Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Boneyard - Part 2 of my Bessa R2S review

Meagan and I spent the better part of July 4th at "The Boneyard," the beach full of driftwood at Big Talbot State Park in Florida. In the morning I shot some 4x5, but in the evening I shot my new Bessa R2S rangefinder. I ended up shooting quite a bit in a short period of time - 4 rolls actually. The light changed while we were out in the late afternoon and for about 15-30 minutes it was really quite nice.

The best shots so far were from a roll of T-Max 100 I exposed at an ASA of 64 and developed in Rodinal 1:50 for 8:30. Despite not being large-format, the 35mm negatives really captured the texture of the sand superbly. The meter was really spot-on for pretty much the entire roll, but like I mentioned in Part 1 I erred a bit on over-exposure if anything.

One of the things I continued to notice was that the camera is definitely light. I had only the camera and 35/1.8, 50/1.4, and 85/2 Nikkor lenses, and some film of course, and I was extremely free to hike for quite a bit and not feel encumbered with a heavy backpack or even a light pack. One lens in each side pocket of my cargo pants and I was off! It was nice to note that despite the old design and compromises of a super-speed lens, the 50mm f/1.4 still performed really well (I didn't want to use the Heliar this time, to compare).

Not everything is good though. With the 85mm, I noticed some poor rangefinder calibration to that lens. As I have heard from several people, the calibration of a rangefinder and lens is a bit of an individual process. Obviously the 85mm isn't quite matched to the Bessa. I can't help feeling though that the short base-length and higher mechanical tolerances on the Bessa might be to blame really for this. Despite being about 50 years old, my Nikon SP couples perfectly with every lens I have, even having purchased them second-hand over the years from disparate places. That said, the close-up shots at the minimum focus distance, like the shot above, were perfect with the Nikkor 50mm, so it's not all bad. I will have to be careful with longer lenses (or just use the SP for those).

Other than that though, the camera is great. Having the built-in meter, and being so light-weight, it really opens up the possibilities for everyday use for me. If I wanted a small 35mm for family trips and such I had been using a Nikon F2 or my Nikkormat, but compared to a rangefinder even a small SLR is positively huge, especially the lenses. Plus, with the mirror-slap, I usually never could shoot lower than 1/30, and only on wider lenses. The Bessa's smooth shutter release and curtain allowed me to shoot at 1/15 on every lens no problem. And if I want to go do some classic photojournalism, I'll likely grab the Bessa with 35mm f/1.8 and the Nikon SP with 85mm or 105mm and shoot away.

I hope you enjoyed the photos and my write-up on the Bessa. I will post the 4x5 shots from this place another day.

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