Voigtlander Cameras

Cosina/Voigtlander Rangefinder Cameras

Over the past few years, a quiet photographic "revolution" has been taking place. Cosina, long a photographic lens, component, and OEM manufacturer, began manufacturing and marketing traditional rangefinder cameras and lenses using the old Leica thread mount (LTM) - a mounting system many considered long dead. Cosina obtained license to the venerable Voigtlander name and trademarks and began selling these lenses and camera bodies, starting with the Bessa-L...A "rangefinder" camera with no rangefinder.

Cosina has made maximum use of existing 35mm SLR components wherever possible, but has not shrunk from innovation. The result is a series of bodies and lenses that capture the essence of photography the "way it used to be", but at a price far less then one would pay even for used Leica equipment. The equipment is not as rugged or "dense" feeling as Leica, but it does the job, and in some ways has surpassed Leica. If you are an experienced photographer, you won't even need to pick up the instruction manual. When you use the cameras you instinctively understand what the designers had in mind. Prior to using Cosina/Voigtlander equipment, the only other cameras from which I got such a philosophical impression were the Olympus OM series of professional grade cameras and lenses.

There are design compromises, and you hear some whining out there about one feature or another. But if you have even the most elementary understanding of design, production, and marketing, those compromises make sense. Even with those compromises, the quality of the lenses rivals Leica lenses of 10 to 20 years back, and (literally) at a fraction of the cost.

Some of the lens focal lengths have never been available in LTM, or if they were, those lenses remaining are too dear for daily use. The bottom line is that Cosina took an audacious gamble on marketing new cameras based on some 40- to 50-year-old concepts -- and is selling those cameras and lenses all over the world.

In the photo above , the Bessa-L is all kitted out with the 15mm f/4.5 lens and finder, and the ingenious level that lets you check on your camera orientation by a simple eye movement. The lens with the square shade is the 21mm f/4. The Bessa-R has the 35mm f/2.5 mounted and the fourth lens in the picture is the 75mm f/2.5. (The finder for the 21mm lens uses the optics from the 15mm, and has a bright frame for 21mm - you can use the same finder for both lenses.) Cosina/Voigtlander lenses in LTM include 12mm*, 15mm*, 21mm, 25mm*, 28mm, 35mm (three versions), 50mm, 75mm, and 90mm. (Lenses marked "*" are not rangefinder coupled.)

Cosina/Voigtlander also manufactures the Bessa-T body, with a longer base rangefinder, but no internal viewfinder. The Bessa-T camera uses the Leica "M" bayonet mount. Cosina/Voigtlander also makes lenses in other legacy rangefinder mounts, and special lenses for non-auto-focus SLRs, although some of these are limited production items.

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