About how to use an old Voigtlander Inos II

Inos II

I came across this question on a forum:

Source: hhttp://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100411221417AAU701F

"I have an old Voigtlander Inos II and I was wanting to know if anyone knew how to use it?

It is from the 1930s and have been looking all over it and can't open it. It is driving me mad, plus I am afraid to pull or push too hard because of it being so old. Can anyone help, please?"  ('vanessam')

I felt the answer left something to be desired so here's my longer answer:

The good news is it uses 120 film which is still around.

120 film is most certainly readily available. (See here.) That it uses 120 film is likely but not certain. The Inos II was also made in a 6.5x11cm version taking 116 film. Simplest way to tell is look at the lens focal length: 10.5cm = the regular 120 version; 11.8cm = the uncommon 116 version.

The even better news is it has actual shutter speeds, unlike the LOMO cameras that are all the rage.

All cameras, including all digital cameras, have 'actual shutter speeds'. The difference is that, with 'old cameras' you have to decide on which one to use and set it for yourself whereas, with modern electronic cameras, the camera's computer replaces your brain and does it all for you.

Even the toy LOMO camera has
a shutter speed, otherwise it wouldn't work. What he means is that it that the Inos has a range of shutter speeds rather than just the one like a simple box camera. One speed limits your picture taking ability. With a box camera that's 'use only in bright sunlight'. Many speeds means that you can take pictures in all conditions.

The bad news is I could not find a user manual for it.

True. The usual source, www.buktus.org, doesn't yet have it. If there's anyone out there who has one please e-mail him a copy so he can put it online for the rest of us. In the meantime, since they all work much the same, you could look at the one for its predecessor, the Rollfilm. Along with the spring-action that pushes forward the lens assembly on opening the camera, the special feature of the Inos II was the focussing by a wire-frame knob on the body rather than by a lever on the folding bed or by turning the front lens element. This knob focussing meant that you could, if you wanted, set the focus distance on the knob before opening the camera.

You may have to find a camera store or repair shop that has a "grey beard" working there to show you how to open it.

Google translate tells me that this means 'find some old guy who used to take photographs the hard way' to help you. Oh my God, I guess that means me!

By now the shutter may need some care, since it is a rather old camera and the chances of its shutter being used enough over the past few decades are rather slim.

True ..... but not true. Ancient though the camera is, it probably hasn't been used in at least 50 years. It probably running slow, but  that's because the mechanism is dirty, not necessarily because it's fragile. If it has the simple Embezet shutter then it's unlikely to be a problem. If the complex Compur shutter then you'll have to try it and see.

Open the back of the camera then open the diaphragm wide (push the lever over to 4.5). Now look through while you fire each speed and see that they at least appear different and, importantly, that it closes properly each time.

through the lens example of diaphragm not closed
not an Inos, nevertheless, an example of a diaphragm that doesn't close

Also look through as you cock the shutter - sometimes they do weird things like opening again as that's done. (My Heliar-lensed Rollfilm does this. To use it I have to cap the lens as I cock the shutter so, even with this serious fault, I can still use it.) Occasionally they become one speed cameras (like both my Brilliant and Pontiac) but .... you can still use them. Being limited to 1/100th sec all the time is no different to using a simple box camera. Usually the high speeds work, although they may be slow. The slow speeds may or may not work, or may be very slow but, what does it matter? Unless you're prepared to carry a tripod around with you, you're never going to use them.

Rule of thumb (or, in this case, old shutter mechanisms): assume they're running slow (they invariably are) and make exposures 2/3 stop under. i.e. set your meter to, say, ISO160 for ISO100 film. If that proves not enough, up it to ISO200 next time.  Also, if you're cautious, then be sure to use negative film, at least for the first film. Modern negative film has considerable exposure latitude and can cope. Once confident you can progress to transparency film if you wish. I use Ektachrome 100VC all the time. I guess that means I'm confident.

(If you're really keen you could get it serviced: go to www.certo6.com for help. But be warned: it may cost more than the camera's worth!)

Which just leaves that key question: how to open it?

Not such a strange question as it might seem. With other makes the catch is on the main body and the back releases from it. Intuitively correct. Voigtlander (and Agfa) do it differently. The release catch is under the strap. However, what you can't see is that the catch is fitted to, and is therefore part of, the back, so that (in effect) the body releases from it. i.e. the body pulls away from the back, rather than what seems natural - to pull the back away from the body. Strange? Yes. And it's enough to make you think you can't open it.

It's the same with the Inos predecessor, the Rollfilm, and it's successor, the Bessa. In my view counter-intuitive and, in practice, always awkward to operate. Particularly so with an old camera where the catch may be a bit distorted. But there again, maybe it's just what you're used to!

Inos II back release catch
the Inos II's back release latch with the direction arrow circled

Pushing the spring-loaded catch upwards while pulling the back outwards is awkward. You may even need a finger-nail in the gap to prise them apart. Perhaps, when the camera was new, sliding the catch was enough to make the back pop open of its own accord.

So: holding the main body firmly in your left hand, with the lens side towards the palm of your hand, grip the back with your right, use your thumb to push the catch slider towards the wire-frame knobs (the direction is marked by an engraved arrow), and gently pull the back away from the body. Voil ...... hopefully!

And, if it doesn't work the first time ...... try, try again - using more pressure or pull as needed.

Hopefully that'll do it!

~ ~ ~

red arrow - link to Voigtlander CollectionGael - link to Voigtlander Collection to the Inos II

this page launched 14th Dec 2010  :  last modified 24 Apr 2013 at 17:56