00L: A field reveiw of the Voigtlander Bessa L

I have named the Voigtlander Bessa L OOL because if James Bond was a lomo photographer this is the camera Q would hook him up with. Not because this is a small crappy plastic camera but because the Bessa L is a small clever camera. This camera is so clever because it’s so simple. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this camera it’s a Leica rangefinder meets a Holga and it packs what we like most about the two together.

The Bessa L is rangefinder without a rangefinder or viewfinder. Hold on a sec, don’t run back to your Daddy and his zoom lens because this is what makes this camera so clever. It doesn’t need a rangefinder because it’s intended to be used with ultra wide angle lens that have such deep focus and depth of field that there is no need for precise focusing. The knowledge I just dropped above is also referred as zone focusing and, OMG, go figure Voigtlander was nice enough to make some zone focus lenses to go with this camera. This camera isn’t just for zone focus lens, you could use any Leica M mount or Leica screw mount lens, and the zone focus lenses aren’t just for this camera. The shots you see here were taken with the Voigtlander Heliar 15mm 4.5 ASPH Screw Mount, that I also use on my Leica M8 but alot less since I’ve gotten this camera.

This camera feels and handles like a rangefinder. What it lacks in the durability of a brass Leica it makes up for in size. It’s about the smallest Leica mount camera you can buy. Rangefinders are designed to be small and discrete and that’s what I love about this camera. It’s a camera you can bring with you anywhere and take photos of anything.  Half the reason I call this the OOL is because it’s like the Golden Gun in the epic Nintendo N64 game Golden Eye, it kills everything in sight with one shot.

Now that you knuckle heads know what makes this camera like a Leica you may be scratching your thick heads wondering what makes it like a Holga. The run and golden gun attitude makes it like a Holga, which make no mistake is a good thing. Like I mentioned earlier this cameras simplicity is what makes it brilliant and that simplicity will be reflected in your photographs. The Bessa L is stripped of the endless amount of useless option modern cameras provide like fifty different focusing, metering, and exposure modes. You will not be distracted like you are at the vending machine when stand there for an hour contemplating what snack to get. Instead you’ll be focused on your image with no hesitation.

While the Bessa L produces a much higher quality image than a Holga it has similar spontaneous attitude. It liberates you to shoot fast a freely because your only concerns are the waist level exposure indicator, which is sexy as hell by the way, and a external viewfinder for composition if you choose to use one. The exposure indicator is the only thing that’s different from a normal rangefinder besides the absence of a viewfinder. The exposure indicator is located on the top of the camera so you can calculate your exposure without pulling your camera to your eye and exposing yourself to your unsuspecting victim. It uses the same circle sandwiched between two triangles that other rangefinders use. Either triangle lights up red when you are over or under exposed and the circle between them lights up green when you have a proper exposure. Pretty simple huh. My technique when I’m just strolling down the street shooting candid portraits is to meter off the side walk because the lens is so wides that if I meter pointed at a subject it will expose for the sky and turn their face into a black cave of under exposure.


This camera is ergonomically crafted, economically priced at around one hundred dollars used, and a blast to shoot with. If you haven’t already bought one half way through this article or need some technical specs for some ludicrous reason then see more about the Bessa L at Camera Quest. The Bessa L is so awesome that I have less to say about it and more to show, and these images are only from the first two rolls I shot.

Outro

Dr.Dragon

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