Voigtlander Bessa T Review (Best Leica M6 Alternative?) + YouTube Video
35mm Voigtlander Bessa T Film Camera
Voigtlander Bessa T review / write-up with sample photos to follow the YouTube camera review video I shared. The Bessa T offers an affordable alternative to Leica M film cameras. From the current used prices this camera still seems be off radar for those looking for a 35mm rangefinder film camera. Here is a quick summary about the Bessa T and why you should consider buying one. (It could be the best Leica M6 alternative if you enjoy portrait photography with fast lenses like me!)
Cosina Voigtlander Bessa T
The Bessa T 35mm film camera was manufactured by Cosina Voigtlander of Japan from around 2001-2004. This is a 35mm film rangefinder camera with a Leica M lens mount! That’s correct. The Bessa T will let you use all your amazing Leica M glass on this body at a fraction of the cost of say the now very popular Leica M6 camera. It does have some quirks so keep reading before you look to buy!
Voigtlander Bessa T Specs
- Built in rangefinder with +2/-2 diopter adjustment
- No built in viewfinder (need to use hotshoe finder)
- Built in light meter (display on rear of camera)
- Bessa T light meter battery – 2x LR44 / SR44
- Minimum focus distance – 0.9m
- Maximum shutter speed – 1/2000
- Maximum flash sync speed – 1/125
- Voigtlander Bessa T weight – 385g
Voigtlander Bessa T Viewfinder ..or lack of!
Yes so just to clarify the Voigtlander Bessa T camera doesn’t have a viewfinder! What a stupid camera design you might say!? It’s just a different design. Instead of having a combined viewfinder / rangefinder like a Leica M camera it only has a built in rangefinder. (That is a step forward from the Voigtlander Bessa L camera that has no viewfinder or rangefinder!). To compose your image you need to use an external optical viewfinder that attaches via the hotshoe. Voigtlander make viewfinders for many of the lens focal lengths but they are also made by Leica, Canon, Zeiss and others. You can see a visual of these finders in this YouTube video – Voigtlander Viewfinders.
Flash photography with a Bessa T: Wireless especially
Beware! One negative of the Voigtlander Bessa T camera design is you cannot mount you flash trigger in the hotshoe. The hotshoe is already occupied by the viewfinder which you need to compose you photos with. You can use PC sync cables to fire flash from the PC sync port but I prefer to use wireless flash triggers where possible. A small generic coldshoe bracket can be added to the base of the Bessa T camera, attaching via the tripod socket. You can then mount a flash trigger on the bracket and run a short cable to the camera PC sync port. It works but it is less fun to hold. This makes the Bessa T less ideal for flash photography vs. say a Leica M6 or Leica M4-P (cameras I use).
Beware of parallax! (Viewfinder parallax error)
Take care when using basic hotshoe viewfinders that don’t offer parallax adjustment. This is especially true when using longer lenses. If you focus close to your subject as I do for portraits, a standard viewfinder framing is not accurate and the final image will be different to what you visualised. Here is an example photo using a 90mm lens up close! I composed for the face to fill the frame but due to parallax error I missed! If I had used a viewfinder with parallax adjustment this can be avoided or you just remember the fact and recompose as needed.
Here is another more extreme parallax error example using the same setup on film I just developed. It is quite creative I guess ha!
Voigtlander Bessa T Rangefinder
If you are used to Leica rangefinder cameras.. or most rangefinder cameras I’ve used, the Bessa T is different. For most other cameras that come to mind the camera design is a combined viewfinder-rangefinder. This is the viewfinder window with a rangefinder patch in the centre. The patch is often rectangular but not always.
Unlike many cameras including Leica M cameras, the Bessa T has no viewfinder window at all. The Bessa T rangefinder design is a tube with a circular rangefinder patch in the centre. With a 1.5x magnification and the built in +2/-2 diopter I find the rangefinder excellent for critical focusing my portrait images.
Two step process – Focus then compose
I guess operating the Bessa T is a little similar the Leica iiia camera design with it being a two step process. Step one, use the rangefinder to focus. Step two, move your eye from the rangefinder to the viewfinder to compose your shot. Care is recommended so not to move the camera when repositioning your eye between the two windows. Leica iii cameras are easier to use in this regard as the windows are closer together. This is especially true on later Leica iii camera models such as the Leica iif or Leica iiig that I use.
Leica M6 vs Voigtlander Bessa T
As a Leica M6 classic camera owner I appreciate what the M6 can offer. I bought mine some years ago before the recent used prices increases. Would I spend £2100 on a Leica M6 today? No I don’t think so. Personally I prefer the build of the older Leica M2 and Leica M3 cameras although the M6 does offer some advantages over older models. If you use Leica M mount lenses (say on your digital Leica M8, M9, M240, M10 camera) and want a Leica M mount film camera there are a few options. The Voigtlander Bessa T is one of several Leica M mount cameras that you can use with your Leica M mount lenses.
Cheap Leica M mount cameras (*Cheaper)
So let’s ignore Leica M film cameras and look at a few other possibilities. For each camera I will mention why it may suit you for Leica M lens photography
Voigtlander Bessa T (This review + YouTube video)
- One of the cheapest M mount cameras
- Amazing rangefinder – accurate (magnified + diopter) Good with fast lenses (especially)
- No viewfinder – Need external hotshoe viewfinder for each lens you use
- Lighter than a Leica M film camera
- Cheaper than a Leica but over twice the price of the Voigtlander Bessa T camera
- Combined viewfinder/ rangefinder with 1:1 magnification
- More automation than the Bessa T and closer to a Leica M6 in functionality
- Similar price to the Voigtlander Bessa T camera
- Combined viewfinder/ rangefinder with 40mm & 90mm framelines
- Poor (low magnification) rangefinder – not suitable for accurate focusing
- Small and light
Reasons to buy the Voigtlander Bessa T
So there are two real options when it comes to a lower priced Leica M film camera. First the little Leica CL (Minolta CL) but for me this camera is better suited to wide lens photography and or with the lens stopped down. This is because of the low magnification Leica CL rangefinder. Wider lenses and stopping down gives a great depth of field so the rangefinder doesn’t need to be accurate. As a portrait photography this doesn’t really work for me.
Option two is the Voigtlander Bessa T and the reason to buy this camera is for the accurate rangefinder. Now I can use fast lenses such as the Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH accurately for portraits. The rangefinder and built in diopter also benefits use of longer lenses such as the Leica Summicron 90mm f2 Pre-ASPH (An amazing portrait lens!). The Bessa T is also much lighter than a Leica M camera so it works great as a travel camera too. I pair my Bessa T with Voigtlander hotshoe viewfinders and something like the Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f2.8 (or Zeiss ZM Biogon 25mm) for a wider view.
Voigtlander Bessa T Sample Photos
These photos were shot with the Zeiss Biogon 25mm f2.8 lens
Voigtlander Bessa T Portraits
Click the photos to see the lens used on the Bessa T and the film stock / film developing details.
YouTube: Voigtlander Bessa T Review (vs Leica M6)
Verdict – Is the Voigtlander Bessa T for you?
The answer is it depends on (1) what is important to you (2) how you like to photograph. If you want a cheap (*cheaper than Leica!) rangefinder camera and are not limited to Leica M mount lenses then the Bessa R (see below) is an excellent choice. If you use Leica M mount lenses then your cheapest options are the Bessa T or mentioned Leica CL / Minolta CL. I would use the CL for wides (35mm or wider) and the Bessa T for precision / portraits. (There is also the Minolta CLE you could consider, again for wider lens shooting – I think).
For me the Leica M3 is still better than the Bessa T for my portraits as it offers the combined magnified viewfinder/rangefinder but if I want a lighter setup I now go with the T.
Check the current prices on eBay
Voigtlander Bessa T:
- (US) https://ebay.to/2FR9pJp
- (UK) https://ebay.to/309d1gO
- (DE) https://ebay.to/369JOpM
- (FR) https://ebay.to/2RYMaiR
Voigtlander Bessa Camera Reviews
You might also like –
Voigtlander Bessa L Review
Bessa Film Loading (All Cosina Voigtlander models)
Voigtlander viewfinders (For rangefinder cameras)
Also – What Gear I Use for Portraits!
- See full details of my portrait photography lighting kit – HERE
- See full details of my portrait photography equipment kit – HERE
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