FTb, as well as Nikon F3.
Why would you get a Bessa when there's Leica M-series bodies? Or even Zeiss Ikon, for that matter.
Budget. The cost of going Zeiss Ikon or Leica M is pretty expensive. And getting a way older Leica body doesn't really appeal to me as I'm sure I'd have to add the cost of a CLA. Or something.
Correct me if I'm wrong but Bessa's require batteries, no? That alone would rule out a body for me.
One of the requirements was SILENT. The Bessa's aren't that much quieter than what you already have. They're a vertical travel shutter and ain't quiet.
Leica is ruled out for budgetary reasons. (1.4 lens) I believe the only fixed lens RF was the Yashica Lynx. leaf shutter, so no noise.
A screw mount RF like Canon would give you quiet and a 1.4 lens is around $400-$500. the finders, like the older Leicas are kinda squinty though. You could use an accessory finder, focus once and compose with the finder.