Friday, November 2, 2012

Bessa RF 6x9 Medium Format Camera - Pocket-sized Medium Format - A Review

I mentioned briefly in my last post about a new camera I just got, a Voigtlander Bessa RF 6x9 camera. This little gem is a beautiful camera made in Germany right after WWII. It features a 105mm lens (mine is a Skopar) with a fairly fast f/3.5 aperture and rangefinder focusing! I paid just $250 for this wonderful camera and I've really started to bond with it. I love rangefinders, and one that shoots pretty big sheets of film is even better.

The Bessa is a folder, and has self-erecting bellows. It fits comfortably in the side pockets of the cargo pants I often wear or even in my jeans pockets! That's pretty amazing for shooting such huge negatives. 6x9, though technically the same aspect ratio as 35mm (3:2), is really a different beast all together. It feels more like a panoramic camera. In fact, I believe the film area is closer to a 2:1 ratio. Anyway, it makes for a different "feel" to the images and what you end up capturing. It's especially nice for vertical portraits from the waist-up.

The downside is no parallax correction, a very small rangefinder window that's sometimes hard to see through, an even smaller peephole viewfinder, and of course no interchangeable lenses. But all of that is trifling compared to the images that can be made with it when used properly. My only real gripe is that the negatives have come out very dirty - likely the internals are dusty and could use a good cleaning. What do you expect from a camera that is almost 70 years old??

Here are a few images I've made with this camera. I've only shot a few rolls, one of which was the football game images from the last post. Anyway, I'm looking forward to a lot of use with the little guy!

I made this last one big because I'm pretty fond of it. It's of course my girlfriend Meagan, which you might know if you've been keeping tabs on my blog. Anyway, I had to get a photo of the bright pink/magenta sweater she was wearing in contrast to the white scarf. Now the great thing is this wonderful 3D bokeh, even with the lens set at f/8, and the beautiful highlights in the scarf that were retained even in direct, contrasty sunlight (the wonders of negative film!!!). The colors are simply wonderful, and surprisingly so since I was shooting old expired Fuji Superia 100 film and developed it myself! She thinks she looks silly but it's still a great shot in my opinion, and it'll be a cute photo that I'll always have the original negative of. What can be better?


  1. I love 6X9 Bryan. I have an Agfa Billy Record II but it is a zone focus camera - no range-finder. I printed out a neat little range-finder card you use by closing one eye and lining up the card edge with your subject, then closing that eye and opening the other to see where the line had moved - that gives you the focus distance. Works a lot better than just guessing. I also have a Graflex 2 1/4 X 3 1/4 that is a lot less portable but fun to shoot with.

  2. Neat, an ingenious solution to a problem.

    I hemmed and hawed for months before finally picking up a folder. I knew I wanted something with a rangefinder, just for ease of use and not having to shoot at f/16 every time. The Bessa is great, though I still wouldn't mind something a bit more modern (with, say, a real viewfinder rather than a peep-hole).

    This is my first 6x9 camera. It seems to be more panoramic though to me, compared to say a 135 negative, even though they are technically the same aspect ratio. Either way, it works, I just have to remember to work with that in mind! I do like the upper-body perspective of the camera quite a bit though for portraits.