Press Photographer and Photojournalist

New Toy – Voigtlander Bessa R3A

I recently bought a Voigtlander Bessa R3A rangefinder film camera. Seeing as a digital Leica was out of my price range, I opted for the next best thing. I was looking for a camera which I could carry with me where ever I go, particularly when I have no specific plans for images to shoot. The digital SLR is far too heavy to lug around on a whim. I wanted a camera which was fully manual (with the exception of aperture priority), where the focus could be set without having to lift the camera to eye level, and which would be fast and discreet. I was looking for a good street or documentary shooter.

The Voigtlander Bessa R3A with a Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 lens.

The Voigtlander Bessa R3A with a Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 lens.

Compared with the Canon 5D mkiii with the 17-40mm lens, the Voigtlander is an incredibly small camera and very easy for me to take with me anywhere. The camera is very solidly built, and the shutter and film advance arm make a very crisp and satisfying sound. I’ve only run one roll of film through this camera at the moment and I am still experimenting with technique, but I’ve already noticed how discreet this camera can be –  easily working within 1.5 metres of people.

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The tricky thing with this camera, especially with a mid-range lens, is the depth of field. At f8 and a distance of 1.5 metres, the DOF is approximately 1 metre as read from the lens barrel (if you believe the iPhone DOF app, then DOF is a little over half a metre!).

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As you can see with the above shots, when the light drops at ISO100, the depth of field become very narrow, and focusing becomes crucial. Accurately judging distance is a new skill I need to master!

The thing I am enjoying most about shooting with film is that it slows the whole process of photography down. I find that I am really having to think and visualise the type of picture I am going to get from the scene I am viewing. Whereas with digital, it’s easy to see the mistakes you have made, and then correct them. Plus due to the expense of film, processing and scanning (I hope to invest in a scanner at some point), I am a lot more selective with what I shoot.

Here are some more shots from the Voigtlander at Wellington’s Mount Crawford Prison open day:


Birthday Boys Cake


The one-day the prison was open to the public was very, very popular.


Simin tries out the prison mugshot.


Graffiti artwork in one of the prison cells.

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2 responses

  1. Tim

    Thanks for sharing! Can you tell us what Film you did use? Is this Ektar? Thanks!


    January 6, 2013 at 3:23 am

    • Hi Tim, The film I used for those shots was some obscure, expired film – “Lomography Colour Negative 35mm” – I picked up in a Lomography shop in Berlin. I do have a roll of Ektar but I’m waiting until I’m more practice with shooting film before I use it! Cheers. Antony


      January 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm

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