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Bessa or Fed?

Fed 2 with 35 mm lens

On and off for a couple of months I've been trying to decide whether to bother to save up for a Voigtländer Bessa T. And I've not yet come to any conclusion. A T seems to be a very good camera, from what I've read about it. But apart from a couple of features, that I seem to be able to live without, other rangefinder camera bodies seem to be just as useful.

I've only once held a T in my hands - in a camera shop in Stockholm - and the handling felt truly great. The thing with setting focus through one finder and composing through another doesn't seem to me particularly troublesome. Using most consumer grade rangefinder cameras from 1980 or earlier did consist of several movements that demanded previsualization of the desired outcome - i e: Metering the light (in or out of the camera); setting exposure; composing the picture - like with the T. Even the most automated cameras demanded that you at least set the focus before snapping away. In the '60s or earlier a significant number of the models available were even without rangefinder, so you would zone focus or guess (or meter in studio or home portrait settings). The approximated focusing was - statistically speaking - the norm. Let's not forget that. But I digress.

Fed 2 with 50 mm lens


The Bessa T is small. That is one prerequisite for my inquiries. But so is the Fed 2. They're almost the exact same size. Of course the Fed is heavier, being all metal. But weight in this case is not an issue for me. Height is more important. Or rather - flash shoe position, since that's where the external viewfinder will be positioned. And external viewfinders protrude and are prone to take beatings or get stuck in clothing. So, when looking at camera bodies to use for my wide angle lenses, I don't want big cameras. Unfortunately, I am fond of the Soviet Fed 3 and Zorki 4, but their internal finder only caters for 50 mm lenses, and they are high bodies, housing shutter mechanisms and finder glass. In my search, even the thought of getting a Leica Standard has crossed my mind, the flash shoe being positioned next to the finder. A really discreet camera. But rangefinder focusing is lost with that model - the centerpiece of this present quest. So that's another course to take, eventually.

So. The Fed 2 is the greatest rival to the Bessa T, besting it in price. But not in performance such as shutter speed - the Bessa clocking in at 1/2000th of a second to the Fed at 1/500th. But thinking about it - how many times have I ever needed to expose at 1/2000th in the harsh dark Nordic conditions of my homeland? Well, they can be counted on my fingers.

Alright - the T has an accurate light meter, which the Fed does not. That's true. But when don't I use an external light meter when out walking my rangefinders? Very rarely, I must say.

Okay. Winding: The T has a winder arm like all modern cameras - the Fed doesn't. But the Fed's winder wheel is very easy to use. I even love using it. Then we get to rewinding: Just rewind the film using the little fold out arm on the T. On the Fed it's a whole different ball game. Especially if you're out in the harsh dark conditions with cold fingers. Quite troublesome. But it's easier if you hold the wheel still with one hand and turn the camera instead.

I love the black T:s. But I can find black Fed:s as well, if I give it some time. But then the cost rises almost to Bessa levels.

Longevity then? Plastics and electronics do have a tendency to give in after some time, metal winning in the long stretch. But the time span in these (camera tech) circumstances can be counted in decades, I know from experience in trading used cameras through my webshop.

Picture taken with Fed 2 with 35 mm lens

So which one will it be? Voigtländer Bessa T or Fed 2?

I will mull some more. I already own a Fed, and I favor diversity over monotony when it comes to using cameras. It would have to be a black one then…

Thanks for reading!

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