My modest collection of film cameras in the digital age began with a Ricoh 35 ZF zone focus rangefinder-lookalike for $2 at a local flea market many years ago. Once spotted, it brought back memories of the great snaps I had taken on a similar true rangefinder, a Ricoh 500G, so I had to buy it. Of course, at the dawn of the digital age it sat at home, unused, in its case waiting to see the light of day when I had some film to put through it. Sadly this never happened.
Years went on by, and I developed a hankering, no, an outright promiscuous desire for a fast lens for my SLR. My searching ended with me possessing a Canon 50mm f1.2 Leica thread mount lens, hoping I could adapt it to use on my digital SLR body. No chance, as the flange distance demands were not going to ever allow this to happen without butchering the lens mount. A long re-think led me to decide that if I couldn’t do it digitally, then I would shoot some film for the first time in years. Serendipitously, I acquired a Canon 7 35mm rangefinder body in beautiful condition, and so began my first taste of GAS – the awful gear acquisition syndrome. The low light images this combination can make is in my mind just about unbeatable – glorious, rich 35mm film images from the technology at the pinnacle of screw mount rangefinders. I reserved using it for personal work involving my family.
However, GAS had by now very firmly grabbed hold of my toe. Any time I passed a welfare shop I had to look inside and see if there were any unloved treasures waiting for me. Which brings me to the subject of this post. I found a fantastic Voigtander Vitessa, a classic folding 35mm rangefinder with a bellows, sporting the fast, legendary and somewhat rare Voigtlander Ultron 50mm f2 lens. Most of these cameras were shipped with a Color Skopar f3.5 lens, a whole stop and a half slower than the Ultron. I got it with its original, blue-lined leather case for $10. For appreciators of camera pr0n, this is (I believe) the A3 model variant from 1950-54.
Many people believe that this camera is as well finished as any Leica, and it is absolutely beautiful in the flesh. Again, like the Ricoh that started this all, it’s still waiting on a film, but I do have a bit of luxury in the choices I have for film cameras, so I don’t need to rush. In fact I now think I will take it away for Easter instead of my M5 and Summicron v 4…