1930’s Voigtländer Camera

For the inaugural post, I wanted to write about something special. I am excited to share my grandpa’s circa 1930’s vintage Voigtländer camera!

Unnamed Voigtländer 1930's camera.
Unnamed Voigtländer 1930’s camera. Box contains camera, shutter release cable, metal slides. Image copyright 2019 Samantha Yeung.

This camera appears to be an unnamed 9×12 Voigtländer folding plate camera. It also seems to be very similar to the Voigtländer Avus. Like the Avus, this camera has double extended bellows and a similar Anastigmat 13.5 cm f/4.5 lens. But, it does not indicate that it is the 13.5 cm f/4.5 Anastigmat Scopar lens. The brilliant finder is also mounted on the top right corner, rather than the centre. This camera also does not have a timed shutter release. I tried to find the exact model of camera through auction sites, camera wikis, and online videos and the closest camera I seemed to find was the Avus. Was this camera a prototype model? Limited edition? Please let me know if you know what this is called! I’m really curious.

When we found this camera in his collection, it was stored in a leather box, along with 3 metal sheets and a shutter release cable. One sheet contained a glass plate, I’m assuming to hold film. When out of the box, the camera is neatly folded up. With a press of the unfolding button, the front cover opens, revealing the lens and the folded bellows.

Opening the camera.
Opening the camera. The camera pops open when the button on the top of the box is pressed down. Image copyright 2019 Samantha Yeung.

The camera is pulled out of its box by squeezing two metal grips under the black metal frame, then pulling it along the metal tracks. Now, the bellows is extended. If you wanted to continue to adjust your image, you can extend the bellows further or vertically/horizontally. You just need to rotate the knobs next to the tracks and on the black metal frame. The sports finder can also be swung away from the camera.

Extending the bellows.
The bellows can be extended by squeezing the metal prongs and pulling it along the tracks. Image copyright 2019 Samantha Yeung.

If you wanted to take a picture, you simply swap out the back cover with a metal plate. The plate would hold a photosensitive sheet. Once this plate is inside the camera, the photographer can release the shutter with the cable and take a picture!

I was told that my grandpa was an avid photographer. Apparently, he appreciated very technical and detailed forms of art. We actually found many more cameras in his collection such as a Yashica box camera and a couple of retro SLRs but personally, I thought this one was the coolest. Very different from the DSLRs and our smartphones!

The wooden frame and leather box of the Voigtländer also gives such an uncommon sensory feeling. The soft knocks and thuds the box makes as you open and close the lid is different than the taps and squeaks of cold plastic packaging. The wooden clacks and metallic taps really sets in stone that you’re handling a mechanical camera, without an ounce of digital technology. I’m getting way too purple prosey but the sensory feedback from handing the Voigtländer really is a satisfying experience. It really lets you appreciate how far technology has evolved!