Cosina Voigtlander BESSA-L

35mm MF film viewfinder camera


Production details
Announced:January 1999
Imaging plane
Maximum format:35mm full frame
Mount and Flange focal distance:Leica screw mount [28.8mm]
Imaging plane:36 × 24mm film
Speeds:1 - 1/2000 + B
Exposure metering:Through-the-lens (TTL), stop-down
Exposure modes:Manual
Rangefinder and Viewfinder
Physical characteristics

Manufacturer description #1

In 1952, Ike was elected President, Lucy and Ricky were ducking custard pies on TV every week, and Mickey Mantle was stepping up to the plate for his second full season in the Big Leagues. Glorious times for all, for sure, but especially for average American photographers who, for the first time, were discovering in great numbers the possibilities and powers of 35mm cameras. Names like Leica, Nikon, and Canon were gaining a foothold in our collective subconscious thanks to the reliability, functionality and elegance of those cameras. Chief among them? Voigtlander, a camera maker and optical company from Braunsweig Germany founded in 1756, whose first interchangeable-lens 35mm rangefinder, the "Prominent", had reached American shores to great acclaim that year. Throughout the Fifties and Sixties, the Voigtlander 35mm's became synonymous with faultless operation, and elegantly styled 35mm rangefinders and SLRs capable of superb pictures.

Now almost thirty years later, the Voigtlander name is back. Resurrected by the Japanese, Voigtlander is back with a unique and different 35mm wide-angle camera, the beautiful Bessa-L. Fully restoring the Voigtlander claim to fine photography, the Bessa-L features the retro styling and flawless operation of earlier Voigtlanders, but it's a distinctly 1990's camera with all the advantages that modernity brings: lightweight, simplicity, superb imaging and, yes, affordability.

What is the Bessa-L? It's like no 35mm camera you've every experienced. Is it an SLR? No. The Bessa-L has no reflex mirror and no roof prism viewfinder. Then it must be a 35mm rangefinder camera like a Leica M6, right? No, it's totally scale focusing, with no built-in rangefinder to add costly optics and mechanics. There's not even an integral viewfinder. Well then it must be a point-and-shoot-type 35mm with an in-lens leaf shutter, right? Wrong again. The Bessa-L uses a focal-plane shutter like the most sophisticated 35mm's.

Well, if it's not an SLR, a rangefinder or a point-and-shoot, was IS the Voigtlander? Answer: a scale-focusing, interchangeable lens, interchangeable viewfinder camera that most resembles the classic 35mm rangefinders of the 1940's and '50's. Its strength? Wide angle photography. Voigtlander offers two lenses for the Bessa-L, and one of them, the 15mm f/4.5 Super-Wide Heliar Aspherical, is probably the widest lens ever made for a non-SLR 35mm camera. But that's not all. It's amazingly compact, shockingly sharp using aspherical elements, and most importantly, it's practically distortion free. Because the Voigtlander engineers didn't have to design the Heliar to work with a reflex mirror, the lenses are smaller, sharper and with much less distortion than you'll find in comparable SLR optics. Now ultra wide angle photography is yours without the tell-tale distorted lines commonly found in most ultra-wide angle shots.

The second lens? An equally sharp 25mm f/4 Snapshot-Skopar, perfect for more general photography. Both lenses sport conveniently click-stopped aperture rings, with distance scales color coded for meters and feet. The distance scale on the 25mm f/4 Snapshot-Skopar is nicely click stopped at 1, 1.5 and 3 meters, making it possible to focus without removing your eye from the finder.

Styled with a distinctly retro look, the Voigtlander appears, at first glance, to be an expensive collectible from the 1950's. But as beautiful as the Bessa-L is to behold, it's even MORE beautiful to hold. Its rubberized matte-black outer covering is easy on the fingers, and the camera body is much more grippable, and much less heavy than the old-style rangefinders thanks to its sturdy, but light weight, die-cast all-aluminum body. You'll find the Bessa-L compact and easily balanced in two hands, with the controls falling immediately under appropriate fingers. The shutter release is smoothly arced, easily accessed for fast and responsive shooting, and it's conveniently threaded to receive a standard cable release. For flash operation, the Bessa-L offers a PC terminal and a 1/125 second top flash synch speed. Other amenities include a bottom-plate tripod socket, a 10-second self-timer, and depth-of-field scales on both lenses.

The Bessa-L delivers dead-on exposure using a TTL, center-weighted averaging meter whose readings appear on the top of the camera, fully visible with your eye at the viewfinder. Three brightly-lit meter LEDs (red arrows and a green circle) tell you which direction to turn the aperture ring for the perfect reading.

Perhaps the most unusual Voigtlander trait? No built-in viewfinder. The camera does without the complicated viewing systems required by most 35mm's. There's no reflex mirror flapping around, for example, clattering noisily with every shot. No mechanical rangefinder vulnerable to failure. The Bessa-L's interchangeable viewfinders slip easily on and off (but not so easily that they'll fall off), and their images are clear, bright, contrasty and free of etched framing lines or other unnecessary clutter.

The Voigtlander's simple thumb-activated, single-stroke film advance is much quieter and also less vulnerable to mechanical problems than motordrives that stop dead as soon as the batteries die. That's right: everything except the meter will work if the Bessa-L's batteries run down. Try THAT with your $2000 high-tech SLR!

Are you tired of digital this and auto that? The Voigtlander is your camera. The Bessa-L is an instant classic and certain to achieve cult-camera status, as aesthetically sophisticated as it is electronically simple. Perhaps the most exciting thing about the Voigtlander Bessa-L? Nostalgia fans can use the body as the central building block for reconstructing an affordable and reliable system using lenses and viewfinders made for cameras back in the 1940's and '50's. Its L-mount threaded lens mount accepts optics made for all the famous-name rangefinder cameras that are still to be found on the pre-owned market, plentiful and often inexpensive. You can mix and match lenses and accessory viewfinders to build your own hybrid classic with elements from the glory days of 35mm. It's as close as many of us ever come to owning a vintage Leica.

The Bessa-L brings back the glory days of 35mm photography affordably. Are you as hung up on elegance and style as you are on performance? The Voigtlander Bessa-L is an instrument that looks as good as it shoots. Sleek lines, beautiful curves, deco-inspired design. Check it out today at your local camera dealer, and learn why the camera has already taken Japan by storm.

Learn why, with Voigtlander, it's easy to fall in love with pictures again.

Manufacturer description #2

The BESSA was once the cornerstone of precision photographic engineering. After an absence spanning several decades, the Bessa has returned as a dedicated wide-angle viewfinder camera.


The Bessa-L is composed of an all aluminum die-cast metal casing with a streamline body that fits comfortably into the palm of your hand making it a paradigm of design simplicity. It is lightweight, precise, and extremely durable with excellent corrosion resistance. This camera offers precision and reliability under all photographic conditions.


The unique double mechanical shutter is a combination of a mechanically controlled focal plane shutter that can operate up to 1/2000 of a second and a newly developed light-shielding shutter. Reliability of these mechanisms is very high; meaning, the photographer no longer has to keep a lens cap over the front or keep the lens set at a small aperture to avoid the possibility of stray light damaging the film.

The BESSA-L features manual lever operated film winding and simple manual film rewinding. In addition, the camera has a highly responsive photographing speed with a pleasantly quiet shutter sound.


Through the lens (TTL) center-weighted light metering, measures light reflected from the shielding shutter with a photo receptor device (silicon photocell) on the base of the body. Pressing the shutter button halfway activates the light measuring circuit. LED lamps at the rear of the camera display whether the correct exposure has been selected. The LED lamps are positioned at the lower left of the viewfinder, allowing the exposure accuracy to be checked without the user taking their eye away from the viewfinder.


The Bessa-L is equipped with a highly compatible 39mm L-screw mount system used for interchanging lenses. The ability to attach to other L-screw mount wide-angle lenses from Leica and Canon makes it an even more unique and versatile camera.

Light metering can be performed with most L-screw mount lenses, but TTL light metering can not be performed with lenses having extremely short back-focus.

Manufacturer description #3

Type: 35mm camera with focal plane shutter and TTL metering system.

Shutter: Vertically moving metal focal plane shutter B, 1-1/2000 sec.

Self-Timer: Mechanical self-timer with 10 sec operating time.

Exposure display: Over exposure warning, Good exposure warning, Under exposure warning.

Exposure Metering System: Center-weighted average metering. By pressing Shutter Release Button.

Exposure Coupling Range: EV4-19 (ISO 100, F4, 1sec.-F16, 1/2000sec.).

Flash Terminal: X synchro contact synchronized at 1/125 sec or lower speed.

Film Advance: By single-lever action with 135 deg. throw and 30 deg. stand-off.

Film Rewind: By film rewind button and film rewind crank.

Frame Counter: Additive type with autoreset by opening the back cover.

Film Speed Range: ISO 25-1600 by 1/3 steps.

Power Source: Two 1.5V Alkaline batteries (LR44) or Silver batteries (SR44).


This is lens-interchangeable super wide-angle camera with TTL exposure metering function. The camera is lens interchangeable via L-mount, yet is lightweight and compact. Attaching 15mm/f4.5 or 25mm/f4 lens onto this camera, you can enjoy easy-to-take snap-photography, landscape, etc.

Special limited editions (1)

Similar cameras (5)

35mm full frame • Manual focus • Film • Viewfinder • Leica screw mount mount

Model Shutter Metering Modes Year
Leica I (Model C) M, 1/500 -- M 1930
Leica Ic M, 1/500 -- M 1949
Leica If M, 1/500 -- M 1952
Leica Ig M, 1/1000 -- M 1957
Leica Standard (Model E) M, 1/500 -- M 1932
Notify of

Copy this code

and paste it here *

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Copyright © 2012-2023 Evgenii Artemov. All rights reserved. Translation and/or reproduction of website materials in any form, including the Internet, is prohibited without the express written permission of the website owner.

35mm full frame

43.27 24 36
  • Dimensions: 36 × 24mm
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Diagonal: 43.27mm
  • Area: 864mm2

Unable to follow the link

You are already on the page dedicated to this lens.

Cannot perform comparison

Cannot compare the lens to itself.

Image stabilizer

A technology used for reducing or even eliminating the effects of camera shake. Gyro sensors inside the lens detect camera shake and pass the data to a microcomputer. Then an image stabilization group of elements controlled by the microcomputer moves inside the lens and compensates camera shake in order to keep the image static on the imaging sensor or film.

The technology allows to increase the shutter speed by several stops and shoot handheld in such lighting conditions and at such focal lengths where without image stabilizer you have to use tripod, decrease the shutter speed and/or increase the ISO setting which can lead to blurry and noisy images.

Original name

Lens name as indicated on the lens barrel (usually on the front ring). With lenses from film era, may vary slightly from batch to batch.


Format refers to the shape and size of film or image sensor.

35mm is the common name of the 36x24mm film format or image sensor format. It has an aspect ratio of 3:2, and a diagonal measurement of approximately 43mm. The name originates with the total width of the 135 film which was the primary medium of the format prior to the invention of the full frame digital SLR. Historically the 35mm format was sometimes called small format to distinguish it from the medium and large formats.

APS-C is an image sensor format approximately equivalent in size to the film negatives of 25.1x16.7mm with an aspect ratio of 3:2.

Medium format is a film format or image sensor format larger than 36x24mm (35mm) but smaller than 4x5in (large format).

Angle of view

Angle of view describes the angular extent of a given scene that is imaged by a camera. It is used interchangeably with the more general term field of view.

As the focal length changes, the angle of view also changes. The shorter the focal length (eg 18mm), the wider the angle of view. Conversely, the longer the focal length (eg 55mm), the smaller the angle of view.

A camera's angle of view depends not only on the lens, but also on the sensor. Imaging sensors are sometimes smaller than 35mm film frame, and this causes the lens to have a narrower angle of view than with 35mm film, by a certain factor for each sensor (called the crop factor).

This website does not use the angles of view provided by lens manufacturers, but calculates them automatically by the following formula: 114.6 * arctan (21.622 / CF * FL),


CF – crop-factor of a sensor,
FL – focal length of a lens.


A lens mount is an interface — mechanical and often also electrical — between a camera body and a lens.

A lens mount may be a screw-threaded type, a bayonet-type, or a breech-lock type. Modern camera lens mounts are of the bayonet type, because the bayonet mechanism precisely aligns mechanical and electrical features between lens and body, unlike screw-threaded mounts.

Lens mounts of competing manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony etc.) are always incompatible. In addition to the mechanical and electrical interface variations, the flange focal distance can also be different.

The flange focal distance (FFD) is the distance from the mechanical rear end surface of the lens mount to the focal plane.

Lens construction

Lens construction – a specific arrangement of elements and groups that make up the optical design, including type and size of elements, type of used materials etc.

Element - an individual piece of glass which makes up one component of a photographic lens. Photographic lenses are nearly always built up of multiple such elements.

Group – a cemented together pieces of glass which form a single unit or an individual piece of glass. The advantage is that there is no glass-air surfaces between cemented together pieces of glass, which reduces reflections.

Focal length

The focal length is the factor that determines the size of the image reproduced on the focal plane, picture angle which covers the area of the subject to be photographed, depth of field, etc.


The largest opening or stop at which a lens can be used is referred to as the speed of the lens. The larger the maximum aperture is, the faster the lens is considered to be. Lenses that offer a large maximum aperture are commonly referred to as fast lenses, and lenses with smaller maximum aperture are regarded as slow.

In low-light situations, having a wider maximum aperture means that you can shoot at a faster shutter speed or work at a lower ISO, or both.

Closest focusing distance

The minimum distance from the focal plane (film or sensor) to the subject where the lens is still able to focus.

Closest working distance

The distance from the front edge of the lens to the subject at the maximum magnification.

Magnification ratio

Determines how large the subject will appear in the final image. For example, a magnification ratio of 1:1 means that the image of the subject formed on the film or sensor will be the same size as the subject in real life. For this reason, a 1:1 ratio is often called "life-size".

Manual focus override in autofocus mode

Allows to perform final focusing manually after the camera has locked the focus automatically. Note that you don't have to switch camera and/or lens to manual focus mode.

Manual focus override in autofocus mode

Allows to perform final focusing manually after the camera has locked the focus automatically. Note that you don't have to switch camera and/or lens to manual focus mode.

Electronic manual focus override is performed in the following way: half-press the shutter button, wait until the camera has finished the autofocusing and then focus manually without releasing the shutter button using the focusing ring.

Manual diaphragm

The diaphragm must be stopped down manually by rotating the detent aperture ring.

Preset diaphragm

The lens has two rings, one is for pre-setting, while the other is for normal diaphragm adjustment. The first ring must be set at the desired aperture, the second ring then should be fully opened for focusing, and turned back for stop down to the pre-set value.

Semi-automatic diaphragm

The lens features spring mechanism in the diaphragm, triggered by the shutter release, which stops down the diaphragm to the pre-set value. The spring needs to be reset manually after each exposure to re-open diaphragm to its maximum value.

Automatic diaphragm

The camera automatically closes the diaphragm down during the shutter operation. On completion of the exposure, the diaphragm re-opens to its maximum value.

Fixed diaphragm

The aperture setting is fixed at F/ on this lens, and cannot be adjusted.

Number of blades

As a general rule, the more blades that are used to create the aperture opening in the lens, the rounder the out-of-focus highlights will be.

Some lenses are designed with curved diaphragm blades, so the roundness of the aperture comes not from the number of blades, but from their shape. However, the fewer blades the diaphragm has, the more difficult it is to form a circle, regardless of rounded edges.

At maximum aperture, the opening will be circular regardless of the number of blades.


Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

Maximum diameter x Length

Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

For lenses with collapsible design, the length is indicated for the working (retracted) state.

Weather sealing

A rubber material which is inserted in between each externally exposed part (manual focus and zoom rings, buttons, switch panels etc.) to ensure it is properly sealed against dust and moisture.

Lenses that accept front mounted filters typically do not have gaskets behind the filter mount. It is recommended to use a filter for complete weather resistance when desired.

Fluorine coating

Helps keep lenses clean by reducing the possibility of dust and dirt adhering to the lens and by facilitating cleaning should the need arise. Applied to the outer surface of the front and/or rear lens elements over multi-coatings.


Lens filters are accessories that can protect lenses from dirt and damage, enhance colors, minimize glare and reflections, and add creative effects to images.

Lens hood

A lens hood or lens shade is a device used on the end of a lens to block the sun or other light source in order to prevent glare and lens flare. Flare occurs when stray light strikes the front element of a lens and then bounces around within the lens. This stray light often comes from very bright light sources, such as the sun, bright studio lights, or a bright white background.

The geometry of the lens hood can vary from a plain cylindrical or conical section to a more complex shape, sometimes called a petal, tulip, or flower hood. This allows the lens hood to block stray light with the higher portions of the lens hood, while allowing more light into the corners of the image through the lowered portions of the hood.

Lens hoods are more prominent in long focus lenses because they have a smaller viewing angle than that of wide-angle lenses. For wide angle lenses, the length of the hood cannot be as long as those for telephoto lenses, as a longer hood would enter the wider field of view of the lens.

Lens hoods are often designed to fit onto the matching lens facing either forward, for normal use, or backwards, so that the hood may be stored with the lens without occupying much additional space. In addition, lens hoods can offer some degree of physical protection for the lens due to the hood extending farther than the lens itself.


Teleconverters increase the effective focal length of lenses. They also usually maintain the closest focusing distance of lenses, thus increasing the magnification significantly. A lens combined with a teleconverter is normally smaller, lighter and cheaper than a "direct" telephoto lens of the same focal length and speed.

Teleconverters are a convenient way of enhancing telephoto capability, but it comes at a cost − reduced maximum aperture. Also, since teleconverters magnify every detail in the image, they logically also magnify residual aberrations of the lens.

Lens caps

Scratched lens surfaces can spoil the definition and contrast of even the finest lenses. Lens covers are the best and most inexpensive protection available against dust, moisture and abrasion. Safeguard lens elements - both front and rear - whenever the lens is not in use.