Like a Volkswagen: Voigtlander Vitomatic

Imagine Germany by the end of the fifties. The economy is growing rapidly, people can afford more luxury than before. They can spend money on vacations and go to the Alps with their Volkswagen. The camera comes along and which one fits best with the average family? Meet the popular Vitomatic from Voigtlander.

Voigtlander Vitomatic
The popular and affordable Vitomatics I and II.

First a bit Wikipedia. Voigtländer developed the Vitomatic series as view- and rangefinder cameras for 35mm film with coupled meters. All the Vitomatic were manufactured from in 1957 till 1969 and all have a nifty bottom lock to open the back. When you first hold the vitomatic, it is feeling heavy and indeed, it weighs 900 grams, a lot for such a compact camera design.

Voigtlander Vitomatic

The camera radiates cheerfulness. It is a nice, smoothly styled device. But it holds a lot of technology that guarantees good shots. In the first place a simple silicon exposure meter. There is no battery involved. A needle at the top shows the amount of light that falls on the lens. If you then turn the aperture ring (from F2.8-F22), a second needle moves towards the first and the amount of light required. If they are lined up, correct exposure is a fact. The shutter speed remains to be set between 1/500 and 1 or more seconds and the shutter can be fired.

A very bright and large viewfinder with a rangefinder in the middle for precise focussing.

The vitomatic II is a rangefinder focus camera. A small yellow circle in the center of the viewfinder image helps to precisely coincide the two images. On the front of the camera is a fixed, but highly regarded 50mm 1:2.8 Color Skopar lens attached. This lens has a locking ring which maintains the combination of an aperture and shutter speed. It means that when you have set your exposure you can adjust speed and aperture together for the shot.

Voigtlander Vitomatic
Set combinations of shutterspeed and apertures due to a clever locking ring mechanism.

The camera is suitable for flash and has a setting for X and M synchronization. Also there is this ‘magic’ V setting, it means when you hold it and fire the shutter, it triggers the selftimer (10 seconds). Furthermore this camera is already suitable for ASA /DIN (ISO) settings, so it ‘calculates’ the used film(speed) in the settings.

Loading the camera is easy; from the bottom you can open the backside and easily insert the film.

Practical use is also a happy experience. It takes a little learning with the more than common possibilities that the fixed lens offers. Especially the combined shutter speed and aperture ring take a certain getting used to. Voigtlander indicates with colors what safe combinations are and which are more risky due to motion blur. When you purchase a vitomatic (and they are cheap to find on eBay), don’t think that the shutter doesn’t work. Without a roll in the camera, the shutter release button will not work because the button is coupled with the film advance sprocket inside.

The pictures come out very saturated in a typically ‘vintage’ style, maybe even too colorful for some users, but that reflects maybe better the prosperous times in which the camera was used. Some examples will soon be published.

A manual of the camera is available, thanks to the guys at Butkus. Have a 360 degree look at the Vitomatics I and II after our own test shots, made in the south of Holland.