Voigtländer Bessy AK Vintage Camera
Voigtländer Bessy AK Specifications
|Manufacturer:||Balda Kamera-Werk for|
|Made in:||West Germany|
|(modern day Germany)|
|Dimensions:||12 x 7.4 x 6.2 cm|
Voigtländer Bessy AK Review
The Voigtländer Bessy AK is a viewfinder camera manufactured by Balda on behalf of fellow German optics company Voigtländer which introduced the camera in 1965. So called to imply a (in reality, very faint) connection with the legendary Bessa name, the Bessy was a cutting edge camera designed for Kodak’s now obsolete 126 film cartridge, a format overwhelmingly popular at the time among amateur photographers who didn’t want to deal with the hassle of loading traditional roll films.
There were five Bessy models manufactured between the mid ’60s and early ’70s. All of them were for the 126 format and all were manufactured by Balda which, surprisingly, never sold rebranded versions under their own name. The first four (including the AK) are very similar to each other with the only real differences being the lens and type of flash bulb supported. The Bessy AK has a Voigtländer Color-Lanthar 38mm f/2.8 lens mated to a Prontor-Matic “V” automatic leaf shutter made by Gauthier, the renowned German shutter manufacturer. Exposure is automatically controlled by the selenium meter but for low light situations, a built-in flash bulb reflector can be revealed by swiveling the corner panel directly underneath the viewfinder window.
Like the vast majority of 126 cameras available at the time, the Bessy is very basic with very little manual control to speak of. The only real adjustment that can be made is focus which can be adjusted by rotating the ring surrounding the lens’ front element. Other than that, the only other controls are the textured black shutter button on the user’s right-hand side of the top plate and the film advance gear underneath it.
Established in 1756 by Viennese inventor Johann Christoph Voigtländer, Voigtländer is considered to be the oldest surviving brand in the camera industry. In light of that, I considered my collection to be incomplete without at least one Voigtländer. Unfortunately, these cameras are generally pretty expensive these days so when I found this rather beautiful Bessy AK on a charity auction website, I went for it and ended up getting it for about ten bucks. It’s not exactly a Bessa R but it’ll do for now.
Find your very own Voigtländer Bessy AK on eBay.
McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 2001-2002. (Grantsburg, USA: Centennial Photo Service, 2001), 656.