Best Voigtlander Bessa Camera Comparison

Voigtlander Bessa Series Comparison (x12 Versions)

Best Leica M alternative? What is the best Voigtlander Bessa camera? This 12 Bessa comparison gives details on every Bessa version. Pick the best camera for your needs. YouTube video reviews included!

12 Voigtlander Bessa versions / camera models

Cosina Voigtlander released 12 different versions of the Bessa film cameras –

Voigtlander Bessa Series
  • Voigtlander Bessa L
  • Voigtlander Bessa R
  • Voigtlander Bessa T
  • Voigtlander Bessa R2
  • Voigtlander Bessa R2C/ Bessa R2S
  • Voigtlander Bessa R2M/ Bessa R2A
  • Voigtlander Bessa R3M/ Bessa R3A
  • Voigtlander Bessa R4M/ Bessa R4A

And 4 Bessa lens mount options

  • LTM/L39/screw mount
  • Leica M mount
  • Contax rangefinder mount – “C”
  • Nikon rangefinder mount – “S”

What does the “A” and “M” stand for?

Bessa M models – R2M/R3M/R4M

For Bessa cameras M doesn’t mean Leica M mount. M stands for mechanical shutter. This means the camera will operate without batteries. Batteries are only required for the lightmeter.

Bessa A models – R2A/R3A/R4A

A stands for aperture priority. These cameras have an electronic shutter and require batteries to operate. You can still use manual shutter speeds but these models are great for anyone that prefers to shoot in AE mode.

Sorting Bessa cameras by lens mount

If you are like me you buy your ideal lens first and then your want the best camera to mount it. This is particularly important when it comes to Cosina Voigtlander Bessa film cameras. Each camera offers slightly different benefits and features so you need to pick the right one to get the most from your lens.

Bessa Photographer :)
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1) LTM or Leica screw mount Bessa camera (L39)

The early Cosina Bessa cameras were Leica screw mount so they offer a modern alternative to something like Leica Barnack cameras. Both cameras feel very plastic but do offer a lightweight alternative to later models. Compared to most vintage screw mount rangefinder cameras, both Bessa cameras give you a lightmeter and fast SLR style film loading. Most L39 screw mount lenses are now classed as vintage however in March 2022 Voigtlander released a brand new LTM lens. The Voigtlander Heliar 40mm f2.8 (in LTM and M mount).

Voigtlander Bessa R Review Cover Photo
2) Leica M mount Voigtlander Bessa cameras

Most Voigtlander Bessa cameras are Leica M mount. These tend to be the most desirable as M lenses continue to be manufactured today. Leica M mount Bessa cameras are some of the most expensive as they are seen as a cheap alternative to Leica M film cameras such as the Leica M6. All M mount Bessa models give you a built in lightmeter, the same as the Leica M6 and will take exactly the same image (if using the same lens*). They just cost less (though the price difference now is marginal).

Voigtlander Bessa T Video Cover Photo
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3) Contax RF mount Bessa cameras (Contax-Kiev mount)

The Contax rangefinder mount Bessa camera was a special release. As the name suggests it shares the same lens mount as Contax and Kiev rangefinder cameras. Both vintage film camera series only give a 50mm viewfinder so the Bessa R2C is perfect for those looking for a 35mm frameline (and 85mm frameline). The Bessa R2C also brings the same modern benefits as other Bessa cameras, built in lightmeter and easy SLR style film loading. Perhaps the biggest benefit to this camera is it gives you access to the affordable (but often great) Contax RF mount lenses.

Minolta X-300 Portrait
4) Nikon S mount Bessa cameras (Nikon rangefinder mount)

The Voigtlander Bessa R2S brings all the same benefits as the Bessa R2C but it is Nikon rangefinder mount. The S stands for Nikon S mount. The R2S takes the same lenses as my vintage Nikon S2 camera. (Some Nikon S lenses fit the Bessa R2C and the opposite is also true).

  • Voigtlander Bessa R2S camera

Voigtlander Bessa R3A Review - Girl with camera B&W
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Common features of Voigtlander Bessa cameras

  • Maximum shutter speed 1/2000 (Leica M cameras are limited to 1/1000)
  • Maximum flash sync speed 1/125 (compared to 1/50 for Leica M cameras)
  • Built in lightmeter
  • Take 2x LR44 batteries
  • SLR style hinge back door loading

Additional features found in most Bessa cameras

  • Built in hotshoe – Excluding Bessa L and Bessa T
  • Built in rangefinder – Excluding Bessa L
  • Parallax corrected viewfinder – Excluding Bessa L and Bessa T
  • Viewfinder diopter adjustment – Excluding Bessa L, Bessa R, Bessa R2
Voigtlander Bessa T Camera

Selecting the best Bessa camera by lens focal length

21mm / 25mm / 28mm
  • Voigtlander Bessa R4M/ Bessa R4A (only film camera to offer 21mm & 25mm framelines + only Bessa with 28mm)
35mm
  • All Bessa cameras except – Bessa L, Bessa T, Bessa R3A/R3M
40mm
  • Voigtlander Bessa R3A/ Bessa R3M (one of few cameras to offer 40mm framelines. See Leica CL also)
50mm
  • All Bessa cameras except – Bessa L, Bessa T, Bessa R3A/R3M
75mm
  • Voigtlander Bessa R
  • Voigtlander Bessa R2
  • Voigtlander Bessa R2A/ Bessa R2M
  • Voigtlander Bessa R3A/ Bessa R3M
85mm
  • Voigtlander Bessa R2C (85mm framelines as Contax made 85mm lenses – Jupiter-9 for example)
  • Voigtlander Bessa R2S
90mm
  • Voigtlander Bessa R
  • Voigtlander Bessa R2
  • Voigtlander Bessa R2A/ Bessa R2M
  • Voigtlander Bessa R3A/ Bessa R3M

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Voigtlander Bessa R2C Camera

Lightest Voigtlander Bessa camera?

Sometimes you might want to pack extra light for a trip. Bessa cameras are lighter than Leica M film cameras. The Leica M3 weight 580g for example.

  • 320g – Bessa L
  • 385g – Bessa T
  • 395g – Bessa R
  • 425g – Bessa R2
  • 430g – Bessa R2M/R2A/R3A/R3M
  • 440g – Bessa R4M/R4A
  • 520g – Bessa R2C + Bessa R2S

The most accurate (or magnified) Voigtlander Bessa viewfinder

The Voigtlander Bessa T is the only Bessa camera to give a more magnified view than most Leica M film cameras (excluding the Leica M3). If you want to accurately focus fast 50mm lenses on a Voigtlander camera, the Bessa T is you best option. Second best are the Voigtlander Bessa R3A/R3M.

Voigtlander 40mm f1.4

Bessa camera minimum close focus distance (MFD)

One limitation of rangefinder cameras is you can’t focus close to your subject. Vintage cameras such as the Leica iii cameras all gave a MFD of 1m. Early Bessa cameras were slightly better and later Bessa models were the same as most Leica M film cameras.

  • 1m MFD – Bessa R2C, Bessa R2S (limited by the lenses design)
  • 0.9m MFD – Bessa L, Bessa T, Bessa R, Bessa R2
  • 0.7m MFD – Bessa R2A/R2M, Bessa R3A/R3M, Bessa R4A/R4M

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Some of my favourite Bessa cameras

As you might know I enjoy Leica cameras but some Voigtlander Bessa offer benefits over Leicas –

  • Voigtlander Bessa L – Super light camera for exploring/ hiking up mountains/ running/ cycling (with wide lenses – 15mm, 21mm, 25mm, 28mm)
  • Voigtlander Bessa R – Lightweight setup with 35mm framelines for LTM lenses and lightmeter
  • Voigtlander Bessa T – Amazing rangefinder for fast lenses and portraits. Just be careful as coldshoe viewfinders are not parallax corrected
  • Voigtlander Bessa R2 (Olive green) – one of the best looking cameras i’ve ever owned!
  • Voigtlander Bessa R2M – Would be my camera of choice for 35mm Leica M lenses
  • Voigtlander Bessa R4M – The best camera if you like to shoot 21mm and 25mm lenses

Voigtlander Bessa vs Leica M?

One big question that often arises is what is better, Voigtlander Bessa vs Leica M? As I own many of both I can give you my view. To me, Leica M cameras (film bodies) are a camera for life if you service them periodically. Some of my Leica M film cameras are nearly 70 years old and still running like clockwork. The early models especially were over engineered meaning they were built to last. In contrast I feel Voigtlander Bessa camersa from Cosina were made with cheaper materials and so may not last 50 years. If the price is similar I always recommend Leica over Voigtlander.

Leica vs Bessa – Sometimes Voigtlander are better

Yes Leica are better built cameras vs Voigtlander but Bessa still bring advantages. I love the cheaper Bessa cameras as a light weight Leica alternative. The Bessa R offers great value if you can cope with screw mount lenses rather than M mount lenses. It’s lighter and cheaper than later models, still gives you a light meter and a built in viewfinder that includes 35mm framelines. For every Leica iii camera user I would recommend the Bessa R for when you want to shoot 35mm lenses and need a light meter. (Leica iii camera viewfinders only give a 50mm view*)(Except the iiig that also has 90mm).

Cheap Leica M alternative – Voigtlander?

5 years ago Voigtlander Bessa cameras could be found pretty cheap. Roll forward to today and Bessa prices are getting close to Leica M film camera prices for the more desirable models. People who want Leica film cameras but cannot afford the high price tag look for the next best thing and that’s usually Voigtlander Bessa cameras. As Leica prices increased the demand for Bessa cameras increased pushing up the prices. The earliest Bessa models are the cheapest, pretty much in order of release. Bessa L cheapest, Bessa R and Bessa T next cheapest. Later models closer to the desirable Leica M6 (which has a light meter) are the most expensive – Bessa R2A/M, Bessa R3A/M, Bessa R4A/M.

Voigtlander Bessa repair / CLA – Can you repair a Bessa camera?

Another common question is can you repair a Voigtlander Bessa camera?  It’s funny how times change. I remember taking my Voigtlander Bessa R3A to a camera repair shop in London maybe 6-7 years ago for rangefinder recalibration.  The camera repair guy said these cameras are not worth fixing, just buy yourself a Leica.  Jump forward to today and with Bessa camera prices now 4x higher, yes shops offer Voigtlander Bessa repair and CLA.  The most common issue I had was the rangefinder being knocked out of alignment.  More so than with Leica M cameras. If you find a Leica repair centre they should be able to look at your Bessa camera for you.

Leica camera repair centre near me?

Visit my Leica camera repair page to find a service centre near you.

Portraits with Bessa cameras

As a model photographer here a a few sample photos shooting portraits with different Bessa cameras. Click any photo for camera details.

Voigtlander Bessar R2C
Voigtlander Bessa T Review & Portraits
Voigtlander Bessa R Photo
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London Film Photography
Ilford Pan F 50 Portrait
Opton Biogon 35mm f3.5 Portrait

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Watch Voigtlander Bessa YouTube reviews

Below I list Voigtlander Bessa YouTube reviews for each of the cameras I’ve owned

Voigtlander Bessa L

Voigtlander Bessa R

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Voigtlander Bessa T


Voigtlander Bessa R2


Voigtlander Bessa R2C/ Bessa R2S


Voigtlander Bessa R2M/ Bessa R2A

No video yet for the Bessa R2M/R2A but i’ll add it here if I ever get one to test!


Voigtlander Bessa R3M/ Bessa R3A

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Voigtlander Bessa R4M/ Bessa R4A

All Voigtlander Bessa Cameras Compared

How to load film in a Voigtlander Bessa camera

You may also like – Leica M Film Camera Buyer’s Guide

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