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Voigtlander Bessamatic

Style, film format 35mm single-lens reflex with interchangeable lenses, coupled selenium meter

Lens, shutter Coated 50mm f/2.8 Color-Skopar,

Photo quality Very good

Ergonomics Good, no rapid-return mirror

The Voigtlander Bessamatic is a pleasant SLR with a nice lens and reasonably good features.

Like the other German SLRs of its time, it lacks an instant-return mirror. This means that when you shoot a photo, the the mirror flips up, and the viewfinder goes dark and stays dark until you advance the film. It shouldn't be your first choice for sports photography or for handholding long-exposure shots.

The excellent coated lenses swap easily with its three-lobed bayonet mount, and the selenium-powered meter is reasonably easy to use. On both cameras that I received the meter works and appears to be accurate.

The film advance works nicely, and the entire body feels tight.

As with many of these cameras, the viewfinder often needs to be cleaned, which means removing the top deck. Voigtlander used a small piece of foam to keep the pentaprism from ever touching the top deck. The foam often has deteriorated into a dusty or sticky mess.

The shutter release is on the top deck, not on the front of the camera. If you think that's a minor quibble, try a Kodak Retina Reflex III with its front-mounted shutter release.

Photos taken with the Voigtlander are colorful and crisp and very German in feel.

In all, you could do a lot worse.