It’s a big, heavy 1960s rangefinder, this Voigtländer Vitoret LR. It has a very contrasty lens and some awkward handling. If you like that sort of thing, this is your camera. I didn’t like it. Read my updated review here.
My brother flew in from Utah, where he was living, to spend last Christmas with the family. A heavy snowstorm blew in on Christmas Eve as my brother was driving over. Unsure where the curb was, and not wanting his rented car to be parked in the middle of the street in case the snowplows came, he inadvertently parked partially in my yard. He learned that when he tried to leave and found himself stuck. The ground was still soft thanks to having been replaced in the big sewer project earlier in the year, and it hadn’t been cold enough for the ground to freeze. His front wheel was in deep, and it took us an hour to dig his car out. It left an ugly hole in my yard.
He decided he’d had enough of Utah in March and made plans to return home. In town briefly to make preparations, one chilly afternoon I found him in my front yard with a bag of dirt and a bag of grass seed, trying to restore my damaged yard. He hadn’t forgotten. That’s my brother’s heart, right there on display. I had a couple shots left on a roll of Arista Premium 400 in my Voigtländer Vitoret LR, so I got a wide shot of the action.
Check out my monochrome visit to Fountain Square in these photos.
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, 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.
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 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 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.