It’s truly hard to beat the look of some vintage medium format cameras. Take for example this Voigtlander Bessa II. Lots of folks love shooting with their Mamiya RB67 and Pentax 67. But why not go for 6×9 format instead? Well that’s what the Voigtlander Bessa II is. This beauty is a 69 format rangefinder camera with a pretty fast f4.9 lens. To translate to 35mm parameters, that’s a 45mm f1.9 equivalence. What’s more, this is a pretty rare lens. However, it still has all the great rendering of a medium format camera.
Welcome to the Rare Camera Store: a joint initiative of The Phoblographer and the wonderful folks at Blue Moon Camera. We work to bring you some of the coolest and rarest items for a great price.
The listing over at Blue Moon Camera says:
“The Voigtlander Bessa II (serial number 3670621) is a vertically folding, medium format camera that uses 120 film and produces an image that is 6cm x 9cm. This camera has the rarer APO-Lanthar lens mounted in a shutter that has been overhauled recently. The 105mm focal length lens on a 6cm x 9cm image is roughly equivalent to a 42mm focal length lens on a standard 35mm image.”
“This camera comes with its original case and strap. The leather hand strap on the body of the camera has broken with age and can no longer be used for carrying the camera.”
From what we can find, the Rare Camera Store partnership is selling it for a relative steal. We’ve seen it go for over $9,000 on eBay. But Blue Moon Camera has it for $5,900. What’s more, it’s fully working. And that’s an insanely difficult price to beat.
About the Voigtlander Bessa II with the Rare 105mm f4.5 Lens
Because it’s a vertically folding camera, it’s ideal for portraiture. That’s what we’re sure lots of photographers will use it for. It can do landscapes, sure, but a lens like this belongs in a studio or a controlled lighting environment shooting portraits. (At least that’s what I think!) Despite that, we dove into Flickr to find images shot with the Bessa II with the 105mm f4.5. We found a stunning landscape photo shot on film, but we’re not sure which emulsion. Photographer Ian Booth shot it using Ilford FP4 film to great effect. In fact, most images there that were shot with the Voigtlander Bessa II are landscapes.
The folks at Camerapedia say that this is the most renowned of the Bessa cameras. They were made in the 1950s. The shutter speeds go up to 1/500th and slow down to bulb mode. The lens stops down to f22–which is still reasonably shallow for 6×9 format cameras. And, of course, they’re rangefinder cameras. The rangefinder in the Bessa II should still be reasonably bright for a camera of that time. Just make sure you don’t block any light from hitting the camera. It will need to soak in all that light to help you nail the focus. As you would with a Leica camera, you’ll have to line the image up in the frame. This too is something done on later Voigtlander Bessa 35mm rangefinder cameras.
According to CameraWest, the lens flares considerably. So that means that you’re most likely going to use a UV filter, maybe an improvised lens hood, and you’re going to control the light a lot. However, lens flare can be really cool if you work with it.