I have often heard that vintage Voigtländers are built like Volkswagens. Personally, I think that they are built like a combination of a Volkswagen, Mercedes and Audi! They were built to last; they are very well designed and they ooze quality! Let’s not forget that Voigtländer have been making cameras since 1849 and the company actually dates back to 1756. There is little wonder that they new a thing or two about cameras and lenses!
I bought my Vito IIa from a Spanish doctor via an auction site for around £50. It appeared perfect and the only wear that I could see was to the film reminder text which had clearly become faded as it is in constant use when rewinding the film. It appears to perform perfectly. There are no light leaks and the bellows are sound. My camera is an early model with the 4 speed Pronto shutter. (More about the shutter options later).
The Vito IIa is a folding camera and was introduced in 1955 and was a development of the Vito II. It was based upon the same design concept found in the Vito B, which was produced concurrently. The Vito IIa offered a central accessory shoe to permit the use of a Kontur viewfinder, and benefitted from a single stroke lever film advance lever in place of a wind knob.
The film rewind knob is recessed into the top plate, and pops up when it’s released by moving a small button to the left that sits below the rewind knob. The rewind knob also contains the film type reminder. Film is loaded by levering open a ‘flap’ on the left of the back looking from the rear of the camera. Film loading is conventional.
The camera opens – revealing the lens – by pressing a recessed button on the bottom plate. There’s a small metal stud on the bottom of the door which functions as a stand when the camera is on a flat surface. To close the camera, there are two tabs inside the door which need to be pushed down at the simultaneously. The shutter release and cable socket are located on the top edge of the door, not on the top plate of the camera.
Shutters options included the four-speed Pronto (1/25, 1/50, 1/100 and 1/200 sec. plus B) and the eight speed Prontor SVS (plus B in both instances). The shutter speed steps also vary, with earlier models being 1, 1/2nd, 1/5th, 1/10th, 1/25th, 1/50th, 1/100th, and 1/300th sec., and changing to 1, 1/2nd, 1/4th, 1/8th, 1/15th, 1/30th, 1/60th, 1/125th, and 1/300th sec.
Later models fitted with the Prontor SVS have an exposure value scale. This is a mechanism that links the shutter speed and aperture rings together via an arm which extends from the aperture ring to connect with teeth along the edge of the shutter speed ring, resulting in the synchronisation of aperture and shutter setting to give the same overall exposure. My version does not have the exposure value scale.
The Prontor SVS shutter also has a PC flash sync, and a V/X/M switch flash sync, where X is for electronic flash, and M for bulbs. The V setting is for a self-timer. The Pronto Shutter only has a flash socket for use with bulbs.
In common with other Vito cameras, the IIa was fitted with a 50mm Skopar lens. The Skopar was Voigtländer’s version of the Tessar, and the Color-Skopar was a post-war coated version. The Vito IIa cameras have either an f/3.5 Skopar or Color-Skopar lens. My camera has the f3.5/50mm coated Color Skopar lens fitted.
End of Production
By 1957, and the end of it’s production and common myth has it that the Vito IIa was reputedly the last 35 mm folding camera. It wasn’t! The the Welti Ic was produced well into the 1960s, and the Super Dollina II remained in production until the beginning of the 1970s. According to Amateur Photographer magazine’s 1960 annual camera guide, folding Kodak Retina IB, IIC, and III C models were still being sold.
In the UK it cost about £25 – half the price that I paid in 2022. There was a Vito III, but this was not a successor to the IIa; it was a rangefinder equipped folder, and pre-dates the IIa, having been introduced in about 1950.
A manual for the Voigtlander Vito IIa is available here.