Zwei Kameras

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Or, why you should own at least one Voigtländer Vito B.

A few months back I stumbled across a Werra camera. It was intriguing, but ultimately didn’t work, and the innovative twist of the lens barrel to wind on the film ended up being the downfall of this example.

Allured by the distinct taste of this vintage of German camera, I researched alternatives, and top of the pile came the Voigtländer Vito B.

I found a large finder model for a ridiculously reasonably price, was amazed by the big bright view it gave, shot a roll of film, and was even more impressed with the 50mm f/2.8 Color-Skopar lens.

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Voigtlander Vito B, 50mm f/2.8 Color-Skopar lens, AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 film

But as it didn’t fit in my collection of Contax SLRs and plastic AF compacts, I decided to sell it on.

Something made me reconsider at the last moment, and a couple of weeks later, a random browse on the auction site unveiled one of the smaller finder models, with a 50/3.5 Color Skopar.

I put it in a low bid and to my surprise won it, for an almost criminal £2.20 plus postage.

So I now have the pair, and both have the Prontor SVS shutter, though the speed markings are different.

Despite being the same camera at the core, the models do feel rather different. Here’s some reasons why each of them appeal.

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Voigtländer Vito B, large finder, Color-Skopar 50/2.8

Pros – 

  • Huge 1:1 life size finder which has to be seen (through) to be believed. It’s almost like the camera isn’t there.
  • Smooth contours make it very tactile.
  • The long throw and pleasing feel and sound of the wind on lever.
  • Clever linked shutter speed and aperture rings, so once you’ve decided your exposure, you can move up or down the aperture or shutter speed scale without changing the overall exposure.
  • Color-Skopar lens gives surprisingly lovely pictures.
  • Completely manual, so full control and no batteries.
  • Very quiet in operation.
  • Elegant looks and finish.
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Voigtlander Vito B, 50mm f/2.8 Color-Skopar lens, AgfaPhoto Vista Plus 200 film

Cons – 

  • Though not a wide camera, the deep lens makes it rather bulky and cumbersome overall – too chunky and bloated to be a compact, yet too small to be as comfortable in the hand as an SLR or larger rangefinder.
  • Not especially light at 620g – again it falls between stools, being a bit heavy for just a wrist strap but too small for a neck strap.
  • Distance scale in feet needs translating for those of us used to metric, though a simple division by three works well enough.
  • Limited top shutter speed of 1/300s might be an issue in bright light with faster film, though the aperture goes down to f/22.
  • Completely manual, so needs some knowledge and experience to get reasonable results.

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Voigtländer Vito B, small finder, Color-Skopar 50/3.5

Pros – 

  • Just look at it. Surely one of the most handsome and beautifully balanced 35mm cameras ever made.
  • Smooth contours make it very tactile.
  • The long throw and pleasing feel and sound of the wind on lever – the part your thumb rests on is larger and even better to use than the big finder model’s.
  • Smaller lens barrel than the big finder model (I don’t know if this is because it’s the small finder model, the slower f/3.5 lens, or both).
  • Simpler layout of aperture, focus and shutter speed rings are more logical and easier to use than the big finder f/2.8 model.
  • I’m assuming the Color-Skopar 50/3.5 will give equally lovely pictures. I’ve seen some excellent examples online, and some say it’s better than the f/2.8 version.
  • Lighter than the big finder model at 480g, and small and light enough to use comfortably with just a wrist strap.
  • Completely manual, so full control and no batteries.
  • Very quiet in operation.
  • Elegant looks and finish. Though the big finder version has a great finish, the looks and shape of the smaller model make it feel so much better overall.
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Voigtlander Vito Bs, small finder model on left

Cons – 

  • Distance scale in feet needs translating for those of us used to metric, though a simple division by three works well enough. Plus the distance scale and depth of field scale are actually easier to see and use on this small finder model.
  • Limited top shutter speed of 1/300s might be an issue in bright light with faster film, though the aperture goes down to f/22.
  • Completely manual, so needs some knowledge and experience to get reasonable results.

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Overall, whilst the bigger finder makes me 50/2.8 model very appealing to compose with, in every other aspect where there’s a difference between the two models, the smaller finder model is the clear victor. 

It’s so much better balanced, it looks stunning, and the controls are a little more straightforward.

If you really value the viewfinder above all else and don’t care what the camera itself looks like then the big finder model is likely the best option.

But despite my own love of big bright viewfinders, the small finder model had my heart from the moment I saw and held it.

Assuming it all works to the point of processing a film, it’s the only one I’ll be keeping.

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Have you owned either of these Voigtlander Vito B models?

Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

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14 thoughts on “Zwei Kameras

  1. Let me know when you decide to sell the big-finder Vito-B. I love my Voigtlander Perkeo, which also has a Color-Skopar lens, and will be on the lookout for other Voigtlander models from that era.

    1. Thanks Stu. I agree, I really liked the big finder version, but now I’ve held the small version it’s surprising how different it feels. Though the difference in height is maybe only a centimetre, if that, it makes the camera overall feel so much smaller in all dimensions.

    1. I think the Vito B is a successor to the Vito II. It looks more compact and small. Looks like the lens is the same as on my small finder version though, the Color-Skopar 50/3.5. There’s a lot to enjoy about the little Vito B!

  2. I bought a Vito II about two years ago and I love it, I got it on eBay for a song. It’s clean and everything functions perfectly. I keep it in my case with my medium format equipment so when ever I’m shooting I always shoot a roll or two with it. The B sounds like something I would also like, I’ll have to keep an eye out for one. Thanks for your review and information!

    1. Etwan, you’re the third person in a week who’s mentioned the Vito II, I might have to check them out. I believe they have the same Color-Skopar 50/3.5 lens as my small finder Vito B. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. I don’t know if I can say I own one, but at least my father does and it’s been with me now for a few years. I can’t see it going back to where it came from, to put it that way.
    It’s the tiny one, the lovely Vito B with the small viewfinder and the Color Skopar 50/3.5 lens. And it’s just a beautiful camera all the way through. I really love the results I get from it (I more or less only use B&W film) as well, as they’re really something else in comparison to most cameras I usually carry.
    My father bought this camera over in Canada some time in the very early 60’s during one of his training periods to become a fighter pilot in the norwegian air force. He used it quite a lot while over there, but after he bought his first SLR I think he more or less put it away and became a Pentax man (Spotmatic, ME, ME Super). I don’t think the old Voigtländer was used at all between 1970 and 2013 when I finally managed to find the old thing among a lot of his stuff. I quickly “borrowed” it, and will of course never get rid of it. After all I know it’s history quite well, I would say.
    I also got another Voigtländer with the 2.8 Skopar lens. It’s the Vitomatic Ia without the rangefinder. I don’t like it as much as the small and sexy Vito B, I have to admit. It’s bulkier and not really fitting my taste. I still got it, though, but could actually just as well let it go. The shutter is a bit sticky though, so will not give me a fortune to play with if I did. I’d probably feel a lot better if I just give the thing away to someone who wants it and deserves it 🙂

    1. In all honesty, as beautiful as the Vito B is, I rarely reach for it. I can’t really pinpoint why, other than when I want to shoot fully manual I’d rather use my Spotmatic as I have more control and enjoy it more. I’m keeping the Vito for now, but am wondering if, like you say, it might be better with someone who’ll use it regularly…

  4. I have a Vito II that I really enjoy. I’ll admit most of the time I shoot with an SLR, but the Vito II is a folder and sits nicely in a pocket, loaded with B&W, waiting for that moment of monochrome inspiration.

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