Bessa III Review Part 3

This final installment of the Bessa III review will focus on its unique bellows and Heliar lens. Some sample images from the camera will also be included as requested.

Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the camera is its collapsible bellows. But unlike a large format camera, the Bessa III bellows only allow the camera to be more compact and does not enable any tilt shift effects. (An interesting experiment would be to unhinge and shoot the lens in a non-perpendicular position to the film plane.) With the bellows collapsed the camera can fit in any large coat pocket or side pocket of your bag for easy access. It is very secure so no worries about it opening or closing accidentally.

Both the aperture dial and focus ring on the lens turn smoothly. The focus tab is comfortable to use even for large sized thumbs. The aperture ring is notched so that it’s easy to locate and turn. The numbers on the aperture dial are large enough to be seen through the viewfinder. This enables the shooter to keep their eye on the subject without removing it from the viewfinder to check aperture and shutter settings. And with a viewfinder magnification of only 0.7x it is close enough to 1:1 to keep both eyes open without much disorientation.

As for the lens, I must admit I have some mixed feelings about it. In optimal lighting conditions the optics yield wonderful results. With the correct focus setting the images are very sharp and crisp. However, in poor lighting conditions the contrast is quite low but nothing that can’t be fixed with some post processing. From this table you can see that the Bessa III’s 80mm Heliar lens is equivalent to a lens somewhere between 35 and 50mm on a 35mm camera. As mentioned previously it does feel a lot wider compared to its 35mm format counterpart. Overall the performance of the lens will allow you to take a wide variety of shots day and night, handheld and with a tripod.

Sample Images from the Bessa III with Heliar 80mm F3.5 Lens

High contrast handheld outdoor day shot with Bessa III

Low contrast handheld indoor shot with Bessa III

For all the Bessa III related post including photos taken with the camera please click here.

7 thoughts on “Bessa III Review Part 3

  1. Pingback: Bessa III Review Part 1 | Adventures in Photography

  2. Pingback: Bessa III Review Part 2 | Adventures in Photography

  3. Thank you very much for your great review from the practical side. I still own a Bessa II from the original Voigtländer from the 50s which is like new, operating perfectly. I took many pictures in print and slides with the Skopar lens. For me they look, after pro scanning, just perfect. Is it worth considering the Bessa III? I do not need gimmicks because I got used to full manual operation. With the Bessa III I do not see “breaktroughs”. Thanks for you feedback.

    • You probably don’t need to consider the new Bessa III since your old one is working perfectly. Unless you would like the Aperture Priority mode which I don’t think the Bessa II has?

      • Thanks for the great advice. The old B. has no A priority mode. I got used to select the A/S combinations; or using the light meter in my Samsung Note. The old one has 6×9 which I prefer for landscape work over the 6×7 or 6×6. The camera just fits into my walking outfit nicely, freeing me from the heavy DSLR pro gear.

      • That will work. From what I can see on the web the lens from the Bessa II renders images very nicely. Which light meter app do you use on your Note?

  4. I had so many meter apps tried. Kept the Photo Tools. You can also exposure by experience, mostly works. And negative film is forgiving. Slides delicate, avoid them because of poor dynamic range (then you can take digital past generation cameras, anyway). But large format negatives scanned breath well … filling the eye; not DxO, PS or else. But, thanks for your great advice to my old Bessa. Saved USD 2’000 or so. Will buy the new Canon FF from these “opportunity” savings. Have so many classic lenses to adapt.

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