Q: What is the difference between Bessa R2, R3 & R4?
A: The main difference between the 3 Bessa bodies is in the inbuilt framelines and their viewfinder magnification.
The Bessa R2 has a viewfinder magnification factor of 0.7x and has framelines of 35, 50, 75 & 90mm. While the R3 viewfinder is 1x and has 40, 50, 75 & 90mm framelines. The R4 framelines are 21, 25, 28, 35, 50mm and viewfinder magnification is 0.52x.
So, which one should I choose if I am a new to RF? It all depends on your style of shooting and what do you intend to use the RF body to shoot with. The R2 series body is probably the most suitable & versatile camera body for beginners who have been comfortable with the 35mm focal length and will probably get a second lens, like the 50mm or 75mm down the road. The viewfinder is also suitable for the 28mm focal length if you take the entire viewfinder frame as an estimate.
If you are the kind RF shooter who prefers to open both eyes to shoot, then the R3 series is the one to go for with the 1x life size magnification factor. The best lens to go along with the R3 is probably the 40mm/f1.4. A value for money excellent overall performer, great to bring along for holidays where you need to travel light. If you prefer to travel light, and are the one lens one body kind of photographer, the R3 & 40mm combi will be an excellent pair and serve you for a long while.
R4 is a body specially tailored for wide angle shooters. It is probably the only 35mm RF body with a 0.52x magnification that has inbuilt 21mm framelines. Coupled with the 21mm/f4 P lens, this is the perfect tool for wide angle and panoramic photography.
Q: What is R2A & R2M? What does the suffix A & M mean?
A: The suffix “A” means the camera body has electronic shutter and has the “Aperture Priority” (also know as the AE – Auto-Exposure) mode. That means, when you set to the “A” mode, you select the aperture, the camera body will automatically select the appropriate shutter speed based on the in-camera light meter reading and correctly expose your picture.
The “A” version is particularly useful for situations where you find a perfect moment in a flash and do not want to miss the perfect shot.Without having to fiddle too much on settings, you can get correctly exposed picture in the quickest time.
The M version has mechanical shutter. It has a in-built light meter which shows the Through-The-Lens (TTL) light meter reading in the viewfinder. It does not have the “A” mode, you will need to set the shutter speed based on the meter reading on the viewfinder to get correctly exposed shots.
The M version is non-battery dependent and the shutter can work at all speed without batteries, while the A version needs the battery to fire the shutter.
Q: If i get a RF without the AE function, would it be really hard for me as a beginner to learn how to use a fully manual RF?
The light meter reading in the M version is pretty intuitive and easily visible. It takes a very short while to get used to and use the camera effectively. To get better you just have to practice.
If you are a purist, like everything mechanical, marvel at mechanical watches and antique cars, then I would recommend you to get the M version. It’s not difficult to get good at setting the shutter speed quickly as it only takes some practice.