Vitomatic II Beginner Questions and Quandaries

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by bradthompson, Dec 9, 2017.

  1. Let me first start off by saying that I am completely new to cameras on any technical basis, so maybe some of my questions are fairly obvious to many but not to me.

    So I bought this camera earlier this year, it is a Vitomatic II, seems to work great other than the light meter and the rangefinder. So far I've been snapping photos with it but have to just guesstimate the distance. That has worked fine for the most part and has resulted in some very crisp photos but also in many blurry unfocused ones as well. I've gotten these below:


    and blurry ones like these:

    The light meter doesn't seem to respond to different amounts or intensities of light. It stays closer to the top and i have never seen it move anywhere on the bottom half of its range. It seems to move as i move the camera around but only from the force exerted by my movement, so i'm not sure if its stuck or how to go about making sure it is working properly. Does it utilize a battery of any sort? if so where would i get a replacement battery?

    At first we thought the camera was flawed because when taking a picture changing the focus didn't affect the view finder, which in our experience with other cameras, was always the case. With some research we discovered that the view finder would display a double image so that you can adjust the focus until there was a single image and that that's how that works. Upon closer inspection to the camera I noticed a faint glare in the middle of the yellowish circle and that it moved when I moved the focus. I could not see a double image but I could see that it was in the shape of the window area behind and between two objects that I was looking at and i was able to adjust it to its place and find an accurate range. The problem is that it is so faint that you would never see it when outside. Is this common? is there something I can do to make the image appear clearly and easily so that I can use the rangefinder when out in the world? It would be nice to get some clean shots without wondering how they were going to come out.

    Also I don't understand how to use the ASA or the DIN numbers or really understand what they do. What do the different VXM settings do they are colored but i can't seem to use the numbers after B in green even when i'm on V (which is green).

    The circular knob thing that you use to wind in new film has a bunch of letters on it, what do they do and how do you use them?

    So that is all I can think of at the moment, but any help understanding this camera will be greatly appreciated.
  2. V: self timer, delayed exposure
    X&M: flash sync modes. - Keep it on X unless you really are using old stock flash bulbs.
    look up the speed of your film (somewhere between 25 and 3200) and set that as an ASA number, if your exposure meter is working at all. - If not don't mind and learn about exposure guessed according to "sunny 16" (not my cup of tea but YMMV).
    I'm not familiar with your camera but own my share of rangefinders partially older than myself. The technical issue is that there is a beam splitting prism inside which holds a partial silver mirror which seems to degrade. - related link - If you are willing and able to pay arms and legs to a repair tech go ahead but most likely its time to "bin the beater". A buddy had Luton restore his Leica and it looked quite bright and a joy to use.
    I can't agree upon limited usability of dim rangefinders in broad daylight. - To me it seems harder to make out the 2nd image in the dark and I feel challenged to see a reason how light surrounding you could have an impact on the visibility of a dim RF patch. - But once again: I have different cameras than yours.
    All I know about selenium meters: They are known to fade. - the solar cell powering them doesn't last forever.
    Practical suggestions: These days it seems a good idea to download a Lightmeter app for Android or IOS devices. (awesome and reliable hand held light meters are as expensive as entry level DSLRs).
    While it would indeed be nice to have a working and bright rangefinder patch to do stuff like wide open portraiture, the usual touristic and family photography (using flash indoors) can be done with distance guessing and a look at your DOF scale.
    I'm ultra reluctant to suggest any other film camera to be bought blindfolded. The interesting ones (if you are into Rangefinders) are getting long in the tooth and service facilities seem to vanish. OTOH: maybe you 'll run into one and can check it hands on? - RF brightness will be something you'll notice and setting a shutter to 1sec and listening if it runs down smoothly in a timely fashion is easily done... Personally I'd avoid anything sporting selenium cells or a mercury battery compartment.
    Good luck, great light and enjoy the hobby!
  3. You may have got this far already, but I see there's a copy of the manual online here. Interesting little camera; I hope you can get it to work for you.

    I saw a reference here that suggests the camera is "charged" by the film being moved through it; that might only be referring to the shutter, but if not it might explain the odd meter behaviour - or it could just be a failed meter. I can't see any reference to a battery, though.

    Apparently (according to the manual) the letters on the rewind knob are supposed to allow you to remember what kind of film is loaded. They don't functionality do anything. Many camera have a slot for the end of the film box instead, which seems easier.

    If cleaning the external window of the rangefinder mechanism (next to the meter) with a q-tip doesn't improve visibility at all, I'm inclined to agree with Jochen that a repair (or just internal cleaning) job might be expensive relative to the worth of the camera. If you can get zone focus to work okay for you, especially outside where you should be able to use smaller apertures (and so more depth of field so the focus distance can be off by more), maybe you can live without the rangefinder, but it's obviously going to be trickier to be sure your focus is close enough.

    Big disclaimer: it's been a while since I used any rangefinder, and I certainly haven't seen this one, so take anything I say with a pinch of salt.

    Good luck!
  4. Just an observation from the images you posted: there is a difference between blurred, and unfocussed.
    The first two look like the focus is slightly off, the second two look like movement - your movement, which is typically due to low shutterspeeds. For handheld photos, consider that anything slower than 1/60th (considering the focal length of the lens on your camera) will be tricky, and below 1/15th it's very hard to still get crisp shots.
    Agree with Andrew, the first thing to try is clean the external window of the rangefinder, else indeed it's probably needing repair. Unless the camera has great sentimental value, I would rather search for another one (it looks a nice cute camera btw).

    There are also cheaper, reliable and awesome options. I've got an entry-level Sekonic, still available brand new, and it doesn't cost all that much. I've used a decent app on my smartphones before, but frankly, the Sekonic is much more reliable.
  5. The old Voigtlander Vito and Vitomatics with their Color-Skopar lenses are great cameras. I had a Vitomatic which had a dim rangefinder patch but it was repaired as part of a service. I think it was as simple as cementing an optical component back in place. Personally I always factor into the purchase price a service with these old cameras. The leaf shutter in particular sooner or later will need a service. If the light meter is not working then I don't think it can be repaired and, personally, I would look for another camera. The service completed and the light meter OK, I have peace of mind. In my case I eventually sold the Vitomatic for two reasons: firstly, the viewfinder tended to flare in backlit conditions and, secondly, the camera was a little heavy. I bought an early Vito B, the one where the aperture and shutter speed adjustments are completely independent. These early cameras do not have a rangefinder so I purchased a separate Voigtlander rangefinder that clips into the cold shoe on top. This simplifies the optics making the viewfinder and the rangefinder extremely bright (much brighter than in the case of the Vitomatic) at the expense of slower operation (the focussing distance has to be manually transferred from the rangefinder to the lens). I'm very happy with my Vito B and use it regularly. The Color-Skopar lenses in the Vito B and Vitomatics are the same and all produce great images.
  6. I've had a couple of those old Voigtlanders (back in the 60's my grandmother used one, dropped one and got another, and I have them both along with another). Unfortunately, one of the weaknesses of these otherwise fine rangefinders is that the rangefinder is made up of a glued-together block, and if that block comes unglued owing to impact or age, the rangefinder can never be adjusted right. I have not investigated how expensive, or possible these days, it is to reglue the viewfinder, but it's not possible to get it right by clamping the pieces, and it's not a home repair job. The meters on mine were always surprisingly accurate, and when the viewfinder is intact it should be both reasonably accurate, and easy to use. The selenium meter, needing no battery, is rather convenient if it works.

    I'd be on the lookout for a better sample of the Vitomatic if one can be found - preferably with a return if the viewfinder is bad. Or, perhaps, another good small rangefinder. In the mean time, it can be zone focused and metered by guesswork or external meter, with practice. Getting the distance right becomes easier when you've gotten used to estimating.
  7. yeah, I once had an old Voigtander camera back in the 60's
    ...... a hint: ... use your cell phone camera !
  8. Hopefully the manual will have cleared up many of the OPs questions, but one thing I noticed on mine recently was that the light meter seemed to be affected by whether or not I had my hand casting a shadow over the viewing window of the top plate that normal,since wih the sun shing top-down behind me it made a considerable difference to the required exposure ...any thoughts?
  9. How good is your lens, any fog ? That is one very old camera. You could have a coating inside the back that just needs cleaning. As someone said one of the photos is slow shutter speed, the other two seem to be focus. But unless you were shooting wide open, most other apertures should cover small focusing problems with depth of field.
  10. Buy a book on basic photography!
    Or at least read the manual for the camera.

    Your third and last picture posted aren't out of focus. They have 'camera shake', caused by using a too long shutter speed, or by jerking the camera as it's fired. All basic stuff. And stuff that could be learned quicker, cheaper and easier on any cheap digital camera that supports manual exposure mode. At least the light-metering would work.

    "awesome and reliable hand held light meters are as expensive as entry level DSLRs"

    - Rubbish! You can pick up a perfectly reliable used lightmeter for thirty pounds or so (under $50). Just avoid selenium celled meters, or meters old enough to require a mercury cell. And in what way can any lightmeter be 'awsome'? It reads light; anything else is a superfluous and nonsensical gimmick.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018

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