It is interesting when looking at a series of cameras to see what has been improved and at what cost. Generally, improvements cost money and as the retail price is set by the market. as cost saving must be made elsewhere. This article looks at the three Voigtländer cameras that I have – Vito II, Vito B and Vito Automatic I – which are more or less an equivalent series aimed at an enthusiastic amateur. Each of these came in variations but I am restricting myself to the actual cameras I own.
Of the three Voigtländer cameras that I have, the Vito B is the nicest design, the easiest to use and aesthetically the most pleasing. The Vito II lacks in both use and aesthetics as a result of the design of the shutter. Voigtländer bought their shutters from Gauthier (a part of Zeiss Ikon) and the Vito II uses a Pronto and the Vito B a Prontor-SVS. The Pronto is little, if at all, changed from pre-war designs and is mostly painted black apart from the front bezel, while the Prontor-SVS has a much more modern look – it is all stainless steel and chrome. The Vito Automatic I has a Prontor-matic 125 shutter which doesn’t manage to look quite as elegant as the Vito B’s shutter although it is not that different
The Vito II is also larger (125mm wide)than the Vito B (115mm wide) – a necessity due to the folding bellows behind the lens: they take up a fair bit of room when closed. Apart from the width differ3ence, they are much the same size in use. The Vito Automatic I is also 125mm wide plus the catch for the back making an overall 130mm. This is due to the large toothed sprocket beside the take-up spool which is absent on both the Vito II and Vito B. The Vito Automatic I is also much taller at 90mm compared to 70mm (Vito B) and 75mm (Vito II).
The overall finish is the same in the three cameras – stainless steel and black leatherette.
Shutters – The design changed drastically between the Vito II and the Vito B. Apart from appearances, the main differences are the number of speeds available and the fastest speed. The Vito II has four speeds available (1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 1/200) and the Vito B has eight (1 second, ½, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 1/300). The Vito Automatic I while being the more modern camera has only three speeds available (1/30, 1/60 and 1/125). All three have B available as well.
The next change is in how the shutter is cocked. The Vito II has the old fashioned manual cocking lever that needs to be set by hand. The Vito B has the shutter cocked when the film is advanced. Both of those only need a gentle touch on the shutter release button to fire the shutter. The Vito Automatic I has the shutter cocked by the shutter release in the first part of its travel which means that a much “firmer” touch is required.
The biggest fault with the Vito B is that the shutter blades are behind the lens and so it is possible to touch them – and damage them – when cleaning inside the camera. In both the Vito II and the Vito Automatic I the shutter is in between the lens elements and in front of the iris diaphragm.
The diaphragms themselves are very different. The Crudest is the Vito Automatic I which has only four blades giving an almost square aperture (almost square as the iris blades are curved). In my example, the diaphragm does not open evenly and at f4 the aperture is decidedly kite shaped.
The Vito II AND Vito B both have 10 iris blades and produce a nearly circular aperture. The reduction in iris blades in the Vito Automatic I seems to be one of the trade-offs required to pay for the automation.
The Vito Automatic I also has only two shutter blades (or at least only two visible) while the Vito II and Vito B both have the five blades we would expect of a Pronter shutter – another cost saving it would seem.
All three are synchronised for flash and have a PC socket available. The Vito II and Vito Automatic I have no setting for synchronising the flash and I assume they are permanently set for bulb flash, The Vito B has M, X and V settings – bulb, electronic and delay.