Folding camera, 'Bessa 66', metal / glass / leather, made by Voigtlander and Sohn AG, Germany, 1930-1940
35 mm film was first introduced for Edison's Kinetograph film but was not of sufficient quality for still film until the early 1900s. Another factor which limited the uptake of 35 mm film was the competition from Kodak's multitude of film sizes. It was not until the 1930's that this smaller film size started to become a popular and it was from this time that 35mm cameras began to dominate the market.
A number of camera manufacturers had attempted to market the format but it was not until 1923 and the introduction of the 'Leica' camera that 35 mm challenged other larger film sizes. This success was due to the high design, construction and lens qualities of the 'Leica' which allowed quality enlargements to be made from the small 35 mm negatives. In 1934 Kodak produced its first 35 mm camera, the 'Retina' and in 1936 the International Radio Corporation made the 'Argus model A' camera the first to be mass-produced in the U. S. A. After the Second World War Japanese manufactures started producing quality 35 mm cameras which became the de-facto standard for film negatives throughout the rest of the century.
The 'Bessa I' produced from 1931-1949 is a scale focusing camera which means you guesstimate the distance to your subject. It came with four lens options of increasing quality: Voigtar, Vaskar, Skopar, and the Color Skopar. There is no sophisticated winding mechanism on this camera. You simply wind the film until the next backing paper mark appears through the red window on the back of the camera.
This camera is a part of the Jock Leate collection acquired by the Powerhouse in 2004. Jock managed a chain of 'photography, recording, Hi-Fi and optical equipment' stores across Sydney from the late 1960s to 1988. The collection spans the period from the 1870s through to the 1980s.
Coe, Brian, Cameras, from the daguerreotype to instant pictures, Marshall Cavendish, London, 1978
Geoff Barker, March, 2007