As week 53 marks the beginning of a new year, I’ve decided to return to my roots.
Introduced in 1959, the Bessamatic was Voigtlander’s answer to the Zeiss Ikon Contaflex and the Kodak Retina Reflex.The Deluxe version debuted in 1962. It is a heavy, leaf-shutter SLR with interchangeable lenses and a Selenium match needle meter. Aperture and shutter speed are mechanically linked; once an exposure is set, changing one value will automatically adjust the other accordingly. Speed and aperture are both adjusted on the lens barrel, and a periscope above the light meter cell makes them both visible in the viewfinder window. An ingenious system of tabs on the lens barrel moves to indicate depth of field as the aperture is adjusted.
I have a long history with this camera, as it was (and still technically is) my father’s. Dad was drafted by Uncle Sam and sent to Germany in the early 1960’s. While there, he bought a full Voigtlander camera outfit and set about to document his travels. Throughout his time overseas, he periodically shipped slides home to Mom and the rest of his family.
Growing up, the Bessamatic was the Big Camera in the family. It came out for family portraits and special occasions. Later Dad entrusted it to me for a high school photography class, and it is now the core of my camera collection. Although the 50 year old leather case is showing its age, the 35, 50, and 135mm lenses and original Vivitar flash are still going strong.
Kodachrome may be long gone, but in honor of it’s history I’ve loaded a roll of Fujichrome Velvia 50 for the week.
Mike Butkus has the manual, of course.
eBay has them, but prices and condition vary. It’s a mechanically complex camera, so buyer beware.