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Thread: Bessa III w

  1. #1
    Senior Member johnnygoesdigital's Avatar
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    Bessa III w

    This looks to be a great camera for hiking in lightly. Does anyone have experience with it, to share any pro/cons? I'm curious about lens quality.
    Last edited by johnnygoesdigital; 8th December 2012 at 19:59.

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    Re: Bessa III w

    Lots on the web. Disadvantages are related to it being a bellows camera, but advantages are that it is a superb lens, and exceptionally quiet shutter.

    I wish it were less expensive and available in 6x9cm.

    Try the Fuji version (GF670 W) for a lower price than the Bessa III W.

    I opted not to get one, after doing a ton of internet research, and landed on a Rolleiwide instead.

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    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Re: Bessa III w

    The "W" is not a bellows camera. I don't know anybody who has it, but the "non-W" is spectacular in every way (and is collapsible with bellows). Very high on my shopping list. Both the "W" and the "non-W" can be found on the used market, but the "W" is considerably more expensive, around $1,000 more.

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    Senior Member johnnygoesdigital's Avatar
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    Re: Bessa III w

    Yes, that's correct, not a bellows camera. The fuji version is apparently identical allowing 6x6 and 6x7. The compact size is perfect for remote areas. I own a Fotoman 612, but this size would allow a few extra shots per roll and besides...I love rangefinders!

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    Re: Bessa III w

    I used to own one. The lens is spectacular and is equal to those on the Fuji GSW690iii or Mamiya 7ii 43mm. The only reason I sold it was because I managed to find a Plaubel Proshift 69W which, of course, has a wider lens plus shift capabilities. I miss the Proshift not having a meter as the one on the 667W was very accurate.

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    Re: Bessa III w

    I have the Voigtländer Bessa III, not the w version. It is indeed a folding bellows camera, and a brilliant one at that. Superb lens, good meter, and the whole thing feels very solid and beautifully engineered. The Bessa IIIw is not a bellows camera and likely has similar qualities.

    On the size ... well, the Bessa III is compact when folded for a 6x6/6x7cm format camera with an 80mm lens, but it's a lot bigger then my classic Voigtländer Perkeo II or Balda Baldix 6x6 folders. I wish it were a bit closer to the old folders in size. The IIIw is a bit larger since it doesn't fold (the lens protrudes).

    (My understanding is that Mr. Kobayoshi of Cosina had the idea for a modern 6x6/6x7 folder and went to Fuji to help develop it into a product. Both the Voigtländer Bessa III(IIIw) and Fuji GF667(667w) models are manufactured by Fuji, with different finish and branding touches, otherwise they are mechanically and functionally identical.)

  7. #7
    Angusparker
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    Re: Bessa III w

    I've got both the standard and wide versions (the standard in Fuji branding and the wide in Bessa branding). Previously I was using the Fuji GW690iii and GSW690iii which remain the best practical alternatives if you want to save money and don't mind the lack of a built in meter. The standard version (GF670) gets most of my use since I find the field of view from the 80mm is what I natural tend to gravitate towards. But the wide version (Bessa iii w) comes out of the hiking bag every so often when needed.

    The mechanics of both cameras are essentially the same except for the on/off switch on the wide camera which is absent on the standard camera as that camera turns on when the bellows are opened. They are simple and fairly rugged. Both are quite a bit smaller than their Fuji Texas Leica counterparts and I think the lenses are every bit as good. Their only downside is the smaller neg at 6x7 (or 6x6) versus 6x9 - but I'm happy to make the trade off for the convenience of the very accurate built in meter and easier operation using aperture priority and +/- stops.

    Otherwise, filters remain a bit of an issue. On the standard bellows version - basically you need to buy a separate hood for each filter you intend to carry around and at $60-80 / hood that is pricey plus the 40.5mm filter size is not very common. I don't think polarizing or split ND filters make much sense on a rangefinder - so this mainly affects B&W photographers. Trying to use a LEE-style filter system is impossible because of how the "cap" sticks out when the bellows are open - I've tried!

    The wide version has a 58mm filter that will take just about anything - screw in, Lee style etc. Some people are saying the lens vignettes with standard filters - I think that might be more to do with wide open apertures - at the moment I don't have enough experience with my camera to say one way or the other. Most of the time I'm shooting f8 and smaller anyway. To be honest the Fuji GW690/GSW690 aren't very easy to use with filters because of the built in hood and take 67mm - so it's a bit of a wash.

    So If I had to give any advice for hiking types who want to use MF - I would say absolutely buy the standard version of this camera. It's fantastic, fairly rugged, and easy to use with a slightly wider than standard lens - perfect for most situations. A second hand one can be had for around $1300-1400 on Ebay or KEH.com. As for the wide version I would think long and hard about it. Given the extra cost and weight you could start buying an interchangeable lens MF camera like the Mamiya 6 or 7 - neither of which I have owned. Perhaps the best combination for the budget conscious would be the GF670 and the GSW690iii - that way you also get the 6x9 for your super-wide shots.
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    Senior Member biglouis's Avatar
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    Re: Bessa III w

    Angus

    Thanks for the update. I am close to pressing the buttow on a the Fuji GF670w - the Fuji version of the Bessa IIIw.

    I was using a GSW690III which has the best lens on any camera I have ever owned, period. But the b*st*rd size and weight of the camera damn near destroyed my back. And the ergonomics are awful, imho. My wife called it my 'Lego' camera which just about says it all. I sold it and have toyed almost immediately with buying another but now I'm thinking seriously about the Bessa/Fuji wide.

    Have you any samples of the results from the 'w'? I'd be very interested in seeing them. I am not a fan of the 80mm focal length on 6x6 although I appreciate it is slightly wide (40mm equiv fov??? on 6x7). A lot of people swear by the Fuji/Bessa 6x6 folder but I'm concerned that as I don't use my Hasselblad 80mm much I'll quickly exhaust my interest in the Fuji GF670 and in fact still pine for a wide-angled MF which is more 'portable' than my Hass and the 50/4 (which weighs in at nearly 2 Kilos).

    Anyway thanks for your thoughts (and in advance if you have some Bessa IIIw samples).

    LouisB

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    Re: Bessa III w

    With the Bessa III, I solved my filter problem exactly that way: I have two hoods, and pre-fit them with 40.5mm Green and Orange filters (the only two I use). That gives me three filter options that go on and off the camera quickly.

    Luckily, these are the same filters I need for the M-Rokkor 40/2 and 90/4 lenses I use with the Leica CL and other Ms, so I at least get multiple camera use out of them. :-)

    For a wide 6x6 (I'm only interested in 6x6 format shooting) as you might have seen elsewhere I decided to acquire one of my old favorites, the Hasselblad SWC. This has advantages in that the Biogon 38 is a known terrific performer and you can do precision focusing and framing down to 12" with it using the ground glass back. Of course, the SWC lens hood and filters are similarly over the top price-wise, but such it is...

    Now that I've got all this neat equipment, the real challenge is finding time to get out and use it. :-\

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    Senior Member biglouis's Avatar
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    Re: Bessa III w

    Quote Originally Posted by Godfrey View Post
    For a wide 6x6 (I'm only interested in 6x6 format shooting) as you might have seen elsewhere I decided to acquire one of my old favorites, the Hasselblad SWC. This has advantages in that the Biogon 38 is a known terrific performer and you can do precision focusing and framing down to 12" with it using the ground glass back. Of course, the SWC lens hood and filters are similarly over the top price-wise, but such it is...

    Now that I've got all this neat equipment, the real challenge is finding time to get out and use it. :-\
    Godfrey, I totally agree with you about the SWC. It is my favourite camera.

    My favourite Hass lens is my 50/4 but mounted on my 500CM that weighs in at 1.9Kg. I believe the Bess IIIw weighs in at 1100g and the form factor is a lot easier to transport.

    The question is whether I should just shoot with the SWC and crop - although I'd prefer to use a rangefinder and be able to focus precisely.

    LouisB

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    Re: Bessa III w

    Quote Originally Posted by biglouis View Post
    Godfrey, I totally agree with you about the SWC. It is my favourite camera.

    My favourite Hass lens is my 50/4 but mounted on my 500CM that weighs in at 1.9Kg. I believe the Bess IIIw weighs in at 1100g and the form factor is a lot easier to transport.

    The question is whether I should just shoot with the SWC and crop - although I'd prefer to use a rangefinder and be able to focus precisely.
    That Distagon 50 is kind of a blunderbuss, yes? Very cool lens. But it's a bulky thing, particularly when you fit the boxy 500CM behind it.

    The SWC is not quite as easy to carry about as the Bessa III or IIIw, but it's a "which bulk do you prefer" sort of thing. I've not yet put the Bessa III on a tripod, where I tend to use the SWC on a tripod a lot. On the other hand, the SWC's huge DoF makes it easy to scale focus, particularly if you stop it down to f/8-f/11, where the longer lens on the Bessa III really needs the RF focusing.

    Life is full of these choices ... :-)

    Hopefully, I'll feel well enough tomorrow (I've had a cold all week and felt dreckky) to load up the SWC (or the Bessa III) and go out for a little shooting session.

    Godfrey
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    Senior Member biglouis's Avatar
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    Re: Bessa III w

    Well, I finally cracked and ordered a Fuji GF670w (Bessa IIIw) today, so I guess I will know fairly shortly whether or not it was a good decision!

    LouisB

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    Re: Bessa III w

    Quote Originally Posted by biglouis View Post
    Well, I finally cracked and ordered a Fuji GF670w (Bessa IIIw) today, so I guess I will know fairly shortly whether or not it was a good decision!

    LouisB
    Cool. I'll look forward to hearing what you think of it.

    Still feel drekky, haven't taken out the SWC yet. I have to be in the right frame of mind to work with ultrawide on 6x6 format..

    Good thing about feeling drekky is that I tend to stay at home and not spend money. I'll have the cash for that Nikon Coolscan 9000 right soon if this keeps up. ;-)

    G
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    Senior Member biglouis's Avatar
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    Re: Bessa III w

    Ok, well I finally got the Fuji GF670w.

    A very handsome beast in the hand. Reminiscent of the GSW690 but oh so much lighter. Almost featherweight in comparison. And despite how it may appear it is not so much bigger than a M7 and actually once you add a 35mm lens to a M7 maybe not even that much heavier.

    Finish is much better than I expected. I would say it is easily as good as my long departed chrome Leica MP. Ergonomics are good. Aperture ring is positive, focussing is buttery smooth. Only weirdness is the focussing is clockwise and not counterclockwise - to my mind 'counter' intuitive. I think this is the same with the GF670?

    Metering is a very nice addition - I don't have this on my Hasselblads and have never had it on any MF camera I have owned (unlike my MP and M7).

    Viewfinder is nothing short of spectacular. It is like looking through a Leica viewfinder on steroids. I can't put my finger on what it is but the field of view just looks enormous and it is super clear. And the rangfinder patch is also excellent, clear and bright, better than any Leica I have owned up to an including my M8.

    The shutter release has positive and negative points. Positively, it is super, super quiet. In fact it is so quiet I am not sure it is not a negative point. Also, like every rangefinder I have owned, with the exception of the GSW690, the shutter release is not raised enough so you have to press down too hard and possibly introduce shake.

    Just like every Leica I have owned the GF670w will benefit from using a softie (although that is a pain because then you have to remove - probably lose the softie each time you want to use a cable release).

    I've not got through my first film yet but if the results match the build quality and delightful use of the camera then I will be very happy.

    LouisB
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    Re: Bessa III w

    Your impressions match mine with the standard Bessa III. Very nice cameras. Enjoy it!

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