I recently got a 1929 Voitgtlander Bessa. It is in great shape, with almost no use marks or rust. Amazing for a 85 year-old camera. It has only three indicated f-stops, 7.7, 11 and 22, but looking through the lens while using ‘B’ it seems in between settings are possible as well. It has a Anastigmat Voigtar lens (at least I think that is the lens name), again with only three indicated focusing options, Portraits, Groups, Landscapes. There are indicated distance measurements and I believe they are in feet 5-8, 10-20, 25-infinity. There are three shutter speeds, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 with ‘B’ and ‘T’. On my example T doesn’t really work any different than B. On my large formats, generally T works where you fire the shutter and it stays open till you fire the shutter again.
There is a ‘brilliant finder’ for composing your shot and it switches from portrait to landscape easily. In bright sun I found I had to shade the finder a fair amount in order to get a good setup. It uses 120 film and shoots in 6×9, so you get 8 shots per roll. At least it is supposed to shoot in 6×9, the actual exposed area seemed more like 6×10 (3×5), though even a little larger than that. I decided to try a roll of Fuji Neopan Acros 100 for the first roll. As usually I took some shots around my house as well as taking a short walk up the road to take some photos of a 1700s house, The Champion House, once owned by a prominent family of the area including Henry Champion, an officer in the Revolutionary War.
My impressions of shooting it are how extremely simple everything is. Because it was a sunny, Spring day, about my only option was f22 and either 1/25 or 1/50. Then I just sort of guesstimated at distance for focusing. I’m guessing with the stopped down aperture, almost anything would work. Advancing the shot just meant a few quick turns of the large ring knob, and watch for the next number in the red window on the back. With the little leg for portrait shots, it was easy to set on a stable surface and take a shot. The shutter has either a small arm to fire or a remote release. Unlike large formats I have from before and after this era, you don’t need to cock the shutter first. There is also a way to use an remote shutter release, the old cable kind, which screws in and the same one I use on my 60s-80s era SLRs worked fine.
I took the negatives out of the developing tank and noticed a rather obvious light leak coming from the upper right of the camera. At least I believe it is a light leak–it does sort of end at the edge of the exposed frames. I am wondering if it is from where the bellows attaches to the camera body. I’ll have to investigate some with a flashlight and darkened room. Still for an 85 year-old camera it took pretty good shots. I did not have to adjust the level much (just widened out the curve, really) and other than the Champion House shot needing some straightening because of my own ham-fistedness, all the shots were decent. A few had more light leak issues than others so I didn’t bother scanning them.