a visual experiment.

a visual experiment.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Camera Review: Voigtlander Vitessa

Voigtlander Vitessa - A beautiful 35mm compact folder.

The Vitessa is an interesting 35mm folding rangefinder produced by Voigtlander in the 1950s. With its underlying design principle "built into your hands", the camera introduced several innovations unusual for its time and genre to help photographers be more efficient at photo taking.

One of the most striking feature you will realise in the Vitessa is the lack of a film advance lever or winder. In its place, a long rod that looked like an antenna of an early 80s cellphone which Voigtlander calls "Combi-Plunger". By fully depressing the Combi-Plunger, you would advance the film and ready the shutter. To stow for transportation or storage, press the Combi-Plunger 90% of its way down.

Voigtlander Vitessa with rear cover removed. Focusing knob is seen just below the shutter release.
Focusing a Vitessa is made very easy by the focusing knob located at the right side of the top plate and is in easy reach the user's right thumb. It takes about 3 to 4 swipes to go across the whole focus range, allowing quick focus between 1m and infinity.

The DOF scale with a round rotating focus scale. 
Accompanying the focus knob is a rather unique DOF scale. As one turns the focusing tab, a round disc rotates with the corresponding focus distance. I find this much more useful than the traditional DOF scale on the lens barrel if you are planning to shoot by the hip. If shooting by the hip is not your cup of tea, you will be pleased to know that the viewfinder is parallax corrected, allowing precise framing.

The Color Skopar 50/3.5 lens and the EV scale. Other variations include: Color Skopar 50/2.8 and Ultron 50/2.8
The Vitessa uses EV or Exposure Value settings, a system popular in the late 1950's. Once an exposure combination is set, that combination of equivalent f/stops and shutter speeds remains set until the user pushes down the combination EV lock/aperture lever to select another setting. In other words, if you set f/16 at 1/125, moving the shutter speed to 1/250th automatically moves the f/stop to f/11. This allows quick change of aperture and shutter speeds if shooting under the same lighting.

Size comparison of the Vitessa.
As for size, the Vitessa is fairly compact. When its lens recessed, the Vitessa is just slightly smaller in size as compared to the Leica Ms. In a pinch, you might be able to fit it into the pocket of your coat, if you don't mind the weight (approx 670g).

The Vitessa shows a superb, almost Leica quality fit and finish as seen here in detail.
I''m sure you already know that Voigtlander makes awesome modern rangefinder lens (though manufactured by Cosina) and I'm curious how the vintage Color Skopar would perform, but unfortunately, this copy came with a misaligned rangefinder and requires attention. 

I guess I'll have to wait to have some pictures from this camera. In the meantime, here's a video I made to showcase the workings of the Vitessa:

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