Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Voigtländer Vito CL

Voigtländer Vito CL Deluxe
Voigtländer used the name Vito for many 35mm cameras throughout its history as a manufacturer, with derivative names of Vitoret, Vitomatic, Vitessa and Vitrona denoting parallel or specialised developments alongside the broader and longer lived Vito line. One of the three cameras that I found in Stockholm's flea markets was the Voigtländer Vito CL, bought with a Kodak Instamatic 300 for 100 SEK. Although I wasn't really looking out for another 35mm viewfinder camera, the price bundled with the Instamatic and its part used film cartridge was enough of a draw. Despite being rather grubby, a cursory inspection showed that the meter needle responded to light, and the shutter fired at a number of speeds (unlike earlier Vito cameras, the Vito CL doesn't require a film inside to operate the film advance and release the shutter), and it appeared to be in working order.

The first Vito models were 35mm folding cameras, but by the mid-1950s, rigid-bodied versions were produced, initially at the same time as the last folding version - the Voigtlander Vito IIa. The first rigid-bodied Vito was designated the Vito B, and as production continued with the C series into the early 1960s, aspects of the Vito design became similar to many other manufacturers' rigid body cameras. The main changes from the B to the C series were the placing of the shutter release on the front rather than the top of the camera, a gently tapering top plate section, the removal of strap lugs and moving the PC socket for flash on the body. The Vito C cameras inherited a very similar rounded-end body style, large viewfinder and pop-up rewind knob. A further difference from the all-metal Vito B series was the use of a small amount of plastic in the construction - around the viewfinder and light meter windows and as finger grips on the aperture ring.

The C series had a large number of variants, the main differences being denoted by additional letters in the name: the 'L' in the name Vito CL stands for coupled (selenium) light meter. Other models had D for an uncoupled light meter, R for rangefinder and S in the last Vito models for coupled CDS light meters. These naming conventions were also compounded for the Vito CLR and CSR models. Additionally there were 'standard' and 'deluxe' variants denoting largely cosmetic differences (leatherette around the lens barrel, embossed rather than engraved lettering) - and also production variants within each particular model, including different lenses, Voigtländer's own Color-Skopar, Lanthar or Color-Lanthar. The expertly catalogued Voigtländer Camera Collection provides a full family tree of the various different Vito C models which has helped to identify my particular camera as a Vito CL Deluxe 1st model in every aspect except for the fact that the light meter needle does not show in the viewfinder. The serial number around the lens indicates a date of 1961 for its manufacture, and the camera has a '138/3' code inside the body - having only my Vito IIa for comparison, which has a 135/ code inside, I can't draw any conclusions as to how these model numbers are constructed.

Voigtländer Vito CL Deluxe - side view showing ASA settings
When I got the chance to clean the camera, which had a kind of brown, greasy dust ingrained over it, I found that the lens had some fungus, apparently on all surfaces, including internally. As I wanted to use the camera while still in Stockholm without the tools to take the lens apart, I decided that I might as well not worry too much about the lens.The Voigtländer Vito CL's selenium meter has settings in ASA/DIN from 10-800/11-30 respectively. The ASA/DIN speed is set by pressing a tab next to the 1/500th shutter speed mark and rotating the ring to line up a red dot with the selected film speed. Two of the ASA numbers are picked out in black, 10 and 32, possibly for colour films available at the time. I occasionally read negative opinions about selenium cell meters, but in my experience - and the few cameras which have selenium meters that I've used - I've usually found them to work fine, although limited for low-light conditions. The side view image above also shows the small pointed prop underneath the lens/shutter assembly to ensure the camera stands level on a flat surface.

Voigtländer Vito CL Deluxe - top plate showing light meter window
The Vito CL's meter is of the match needle variety. With the film speed set, rotating the aperture ring moves the red pointer to 'match' the white meter needle in order to obtain a correct exposure. The aperture ring is stepless, which means that any aperture between the standard settings can be used (changing the shutter speed setting also moves the red pointer, but in steps, unlike the aperture ring, and the raised finger-grips on the aperture ring suggest that this is changed once the shutter speed is set; the manual describes this order of operation as "setting the exposure").

My camera has Voigtländer's cheaper Lanthar lens; Vito cameras were also supplied with the more expensive Color-Skopar lenses, and also the Color-Lanthar lens (although the Lanthar on my camera doesn't have the 'Color-' prefix, it is clearly coated, so this may have just been a marketing term for later versions of the Lanthar). The 50mm lens focuses to just below 1 metre (probably to 3 feet in US/UK versions), and is provided with symbols in red for convenient distance settings: a circle for views, a triangle for groups and a dot for portraits. The Pronto-LK six-speed shutter on my camera works at all speeds except 1/15th and 'B', both of which stick open: the film advance lever has to be used to close the shutter (the self-timer also sticks, something I've come to expect from old Gauthier leaf shutters). All settings are designed to be read off the lens from above, in common with the meter window, although the depth of field markings are a little oblique from this position. Later versions had a meter window inside the viewfinder for convenience; the viewfinder has framing marks with a dot for centring the composition and parallax marks for shooting at close distances.

Voigtländer Vito CL Deluxe - detail of lens and shutter
On the bottom plate of the camera is a manually-set frame counter, which counts down, rather than up, and on the image below it is also just possible to see the cable release socket, hidden on the underneath of the shutter release button directly over the PC socket.

Voigtländer Vito CL Deluxe - showing frame counter
Voigtländer Vito CL Deluxe - detail showing rewind knob with film type reminder
Like my Vito IIa that I've previously written about, the Vito CL has a single stroke film advance lever, but for rewinding it has an older-style knob which pops up when the switch below releases it. It contains an abstract film reminder disc - the manual suggests white for black and white film, blue for daylight colour film and yellow for tungsten film.

I shot a handful of films in Stockholm with the Vito CL - some APX 400, Adox Silvermax, and some Fuji Superia that I had picked up in Copenhagen. The fungus in the lens did result in problems with flare, showing up quite clearly under certain conditions, most obviously with large bright areas of the scene in the frame adjacent to shadow areas, such as the first image below. However, the photographs suggest that this was not as bad a problem as I had anticipated, and shots with a narrower range of tones within the frame are much less affected, such as the very last sample image in this post. Possibly this does mean that the lens imparts a lower contrast to all photographs taken with it, with the result that the lens looks as if it's from a much older camera.

Sample image on Adox Silvermax 100 showing flare
Sample image on expired Fuji Superia 100 showing flare
The colour photographs taken with the Vito CL also showed some odd shifts in hue and saturation but the film was seven years out of date, and very cheap, the main reason I'd bought it while passing through Copenhagen. The lens takes 32mm slip-on filters, and I used both a yellow filter for some of the black and white shots and a lens hood, sometimes both together; with the lens hood stacked onto the yellow filter, there was some noticeable vignetting in the corners. As the light meter is situated on the camera body, any filters requiring a filter-factor adjustment need to be calculated and set manually, either by changing the film speed, or, as I did when using the yellow filter, by matching the light meter needle, then changing the aperture by one stop.

Voigtländer Vito CL Deluxe with improvised lens cap
Although the lens was not in an ideal condition, I still wanted to protect it, having bought the camera without a case, and I found that a plastic top from a film container fitted perfectly. I used one from a Silvermax film as the design - with recessed circle and toothed edge - seemed apt. Had I been intentionally looking to acquire a Vito C series camera for my collection, the CLR variant with a Color-Skopar lens would have been the model to choose, but finding a Vito CL for essentially 50 Swedish krona at a flea market was too tempting to pass on.

Sample image on Agfaphoto APX 400
Sample image with Adox Silvermax 100
Sample image on expired Fuji Superia 100
Sample image on expired Ilford Mark V
Sources/further reading:
Vito C Series overview
Vito CL/CLR manual

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

126 Day 2015

Agfaphoto APX 400 126 cartridge reload
Having recently shot a reloaded 126 cartridge with the Kodak Instamatic 300 that I had found in the Hötorget flea market in Stockholm, I had found the 300 to be fairly unsympathetic to being used with 35mm film; results last year with a different model camera, an Instamatic 25, were much better, which I wrote about my post 'My first camera'. It was difficult to advance the reloaded film in the 300 model, resulting in overlapping frames and torn sprocket holes from the pin designed to locate the single perforation on 126 film. The Instamatic 25 is kinder on 35mm film: the negatives show stress on some of the perforations, and some scratching, but none of the tearing that the Instamatic 300 had, and film advancement was easier.

Last Friday, 12th June, the Kodak Instamatic 25 was the camera I chose to shoot for a '126 Day', not a camera or film format related day I usually observe, though I did shoot a roll of expired Perutz transparency film with an Instamatic camera two years ago. In the post 'My First Camera', I detailed how I reloaded the plastic 126 cartridge with 35mm film; last Friday I shot a cartridge reloaded with Agfaphoto APX 400 and one with Ilford Mark V. The Instamatic 25 has a single aperture, f11 and two shutter speeds, full sun at 1/90th, or half-sun/flash, 1/40th. Although a 400 ISO film might be too fast not to be overexposed for sunny conditions in the camera, the latitude of the film meant that the exposures, both interiors and exteriors came out well.

Agfaphoto APX 400 126 cartridge reload
Agfaphoto APX 400 126 cartridge reload
Agfaphoto APX 400 126 cartridge reload
As well as a cartridge with Agfaphoto APX 400, I also used some Ilford Mark V Motion Picture film, as I had done last year. Originally 250-500 ISO, after forty years this film has lost quite a bit of sensitivity and I shot this during the evening while the light was going, so the results were not as good. It also seemed to have a greater tendency for overlapping frames, possibly due to having different perforations to standard 35mm still camera film. Occasionally, the overlapping multiple exposures were worth scanning as a whole composition.

Ilford Mark V 126 cartridge reload
Ilford Mark V 126 cartridge reload

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Agfa/Rollei Superpan 200

Superpan 200 in 35mm and medium format
There are very few black and white films manufactured with a nominal speed of 200; currently, just three: Fomapan 200, Ilford SFX 200 Creative, and Agfa Superpan 200Fomapan 200 was discontinued for a few years, but was recently reintroduced in a new formulation; Ilford's SFX 200 shares some characteristics with Agfa Superpan 200: the name denotes that the Agfa film is superpanchromatic, with extended red sensitivity beyond normal panchromatic films, to near infra-red, and with the right filters (like SFX 200) it can produce similar effects to true infra-red film. Of the three films, all are available in 35mm and medium format rollfilm, additionally, Fomapan 200 is also available in large format sheet film. There are few stockists in the UK for Superpan 200, West End Cameras currently has the film in stock; when asked about in Silverprint, they hadn't heard of the film. Superpan 200 is sold by Maco but is produced (as Aviphot Pan 200) by Agfa-Gevaert in Belgium, and Maco's website uses Agfa-Gevaert's Aviphot Pan 200 technical information sheet. As can be seen in the photograph above, the film packaging uses both Agfa and Rollei brand names for the medium format film, while the 35mm labels do not use the Rollei name (the 35mm film is also not DX-coded). In the film rebates, on the medium format version, Rollei is used, while 35mm has just the name Superpan 200.

Agfa-Gevaert's data sheet describes Aviphot Pan 200's applications as:
Aerial photography assignments from low to medium altitudes, for gathering, interpreting and processing information intended for cartography, inventory purposes and exploration studies. This film can be used in industrial recording systems, such as equipment for plotting graphs in control and monitoring devices. It can also be used in stereo image recording devices, either airborne or in ground-based facilities for subsequent production of three-dimensional plans, maps, etc.
With its expanded colour sensitivity into the near infra-red range of the colour spectrum, Aviphot Pan 200 offers excellent penetration through haze, fog and other atmospheric conditions liable to affect the image quality. Obviously, this yields an improved image contrast and therefore more information. With the uniform distribution of the panchromatic sensitivity within the range of visible light, the terrain can be imaged very faithfully without having to revert to the use of special spectral recording filters. Yellow filters can be used to get a higher image contrast. They also decrease the overall film sensitivity.
As with previous film tests I shot a roll of 35mm Superpan using an Olympus OM10 SLR, with a range of meter settings of 25, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800 for film latitude. With no published development times for Ilfotec LC29, the developer I used, on neither the data sheet from Maco, nor the Massive Dev Chart, I used stand development, with a dilution of 1+100 for one hour.

First latitude test contact sheet, stand developed in Ilfotec LC29
The first test showed the film to have narrow latitude, with the best exposure indexes of between 50-200, but developed in Ilfotec LC29, rating the film at 100 (or a little under) seemed to give the best results (the original data sheet states that "Aviphot Pan 200 can be exposed as a 125 to 250 ASA film," although this is with Agfa's G74c developer). Stand development is usually a good technique to get straight negatives from a properly exposed film, but the first results were a little disappointing.

I used the same camera and exposure settings for a second roll, repeating the latitude test of metering for 25, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, but this time developed the film with RO9 One Shot, diluted 1+:25 for Maco's published time of 8 minutes at 20ºC. The results with RO9 One Shot were better than the first test, but using normal agitation does appear to have increased the contrast of the film, although lighting conditions were different, with some winter sunlight providing bright highlights.

Second latitude test, developed in RO9 One Shot
The two tests show that the latitude range of Superpan 200 is relatively narrow (compare for example, Adox Silvermax's wide latitude range): exposed at 25 and 50, the highlights and midtones begin to lose separation, while with underexposure, the shadows quickly lose detail. The scans below have been adjusted to pull the maximum amount of detail from highlights and shadows: as is typical with black and white negative film, overexposure does give better results than underexposure, but Superpan 200 is less flexible in this regard than some other films.

Agfa Superpan 200, rated 25, developed in RO9 One Shot 1+25
Agfa Superpan 200, rated 800, developed in RO9 One Shot 1+25
I also shot a first roll in medium format in my Voigtländer Bessa RF, developing this in RO9 One Shot at 1+25 for 8 minutes at 20ºC. For this, I relied on the 'Sunny 16' rule for exposure, which I often use for cameras without built-in lightmeters, but as a result, a number of the negatives were rather thin, partly a result of trying to calculate exposure settings for winter sunlight. Despite this, at medium format, Superpan 200's qualities are immediately apparent - its sharpness, relatively tight grain structure, its clear base with very little curl once processed and the contrast; the results were reminiscent of Rollei RPX 25 - despite the difference in speed, both films have a very similar look.

Voigtländer Bessa RF, RO9 One Shot 1+25, 8m at 20ºC
Having developed Superpan 200 in both Ilfotec LC29 and RO9 One Shot, I suspected that RO9 One Shot at higher dilutions would provide better results, notably with higher-contrast scenes; I shot some more 35mm Superpan 200 with both the Kodak Retina IIa, and my Agfa Optima Sensor, and developed at a dilution of 1+50, for 17 minutes at 20ºC. As it's easier to increase contrast in printing or scanning, with a film like Superpan 200, it is important to expose and develop to keep both shadow and highlight detail - as with all films, but some emulsions have greater latitude and lower contrast, making it easier to achieve good negatives while being less exact in approach.

Agfa Optima Sensor with Superpan 200, RO9 One Shot 1+50, 17m at 20ºC
The first tests that I made with Superpan 200 reflected the fact that these were not shot in the best lighting conditions, in the middle of winter; with more available light and higher dilutions of developer, the subsequent results in 35mm were better. I also shot medium format film in both the No.2 Brownie and the Ica Trona: even with simple Brownie meniscus lens and the uncoated Tessar on the Ica Trona, the results were good, possibly the inherent contrast of Superpan 200 complements the softness of these old lenses. On a precautionary note, the rolls of film that I shot in medium format showed that the emulsion is easily scratched if not carefully handled and the synthetic base is susceptible to 'light piping' - Maco's website does include a warning about this, and it's important to make sure the medium format films are tightly wound on their spools when removing after exposure in the camera.

Kodak No.2 Brownie with Superpan 200, RO9 One Shot, 1+50, 17m at 20ºC
Ica Trona 210 with Superpan 200, RO9 One Shot, 1+50, 17m at 20ºC
As well as higher dilutions, I also wanted to try developing the film at lower temperatures in Rodinal. Having used Rodinal, or RO9 One Shot, for a number of years, it does seem that some of its best qualities are facilitated by using higher dilutions and lower temperatures: one or two degrees below 20ºC does seem to negate some of the 'roughness' associated with the appearance of grain when developing faster films in Rodinal. This does start to extend development times; for the shot below I used 20 minutes diluted 1+50 at 18ºC. Not having an infra-red filter, one aspect of Superpan 200 that I did not test was the ability to achieve an 'infra-red look', but even without such filtering it's a very apt film for landscape photography. The extended red sensitivity, its "excellent penetration through haze, fog and other atmospheric conditions" provide a good rendition of both skies and distances, even unfiltered; for some of the later medium format shots I used a yellow filter.

Ica Trona 210 with Superpan 200, RO9 One Shot, 1+50, 20m at 18ºC
Having made enough tests, Superpan 200 was one of the films that I took with me - in medium format only - on a recent trip through Europe to Stockholm. The medium format camera that I took was the folding Zodel Baldalux, which I've frequently used for travelling. At the Loppmarknaden flea market in Stockholm, I bought an Agfa Isolette III, so shot a few rolls of Superpan 200 with this camera. As with the tests that I had made a couple of months earlier, I found myself taking lots of photographs in low slanting sun, and some of the contrasts between bright sunlight and deep shadows, such as in the third image below, needed careful metering (I used my hand-held Weston meter rather more than usual when shooting Superpan 200). These last few rolls of Superpan 200 I developed in RO9 One Shot at 1+50, and used a time of 19 minutes at 19ºC - an easy relationship of time to temperature to remember.

Zodel Baldalux with Rollei Superpan 200 with yellow filter, RO9 One Shot 1+50, 19m at 19ºC

Agfa Isolette III with Rollei Superpan 200, RO9 One Shot 1+50, 19m at 19ºC
Agfa Isolette III with Rollei Superpan 200, RO9 One Shot 1+50, 19m at 19ºC
Agfa Isolette III with Rollei Superpan 200, RO9 One Shot 1+50, 19m at 19ºC
Sources/further reading:  
Agfa's Aviphot product pages
Aviphot Pan 200 data sheet (PDF)
Maco developing times for Superpan 200 (PDF)
Extensive review on 125px