Voigtlander Bessa R Review

Voigtlander Bessa R Review (Leica Screw Mount Camera)

A short write up / Voigtlander Bessa R Review with example images to accompany the YouTube video I shared for this 35mm film camera.

Looking for a modern Leica screw mount camera?

Did you know that such a thing even existed!? The Leica thread mount (“LTM”) or Leica screw mount dates back to the 1930s and the original Leica Barnack cameras (aka. Leica iii cameras).  Examples include my Leica iiia, Leica iiig and Leica iif.  All of these cameras were manufactured in the period from the 1930s through to the 1950s.  After that came the amazing Leica M3 and with it the Leica M mount.  Thereafter all Leica film cameras adopted the newer Leica M bayonet mount and the screw mount was dropped.

Voigtlander Bessa R Review Cover Photo

Voigtlander screw mount cameras

So what if you want a more modern screw mount film camera?  Well luckily in 2001 the Japanese company Cosina Voigtlander released the new (at the time) Voigtlander Bessa R 35mm film camera that came the Leica thread mount design. (The Voigtlander Bessa L also has the screw mount whereas the Voigtlander Bessa T, Voigtlander Bessa R3A and Voigtlander Bessa R4M are all Leica M mount cameras (of those that I use)).

Voigtlander Bessa R mount

As you can see you need to be a bit careful when buying Bessa cameras. Most Bessa R versions are Leica M mount (all except the original Bessa R camera). If you can cope with not using modern Leica M lenses the older design of the Voigtlander Bessa R mount means the cameras are cheaper. (Everyone wants M mount!)

Leica iif Photographer

Voigtlander Bessa R Specs

In terms of camera specs here is a quick overview of the Voigtlander Bessa R vs Leica iii cameras –

  • Built in combined rangefinder / viewfinder
  • 35,50,75,90mm framelines (compared to only 50mm for *most Leica iii)
  • Parallax corrected framelines (unlike *most Leica iii cameras)
  • 0.68x magnification viewfinder (Leica iii – 1.5x)
  • Built in light meter with viewfinder LED display (Leica iii – no light meter)
  • Bessa R lightmeter battery – 2x LR44 (Leica iii – no batteries)
  • Minimum focus distance – 0.9m (Leica iii – 1m)
  • Maximum shutter speed – 1/2000 (Leica iii -1/500 or 1/1000)
  • Maximum flash sync speed – 1/125 (Leica iii – N/A, 1/30 or 1/50)
  • Hotshoe for speedlights and triggers (Leica iii – coldshoe + PC sync port)
  • Voigtlander Bessa R weight – 395g (Leica iii – various (from <395- ~450g)

*Most Leica iii cameras – All models except the later Leica iiig (which has 50mm and 90mm framelines and parallax correction).

Test Roll – Voigtlander Bessa R Sample Photos

Voigtlander Bessa R Testing
Bessa R + Heliar 50mm Testing
Voigtlander Bessa R
Bessa R + Heliar 50/3.5
Voigtlander Bessa R - Test

Voigtlander Bessa R Portraits (Models – Poland)

Voigtlander Bessa R Portrait
Voigtlander Bessa R Photo
Voigtlander Bessa R Portrait
Voigtlander Bessa R Portrait
Canon 35mm f1.8 LTM

Voigtlander Bessa R lenses – recommendations

When it comes to picking a good Voigtlander Bessa R lens it is partly personal preference but also working within the limitations of the camera. I enjoy using the Bessa R with small lightweight screw mount lenses. 28mm, 35mm and 50mm (max). Don’t try to use fast 50mm lenses shot wide open at MFD as it’s almost impossible to see to focus accurately. (Leica viewfinders are much better for this). If you shoot 28mm just use the entire viewfinder area to estimate your composition.

Best Lenses for Voigtlander Bessa R – My top 3 picks!

Is the Bessa R camera right for you?

The Bessa R is not for everyone. Let’s list some pros and cons, especially if comparing to a Leica iii camera –

  • Lightweight
  • Leica screw mount (“LTM”) – if you use those lenses
  • Easy film loading
  • Cheaper than many similar cameras
  • Bright viewfinder with 35mm,50mm,75mm,90mm frame lines
  • Built in light meter
  • Very plastic build (not built like a Leica)
  • Low magnification viewfinder – not ideal for 75mm and 90mm especially)
  • Screw mount not M mount – most people seem to want M mount

Bessa R vs Bessa R2?

The earlier Bessa R feels more plastic and is screw mount. The Bessa R2 gives you M mount so is more desirable for most photographers. (See video below for Bessa R2 for more info).

Voigtlander Bessa R series

Voigtlander released 12 Bessa cameras in total including 10 Voigtlander Bessa r series cameras – R, R2, R2A, R2M, R2C, R2S, R3A, R3M, R4A, R4M! See my all 12 Bessa cameras review.

Voigtlander Bessa Film Loading

How to load film in a Voigtlander Bessa R? Extremely easily. All Cosina Voigtlander cameras share a similar design with a hinge back. Loading film is as easy as loading film into your favourite SLR camera. See the video below for a visual.

Are you a Bessa fan!? You may also like these:

Voigtlander Bessa T

A quirky camera with a rangefinder but no viewfinder. Love this camera and it is Leica M mount too!

Voigtlander Bessa R3A

One of the more popular Bessa cameras. The R3A and R3M offer Leica M mount and a 1:1 viewfinder. This camera is the most Leica M like of the group for me.

Voigtlander Bessa L

Another quirky offering from Voigtlander. The Bessa L has no viewfinder and no rangefinder! That might sound terrible but it is fantastic with wide angle lenses such as the 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar.

Voigtlander Bessa R4M

Do you wish your Leica camera had wider frame lines? If yes this could be the camera you are looking for! The Bessa R4M and R4A are one of a kind offering 21mm and 25mm framelines in addition to the more common 28mm, 35mm and 50mm.

Voigtlander Bessa R2C

This is a very special camera. Similar to it’s Bessa R2M or R2A siblings, the Bessa R2C is a Contax-RF mount Bessa. This opens your world to all the amazing Contax-RF mount lenses! (See the detailed blog post for full info). The video covers the Voigtlander Bessa R2C + R2S and the R2, R2A and R2M.

Voigtlander Bessa R2

Perhaps the coolest Bessa i’ve owned! The olive green Bessa R2 camera.

35mm Bessa cameras – Voigtlander Bessa series compared

All 12 Bessa cameras compared!

8 thoughts on “Voigtlander Bessa R Review (Screw Mount)”

  1. While I like the Bessa series in theory, I’ve read a lot of complaints about the Bessa R’s all-plastic construction and so have never really been tempted to get one. If someone is looking for a camera body for shooting L39 lenses I think the later Canon rangefinders are a much better option. Just like Vogtlander they have all the improvements that Leica still refuses to incorporate (like the swing-open film door), a longer effective baselength, and they’re actually built to last. Maybe not as good a build quality as Leica, but they’re solid all-metal workhorses that I feel much more comfortable trusting.

    1. matthewosbornephotography

      Thanks Joe and I appreciate you commenting. Yes for those wanting a solid LTM camera that is not a Leica then Canon is a great choice. I sold my Model 7 and kept the Bessa R as for my the plastic camera ticks the lightweight box for me then I use a Leica for something more solid. I do have 1 more old Canon RF that I need to use, review and wil probably keep. Im just waiting on lockdown before I can get out and test more cameras. I’m certainly not anti-Canon and I love their LTM lenses. Big fan! 🙂 Thanks

      1. Dolf Kockelkoren

        I’ve also heard about the complaints. But I asked my camera tech and he said they are good camera’s. So for the price I’m going to buy one and trie it. Can’t hurt to see with my own eyes to see how they hold up. Because a lot of off people just repeat what they have heard and not actually used it themselves.

      2. matthewosbornephotography

        Thanks Dolf, yes a great approach. I still have my Bessa R camera and it works OK for non-close up / non-fast lens work. Matt

  2. John H Osterho9lm

    I too bought a Bessa when they first appeared in 2000. I bought the Bessa R for use with my Summeron 35mm f2.8, a marvelous lens which cost far less than a Summicron. The body felt very cheap in my hands and it was very apparent this was no Leica. The paint chipped off quickly. I went to a camera show in Portland and brought mine along just in case I could sell it. I found a vendor who loved hi Bessa R and he had it with nearly all the paint gone, revealing the white finish .This was the deal destroyer for my future cameras. Since those days I have purchased several Canon bodies with several LTM lenses which are very good. Recently I sold some expensive target rifles and gear and I was able to buy a couple of Nikons, an S3 and a nice SP.

    Thank you for your work here – it is most appreciated by me

    1. matthewosbornephotography

      Hi John, thanks for checking out the blog post. It’s interesting to hear your experience with the R. Mine only get very light use as I normally use Leica cameras but the L and R bodies are great for an ultralight LTM set up. I usually use Barnack cameras (1931 Standard being my daily user). I have a Canon L3 and Nikon S2. I recommend Barnacks if you’ve never tried them but for 35mm lenses the Canon is better as it has the 35mm framelines.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: