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.

Voigtländer Vitoret LR

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.

Voigtländer Vitoret LR

Like so many 1960s rangefinder cameras, the Vitoret LR is big and heavy. If you like big ’60s rangefinders, also check out my reviews of the Minolta Hi-Matic 7 (here), the Yashica Lynx 14e (here), the Yashica Electro 35 GSN (here), and the Konica Auto S2 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I dropped some Arista Premium 400 in and got to shooting. Praises first: the viewfinder is gigantic and the rangefinder patch is plenty big and bright. Now the complaints: 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.

The Rees

I climbed up an embankment to photograph this old railroad bridge.

PRR Yellow River bridge

Here’s a barrel shot of the bridge, which spans the Yellow River. I used a new-to-me film 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.

PRR Yellow River bridge

But just look at that contrast. I want to reach out and touch those rivets – the texture seems so real.

PRR Yellow River bridge

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.

Neighborhood scene

To see more photos from my test roll, check out my Vitoret LR gallery on Flickr.

I was 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.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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22 responses to “Voigtländer Vitoret LR”

  1. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    Hey, Jim. :) Now, this is just me spitballing and I’m not trying to rain on your parade or anything. But if you’re committed to using PS to punch up what you’re getting out of the cameras anyway, it just occurs to me there are some possibilities. I know as difficult and expensive as developing colour film is these days, getting B&W film developed is even steeper. I was just thinking that you might consider putting your cameras through their paces with colour stock, and doing your own monochrome conversions in the digital darkroom. I think you’ve mentioned you’re using PS Elements, as to the best of my knowledge, that doesn’t have the B&W adjustment layer. But you could probably pick up someone’s old copy and license of the full version of Photoshop for not much money, and every version from CS3 on up has the B&W adjustment layer (non-destructive, and the effect is editable; you can see it action on a YouTube demo here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GX64u_l3TFM). It even has more than a dozen presets designed to simulate filter lenses (red, yellow, blue, etc., etc.). There are literally millions of different B&W images hiding in every RGB image, and meanwhile, you get the added bonus of having the colour image as well. Since B&W images are increasingly your forte, I thought it was something you might mull over. :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve looked into that before, and the consensus among film shooters is that no PS work can truly replicate the feel of b/w film. The range of b/w films is wide, and each has its own signature look. I have played some with b/w-ing some of my color shots and have had some success. I’ve even posted a few of them (quietly!). So I think this is a matter of doing both, not either-or.

  2. Mark O'Brien Avatar

    Nice writeup and photos, Jim. So many interesting cameras from Voigtlander, and I think I have only tried a couple. The late 50s and 60s were they heyday of 35mm RF cameras, until the SLRs dominated marketing and sales. And there are sooooo many! :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Mark! The Voigtlander cameras tend to go for more than my soft $50 limit, so I don’t get many opportunities to shoot them. I felt lucky to get this rangefinder/meter model for around $40 (I think) shipped. You’re right, the variety of rangefinders from this era seems endless!

  3. Derek Avatar

    I have a Vito Automatic 1 (Not automatic anymore), But it’s a viewfinder so I rarely use it nowadays. It’s has similar lay out to your camera. How do you like where the shutter button is at :D?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Funny, I hardly use my viewfinder cameras either. At least not past the first time. Light meter convenience is hard to beat.

      I didn’t find the front-mount shutter button to be a problem.

  4. pesoto74 Avatar

    I think Arista Premium is supposed to be rebranded Tri-X. This is probably a situation where doing your own processing might help. It seems like it can take a while to get a film figured out. I know what you mean about just using the viewfinder cameras once, That seems to be my experience too. Although it looks like a person could get some good results out of the Vitoret LR.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I had heard that Arista Premium is Tri-X – but the photos I got back from this roll, and two others I have shot since, don’t look like Tri-X to me.

      I still haven’t bought my processing equipment, but I have started scanning my own negatives, just to get a feel for that. I was disappointed that it took me so long to scan and tweak one roll of film. One of the things I’ve been worried about was how long it would take to do this by myself. I don’t have lots of free time.

  5. Carole Avatar

    No camera buff here. Just enjoy black & white. Photoshop or not there are a few fine shots there.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks! Most of my Photoshopping is about cropping and boosting contrast a little – nothing serious.

  6. RRAlexander Avatar

    I find myself scanning in fits and starts most of the time: While I’m really doing something else. I walk back and forth between the scanner and the newest episode of NCIS or just scan while I’m writing and flip back and forth between applications.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m impatient: When I get film processed, I want to share the images right away! I’m hopeful that soon enough I’ll get into a rhythm and be able to scan faster while I do other things.

  7. Teulon Avatar

    Hey, I just bought an LR at a flea market in Germany, and it seems to be in very good condition. Can you tell me if it is normal that the black needle stays near the top in the viewfinder, in a fairly sunny outdoors situation? I have no manual and I’m not sure about using the camera. Is exposure spot on when the red needle in the top control window is in the centre ?

    I’m very impressed with the shots, especially the railway bridge ones. I’d really like to try some shots with the Voigtländer.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s been a while since I’ve used by Vitoret LR, but that needle staying near the top of the viewfinder doesn’t sound like a good thing to me.

      What I’d do is put a roll of cheap film in it, and shoot every shot twice: once with the camera’s meter and again with a hand-held meter, and see what you get.

      1. Teulon Avatar

        Thanks, I’ll try that. I have a hand-held meter but I must check how precise it is. I also have a Nikon F75, I imagine I could take measurements with this too.

  8. Merit Avatar

    Do you perhaps know if the basic Voigtländer Vitoret has no light meter? My search on the internet (especially http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Voigtl%C3%A4nder_Vitoret – which also tells me I have to guess the distance) makes me assume that is the case but I’m still uncertain. I cannot see any needle when looking through the viewfinder.
    I’ve found the manual (http://www.cameramanuals.org/voigtlander_pdf/voigtlander_vitoret.pdf) and it seems to tell me I could set both aperture and speed individually – although at the aperture ring each aperture value has a speed value above it. Could I only use the aperture ring or do I need a hand light meter and have to use both rings for the correct settings?

    I hope you can help me with this! I love the contrast in your photos and, on other websites, in other ones shot with a Voigtländer.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m not familiar with the Vitoret, but I’d say that if you find no needle in the viewfinder, you have to set exposure manually. It’s probably worth it to try, because I’ll be that Vitoret has a lens that delivers similarly contrasty results to what you see in this post. When I buy a meterless camera I use a light-meter app on my iPhone and it works remarkably well.

    2. Teulon Avatar

      For what it’s worth, I think the “R” in Vitoret LR means rangefinder, and so I guess the “L” is light meter. I bought an LR recently at a flea market, and the light meter doesn’t work. I took a test roll of film using a handheld meter. I’ve just realised that I don’t seem to have published the results ….

    3. Johnny Martyr Avatar

      Voigtlander and Agfa famously created version after version of same model cameras, many of which use exactly the same bodies with slight modifications for additional or fewer features. I’m not an expert on the Vitoret line but it doesn’t surprise me at all that there were versions of this camera with and with a meter, with and without a rangefinder and of course, different lenses.

  9. […] also review this camera with a lot of test shots. Down The Road’s Jim Grey reviewed the LR version but wasn’t that […]

  10. Johnny Martyr Avatar

    Fun write-up on a fun camera, Jim! This quote should be worked into the start of every German camera review: “And I think I look smart when shooting them. I go to great lengths to look smart.”

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I know what you mean! :-)

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