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

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). There is no coupled rangefinder, however, and no metering capability, and film advance is by the good old/bad old knob and red-window. The nice thing is that it takes 120 film, which can still be purchased new.

Mine's in storage so I don't know which variant I have—probably the Voigtar/Prontor combo. 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.

Camera manual: Orphan Cameras.com

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