Well, with the Voigtländer Vito B, once again we are pushing the limits of the definition of point and shoot film cameras. But with some justification. Although this particular model of Voigtländer Vito B hails from all the way back to the mid 1950s, and so it not automatic in any sense or form, it shares a number of similarities with more modern compact film cameras.
First and foremost, the clue is in the format – the Voigtlander Vito B is certainly compact. It is 11.5cm wide and 6.5cm in height. The depth of the camera body, not including the lens, is about 3cm and about 7cm including the lens.
Like other point and shoot film cameras, the Voigtländer Vito B camera was also clearly aimed at the everyday user, rather than professionals, who would probably have used more precise rangefinder cameras, such as Leicas and, later on, SLRs.
Voigtländer Vito B technical specifications
There appear to be several variations of the Voigtländer Vito B, built between 1954 and 1959. My version appears to be the second variation, sold around 1955, and the first to carry the words Prontor-SVS under the shutter speed dial. Unlike the first version, which only contained the words Prontor, this version of the Voigtländer Vito B has eight shutter speeds, peaking at 300. The earlier version only had five speeds, whilst some later versions had nine or ten.
The Voigtländer Vito B is compact and clearly aimed at everyday users, rather than professionals.The lens is an ƒ3.5 50mm Color-Skopar, with some later models having a ƒ2.8 lens, up to ƒ16. Focussing ranges from 3.5 feet to infinity. There is a self-timer, which some people appear concerned about using, and a plain viewfinder, without a rangefinder. Yes, with this camera, you have to guess the distance to the subject being photographed (unless you really want to carry a tape measure with you). Similarly, there is no built in light meter, so I’d be concerned at using this camera in difficult lighting situations, especially with slide transparency film, like Kodak’s Ektachrome.
Using the Voigtländer Vito B
The first thing that I noticed with the Voigtländer Vito B, is that the shutter button doesn’t work, unless film is loaded. I wonder how many people have thought that their camera was broken the first time they got their hands on it? At the same time, at least the user is less likely to try to use the camera having forgotten to load it with film.
But, overall, this is a fantastically designed camera – both to look at and to use. Considering the age, the manual distance, shutter speed, and apertures controls are very easy to use once you get the hang of it all. And it was clearly a well constructed piece of engineering, if only to get all of the controls and functions into such a small space.
Some of the smaller design touches also impressed me. For example, the frame counter numbers are displayed upside down, which struck me as odd first of all. Until I realised that when the camera is hung around your neck by a strap, simply tilting the camera back, shows the frame count the correct way up.