Voigtlander Bessa R2C Review (Contax RF)
Voigtlander Bessa R2C review (Contax rangefinder mount Bessa!) with full res sample images to accompany the YouTube video I shared for this special 35mm film camera.
Cosina Voigtlander Bessa 35mm film cameras
When I say Voigtlander Bessa cameras I will be specifically referring to the Japanese Cosina Voigtlander 35mm film cameras and not the original Voigtlander film cameras such as the vintage medium format folding cameras. Luckily for us, in 2001 Cosina Voigtlander released their first 35mm Voigtlander Bessa film camera, the Voigtlander Bessa R. That was the first of 12 Voigtlander Bessa camera variants (most of which i’ve reviewed and I can add links to below).
Special thanks to Cosina Voigtlander!
I owe a lot to Cosina Voigtlander. Let me explain. As I was getting into film photography 10+ years ago I purchased a boxed Voigtlander Bessa R3A (I couldn’t afford Leica at the time). It was my first rangefinder camera and I fell in love with these small form factor machines! Little did I know how expensive this one purchase would later become.
It was this one camera and the amazing Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 M lens that made me move from pro level Nikon DSLR cameras (Nikon D800 – 2012) to the digital Leica M9 camera. Soon after that Leica hysteria hit me big time. I founded the MrLeica blog in 2013 to share my experiences and tell the world about these amazing little cameras and by the end of 2019 I finally stopped resisting YouTube. (I was then kicking myself for not starting YouTube 5 years sooner but that is easy to say in hindsight!)
Not all Voigtlander Bessa cameras are the same
OK on with the Bessa R2C camera review. If you know anything about Voigtlander Bessa cameras you probably think cheap Leica M camera alternative right? (More so before prices went to the moon during Covid!*). Yes that can be true in part and that was all I knew too in my early film photography days. I thought Bessa cameras were Leica M mount and there was 1 or 2 different ones. Clearly I knew very little as I would never have bought the Bessa R3A over other options. I like manual cameras so the R3M would have suited me better.
35mm Voigtlander Bessa cameras: 4 Lens mounts
So what you may not know is Bessa cameras come in 4 different lens mounts? Four I hear you ask? You can probably guess two but four? The common ones are Leica M and Leica LTM/ L39/ Leica screw mount. That equates for 10 of the 12 Voigtlander Bessa cameras. See my big all 12 Bessa cameras explained video for a full breakdown of each model.
Voigtlander Bessa R2C or Voigtlander Bessa R2S
The two lesser known camera models are the Voigtlander Bessa R2S and Voigtlander Bessa R2C. These two cameras are not compatible with any Leica M lens or Leica LTM lens so some care should be taken when buying your camera if you hope to use it with Leica lenses. Lets look at each camera in turn.
Nikon S mount Voigtlander Bessa camera – Bessa R2S
Did you know that Nikon used to make small rangefinder cameras? Yep.. very nice ones too. You can see the video on the beautifully made Nikon S2 (perhaps a little similar to a Leica M3). In brief these film cameras use a lens mount called Nikon S mount.
Voigtlander Bessa R2S
Cosina Voigtlander were kind enough to release their Nikon S mount Voigtlander Bessa R2S camera in 2002 allowing us to use all the old Nikon S mount lenses on that body. Not only that, Voigtlander released new Nikon-S mount Voigtlander lenses to go with the cameras. One fantastic example is the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.5 ASPH Nikon-S mount lens. This gives you a modern aspherical lens to use on any Nikon S mount camera and it achieves excellent results.
I observed very little difference between this Nikon-S mount lens and the latest Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.5 M mount lens released in 2021.
Contax mount Voigtlander Bessa camera – Bessa R2C
Cosina also released the Contax rangefinder mount Voigtlander Bessa R2C camera. The “C” equates to Contax RF lenses as the “S” stands for Nikon-S lenses. Both cameras are very similar and what makes it more confusing is both Nikon-S and Contax RF lenses will mount on either camera. I use the mentioned Voigtlander Nokton 50mm 1.5 ASPH S mount lens on my Bessa R2C for example and Contax lenses on my Nikon S2 camera.
Lenses for Bessa R2C vs Bessa R2S
This is where it gets more complicated. Yes you can mount both Contax rangefinder lenses and Nikon rangefinder lenses on either camera body but note the following. If you are using fast aperture lenses at or close to their maximum aperture, 50mm f1.4 for example at f1.4 you I likely to mis-focus if you use a Nikon-S lens on a Contax RF mount camera. The same is true if you use Contax RF lenses on a Nikon S mount camera. There is a slightly different helicoid travel distance between the two mounts similar to if you use a Soviet LTM lens on a Leica camera and vice-versa (they have different flange distance). Slight mis-match. If however you stop the lenses down a bit or use wider lenses in particular (greater depth of field) you can enjoy either lenses on both Bessa cameras.
Contax rangefinder cameras (Bessa R2C alternative)
If you are wondering what Contax rangefinder cameras look like, below is my Contax iia camera. As the name suggests it is Contax RF mount so it uses the same lenses as the Voigtlander Bessa R2C. Here photographed with the amazing Zeiss Opton-Biogon 35mm f2.8 “post-war” lens. A reason to buy a Contax RF mount camera alone. (I will do a YouTube video for this lens when I get a chance).
Overview – Contax cameras
I did share a Contax cameras overview video mentioning the Contax iia together with a Contax RX and Contax T2. I will make full YouTube videos on each Contax camera once I get time.
Cheap Voigtlander Bessa R2C alternative – Kiev 4a
Photographers that know of Contax rangefinder lenses will probably mention Kiev 4 cameras at some point. Soviet Kiev 4 cameras were copies of the original Contax rangefinder cameras and these were made with the same machines. If you can find a working camera they offer the best cheap Voigtlander Bessa R2C cameras alternative by quite a margin. It took me a few attempts to find working copies but now I really enjoy Kiev rangefinder cameras. (Again I need to do a blog post for these!)
Sadly as the reliability of these old cameras is not their best feature (later models especially) the Contax RF mount almost became redundant until the new Voigtlander Bessa R2C camera was released.
Discounted amazing rangefinder lenses
One huge reason to buy any Contax RF mount camera is to make use of the fantastic Contax rangefinder lenses. You don’t need the Voigtlander Bessa R2C camera but it will give you more mod cons features than say the Kiev 4a. Both cameras will take the same photo and I enjoy using both with different focal lengths.
Unlike Leica M mount lenses and Leica LTM lenses that seem to often come with a premium price tag, CRF lenses can be found on eBay for a much lower price. Most rangefinder cameras users in 2022 are Leica M mount users so they have little or no interest in these lenses. Low demand equates to cheaper lens prices and that was the reason I bought the Voigtlander Bessa R2C camera.
Cheap rangefinder lenses on eBay
Leica M camera users – All is not lost!
I bought the Voigtlander Bessa R2C feeling all smug knowing that I can now make use of all these cheap but often brilliant CRF lenses. As I continued with my reading on these topics I later discovered a game changing alternative. Amedeo adapters made Leica M-Nikon S mount adapters and Leica M-Contax RF mount adapters.
Contax lenses on Leica cameras (Leica M – Contax adapter)
These Leica M – Contax RF lens adapters let you use the same mentioned awesome lenses on your Leica cameras without needed to buy the Voigtlander Bessa R2C camera. See the video as it’s not quite as simple as it sounds and these adapters can be difficult to find. Scarcity of these adapters also means they are pretty expensive if you do manage to find one.
The brilliant thing is that they are rangefinder coupled adapters so you can use them on Leica M film cameras and digital cameras alike. If you look carefully this photo shows a Nikon S mount lenses mount onto my Leica M3 camera using an Amedeo adapters during a shoot in Poland.
Back on topic!
Okay so to get back on topic, let me give you more information about the Voigtlander Bessa R2C camera itself and more importantly some sample photos!
Voigtlander Bessa R2C specs
Many features are common across multiple Voigtlander Bessa cameras. Here are some of the main features but see the YouTube video for the full details.
- Built in combined bright rangefinder / viewfinder (single framelines not pairs)
- 35,50,85mm brightline frame lines (parallax corrected for accurate framing)
- 0.7x magnification viewfinder (25.6 EBL – effective base length)
- Built in TTL light meter with bright viewfinder LED display
- Bessa R2C lightmeter battery – 2x LR44
- Maximum shutter speed – 1/2000 (Leica M – 1/1000)
- Maximum flash sync speed – 1/125 (Leica M – 1/50)
- Hotshoe for speedlights and triggers (unlike Leica M2, M3, M4)
- SLR style fast loading hinge back (with window to see film loaded)
Test roll – Voigtlander Bessa R2C sample photos
Here is me testing the Voigtlander Bessa R2C on a weekend trip to London. Click any photo to view full res and to see the lens and film details. Some of the Contax RF mount lenses can give really nice results!
Voigtlander Bessa R2C portraits
If you’re new here, firstly welcome to the blog and secondly I usually shoot female model portraits. (See more on my Instagram). Here is me trying some Voigtlander Bessa R2C portraits with a few different Contax RF lenses.
*If you want to watch behind the scenes videos working with models see Patreon
Bessa R2C photos from Poland
A few years past but I finally had a chance to use the Voigtlander Bessa R2C for travel photography. Here I take the camera to Warsaw, Poland and I shoot both black and white film and colour film.
Is the Voigtlander Bessa R2C camera worth it?
Voigtlander Bessa cameras are not as cheap as they once were so the question is, should you buy this camera? Here are a few pros and cons compared to similar cameras.
- Better built than the early Bessa L, R, T cameras (more solid/ metal)
- Access to affordable Contax RF and Nikon S mount lenses
- Cheaper than older Leica M cameras (Usually although not by a lot)
- Much cheaper than Leica M cameras with a lightmeter (Leica M6 etc)
- Better with flash vs. Leica M film cameras (+ 1/2000 vs 1/1000)
- Faster to load than Leica M film cameras (for most people)
- Not overly common so should hold their value / go up in value over time.
- Better than Contax iia or Kiev 4 cameras if using 28mm or 35mm lenses
- More features and hopefully more realiable than the older Contax/Kiev
- Not as well built as a Leica M film cameras (Leica cameras keep on working)
- Low magnification viewfinder (EBL*) – not ideal for fast 50mm or longer lenses
- Can’t mount the latest modern ASPH and APO Leica M mount lenses
- Can’t mount the many Leica screw mount lenses
- Price is not as affordable as they once were
- Buy a Kiev 4a (or similar) for a fraction of the price and take the same photos
- Buy a Contax iia (or similar) for a better made camera that takes the same photo
- Kiev 4a and Contax iia are better for portraits with fast 50s: More magnified VF
Voigtlander Bessa R2C price
Is the Voigtlander Bessa R2S better for you?
The Voigtlander Bessa R2S and Bessa R2C cameras are identical except for their slightly different lens mount. Either camera will do the same job and take the same photo so it makes sense to buy the camera that relates to the lenses you have or want to use. If you have S mount lenses get the Bessa R2S and if Contax lenses the R2C.
Contax RF lenses are cheaper than Nikon-S
If you have neither camera then Contax RF lenses are often cheaper and more commonly available so perhaps get the R2C. Lenses like the Jupiter-8 50mm f2 can be found very cheap and works great on the R2C wide open. (Like all lenses it will improve if stopped down*). (That is another lens needing a review!)
Voigtlander Bessa R2C film loading
How to load film in a Voigtlander Bessa R2C? Extremely easily. All the 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.
YouTube – Voigtlander Bessa R2C full review
This blog article was written to give an overview of the camera with some sample photos. To see the full camera specs and a visual see YouTube.
I hope you enjoyed the article and perhaps it has inspired you to try Contax RF mount lenses!? Sorry for the information overload and wavering off topic at times. I just tried to share all useful related information around this lesser known camera. If you’d like to support the blog please consider my Patreon.
Are you a Bessa fan!? You may also like these:
Voigtlander Bessa R2
Voigtlander Bessa R4M
All 12 Voigtlander Bessa cameras
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