I find rangefinder cameras like this Voigtländer Vitoret LR to be intensely alluring. And I think I look smart when shooting them. I go to great lengths to look smart.
The 1966-1971 Vitoret LR was, by Voigtländer standards, an entry-level camera. As best as I can tell, the entire Vitoret line was meant to be a less-expensive little brother to the better-built, better-outfitted Vito line. But the Vitoret LR is no slouch! It offers a selenium light meter, a coupled rangefinder, a 50mm f/2.8 Color-Lanthar lens, and a Prontor 300 LK leaf shutter that operates from 1/30 to 1/300 second. You can set it to accept films up to 1,600 ASA, which was blisteringly fast in those days.
Like so many 1960s rangefinder cameras, such as my Minolta Hi-Matic 7 and Yashica Electro 35 GSN, the Vitoret LR is big and heavy. I only wish it were as pleasant to use as those other two cameras. Praises first: the viewfinder is gigantic and the rangefinder patch is plenty big and bright. But the viewfinder shows a whole lot less than the lens actually sees. When I shot a test roll, all of my careful framing was for naught – at least until I got the scans into Photoshop’s crop-happy clutches. I didn’t crop this photo just so I could tell you that the viewfinder showed only the middle two school-bus butts.
The Vitoret LR’s focusing and exposure controls are all on the lens barrel. While peering through the viewfinder, I had a lot of trouble telling the controls apart just by feel. At least the match-needle exposure system worked well. It’s on the right side inside the viewfinder. A black line marks the light-meter’s output. You adjust aperture and shutter speed until the two parallel green lines are on either side of the black line. I assume that the green lines correspond to one stop overexposed and one stop underexposed. I wish I had underexposed by one stop every photo on my roll, as they were all very bright. Again, Photoshop to the rescue. This is downtown Plymouth, Indiana.
At least the Color-Lanthar lens is plenty contrasty. This is the Rees Theater in Plymouth. I was in town for a board meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association, and took advantage of a sunny late-winter afternoon to shoot here.
I climbed up an embankment to photograph this old railroad bridge.
Here’s a barrel shot of the bridge, which spans the Yellow River. I used a new-to-me film (Arista Premium 400) in this new-to-me camera, which means I can’t tell whether it was the film or the camera that led to such bright results and so much work in Photoshop to tame them.
But just look at that contrast. I want to reach out and touch those rivets – the texture seems so real.
I finished off the roll while walking my dog through my neighborhood. It was a bright afternoon and the trees, which had not yet begun to bud, cast crisp shadows.
To see more photos from my test roll, check out my Vitoret LR gallery on Flickr.
I was very shocked that I was so disappointed in how the Vitoret LR handled. I really expected better from Voigtländer. I was also disappointed by how much fiddling I had to do in Photoshop to bring these images to life, but that disappointment is as likely to be placed in this film as in the camera, as both were new to me. Lesson learned: I should stick with films I know when testing a new old camera. It’s the smart thing to do.
Do you like old cameras? Then check out my entire collection!