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Voigtländer Vito B with 50mm f2.8 Color-Skopar lens and 9-speed Prontor-SVS shutter

1956 Voigtlander Vito B with f2.8 Color-Skopar lens

 

Launched in 1954 with choice of f2.8 or f3.5 lenses and 4-speed Pronto or 8-speed Prontor-SVS shutters with prices ranging from £20 to £24.

At the time when a minimum wage agricultural worker was earning £6/4/10d a week this was equivalent to a months wages for a working man. 

(compared to 2011 prices (the last year for which data is currently available) £24 is equivalent to £492 by RPI and £1210 when compared to average earnings.)

The 1954 catalogue describes this as 'an unbelievably low price'.

Well, that's relativity for you!

Yet another reminder of how expensive photography was fifty years ago.

cover of Vito B intruction manual

 

 

Vito B f3.5 and f2.8 versions side by side

on the left the f3.5 lens version - on the right the f2.8 lens version

 

When the Vito B first went on sale: significant events of 1954: 

Roger Bannister breaks the four minute mile.

Segregation made illegal in the USA.

54% of American homes have television sets. RCA manufactures first colour TV set.

Texas Instruments announces the development of the first transistor radio.

Prototype Boeing 707 flies. First atomic power station in Moscow.

In Vietnam the French are defeated at Dien Bien Phu.

John Travolta born.

 

When this camera was new: significant events of 1956: 

The Suez Crisis. The Suez Canal was nationalized and control taken from Britain and France.

The Hungarian revolution: Russia invades Hungary.

Elvis Presley enters charts for the first time with 'Heartbreak Hotel'.

IBM created the first hard disk drive.

The modern shipping container developed and trialled.

Prince Rainier III of Monaco married film star Grace Kelly.

Björn Borg, Tom Hanks, Sela Ward (CSI:NY) & David Caruso (CSI:Miami) born.

 

 

 

1957 advert (text at right)

1957 advert for Vito B


2009 price equivalence: £452 RPI : £1150 av. earnings

Voigtländer Ever-Ready case (£4/3/5) : £75.90 RPI : £190 av. earnings
VITO B
In common with the Vito IIA the VITO B is fitted with the high-efficiency Color-Skopar f3,5/50mm anastigmat, coated and colour-corrected, fitted into the Prontor-SVS shutter with "delayed action" and synchronised at all speeds for flashbulbs and electronic flash. The VITO B has a die-cast body covered with real leather, an optical viewfinder and fitted accessory shoe.
One movement of the conveniently placed lever advances the film and sets the shutter (centre picture). A double interlock prevents blanks or double exposures. "Zone focussing" ensures sharp pictures every time.
The hinged back and baseplate of the VITO B makes changing cassettes an easy matter (right-hand picture). The large diameter take-up spool remains in position. Press the catch and the rewind knob, normally flush with the top of the camera, springs up ready for use (left-hand picture).
Every COLOR-SKOPAR lens is accompanied by a numbered and signed certificate confirming that it has passed the exacting performance standards laid down for it.

Price £25 . 3 . 11d
Voigtl
änder Ever-Ready Case £4/3/5

 

 

The Vito IIa

The Vito IIa referred to in the advert above is the similarly specified folding version of the camera, last of the Vito line which had launched in 1939. But modern design was away from folding cameras and the 'B' followed the trend to be the first of a line of rigid front counterparts.

The advantage with the folding version is that, once folded, it was much smaller and pocketable. However, film advance and shutter tensioning remain separate and so the shutter has to be cocked manually.

On the other hand rigid fronts enable mechanical coupling between film advance and shutter tensioning. Later  developments would lead to coupled meters and rangefinders and, with the Vitessa T, interchangeable lenses.

The two cameras seem to have been sold in parallel for about a year.

Clearly a case of Voigtländer catering for both tastes.

Vito IIa

 

 

Where to find the Vito lens serial number and so date it:
lens: showing location of Vito B serial number

lens no. 4084284 gives the year of manufacture as 1956

Voigtländer lens serial numbers with 1956 highlighted

  

 

Film loading and rewind:

"the hinged back and base plate of the Vito B makes changing cassettes an easy matter"

Vito B door release catch Vito B cassette chamber door open Vito B cassette release
lift and turn the cassette chamber door release as the door swings down the back springs opens

slide the catch backwards and the film rewind knob pops up

 

The frame counter:

Vito B frame counter window  Vito B frame counter advance spocket 
the Vito B frame counter window   the Vito B frame counter reset sprocket  
The frame counter counts down and so shows the number of exposures remaining. On loading the film the user advances three frames to allow for the leader and then must set the counter. Today, when only 36 exposure film is available, we always set it to 36. In the past, when 12 and 24 exposure film was also sold, the user would set the counter to start at 12, 24 or 36 as appropriate. 

 

Testing without film:

Vito B - back open with film advance spocket ringed in red 
With no film in the camera the shutter will not fire. With the back open we can see the sprocket that tensions the shutter and operates the frame counter.  In order to test that the shutter is working, we must substitute for the film and roll the sprocket to the right, in the direction of the take-up spindle.  To advance one frame, using alternately both thumbs, roll it until the tension relaxes and a click is heard. The shutter will then fire. Repeat for each of the shutter speeds but be warned: repeated operation may hurt!
 



Tip: notice how my VXM lever is set to 'M' (bulb flash). I was very annoyed when I first got this camera to find that the shutter was unreliable. Sometimes wouldn't fire at all. I'm ashamed to say that I was so annoyed with the German seller (i.e. too costly to return) that I didn't leave feedback.

However, at the time I had set the tab to 'X' (electronic flash) ...... as one does. Only recently, when testing it again, did I find by chance, that it worked just fine when the tab was set to M. It would seem that when set to 'X' there is a fault such that the self-timer ('V') is interfering with correct shutter operation. I have since read somewhere on the web of someone reporting the same problem.

Vito B VXM lever detail

 So, the moral seems to be: for reliable shutter operation with a Vito B set the VXM tab to 'M'.

   

Now that it's working I can test the shutter speeds!

 After all, this is another of those cameras where the speeds 'sound about right':

indicated 300 100 50 25 10 5 2 1
actual 83 26 38 16 x x x x

Hmmm, perhaps not ........ (sorry, gave up when I got to the 1/10th!)

   

 

   Below is an example (not in my collection) of a later 1959 model Vito B with the large brightline viewfinder and 9-speed Prontor SVS shutter.

later model Vito B with large viewfinder

 

Whilst this was a necessary improvement to keep up with the demands of the market, and whilst undoubtedly better for picture taking, today most collectors prefer the styling of the original.

Priced around £26 (£496 compared to 2011 RPI; £1170 compared to average earnings);
£21 for the f3,5 version (£401 compared to 2011 RPI; £945 compared to average earnings)

 

more information on the Vito B can be found here at marriottworld

the complete range of Vito variants can be seen here:  link to Voigtlander camera collection

 

Vito B with Konturfinder 

The Vito B fitted with a Voigtlander Kontur viewfinder

The Kontur is used with both eyes open. The brain combines the images so that we see the naturally viewed scene with a bright line frame overlaid on it.

 

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this page launched 3rd Jan 2011  :  last modified 20th Jan 2014 at 17:34