4other Voigtlander cameras in my collection:

 

Voigtlander Vito BL [1956 - 1960]

 

Overview

The Vito BL is essentially a large viewfinder Vito B with the addition of a selenium light-meter (but it was introduced before that camera, so it would be more accurate to describe a Vito B as a Vito BL without a meter - except the B is 1mm taller than the BL). In common with other Vito models, it came in many specification variations. The lens can be either an f/2.8, or an f/3.5. The meter is either a Bewi-Automat or a Bertram (found on later export models), and there are significant differences between the two meters. The one consistent feature appears to be a 9 speed Prontor SVS shutter (but I might be wrong, and have read ... somewhere? ... that very late models had a different shutter), but there were even viewfinder variations as well (with or without frame-lines).

My camera has an f/3.5 lens, a non frame-line viewfinder, and a Bertram meter, which has an needle displayed EV scale (and this is yet another area where there might be variations). It's serial number (5056902) dates the camera to 1960 (Voigtlander camera serial numbers can be found here).

Bertram meterThe Bertram meter has no provision for sensitivity adjustment according to film speed. Instead the EV scale is changed via a small knob on the back of the camera top-plate, which rotates a drum. Each EV scale on the drum is assigned a letter ID, and an engraved table on the top-plate must be used to lookup the letter setting for a film speed. This table covers speeds from 6 to 200 ASA on my camera (but once again, there may have been range variations?). The table also includes DIN and WES (Weston Film Speed ratings - found on Weston exposure meters, and were sometimes referred to by film manufactures as third party speeds) numbers. This needle pointer overlaps EV zones along it's length, so the correct reading is made at the red tip of the pointer. EV zones are alternating black and white, where black zones have numbers and white zones do not. For an explanation of EV numbers, see my article The Exposure Value System (EVS) at Ezine Articles.

An incident light attachment can be fitted to the honeycomb plastic meter front.

In common with other Vitos, the camera has a die-cast alloy body covered in leather; metal parts are finished in satin chrome and black enamel, and that lovely pop-up rewind knob.

I believe that in 1959, the cost of this camera was about £37 (with f/2.8 lens), £33 (with f/3.5 lens and bright-line finder) and £31 (with f/3.5 lens and no brightline finder). That was roughly twice the average weekly UK wage.

 

 

Specifications

Viewfinder: Simple reverse telescope - shows image at about natural size. No frame lines or parallax.

Focus: Manual. Imperial distance scale with zone focusing symbols.

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

Close Focus: 3' 5".

Diaphragm: Six blades, f/2.8 to f/22.

Shutter: Prontor SVS shutter (B, 1, 1/2nd, 1/4th, 1/8th, 1/15th, 1/30th, 1/60th, 1/125th, 1/300thsec) + built-in self-timer.

Cable Release: Standard threaded socket in shutter release button.

Meter: Uncoupled Selenium.

Exposure: Manual.

Exposure range: EV 2 to EV 18.

Film Speed: 6 - 200 ASA.

Filter Size: 32mm push fit.

Flash: Cold shoe and PC terminal with X and M synchronization selector.

Film Advance: Long stroke lever.

Frame Counter: Manually set, countdown style.

Rewind: Pop-up crank with automatic tension release.

Back Opening: Pull out base plate latch with quarter twist, opens the whole back and a hinged door beneath the film canister.

Size: 114 x 79 x 67 mm (L x H x D).

Weight: 611 g.

 

 

My Camera

I paid £4.95 for my Vito BL in June 2015.

BL GuideIsn't it just typical? I've spent the last two years watching and waiting for Vito B variants to come along that I could snap up for a fiver. In that time there's been nothing: the asking price of these cameras has been stupidly high - heck I've seen them advertised at almost £100. Then ... suddenly ... I manage to bag two in a week ... this BL and my large viewfinder B.

Everything works, although the shutter is a little sticky on slow speeds. The meter needle is very lively. Cosmetically, the camera needs a good clean, and a slightly lifting cover re-fixing, but otherwise it's just as these Voigtlanders often are: as good as new.

I can't find an online manual for this model, but I do have a Focal Press guide, which covers the Bewi meter camera too: email me if you need any information.

 

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Voigtlander Vito BL

Voigtlander Vito BL

Voigtlander Vito BL

Voigtlander Vito BL

These cameras are often misdiagnosed as not working, because the film advance lever does not directly drive the shutter setting mechanism: a film must be in the camera for the shutter to tension.

Winding the drive cog (found at the top/middle of the camera when the back is open) with your finger/thumb has the same effect as a film would, and cocks the shutter (listen for a couple of clicks).