Canon VI-L vs Canon P vs Voigtlander Bessa R vs Leica IIIG

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mtnbkr

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I'm kind of exploring the idea of a new (to me) LTM rangefinder. I currently have a Canon VT that works well, but I'm struggling to read the shutter speed dials due to their age and my eyes (and the fact that 1k, 500, 250, and 125 are all stacked on top of each other). I pretty much set shutter speeds by feel. Also, the shutter curtain is old and starting to fail at the seam. I've patched it, but I sometimes get artifacts in my shots that look like the old light leaks, but they're less intense and don't appear consistently. I can't see any leaks when shining a bright light through the curtains in a dark room, so I don't know if I have a problem or not. Regardless I feel like the shutter curtains are living on borrowed time. I'd consider a CLA/repair if not for the shutter speed readability issue.

So, just looking around and seeing what's out there, I've decided I like the VI-L, P, Bessa R, and IIIG. I'm not interested in making the jump to the M-mount and I don't want an earlier III series because I think the rangefinder/viewfinder windows will be too small/squinty. I currently have a Canon 50/1.4 and Voigtlander 35/2.5 lenses with no plans to buy others. Budget is $1k as an absolute max.

VI-L Pros:
metal shutter
larger viewfinder with selectable magnifications (I use this a lot for critical focus)
Single shutter speed control

VI-L Cons:
Not very common, most I find are in Japan

P Pros:
Metal shutter
Large viewfinder
Single shutter speed control
Commonly available

P Cons:
Cluttered viewfinder (anecdotally since I haven't used one)
No magnification options

Bessa R Pros:
Newer
Metal shutter
Internal meter
Lightweight (great for how I use my rangefinder)

Bessa R Cons:
Anecdotally fragile
Often overpriced
No magnification options
Sticky rubber

IIIG Pros:
Leica :wink:
Larger viewfinder/rangefinder windows (than previous III models)
Rangefinder window provides higher magnification for critical focus
Main shutter speed dial appears to be easier to read

IIIG Cons:
Price
Only has framelines for 50mm, will need an external viewfinder for my 35mm lens
Split rangefinder/viewfinder (may not be a con in practice, haven't used a Barnack-style Leica to know)
Rangefinder/viewfinder windows smaller than the other three options above, might be smaller than my current VT
Bottom-loading and film trimming


Anything I'm missing? Is one demonstrably better than the others or does it come down to personal preference? I'm kind of leaning towards the VI-L but there's not as many user experiences to get a good feel for the camera compared to the others in the list.

Chris
 

mrosenlof

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I have a Canon P and a IIIG, I also have a Canon L1 which has the two shutter dials and a switchable viewfinder kind of like the VI-L, cloth shutter and is not a bottom loader. So a few comments:

Moving my eye from RF to VF windows on the IIIG is quicker than turning the dial on the multi-mag Canon Viewfinders.

That said, I *do* like the multi-mag finder on the L1.

The IIIG VF has corners for a 90mm lens, but yes for 35mm you need an aux finder. The finder is nicer than the older leicas, but it's still not like the Canon P or L1

I can do the leader trim bottom loading thing, but its annoying.

That said, the *solid* feel of a camera body without a swing-open back is *wonderful*

The P viewfinder is a bit cluttered and the 35mm framelines are hard to see out at the edges, but its still a very usable camera.

The Canon metal shutters are a little bit louder.


have fun!
 
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mtnbkr

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I have a Canon P and a IIIG, I also have a Canon L1 which has the two shutter dials and a switchable viewfinder kind of like the VI-L, cloth shutter and is not a bottom loader. So a few comments:

Moving my eye from RF to VF windows on the IIIG is quicker than turning the dial on the multi-mag Canon Viewfinders.

That said, I *do* like the multi-mag finder on the L1.

The IIIG VF has corners for a 90mm lens, but yes for 35mm you need an aux finder. The finder is nicer than the older leicas, but it's still not like the Canon P or L1

I can do the leader trim bottom loading thing, but its annoying.

That said, the *solid* feel of a camera body without a swing-open back is *wonderful*

The P viewfinder is a bit cluttered and the 35mm framelines are hard to see out at the edges, but its still a very usable camera.

The Canon metal shutters are a little bit louder.


have fun!

Thanks! You confirmed my thought that moving from RF to VF on the IIIG would be faster than fiddling with a dial on the Canons. Shame that the finder on the IIIG isn't as nice as the P or other Canons. It looks like the L1 is the same size as my VT, so the IIIG would be smaller still. I don't know if that would be a problem though.

Chris
 

mrosenlof

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Li-iiig.jpg
 

lobitar

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Although I don't now own an 3G I seem to remember it has parallax compensated viewfinder. A greet boon to me. However you cannot check focus with a groundglass over the film window, which is important in my view.
 

Paul Howell

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When a working PJ I used either a 7s or IIIG as my second body to a Nikon F and F2. The Leica has the build quality, the viewfinder was very good, the the separate rangefinder made for very sharp focusing. But, I carried the 7S much more than the IIIG. In the field it was easier to load, the built in frames for 35mm which was my usual rangefinder lens allowed to put a flash in the cold shoe rather than use a flash bracket. If your standard lens is a 50mm and not in hurry to load film, then the IIIgs build quality in my mind wins out. If you use a 35 or 85 then you might want to think about a Canon 7s or 7sz, the price will be about the same as the IIIG.
 

btaylor

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Have to agree with Paul, the Canon 7/ 7s a really good rangefinder, not unlike an LTM Leica M in many ways. And they are nowhere near the cost of a IIIg- there are several on eBay right now between $100 and $200. Great big parallax corrected viewfinder with user selectable 35/50/85/135 frame lines. I don’t know why they are so inexpensive. The cameras that were competitive at the time were the Leica M2/3 and Nikon SP, and they go for way more money.
 
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mtnbkr

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When a working PJ I used either a 7s or IIIG as my second body to a Nikon F and F2. The Leica has the build quality, the viewfinder was very good, the the separate rangefinder made for very sharp focusing. But, I carried the 7S much more than the IIIG. In the field it was easier to load, the built in frames for 35mm which was my usual rangefinder lens allowed to put a flash in the cold shoe rather than use a flash bracket. If your standard lens is a 50mm and not in hurry to load film, then the IIIgs build quality in my mind wins out. If you use a 35 or 85 then you might want to think about a Canon 7s or 7sz, the price will be about the same as the IIIG.

Have to agree with Paul, the Canon 7/ 7s a really good rangefinder, not unlike an LTM Leica M in many ways. And they are nowhere near the cost of a IIIg- there are several on eBay right now between $100 and $200. Great big parallax corrected viewfinder with user selectable 35/50/85/135 frame lines. I don’t know why they are so inexpensive. The cameras that were competitive at the time were the Leica M2/3 and Nikon SP, and they go for way more money.

Thanks both. I hadn't considered the 7s, but upon looking into them, they look compelling. I thought they were bigger, but they don't look too bad side-by-side with a P.

Chris
 

Paul Howell

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If you decide to get a 7S or 7sz spend more to get a body with a working meter. Although a simple reflective without spot mode, it is coupled and works pretty well. Only downside is that the ASA (ISO) tops out at 400.
 
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mtnbkr

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If you decide to get a 7S or 7sz spend more to get a body with a working meter. Although a simple reflective without spot mode, it is coupled and works pretty well. Only downside is that the ASA (ISO) tops out at 400.

A working meter is a requirement if I'm buying a camera so equipped. I seldom shoot film faster than 400, so that won't be a limitation.

Chris
 

Don_ih

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The Canon VI-L is a nice, solid camera and worth the going price. I have one with a non-functioning self-timer -- paid around $30 plus shipping, actually. The problem with a Leica IIIG is the price. Frankly, you don't get much more than you get with a IIIf. You'll probably be happier with the Canon's selectable 35-50 viewfinder.
 

davela

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I've used them all and they are all excellent cameras. The VI-L is very well made and easy for those used to modern 35mm SLR's to adapt to. There is no metering of course, an issue for some, but not me or anyone who can grasp the basics of exposure.

The IIIG is a master piece of craftsmenship IMO - amazing really. If you are not fluent in the use and intricacies of bottom loading rangefinders however, it might require some getting used to. You will need external finders for it as well if you plan to use a variety of lenses with it.

The Bessa R is a very capable camera, with several excellent internal finders, and many modern conveniences such as easy film loading, shutter speeds to 1/2000, and a reliable TTL meter that uses easily available batteries. It is also a light and fairly compact camera. Bessa R's do occasionally suffer from shutter/film advance failures, but it is not hard to have it repaired. Some have suggested it's film advance should be treated with gentleness to avoid this problem.

Any one of these cameras will deliver top notch results if you learn their ways!
 
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mtnbkr

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Thanks all. The take-away for me is that none of 4 (now including the 7s) are bad choices. The challenge is that I don't have an opportunity to fondle any in person. There is a guy selling a Bessa R about 45min from me, but he wants a premium price for his. The upside is that the pics look good and he has a video of him manipulating it, so I know it is clean and works.

Chris
 
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mtnbkr

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Looks like the IIIG is off the list. I came across a review of the IIIG where the reviewer paired it with the same Canon 50/1.4 lens I have and noted it blocked a quarter of the viewfinder. That's a bit much for me and I adore this lens, so I'll stick to bodies that won't have this problem.

Chris
 

Kodachromeguy

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Looks like the IIIG is off the list. I came across a review of the IIIG where the reviewer paired it with the same Canon 50/1.4 lens I have and noted it blocked a quarter of the viewfinder. That's a bit much for me and I adore this lens, so I'll stick to bodies that won't have this problem.

Chris

That is correct. The Canon 50 f/1.4 is a big lens. I had one for awhile, but it was too large for my IIIC. The optical quality was excellent, but I reluctantly sold it. Some notes:

https://worldofdecay.blogspot.com/2019/07/1960s-excellence-canon-50mm-f14-leica.html
 

Don_ih

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An excellent f1.4 lens is swell, but how often does anyone need f1.4?
 
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mtnbkr

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That is correct. The Canon 50 f/1.4 is a big lens. I had one for awhile, but it was too large for my IIIC. The optical quality was excellent, but I reluctantly sold it. Some notes:

https://worldofdecay.blogspot.com/2019/07/1960s-excellence-canon-50mm-f14-leica.html
Thanks for the link. I really like my copy. Focus is a tad stiff, but it also helps me lock into focus since I'm less likely to overshoot it. It is a big lens, but balances well enough on the VT. It's probably paire up nicely with a VI-L or 7s.


An excellent f1.4 lens is swell, but how often does anyone need f1.4?
It wasn't so much about the f1.4 but the overall better image quality than the older chrome 1.8 I had before it.

ETA: The 1.4 is also lighter than the chrome/brass 1.8 it replaced.

Chris
 

Paul Howell

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The Bessa is much newer, I think still serviceable, the 7S is now going on 60+ years, the IIIG 70+ years. On the other hand a clean 7s with lens will run your about $500, likely less than a Bessa. Igor's camera had 2, now both on hold pending sale.

 

Kodachromeguy

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It wasn't so much about the f1.4 but the overall better image quality than the older chrome 1.8 I had before it.

ETA: The 1.4 is also lighter than the chrome/brass 1.8 it replaced.

Another option is the newer style Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens in the black and chrome mount. But it is hard to find one without the etching that often damaged an inner element. I was able to find a good one:

https://worldofdecay.blogspot.com/2022/05/more-1960s-excellence-canon-50mm-18.html?m=1
 

M-88

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Another option is the newer style Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens in the black and chrome mount. But it is hard to find one without the etching that often damaged an inner element. I was able to find a good one:

https://worldofdecay.blogspot.com/2022/05/more-1960s-excellence-canon-50mm-18.html?m=1

Heh, your review actually helped me to decide on whether or not I should buy 50/1.8 for my Leica clone, so thank you for that. I found a clean example and I'm happy with it. A small portion of even a tiny 50/1.8 lens is visible in the viewfinder, but on a brighter note, this way I can conveniently see the selected aperture. I wanted to get a collapsible lens, but it was way outside my budget. This Canon 50/1.8 is the next best thing for sure.
 
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mtnbkr

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Another option is the newer style Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens in the black and chrome mount. But it is hard to find one without the etching that often damaged an inner element. I was able to find a good one:

https://worldofdecay.blogspot.com/2022/05/more-1960s-excellence-canon-50mm-18.html?m=1

Yup, I'm aware of the different options, variants, etc of 50mm lenses. If I were to get a 2nd one, it would be a more substantial difference in design, maybe an Elmar 50/3.5 or something like that. But for now, I'm not looking to add to my lens lineup.

Chris
 
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mtnbkr

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The Bessa is much newer, I think still serviceable, the 7S is now going on 60+ years, the IIIG 70+ years. On the other hand a clean 7s with lens will run your about $500, likely less than a Bessa. Igor's camera had 2, now both on hold pending sale.


The newness (relatively speaking) is one of the reasons I'm eyeing the Bessa, but I'm having a hard time paying upwards of $500 for what is essentially a disposable camera. Especially when better more durable cameras are available for the same price or less. That said, paired with my CS 35/2.5, it would be a lightweight hiking camera.

Chris
 

Kodachromeguy

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Heh, your review actually helped me to decide on whether or not I should buy 50/1.8 for my Leica clone, so thank you for that. I found a clean example and I'm happy with it. A small portion of even a tiny 50/1.8 lens is visible in the viewfinder, but on a brighter note, this way I can conveniently see the selected aperture. I wanted to get a collapsible lens, but it was way outside my budget. This Canon 50/1.8 is the next best thing for sure.

I'm glad I could help. This 1.8 Canon is a 1960s 6-element lens with decent coating. It may have benefited from early computer computations of ray paths. Other reviewers say it is excellent optically. But remember, at f/5.6 or 8, most 50mm lenses look pretty good.
 

AnselMortensen

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I have a Canon P.
I love it because:

It has a big, picture window viewfinder.
It has a hinged film door and loads easily, like an early Canon SLR.

One possible issue:
Most of them have wrinkled shutter curtains, which may or may not affect operation. Inspect closely, and test.
 
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