Balancing the Bessa R when using compact lenses

As I’ve written about in both my Bessa R and Bessa R2A reviews, these cameras don’t hang properly when paired with compact/lightweight lenses, which include many of Voigtlander’s offerings under 35mm. The camera exhibits a backwards tilt due to the lens not being heavy enough to counterbalance the weight of the body, making it very uncomfortable to hang from a strap if you go for a walk. 

Option 1: Bessa side grip

After scouring photography forums I came across others who had this same problem and recommended getting the Bessa side grip. Well, it’s not cheap (about $130 shipped from Japan) but I decided to get it anyway in hopes that it would work. Well, it kind of worked. See for yourself:

Bessa R2A with Voigtlander 21mm f4 lens and side grip attached

I would say it improved by 80%. It actually looks better in the picture than in reality. When you walk, the camera body still swings forward with each step you take. It’s definitely an improvement, but it’s expensive and makes the camera much bigger.

Option 2: Modified strap attachment

This requires nothing additional other than your camera strap. Before a recent 10 mile walk around Manhattan, I decided enough was enough. I figured out a way to attach my camera strap that would move the center of gravity forward, allowing the camera to hang more upright while preventing it from swinging forward as it does with the side grip, even with my extremely light 21mm f4 attached. Here are the steps:

  1. attaching the strap to one lug like normal
  2. run the strap on the back of the camera and then underneath, so it wraps to the front underneath the lens
  3. run the strap through the ring on the other lug
  4. attach the end of the strap to the beginning of the strap near where it’s attached to the first lug

Surprisingly, it worked, and after walking around for 10 miles it was still working out great. I put scotch tape on the areas where the straps rubbed against the body, so as not to damage the fragile coating. I actually prefer the way this feels over the side grip method, although you need to move the strap out of the way when setting it on a flat surface and when changing film. Despite this, it’s much more comfortable to carry than it was before, and best of all, you don’t need to buy anything extra to do it.

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