Meet the Camera: Voigtländer Vito IIa

Well, I’m weak. A revived interest in photography did not mean that I had to buy any more equipment. I have plenty filling my shelves just waiting to be used. But reviewing the collection reminded me that my beloved Voigtländer Vito was really just too finicky to continue using. The film counter/double exposure lock is made up of a couple of wafer-thin gears, and they weren’t playing well together, no matter what I did to encourage them to get along.

This, naturally, turned my thoughts to its replacement. I really liked that camera. It has a very similar case shape to my beloved Leicas, and the uncoated lens was really very good (and I’m a sucker for uncoated lenses). It slipped unobtrusively into a pocket, the lens protected by the door. It was a fine camera.

Knowing that Voigtländer continued and (presumably) improved the Vito line, this seemed the natural course of action. Broadly speaking, the Vito II was very similar to the Vito except that it used a sprocket rather than a feeler for the film advance (the original was designed for 828 film before the war). Looking casually at the design, it seemed to use the very same arrangement that had killed my Vito, which didn’t encourage me.

_DSF3621_1024

Which brings me to the last of the line, the Vito IIa. Yes, Voigtländer continued to use the Vito moniker on many other models for several decades, but this is the last of the proper folders. In fact, it’s one of the last folders made (not the last though – I have a considerably later Certo Super Dollina II). The IIa replaced the traditional top-mounted knobs with a small pop-up knob to rewind and a lever to advance. A cold shoe appeared on top, and the viewfinder was improved. Under the slightly taller top cover, I suspected there must be a revised – and hopefully more robust – mechanism.

_DSF3617_1024

None of this would work if the camera was going to cost real money, and the scarce IIa usually commands the better part of $100, which was more than I was willing to part with for this experiment. Fortunately, I found one that was cheap by virtue of being in unknown mechanical condition. But it was pretty on the outside, so I made an offer, which was accepted, and it was soon on its way.

I tore it apart once it got here (it’s a pretty simple camera to disassemble) and found two problems: the shutter was sticking, and there was a hole in the bellows. A little liquid electrical tape took care of the light leak, and judicious application of naptha and powdered graphite freed up the shutter. Everything else, including the thankfully more substantial counter/exposure lock, got a simple cleaning and it was good to go.

_DSF3620_1024

On the plus side, it retains many of the positive characteristics of the Vito. The viewfinder is a bit bigger but offset from the lens, and the lever wind is easy to use but doesn’t cock the shutter. In the minus column, it’s bigger and heavier – not by a lot, but enough to notice – and the lens is coated, which makes it less interesting in my book.

It’s an obvious direct descendant of the Vito, and I like the camera, but so far it hasn’t quite filled the void left by its predecessor. I’m not sure why exactly. Maybe I just need to use it more. I’m resisting the temptation to transplant the uncoated lens from the Vito into the IIa’s body. For now, at least.


3 thoughts on “Meet the Camera: Voigtländer Vito IIa

  1. I was given a Vito III and it is almost visually in mint condition but like your IIa has sticking shutter speeds at the slow end.
    You say it’s easy to pull apart, do you know where I can get a guide for servicing the shutter ?

    1. I don’t know the Vito III, but from what I can see it uses unit-focusing, which makes it easier to deal with. If it’s like most leaf shutters, you should be able to unscrew the front group, undo the lock ring that holds the front cover on the shutter, and you’re in. If you’ve never pulled apart a shutter before it’s a bit daunting, but there are a number of basic guides online. Try here for a thorough version: https://learncamerarepair.com/downloads/pdf/repair-course-Lesson-9-text.pdf

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