Voigtlander Bessa



The purpose of this page is two fold; first to show that the camera you use generally has little to do with the photographs you produce. The second purpose is to show the clarity of a larger format camera.

Voigtlander Bessa is a German, medium format camera. This one is a circa 1934 6cmX9cm.

It is a relatively small camera. It measures 3X6X1.25 inches when it is closed. Yet it produces negatives that are much larger than 35mm cameras.

A medium format camera simply means it records images on film or a digital sensor that is larger than the standard 35mm size. In still photography 35mm is the standard against which all other film is measured today. It is also known as 135; that differentiates it from 35mm movie film.

Here is the comparison of film sizes. Film size is important because the larger format you shoot the less it has to be enlarged for each size print. The benefit is substantially sharper prints and images.

At a very small print size like the following there is little or no noticeable difference in the finish print. That means that if you print at 4X6 or display in a digital frame there is no reason to ever invest the huge $ necessary for a medium or large format camera. This is the photo printed from the 35mm negative below.

This is the size of a 35mm negative. It is the consumer size.

This is the size of a 6cmX9cm negative. That is a medium format camera in either film or digital.

A DSLR full frame camera sensor is the same size as the 35mm negative. The sensor in a regular DSLR camera is smaller and Point & Shoot cameras are very small.

For example; a 35mm negative has to be enlarged about 25 times in order to produce a 16”X24” print to hang on your wall. Whereas a 6X9 negative only has to be enlarged 8 times for the same size print. That means greater detail and less distortion.

Here are the photos from this medium format vintage camera.

None of these photographs have been edited. You see them just as they were developed from the negatives. They are very sharp because even with an old lens they are enlarged less than 2X.

A film camera is very forgiving. If you over expose or under expose a picture it can be remedied, to a certain extent, in the development process. In digital photography that is made up for in your ability to see the exposure on the spot; which means that if the exposure is wrong you can immediately retake the shot. Digital photography is less forgiving in the editing stage.

1/60th second shutter speed is the default shutter speed for a camera when using a flash. The reason for it is that 1/60th of a second is considered the slowest speed that can be reasonably hand held and expect clear shots, while still providing maximum light. It is a balancing act between getting a clear shot and having enough light for the picture.

There are three interdependent variables in digital photography.

1) Shutter Speed

2) Aperture

3) Film Speed

Throughout the pages of this site I talk about how these three interrelate. For now just remember each will affect the other two. When you understand and find the correct balance you will leave the world of snapshots behind and enter the world of photographs.

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