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;