Friday, July 5, 2013

Bessa R2S Review Part 1 - Nikon S-mount rangefinder with meter!

Finally got my hands on a Bessa R2S. I've been looking for one for about a year at a good price. Lots of eBay sellers are trying to scalp them, as they were a very limited production (about 1000 units for the Nikon Historical Society, with included 50mm f/3.5 Heliar lens). For reference to my readers - I got the camera and Heliar for $650.

I love the camera. I've read a lot of bad reviews of the Bessa series feeling cheap and chintzy. Well, the Bessa IS for sure light and plasticky, compared to my Nikon SP. But that's both a plus and minus - it's a joy to carry around for a long period of time, unlike the brick of a camera Nikon. However, I wouldn't want to drop it!

I took the camera out to Reed Bingham on a dark and overcast day, with rain on the horizon. I shot some good ol' Provia 100F, as a stress-test for the meter. I rated it right at 100, and did no other spot-checking using my other meters. The meter proved to be consistent - it seems to default to slightly underexposed. To be fair, several of these were tough situations, like really dark paths with bright spots coming through the trees. That said, I will probably default to slight overexposure, especially if I were to shoot negatives.

Handling is nice. The framelines selector is easier to switch than the Nikon one, but the caveat is there are much less options on the Bessa. The Nikon's viewfinder is a 1:1 frame with the 50mm framelines. I greatly prefer this to the 0.7x viewfinder that the Bessa has, designed for the 35mm frameline. On the other hand, it will be a nice bright viewfinder with parallax correction, unlike the secondary view on the Nikon SP (or, on the other Nikon rangefinders, no 35mm framelines at all!). There is also no 105mm or 135mm framelines, and Voigtlander mentions the RF isn't good enough to use with long lenses (!). The rangefinder patch is bright and contrasty, more-so than my SP, but for some odd reason dims to almost nothing at the far ranges of focus. I assume that is to deter using it for close-focusing, considering the rangefinder calibration. So, big plus for the Nikon if  you want to use a big set of lenses.

Film loading, winding action, and shutter release all feel good. I would highly recommend the camera to those using the S-mount system. There is certainly no other option for using S-mount lenses and having a built-in meter! While spot-metering everything is great, it certainly can be limiting. To me, this camera is for small and light one or two lens shooting. An extra meter is just more gear to carry, and then I might as well shoot medium format.

That's it for images. To sum up - it's a great camera! As an aside, the 50mm Heliar is a FANTASTIC lens. Sharp, contrasty, and excellent out-of-focus area! It's just slow, which may be an issue depending on usage. I used a tripod for most of these photos, by the way, which is kind of defeating the purpose, but I just wanted to shoot and it was too dark even for 400 speed film in the woods that day. Oh, and as for lenses, on this day I used my 21mm f/4 CV, 35mm f/1.8 Nikkor, 50mm Heliar, or 85mm f/2 Nikkor lenses.

Part 2 coming soon, as I shot 4 (!) rolls yesterday in late afternoon light down at Big Talbot State Park with this camera, so stay tuned.

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