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Voigtlander Prominent


Style, film format 35mm rangefinder with interchangeable lenses

Lens, shutter Coated 50mm f/2.0 Ultron, Synchro-Compur

Photo quality Very good, but camera tore film in half the first time I used it

Ergonomics Hate it (see text)

It's possibly the most inconvenient camera that I've ever lifted to my eye. This is the description I always give to the Voigtlander Prominent when I show it to people, so I might as well repeat it here.

What's the problem with the ergonomics? Well, for starters:

  1. The viewfinder is much too far to the right. Right-eyed photographers will find their head is jammed up against their right hand when taking a photo. Left-eyed photographers must become right-eyed.
  2. The shutter release is too far forward, and the film-advance knob sits too high. You need to crook your finger to release the shutter, which requires a firm push.
  3. You focus by turning the knob on the left that surrounds the rewind crank. But it's very heavily sprung to return to infinity. So trying to fine focus on a static object is tough and nearly impossible on anything that moves.
  4. Because of the way you must focus, there is no way for you to cradle the camera in your left hand, focus and release the shutter. You must focus, get a firm grip on the camera and then release the shutter. All that is made more difficult by the weight of the camera, which is significant.

Still, the Ultron lens is excellent. And if you can put up with its many quirks, you have a fine camera. I would think it would be fine for portraits and landscapes. But keep away from the sporting venues.

It's a camera that looks great on paper with its technical specs. But there are too many quirks about its operation that keep it sitting on the shelf. There are too many other cameras that I enjoy using to haul out the Prominent and poke myself in the eye.

UPDATE (10/10/05): I decided to give the Prominent a second chance, so I gave it a thorough servicing, which did not help the focusing action as I had hoped. The lens still wanted to snap back to infinity.

The good news: This lens is extremely sharp.

The bad news: The things that initially annoyed me about the Prominent still annoy me. The ergonomics just aren't for me. And the shutter proved to be unreliable, refusing to fire after I had taken one shot. I had to keep messing with the lever until it finally tripped unexpectedly. That lens is very sharp -- I just wish it was on a different body.

UPDATE II (2/22/06): I got my wish. I bought an adapter that will allow me to use this lens on my Contax IIa.

UPDATE III (9/11/06): I finally fixed the Vito III, a folding camera that is very close in operation to the Prominent. This camera sat on my desk partially disassembled for more than a year. Read my mini-review. In the meantime, I opened the Prominent again and cleaned and relubed the focusing mechanism.

See sample photos »