An image of a Voigtländer Vito CL camera

Voigtländer Vito CL – The Dad Cam – By Hans Gastafsson

I can’t recall any family vacation, outing, get-together when I was young that my dad didn’t have his Voigtländer with him. It almost seemed an integral part of him. Not that he ever showed any interest in photography as such, but he really liked to document his life. As a result he has a vast collection of photographs. Mostly slides, lots of Kodachromes obviously but also other brands and stocks. All slowly deteriorating. I am in a [really slow] process of scanning them and setting up some kind of digital archive, spanning from the early 60’s up until mid or late 80’s. I have a slight hope of presenting him with this archive before he turns 90yo next year.

Anyway, far back in my memory there is something that says it was the camera starting to act up, and he (for some reason) not wanting to buy a new one that that made him stop taking photographs until the digital era.

The Vito CL is a nice little camera so it would be nice if it still worked. Plus the added value of the history of it. The version dad had is the first 1961 version “Standard”. There were also a “DeLuxe” version with leatherette inlays and other cosmetic additions. There were two later editions in 1962 and -63 manufactured until 1967.

It’s fully manual with a selenium cell exposure meter and equipped with a Lanthar 2.8/50 lens. It has no range finder so being able to appreciate the distance setting is crucial. There are however three markings on the distance scale for “Portrait”, “Group” and “Landscape” which work quite nice as long as one keep the aperture stopped down 1 or 2 steps. Though built like the proverbial tank, this particular copy has a slight play in the lens which is a bit worrying. Even so I have not found any other faults (no, the self timer doesn’t work. Does it ever on vintage cameras…?) so lets get to work testing it.

I loaded it with a roll of Ilford FP4+ and set out to put it through its paces.

After processing the film and having a quick look at the negatives, the shutter speeds (1/15 to 1/500) seem to work extremely well with no visible difference of the exposure between any of them, which I find rather remarkable. Happy with result I cut the dried film and start the scanning. It almost immediately become clear why he stopped using it. Almost every frame is out of focus. And its not the missed-focus kind. The entire frames are blurry, even the exposure tests, which were made with a tripod without changing anything but shutter speed and aperture, shows different amount of blur. It’s a real pity as the camera is pure joy to use. Had it been a CLR, the R stands for Rangefinder, I might have considered sending it for repair but now I think it will only be on the shelf as memorabilia.

Anyway, these are the 4 images that turned out somewhat ok.

A small cabin among some trees
Our cabin
A wooden ramp
A training jump for downhill mountainbiking we hastily built by our cabin
Lakeside on a windy day
A windy day down by the lake
Seaside on a windy day
…same lake and day. Different view.

By the way, the image of the Vito CL was taken with  the 100mm/2.8 from the heavily underestimated Nikon Series E lenses. Camera was the FM2n and the film Ilford FP4+.

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8 thoughts on “Voigtländer Vito CL – The Dad Cam – By Hans Gastafsson”

  1. Nice article. And funny for me, as the Vito CL was the first real camera I owned. I got it for my 13th birthday from my father and have it to this day. With it, I learned photography, choosing time and aperture.

    1. Hans Gustafsson

      It really is a nice camera in all its simplicity. Great way to start learning the basics and I absolute love that the light meter is on top of the camera. Very easy to read.

  2. Surely an able camera technician could be found who would know how to clean and collimate the lens back to proper focus, no?
    There is are least two camera wizards in my country whom I would turn to with a camera of such pedigree and personal value.
    But, needless to say, I am making no suggestions here.
    Yours truly.

    1. Hans Gustafsson

      I can think of a couple who might be able to fix it. However under the current rather unpredictable circumstances, economy wise, it’s not a priority. Perhaps when things settle down in the world. 🙂

  3. Hi Hans, you should find that it’s quite straightforward to collimate a lens like this yourself. Cling film the back and use a marker pen cross for focus – it’s so thin as to make no difference. You usually find that you can loosen the grub screws on the distance ring and realign at infinity.

    See the link below for a how to:-

    Regards Martin

  4. Great article. The Trip was my first camera given to me for my 16th birthday by mum and dad. I still have it and really must put a roll in it to see if it still works. A Mju2 took most of our family photos when the kids were growing up, and I’m still tearing the house apart trying to find it. I have a Pen F to cater for my digital needs now… I didn’t set out to be an olympus fan, but it seems to have worked out that way…no complaints so far ????

    1. Hans Gustafsson

      I’m actually thinkin about getting a Trip myself, it seems like a really nice and small carry-around camera. In some respect I don’t believe we ourselves decides what cameras we use, the cameras kind of chooses us… 🙂

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