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Voigtlander Vito III

Voigtlander Vito III

Style, film format Folding 35mm rangefinder

Lens, shutter Coated 50mm f/2.0 Ultron

Photo quality Very good to excellent

Ergonomics Better than the Prominent

The Vito III was the last of the traditional folding cameras to bear the Vito name*. It is considered by many to be one of the best folding cameras out there, and eBay auctions often end in the $300 price range (as of 2006).

The Vito III has little in common with the previous folding Vitos, except they all were folding 35mm cameras and they were all named "Vito." That's neither good nor bad but simply a fact.

The camera with which the Vito shares much in common isn't a folding camera at all, but the Prominent -- a nonfolding rangefinder system camera with interchangeable lenses. The film advance and rewind knobs, back release, frame counter, rangefinder and viewfinder windows, rewind button and other controls are in identical positions, look the same and operate nearly identically on both cameras.

There is one difference between the Vito III and the Prominent, and that is the weight of the two cameras. The Vito III is noticeably lighter than the Prominent, and this works in favor of the Vito III in use.

Although the focusing control is in the "Voigtlander position" -- the top deck of the camera -- the fact that you don't have to try to hold a heavy camera with one hand makes the Vito III an easier camera to use.

Also, the focusing knob of the Vito III doesn't seem as tightly sprung. (I'm going to open the Prominent ANOTHER time and see if I can grease the wheel, so to speak.)

One thing you have to remember is to tension the shutter, because it's all too easy to forget and then you push the shutter release; nothing happens; and now the double-exposure prevention kicks in, and you have to advance the film to free up the release, wasting a frame.

You can beat this by holding down the rewind button, holding the film rewind knob and turning the film advance through a single cycle. It's the old-fashioned double-exposure trick, which serves double duty here.

As with most cameras, easy does it, especially when locking the lens standard into place and releasing it before you close the camera.

The Vito is a pleasant camera to use, although I still find my left hand knocking into my left eye when focusing -- just like the Prominent. I'm still not a fan of the Voigtlander method of "focus by knob."

The Ultron lens on this camera, like the Ultron on the Prominent, is excellent. Very sharp, nice contrast and wonderful character.

* In the early 1980s, a Vito, Vito C and CE 35 were produced. These were plastic-bodied cameras and also was available as the Balda CE.