Voigtländer Vitoret DR

This is a late 1960s rangefinder camera from the German firm of Voigtländer – who were owned by the Carl Zeiss Stiftung. This camera very much resembles my Zeiss Ikon Contessa LKE although it has fewer features.

The camera itself has the name Voigtländer on it in a couple of places but the instruction sheet (a large, single piece of folded paper and in no way a booklet) is clearly titled Zeiss Ikon Voigtländer. Although the Carl Zeiss Stiftung had a controlling interest in Voigtländer since the 1950s, it was only in the late 1960s that Carl Zeiss amalgamated Zeiss Ikon and Voigtländer into one manufacturer.

  • apertures: ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/22
  • focus range: 3 feet to infinity
  • lens fitting: fixed
  • shutter: Prontor 300
  • speeds: 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/300
  • flash: PC socket, X synch
  • film size: 35 mm

The name of this camera – Vitoret – indicates that it is a derivative of the folding Vito camera of the late 1940s. The Vito range developed over 20 years or so into a range of quite sophisticated cameras – Vito B, and Vitomatic in the 1950s, Vito C, CLR and Vito Automatic in the 1960s. The D part of the name indicates a light meter – I do not know what the D stands for as the German for a light meter is Belichtungsmesser or Lichtmeter. The R indicates a built-in rangefinder.

The body is made from die-cat aluminium alloy and the top and bottom plates appear to be made from aluminium sheet. The body is covered with black leatherette and the edge of the camera are painted gloss black. The opening back is made from pressed steel and is also covered with black leatherette. The camera measures 125 by 88 by 70 mm. It weighs 538 g. This is the late model Vitoret DR with square corners – there was an earlier model with a more rounded look. The Vitoret range was introduced in about 1963 with the Vitoret D. The version with square corners was introduced in 1966 and seems to have been continued up until Zeiss Ikon ceased production in 1972. The general appearance is very similar to the Zeiss Ikon Contessa LKE.

The top plate is sparse – at least compared to most SLR cameras. On the far right is a knob for controlling the light meter. This is not a coupled meter and you need to manually transfer the setting to the shutter and aperture. This meter is a selenium meter so it has no need of a battery – there is a disadvantage to selenium meters in old cameras as the selenium sensor can deteriorate over time if left exposed to light but if the camera is stored in its case or a dark cupboard that is unlikely to be a problem. On my camera, the meter is completely dead, which is likely to be a problem with the electronics rather than the selenium sensor.

To use the meter, you first need to set the film speed using the inner perspex disc. This can be set between 12 DIN/12 ASA and 36 DIN/3200 ASA. Having set the film speed, you now turn the outer ring to move the red pointer in the light meter window until it is superimposed on the meter’s white needle. You then read off the aperture (black numbers) and shutter speed (white numbers) combination that suits you. The meter was made for Voigtländer by Bewi who made meters for a number of German camera makers as well as for theirselves.

Central on the top plate is a Barnack accessory shoe – no electrical contacts so a cold shoe. Just to the right of this accessory shoe, near the rear of the top plate, is a small (3mm diameter) chromed button. This is the release button to allow the film to be rewound. It is necessary to keep this button depressed the whole time that you are rewinding the film.

Left of the accessory shoe is the maker’s and model name embossed in the metal. On the far left of the top plate is the rewind crank – this is the ubiquitous small folding crank. As well as rewinding the film, this crank lifts up to facilitate inserting and removing the film cassettes.

On the back of the top plate, towards the left, is the viewfinder eyepiece. This measures 20 by 14 mm and incorporates the rangefinder eyepiece. There are bright lines, 14 by 9 mm, bounding the image area. As this is not an SLR, there is no focus screen. The image is tinted pink. In the centre of the image is a pale green diamond – this is the rangefinder spot. The pink image and green spot makes the rangefinder easy to use. Just below the the top plate, on the right, is the film advance lever. This moves through 225º to advance the film by one frame but this can also be achieved with several short movements.

On the front of the top plate is a rectangular chrome bezel which measures 83 by 20 mm. On the right of this bezel is the viewfinder window. This measures 25 by 15 mm. Centrally, there is a black rectangle with a clear diamond. This is the rangefinder window. The centre of this diamond window is 30 mm from the centre of the viewfinder window. The larger this distance, the more sensitive the rangefinder will be. 30 mm is quite respectable. On the far left of the chrome bezel is the knobbly light meter sensor window.

Below the top plate on the front is the shutter/lens assembly. The shutter is a Prontor 300. This has a restricted range of shutter speeds: 1/30, 1/60, 1/125 and 1/300 plus B. This range, restricted as it is, will be fine for the photographers attracted to this camera. Apertures are from ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/22 which is a very usable range. There are five blades in the iris diaphragm giving a pentagonal aperture – the effect of this on the bokeh will be seen with the test film.

The lens is a Color-Lanthar which appears to be a triplet. Its focal length is 50 mm which is usual for this type of 35mm camera. The ‘Color’ part indicates that the lens is designed for colour photography. This might be taken for granted today but the vast majority of photography in the 1960s and earlier was black and white. The ‘Lanthar’ part indicates that the lens uses glasses containing Lanthanum – a rare earth metal that gives the glass a high refractive index allowing for ‘stronger’ elements to the lens. Lanthanum glass also has low dispersion which means that the different colours of light behave the same as they pass through the lens resulting in less chromatic aberration. The use of Lanthanum improves the quality of the lens but this lens is a triplet – only three glass elements – which reduces the quality of the lens. Other triplet lenses I have used have been quite good when stopped down to ƒ/8 and I expect this lens to be the same. The test film will show for sure.

Focal range is from just short of 3.5 feet (I suspect that it is actually one metre but this is an export camera and the scale is in feet) to infinity. There are distances marked by a red dot (close to 4.5 feet), a red triangle (between 9 and 12 feet) and a red circle (short of 60 feet. These are Happy Snapper settings for portraits, groups and landscapes respectively. These are intended to be used with an aperture of ƒ/8. I can tell this aperture by setting the red circle to the focus index and looking at which aperture is against infinity on the depth of field scale – it is ƒ/8.

This depth of field scale sits between the shutter speed scale and the focus scale. It consists of two aperture scales, one either side of the focus index, with the widest aperture nearest to the index. To establish the depth of filed for your settings, you look at the focus distance against each of the aperture values that you have set. An example: you have set your aperture to ƒ/11 and you are focused at 8 feet. The two distances against ƒ/11 are 6 feet and twelve feet so everything between six and twelve feet will be in focus.

To the left of the lens is the shutter release. This is a vertical slider rather than a button. These became common in the 1960s but I have never liked them as they require a different grip on the camera. In order to attach a standard cable release there is a threaded hole on the bottom of the slider. Below the shutter release slider is a chrome PC socket for flash connection.

The base of the camera has a standard tripod socket – 1/4 inch Whitworth I would think at this age. This socket is in line with the centre of the lens. Just in front of the tripod socket is the camera serial number – 843072. All my other Voigtländer cameras lack a serial number, their place being taken by the lens serial number. This camera’s serial number is shorter than Voigtländer’s lens serial number.

Also on the base plate is the frame counter. Unlike earlier Voigtländer cameras, this frame counter counts up. Every third frame has a number, the intermediate frames being dots. The counter counts up to 36. The counter is automatically reset to -2 by opening the back.

To get inside the camera, there is a catch on the left-hand edge of the camera. To open the back, you must squeeze the top and bottom of the catch and the back will pop open. The back itself has a rather small pressure plate and a small chrome roller to keep the film against the sprocket shaft.

The film cassette goes on the left – the rewind crank holds the cassette in place and needs to be lifted to either insert or remove the cassette. The film gate is no larger than necessary and smaller than in most 35mm cameras. To the right of the film gate is the sprocket shaft. The rôle of this is to count the sprocket holes in the film as it passes the film gate to ensure that exactly one frame is advanced each time – eight holes to one frame. The take-up spool is nice and wide – this means that the film is not curled too tightly on the take-up spool. With some cameras, a thin take-up spool means that the film will not lie flat for printing or scanning. There are four slots on take-up spool which are nice and wide and make it easy to fit a new film.

I have eventually finished my test film – Agfa Vista plus, 200 ISO – and have had the film developed by AG Photography in Birmingham. The results are quite good for a 50+ year old camera – everything is working as it should. The shutter is clearly within spec as the negatives are nicely exposed – I cannot show this on the Interweb as the scanning process compensates for poorly exposed negative but I can examine the actual negatives and they have the image density I would like them to have. The same goes for the aperture.

My first two images are test of the rangefinder. In the first image, I have focused using the rangefinder on the nearest silver knob with the aperture wide open. That is in focus and the rest of the image is not. The silver knob was close to the closest focus distance for this lens (3.5 feet).

This next picture is using the rangefinder to focus on something a bit further away. Again, the subject is in focus and the rest is not, which is good.

This next image is the Strait in Lincoln a dull day. Image contrast is good as is focus.

The chapter house at Lincoln cathedral, covered in scaffolding for repairs. This is looking west and has caused a small amount of flare. Otherwise, I am pleased with this image.

While enjoying a cup of coffee with Bestbeloved in Caffè Nero in Lincoln, I tried this camera hand-held indoors. To get a good exposure, I used a fairly long shutter speed. I was able to hold then camera steady enough for there to be no visible camera shake, but I doubt I could enlarge the picture much above what it is here.

The last image is of Bestbeloved looking at gulls through her binoculars (which is what she can usually be found to be doing). This is in Scarborough and was taken in light rain. The lens has good micro-contrast and good colour rendition in quite poor light.

Overall, I am impressed with this camera. The lens is a triplet but performs well enough. It was made by one of the foremost camera makers of the 20th century so it should be good but its was towards the end of German hegemony in this industry and the Germans were finding out that they could not compete with the Japanese. Zeiss Ikon and Voigtländer started making down to a price rather than up to a standard. The Japanese, of course, managed to build down to a price whilst also building up to a standard.


Voigtlander Bessamatic

P1040597This is a big lump of a camera – it weighs 927g – and will not be easy to use for long periods. The basic design is the same as the Zeiss Ikon Contaflex series, Kodak Retina Reflexflex, Mamiya Korvette (aka Family) and several others. The camera uses a reflex version of the Synchro-Compur shutter. This is very complicated shutter that does a bit more than control the exposure. East German Zeiss Ikon in the late 1940s introduced a reflex version of the Zeiss Ikon Contax which became the standard for SLR design that is still with us with DSLR cameras. This East German SLR used a focal plane shutter (as had the Contax) and most SLR manufacturers followed suit. West German Zeiss Ikon went with a design using the in-between the lens leaf shutter instead as did Voigtlander. This complicates things as the shutter must be open to enable viewing through the lens without exposing the film. The solution – designed by both Compur and Gauthier – is to use a secondary shutter behind the mirror. To expose the film requires seven steps:

  1. close the leaf shutter
  2. raise the mirror
  3. open the secondary shutter
  4. fire the leaf shutter
  5. close the secondary shutter
  6. lower the mirror
  7. open the leaf shutter.

This is relatively slow compared to a focal plane shutter and involves more moving parts working in synch. The thought process behind doing this in preference to a focal plane shutter is long lost but the system had a long life and was used by Hasselblad, Bronica, Mamiya and others for medium format SLR cameras well into the 2000s. This camera cost, in 1965, a whopping £117-8-3 (in old British money, or £117.41 in modern British money). Average wages in Britain in 1965 were £70 per month so this represented 170% of a month’s wages. In 2019 terms, this equates to around £5,156 for this camera.

P1040598This camera is partially automatic. The two controls are the light meter and the shutter speed. To set the exposure, you first set the required shutter speed and then turn the meter knob until the two needles in the viewfinder are superimposed. This sets the aperture required for that shutter speed. If you would prefer to choose the aperture rather than the shutter speed you can do this by matching the two needles in the viewfinder and then adjusting the shutter speed until the required aperture is by the black index pointer on top of the shutter housing. There is no way of directly setting the aperture.

Having given an overview of the workings, I shall give a more detailed description of the camera.

On the far right of the top plate is the film advance lever. This rests flush with the back of the top plate. The lever moves through about 270° to advance the film one frame. The lever is not on a ratchet so the lever needs tone moved all the way in one movement. This is surprisingly easy to do in one motion. Embedded in the advance lever is a film reminder. This has three options:

  1. Black and white
  2. Daylight colour
  3. Artificial light colour

This is purely a mnemonic and has no effect on the operation of the camera.

P1040601Just to the left of the advance pivot is a small lever marked “R” and arrow. Moving this lever in the direction of the arrow allows the film to be rewound into the cassette. This is reset by winding the film advance lever.

At the front of the top plate, between the film advance lever and the pentaprism hump, is the shutter release button. This is chrome plated metal and is threaded for a standard cable release. The pentaprism hump is rather broad compared to other SLR cameras and the image in the viewfinder is accordingly large.

To the left of the pentaprism hump is a large combination knob. This has four functions:

  1. setting the film speed
  2. setting the light meter
  3. adjusting the exposure for filters
  4. rewinding the film

P1040602First, setting the film speed. This is a German camera and although both DIN and ASA scales are present, the German DIN scale dominates over the American ASA scale. Speeds available are from 11 DIN/10 ASA TO 36 DIN/3200 ASA. To set the film speed you need to slide out a nipple on the film speed scale and rotate the scale until the required film speed is against the red index mark.

To set the light meter, you need to be looking through the viewfinder. Zeiss Ikon, on their Contaflex, included a meter read-out on the top plate as well as in the viewfinder but with Voigtlander the only read-out is in the viewfinder. This means you holding a rather heavy (927g!) camera up to your eye for no good reason. In use, you turn the outer ring of the combination knob until the needle with a ring is superimposed on the meter needle. Turning this adjusts the aperture, turning the aperture ring on the shutter housing directly. If it is not possible to superimpose the two needles at the selected shutter speed, it is possible to turn the now stiff ring with more effort which will adjust the shutter speed as well as the aperture.

P1040611As this camera is not metering through the lens, the meter takes no notice of any filters in use. If filters are attached to the lens they have an exposure factor printed on them. Beside the combination knob is a scale from zero to five. These are filter factors. To use these, you set the exposure in the normal way. Any the base of the combination knob is a series of alternating red and black dots. To set the filter factor, you select the red or black dot by the zero and turn the light meter ring until that selected dot is beside the appropriate factor on the scale.

In the centre of the combination knob is the rewind knob which is used in conjunction with the rewind lever mention earlier. This pulls up about 5 mm to make rewinding easier and then pulls up a further 10 mm to allow the film cassette to be removed.

The front of the camera is dominated by the shutter/lens assembly. Above the shutter housing is the light meter sensor. This is a selenium meter and so has no need of a battery.


“This bayonet mount was also used by the Retina Reflex (it is called the DKL mount and Voigtlander and Kodak versions were slightly different).”

The other item on the front is a PC socket for attaching a flash gun. This can be used with either M rated flash bulbs or with electronic flash – there is a lever to select between the two on the side of the shutter housing. As well as M and X, this selector has a third option of V. This is short for Vorlaufwerk and is a shutter delay timer. This can only be set once the film has been advanced and currently (on my camera) delays the shutter firing by 12 seconds. To mover this selector between M,X and V, you need to simultaneously press a small lever on the other side of the shutter housing.

On the shutter housing itself, there are three movable rings. The inner-most controls the shutter speed and can be moved between 1/500 and 1 seconds. This moves easily without altering the exposure as the aperture ring moves at the same time but in the opposite direction. The next ring out is the aperture ring and can to be directly controlled by the user. There are two ways to change the aperture – change the shutter speed or adjust the light meter. The next movable ring is the focus ring – this will focus between 1m and infinity. To aid focus, there is a ring of micro-prisms in the viewfinder with a split-image centre.

This lens does not have a separate DOF scale. Instead, there are two red pointers by the focus scale  which move as the aperture changes and these red pointers indicate the new and far limits of the DOF for the selected aperture.


The lens on this camera is exchangeable, although few options were available. The lens is fitted in a bayonet mount just in front of the shutter blades. This bayonet mount was also used by the Retina Reflex (it is called the DKL mount and Voigtlander and Kodak versions were slightly different). To remove the lens you press a plunger beneath the shutter housing and simultaneously turn the lens through about 45° anti-clockwise.

The lens is a Color-Skopar X f/2.8 50mm lens. It has the DKL bayonet mount. The serial number (5,671,055) dates the lens to 1961. The camera body has a separate serial number (100433). Focusing moves the whole lens, not just the front element. The focus ring is fairly deeply scalloped to both provide a grip and also to allow the ring to be found by touch.

P1040607The back is opened by squeezing together two serrated lugs on the left side of the back. The back is hinged (which is better than Zeiss Ikon’s idea of a detachable back which makes loading film in the field awkward). Inside is as you would expect from a late 20th century camera. The film cassette goes on the left and the take-up spool, which is fixed, is on the right. Beside the take-up spool is the toothed sprocket shaft. This shaft has a milled section which is used to rotate the shaft prior to loading the film. The reason for doing this is that this is the only way of setting the frame counter. The frame counter counts down to zero so must be set to the length of the film plus two prior to loading the film. This is a very crude and cumbersome way to do this – it takes quite a long time – and is not up to Voigtlander’s usual standards.

Voigtlander Vitomatic IICS

Another derivation of the Vito B from Voigtlander – the last of the Vito B line.

I already have a Voigtlander Vitomatic II which in turn is based on the Voigtlander Vito B camera. This camera is from the same stable. I now have four Vito B derivatives as the Vito BL is a precursor of the Vitomatic cameras. This first photograph shows my four Vito B derived cameras. They are very similar – they share the same basic body casting – but vary in many details. The Vito B was the first old camera I bought and is still a very special camera to me.P1030956


lens:  Color-Skopar
focal length:  50 mm
apertures: f/2.8 to f/22
focus range: 3.5 feet
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Prontor 500 SLK-V
speeds: 1 second to 1/500 second
flash: hot shoe plus PC connector
film size: 35 mm


This CS model has a more modern looking bezel around the viewfinder, rangefinder and meter sensor than the earlier Vito B range but is otherwise much the same as the earlier cameras.


I will give a simple description concentrating on the differences introduced with this model.

The top of the camera has a translucent dome on the right-hand end which has two functions. Its primary function is as a battery holder for the light meter which his clearly a CdS meter rather than a selenium meter in the earlier Vitomatic II. The battery is a PX 625 button battery which is a banned mercury battery. Modern alternatives are available but will affect the light meter as the voltage will be slightly too high. The secondary purpose is the translucence which provides light to enable the user to see the meter needle in the viewfinder.


At the other end of the top is the rewind crank. The earlier Vitomatics (and Vito B, Vito BL) had a rewind knob – this has been replaced with a fold-out crank as has become usual. This has an idiosyncrasity in that in order to fold-out the crank, it is necessary to flick a serrated lever on the end of the camera below the rewind crank. In the older Vito series, this caused the rewind knob to pop up. Now it causes the crank to pop up – the user still needs to unfold it.

In the centre of the top is the accessory shoe. This now has electrical contacts for a flash gun so is a hot shoe. This camera also retains the ability to use off-camera flash with a PC connector on the left-hand end above the serrated lever for the rewind crank. The viewfinder eyepiece on the back of the camera is nice and large and has clear bright-lines for framing the picture. These have secondary lines to allow for parallax in close-focus photographs.

In the centre of the viewfinder image is the rangefinder spot. This is decidedly orange (achieved by using gold-plated mirrors instead of silvered mirrors) and quite easy to see but is a bit on the small side. The split-image rangefinder spot has high contrast making it easy to align the images (Note:  while writing this article, the rangefinder has stopped working. The linkage between the focus ring on the lens  and the rangefinder mechanism in the top plate has become de-linked in some way. I shall not attempt a repair as the camera is otherwise excellent).


At the bottom of the viewfinder image is the light meter display. This has a green area on the left, a red area on the right and a larger white area in the centre. At the moment, I do not have a suitable battery for this so the meter is not working. When the batteries arrive (ordered from The Small Battery Company) I will find out if the meter is functional and if so, how to use it. I will then update this article.


In the bottom right of the viewfinder is a prism which allows the user to see both the aperture and shutter speed which have been set. The visible shutter speeds are limited to 1/60 to 1/500 which are printed in silver on the shutter barrel. To achieve this, the shutter speeds are offset to the left with the highest speed – 1/500 – being at the top of the shutter housing. Slower speeds are available down to 1 second which speeds are printed in bronze. These speeds are not visible in the viewfinder but that is not going to be a major problem as then user will not be using these slower speeds hand-held so they will stile visible.

In common with the other cameras in the Vito B range, the film advance lever advances the film but does not cock the shutter. The shutter is cocked by the moving film rotating a sprocket wheel above the film gate. This means that the shutter will not get cocked if there is no film in the camera leading people to falsely think that the shutter is broken.


The lens is the Voigtlander Color-Skopar which is a copy of the Carl Zeiss Tessar four element lens. It is a very good lens. Its serial number – 7004871 – tells me the camera was made in 1967 so this is an early version of the Vitomatic II CS.

The shutter on this camera is a Prontor 500 SLK-V. The V indicates that the shutter is a special version to Voigtlander’s specification (FYI – S=syncronised for flash, L=coupled light meter, K=coupled rangefinder). I assume that a this refers to the internal linkages to the rest of the camera as outwardly the shutter is the same as non-V Prontor 500 SLK shutters. The 500 tells us the top shutter speed – there were 125 and 250 versions of the shutter made. This shutter is both light meter and rangefinder coupled so there is no need to manually transfer either exposure details or distance to the shutter once they have been read.

The shutter has a delay action lever – re on then underside of the shutter housing. Standard advice is to never use these with old cameras as they are liable to failure and can wreck an otherwise good shutter mechanism. On this camera, the delay action works well and smoothly giving a delay of about eight seconds before the shutter fires.

The shutter barrel also has a film speed setting. This is in both DIN (on the right, 15 to 30) and ASA (on the left, 25 to 800).The focus ring has three Happy Snapper settings. the first, denoted by a red dot, is for head-and-shoulder portraits and gives a focus range of nearly four feet to five feet. The second, denoted by a red triangle, is for group shots and gives a focus range of eight feet to sixteen feet. The third Happy Snapper setting is denoted by a red circle and is for landscapes with a focus range of fifteen feet to infinity (my apologies to non-British and younger readers, this camera does not do metres!). All these assume an aperture setting of f/8 which is printed in bronze on the aperture scale. If you use f/22 and the red triangle, this will give an aperture range of five and a half feet to infinity and shows an hyper-focal distance of eleven feet. Ideal for landscapes in good weather!


The shutter release has moved from the top plate to the front of the camera and is now a slider rather than a button. At first glance, there is no provision for a cable release, but the socket for this is on the underside of the shutter release slider.


The rest of the camera is basically the same as the rest of the Vito B series – the strange way of opening the back, for instance, by undoing a small part of the base and then the back hinges out as you might expect – see the next two photographs.


I currently have several cameras with filom in them so I shall be delaying testing this one for a short while. When I have run the test film, I shall post the results here. I have high expectations – no Voigtlander camera has let me down yet. The big advantage of German cameras over the Japanese cameras is that the Germans never used foam light seals so light leaks are rare.

Mike Eckman has devised a system of scoring cameras for his reviews. With his permission, I am going to copy that system for my own blog. Details of how this works can be found here.

My Final WordThe Vitomatic IICS is a very well designed and made camera. It was designed and made towards the end of German photographic industry. It is visually pleasing and easy to use but the Japanese were already doing it better.
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Final Score30

Voigtländer Bessa 46

A folding medium format camera from Voigtlander from 1939


This is a pre-war (pre-1939 – 45 war, that is) Bessa camera from Voigtlander. I can almost date the camera from the lens serial number – 2,518,575. When Voigtlander restarted production in 1945 they were using lens serial numbers starting with 2,7xx,xxx so this camera is well before 1945. It is also stamped with the word ‘Germany’ on the leatherette. That effectively puts a latest date of September 1939 on the camera as this is clearly an export camera. In 1937, Voigtlander serial numbers reached 2,XXX,XXX and this is 500,000 beyond that so this is most probably from the last production in 1939.

lens: Voigtar
focal length:  75 mm
apertures: f/3.5 to f/16
focus range: 3 feet to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Prontor II
speeds: 1 second to 1/175 seconds
flash: no
film size: 120

bessa 1The camera is in nearly new condition. There is a very small amount of black paint missing and some of the corners of the leatherette are lifting. This is almost certainly glued in place with shellac which has hardened over the last 78 years. I am not going to bother regluing it. The other outstanding thing about this camera is that the hinged yellow filter is in place and in good condition. Every other Bessa I have ever seen has this filter missing.

The description:

The camera measures 133 by 80 bob 35 mm when closed and by 97 mm when open for use. It weighs 480 g. Being a camera of its age, there are few controls. On the top three items 1) depth of field calculator 2) falling viewfinder 3) film advance key.

bessa 61) the depth of field calculator is simple to use. You rotate the outer ring until the distance to your subject is at the front by the black arrow. You then look down the centre to find your chosen aperture and follow the curved line both left and right to the outer ring. The numbers at this point give the nearest and farthest distances that will be in acceptable focus. Example: you’re focused on 15 feet and are using an aperture of f/11. When 15 is by the black arrow, the silver line for f/11 shows 9 feet (Actually an unnumbered mark between eight and 10) on the left and just short of 60 feet on the right. Acceptable focus will be from 9 feet to 40-ish feet. Also included are Voigtlander’s standard indications for portrait (a triangle) and the group (a circle).

If you want to know the hyperfocal distance for landscape work, set infinity against the chosen aperture on the right and read the required focus distance from the pointer at the front.

The viewfinder folds flat in order to allow the camera to be carried in a pocket. To open it, lift the back of the viewfinder and both parts will snap into place. Both parts contain glass lens and it is necessary to place the rear of then viewfinder very close to your eye. This is nowhere near as accurate as composing with an SLR camera, but is fine for all but the most critical use.

On the left is the film advance key. This also is hinged when not in use. This must be used in conjunction with the red window (more later). This key also acts as a release for the film take up spool by being lifted up while film is being removed and a new empty spool is put in place.

The front of the camera has a bowed hinged door cover the lens when just not in use. This has an ornate an ‘V’ in the centre. There was also a recessed lever which does nothing while the camera is closed. This door is opened by pressing a recessed button on the base of the camera. When pressed, the door opens most of the way. Zeiss Ikon and  Balda cameras snap fully open but Voigtlander is a gentler company and it is necessary to fully open the door by hand. All my Voigtlander folders are like this (five of them) so I think it must be intentional. As the door opens, the lens comes forward on bellows. When the door is fully open, the lens is rigidly held in place at the right distance and parallel to the film.

bessa 4The first thing to notice here is the yellow filter. Voigtlander supplied these fixed to the front of the lens with many of their cameras but they get broken off. This one is intact which together with the general finish of the camera suggests that it was never used very much. The filter is labelled ‘Voigtlander Moment’. For my younger readers, the purpose of the filter is the block some of the blue light in the sky making it darker and so making the clouds stand out more. This is only of any use with black-and-white film, of course. With colour film, the whole picture will come out yellow! As the filter is blocking some of the light, it is necessary to increase exposure slightly.

bessa 3The lens is Voigtlander’s Voigtar lens. This is a triplet lens (three pieces of glass) with a maximum aperture of f/3.5. Its focal length is 75 mm. The negative size with this camera is 45×60 mm and the diagonal of the lens is 75 mm – the lens is a ‘normal’ lens for this film format. The lens will focus from 3 feet to infinity. Incidentally, this is a front cell focusing camera – only the front piece of glass moves to focus the lens which is not ideal but is a lot cheaper to make.

The shutter is a Prontor II made by Gauthier. This shutter has speeds from one second to 1/175 seconds as well as B and T. B is short for Bulb and keeps the shutter open for as long as the shutter release is depressed. T is Time and the shutter release opens the shutter which stays open until the shutter release iOS pressed a second time. The aperture scale on the top of the shutter housing runs from f/3.5 to f/16. The lever actually goes quite a long way past f/16 and must be approaching f/22.

bessa 8The shutter needs to be cocked before use. There is a cocking lever towards the front of the shutter housing which needs to be moved downwards to cock the shutter. As was usual at this time, there is a shutter release lever on the side of the shutter housing. This cannot be accessed by the photographer as it is hidden behind the door’s supporting struts. Voigtlander have provided a shutter release lever on the lens door attached to the lever on the shutter housing by an articulated rod. Also on the shutter housing is a threaded socket for a standard cable release.

On the bottom of the shutter housing is a red lever. This is a delay action lever – pulling this to one side before firing the shutter delays it by about 10 seconds. The standard advice is never to use these on old cameras as if they go wrong they can wreck the shutter. On my camera, the delay action mechanism barely works at all.

bessa 5The back of the camera has the red window for reading frame numbers off the film backing paper. 120 film has three series of numbers on the back, one for ‘full frame’ which is 60 by 90 mm, one for square and one for ‘half frame’ which is 45 by 60 mm. This camera is a half frame camera and so uses the top row of numbers. The red window is fitted with a blind to stop light coming in and fogging the film. this blind has a clear ‘X’ printed on it. To remove the blind in order to read the frame numbers, there is a thumb screw beside the red window and rotating this exposes the frame numbers.

bessa 7The base of the camera has a couple of items. As already mentioned, there is the recessed button for opening the lens door. At the end of the base is a combination item. In the centre of this is a tripod socket. This is the older 3/8 inch Whitworth threaded socket but has an insert in it with the more usual 1/4 inch Whitworth thread. Around this is a lever which can be rotated through 90°. When rotated, it acts as a foot to enable the camera to be placed on a firm surface in lieu of a tripod. This can be used in conjunction with the delay action device to take self portraits.

When this lever is not being used as a foot, it blocks the catch for the back, making sure that it is not inadvertently opened while there is film in the camera. To open the back, this foot must be rotated out of the way and the top and bottom milled chrome parts of the end must both be pressed in and the back then pulled open.

bessa 9The new roll of film goes on the right in a carriage that is on a spring. When the new roll is in place, the backing paper can bet pulled across the film gate and the tapered end of the backing paper can be fed into the slot in the take-up spool. The take-up spool is then rotated using the film advance key on the top, pulling the backing paper until the paper is secure on the take-up spool. In any case, winding must stop if the word ‘START’ appears on the paper. At this point, close the back and open the red window. Continue winding the film until the number 1 appears in the window. This will be preceded by a series of circles or dots of diminishing sizes to warn you that the number is approaching.

In use:

I shall be trying this camera with a roll of Ilford FP4+ film. I usually use cheap colour film to test my cameras but no such is available in medium format and I have no 120 colour film to hand at the moment.


My test film is back from being developed and scanned by AG Photo and here are a few of the results. No light leaks visible. The negatives are slightly underexposed which is either the shutter (unlikely it will be running too fast) or my exposure meter. Either way, exposures are well within the latitude of the film. The photos:

Bessa 46-6-40
Lincoln Cathedral
Bessa 46-13-41
Flamborough lighthouse
Bessa 46-3-39
Witham in Lincoln

Voigtlander Vito CLR

1960s fixed lens rangefider from Germany

This is a development of Voigtlander’s Vito range. That started as the folding 35 mm Vito of 1939. The folding Vitos were replaced by the rigid bodied Vito B in 1954 . The Vito B sired a small range – Vito BL, Vito BR and Vitomatic. Then in 1960 came the Vito C and a small range – Vito C, Vito CD, Vito Cl, Vito Cs, Vito CLR and Vito CSR and these were followed by the Vito Automatic (very different to the Vitomatic of 1957).

So, this is the third range of Vito cameras. The name, Vito CLR, tells us it is the C range with a Light meter and Rangefinder. Both the light meter and the rangefinder are coupled to the shutter. This camera cost, in 1965, £56-19-5 (in old British money, or £56.97 in new British money). This equates to £1,840 in 2020 values which is a very expensive camera.

Voigtlander Vito CLR  (C) J. Margetts
As I usually do, I shall start with a physical description of the camera, followed by notes on using it.
My camera is the third iteration of the deluxe version. Deluxe means there are slight variations on the layout of the top plate and I get a ring of black leatherette around the base of the shutter housing. The camera is somewhat bigger than the Vito B – it measures 125 mm by 85 mm by 75 mm and weighs 730g. The main difference in appearance is that the camera now has a ‘standard’ hinged back fastened with a catch on the left-hand side. This is much easier to use than the Vito Bs somewhat strange back (although I like the Vito B’s back for its idiosyncrasy).
On the top plate on the left is a recessed rewind knob. This has a turnable film reminder which can be set to either blue or yellow – sunlight or artificial light? Just right of centre is an accessory shoe. As was usual at the time this camera was made, there are no flash contacts so this is a cold shoe. To the right of the accessory shoe is the window for the light meter. This is reflected into the viewfinder so you can set the exposure without removing the camera from your eye.
Top plate – (C) J. Margetts
On the back of the camera there are three items. On the left is the viewfinder eyepiece. This has bright-lines directly on the rear glass with parallax markings for close-ups. Below the viewfinder and slightly to the left is a lever to raise the rewind knob and free the film advance mechanism. To the right of the back is the film advance lever. This moves through 220 degrees as far as I can judge and advances the film one frame and cocks the shutter.
The front of the camera is a lot busier. At the top is a chrome rectangular bezel. This contains on the left (while looking at the lens) the light meter lens, above the shutter housing the rangefinder window and on the right the viewfinder window.
In the middle of the front, just off centre, is the shutter housing. This contains a Gauthier Prontor 500 LK shutter. The outer ring on the housing is the focussing ring. This ranges from 1 metre to infinity (my camera is marked in metres rather than feet which usually means a grey import but the body is clearly stamped ‘Made in West Germany’ so it is a factory import). This ring has three Happy Snapper settings at 1.3 m, 3.2 m, and 10 m. The last one is the hyperfocal distance at f5.6 and the middle one is the hyperfocal distance at f16. This lens is front cell focusing (only the front element of the lens moves when you turn the focus ring.
The next ring is the shutter speed ring – this adjusts from 1/15 to 1/500 and B. This is also used to set the film speed for the light meter – you need to depress a small black tab immediately behind this ring while setting the film speed. Behind the shutter speed ring is the aperture ring which runs from f/2.8 to f/22. This ring has two sizeable black tabs attached which makes finding the ring by feel easy – this is important when setting the exposure with the camera at your eye.
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In the centre of the shutter is the lens – a Color-Skopar f/2.8 50 mm lens. This is front cell focussing so not ideal but will still produce excellent images. The lens will take 32 mm push fit filters and lens hood. To the left of the shutter housing (again, while looking at the lens) is the shutter release button. This is threaded on then underside for a standard cable release. Below the shutter release is a PC flash connector.
The base of the camera has then usual 1/4 inch tripod boss – slightly left of centre and slightly forward – and a frame counter. The frame counter counts down so tells you how many frames you have left.
Vito B (top) Vito CLR (bottom)


I have completed a test film using Fomapan 200 Creative. This has shown up a problem with the camera – one the seller drew my attention to – the exposure meter under-exposes by around two stops. So, using this camera I need to set the meter for ASA 50 rather than the correct ASA 200. I suspect this is due to the selenium  sensor in the meter deteriorating. This is something we are always warned about with old selenium meters but not something I have actually come across before (it could, as the seller suggested, be the setting ring having moved from its correct position, but I doubt it).
Because of the metering problem, the negatives are very thin and getting a good scan has been difficult. tonal range is not as it should be and there are very visible horizontal lines in each picture. There is also some evidence of a light leak in the pictures – it is on the left-hand side which means it must be from around the hinge of the back. In some pictures it is not very evident, so, perhaps, if the pictures were exposed correctly, it would not be a problem. There are no foam light seals in this camera to deteriorate.
Second test film results are below the monochrome results.
Voigtlander Vito CLR
Cathedral from Broadgate, Lincoln
Voigtlander Vito CLR
City Square, Lincoln
Voigtlander Vito CLR
High Street, Lincoln
Voigtlander Vito CLR
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Voigtlander Vito CLR
Voigtlander Vito CLR

Flowers to test the lens for close-ups.

Second test – with Agfa Vista+ colour film, processed by Snappy Snaps in Lincoln.  Negative density is fine, so the earlier problems were either lack of use or my developing of the film.

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This site is a member of WebRing.To browse visit


This site is a member of WebRing.To browse visit


This site is a member of WebRing.To browse visit


Voigtlander Perkeo I

This is a nice, medium format camera from Voigtlander. It is a direct competitor to Zeiss Ikon’s Nettar 518/16 – that is, at the lower end of the enthusiasts’ 120 cameras – and is a replacement for the Bessa 66. This is a folding camera which fits nicely in a (large-ish) pocket. It measures 125 mm wide x 85 mm high x 40 mm deep (closed) or x 95 mm deep (open). It weighs 483 g. In 1952, Wallace Heaton were advertising this camera at £22/11/6 for the model I have here (that is in old money and equates to £22.57 in new money. That is equivalent to about £1,400 in 2013 values).
Perkeo I
Voigtlander Perkeo I
lens: Vaskar
focal length:  75 mm
apertures: f/4.5 to f/16
focus range: 3.5 feet to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: pronto
speeds: 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200
flash: F synch only
film size: 120
The lens is a Voigtlander Vaskar – 75 mm focal length and maximum aperture of f/4.5. The Vaskar is Voigtlander’s cheaper lens (a more expensive Perkeo I came with a Color-Skopar lens) and has a triplet construction (again, comparable to Zeiss Ikon’s Nettar on the 518/16). I have yet to see the result of using this camera, but it has a reputation for having soft focus in the corners. This is not a fatal flaw for me as I have no need for sharp focus in the corners although I am aware that others find this unacceptable.
The shutter is a Gauthier Pronto – four speeds being available of which only 1/100 and 1/200 are of any interest. This shutter has a delayed timer (Vorlaufwerk) which, unusually for a camera of this age, works well. Flash synch is provided for fast flashbulbs – I intend to try this camera with electronic flash to see if this works as well.

The shutter release is standard for the early 1950s – primary release on the shutter housing and a secondary release button on the camera’s top plate, linked to the primary release by a lever.  There is also a cable release socket which is between the two – on the hinged door.  The secondary release has a double exposure prevention mechanism fitted requiring the film to be would on before the shutter can be released a second time. On my camera, this does not work very well at the moment. When I had a similar problem on my Franka Solida II, it sorted itself out after a few shots.


Blog copyright by John Margetts, 2014


Being a folding camera, there needs to be a mechanism to bring the shutter/lens forward, ending with the lens exactly parallel to the film. On my camera this is defective – a small strut has snapped half way along its length. When I received the camera, this folding mechanism barely worked and then very badly – the lens ended up at quite an angle to the film plane.  This needed attention with naphtha to flush out dust and dirt, lubricating with clock oil and repeated folding/unfolding to free up the many joints in the struts.
Perkeo I
Perkeo I – folded

It now unfolds easily and seems to put the lens parallel to the film plane, judging entirely by eye. The test film will tell me how parallel things actually are. The broken strut does not seem to matter here. What does not work too well is closing the camera. to close properly, the lens must remain parallel to the camera body otherwise it will not fit into the available space. I suspect that the broken strut is there is achieve this. Without this strut, my thumb has to do its duty.

As an aside, I have tried a new technique with this camera. When lubricating small parts, it is quite hard to apply a small enough amount of oil to exactly the right place. Getting that small amount of oil into the linkage is a matter of working the linkage and hoping. This time I have diluted the clock oil two parts of oil to one part of naphtha to produce a very runny oil. Because the oil is diluted, once the naphtha has evaporated I am left with 2/3 of the amount of oil I applied. Also, because the oil is now very runny I am hoping that the oil will run between the surfaces of the linkages more easily before the naphtha evaporates to leave a very small amount of oil in place. So far, the only downside I have seen is that the naphtha is very good at wetting surfaces and has carried a small amount of oil over all the surfaces around the linkages. I am not convinced that this is a bad thing.

Perkeo I
Perkeo I – showing top plate

Before loading the test film, there are two things I need to do. The first is to use compressed air to blow dust out of the inside. Moving film through a camera generates a small amount of static electricity and this will pull any dust onto the film. After that, I need to check the bellows for light leaks. To do this, I wait until dark (about five PM at the moment) and shine a torch onto the bellows at close quarters. Viewing inside the camera, any light leaks will clearly show.  I have found one very large one. That broken strut I mentioned earlier has scored the bellows material and created a line on pin-pricks. These will need sorting before I try the camera. Otherwise, the camera is good to go.

The following is an advert from the British Journal of Photography Almanac 0f 1953:

1953 007

And this is an advert from the Wallace Heaton catalogue from 1952:

Perkeo  1952 004.jpg

Voigtlander Vito I

Voigtlander Vito I
Voigtlander Vito
I have used as a title for this article ‘Vito I’ but the camera is actually the Vito – Voigtlander were not aware of the forthcoming Vito range at this point.  I already have an article on the Vito II here and much in that article applies here as well.  The two cameras are very similar as you might expect.  The lens serial number says the lens was made in 1945 which is also the probable date of manufacture – one of the first cameras to be made in war-ravished Germany.
lens: Skopar
focal length: 50mm
apertures: f/3.5 to f/16
focus range: 1 metre to infinity
lens fitting: fixed
shutter: Prontor II
speeds:  1/5 to 1/200
flash: synchronised for bulbs
film size:  35mm
The camera is a folder and nicely compact when closed.  It measures 120mm by 70mm by 40mm closed and 120mm by 70mm by 80mm when open.  Closed, it nicely fits in a trouser or jacket pocket.  The only distinguishing mark on the closed camera is an ornate ‘V’ on the lens door and a fairly indistinct ‘Voigtlander’ is embossed on the leatherette on the back together with the model name ‘Vito’.  There is also the country of origin embossed on the back which is ‘Germany’.  As Germany is the English name for the country this indicates that it is an official import.  Strangely, for an official import, the focussing scale is in metres rather than feet, suggesting that Voigtlander were not fully geared up for export in 1945.
Voigtlander Vito I
Vito top view
The top plate is very uncluttered.  There is a knurled ring at either end.  The right-hand ring is the film advance and the left-hand ring the rewind.  In the centre of the top plate is a very small, reverse Galilean viewfinder.  The eyepiece is only 5mm by 2.5mm.  The image seen is roughly 0.5 times life size.  This is very small compared to more modern viewfinders but it is more than adequate.  There is also a frame counter which counts up from one.  There is no accessory shoe (flash shoe) although one was available as an extra and fitted over the viewfinder.
On the rear of the top plate is a lever.  In the normal position (down) the film advance will only advance one frame.  When raised, the film can be advanced as far as you want and can be rewound.  The toothed wheel which is exposed by raising the this lever can be used to set the frame number to one.
The underside of the camera contains three items.  Close to the centre is a 3/8 Whitworth tripod boss.  A 1/4 Whitworth insert would have been available for the more usual tripod size.  There is also a button to release the lens door.  This is spring loaded and partially opens the door.  This door never sprung open under its own steam and from new they needed the user to fully open the door once it was released.
The third item on the base is two ‘feet’.  These are little more than pins.  A third foot is on the lens door giving three feet altogether which allow the camera to sit stably on a flat surface.  This is primarily intended to allow group portraits using the self-timer.
When the door is opened, the lens comes forward on its bellows and locks in place.  The shutter release is on the top edge of the door together with a threaded socket for a standard cable release.
Voigtlander Vito I
Vito – lens door open
The lens is a Skopar f/3.5, 50mm lens.  This is the original version of the famous Color-Skopar and is not calculated for colour film.  However, it is intended for panchromatic film so should perform well with colour film.  See the test pictures below for details.  This lens focusses from one metre to infinity and has Voigtlander’s usual two Happy Snapper settings – a circle for the hyperfocal distance at f/5.6 (approximately five metres to infinity at f/5.6 or 2.5 metres to infinity at f/16) and a triangle which gives a focus range of 2.5 metres to five metres at f5.6 (ideal for groups).  This lens has no blue/purple tinge and so cannot have been coated as was normal post-WWII and so will be liable to flare.
The shutter is a Prontor II (which is the same as a Klio on a Zeiss Ikon camera) which is a pre-war design and was soon to be updated to the Prontor S.  This Prontor II has a PC connector and so must be synchronised for flash – I would suspect for fast flash bulbs (F: sync) but there is no indication of this on the shutter housing (my Vito II has a Pronto shutter and this is specifically marked F:).  Shutter speeds are 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 1/200 which is more than adequate.  The bezel of the shutter housing bears the shutter name – Prontor II – Gauthier’s maker logo and Voigtlander’s script name.
Voigtlander Vito I
Vito – lens and shutter
There is a self-timer lever which we are always told not to use on old cameras to prevent damage to the shutter.  It barely works on this camera, taking 16 seconds to actuate the shutter and then needing a little help from my finger over the last two or three seconds.
This shutter needs cocking before use – the cocking lever moves from left to right and up to cock the shutter.
Apertures available are f/3.5 to f/16.  As there are no click-stops, you can set an intermediate value if you want to.  The only other item of note on the shutter assembly is a stellate lever.  I am not entirely sure what this is for but I suspect it was to do with the hinged yellow filter that the early Vitos were fitted with.  The shutter bezel has three screws in it that are also part of the filter assembly.  When production had used up the store of pre-war parts, the bezel no longer had these three screws.
Inside is where this camera gets interesting.  The design dates from 1939 and the camera was intended to use unperforated 35mm film.  As the film was unperforated, there are no sprockets in the camera.  Instead, the camera judges the film with a feeler roller as in an up-market 120 camera.  I have been led to believe  by the Interweb that a this camera was designed to use Kodak’s 828 film which is unperforated 35 mm film with backing paper like 120 film. As the film came on a spool with backing paper (again, as with 120 film) there are springs fitted to the film chambers to keep the film tight on the spools. Actually, looking at the camera, there is no reason why the camera should not have used unperforated 35 mm film in a reloadable cassette – Leica and Zeiss Ikon made such cassettes for their 35 mm cameras. I have never seen a 1939 Vito – this would tells us immediately whether the camera used 828 film or a loadable cassette as 828 film would require a red window on the back of the camera to allow the user to see at least the first frame number. There is no red window on my 1945 Vito – was there one on the 1939 version?  When production restarted in 1945, Voigtlander decided to modify the camera for modern perforated 35mm film (135 format).  The only real change is that the film gate (the rectangular opening that lets the light hit the film in the correct place) is reduced to 24mm by 36mm (originally it had been 30mm by 40mm).
The film take up chamber will take the standard spool from a 35mm cassette as a take-up spool or an empty cassette can be fitted which means that when the film is finished you can open the back and cut the film with the exposed part already in a cassette.
These pictures were taken with this camera on Agfa Vista plus 200 ISO colour negative film: (the black wedge would seem to be a scanning artifact.  The frames all overlap about 1-2 mm and this overlap is also wedge shaped)
Voigtlander Vito I
Cowslip close-up (from one metre away)


Voigtlander Vito I
Lincoln Broadgate


Voigtlander Vito I
Lincoln High Street


Voigtlander Vito I
Lincoln Pottergate

Voigtlander Vitomatic II


This is an update of the excellent Voigtländer Vito B.  The Vito B spawned several cameras – the Vitomatics I and II and the Vito BL. This is the automatic update as opposed to the more manual Vito BL. The Vitomatic II has a coupled light meter and a coupled rangefinder added and a new shutter mechanism (the Prontor SLK-V made by Gauthier) which is needed to make use of the light meter.

I now have a second Vitomatic – the  Vitomatic II CS  from 1967.

Voigtlander also made independent rangefinders which were less handy in use. The lens is still a Color-Skopar 50mm lens but now it is f2.8 rather than f3.5 (this might just be the items I have – I have no idea as to the options that were available regarding lenses for either the Vito B or the Vitomatic II).


The size of the two cameras (Vito B and Vitomatic II – I am going to be comparing the two throughout this posting) is the same except the height.  I have a version I Vito B with a small viewfinder.  The later version II had a larger viewfinder and is also higher than the version I.  So the Vito B (II) is the same size as the Vitomatic II.  The layout of the top plate differs as the Vitomatic II has an exposure meter window but is otherwise the same. The front of the camera is also different as the Vitomatic II has both an exposure meter and a rangefinder window both of which are missing on the Vito B.
There is one more change that is immediately apparent – the frame counter on the Vito B is a small window above the shutter housing with an adjusting wheel below the shutter housing.  With the Vitomatic II, the frame counter is on the base plate and has a small adjusting wheel beside the counter window.
e70bb-img_0661The presence of both the rangefinder mechanism and the light meter means that the SLK-V shutter/lens housing on the Vitomatic II is significantly larger than the SVS housing on the Vito B. The SLK-V shutter is Voigtlander’s adaptation of the standard SLK shutter – this is a light meter coupled shutter.  (Both Voigtlander and Prontor were subsidiaries of Zeiss Ikon at this time.)  The Vitomatic II is also significantly heavier – something that could not be avoided with the improved specification. So, in use, the Vitomatic II still fits nicely in the hand but is much more tiring to hold for a period of time. Using the ever-ready case and hanging the camera around your neck would obviate this but I like to hold the camera in my hand – it is more discrete and faster to use.
The coupled light meter is simplicity itself to use. It is of the match needle type with the needles in the window on the top plate. This is adjusted by turning the forward most knurled wheel on the shutter housing. When the two needles are superimposed, the camera is set for a correct shutter speed/ aperture combination. This can be varied in one stop steps by turning the rearmost knurled wheel. Moving this wheel alters the speed/aperture settings but keeps them in the correct range for a viable exposure. It is a bit like the P setting on a modern digital camera. The only drawback to this system is that the meter needles are not shown in the viewfinder so you need to lower the camera and look at the top plate while setting the exposure.
The viewfinder is a reverse-Galilean finder with a large (much larger than the Vito B) eye-piece with bright lines including parallax adjustment.  The coupled rangefinder is also simple to use – this time it is accessed through the viewfinder. The rangefinder presents the user with a bright spot in the centre of the viewfinder with two separate images. The user turns the focussing ring (the smaller, forward most knurled ring) until the two images are superimposed – the lens is then correctly focussed for the part of the image in the centre spot. This is made easier by the user choosing a strong vertical to focus on.

The film chamber is accessed the same way as on a Vito B – a small portion of the base-plate is unlocked and lowered and then the back swings open. This is very secure in use and the type of accident I occasionally have with my Vito II where the catch on the back can accidentally open while the camera is in use is not possible.  The one downside is that changing films while standing in the street is cumbersome – but  far from impossible.

I now have a Vitomatic I as well.  This is the same as the Vitomatic II but without the coupled rangefinder.  I do not miss having a rangefinder as I find guessing distances works just fine – at f5.6 and smaller, the depth of field is enough to cover any slight discrepancy in the guess.

There are also “a” and “b” versions of both Vitomatics – I and II.  The “a” versions have the light meter scale mirrored in the viewfinder and the “b” versions have aperture and shutter speed mirrored in the viewfinder.

Vitomatic II in use.

This is a fairly simple camera to use.  The light meter is not TTL so in use it is much the same as a hand-held meter.  The advantage over a hand-held meter is that aligning the match needles in the light meter window sets a usable combination of speed and aperture.  It is then simple to turn the inner ring on the shutter housing to set either a specific aperture or a specific speed according to the photographer’s needs.  The shutter then selects corresponding speed/aperture to maintain correct exposure.  As this is not TTL, you do not need to fumble with the controls at eye level.  If you want to use exposure compensation you merely turn the exposure control as many stops either side of standard as you need.  As this control basically adjusts the aperture, it is possible to over/under expose by a fraction of a stop.  It is worth noting that the aperture is infinitely variable between f2.8 and f22 while the shutter speed is restricted to click-stops – it is not possible to set a speed between1/125 and 1/300, for instance.  If you try, you will get either 1/125 or 1/300 depending on the exact position of the cam inside the shutter mechanism.
This camera inherits scale focussing from the Vito B complete with two Happy Snapper settings of 3.25m and 10m (roughly) at f5.6.  These settings make street photography very easy.  I often keep the camera set to 1/125 and smaller than f5.6 and the focus on the distant (10m) happy snapper setting – giving everything between 4.25m and infinity in focus.
For more critical work, there is the rangefinder.  This uses gold “silvering” of the half-silvered mirrors giving orange images in the centre of the viewfinder which are clearly seperated from the main image.  As with most rangefinders, turning the focussing knob moves one of the images – focus being achieved when the two images are exactly superimposed.
If the lens is nearly focussed, this is quick and easy.  The downside is that focussing from one end of the scale to the other cannot be achieved in one motion but in use I am not finding this a problem.

Last comment – this is a heavy camera – particularly for its compact size – but this aids stability in use.

Sample Pictures:

Waterloo Station, London


Busker, City Square, Lincoln


Lincoln university across Brayford Pool, Lincoln


Folk buskers, Lincoln

Voigtlander Bessamatic

Voigtlander Bessamatic
Voigtlander Bessamatic – 1961
This is Voigtlander’s answer to Zeiss Ikon’s Contaflex range and Kodak’s Retina reflex range.  It was developed sometime after the Zeiss Ikon and Kodak models and this allowed Voigtlander to learn from its competitors’ mistakes.  The most obvious lesson learnt is that the entire lens assembly is detachable rather than just the front element as in the Contaflex range.   The main advantage is that better quality lenses can be added.  It also has the advantage that you can access both the mirror and the focussing screen and so can keep them clean.  This is a major fault with the Contaflexes as after fifty years of use there is a build up of dirt which can be very annoying when looking through the viewfinder – although, to be fair, I don’t suppose Zeiss Ikon were thinking about  a fifty year life span for their cameras.
This is a very heavy camera – significantly more heavy than a Contaflex Super.  It is similar to the Contaflex Super.  It has a coupled light meter with match-needles in the viewfinder.  Moving the match needle also moves the aperture ring – the shutter speed must be set first.  This can only be set to a value within the current exposure range.  If the shutter speed is already set to an unacceptable value (as in moving from the shade into bright sunshine) it is not possible to align the match needles.  This can be overridden by a lever on the lower right of the shutter housing.
The shutter is a Synchro-Compur – the same as on a Contaflex Super.  The speed range is 1 second to 1/500th second and B.  The lens is a Voigtlander Color-Skopar 1:2.8 50mm lens made in 1961 (going by the serial number).  These are superb lenses and are Voigtlander’s version of a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar.  Focussing is from 3.5 feet to infinity.
Voigtlander Bessamatic
Voigtlander Bessamatic
A nice innovation is a couple of red pointers that move apart or together as the aperture is changed.  These mark out the depth of field on the focussing scale.  Focussing is by the whole lens assembly moving rather than just the front element so image quality should be maintained throughout the focussing range.
I have run one film through this camera, and, alas, there is light leaking into the back from three different places – without replacing all the light seals, this camera is useless.  I have now replaced the light seals but I have yet to test it with another film.

Voigtlander Vito II

Voigtlander Vito II

Voigtlander Vito II

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.

Voigtlander Vito II

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 lens on my Vito II is a Voigtlander Color-Skopar 50mm which is Voigtlander’s version of a Zeiss Ikon Tessar.  This lens has a very good reputation.   It focusses down to 3.5 feet – this camera uses front cell focussing which is not quite as good as moving the whole lens top focus but this only matters for close to work and for landscapes is fine.  The results are excellent.  The focussing scale has two Happy Snapper settings – “o” which is the hyperfocal setting for f5.6 and “V” which the hyperfocal setting at f16. When the focus is set to “o” and the aperture to f5.6, the depth of field extends from 15 feet to infinity and when set to “V” and the aperture to f16, the depth of field extends from 5.5 feet to infinity.  The lens serial number dates this lens to 1953 although the camera was made in 1954.

The lens has a slight but definite purple tinge to it which suggests that it is a coated lens but if it is, it is still, unfortunately, susceptible to flare. Using this camera, it is necessary to remember the advice my father gave me as a child – always keep the sun behind you.

The aperture range is f3.5 to f16. The shutter is the cheaper Pronto leaf 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.

Voigtlander Vito II

This camera is old enough to need manual cocking of the shutter. The actual shutter release is on the shutter housing but it is actuated by a button on top of the lens cover – there is also a cable release socket at this position. The camera has two safety devices – first, the shutter will not fire if the film has not been wound on so no double exposures and secondly, the winding knob will only move the film on one frame without the shutter being fired. This last can be over-ridden so a part-used film can be rewound into the cassette and then refitted and would on to the next unexposed frame at a later date. This allows the photographer to change between types of film while on a shoot without wasting film.

The last thing to mention regarding the shutter is the presence of a PC (Prontor Compur) flash connector. There is no selector to choose between bulb or electronic flash and on the model I have (Pronto shutter) it is for F synchronisation only – i.e. the flash will fire when the shutter is nearly fully open which is intended for fast flash bulbs.  With Synchro-Compur and Prontor SV shutters, you would have X and M synchronisation available. Both the film advance and film rewind are by way of a large milled knob – one on each end on the top plate. The back of the camera fastens with a not entirely satisfactory catch. When the camera is in the ever-ready case, this will not matter but I tend to carry this camera in my pocket and I have had the back unfasten itself.

The viewfinder is a Galilean type and is rather small. Wearing spectacles as I do, I find it very hard to use as I cannot get my eye near enough to the eyepiece. The only other thing worth noting is that this camera has feet. This is common on cameras of this era (40s and 50s) and the feet take the form of small metal projections on the base plate and the lens door. These enable the camera to be set down on a suitable surface so that self-portraits can be done using the delayed action timer.

Voigtlander Vito II


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.

Voigtlander Vito II
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.

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