James's Camera Collection: Voigtländer Bessa

Voigtländer Bessa West Germany Other Voigtlander Cameras Folding cameras
Voigtlander Bessa
Film type: Roll film size 120 (2 ¼ x 3 ¼ inches)
Approx. dates of manufacture: 1931 – 1949
Approx. original price: unknown
Approx. street value: $10.00

Pronounce voigt like phot in photo, and add lander.

Folders were extremely popular cameras for a long time. Box cameras were cheap and simple, but folders were more compact, could be focused, could be coupled with rangefinders, usually had better lenses and shutters, and in short were the next step up—particularly for the mass market. Almost every major manufacturer made folding cameras of one type or another.

Never one to be left behind in these things, Voigtländer offered the Bessa, a nice folding camera. It came with various lens and shutter combinations, from pretty good (Voigtar lens in a Prontor shutter) to excellent (a Color Skopar lens in a Compur Rapid shutter). I've got the Anastigmat Voigtar in a Compur shutter, so I assume mine is mid-tier. There is no coupled rangefinder, however, and no metering capability, and film advance is by the good old/bad old knob and red window.

Nice things: it takes 120 film, which can still be purchased new. The ruby window on the back (actually two of them) has a slide that covers them to reduce the chance of fogging the film. And it's self-erecting (write your own joke), which means the front standard pops into place when you open the front door; you don't have to reach in, pull it out and click it into place.

I think I bought it for a $10 or $20 from a friend who had it and didn't have any use for it. Some Voigtländer cameras are very, very valuable, like the Superb; some are affordable but excellent, like the Vito B, but some are like this one: inexpensive and mainly just a piece of collectable art.

I just looked at this and realized it still has a roll of film in it, exposure 1. It's likely fogged because God knows when I loaded it, but hey, I guess I'll have to try it out.

Camera manual: Orphan Cameras.com

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