The Travelling Bessa III project draws to an end.

Well it has been a long drawn out process, and the camera has crossed the country at least a dozen times and changed hands between 24 photographers in 6 states. Now it has finally arrived home to Mainlinephoto.

I wonder how many frequent flyer points it has clocked up

The Bessa has held up well with a few scuff marks and a other minor signs of wear. It has had a full service and is now ready to go up for the Lucky Draw to the particpants in the project. This will be done on Wednesday the 22nd of December and the Video of the draw will be posted here. The draw will be done by the Editor of Racetrack Magazine Andrew Speedy.

Good Luck to all and thank you for those were a part of the project

Travelling Bessa III report from Leigh Youdale…

The camera arrived well packed in it’s own little Pelican case from Mainline Photographics. Considering it has already been through the hands of the major part of the 20 or so participating photographers, each having it to use for two weeks, it’s in mint condition. It’s probably had more use in the last few months than I would give it in years, so it gets a tick from me for quality of finish and construction.

“Ellie” Leigh Youdale 2009

It feels heavy – substantial – in the hand but the impression is a bit misleading. It weighs in at 1049g with strap and battery but no film. By contrast my Rolleiflex f2.8 Planar weighs 1303g without film. Quite a difference but the Rolleiflex, appearing to be more compact, really doesn’t feel any different in weight when you pick it up unless you have one camera in each hand to compare. I guess 250g isn’t that much really.

I went out shooting with both the Rolleiflex and the Bessa III. Whereas on unpacking the Bessa I was a bit daunted by its apparent size, in use I found I quickly lost that impression and found it very easy to use. It hangs by its strap quite easily from the shoulder when closed, does not feel heavy, and is easily steadied whilst walking by slight arm pressure. The Rolleiflex, on the other hand sits rather heavily on the chest, bounces around a bit and pulls on the neck but otherwise is probably easier to carry in a ready-to-shoot state. (I prefer to carry the Rollei like this as it’s easier to use the viewfinder).

“Old school Bowral NSW” Leigh Youdale 2009

In Summary after two weeks with the Bessa III:

  1. The apparent size of the Bessa is not a problem. One quickly gets used to it. Compared to other 6×7 cameras it’s compact. However, it’s not a pocket camera and needs a bag of some kind – doesn’t need to be huge though.
  2. Loading and unloading is very straightforward and simple.
  3. For an MF camera it’s pretty much useable as a point-and-shoot using AE.
  4. The meter appears to be very capable even though it’s not TTL.
  5. Always carry a spare battery!
  6. Always wind on anti-clockwise!
  7. People are curious about the camera, so there’s no need to hide it.
  8. The f3.5 lens is not a drawback. With the longer focal length, the depth of field is pretty close to a f2.8/50mm lens on a 35mm camera anyway.
  9. The front element of the lens is not recessed to any extent and the use of a lens hood should be pretty much standard practice. Only problem carry it around open. (The hood also carries the filter if one is in use).
  10. I’m undecided about the usefulness of both 6×7 and 6×6 formats. I shot 6×7 on this camera and 6×6 on the Rolleiflex. I think the formats are a bit too similar, but then I’m used to square format. You can’t change format with film in the camera so it probably gets down to personal preference. Holding it in portrait (vertical) format with 6×7 wasn’t a problem but horizontal is easier for focusing.
  11. The shutter is vibrationless and almost noiseless. Remarkable!
  12. Turning the focus to infinity to close the camera quickly becomes automatic.

Coogee Beach Life Guards! Leigh Youdale 2009


The full set of prints of the duplicated Rollei vs Bessa comparison arrived yesterday and, after an earlier on-screen comparison of just one pair of scanned images, I was a little surprised. With both lots of negatives of identical subjects enlarged to the same print magnification (8×8 or 8×10) in all but one pair of frames I’d have to say the Bessa wins in terms of sharpness, rendition and overall appearance.

Not by much though. The Rollei shots look perfectly acceptable until you put them side by side with the Bessa equivalents. The differences are subtle but detectable to the eye without resorting to a magnifying glass. I doubt they’d show up on a computer screen but in the print the difference is definitely there.

In the one pair that looks better from the Rollei I have to qualify my impression because it’s clear from the shadows that the sun was partly obscured for the Rollei shot but obviously came out for the Bessa shot so the exposures are not exactly matching.

It’s not enough of a difference to make me immediately rush out and sell the Rolleiflex, but it’s enough to cause me to start thinking!

The Bessa III is not really a professional MF camera in the sense that it doesn’t have interchangeable lenses, and most professionals would want that facility. But it’s a great camera for the enthusiast.

It is a very competent modern reincarnation of the old Voigtlander 6×9 folders. It has one small disadvantage – the frame sizes are 6×6 and 6×7 where most would prefer to have 6×6 and 6×9 in a camera of this type and size, but it also has some significant advantages over its older siblings.

Some might argue that the lens could not possibly be quite as pin sharp as some other legendary MF lenses but my comparison tells me otherwise (bearing in mind the Rolleiflex is 50 years old!). Pixel peepers might want to disagree, but the final output, on the wall is what really counts. Comparisons on 72 dpi computer screens are hardly going to cut it.

It has a modern electronic shutter with +/- compensation, aperture priority or manual setting and a much better range of more accurate speeds.

It has a brilliant viewfinder and a coupled rangefinder that is just so easy to use.

It’s new.

As to the internet forum debate (dare I say whingeing?) about the price, I have to say that most of the negative comment came from people who didn’t have the money to buy such a camera in the first place but were somehow hoping it would cost under $1000 and so at least be in the realms of aspiration. Dream on!

Yes, you can buy second hand cameras with similar attributes for less than the Bessa costs. So if you like 50 year old second hand, shutters with limited speeds and doubtful accuracy that need manual cocking each shot, faded viewfinders like pinholes and (most) without any rangefinder at all, much less an integrated one and lenses that may or may not live up to their hype, I say go for it. It’s your dollar!

Or you can wait several years and hope that a few of the limited production run end up hitting EBay at a ridiculously low price. I don’t think so!

To sum up – If I didn’t already have a Rolleiflex I’d want a Bessa III. And maybe I want a Bessa anyway. The Rollei might soon change owners.

Leigh Youdale Camden 2009

The travelling Bessa III returns from Queensland.

Well the travelling Bessa III has been slowly winding it’s way around the country it seems most folks who use it don’t want to give it back!

Recent participant Geoff Hopkinson sent us the following report.

The travelling Bessa II finished her holiday in Brisbane a couple of weeks ago and then winged her way northwards for some more Queensland lifestyle time.
Bessy stayed with me for two weeks. She got along fine with the German residents here and in turn they liked her name. We went for long walks in the sunshine together before retiring poolside for margaritas. Bessy is still a little new to this Aussie lifestyle and so only had a bubbycino with sprinkles and extra froth. Perhaps she was still full from her long lunches of Astia, Portra, and Neopan.

I thought that I would type a few user impressions for those interested.

Fit, finish and handling:
Smooth matt black, dare I say the equal of the black chrome on my Leica M. Controls are smooth and have just the right feel for me. Absolutely nothing to complain about. Grey/black rubber like grip is functional and, well, grippy. With the lens and bellows extended I found the right side actually slightly cramped to hold. A good indication of how compact the package is though. Focus by tab and very familiar to a Leica M user. In fact, your left index finger reaches it comfortably while you are holding the camera left side. The finder is huge, bright and undistorted. Again the rangefinder might be straight from Solms. 6×6 and 6×7 frames easily visible in both portrait and landscape hold for me, as is the shutter speed display. Aperture priority or manual, what more do you want?

Home sweet home!

The nice folks at Horsham Colour processed my Colour neg for me and a roll of Neopan. Thank you Michael. I got back a pile of very generous sized proofs (8×10 paper!) as well as a CD of scans and my negs of course. Worth letting your processor know if you send a mixed set of 6×6 and 6×7 as I did.

The Bessa III is great for portraits

The detail is crisp and the image are smooth, exactly as you would expect from a high quality fixed lens on medium format film. Seems to me that this would be an awfully attractive minimalist landscape kit. I largely used it like an M7. An M on steroids!
It is possible to provoke flare if you try hard. I suspect that the accessory lens shade would make that a complete non-issue for any reasonable situation.

Some typical Queensland conditions

Out of interest I shot a roll of Neopan in an old 6×9 Voigtlander folder as well. That one went back into the bottom drawer. This camera I would happily take anywhere and be confident of the quality of the results. Now if I could only figure out where the SDHC card goes, I’m good to go.

Thank You Scott . I want one!

Travelling Bessa III returns from it’s first tour

Phil Ramsden has just returned the Bessa III to us after spending a delightful 2 weeks wandering the Northern Beaches and city of Sydney in search of scenes to photograph.

Bessa travels 1

Phil checks out a scene accompanied by his faithful pal Vegemite.

The Adventures of the Travelling Bessa III

My it’s a long way from Tokyo to Sydney but I made it and was delivered to Scott at Mainline. He is a lovely boy and the Store Manager, Rufus is so kind.

They gave me to an old codger named Phil who said he uses film and like a wannabe he started fiddling with me without reading the instructions.
Fortunately I am easy to understand and use and we managed to ingest a roll of Foma ISO 100 easily enough.

Then it was off to Balmoral to see the sights. Phil brought his dog Vegemite, a black Lab who was very interested in everything, she probably thought I was food. It is certainly different to Tokyo. All this sunshine and so warm and it is supposed to be winter. We passed an Asian family taking “images” with one of these new fangled digital things, they giggled when they saw Phil with me. At least I make proper pictures.
Next trip was over to Bondi. Funny place, full of backpackers. The sun was behind the clouds this time but great for beach pictures, Lots of surfers on boards awaiting the perfect wave.

Phil took me around to show me to his friends, he seems to know a lot of proper photographers who use film.
I was greatly admired. Makes me feel good to know people like me.
Thanks  Cosina & Mr Kubiashi.

The Travelling Bessa III is on it’s way!

Our Travelling Bessa III has arrived and is now with it’s first participant.

Travelling Bessa III

A happy Phil Ramsden picks up the camera!  While Rufus continues snoring…

Our first delivery has sold out!  in fact we did not even get the quantity we ordered. Cosina are short of production  time and only produced 100 in this run.  No doubt more will follow down the track. Anyway we ripped open the outer shipping boxes and went straight for the camera… well it  is beautiful and smaller than expected with a crystal clear viewfinder that leaves the Maymia 7 II we have to for dead!

Bessa III

Straight out of the box.

We are very impressed to say the least. We have kept one as a demo unit in our showroom and # 250 is now the offiical Travelling Bessa.

Bessa III B

Which begs the question if the numbers are already in the 200 plus what happened to the other 100! Must have been for staff purchases it seems?


Give me a Bessa and some chocolates….

The Traveling Bessa III Australia project. Get to use one for 14 days!

Here at Mainlinephoto we know that many of our customers would love to own a Bessa III, but just cannot afford one. The price just blew out due to circumstances beyond our control.

So in order to give everyone a fair chance to at least use one and have some fun. We have instigated the Traveling Bessa III project where you can for a token amount rent our Traveling Bessa III for 14 days.


The Traveling Bessa III. Set to tour Australia!

Now ok… I hear you say… but Scott what is the cost?

The cost is $95.00 for 14 days use of the Bessa III this includes 2 rolls of 120 Foma B & W film. Of course a deposit is required and if you are not able to return the camera to us then you must pay for the registered and insured post onto the next person in the list.

That’s it! It’s called the Travelling Bessa III.

To register your interest and get the details contact me . This project will run for 12 months and we will post continuous updates on the cameras adventures as it travels around the country. At the end of the 12 months the actual project camera will be offered to those who participated on a private tender basis. Sorry only open to Australian residents and participants are subject to approval. There are approx 20-24 spots so be quick. First cameras are due in late May/ early June.

Horsham colour Pro lab is now on board as an official partner and will be offering free scanning of participants film which we will be able to create a web gallery of the Travelling Bessa III images and a limited edition photo book of the best images.


All places have been filled and the camera has now begun it’s tour of duty.