It wouldn’t be understatement to say that Bessa R3m is the best camera I have ever owned. The overall feel and response of the camera is just exactly what I like, the manual operation feels like Leica, and Bessa is a real rangefinder.
There’s something special what I really like about rangefinders, it’s that special connection you can make with the scene when focusing manually, and there’s no distraction, no mirror blocking your view on that decisive moment.
I have shot over over hundred rolls with this camera, which isn’t awfully a lot I admit, but it’s still quite much for me. I have shot T-Max, Tri-X, Ektar, Lomo and Fujifilm. I have shot in three continents, in freezing winter and in humid ocean environment. Not yet there has been camera malfunction of any kind.
It’s remarkably easy to load Bessa, and the mechanism is near flawless. It could be even argued to some degree that this camera is easier to load than Leica M6, the film rewind crank is straight and thus simpler than angled crank in M6. Sometimes however the tiny crank somehow lifts itself up; and when this happens the film forward lever stops working, it kind of jams, and usually when this has happened, there’s slight variance in empty space between exposures in frame, nothing much to worry, but can cause a bit headache when scanning negatives.
So far, my R3m has held up the test of time well. The rubber covering is coming off a bit, but can be fixed easily with glue. Viewfinder cover glass thing (Nikon’s one will fit) has fell of twice and I’ve just bought the replacement one from Yodobashi. Vertical alignment was a bit off since I purchased the camera, but it haven’t got any worse since then.
I also like the meter which automatically turns itself off after use. This is advantage over M6 since there’s no way to forget to turn off the camera, just to find out that the batteries have drained overnight. The metering is nicely made, and feels just right, since it shows the numbers in plus and minus scale.
The controls of R3m has became my second nature, in fact so much that whenever I pick up my X100, I feel strange. Nokton 40mm lens is amazingly sharp and has that lovely bokeh. For me it’s hard to tell difference between photos shot by this camera and those taken with Leica cameras equipped with expensive Leica glass.
Only thing what has bothered me several times is the shutter sound which is indeed a bit loud. And well, it doesn’t sound as cool as Leica’s amazing pleasant click. The shutter of R3m comes from Cosina’s cheap SLR line, so it just can’t match the German precision engineering, but it works, and it has double structure which is designed to minimize the risk of sunlight damage to the curtains. I don’t know exactly how this works, but it’s supposed to be more durable.
Otherwise, I really recommend Bessa R3m for everyone interested in Rangefinder shooting, it’s good idea to invest in Bessa body and invest in Leica lenses. When necessary, one can always switch to Leica M series body.