The Bessa L is an odd fish. It feels cheap and plastic and comes without a view finder. Yet none of these minor issues limit the amount of fun this camera provides. On the plus side it sports a built-in exposure meter, a metal, vertical leaf shutter, and uses Leica-type screw mount lenses. You may wonder, initially, how a camera with no viewfinder can be any fun. I say it’s all in the lens.

Chipotle, Rosslyn, VA

On this Bessa L I use a Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide-Heliar Aspherical lens. One does not need to carefully aim a 15mm lens. Simply point it in the general direction and practically everything within sight is in the lens’s field of view. You can attach a viewfinder to the top of the camera via the flash shoe, but having one there is like having an extra leg. I find it just gets in the way. The case won’t fit unless you remove the viewfinder. I prefer going without.

Fairview Park

To focus, I set the aperture to between f8 and f22 and chose an appropriate shutter speed, depending on the light, estimate the subject’s distance, then back off to the hyper focal distance. At f8, everything from about 5 feet to infinity is in focus. I also tend to use this lens for what it seems best suited for, and that is landscape photography. Closer subjects tend to get rendered with a pleasing distortion inevitable with such a wide lens. Actually, everything gets rendered with a pleasing distortion!

Fairview Park

In spite of the Bessa L’s apparent low quality, it does pack some nice features. The exposure meter is conveniently located on the top of the body so you can see it when taking a picture at waist level. It has a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000th of a second plus a bulb setting for long exposures. Its vertical shutter gives it a 1/125th flash sync speed, and it has a self-timer, which I have yet to use. The hot-shoe is not hot. If you use a flash you must plug it into the sync jack located on the left side of the camera body, just below the film speed dial.