As my first post on Hamish’s site I thought I would start simple with an submission to his very nice series of posts by other guest authors called “5 frames with..” but in my enthusiasm I wrote a little too much and Hamish made me expand it and post a full camera review, so maybe that will teach me. (ha just realized I kind of associated myself with the term Author there; I must be getting a little full of myself).
I’m an amateur and collector from the UK living in California. I’m a little random in my photography subject matter; mostly opportunistic, focusing on architecture and nature with occasional dips into street and landscapes. I use digital and film depending on what mood I am in.
This is one of my favourite little 35mm rangefinders, the Voigtlander Vitomatic II. This is such a great little camera, it is simple to use and very compact; making it perfect to keep in my bag (or even pocket). I have owned this one for a few years now and it is one of eight vintage Voitländers that I own.
The Voigtlander Vitomatic II is a neat rangefinder with a fixed 50mm f2.8 lens. On the top is a needle-match selenium light meter which seems to still be accurate; not bad for a 60 year old camera. This was my second Voitländer which I bought having owned my father’s old Vito B for many many years. As I say its compact size means it’s an obvious choice to take on trips and the images are very good in my opinion. The rangefinder is bright enough and works very well.
Here’s the technical part. As mentioned the Voigtlander Vitomatic II is a fixed lens camera and has a fairly respectable 50mm 1:2.8 Color Skopar lens, shutter speeds are B, 80, 30, 15, 8, 4, 1, ½, ¼, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/80, 1/125 and 1/300 sec (quite a lot on the slow end) and f stops f2.8 to 22. I understand this is a first generation Vitomatic II so dates around 1958.
The camera has a simple locking ring (using the EV/LV system) which maintains the relationship between the aperture and shutter speed meaning that once you have set your exposure you can adjust speed and aperture easily together to get the DoF or shutter speed you want for the shot. This was not an uncommon feature on Voigtländers and other cameras at the time. I learned this system first on my Vito B and I think it helped me greatly in my early days understanding the rules of exposure.
This particular Vitomatic II isn’t without issues, at some point in the past I think it has had a bump on the front causing a slight indentation and now the lens has a stiff point where a little force is required to turn it around, this is not a major issue but if I found another one, perhaps with an Ultron lens, I would be sorely tempted to replace it; assuming that one worked perfectly of course. Also the case got separated into two pieces and the front/upper cover is now lost. Actually, that makes it an excellent and convenient half-case which works for me as I find those flappy cases awkward when you want to walk around with them open.
Loading the film into the Voigtlander Vitomatic II is easy as the whole back opens up and the film slides in without complication. Another ring on the lens allows you to set the ISO for metering accuracy and also a convenient reminder although it’s very small and difficult for my eyes to see in poor light.
There are some limitations; the 1/300 sec fastest shutter speed is something I have struggled with on occasion, also the fastest ISO is 800. this second one is rarely an issue for me living in the constant sunshine of California (couldn’t resist, sorry about that).
Anyway limitation can sometimes advance our creativity, right?
In the hand the Voigtlander Vitomatic II feels like a nice solid piece of metal, though not too heavy. In my experience it’s been very reliable and I have no real complaints about it at all. If I were picky, I would say that in some situations, particularly if you are shooting it vertical (portrait), your hands or fingers can get in the way of the viewfinder and make it difficult to focus. That’s probably a byproduct of the small size and is just something to get used to I feel.
Overall, the convenient package makes this a great easy shooter and I use it for street photography as well as architecture/landscape work.
Here’s a selection of images taken over the last couple of years;
You can see more of my work via my website www.carrotroom.com
(not much of a website to be honest, it’s more of landing/launch site for my blog and instagram)
Or at my Flickr page
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30 thoughts on “Voitlander Vitomatic II Review – by Nigel Haycock”
Great review of a lovely little gem of a camera, I have a Vito CLR and absolutely love it. Such a sharp clear lens and a small package all round.
Thanks Julian, yes I agree these little Voitländers are excellent.
Nigel, a lovely write-up of one of Voigtlander’s wonderful and, in my opinion, under-rated series of cameras. And another Voigtlander aficionado, I see.
What can’t come across in any review is just how they feel in the hand. Their relatively small size, and most will be surprised at just how small they are when they pick one up, as their heft belies their size. The build quality and finish are excellent if one finds one in good condition. Your images amply demonstrate the qualities of the Color-Skopar lens, a lens rated very highly in its day. I’m even more surprised at Fomapan; it’s not a film I used in my film days.
One small point, if I may, to correct one of your comments. The markings 80, 30, 15, 8, 4, are not shutter speeds that the camera is able to shoot; they are metered exposure indications should you wish to engage in long exposures with the camera set to its “B” position. Timed speeds are from 1 sec. to 1/300.
I have the later Vitomatic IIb with the f2.8/50 Skopar (I’m awaiting delivery of a IIIb with Ultron) and which doesn’t have an EV crippling shutter. Shutter speed and aperture are visible in the lower right corner of the v/f and are very clear being provided by a prism. What I like is the view covers a stop and shutter speed either side of the one selected. First select the shutter speed and then the aperture which is continuously variable, not click stopped, whilst looking through the v/f at the exposure meter window with a match needle system situated below the v/f image.
This mode of operation does mean of course that, strictly speaking, Vitomatics are not true automatic exposure cameras.
Here’s a site which I’m sure will delight all Voigtlander fans:
Thank you Terry; I agree but lets not tell everyone quite yet how good they are as whilst we are still buying we don’t want the prices to sky-rocket 😉
Regarding Fomapan I have mixed feeling and my experience to be honest is mostly negative; I have had a few good shots (which I have shared here) but it doesn’t seem to cope well with certain light situations; I find Ilford and Kodak more consistant.
Thank you for clarifying the shutter speed markings, as you may have guessed I don’t stray into those long exposures very much.
Envious of you soon to be arriving Ultron; it will be interesting to know how much of a difference it makes.
Nigel, IIIb Ultron arrived today. In lovely cosmetic condition and with a working meter. Miraculously, it reads exactly the same as my IIb Skopar. Sadly, it has a non-functioning rangefinder – no double image at all. There is an article on “rangefinder forum” about this issue and a user has posted a very helpful and detailed report on taking the top cover plate off and having a look. He’s posted some super detailed close-up images as well. Basically, it’s a careful cleaning job on the glass surfaces.
I’ll think twice before having a go (if at all) as I’d rather have a IIIb in this condition with working meter and shutter, and an unmarked lens, and all the controls move smoothly.
The Ultron equipped bodies are quite rare and I got it for a very reasonable price. I’ve got a number of little rangefinders that I could press into service, including a couple which can be user calibrated, if I ever again felt the need to take out a film camera. And certainly not without the proper case as there is no way to attach a strap, as you know.
That sounds awesome Terry! I have a Vitessa ‘barn door’ with a non functioning rangefinder. I took the top off and found the mirror had come unstuck (very common apparently). I glued it back on but it is out of alignment and adjusting it is a little awkward as you have to take the top off each time and then reassemble to check. Haven’t got it right yet. Looking forward to trying it though once I have.
A separate RF would work fine and if nothing else will allow you to confirm the rest of it works as expected.
I have always wondered about interchangeability of lenses on some of these fixed lens Voigtlanders; could I take an otherwise working skopar Vitomatic and fit a Ultron lens from a non-functioning one?
Sounds like hard work, Nigel, don’t think I’d try it with my Vitessa N, the f3.5 Skopar model, if the r/f packed up. This was my first, of what I’d call top quality Voigtlander, and followed earlier purchases of mint Vito B and Vito IIa. The craftsmanship and super finish of the chrome are exemplary. This would be around 1980 or so as I went to a camera fair in Derby in my 2 litre Capri V4 GT, which I bought in 1978. Ah, memories. This is one of the few cameras I can actually remember how much I paid for it – £48. However, I’ve never been a fan of the “plunger” wind on. The Vito B was £30 from a camera shop I frequented a lot and from whom I got many of my “collectibles”.
This is where I’ll probably upset some Leica users (and I am one) as, IMO, the chrome finish on the top of the range Voigtlanders is superior to the Leicas of the same era, which seem to get easily marked. To see it at its best, look at a Bessamatic de Luxe. I picked up a beauty two years ago, mint-, but it came with the cheaper Lanthar, so last year I went after a Septon f2/50. Boy, is this a heavy lens.
My oldest Voigtlander? A 1930’s Superb TLR. Talk about thinking outside the box, this is a weird camera design.
This is the Ultron model and yes it is a little scary. I’ve never shot with this yet so hoping to get it fully working so that i can give it a try. What is it about the plunger you don’t like? Just the unfamiliarity?
Two litre Capri eh? Fancy 🙂
I have the Bessamatic CS and did have the delux briefly as well which was damaged in the post, annoying but it came with a truely awesome Zoomar lens which I am very happy with. I’ve not become a fan of the Bessamatic generally though and it is mostly consigned to the shelf.
I love a good TLR and have a few non-Voigtländer TLRs plus the pseudo TLR; the Brillant.
Nigel, unfamiliarity possibly, but combine this with its being for left handers, only adds to the problem. Same thing with my collection of Exaktas, but matters are exacerbated here with the Exaktas’ extraordinary long throw wind-on lever.
By pure coincidence, today was the day I first shot with my dad’s Vito CL! It also has a Color-Skopar 50/2.8. I wasn’t expecting much from the lens but judging from your photos it looks very capable. But it has no rangefinder, so my focusing may leave a little to be desired…
Ahh excellent, another Voitländer being put to work; hope your images come out as you hope them.
If you are concerned about focusing you might want to try getting a little rangefinder accessory like this https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Hugo-MEYER-Pocket-RANGE-FINDER-Original-With-Leather-Case/312114067943?hash=item48ab72b9e7:g:LScAAOSwW6BaD3Qv it can sit on top and give you acciurate distance measurement. I recently got one for another of my cameras.
Great review of an awesome camera. I picked up the ‘almost identical’ Vitomatic IIa for $10 at a local thrift shop out of guilt that I was sorry to see it sitting there. I frankly wasn’t that enthusiastic about it until I got it home and started playing with it.
As someone who wears prescription glasses, I cannot say enough how wonderful the huge and bright viewfinder on this camera is. Like yours, the meter on mine was still working fine and I found it to be very accurate as I got properly exposed images indoors and in poor lighting.
Of course, the best part of the camera is that lens. I got consistently excellent results from the 2.8 Color-Skopar, to the point where I question how much better the much more expensive Ultron could really be!
What a great camera, and an excellent review for your first post! Welcome to the world of reviewing vintage cameras! 🙂
Mike, good point about the v/f. Certainly on my IIb, and it will be so for all “b” and “CS” models which share the same body, it is 1:1, slightly larger than even that in the famed Leica M3.
As for the Ultron, it should outperform the Skopar in all areas at the wider apertures. It would be like comparing a period f2/50 Summicron to the f2.8/50 Elmar. So at their respective widest apertures, the Ultron should be better overall re sharpness and correction of aberrations and colour correction. However, by around f5.6 to f8, I very much doubt one could readily pick out the Skopar, if at all.
Thank you that’s very kind. That was an excellent purchase you made and a bargain at that. I agree, I can’t really fault these cameras though I would like a little more range in the shutter speed sometimes.
Looks like my Vito II all,grown up 😊 The only disadvantage I see is that it won’t likely slip into a pocket as easily as the Vito II. The rangefinder is a definite advantage, tho!
Agreed it’s not a folder like the Vito II but is is a small package and though not quite a pocket shaped so as to be comfortable I have definately had it in my pocket; albeit jacket.
I will compare with me Vito and see if the dimensions are similar.
Were there any Vitomatic II produced with the 1/500 shutters. I have one, given to me by a friend who bought it new in the early 60s, in Germany with a 1/500 shutter.
I know the IIa had 1/500 shutter but all of the II I have seen only go to 1/300, I have two such examples.
I’m not aware of there being a II with the 1/500 shutter speed but if you have one then I would suggest either it is an early production model of the IIa or perhaps someone has replaced the top plate with an earlier one.
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I am looking for a little advice. I have a Vitomatic IIa and it seems a nice camera. I haven’t loaded any film as yet because I cannot get the shutter to fire. It is just locked and won’t depress at all. Is there a reason for this, or is it broken?
I need to check but I am nowhere near my camera. I am pretty sure that this one is the same as many of the Vitos I that the shutter is not activated unless a film is loaded. You should be fine I think.
I’m back in the country in a week and can confirm after that.
Thanks Nigel, I shall give it a go. Really looking forward to seeing what this little beauty can do.
Hello!! The shutter is not activated unless a film is loaded! Did you try?
Also you can “fool the camera if you open it and pretend that you pass the film with your finger” (take a look in youtube)
Have I tried operating the camera/shutter without a film loaded? Yes, unless the film passes over the sprocket inside the shutter is not set; yes I am aware you can manually move the sprocket for testing 🙂
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I have a Voitlander Vitomatic II forsale if anyone is interested.
Hi! I have same old camera, is it possible that it does not have rangefinder?
Or maybe it can be broken?
I couldn´t find if there are different models of VITOMATIC II with/within rangefinder.
Thans for the blog!!
Vitomatic I are viewfinders and the Vitomatic II and III are rangefinders; maybe you have the Vitomatic I
Hello there! Thanks for the review 🙂 Such great photos, couldn’t take my eyes off of them! I wondered it if ever happens that your camera won’t work outside when it’s cold? I myself have a Vitomatic IICS and sometimes it doesn’t work outside which is confusing
Thank you, I am glad you liked the phots and the review. I have not had problems with my Vitomatic in the cold or for that matter any other camera although I know it can be a problem; any mechanism can seize up in the cold and some cameras are effected more than others.