Voigtlander VF 135
In the mid-1960s, Voigtlander, a time-honoured brand in the industry, had felt the brunt of the up-and-coming Japanese camera industry. After making quality cameras for decades, they needed to broaden their local and export market to capture the base of the user’s pyramid. The time of the Klapp style has long gone, and the quality Vito, Vitessa or the Prominent models could not sustain the brand. Further, the market at both ends was moving toward SLR models, dominated by the Japanese and the East Block camera makers. Voigtlander, while offering such models, had never excelled with it.
Introducing the Vitoret or the stripped-down Vitessa lines was a step in that direction, yet it did not stop the bleeding. Voigtlander didn’t know how to make low-end cameras.
The decline resulted in Voigtlander changing hands several times till the name fell dormant and revived in the 2000s with the Cosina-made, superb Bessa models. It was too late, as by then, the market was already captured by digital.
Being controlled by Rollei or Leitz, the cameras offered under the ever-changing Voigtlander brand were all but consistent.
The VF line, a series of four compact models, was a mixed bag. The first two, almost identical VF 101 and 102, were rebranded Zeiss S312 cameras. The VF 135 of 1976 was a cheap rebrand of the Rollei XF35, with the last VF 35F, a rebranded Rollei 35RF. The XF35 is still popular, whereas the other two are rarely seen in the resale market.
The VF 135 is a cute camera, which is about the best I could say about it. It is very light, plasticky, and feels cheap. Being fully automatic, it was aimed at a specific market segment; think about a point-and-shoot with a rangefinder flare. Compared to the traditional Voiglander compacts, the viewer is smallish and dark. The viewer shows the settings with a needle pointing at the camera-selected values.
Settings are scant. First, set the film speed by turning the inner dial around the lens. The only other settings are under the lens barrel, which is confusing. First, the dot against which to set the setting is offset. Further, the same scale contains F stops, flash synch, B and auto, an haphazard collection. Press the clutch lever to change the settings. In my unit, the needle hovers at the bottom and does not venture any higher. Either the meter is faulty, or my room is poorly lit.
|Weight||355 gr, Body with lens|
|Class average weight||284 gr, Body with lens|
|Filter size||46 mm|
|Lens mount||Fixed lens|
|Shutter||Leaf, electronically controlled|
|Light meter||CdS, external coupled|
|Service / repair links||See camerlog.com|