Voigtlander’s Vito range of cameras are 35mm cameras aimed at serious amateurs. They date from the 1940s to the 1960s and pre-date the SLR concept. As was normal for the time, they come with several options of lenses and shutters.
Initially, the Vito range were folding cameras that were small enough when closed to easily fit into a pocket. My example is a mid-dated Vito II – the Vito II model went through a number of revisions with minor details being changed with each revision. There was one major revision which gave rise to the Vito IIa. I also have an original Vito I. A comparison of my Vito cameras can be seen here.
The sequence of changes in the Vito II were:
- 1949 Introduced
- 1950 Shutter release bar became shutter release button, holder for an accessory shoe added
- 1951 Film take-up spool is fixed and rewind knob is telescopic
- 1954 Accessory shoe fitted (rather than provision for one) Compur shutter available
- 1955 Film advance now a lever, larger viewfinder (Vito IIa)
So my Vito II is a 1954 version although the lens serial number shows the lens was made in 1953.
So, a basic description. The camera easily fits in a hand (my hand at any road), being 125mm long, 75mm high and 40mm thick when closed. The lens standard is opened by a recessed button on the base – the cover is hinged on the side and the lens comes forward and locks in position. This action is spring loaded but on my camera the spring is not strong enough to fully open the camera. When new, it may well have been fully automatic opening. To close the camera again, two buttons have to be pressed simultaneously and the cover pushed into place.
The aperture range is f3.5 to f16. The shutter is the cheaper Pronto shutter made by Gauthier and offers four speeds – 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 1/200 seconds as well a B. There is also a delay action timer which delays the shutter release by about ten seconds. This is very difficult to use as the setting lever is very close to the struts holding the lens in place.
18 September 2012:
This is now a favourite camera with only a few niggles. The first is its age – around sixty years old. My concern for its age revolve around the bellows. These are made from some sort of oiled/lacquered cloth and eventually they will start leaking light. I am not sure if I should tackle this by leaving the lens extended all the time and so ensuring that any small leak there might be will leave a significant mark on the film, or whether I should leave the camera closed unless I am actually taking a picture and so hastening then point at which then light starts leaking in.
The other main niggle is the position of the shutter release button. When holding the camera, my finger does not naturally fall on the release button and I find my finger searching for it – not exactly helping to ‘hit’ the decisive moment.
Third niggle – the viewfinder. It is small. So small I can barely use it while wearing my spectacles. This is a reverse Galilean finder – it produces a small image in the same way that a telescope does when you use it back to front. having a built-in viewfinder in a consumer camera was a fairly new idea when the Vito II was designed – Zeiss Ikon were still using folding Newtonian finders on the equivalent (Nettar and Ikonta) cameras. This viewfinder is much the same as the viewfinder in the later Vito B. It was only when the Vito B had been in production for several years that larger comfortable to use finders were introduced (as they were on the new Vito C range that eventually replaced the Vito B range.
Apart from those three niggles, I like using this camera. the rewind knob is better than a standard SLR mini lever for rewinding the film and I also like the film advance knob in place of a rapid wind lever.