Searching through the internet what kind of new camera I could buy, I caught a sight of a nice rangefinder camera branded Voigtländer. The magic name of this optical factory and my desire for a cool semi-automatic rangefinder camera convinced me to buy this Voigtländer VF101. After a few researches I found out a mathematic formula for this camera: “Voigtländer + Zeiss Ikon + Rollei = VF101” – wow – that sounds a strange combination! How did these 3 prestigious names of German camera producers go together to produce this little tiny and sweet VF101 (who has also a twin-sister called Zeiss Ikon S312)… well, that needs a little history lesson …
Let’s begin with Voigtländer (because it’s the official brand of the camera): it’s perhaps one of the oldest optical producers in the world, because it was found in 1756 by Johann Christoph Voigtländer in Vienna. This factory produced optical instruments and precision mechanics. 1868 the company moved to Germany and it was only at the beginning of the 20th century that the factory produced her first real cameras. The “golden age” of Voigtländer was from 1931 to 1966 with the famous “Bessa”, “Vitessa” & “Vito” series cameras.
After 1966, Voigtländer was progressively merged into the Zeiss Ikon (Stuttgart) company (West German part of the former Carl Zeiss factory split into 2 different units after the 2nd WW, the other one is Carl Zeiss Jena) and totally integrated in it after 1970. As Zeiss Ikon collapsed 1972, the whole Voigtländer/Zeiss Ikon activities where overtaken by Rollei who used their brands and skills to produce some cameras.
The VF101 camera was probably put in development by Voigtländer on their own in the early 70’s, joined then by the Zeiss Ikon team and the production began 1974, made by Rollei (in Singapore). Some aspects of the camera have the “Rollei 35 touch”, like the advance lever or the film pressure plate and some other details, and the “Color Skopar” 40mm lens seems to be derivated from the Zeiss Ikon Tessar.
Some more technical aspects now about this little beauty:
The VF101 is a coupled rangefinder camera with electronic shutter speed. The speed is calculated by the integrated CdS cell located directly on the front of the lens (great if using filers). Inside the viewfinder you have 2 kinds of information: on the top a red mark shows the selected aperture and on the right side a needle indicates the shutter speed with over- and underexposed warning zones. A very easy system to have always good exposed shots!
The camera allows you to take shots from 4 seconds to 1/500 s and as the 40mm “Color Skopar” lens opens from 2.8 to 22, you have enough possibilities to take shots in almost every situation. And if it’s too dark, the flash synchronizes at every speed (or at 1/30 in “flash mode”). The lens barrel isn’t very big at the first sight: that’s because you need to pull out the focusing ring to have access to the ASA setting (from 25 to 400) and the aperture selection ring. Very clever to gain space for this little metal camera (490 g weight, enough to feel that you have some well constructed camera in your hands)) and in the same time pulling out the focusing ring transforms it in a sunshade.
Another thing to say is about the battery: when using the “A” mode, you need originally 4 PX 625 mercury batteries who are no more produced now, but you can easily replace it by one single CR123 after a little transformation of the battery compartment by pulling of the red plastic holder. This camera is a very nice one, easy and quick to use for your everyday photographic activities or for holidays, the pictures are colorful, well contrasted and sharp. I like taking pictures with it because of its discretion (small size, quick settings and very silent shutter) and solid construction (putting together the knowledge of Voigtländer, Zeiss Ikon and Rollei in one little camera is a good guarantee of quality!).
So, when I received it I was quickly convinced that this was a camera that you could take everywhere you go and decide to make my first try in the crowd of a demonstration (see the pics in the gallery!).