Leica IIIg vs. Vito B

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jim_baker|6, Apr 11, 2013.

  1. This might seem like a very unequal contest. The Leica IIIg is indeed a wonderful camera but the little Vito B does hold its own and bears comparison, particularly as regards the viewfinder and focussing. Firstly I have found that the Vito B 50mm f2.8 (and the more common f3.5 version) are excellent lenses but at medium-near distances and wider apertures need to be focussed with the aid of a rangefinder accessory. The optimum focus is not as tolerant to guesses as is suggested by the depth-of-field scale on the lens. The genuine Voigtlander rangefinder is best because its scale matches that on the lens. This makes setting the focus more intuitive. I wear glasses which presents a problem for both cameras. The peep holes are small so it is difficult to see all the image without moving my eye; using the rangefinders with glasses is fine for both cameras. My prescription is -2.5D spherical plus -1D astigmatic. For the IIIg I found an SLR dioptic correction with -3D. I removed its sides using a Stanley knife and substituted it for the 'double peephole'. I used Blue Tack to fix it. It provides enough adhesion without damaging the body. It works fine! The Vito B was more tricky. Although I can use its rangefinder with glasses, its easier to use the camera with when both the rangefinder and the camera have correction lenses, like the IIIg. For the rangefinder I used a couple of washers stuck together to provide the required offset. I ground a flat on one side, using a bench mounted belt sander, so it would fit. The lens was cut from an old pair of glasses; again it was cleaned up and a flat added by using the sander. Double sided foam tape was used to stick the lens to the washer; Blue Tack to stick the washers to the rangefinder. I was careful to keep the orientation of astigmatic axis since I always use the rangefinder in 'landscape' mode. This would not work for the camera viewfinder in 'portrait' mode so I purchased a lens used for opthalmic swimming goggles (the Aqua Sphere Eagle system). A -3.5D lens worked best. It was easy to cut out the required shape and trim it with the sander. I cut a triangular piece with a 'mousehole' from an Al sheet to get the required offset so I could mount the lens (using the same double sided adhesive and Blu Tak combination). How do they compare? The IIIg viewfinder is great what with its parallax corrected framelines. The Vito B is incredibly bright, I guess because the optics is so simple (just 3 lenses including my correction lens). It's by far the brightest viewfinder of any camera I own. For the rangefinders, the IIIg is 1.5x so being a telescope it needs to be focussed; the Voigtlander is 1x and so doesn't need to be focussed. Both will distinguish by focussing an object at 4 from an object at at 5 metres, although the IIIg is a little better. On the other hand, the 1 metre to infinity rotation of the Vito B lens is 240deg vs. 180deg for the IIIg lens and this makes the Vito B focussing a little better. But its 'splitting hairs', both work fine, the main difference being that the IIIg is coupled and the Vito B is uncoupled. Both are more accurate than my SLR (an Olympus OM-1n) fitted with a 50mm f1.4 lens. With my SLR I can't distinguish by focussing an object at 4 metres from an object at 5 metres (and almost in recognition of this the 1 metre to infinity rotation of my f1.4 lens is only 90 deg) . The Vito B leaf shuttter is slightly quieter than the IIIg cloth shutter but there's not much in it. The Vito B wind on ratchets but the IIIg knob wind is completely silent. Of course the leaf shutter synchronises flash at all speeds. So all-in-all the little Vito B is not steamrollered by its more illustrious opponent. It emerges bloody but unbowed from the contest...and it's a lot cheaper, too!
  2. It does seem an odd contest but I see your point. The little Vito's are a top class act for such a budget camera, and as we all know the Skopar is probably the best of the Tessar clones. Should easily match the Elmar, but the Summicron is undoubtedly a better lens at wide apertures.
    Of course the Vito has a better viewfinder, but the silkiness of a Barnack Leica just can't be matched by anything.
    Simple but beautifully assembled mechanics on both cameras just can't be beaten. BTW, I have never seen a Vito that doesn't work well.
  3. Interesting and worthwhile comparison, Jim. Regrettably, I don't have a Barnack Leica, but I do seem to have accumulated a few Vitos. The Vitomatic IIa is probably the pick of the bunch as regards construction and finish, heavy as an ingot and totally over-engineered. The CLR is my favourite user, far lighter with much the same features, though it feels a little "cheaper" than the Vitomatic. All fine shooters; I must run a film at some stage and post some results.
  4. Two very nice little shooters. I shoot scale focus all the time w/ 35mm and 120 folders, and have gotten good enough that I USUALLY don't need a rangefinder, even close up. I trained myself by carrying one of those old $10 Federal rangefinders around with me (surprisingly accurate). The drill was to first estimate the distance, then ck it w/ the Federal. After a while I got very accurate, or as accurate as necessary anyway. You're probably right, some lenses are easier to scale focus than others, but stopping down to f3.5 or f4 solves that. I've also taken to putting some distance markings on the back of my hoods so that I don't have to take the camera down from my eye to set the distance. I can see it in the viewfinder.
  5. I agree that the Skopar and Color-Skopar are very good lenses, what I don't like about some of the vito and vitoret designs are the front-side shutter release button. Camera shake? You got it!
    I recall someone here on PN saying that it nearly ruined photography for him.
    I have yet to try one with a top-mounted release button.
    I did however like the smoothness of the film advance. And I did get some decent pictures out of it. The results from this camera got me to invest in Vuescan too.
  6. The poor old front-mounted release certainly gets poor press, but I've personally never had a problem with it. It's really just case of initially finding it strange, but adapting to it. The front-mounted angled shutter release of the Prakticas I find to be the most comfortable of all; having to crook one's index finger up in the air to depress a top-mounted release encourages an imprecise release, in my experience. The front-mounted release of the CLR takes but a mere twitch of the fingertip to trip the shutter.
  7. This does at first glance seem to be an unfair comparison. Sicne you concentrate on the viewing aspects and less on the lenses as you said the Vito comes up still kicking. I am a bit sloppy wit hfocus and count on depth of field to save me but as in your scenario in the middle to close field this is critical. I'm hitting .500 with no RF, but this is mroe luck than skill. Some cameras settings are more forgving than others. I have often bid on this Voigtlaender RF that you have here as it is desirale. My bids have been in conjuntion with the Vito B as I want one with a top release for just the reason Rick N. mentioned! Rick D. is not phased but I too have an earler Vitomatic III and it is sooo much better with the top release.
  8. I agree that the Vitomatic IIa is a gem. It has a coupled rangefinder and that incredibly bright viewfinder. And it's deadly quiet. If you can find one with an Ultron lens, you've got a treasure. The Skopar is excellent, but the Ultron is loaded with je ne sais quois.
  9. I have a couple of those Vitomatic IIA's, and a Vito CLR with a cheaper lens. The Skopar is indeed very nice, and the Vitomatic is beautifully built. The one caution I would always mention, though, to people shopping for old rangefinder Voigtlanders, is that the rangefinder assembly is a glued-together block, which under impact can come unglued, and cannot be readily put back together. There's some adjustment available for the rangefinder, but I would never buy one whose rangefinder is clearly out of whack.
    If you do get a good one, it will give you a huge bright viewfinder image. Just don't drop it. It's a good portrait camera. People tend to smile when you aim it at them.
  10. It is nice to read more about Voigtlaender's Vito line. I have a Vito CL, not a rangefinder, but with a very nice lightmeter built-in. The Lanthar lens version. While it has its limitations, it seems to be a remarkably capable little tank.
  11. I was surprised to see a comparison of these two cameras. But I would have liked to see comparison photos made with them. I would have thought a comparison between the Leica and a Voigtlander Vitessa with f2.0 Ultragon would have been more in order. Or between the Leica and a Zeiss Contessa if it was a 4 element lens that was in contention. Anyway, Voigtlander rangefinder prisms sometimes fall out of their mount as happened with a Vitessa I bought once. I glued it back in place but found it took three hands and reassembling it upsidedown to get it back together again.
  12. Thanks for the responses. Of course the 'contest' was fanciful. I just happened to have tackled the same problem for both cameras (how to adapt the viewfinders for glasses wearers) so I thought I would share that with you. When I was a teenager I had a simple camera (whose name I have long forgotten). It had 2 shutter speeds (probably 1/60 and 1/125) and apertures (fully open and a smaller aperture set with a lever that rotated a disc, complete with a hole of the required size, into the beam path). Coupled rangefinder? You must be joking! I fondly remember that camera and fearlessly guessed all the settings. I bought the Vito B with my old camera in mind. Can I recapture the simple pleasure of using my old camera? We'll see. If I'm happy with the results I'll share them with you. In 1963, as a 13 year old, I went on a school trip (from the UK) to Russia (Moscow-Leningrad) and took my camera with me. I still have all the slides. They have been attacked by fungus so I recently scanned them digitally. Under magnification I can see that the lens was pretty crummy but strangely I never worried about the image quality over the 50 years I was just looking at the slides! I just enjoyed them and they reminded me of some of the things that happened during the trip. We went to look at a mock up of the first manned USSR spacecraft. I got out my camera to take a photo and my teacher said to me: It'll never come out in this light. I got a great 'kick' out of the final image (see below) and I never fail to remember his comment when I look at it.
  13. The Vitos are great. I have three. You can often get them cheap as their sellers think they are broken, not realising they need a film in them to cock the shutter.
    My favourite is the more compact Vito B with the lower, meterless top.

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