Friday, July 8, 2011

Voigtlander Vito C

In the modern world of digital cameras, Japanese company's such as Nikon, Canon, Sony et al., rule the roost. But with film cameras - and especially classic collectable film cameras - it's really German made cameras that inspire awe.

Top of the pile is definitely Leica. That little red logo attached to any camera demands respect, and huge prices! Leica, together with Zeiss glass, has to be at the top of any film shooter's 'wish list' (if they aren't lucky enough to own one already). But did I mention the price? Old, new, film, digital, working, not working - doesn't matter where a Leica is concerned... the prices are astronomical!

I don't own a Leica, and maybe never will? But I'd love to shoot with one, just to experience the mystique. Maybe when I'm old and grey and have a few thousand to throw around I just might treat myself and get one? Maybe.

Leica aren't the only German camera manufacturer with a cult following. Of course there were Contax (Zeiss's camera division) and Agfa (everyone say Agfa Clack), as well as the oldest camera manufacturer of them all - Voigtlander.

Voigtlander was an optical company, founded in Vienna in 1756 by Johann Christoph Voigtlander. Starting as a binocular manufacturer, they produced the Petzval photographic lens in 1840, and then the world's first all-metal daguerrotype camera in 1841. They also produced the world's first interchangeable zoom lens (the 36-82mm f2.8 Zoomar) in 1960, as well as the first compact camera with built-in electronic flash (the Vitrona) in 1965.

Unfortunately, the company was purchased by Zeiss in 1956, who then on-sold the rights to the Voigtlander name to Rollei in 1982. The demise of Rollei concluded with Voigtlander now being used by Cosina, who produce lenses to this day under the Voigtlander name. They make prime lenses to fit Leica camera's which, although expensive, are only a fraction of the Zeiss made Leica lenses.

All of that is background information relating to the fact that my latest classic camera (that arrived today) is the Voigtlander Vito C 35mm film compact.

My Voigtlander Vito C. - Beautiful!
The Vito C was introduced in 1960, when Voigtlander was owned by Zeiss. It uses a 50mm f2.8 Lanthar lens with a Pronto four-speed shutter (with 30th, 60th, 125th and 250th sec speeds, plus Bulb).

It's a zone focus camera, so you need to 'guess' the distance of the subject and set it on the lens. There are three 'average' settings that equate roughly to single portrait, group portrait or landscape settings. It also doesn't have a light meter (later models did), so you either use the sunny 16 rule, or take a light meter with you. Pretty basic stuff - but it also means that there is no battery required.

The big, bright, beautiful viewfinder is described by Voigtlander as a 'Crystal frame' viewfinder. And for a small camera, it is nice, big and bright to look through. If only modern digital SLR viewfinders  were this nice.

I bought the camera 'as is', so the condition is a little rough. The lens has some fungus (bummer), and the body has a few dents, but it has cleaned up ok - so I'm hoping it will perform properly. I'll run a roll of Fuji print film through it and see what I get.

It's a solid, hefty, good looking little camera. So even if the images from it aren't that great, I can still use it as a 'showpiece'. I'll post some images from the camera once they're shot, scanned and ready to roll...


  1. Just found a Vito C in the basement. No light meter, looks in great shaper. Will try running a roll of film through it. Thanks for the blog!

  2. I like a simple camera like this one; not complicated.


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