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NEW Voigtlander Bessa R2S & R2C Rangefinders

Last Production R2S 50/3.5 Heliar S Limited Edition

Classic Contax Rangefinder Mount R2C body   (Nikon Rangefinder Mount R2S Sold Out!)

stock running low, get them while you can!  Order HERE

Classic  Zeiss Contax Rangefinder Mount  TTL Metering!    

Left to Right Voigtlander  Lenses: 21/4, 25/4, 35/2.5, 50/1.5, 85/3.5

 

 

  

Voigtlander Bessa R2C mounting the Voigtlander 21/4 lens with 21mm viewfinder

The Voigtlander Bessa R2C is the ONLY production TTL metering classic Zeiss Contax / Kiev rangefinder EVER made!

 

    

Limited Time Special: Voigtlander Black Bessa Camera Case only $1 with purchase of new Bessa T/ R2A / R3A / R2M / R3M / R4A / R4M/ R2S / R2C.   This case will take these cameras with the smaller lenses AND an accessory viewfinder!  Top can be detached for use with larger lenses.  

At Photokina 2002 Cosina officially announced the new Voigtlander Bessa R2S and R2C in classic Nikon Rangefinder and Zeiss Contax rangefinder mounts.  This is  really BIG news  to classic Nikon and Contax Rangefinder lovers.    These lens mounts were long considered dead, relics of the past.  The new Voigtlanders  offer are the first  production TTL metered cameras ever in these mounts, not to mention the brightest Rangefinder and Viewfinders.    Cosina also announced were three new multicoated SC lenses in Nikon Rangefinder mount:  28/3.5, 50/2.5, and 85/3.5 APO to go with the 21/4, 25/4, and 35/2.5 lenses already in production.    In addition, the new 12/5.6 and 15/4.5 super wide SL lenses in Nikon AI mount which will fit the new Bessas via an adapter, the first wider than 21 lenses ever offered to classic Nikon and Contax fans.

Had the R2S and R2C been introduced in the late 1950's, they would have been hailed as the cameras of the "future," the most technologically advanced rangefinders ever.     As they cross  the end of a production line a half a century later,  the new Bessas are ancient dinosaur throwbacks in a digital plastic world -- but lovable dinosaurs at that.    For collectors, so far the rarest R2S and R2C are the 25 olive bodies made for the Tokyo Used Camera Show (2/26-3/3/2003) and engraved ICS for the Imported Camera Society.

    

 

Voigtlander Bessa R2S/C 1sts for classic Nikon and Contax mount Rangefinders

 

 

The R2S/C shutter and meter are the same as used in the other Bessa L, T, R, and R2 models.  The shutter is a modified Copal, 1 to 1/2000 plus B, vertically traveling metal shutter blades, 1/125th flash sync, with an inner shutter and an outer light tight shutter which the meter reads from.   The meter is a silicon cell reading reflected light off the outer shutter blades, EV range 1 to 19 at ISO 100 (f/1.4 at 1 sec to f/16 at 1/2000th), ISO range 25 to 3200 in 1/3rd stops.   The meter is powered by two easy to find silver SR44 batteries (no hard to find Lithium batteries like the M7).    The film advance is ratcheted for single or multiple strokes.  There is no self timer, or provision for multiples exposures.  

Cosina is the ONLY camera manufacturer EVER to manufacture ALL four major classic 35mm RF mounts -- Leica screw, Leica M, Nikon Rangefinder, and Contax rangefinder.    Leica is the only other manufacturer to produce cameras with more than one mount at the same time, screw mount and M mount.   Cosina is the world's largest manufacturer of interchangeable lens 35mm RF lenses in terms of 1) the number of different focal lengths and f-stops offered and 2) the largest number of rangefinder mounts (4).     While some old timers complain that Cosina dares to use the venerable Voigtlander name on a Cosina body, the fact remains that Cosina's classic rangefinder production over the last four years is, quite simply, remarkable and unprecedented.   NEVER have so many different interchangeable lens rangefinders been introduced so quickly, in so many classic rangefinder mounts, with so many lenses, with so many choices of finders: NEVER.   Thank you Mr. Kobayashi. 

A swing open back for easy film loading with film confirmation window doesn't seem like such a big deal, until you realize that no camera with these lens mounts have ever had them before!

 

   

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The Bessa R2S and R2C look very similar.   The outward differences are the top plate inscriptions "R2S" vs. "R2C," and the all chrome focusing helical of the R2C vs. the Nikon SP style black and chrome focusing helical on the R2S.    The addition of the metal front plate and focusing wheel make the cameras look more robust than their R2 M mount cousin, and a bit quieter because of the sound absorption.    Initially only black bodies will be available.   The Shutter Release button on the R2S/C is extended about 1/16" which makes the shutter release a bit smoother than the R2, kind of like a built in MiniSoftRelease.           

Voigtlander Bessa R2S with classic 50/2 Nikkor and Bessa Trigger Winder.   

 

The METER  readout has 3 red LED's at the bottom of the finder is easily seen.  Push down the shutter release slightly to activate the meter.  The LEDs will stay on as long as you depress the shutter release, and will turn off about 15 seconds after you release the shutter release.    The center LED is a red circle.  On either side are red LED triangles with a "+" indicating over exposure and a "-" indicating under exposure.    Turn either the aperture scale or the shutter speed dial in the direction indicated by the  PLUS/MINUS LED to get the correct exposure.   The silicon metering cell is centerweighted, and reads off the outer shutter curtain.

35, 50, and 85mm brightlines and LED meter readout in the R2S

The R2S/C VIEW FINDER and RF PATCH are far and away the brightest and clearest ever in any Nikon or classic Contax mount camera.  No other cameras in these lens mounts even come close.   The R2S and R2C are easily the most convenient shooters for Nikon or Contax rangefinder lenses.  If you are tired of making excuses why your classic Nikon or Contax finders don't compare well with the bright Leica M finders, these new Bessas are for you.    The 35, 50, or 85 projected brightlines are manually selected from the top plate.   Only ONE frameline is visible at one time.     Having a nice clean uncluttered finder showing only one frameline at time is a very nice change, after dealing with the doubled up frameline pairs on the M6/M7.   

Projected Brightline 35, 50, and 85 Framelines are manually selected with a selector on the top plate.  Each frameline appears separately for a clean, uncluttered viewfinder.  There are no 105 or 135 framelines.    The effective baselength of the Bessa R2 series is not long enough to  CONSISTENTLY focus the likes of a 50/1.1, 85/2, 105/2.5, or 135/3.5 WIDE open and CLOSE UP.  However, focus those same lenses at 25 feet and farther away, and you will probably do just fine.    If you decide to shoot a 105 or 135 do you really need an accessory finder?  With some practice, you may be able to get by without an accessory 105 or 135 finder  by estimating a smaller portion of the 85 frameline.  

The BIG change from the R2 to the R2S/C is of course the classic Nikon or Contax rangefinder mount.  Cosina is the only camera maker to camera manufacture to produce of these mounts.  These Cosina made mounts are beautifully machined and work smoothly, just as if they were products of the Nikon or Zeiss factories.  Of course some diehards will huff and puff claiming this is impossible.  Well, hold on to your pronouncements until you examine one of the new Bessas, otherwise you may end up with Voigtlander on your face.  Mr. Kobayashi has quickly simply done a wonderful job of reproducing these classic mounts.  

IF you are NEW to the world of Nikon / Contax rangefinders,  this lens mount is considerably different than other rangefinders, with an inner and outer bayonet mount.   The 50mm lens focusing helical is built INTO the body.   Inside the focusing helical is the 50mm inner bayonet mount.   Outside the helical is the mount for wide angles or telephotos.   OK, it's a bit odd, but remember this mount design was introduced on the 1932 Zeiss Contax 1 as the FIRST standardized bayonet mount for ANY 35mm camera (Leica would not introduce its bayonet mount for another 20 years).    This design offers two advantages:

  •  50mm lenses for these mounts  are MUCH smaller because the focusing helical is built into the camera body,  not the lens.  For example, the  50/1.4 Nikkor or 50/1.5 Zeiss Sonnar are about 1/3 the size of a Leica 50/1.4 Summilux in M mount.   

  • One handed camera operation is possible for normals and wides.    With lens helical for most 50's and wides built into the camera body, designers were able to incorporate an index finger focusing wheel.   The photog can focus the camera, release the shutter, and advance the film only one hand.    However, the focusing wheel is ONLY for  50 and shorter lenses. Do NOT use the focusing wheel to focus 85 and longer lenses, the mechanism is not strong enough for it and you will likely damage your camera.      

To mount or unmount lenses, set both the body helical and the lens helical to infinity.  Otherwise, damage to the body focusing helical may result. 

Why TWO mounts?  What's the difference between the Zeiss Contax Rangefinder mount and the Nikon Rangefinder mount?   Even though both mounts look the same externally, have the same back focus, and will generally mount the same lenses,  they have different amounts of helical travel.    Nikon choose to modify the Zeiss Contax mount for a slightly different standard focal length normal lens,  which resulted in incompatibility problems.   You will end up with out of focus pictures close up and wide open when you interchange 50mm and longer lenses between the two lens mounts, though stopped down and at medium to long distances you can interchange the two.    Nippon Kogaku's lens mount modification was a such a monumental screw up that its a wonder the fledgling camera company survived that ill-fated choice in 1946.   Even today, Nikon's web site STILL does not fully acknowledge what a bad idea it was for Nikon to modify the Zeiss Contax mount.  Gee, I guess Nikon was hoping people wouldn't notice. 

 

 

 

  

The focusing wheel is for 50mm and shorter lenses (the exception being the 2nd version of the  50/1.1 Nikkor with external lens mount.)   Alternatively, you can also focus by turning the same lenses by their lens barrels, whichever is easier for you.   The focusing wheel gives the photog the option of one hand camera operation, especially useful if you are using the other hand to hang on for dear life, or to intercept flying objects thrown at you.  

Just like many early Leica lenses have a built in infinity lock, the R2S and R2C have an infinity locks built into the camera body for 50 mm and shorter lenses.  Turning the lens to infinity with 50 and shorter lenses will automatically engage the infinity LOCK.  One infinity lock release is built just to the inside of the focusing wheel, so that your finger automatically depresses the infinity lock when turning the wheel clockwise to a closer focus distance.   This reads more complicated than it is in practice.   The 2nd infinity lock -- a chrome knob between the focusing wheel and the lens mount -- unlocks by pressing downward on it.  It is ideally placed for unlocking by your fingers gripping the camera. 

  Lens Compatibility:  I tried Zeiss Contax lenses from the 21 Biogon to the pre-war 180 RF coupled lens for the Contax 1, and Nikon RF lenses from the 25 to 135.   Most worked fine,  with a few exceptions.  

The new "KILLER AP" (in computer lingo) is the BODY CAP.  Mr. Kobayashi has invented by far the BEST body cap  EVER for classic Nikon or Contax rangefinders.   Vintage Nikon or Contax body caps are not only hard to find and expensive due to collector interest, they fail to lock in place and are a bit flimsy.   The new Voigtlander SC body cap, complete with the required  scripted "V" locks nicely in place, and must be released like a lens to be removed from the body.   Considering the shortage of classic Nikon and Contax body caps, Cosina may have to build a new factory just to keep up with the body cap demand. 

 

Maybe Zeiss was right after all.   Hard core Contax fans are sometimes a bit bitter about the premature death of their favorite rangefinder in 1962, even though Leica rangefinder production lines survive to this day.    What a camera the classic Zeiss Contax was, with a faster than 1/1000th top shutter speed and  a vertically traveling metal shutter -- just like the Bessa R2C/S.   Sometimes its a small retro world.  

Accessory Viewfinders: Cosina Voigtlander currently makes the largest range of accessory rangefinder finders EVER made by any 35mm rangefinder manufacturer, offering direct vision 12, 15, 21, 25, 28, 35, 50, 75, and 90 finders (most are brightlines), as well as the unique low angle finder for the 12, 15, 21, and 25 wides.     Personally I prefer single focal length finders due to their larger and brighter image sizes, however you can also use  multi finders.   The best from a bargain standpoint is the low priced Russian 28 to 135 finder, a copy of the pre-war Zeiss Contax finder.   My favorite multi  finder is the more expensive Nikon 35 to 135 Varifocal Type 2.  The post war 21 to 135 Zeiss Contax finder also has its fans.   Both the Nikon and Zeiss finders are not only fine users, but also collectibles, and so much more expensive than the Russian finder.    

 

 

The Bessa R2S / C mounts the standard Bessa Trigger Winder, which also fits the Bessa R2 and the Bessa T.  It amounts to hand operated motor drive which never needs batteries.  The winder is most useful if you shoot "left eyed," or if you need up to about 3 fps to cover action.   The trigger winder strap lugs also give you the option to carry the camera vertically, rather than just horizontally.  The winder will attach or remove without having to remove or reload film, something not possible with the Leica M series motors, Leicavits, or RapidWinders.  The lens shown is the classic black 50/2 Nikkor.  Incidentally, the Bessa winder is the ONLY production factory trigger winder ever made for any Nikon or Contax mount rangefinder, so appreciate it.   The very limited production Nikon SP trigger winder, NOT made by Nikon, is  worth about $4,000 to collectors. 

 

September 2003 saw the new SL 12/5.6 and 15/4.5 introduced in Nikon F mount, which are usable on classic Nikon and Contax Rangefinders with the F-S adapter.  SEE PICS  

SL 12/5.6 on Nikon SP, SL 15/5.6 on Nikon F2

 

New 28/3.5 SC Lens, available Sept 2003

     

R2C mounting the new SC 28/3.5 and black metal 28 Brightline finder.   

New APO Lanthar 85/3.5 SC Lens, available June  2003

 

The new Bessa R2S and R2C are a godsend to owners of classic Nikon, Contax, or Kiev lenses.     The new R2S and R2C are so superior in terms of  overall shooting  convenience,  the older cameras are left drowning in their own hypo.    Admittedly however, the older cameras do have the advantage in terms of quality construction and finish.    If you are a new rangefinder person contemplating your first rangefinder purchase, trying to make a choice between the R2S, R2C, and R2, the truth is that the R2 will offer you far more lens choices.   On the other hand, if you like being different and are a bit fed up with the Leica nuts trying to lord it over every one else, then the R2S or R2C may offer a special appeal to you. 

Price comparison is yet another way to consider the new Bessa R2S / C.   Compared to classic Nikon SP's and Zeiss Contax IIa color dials, they are not only much less expensive, but also much more photographer friendly.    

 

Bessa R2C, Zeiss 21-135 Finder, Zeiss 21/4.5 Biogon, Voigtlander SC 25/4, Zeiss 85/2 Sonnar, Zeiss 135/4 Sonnar, Contax IIIa, Zeiss 50/1.5 Sonnar

 

For those who doubt a Rangefinder Renaissance over the last few years, take a look at these new products for classic Nikon and Zeiss Contax rangefinders (not the current G series).  Back Row, left to right: Voigtlander Bessa R2C (the first and only production TTL metering Rangefinder in classic Contax mount) mounting the new metal Voigtlander 28mm finder (in my opinion the best 28mm brightline ever), the Voigtlander Bessa R2S (the first and only production TTL metering Rangefinder in classic Nikon Rangefinder mount) mounting the Voigtlander multi-coated 21/4 with Voigtlander's unique low angle 21mm viewfinder.  Front Row: classic Zeiss Contax IIa mounting the multi-coated Voigtlander 35/2.5 with the metal Voigtlander 35mm brightline (in my opinion the best 35mm brightline ever), the Voigtlander SL 15/4.5, a classic Shintaro painted black Nikon SP with Voigtlander SL 12/5.6 with double accessory shoe and Voigtlander VC meter, the Voigtlander F-L adapter for SL 12 and 15 to Leica screw mount cameras, Nikon F SL accessory shoe, Voigtlander 21 and 25 brightline finders, and the multicoated Voigtlander 25/4 lens.      All of these new lenses and finders are quite simply the best ever produced for the classic Nikon and Contax rangefinder cameras.  Cosina's CEO Mr. Kobayashi has given classic camera fans new choices long after the original manufacturers abandoned their customers.

The MOST AMAZING part of this story is that the new Bessa R2S and R2C were made at ALL.  No one in their right mind would have predicted a few years ago that ANY new camera in these classic and long discontinued mounts would ever see the light at the end of a production line.  It is ASTOUNDING to see such cameras, four decades after their original manufacturers discontinued them.    Conventional wisdom was that such a market is too small to be profitable, that they would never sell.  Yet Cosina's CEO Mr. Kobayashi enjoys going against conventional wisdom to give the  classic rangefinder buff what they want.   He has achieved what NO RF manufacturer EVER achieved in glory days of RANGEFINDERDOM:  Cosina manufactures ALL FOUR classic rangefinder camera mounts.   Thank You Mr. Kobayashi! 

Alas, the R2S and R2C were discontinued April 2005 once Cosina decided to concentrate on Leica Mount rangefinders.  Time will tell if the R2S and R2C will remain the only cameras with TTL metering cameras in these mounts ever produced.   The last production was the R2S 50/3.5 Heliar S Limited Edition.


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Revised: June 28, 2015 Copyright  2003-2015 Stephen Gandy. All rights reserved.    This means you may NOT copy and re-use the text or the pictures in ANY other internet or printed publication of ANY kind.  Information in this document is subject to change without notice.  Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.