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

New Fuji wide angle medium format camera the GF670W. Will there be a Bessa III WIDE?

Well we are now getting the 2010 Photokina releases coming out. Though this one is a little unexpected I must admit. A wide angle 667 camera from Fuji.  It begs the question will we see a Voigtlander 667 wide shortly.

Looks like we have a fixie here with a 55mm lens.

This is very interesting as I really thought the Bessa III aka Fuji GF670 would be the last of the great film cameras to be made at least in Medium format.

The Bessa III has been a huge success with  Cosina now almost sold out. Of course many where not interested in the Bessa III with a standard focal length lens, so maybe this is the logical next step. Either way Fuji nor Cosina are not in the habit of producing products that do not sell. No price has been set.

Well guess what…

Bessa III Images of Sicily by Carla Drago.

Film director and photographer Carla Drago is currently working on a project in Sicily. She has sent us this postcard.

Carla Writes:

Thought you might like seeing some of the photos I took as part of my project in Sicily earlier in the year. It’s taken a while for me to process, scan, post process, and compile into a web album, but here they are.

Sicillian Smiles ( Carla Drago collection 2010)

I shot with Fuji Neopan 400, possibly not the best choice of film for the bright Sicilian sun, but I think the camera held up okay. I scanned the negs myself, using a Canon 8800F scanner and Vuescan software, and then did a bit of minimal post processing in PS5. There’s no cropping, just level and exposure adjustments. I’ve included almost all the images I shot. They’re not all keepers but thought it would be instructive to anyone interested in seeing how the camera performs. Take a look at the online album here at www.carladrago.com

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

Conclusions:

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!

Results:
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!

Bessa III review by Ed Dale

Mainline Customer and recent Bessa III purchaser is so delighted with his camera that he has sent through this personal hands on review.

Ed writes:

Is this camera worth the expense?. Does it take a good photo? Does it work? Does it make sense?

The Short Review – This camera is superb.

But I suspect you might want a few more details…

Out of the box…

Typical spartan rangefinder packaging with a decent manual. The first thing I notice is how light it feels. Sitting to the left of me I have a Leica M7 with the 50mm 1.4 lens. It’s heavier than the Bessa III.

Loading film is a breeze and the workmanship on the camera is excellent – It feels really solid. Selecting 6×6 or 6×7 is simple and the flexibility of 120 or 220 is nice.

Bessa 3 D

Straight up real world focus test… very nice.

I travel a lot and I’ll have no hesitation taking the Bessa with me.

I’m a tad obsessed by quality of picture v weight of equipment.

The Bessa gives me the chance to get awesome medium format quality – with point and shoot convenience.

But does the Lens stand up? Does the camera take a photo worthy of the format…

Before we talk photo quality. Let’s talk about the viewfinder. As any rangefinder enthusiast knows – if the viewfinder is awful the camera will be to!

To cut to the chase – This is the best viewfinder I have had the pleasure to look through on a Rangefinder and I have looked through them all.

I have a Zeiss Ikon – which is a great camera, the viewfinder is bright, it’s easy to focus BUT the shutter speed readout is colored blue and can be really hard to see. I was really worried the Bessa III would have this same issue.

Bessa 3 C

Accurate colours… easy focusing…

It doesn’t – it uses the same system as the Ikon BUT the shutter speed scale is on the left hand side of the viewfinder, it’s a BRIGHT red and in a weekend of shooting wearing glasses was easily readable.

The folding mechanism is really solid and well constructed and if you open it as described in the manual you can be ready to shoot in a second or two.

There has been some commentary on the web that when folding the Bessa back in you need to set the focus ring to infinity. This is true and becomes instinctive with about 10 minutes of use.

I have to say I’m not much of a specs man so I was eager to get out in the field and try it.

Melbourne delivered an overcast first weekend. And as a father of three girls under seven was going to have my work cut out for me!

I was really worried about two things with this camera.

First, was the folding mechanism dodgy and would it cause focus shift.

My second issue was would the 80mm 3.5 lens would lack character and resolving power and with a wide open Aperture of 3.5 would not be fast enough for those street/all-rounder situations that you find yourself in if you carry the camera with you everywhere.

Bessa 3 A

Stunning bokeh… taken at f3.5

If your after a lot of focus cards and measurements the rest of the review will disappoint. If your after a real world pressure test – then read on.

The Challenge I set myself with was this.

Trust the meter – was it any good, how did it cope with tricky lighting.

Handheld – No tripod allowed. Did I mention it was a very grey weekend. For me, the whole point of this camera is to get exquisite medium format quality without the whole tripod and lighting set-up experience. Could I handhold this sucker and get a decent shot…

The final rule was to abuse the rangefinder – I took this camera to subjects and situations where Rangefinders fear to tread – An indoor children’s party, taking shots of children at the playground. If this is going to be a bring everywhere camera – let’s give it the worst possible rangefinder subjects!

So how did we go.

The first time I operated the shutter mechanism I was floored. They have out Leica’d Leica. It’s the quietest and most importantly for handholding, softest shutter I have ever heard/felt on a camera.

Period.

In fact, when your anywhere with even a modicum of noise – your going to have to trust you have taken the shot – you will not hear it or feel it.

The Curious disengaging camera…

Children of photographers can become relatively unwilling subjects…

When I pulled out the Bessa and unfolded it for the first time – the kids loved it and where happy to pose for the “Transformer” camera.

Three weeks later it still has that effect. When I was taking photos in the street, the folder is completely disarming.

For the type of work I do – this is a godsend. In this Facebook age, a quaint folding camera sparks curiosity and intrigue, not fear.

This was brilliant.

Bessa 3 B

Ed I have to say this is a really great shot!!! … Scott

I shot Ilford 3200 Black and White (I was terrified of slow shutter speeds indoors with the 3.5 lens) and I used Ektar 100 for the color

shots)

So i spent the weekend pointing the camera at bright objects, low light, Make shift focus tests. You tend to get a gut feel with a camera for how low you can go with shutter speed. I was trying 1/4, 1/8, 1/2! The gorgeous shutter mechanism was giving me a confidence to attempt shots I would not dream of normally.

The experience of having it in my little Crumpler bag with me at all times and use the Bessa III as a, dare I say it, a medium format point and shoot was a dream.

Changing film was very quick and fiddle free, the winding mechanism is excellent, all very straight forward.

But how would the pictures look….

I got everything back from the lab… and I flicked through the proofs I was thrilled.

Everything I focused on was in focus, the lens had a real sharpness at

3.5 and the bokeh/character was everything I would expect of a medium format camera.

I used to haul round a Hasselblad 503cx with an 80mm lens. That’s going on ebay.

I have put up my favorite/useful images are here on my Flickr Bessa III gallery

I have added commentary on what I was trying to test.

There was no processing or cropping at all (which is a shame because some of the composition is embarrassing!)

You might get the feeling that I’m pretty chuffed with the Bessa III and you would be right. The best camera is the one you have with you and the ability to have the Bessa III around all the time to capture a decisive moment in Medium Format is exciting.

Negatives – you can’t change the lens and I would not mind that extra half a stop But as i said, the Rolls Royce shutter mechanism MORE than makes up for this.

Price – there has been much debate about the price of this camera and I have to say a lot of it makes me raise an eyebrow. This a brand new medium format folder with Aperture Priority and lock, Modern centre- weighted metering, top line construction (and trust me I’m up there in the Leica snob category), excellent lens and the BEST shutter mechanism I have ever encountered.

Comparing this to a vintage folder in my view is crazy, A Hasselblad 503cx with and 80mm 2.8 lens, film back, and PME45 for metering and a shutter that kicks like Bruce Lee will set you back WAY more. A LeicaM7 and a new 50mm lens again – way more expensive.

The Mamiya m7 and 80mm lens is probably the best comparison. It’s a great camera but it’s not a camera that you take everywhere. It’s heavier and the shutter mechanism is not going to allow the handholding that the Bessa III allows. You can pick up a Mamiya 7 for less than the Bessa and if you do a lot of tripod work might be fine for you.

For me the Bessa is exactly what I was looking for. Having a medium format camera with you for that once in a lifetime sunset is worth every penny.

Ed Dale is an acomplished Amateur Photographer who’s day job is teaching people around the planet about Internet Marketing at www.thirtydaychallenge.com

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.