Vintage camera collection – Voigtlander Bessa 66

This is a very compact, 6cm x 6cm, folding camera which takes 12 pictures on a roll of 120 or 620 film. It was made in Germany sometime between 1938 and 1941.


The pictures in this gallery can also be viewed full sized here

My Camera

Unfortunately my camera has a small amount of damage. There should be a fold out yellow filter attached to the front of the lens but it’s been snapped off sometime over the course of the last 75 years. That’s unfortunate, but sort of understandable and not completely uncommon with this model. I looked on flickr to see some other examples and found quite a few had exactly the same damage. The front trim to the lens which has the lens name on is also missing, and I assumed that was the result of someone trying to carry out a repair but, oddly enough, most of the pictures on flickr also had this trim missing if the filter was missing so I’m assuming the two were connected in such a way that the filter being broken also loosened the name plate.

Because that plate is missing I’m unsure of the lens fitted to this model – there were several different variants possible, a Voigtar 75mm f/3.5, a Heliar 75mm f/3.5, a Skopar 75mm f/3.5 or a Heliar 105mm f/3.5. Because this is a 6×6 format camera I know the lens is not the 105mm version but it could be any of the others.

The other fault with this unit, which is again extremely common in cameras of this age, is the slow shutter speeds which stick and cause the shutter to remain open. A gentle push on the shutter cocking lever will close the shutter, but obviously this means the timing is completely unreliable. Everything above 1/10sec seems fine, so I guess that is the speed which changes to the slow speed escapement.

Other than those faults, the camera is in good shape considering it’s probably about 75 years old. The bodywork material cleaned up nicely, the lens seems to be in good shape, the shutter release mechanism is sound and the bellows (a weak point in folding cameras) are also light tight and  flexible.

Voigtlander Bessa 66 description

This is what I would term a pocket camera. When the lens is retracted the whole unit is only about 5″ x 3″ x 1.5″ which means you could just about fit it in a jacket pocket and considering the size of the negative produced, that is quite an achievement.

In design the lens door opens on the left hand side so in use the controls at the front of the lens are on the right hand side and the shutter release lever is on the left, which seems comfortable enough in use.

The viewfinder fitted to my model is a simple frame which opens up when needed. Different versions of the camera had different types of viewfinder, the deluxe camera had an optical viewfinder mounted on the side so I think I have the more basic version. Also fitted to the top panel is the film wind knob and a depth-of-field calculation scale.

The back of the camera is fitted with a window to allow the frame number to be viewed and a dial which closes the window to reduce the risk of light leak. The back is opened by two press buttons at the top and bottom but there is a novel lock device which needs to be swung out of the way to allow the door to open. The novelty of the device is that it also doubles as a stand to hold the camera steady on a table top.

The film is held in the camera by a couple of holders which swing up out of the camera making the action of loading the camera quite easy. Whilst loading the film the film advance key is pulled up to allow the reel to be more easily dropped into place. The camera can take either 120 or 620 film, which are basically the same other than the dimensions of the reel the film is wound on.

I’ve loaded the camera with a roll of HP5 and I’m taking the camera out for my daily walk-about over the next couple of days so I can see how this camera performs.

Voigtlander Bessa 66 Description

  • Voigtlander Bessa 66 medium format folding camera
  • 12 6×6 exposures on 120 or 620 film
  • 75mm f/3.5 lens with fold out filter (broken on my example)
  • Shutter speeds 1/175, 1/100, 1/50, 1/25, 1/10, 1/5, 1/2 & 1sec + B + T
  • Aperture f/3.5 to f/16
  • Self-timer
  • Cable release socket
  • Frame viewfinder
  • Off-centre tripod bush
  • Table stand and door lock
  • Quick release lens door
  • Depth of field calculator

 

 

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