5 frames with...

5 Frames With a Voigtländer Vitomatic I – Not Bought “for Display” – By Alex Vye

September 15, 2021

The Voigtländer Vitomatic I is a 35mm viewfinder camera that was produced between 1957 and 1960. The lens is a 50mm Colors-Skopar 1:2.8. F-stops are 2.8 to 22. Shutter  is a Prontor SLK-V with  bulb, 1, 1/2nd, 1/4th, 1/8th, 1/15th, 1/350th, 1/60th, 1/125th, 1/250th and 1/300th sec. It has a selenium meter – it gives you a reading, you have to manually set the f-stop and shutter yourself.

The Vitomatic I is all metal and glass, and quite heavy. It has a wonderfully bright viewfinder window.

The Acquisition

I found the Vitomatic on an online auction site, under “Vintage Camera – for display”.  In the picture, the camera looked to be in immaculate condition, and it was only a forty minute ride from where I worked, for $45 CAD. It was just outside a small, artsy college town.

The area I live in, was settled in the 1700s. As I raced down the curving country road, it felt like I was going back in time. The road got worse and worse in quality, gradually moving from asphalt to hard but smooth dirt/clay road to deeply gutted dirt road. The farmhouses seemed to get older and older the further I got. Abandoned churches, falling down fences, random farm equipment from multiple technical eras littered the landscape,

When I arrived at the address for the house, I felt like I had stepped into an H.P Lovecraft novel. The old farmhouse looked like it had not been inhabited in fifty years. A large, dead tree with large, moss covered outstretched arms sat in  the centre of the yard, and looked like it would come to life and strangle you once the sun fell. Resting on a corner of land that the bay wrapped around, a harsh cold wind hit me as the sun fell in the sky. It was one of those houses where the proper door and doorbell was contained with in a covered patio, which I was unsure of entering, because a very large German Shepard was standing there looking right at me.

I was seconds from leaving and finding a different hobby when the owner came bounding out with the camera. She said she had found it in an antique dresser she had purchased at an auction. “Are you going to use it for decoration?” She asked. Nope, I only buy camera that I am going to use. I then fled the scene, with a warning from the owner to “return the way you came, because the road the other way is not suitable for sedans”.  Or the living, I assumed.

The Photos

D’arcy’s welding. My hometown is a very industrial place, strewn with small shops related to manufacturing. In grade school I had a friend with last name D’arcy, I believe his family owns this shop. I really like the hand-drawn font on the building.

D'Arcy Welding Shop

D’Arcy Welding Shop

Hampton Bridge

Hampton Bridge

I take this photo with every camera I have. My home town has the largest oil refinery in Canada and a deep water year-round port, which means oil tankers are always sitting on the tracks. I just like the long view of the tankers fading towards the city with the church on the horizon.

Oil Tankers on Rail

Oil Tankers on Rail

The local landscape is full of peaceful rivers. I often kayak on this river. I like the pastel-like, dreamy effect that the lens gives.

Trees reflected in river

Trees reflected in river

I have a weakness for old fishing boats. Here lies the “Fundy Ghost”. Lobster and crab are the main local fisheries.

Old Fishing Boat

Old Fishing Boat

Final Thoughts

The Vitomatic is fun to use. It’s too heavy to take on hikes.  I usually just have it in the car, ready to take pictures of random things. The large, bright viewfinder is a pleasure. The zone focussing is difficult for me. A worthwhile spend of $45.

Please see my other work at https://3d6.ca/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/doomhiker

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15 Comments

  • Reply
    Sharon Levine
    September 15, 2021 at 10:23 am

    What a find and what an adventure!!

    • Reply
      Alex Vye
      September 15, 2021 at 1:26 pm

      It was such a find. The metal as perfectly clean. Everything moved smoothly, I don’t think it was ever used at all. I love photography for the places it takes me 🙂

  • Reply
    Graham Spinks
    September 15, 2021 at 1:36 pm

    I use my Dad’s Vitomatic II. During the 60s and 70s he took colour slides and projected them onto a large screen. The lens is fantastically crisp. I know it’s heavy but I love the feel of it!

    • Reply
      Alex Vye
      September 15, 2021 at 2:24 pm

      The camera is such a pleasure to use. The viewfinder is a pleasure. The film winder is a large piece of metal that feels great.The lens seems to be solid. Thanks for the comments!

  • Reply
    NigelH
    September 15, 2021 at 7:53 pm

    Congrats and welcome to the Voitländer user cult. Great story and I love the pictures.

    • Reply
      Alex Vye
      September 15, 2021 at 8:35 pm

      Thanks 🙂 it is a very enjoyable camera

  • Reply
    Michael J
    September 15, 2021 at 7:57 pm

    I like your photos. It’s great having a répertoire of good local subject matter… I could take pics of rail freight trains all day!
    Unless I’m very much mistaken, your Vitomatic is a Vito B (the later big viewfinder model) with an unlinked meter: super crisp but some days żonę-focusing just isn’t what you need!

  • Reply
    Nick Lyle
    September 16, 2021 at 1:28 pm

    Great story, lovely photos. I love my Voigtlanders too, especially the folding cameras that use 120 film. You article has inspired me to give my Vito B and Vito CLR some more use.

    • Reply
      Alex Vye
      September 16, 2021 at 3:06 pm

      Yes, use them! Every camera deserves to be used! 🙂

  • Reply
    Kodachromeguy
    September 17, 2021 at 1:24 am

    Fantastic. And, I assume, your selenium meter works correctly and is linear? If so, you were very lucky.

    • Reply
      Alex Vye
      September 17, 2021 at 3:12 pm

      The selenium meter works pretty well. I take a reading then over-expose a stop, partly because the film I generally use is expired (I am so cheap), and the results are what you see, which I feel is pretty spot on.

  • Reply
    CHRISTOF RAMPITSCH
    September 17, 2021 at 9:26 pm

    As a user of a Rollei 35SE, I also have the issue of turning myself into a human rangefinder. It gets easier with practice, but here is a useful tool: https://tomchuk.com/rf/

    It works really well.

    • Reply
      Alex Vye
      September 18, 2021 at 2:52 am

      That’s awesome! Thanks !

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