5other Voigtlander cameras in my collection:

 

GermanyVoigtlander Vito [1939 - 1940] + 1947 - 1950

 

Overview

The Vito was the first camera in the Vito series, and has retrospectively become known as the Vito I - because it was followed by the Vito II.

vito 1 advertisingThere were two versions of the original Vito: the 1939 to 1940 pre-war, and the 1947 to 1950 post-war models (German manufacturers were preoccupied with other things between 1940 & 1945!). The obvious difference between the two versions is that the early models have a built-in yellow filter (visible in the advertisement illustration to the right) that hinges over the lens. Later models do not. So far as I can establish, the pre-war model had one lens/shutter combination (Skopar in a Compur shutter), while post-war cameras were made with several shutter options (Prontor II, Prontor S, and Compur-Rapid), plus an alternative Color Skopar lens.

The Vito is a camera that takes 135 size images, without necessarily using that film format: it was designed to use paper backed 828 roll film. This format used the same basic film stock as 135 film, but lacked the sprocket holes allowing a 40 × 28 mm negative size, but the Vito employed a mask to reduce the image to the standard 24 × 36 mm of 135 film. The film advance knob pulls upward to release the spool that receives the exposed film (roll films don't have a cassette to be re-wound into; they get wound on to a replaceable receiving spool).

However ... the advertisement reproduced at the top of this page, published in 1940 - the 100 year anniversary of Voigtlander cameras - says Si possono usare tutti i tipi di pellicole 24 x 36mm, perforate e non perforate, which translates as 'All types of 24 x 36mm perforated and non-perforated films can be used'. 828 film accommodated 8 exposures, but the Vito frame counter scale extends to 36, because the Vito also accepts 135 cassettes.

Elsewhere on the Internet, summaries of the Vito say the film transport has a feeler shaft but no sprockets. I don't know what a feeler shaft is, and a Google search returns the pages where I had read about the Vito's feeler shaft. In layman's terms, the frame advancing mechanism is actually a roller with fine toothed cogs, which register the movement of the film, but do not engage with 135 film sprocket holes. The roller on the re-wind side releases the interlock (handy to know for test firing without a film).

The Vito is typical of it's time; it has a tiny Newtonian viewfinder, a manually reset frame counter, and a separate shutter tensioning lever. Nothing is automated, except for the film transport interlock system, which prevents the shutter from being fired unless the film has been wound. Peculiarities of this camera include a lever on the rear of the top plate, which in the down position allows the film to advance by one frame, and in the up setting permits rewind or unlimited film advance (my research found folk assume this is to allow loading of part used films, but it's really there for winding a finished roll film on to the receiving spool). The up position also exposes a toothed wheel which is used to set the frame counter. The shutter release is a bar (rather than a button) on the top of the lens cover door. The camera has a T lock. When the shutter speed is set to B, a sliding lever (which resembles an animal's paw) near to the far end of the shutter release locks the shutter release bar in its depressed position for long exposures.

I have no idea what the Vito cost in 1939/40.

 

 

Specifications (pre-war model):

Viewfinder: Simple Newtonian reverse telescope - shows image at about one half of natural size. No frame lines or parallax markings.

Focus: Manual, metric distance scale.

Lens: Skopar 50mm f/3.5 (4 elements in 3 groups). Uncoated.

Close Focus: 1m.

Diaphragm: f3.5 to f16. Ten blades.

Shutter: Compur shutter (B, 1, 1/2nd, 1/5th, 1/10th, 1/25th, 1/50th, 1/100th, and 1/300th sec). No self-timer.

Cable Release: Standard threaded socket next to shutter release.

Meter: None.

Exposure: Manual.

Filter Size: None - a stop for the integrated yellow filter (on the right side of the lens housing) prevents the fitting of push-fit filters. This was removed on post-war models.

Flash: No facility.

Film Advance: Rotating knob with stop.

Frame Counter: Manual reset (via a small free-wind lever on the back of the camera which gives access to setting dial), count-up style.

Rewind: Rotating knob with separate free-wind release lever.

Back Opening: Full width lift-up bar.

Size: 125 x 71 x 39mm (L x H x D) when closed.

Weight: 370g.

 

My Camera

I paid £10.50 for this camera in July 2018. It's a pre-war example, and while it still has the filter hinge, the filter itself has long gone. The top of the viewfinder housing is a bit scuffed, but many surviving examples seem to have similar wear, and it is - after all - 77/78 years old. The serial number 2494315 (found around the internal lens surround) doesn't add any clarification as to whether my camera is a 1939 or 1940 model (list of serial numers). Functionally, everything still works, although the camera needed a good clean and some paint touch-up.

This little Voigtlander is likeable and completely usable, but I have absolutely no interest in putting film in it: it's merely an interesting thing.

 

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Voigtlander Vito

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