These days it’s not often that you can find a bargain on eBay – most of the good cameras are sold at about their correct price because they are searched for and found early in the auction and all us camera collectors have them marked and watched. Occasionally however it’s possible to pick up a bargain and I consider this camera to be one of my better bargain purchases.
I used a tool which finds items which have no bids on them and using that I found this Voigtlander Vito B with no bids and only a few minutes left on the auction. I think the reason it hadn’t already been found was because it was described as a ‘Voighander camera’ so it would have missed anyone searching for Voigtlander. It was described as still being used only two years ago by a relative of the seller and had a starting price of £5 + £5.80 post & packing. I instantly put a bid on and was the only bidder so I got it for £5. That may or may not be a bargain price, but I’m pretty happy with it.
Anyway, the camera arrived a few days later and these are my impressions of it. Overall it is an incredibly clean and well engineered camera. It came supplied in a brown leather case and looked as if it had probably been kept in the case for it’s whole life. I couldn’t find a mark on the body, and the viewfinder seems to be clear and mist free. There is just a slight amount of dust round the outside of the eyepiece which should be easy to wipe away.
The camera is a viewfinder camera with a 50mm f/2.8 color skopar lens and a 1sec to 1/300 sec leaf shutter. There were two models made – the first had an f/3.5 lens and a 4 speed shutter, the later one (which this is) has an 9 speed shutter and a bigger viewfinder. Many people apparently think the newer model with the bigger viewfinder spoilt the look of the camera – I’m not sure I agree.
The first thing which was fairly obvious when I first unwrapped the camera from its packaging was that the shutter didn’t fire when the release was pressed. In fact the shutter wouldn’t actually even press down. At first I thought the camera was broken, and then I seemed to remember reading something about the shutter not cocking unless the camera was loaded with film. Sure enough, a quick internet search confirmed that the shutter is cocked by the film moving over the sprockets so it won’t work unless there is a film in the camera. I confirmed this by rolling up an exposed reel of film and loading the camera with it. Once there was film in the camera, I could feel that the film advance lever was a bit tighter, and the shutter would then fire with the whisper quiet typical of a leaf shutter.
The next slightly odd, but certainly remarkable thing about the camera is the way the film chamber is accessed. There is a trap door on the bottom of the camera which opens downwards allowing the back of the camera to swing open. You can see this better in the pictures. I’ve seen cameras with odd loading arrangements (mostly Russian like the zorki and fed) but this is probably the oddest. Of course the reason for this arrangement was to make it easier to fit the film cassette, and it is effective in that aim.
There is no exposure meter or focus assistance built into the Vito B. The exposure could be set using Sunny 16 or an exposure meter and the focus could be guessed, or if the aperture is set to a fairly high value like f/11 or above, the depth of field scale could be set to keep everything from about 5ft to infinity in focus.
Another oddity – the frame counter is a small number in the front of the camera above the lens in the centre of the camera. It’s set by a dial at the bottom of the camera to the number of frames the film has when the camera is loaded. As each frame is exposed, the counter decrements to show the number of exposures left. That actually makes a lot of sense because that is exactly the information that you need. Normal frame counters tell you the number of frames you have taken and you need to do some maths to get the number you actually want. This is much more sensible.
A lovely touch of the engineering quality is the rewind knob. When I first tried it I thought it was quite difficult to turn and would be difficult to rewind a film using it. Then I discovered the small lever on the side of the camera and when that was pushed, the rewind knob rises out of the body of the camera and makes it much easier to turn!
Using the camera
The exposure controls are all mounted around the lens mount on the Vito B. There is a shutter speed dial closest to the camera body, and then an aperture ring next followed by the focus dial. There are two little ‘ears’ which are pushed in to adjust the aperture, and the shutter speed can be set with a knurled dial. There is a self timer mechanism which is engaged by setting a small lever on the lens mount to the ‘v’ position, and flash sync can be selected using the same lever set to ‘x’. The ‘m’ position is the normal shutter.
The exposure arrangement is quite neat. Once you have taken a light reading with your light meter, or determined the correct exposure by some other mechanism and set the exposure, the aperture and shutter speed rings will turn together to maintain the correct exposure value as you adjust the ‘creative’ exposure.
The view through the viewfinder is, of course, unencumbered by any information about aperture or shutter speed. There is simply a box drawn around the extremity of the view and a small dot in the middle to show you the limits of the picture you will take.
- Voigtlander Vito B
- 35mm viewfinder camera
- Pronto SVS shutter offering 1sec to 1/300 + B
- Flash sync socket
- Self timer
- Voigtlander color skopar 50mm f/2.8 lens
- leaf shutter
- Pop-up film rewind
- Count down frame counter
- Ser No: 4802618
- Manufactured 1959