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Off Topic  KILT FAQ

My first gear - the 50's

Since the 50's

My first gear - the 50's

Rolleiflex and Minolta - the 60's

The Nikon era

Going digital

The lost war


Voigtländer Vito BL
My first camera was a Voigtländer Vito BL, given to me by my late father, when I was only 12 years old.  He was a wonderful person who would at all times rather give than receive. Despite he passed away ten years ago I still miss him.
  It was on a quite ordinary day in May 1957 and even if it is nearly 52 years ago I still remember it very clearly. It was to be the beginning of a life time hobby.

Till that day I had only taken two pictures. It was the summer before with my father's probably pre-war Agfa camera, which could take eight pictures in 6 x 9 cm (2 ¼” x 3 ½”) on a 120 roll film. It was in 1956 on a holiday in Germany and both pictures showed the castle in Goslar (Harz), one with my father and mother in the foreground but shaken; the other being sharper but the horizon skewed.

My father's  type of camera, an Agfa Billy Record. The lens was an Agfa Anastigmat Jegstar 105mm/8.8. Other aperture settings: 11 and 16. Shutter speeds: B, 1/25, 1/50 and 1/100. Add to that slow  films with 20 to 40 ISO. No wonder that films by that tine were often underexposed and unsharp.

The Voigtländer was a 24x36 mm camera with something quite extraordinary: a built-in exposure meter.
   The distance, however, had to be set by eye - until I got another device: a distance meter to put into the camera shoe. It had a finder and a wheel with a distance scale identical to that on the lens.
  The finder of the meter had an advantage over that of the camera: an extra layer showing the centre of the motive in pink but displaced until you by turning of the wheel brought the pink image to exactly overlay the original layer.   

You would then look at the scale and set that of the camera lens in the same position.

Voigtländer Vito BL with a f3.5 Color Skopar

A Vito BL with distance meter mounted
The Voigtländer distance meter


I would use the Vito BL primarily with Ferrania Color reversal films (slides). The Italian film was no more than 13 DIN, equal to 16 ASA/ISO and available with only 20 exposures.
    In 1958  it was re-launched, and now  speed had gone up to 15 DIN or 25 ASA and you could have films with 36 exposures.

Voigtländer Vitessa T
For my communion in  October 1958 I had a new camera, a Voigtländer Vitessa T as a gift from my parents. It was a range finder camera with built-in exposure- and distance meter.
   Like almost all German cameras it had the rather questionable Synchro-Compur leaf shutter.
   The 50 mm standard Skopar 2.8 could be interchanged by a 35 mm wide angel lens and two telephoto lenses, a 100 mm and a 135 mm. A special finder, but usable with all of the four lenses, should then be mounted in the camera shoe.   
   One and a half years later I got the 135 mm Super-Dynaret f/4 for it.
  I still have the Vitessa. She shutter hasn’t functioned for 30 years. But apart from that it is a beautifully made camera.

Voigtländer Vitessa T with 50mm/2.8. The high knob was for winding the film.

The Vitessa with  the 135 mm/4.0 lens and the special finder mounted. It was a quite tiny lens. As comparison the 135mm/2.0 Nikkor AF DC lens is shown to the left.

Films were now Agfa UT 16  (East  Germany),  Agfa CT  18  (West Germany),  Perutz C 18  (West Germany) and Gevacolor (Belgium).
   Till this day the Ferrania and Agfa slides have kept colours reasonably well, Perutz and especially Gevacolor not.


Other equipment

The slides were viewed with this Braun PA2 projector, one of the first to use magazines

The electronic flash had been invented but was very expensive. In stead I used throwaway flash bulbs. For daylight slide films they were blue, for black and white films white.

The Voigtländer flash for throwaway bulbs could be folded. Having taken a picture there would come a rather bad smelling smoke from the now almost melted and extremely hot bulb which could be ejected by means of a bottom on the back of the flash.  

Five years ago I happened to find a Vito BL at a photo dealer's in Cologne, not exactly the same model, but 99% identical with my first camera. Probably a 1958 edition.


Copyright © 2009 G.Mansfeldt