Rangefinders (Fixed Lens)

Voitlander Vitomatic II – by Nigel Haycock

Voitlander Vitomatic II

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.

Voitlander Vitomatic II

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.

Voitlander Vitomatic II

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.

Voitlander Vitomatic II

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;

Water dispenser in Phoenix taken on Kodak TMax

Downtown LA taken on Fomapan

Downtown LA taken on Fomapan

Chicago taken on FujiPro

Chicago taken on FujiPro

Downtown LA on Fomapan

Downtown LA on Fomapan

Chicago on Fomapan

Chicago on Fujifilm Pro

Chicago on Fujifilm Pro

Burbank on Kodak TMax

Phoenix on Kodak TMax

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

Do you enjoy reading 35mmc?

For as little as $1 a month, you can help support the upkeep of this website. The more people chuck me a small amount of cash each month, the more time I can spend building and improving upon it - simple as that!
Or, for $2 a month you can get access to my behind the scenes micro-blog over on Patreon!

Either way, want to help out, become a patron of 35mmc here:

Become a Patron!

Alternatively, if you just enjoyed this post, or like the odd post here and there, please feel free to chuck a few pennies in the tip jar via Ko fi here:


Write for 35mmc: read more here, about how you can help build upon this ever growing resource
Subscribe/Follow: click here, to discover all the ways you can follow 35mmc

Advertisement

You Might Also Like

23 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Julian
    April 22, 2018 at 8:24 am

    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.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      NigelH
      April 23, 2018 at 4:28 pm

      Thanks Julian, yes I agree these little Voitländers are excellent.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Terry B
    April 22, 2018 at 11:37 am

    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:
    http://voigtlander.pagesperso-orange.fr/cameras.htm

    • Avatar
      Reply
      NigelH
      April 23, 2018 at 4:33 pm

      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.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Terry B
        April 25, 2018 at 4:21 pm

        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.

        • Avatar
          Reply
          NigelH
          April 25, 2018 at 4:36 pm

          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?

          • Avatar
            Terry B
            April 25, 2018 at 7:00 pm

            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.

          • Avatar
            NigelH
            April 25, 2018 at 7:55 pm

            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.

          • Avatar
            Terry B
            April 27, 2018 at 8:23 am

            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.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Adam Alcock
    April 22, 2018 at 8:21 pm

    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…

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Mike Eckman
    April 23, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    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! 🙂

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Terry B
      April 23, 2018 at 6:56 pm

      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.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    NigelH
    April 23, 2018 at 4:41 pm

    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.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Kevin Thomas
    April 24, 2018 at 1:06 am

    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!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      NigelH
      April 24, 2018 at 4:42 pm

      Hi Kevin
      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.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Peter Kirby
    November 23, 2018 at 7:15 pm

    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.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Nigel Haycock
      November 26, 2018 at 5:08 pm

      Hi Peter
      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.

  • Reply
    Compact Excellence: A Review of the Voigtländer Vito BL by Andrew Morang - 35mmc
    April 5, 2019 at 11:33 pm

    […] Rigid body with light meter visible in the finder: Vitomatic I, II, Ia, IIa, Ib, IIb, IIIb (see Nigel Haycock’s Vitomatic II review) […]

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Jem
    April 14, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    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?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      NigelH
      April 15, 2019 at 5:17 am

      Hi
      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.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Jem
        April 24, 2019 at 3:24 pm

        Thanks Nigel, I shall give it a go. Really looking forward to seeing what this little beauty can do.

  • Reply
    The Thirty Six: Film #14 – View from the Carrot Room
    May 21, 2019 at 11:26 pm

    […] it’s been a while since I used this one anyway (I was also inspired by a few recent posts and comments on […]

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Pin It on Pinterest

    Share This

    Thank you for commenting

    ...now share the post with your friends?