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Voigtlander Vito Cameras - Introduction

by Stephanie Marriott

Voigtlander started as a scientific instrument maker in Vienna in 1756. The founder, Johann Christoph Voigtlander, made compasses and quadrants and associated equipment; it was his son, Johann Freidrich, who started the manufacture of optical glass instruments like spectacle lenses and opera glasses, and it was the founder's grandson who collaborated with a mathemetician, Petzval, to design a lens in 1840. This is the world's first lens designed mathematically and it has a maximum aperture of f/3.7. To use the lens, Voigtlander produced the world's first all-metal camera which was also the first camera to have rack-and-pinion focusing.

Voigtlander moved to Braunschweig in 1849, where it remained for over a century.

Zeiss-Ikon took control of Voigtlander in the 1960s and sold Voigtlander to Rollei in the early 1970s. Since then the Voigtlander name has changed hands but it is still alive.

For many collectors, the heyday of Voigtlander came in the 1950s and 1960s when it produced a range of interesting cameras, including the Bessamatic, Prominent, Dynamatic and Ultramatic. However, these were all quite expensive cameras.

I like the Vito cameras as they were cameras for the mass market. They were not cheap but they were good, medium priced cameras which brought the best of German camera manufacture to a larger market.

Designed to be easy to use, they are in many cases, still very usable today. Most of them are easy to find and will not cost large amounts of money so an impressive and good-looking collection can be assembled relatively easily. Voigtlander made some accessories for the Vito range although the camera was never a system camera unlike, for example, the Kodak Retina.

The story starts with the folding Vito, first introduced in about 1939 with production finally ending in about 1955.

Rigid-fronted Vitos, like the very popular Vito B, started in about 1954 and continued until the end of Voigtlander in 1971.

The Vitomatics were introduced in about 1958, and all have a built-in exposure meter.

The Vito Automatic cameras were introduced in about 1962 and were withdrawn only a few years later.

The Vitoret cameras were made from about 1962 until 1971; these were designed to be an inexpensive and easy to use camera aimed at photographers for whom the Vito cameras were too expensive.

The Vitrona was made in about 1964 and it is remarkable for having a built-in electronic flash. It is one of a kind.

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