Yeah, I know, another camera. Another Voigtländer camera. Another folding Voigtländer camera. Another folding Voigtländer camera named Vito. Sensing a pattern? I’m starting to bore myself, I’m sure along with anyone else who, for whatever reason, is still paying attention.
Hot on the heels of the Vito IIa comes the Vito C (which I’m assuming represents the third letter in the Roman alphabet, not the Roman numeral for 100, but given Voigtländer’s rather arbitrary naming schemes, who knows?), circa 1981 (or MCMLXXXI, if you prefer) from what little information I can find. It’s small, it’s plastic, and it looks a lot like my Minox 35ML, probably because they were both produced by Balda. When it came to German cameras, brand names didn’t mean a lot by the 1980s.
It’s a simple little thing, simpler than the Minox. Whereas the Minox has aperture control in addition to program, shutter speed indication in the viewfinder, backlight compensation, and a battery tester, the Voigtländer has none of these. What it does have is a single-stroke advance (the Minox is double) with an indicator showing if the shutter is cocked, brighter, clearer brightlines and a focus distance indication in the finder (but gets by with a simple OK (<1/30th) or flash symbol (>1/30th) indication of shutter speed), and a film loading door (the Minox has a removable back). The Voigtländer has settings for films up to ISO 800; the Minox goes up 1600. They use different batteries (PX28 vs. 2x SR44). They’re different, but it’s all in the details – the form factors are virtually identical.
The lenses are again similar but not the same. The Voigtländer has an extra 3mm of focal length (38 vs. 35 in the Minox); both have a maximum aperture of f/2.8, and are coated Tessar-types. I don’t know what sort of committee decided that 38mm was the right focal length for the Voigtländer, but it’s the kind of oddball design choice that could only have come from a group of people sitting around arguing vehemently about it in an effort to justify their paychecks.
I’m not sure how exactly, but the Vito C feels more mechanical but a little flimsier than the 35ML. The worst bit is the rewind crank, which you lift to release the back. It feels like it’s going to snap off in my hand every time I pull it up, and the rewind is pretty stiff, so spinning it requires some force – I need to see if I can free that up a bit. The film door isn’t exactly industrial strength either, but I guess it’s sufficiently robust to have survived for several decades. Some of this sense probably stems from my time with older metal-bodied cameras that feel like they’re carved from solid chunks of brass. Users less so-influenced may not share my trepidation.
Of course, the great virtues of both the Voigtländer and the Minox are their light weight and small size. No other camera I own, with the exception of the Olympus XA2 currently gathering dust on my shelf, is as unobtrusive and easy to carry. That they are capable of taking technically good photographs as well – and they are – makes them worth bringing along.
What remains to be seen is whether the loss of aperture control and backlight compensation prove sufficiently important to relegate the Vito C to the shelf next to the XA2 (which also lacks those particular attributes), or if it ends up in regular use like the 35ML.