Type: Rangefinder film camera
Year of release: 1950-1954
Focal length: 50mm
Condition of my copy: Completely functional, just little scratches on the outside. Glass appears to be clear of scratches and fungus.
The Voigtländer Vito III. Actually the first analog camera I got. I found this masterpiece of craftmanship in a wardrobe at my grandparents' place. According to my Grandfather, it belonged to my Grandmother's father, who apparently was an ambitious amateur photographer.
The Vito III was build between 1950 and 1954 and is an all-manual camera, so you don't need to worry about battery life. What you do need to worry about are Shutterspeed and Aperture, for both are manual mode only. Also you should have a look for your dad's old lightmetre - or an adequate app, which will do the job as well.
Using the Vito III you'll notice one or two aspects about this little beast: First, it is built very well. Lots of metal and a small yet surprisingly sharp chunk of glass. Second, due to it's fixed lens you're limited to a focal length of 50mm with a f2.0 aperture. This aperture is declicked and features 10 blades. Third, focussing is a herculean task, as the rangefinder is very small and dim. For me as a wearer of glasses (which distances my eye even further from this tiny black finder), focusing is a mixture of guessing, luck and a pain in the ass. Plus, you can't turn the lens to focus, but a knob on top of the body, which happens to be the filmwinder’s doppelganger. Also, the shutterbutton has quite a way to travel before releasing the shutter, so you might want to find something bright to use a fast shutterspeed, avoiding the almost unavoidable shake pressing the shutter causes.
As with most cameras of the time, you have to cock the shutter manually. The lever to do so is set among the dials for aperture, shutter speed and flash sync type.
Due to it’s collapsable lens it’s actually quite transportable, if it wasn’t for the weight. Without a film inside, the camera clocks in at a whopping 652 grams. For comparison, a much bulkier Canon 6D Mk. II, which is a full frame DSLR, weighs 763 grams, battery and SD card included.
Still, this is a fantastic camera. Although it was already outdated by it's release, it is great for learning how to use a camera. It's like one of these old sailingships marine rookies learn sailing on: Old, outdated, a little difficult to use but magnificently built and a fantastic teacher.
Pros: well build, good sharpness and contrast, almost pocket sized
Cons: heavy, small rangefinder, weird focus mechanism, rather long minimum focus distance