Thursday, July 18, 2013

Voigtländer Vito B

I have wanted a Vito B for a while so I was pleased to find one in the lot of cameras that I was given from my old high school's photo club.  The Vito B was first introduced in 1954 and was made until 1961.  The version here was a later model first introduced in 1959.  It differs from the earlier versions in having a 9 speed Prontor SVS shutter and a f/2.8 50mm Color Skopar lens.  The earlier versions had either a 4 speed Prontor or an 8 speed Prontor SVS.  Both came with a f/3.5 Color Skopar.  The 1959 version also has a top shutter speed of 1/500 versus 1/300 on the earlier version. My version also has the over-sized viewfinder that some feel detracts from the Vito B's appearance.  While what some feel about the oversized viewfinder may be valid I do have to say that it is a great viewfinder from a practical standpoint.  It is easily the brightest and most useful viewfinder that I have encountered on a camera of this type.

The Vito B is a scale focusing camera.  For the picture above I actually measured the distance because I wanted to test the lens up close and wide-open. I think the Color Skopar did pretty well. There are some symbols on the lens to help with quick focusing.  These are said to work best with the lens at f/5.6 or higher. As with most scale focusing cameras unless you are very good at guessing distance it is probably good to get familiar with any focusing aids that the camera offers.

Most everyone who has handled a Vito B is impressed by the quality of its construction.  I would have to include myself in that crowd.  To me its one of those cameras that has value just for its build quality and appearance.  In 1959 the f/2.8 version of the Vito B sold for $640 in today's dollars.  The f/3.5 was around $480.  So it was a camera for at least the serious amateur.  And there most have been quite a few of those around in the 1950's, since judging by auction listings there were many Vito B's sold.  I suppose it speaks of the quality of the camera that so many survive until this day in working condition.

One important thing to know about the Vito B is that the shutter is locked until the camera is loaded with film.  So it might appear that the shutter isn't working if you are counting on the film advance lever to cock the shutter.  You can test it by opening up the back and turning the spocket that catches the film until the shutter cocks.   So you might be able to find a bargain on a Vito B from someone who thinks the shutter doesn't work when it just isn't being tested properly.  Still there isn't that much of a need to seek out a bargain since it looks like a Vito B can be found for around $30 for the f/3.5 version.  I wasn't able to find a closed listing for the f/2.8 version so I would suppose that they are rarer and may cost a little more. 

From my first experience of the Vito B I can say that it has become my favorite scale focusing camera.  The Vito B is one of those peak cameras made by a quality company at a time when the technology for such cameras was mature. We are lucky to live in a time when a camera like the Vito B is plentiful and inexpensive.  Although it is a shame that such classic design and build quality is unappreciated by our larger culture. I suppose the Vito B brings out the old-timer in me.