Home Features Wide perspectives: Bessa R4M with Voigtländer 21/4 and 35/1.4

Wide perspectives: Bessa R4M with Voigtländer 21/4 and 35/1.4

Jörg-Peter continues his eight-part series on the M Files: Cameras with the Leica M-Mount but without the Leica red dot

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The author with the Bessa R4M © C. Rau

The M Files Part 2

A rangefinder camera with unique wide-angle abilities, a brand name from the past, a much sought-after body: All this is true for the Voigtländer Bessa R4M. In this review, I share my experience with this first ”not-quite-M-Leica” camera in The M Files series. In common with the other cameras I shall be reviewing, the Bessa sports an M mount, but obviously lacks the magic red dot.

Camera number one to be discussed in The M Files: Voigtländer Bessa R4M with Color Skopar 21/4 Pancake and Nokton 35/1.4 II MC.
Camera number one to be discussed in The M Files: Voigtländer Bessa R4M with Color Skopar 21/4 Pancake and Nokton 35/1.4 II MC.

In this review, I will give you an idea what the Bessa R4M camera is like. After the general introduction, this is the second article in our series on rangefinder cameras with an M bayonet but are expressly not classic Leica M models. All images shown here are made with the Voigtländer Nokton Classic 35/1.4 II and the Voigtländer Color-Skopar 21/4, and I will provide you with some opinion about these lenses, too. This will be the general approach in all episodes of The M Files project published over the next few months.

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Voigtländer, Ringfoto, Cosina—what they have to do one with another

The brand name is somewhat misleading. Voigtländer, founded in 1756 at Vienna and grown to strength in North-German Braunschweig, has not been a manufacturer of photographic equipment for decades. This formerly proud company’s fate is a paradigm for the decline of Germany’s photographic industry, but that is another story.

Here, it shall suffice to clarify that Voigtländer is a trademark of the German Ringfoto Group of retailers and that Ringfoto, now under the name United Imaging Group GmbH & Co.KG, has lenses produced by the Japanese manufacturer Cosina to excellent standards.

Of course, there is no Leica magic the products. The Bessa comes in reasonable packaging—a simple cardboard box, but stable. The manual is also functional, no more and no less.

Decent quality made in Japan: Bessa R4M with an all-mechanic shutter. You have to select the frame lines manually, the range is from 21 to 50
Decent quality made in Japan: Bessa R4M with an all-mechanic shutter. You have to select the frame lines manually, the range is from 21 to 50

The Bessa R4 with and without electronic shutter and auto exposure

Probably to promote the lenses—initially with Leica screw mount and, following the expiry of the relevant patent with Leica M bayonet mount—Cosina started to produce rangefinder cameras in 1999. The company has a long history in making SLR cameras, mainly as a manufacturer for other brands (also another story). However, the last (so far) Voigtländer 35mm rangefinder camera was the model R4 which was built in two variants: the R4A with an electronically controlled shutter and auto-exposure; and the R4M with an all-mechanical shutter.

If you wish to know more about the camera’s history, I can only recommend Stephen Gandy’s enormous knowledge, he is specialised in rangefinder cameras and accessories, and his website is far more than an online shop for Voigtländer products.

Exposure metering and its excellent ergonomics

The R4M has TTL exposure metering, but no auto exposure. The reading is shown in the rangefinder with red values such as -2.0, -1.5… up to +2.0. If your exposure is correct (based on an 18% grey value), you will see a red circle. If you happen to see nothing and empty batteries are ruled out, activate the transport lever.

The electronic exposure meter circuit will not work if the film is not wound and the lever is in its standby position; this replaces the missing on/off switch. The camera has a shutter with metal blades that gives you times from 1 second to 1/2000 of a second.

The film is inserted as in every modern camera apart form a Leica M. You lift the rewind knob (mind you, there is a small lever that secures the mechanics against the unintended opening of the back door), the back swings aside, and you put the tongue of the film in a spool.

Load your film into a rangefinder camera in contemporary way.
Load your film into a rangefinder camera in contemporary way.

The only M mount camera to use 21 and 24/25 lenses without external viewfinder

The unique thing about the R4M is the viewfinder. With its very low magnification of only 0.52, it shows the reality heavily reduced. This enables the inclusion of frame lines for lenses as short as 21 millimetres.

Frame lines do not appear automatically according to the lens used (well, that’s logical—there is no device at all for this on M mount lenses below 28 millimetres). You can and must manually select between a pair of 21 and 35-millimetre frame lines, 28 millimetre stand-alone, followed by paired 25- and 50-millimetre frames. This is really smart as 21/35 or 25/50 are very attractive and convenient combinations to work with.

Handling of the camera is good. Not as smooth as a Leica M, it sounds a bit less distinguished, more metallic. The film advance lever has pretty good geometry, and the viewfinder is bright. Nothing to complain about. On the contrary: Ergonomics of the Bessa R4 are really pleasing. If you like, you can add an external device for faster advance… let me call it a poor man’s Leicavit. I will write about it in the Bessa-T review, which is one of the next articles in this small series.

The author with the Bessa R4M © C. Rau
The author with the Bessa R4M © C. Rau

A camera that is easy to use…

In practical use, the camera is a pleasure. If you love shooting wide-angles and you are annoyed by external viewfinders (they suck when you put your camera in your bag and when you take it out again, they are not very precise, and they are quite expensive), you have no other option.

The downside is: precise focusing with longer lenses can be difficult. I ended up with quite a few pictures taken with the 35/1.4 wide open in which the focus turned out to be far from perfect (after I retained the film from the lab and without a chance to repeat the photo as you would do when shooting digital and checking the image on your monitor).

With a fast 50 lens, it will be even more difficult. To give you an idea: The 50-millimetre frame lines are about the size of the 90-millimetre frame lines on a regular M6.

Do focus precisely when shooting wide open. And of course, not only the bokeh is special. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 II, multi-coated version. Kodak ProImage100
Do focus precisely when shooting wide open. And of course, not only the bokeh is special. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 II, multi-coated version. Kodak ProImage100

… but focusing accuracy is limited

According to Stephen Gandy, the Bessa R4’s effective base length of the rangefinder is only 19 millimetres (37 millimetres base length, and this multiplied by the magnification of 0.52).

This is no issue with super-wide-angle lenses with their loads of depth of field or with stopped-down moderate wide-angles. Furthermore, on film, you will not indulge yourself in pixel-peeping in 200% magnification in your post-processing software. But let’s be honest: Sharpness can be a tricky issue with this camera.

No frills, no fancy box: The inexpensive Voigtländer Color Skopar 21/4
No frills, no fancy box: The inexpensive Voigtländer Color Skopar 21/4

The 21 Color-Skopar is a no brainer for analogue shooting

However, the lens combo of 21 and 35 is a perfect fit for this camera. For reportage and landscape work, you have all you probably ever need. The 21/4 Color-Skopar gives beautiful results on film, and it is so tiny that you almost can’t help falling in love with it.

If you had no weakness for pancake lenses so far, this little Voigtländer might change that. Furthermore, it is sharp from f/4, has a nice colour rendering and good contrast. Flare resistance seems better to me than stated by some reviews (probably the coating was improved at one point). For its very moderate price, almost a no-brainer if you are into analogue photography.

The lens comes with a very small screw-in hood. It is no big help in reducing flare, but it prevents you from getting your finger in the image. In contrast to shooting an SLR, you will not notice this when looking through the viewfinder!

Used on a digital body, you will experience cyan or magenta margins—even when used with the M10 that otherwise proved to be the least prone to such issues in my tests (compared to the SL and the M262). You can try the lens profile for the 21/2.8 pre-ASPH (11134), it brings an improvement in many situations, but no full remedy.

Autumn forest near Constance. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Color-Skopar 21/4.0. Kodak ProImage100.
Autumn forest near Konstanz. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Color-Skopar 21/4.0. Kodak ProImage100.
Lake Constance. No kidding, this is the western tip of the Island of Reichenau. Good performance in this backlit situation. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Color-Skopar 21/4.0. Kodak ProImage100.
My home Bodensee (Lake Constance). No kidding, this is the western tip of the Island of Reichenau. Good performance in this backlit situation. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Color-Skopar 21/4.0. Kodak ProImage100.
Go through this gate and you will experience the beauty of the Hegau landscape near Lake Constance with its many castles and ruins. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Color-Skopar 21/4.0 Kodak ProImage100.
Go through this gate and you will experience the beauty of the Hegau landscape near the Bodenseee with its many castles and ruins. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Color-Skopar 21/4.0 Kodak ProImage100.
When Lake Constance bores us (oh yes, this happens), we can still hike through the Hegau area with its volcanic peaks and castles on them. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Color-Skopar 21/4.0. Kodak ProImage100.
When the Bodensee bores us (oh yes, this happens), we can still hike through the Hegau area with its volcanic peaks and castles on them. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Color-Skopar 21/4.0. Kodak ProImage100.
In the woods near Constance, enjoy the beautiful colours of early autumn. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Color-Skopar 21/4.0. Kodak ProImage100.
In the woods near Konstanz, enjoy the beautiful colours of early autumn. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Color-Skopar 21/4.0. Kodak ProImage100.
Near Reutlingen, South Germany. The most interesting parts of the image are the margins, especially the right one. Heavy purple fringing. Voigtländer Color Skopar 21/4.0 on Leica M10. The effect is even more prominent when you use a 240 or 262.
Near Reutlingen, South Germany. The most interesting parts of the image are the margins, especially the right one. Heavy purple fringing. Voigtländer Color Skopar 21/4.0 on Leica M10. The effect is even more prominent when you use a 240 or 262.
Again, purple margins, more on the right than on the left. Otherwise great sharpness and a dramatic perspective on the Albtrauf (=northern cliff of the Swabian Jura mountain range). Voigtländer Color Skopar 21/4.0 on Leica M10.
Again, purple margins, more on the right than on the left. Otherwise great sharpness and a dramatic perspective on the Albtrauf (=northern cliff of the Swabian Jura mountain range). Voigtländer Color Skopar 21/4.0 on Leica M10.

The 35 Nokton? Well, if you like its special rendering, you might start to love it

The 35 Nokton in its second edition is a competent lens for analogue use, a bit soft wide open but sharp and contrasty from f/4 onwards. It is also quite small and reminds me externally of earlier Leica 35 Summiluxes as it has a quite similar aperture ring and a focusing tab (both can also be found on the 21).

Small for its data, and for its performance: Nokton 35/1.4 II
Small for its data, and for its performance: Nokton 35/1.4 II

Bokeh is special and has kind of a swirl; you can sometimes find it nervous. I have seen better in 35-millimetre rangefinder lenses… but I have never seen a fast 35 that offers you such value for money.

The beautiful hood also fits many Zeiss lenses.
The beautiful hood also fits many Zeiss lenses.

It would be best if you bought the beautiful hood, too. It is ridiculously expensive given the very affordable price of the lens itself, but it helps control flare. If you can live with a lens that is a bit soft wide open and that has exceptional bokeh, you might also consider using it on a digital rangefinder or other mirrorless cameras. You will most likely not encounter problems with magenta fringes.

If vignetting in wide-open use annoys you, try the lens profile for the Leica Summilux 35/1.4 pre-ASPH (11134); it will correct the light falloff decently.

Learn nature. In the woods near Constance. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 II MC. Kodak ProImage100.
Learn nature. In the woods near Konstanz. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 II MC. Kodak ProImage100.
Take care. In the woods near Constance. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 II MC. Kodak ProImage100.
Take care. In the woods near Constance. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 II MC. Kodak ProImage100.
Hohenstoffeln, one of the volcanic summits in the Hegau area. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 II, multi-coated version. Kodak ProImage100
Hohenstoffeln, one of the volcanic summits in the Hegau area. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 II, multi-coated version. Kodak ProImage100
Unique bokeh. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 II MC. Kodak ProImage100.
Unique bokeh. BessaR4M, Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 II MC. Kodak ProImage100.
Not brutally sharp wide open, but decent… and the bokeh is unique at least. Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 Version II fully open, quite suitable for such portraits at only one-seventh of the price for a 35 Summilux. Shot with an M262.
Not brutally sharp wide open, but decent… and the bokeh is unique at least. Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 Version II fully open, quite suitable for such portraits at only one-seventh of the price for a 35 Summilux. Shot with an M262.
Sometimes, the bokeh of the Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 II shows a special swirl, reminding me of brushstrokes. Shot with an M 262.
Sometimes, the bokeh of the Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 II shows a special swirl, reminding me of brushstrokes. Shot with an M 262.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 II, here in the multi-coated version, performs very well with heavy sun in the image. Almost no flare und good contrast over the most part of the picture. Shot with an M 262.
Somewhat surprisingly, the Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 II, here in the multi-coated version, performs very well with heavy sun in the image. Almost no flare und good contrast over the most part of the picture. Shot with an M 262.
A film camera, a fast 35 and a competent 21 – you could work with such a kit alone for years
A film camera, a fast 35 and a competent 21 – you could work with such a kit alone for years

Small and not too pricey: nice Voigtländer travel kits

A small Billingham Hadley Digital (pun intended) loaded with the Bessa R4M and the two lenses provides an efficient landscape or travel setup. It weighs less than a kilogram even with a good supply of films and is easy to handle.

If you work with black-and-white film, do consider the Voigtländer 35/2 or 35/2.5 instead. With your Tri-X at ISO 400, you can live without the extra aperture stop, but you have identical 39-millimetre filter threads on both your lenses (the 35/1.4 has a 43-millimetre thread which is not very common), so you need only one yellow or orange filter.

I would not hesitate to choose the Bessa R4M as a travel companion if I was in a mood to do wide-angle photography on film. © C. Rau
I would not hesitate to choose the Bessa R4M as a travel companion if I was in a mood to do wide-angle photography on film. © C. Rau

Conclusion: For analogue rangefinder photography, the Bessa R4M is close to perfect

To sum up, the Voigtländer Bessa R4M is unique, and you can’t compare it to any other rangefinder camera. If you want to shoot 21 or 24/25 without an external viewfinder, this is your only option. A pity that Leica did not have the courage to realise such a concept instead of the M6TTL 0.58. Despite its low viewfinder magnification, the Leica nevertheless shows no frame lines for lenses wider than 28. What a lost opportunity!

The number of Bessa R4 cameras is very limited because production was discontinued in 2016. Try on eBay, there are frequently Bessas from Japan (where Voigtländer seems to have a remarkable fanbase), but the cameras are never cheap. I prefer an R4M over an R4A, because mechanical cameras are less prone to failure, can be repaired better and do not depend on a battery.

I thank Lichtblick and Leica Store Konstanz for their help with providing some accessories used for this review. Both are highly recommended; they take phone or mail orders and offer shipping also outside the EU. If you have one, please do not forget to support your local photo equipment dealer in these challenging times. Once you feel what you have lost with these independent stores, it is too late. And you do not want to find yourself in a world in which a few multinationals rule over our consuming habits and needs.

In the next episode of the M Files, we will take a look at another non-Leica camera with M mount, the Konica Hexar with its 50/2.

Intro: Here you can read the introduction to The M Files project.

25 COMMENTS

  1. Apologies to readers, but comments were turned off initially on this article. I don’t know why this happened, but I have reinstated the ability to post. Sorry for the inconvenience.

    Mike | Editor

  2. Thanks Joerg-Peter for this great review. I really enjoyed the image rendering of the two lenses, the 35mm in particular as regard bokeh. I wonder why Voigtlander has not developed a digital rangefinder yet. The same could apply to Zeiss as well. Both have got a wide selection of M mount lenses.
    I’m looking forward to the next episodes
    Jean

    • Dear Jean, thank you for your reply.

      Right, Voigtländer did not develop a digital rangefinder on its own, but a Voigtländer R series camera was the basis for the Epson R1 models (see also David B’s comment further down). The R1 came on the market well ahead of Leica’s M8 but it seemed to have been no sufficient success to carry on with the idea of a digital rangefinder.

      If I had the chance to try an Epson R1 for some time, I would be more than happy to immediately add another episode to the M files! The CCD sensor, the haptics and ergonomics, the manual shutter reset, all this sounds very interesting to me.

      Zeiss is interesting in so far as they finally released the ZX1 and thus made a clear statement against the rangefinder / interchangeable lens concept. My dealer, Lichtblick in Konstanz, had a real ZX1, but I did not manage to take a closer look before lockdown. I wish this camera the success it deserves. JP

      • .
        “..If I had the chance to try an Epson R1 for some time..” oh; if I’d known, I would have put mine in the box along with the CLE! ..I thought you were writing only about film cameras ..my mistake. Oops, sorry!

        • Dear David, for heaven’s sake, nothing to apologize for!
          In the first move, I did confine myself to film cameras indeed. Now that I can add the Minolta CLE, this area will be coverered more ore less (okay, not all Bessa R mount cameras are included nor the Zeiss Ikon SW).
          Slowly, I can think about extending The M Files, and instead of adding another M3, M2… review I would rather prefer to cover some digital M mount cameras you read not so much about (Epson, Ricoh, probably Zenith, M8…).
          Once I am so far (The M Files are my hobby, and I have a quite demanding job), I am happy to come back to you! JP

          • Incidentally, as I’ve not used an R4M but only its near cousin the R-D1, can you tell me if – like in the R-D1 viewfinder – the rangefinder lines move down and to the right as you focus closer, but NOT the focusing patch itself?

            That’s what happens in the R-D1 finder (..unlike a Leica finder, in which the frame lines and the focusing patch all move together..) so that as you focus closer with the Cosina/Voigtländer R-D1, it looks like the focusing patch hikes upwards and to the left!..?

          • Dear David and all, this the the reply to the question concerning the focusing patch. Thanks for your inquiry!

            Yes, the R4M’s frame lines move diagonally right and downwards when you set your distance closer, but the focusing patch itself remains where it is. In the low magnification viewfinder, the effect is hardly noticeable however; for obvious reasons the frame lines do not move that much.

            To round it up: In the Rollei 35 RF both frame lines and focusing patch move in this parallax correction mechanism just like in a Leica M. In the Zeiss Ikon with its 0.74 viewfinder, only the frame lines move. Details will be given in the respective chapters.

            JP

  3. Great article and photos, Joerg-Peter. There is always a trade off with combined rangefinder and viewfinder windows. If you go for a wide-angle option, then normal and telephoto lens have tiny frame-lines. I would always prefer a separate finder. The Frankenfinder is superb, if somewhat large , but it does have a bubble level. I also have the Voigtlander Zoom finder which, if anything, is clearer.

    I am glad that you can keep your fingers out of the way of the 21mm f4 Skopar, because I can’t and I have small to medium hands. It is a superb little lens that you can carry in your pocket. I also have the WATE which is really not that much sharper at 21mm.

    I am impressed by the images from Kodak ProImage 100. My usual colour negative film is Kodak Portra 100, but I will give the ProImage a trial when lockdown ends.

    I am looking forward to the rest of your series.

    William

    • This is an interesting point, William, thank you for discussing it here.

      Yes, it is always a compromise when you want to use a relatively wide selection of focal lengths on a rangefinder camera. After using all these cameras, I feel Leica solved it quite well with the standard 0.72 viewfinder – it does cater for many needs no doubt.

      As an LTM camera expert, you are of course used to external finder. I have a long way to go until I really like working with two windows I have to look through. For example, I liked the mirrorless cameras with electronic viewfinder from the very beginning because I appreciate the ergonomics of never having to take the camera from my eye. I can even see in the finder if the image I just took is good.

      For fast photography (news for example), this was a great achievement and I never understood why many colleagues were so reluctant at first – now, they all buy their Zs because they always were and always will be Nikon fanboys who would never use a Panasonic or Olympus camera on principle. The Canon disciples are similar, and now they were finally offered a decent mirrorless camera, too.

      I am looking forward to seeing the next episodes published, too. And even more I am looking forward to all these interesting comments. I sometimes think this is the best part of Macfilos. An oasis of relevance and politeness in the digital desert of useless communication and rude interaction. Mike, this message also goes to you! JP

  4. Thanks Joerg-Peter for the article and the images.
    I have had the R4A since it was released, Tom Abrahamson spoke about it and his involvement in its evolution at an LHSA meeting. I was smitten and use it with the lovely 21mm f=2.8 Zeiss lens and a 35mm Summicron.
    I also carry a 90mm Apolanthar and accessory finder which is seldom used.
    The whole package in an Artist and Artisan bag is 2.4 kg which is lighter than most DSLRs with zoom lenses.
    Looking forward to the other Not M offerings.
    Philip

    • Thank you, Philip.

      I read about the way the R4A and R4M were born. I never met the legendary Tom Abrahamson, but I think he left the Leica world at least a very interesting and unique camera. To write it down under my name, the story how the R4 came into life was too much hearsay for me, so I left out this aspect.

      I fully agree that the R4 models are ideal if you use the wonderful 21/35 combo, and you can even see how the respective other picture would look like without switching anything.

      Framing and focusing with a 90 on this camera and with an external viewfinder is beyond my abilities, I fear. Read more on this in the M Files epiode about the Bessa T. I hope you will be well entertained until then by the next chapters. JP

  5. Here I am trying figure out get a Q2-Q2m to go with the Q, and now you give me GAS! Never tried film but both palms, guess match your trees, are itching. I think I hide my credit card, till it passes and I go back plotting how to pick a Q and keep saving. Love the photos, thank you for your articles.

  6. .
    If you know a bit about parking cars, you’ll automatically estimate when your tyres (tires) are pretty much beside the kerb, so you don’t need to get out of the car to check the distance between the car and the pavement.

    And if you get in a crowded bus and want to ask everyone to move along a bit to make more room, you don’t need to measure how loud you need to speak – by putting a microphone at the front of the bus to detect the strength of your voice, and then checking that with headphones before you ask everyone to shuffle along a bit – you just guess how loud to shout, and simply speak louder than you would to the person next to you.

    As a photographer, you soon get to know that the angle seen by, say, a 24mm lens is just a bit less than 90 degrees, and the angle seen by a 21mm lens is just a bit more than 90º ..that’s about 45º either side of straight ahead!

    [In film days, of course, you couldn’t immediately see your results (unless using Polaroids) so there’d’ve been a bit of hit and miss ..and waiting for results.. before getting to know the characteristics of a particular lens.]

    But a 21mm finder isn’t necessary for using a 21mm lens: just glance about 45º to either side of what you’re looking at, and that’ll be your picture! The disadvantage of a 21mm finder in a camera body is – as you say – that everything is so reduced and looks so teeny and distant that it gets almost impossible to focus accurately, more so with wide aperture lenses, and especially if you’re focusing on something close (..in which cases you’ll have very shallow depth-of-field, or wiggle room for error).

    The Leicas and Voigtländers, and the rest of those similar rangefinders, really have their focusing systems built ‘back-to-front’ ..in that they’re very accurate with short focal length (wide-angle) lenses – when you don’t especially need it – but increasingly inaccurate with longer lenses ..which is just what you don’t need! Wide-angles have innately greater depth-of-field, and so small focusing errors often don’t matter, whereas the longer the lens you use – say 90mm plus – the more accurate your focusing needs to be! ..and yet the more inaccurate the rangefinder is, and so very far away things look with a 21mm finder! (..The older screw-fit Leicas, Canons, etc, had a little zoom or magnifying lever around the rewind knob to make up for this deficiency, but that was weirdly abandoned when Leitz moved to their new 1954 ‘M’ bayonet mount.)

    Having such a wide angle of view in the finder – to suit a 21mm – means that medium size lenses, which would not normally intrude into the finder, can really block some of that finder view – though without quite obscuring the central focusing patch. But that wide view of a 21mm finder can be a real annoyance with even a slim 90mm lens obtruding into it!

    So the 21mm finder of the R4M and R4A was a novelty, but clearly wasn’t essential (..other camera makers didn’t bother with it..) and, of course, any single lens reflex camera – and every modern mirror-less – always shows any lens’ actual view – whatever the lens! – from a fisheye to a super-telephoto.

    (A similar body became the basis of the first digital rangefinder ..the Epson R-D1, but with a more convenient and user-friendly life-size (1:1) viewfinder.)

    • Dear David, I am sorry that I can reply only today – I had a busy day yesterday.

      Thank you for sharing all your knowledge and experience here! Oh yes, you are so right about the rangefinder paradox. When you need to most accurate focusing you get the least reliable results – I generally do agree, but I want just to mention, that with wide-open wide-angle lenses, you can profit from the rangefinder. I think, it has its advantages, too. And a system discussion I never wanted to stir up. However, the SLR concept triumphed not without good reasons.

      I agree the R4M is really special but there are moments when I find it extremely useful. The fact that Leica and Co. did not bother to offer a similiar product is no proof for the R4M being irrelevant in my eyes. If just lacks the versatility of other rangefinder (and, yes: SLR) cameras.

      Your point about framing by experience is very interesting. I admire anyone who can with high repeat accuracy. I never wanted to rely on that – mainly because most of my work has been on slide film where you have to compose very carefully. Probably it is because of this that I did repeatedly surrender to the marketing of camera manufacturers who promised 92, 95 or 99 percent frame coverage in the SLR’s viewfinders.

      So, much to think about. Thank you for bringing up these points! JP

    • I must confess, and I apologise for not being in touch – but I had intended to check all was well in the Babsky household. After all my photography has dropped off the radar in the COVID era, and thus I am certain I need to put, to good use, a certain lens. Be assured I will when I can get out and do something that does it justice.

      On a second point, thank you for adding perspective to the article for me. As usual you have that unique way of explaining something complex in a way that makes it understandable to a noob like myself, and for explaining why Mike cannot park his car.

      Best

      Dave

  7. Excellent article Joerg-Peter and I too look forward to the next instalment.
    I have both the 35mm and 21mm Voigtlander lenses and surprisingly neither seems to create the cyan/magenta margins on the M240 after choosing the appropriate Leica lens profile, although this is very apparent on the SL601.
    I have yet to try these lenses on the M6TTL but with luck will get the opportunity in the not too distant future.
    Although I have a 21mm external viewfinder as a spectacle wearer I find it easier to ‘guess’ the field of view. Zone focussing is my favoured approach too rather than use the rangefinder.
    I will certainly be tempted by a Bessa R4M following your review, if I saw one at the right price that is!

    • Dear Mike, thank you very much for your feedback. I agree, colour margins can be far less an issue if you select the right correction profile. I, of course, wanted to show the lenses’ characteristics without electronic manipulations. I was not able to find a 100% correct pattern as far as the cameras used are concerned. In a tendency, the M10 can handle lenses with a rear nodal point very close to the sensor (and thus light rays coming in at a very steep angle in the outmost areas of the sensor) better than the 601 or older M models – but as I said, this is more of an impression and less of a result. In any case, both Voigtländer lenses are great for shooting on film! JP

      • I have not found any ‘Italian flag’ or purple fringing with the Voigtlander 21mm. It is rarely a problem these days, although it can arise from time to time, even, dare I say it, with Leica lenses with six bit coding. When that occurs, the fix takes seconds in Lightroom. For what its worth, I never ‘spoil’ a vintage lens by adding six bit coding.

        William

        • Dear William, your remarks are really interesting. Thanks again.
          I have the impression that the purple fringing phenomenon occurs depending on what you actually record and how the scene is lit. Within The M Files, you will find some more pictures where you can see the effect (VM15, ZM35). Again, the M10 is less prone to that problem than the M262.
          I have limited experience with CornerFix, but I found it easier to look for the best fitting correction profile in the camera (unfortunately, I always forget to change it if I change lenses).
          Otherwise, I fully agree: I would not have a vintage lens manipulated with a modern feature. Adding 6bit coding to lens type that comes or came coded from the factory is okay for me. Worth while it seems for me mainly on wide angle lenses. They tend to have more issues with fringing, distortion and vignetting in my experience.
          JP

  8. You may be interested to know that Lee Friedlander has been using one of these with a voigtlander 21mm and flash for a few years now, there are a few photos of him using this outfit at fashion shows and the like on the net.
    All the best, Mark

    • Thank you, Mark, for sharing this.
      I did not know that Lee Friedlander used or uses such a camera. In the end, it is and will always be the photographer who makes the images and not the camera (you know the anecdote of HCB and Gertrude Stein). So what tool ever he would have cared to use, Friedlander would have great pictures. Just because he is a great photographer. It’s simple as this.
      JP

  9. A wonderful article, and I just love the images you have managed with this unique camera.

    Thank you for writing about your experience, and sharing with us.

    Best

    Dave

    • Thanks, Dave, I hope you will like the next episodes, too. I tried my best to shoot and select images that are not only instructive but also a bit nice to look at or at least entertaining. JP

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