PHOTOGRAPHY   © mike connealy
Voigtländer Bessamatic
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Voigtländer Bessamatic - 1959

Below are some sample photos from the Bessamatic:

With its fully interchangable lenses and match-needle metering, the Bessamatic represented the state of the art in single lens reflex (slr) design when it appeared. This is one of three leaf shutter slr cameras that I have; all are capable of producing very high quality results. The leaf shutter slr has often been criticised on reliability grounds, but it is not actually the shutter itself that usually causes the problems cited. The shutters were Compurs, very similar to those on earlier rangefinder cameras. The functional problems were usually associated with the need to properly actuate the mirror and the aperture stop-down process. The addition of coupled light meters and linkage of aperture and speed settings lengthened gear trains, offering further opportunity for malfunction and greater challenges to camera servicing and repair. Early models like the first Bessamatic can be repaired even today, but later, more complicated models seem to present a challenge that few modern workers are willing to tackle.

    The Color Skopar on my Vito II may be my all-time favorite for color work. I did not get such nice results from the lens on the Bessamatic, but that may just be due to the limited time I've spent with it. I do wonder, though, if the fact that all the lens elements on the Bessamatic version are in front of the aperture produces results different from what is obtained from the front-focus model.

    On the other hand, I was particularly impressed with the sharpness and contrast obtained from the 35mm Skoparex, a retrofocus design. The Color Skopar, the Skoparex and many other lenses of the same era are nicely documented and illustrated at Frank Mechelhoff's site, Voigtländer-Historical Lenses.

    Since I tend to like compact cameras, the big, heavy Bessamatic is not one of my own favorite shooters, but it is a very interesting representative of the German camera industry's later efforts to remain in the high-end amateur market.

The Bessamatic Manual is on line at the Butkus site.

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