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Will a barn doors Vitessa ever be reliable?
Old 05-30-2014   #1
Koolzakukumba
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Will a barn doors Vitessa ever be reliable?

I got one of these for very little in a charity shop. I like the 50mm f2 Ultron lens which is in lovely condition. The camera looks great but is working very erratically. It needs a good service, I think. But are these cameras ever reliable? It's such a weird mechanism that I wonder if they're just prone to failure. i was going to sell it but I really like the results from the Ultron. I wrote about the Vitessa on my blog here. It would be great if some Vitessa owners can reassure me the camera is worth getting fixed.



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Old 05-30-2014   #2
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My first experience in real photography was a Vitessa. I had a lot of difficulty with the transport, BUT I also had lots of trouble with the transport of my SECOND real camera, a Canon VT Deluxe. I sold them each in turn, and bought a Pentax Spotmatic The guy at the camera store showed me the right way to load a camera, and I never had any more problems. I now think I was just not loading the cameras properly. Your photos made with the Vitessa are really beautiful. Meanwhile, I'm off to the thrift store.
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Old 05-30-2014   #3
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I too am curious to others experiences as I've seen some wonderful results form the Ultron.
Anyone know of a good technician that works on these models?

~ Hibbs
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Old 05-30-2014   #4
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I had a Vitessa for a while; the shutter arming and film transport was unreliable due to wear in the plunger mechanism assembly. This is an unusual design that, being worn to the extent that mine was, would be difficult to repair reliably unless you had access to new spares (I know, I know, just dreaming) or a machine shop, or enormous patience hand-crafting replacements. I didn't feel tempted to try, as the mechanism is clearly not, shall we say, a design that by its very nature promises a long-life future . But if yours is not so bad, such that the repair man that you mention in your blog can fix it for £60, I would be tempted to go for that, because, as others have said, the Ultron lens is superb. Best of luck whichever way you go.
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Old 05-30-2014   #5
Roger Hicks
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Mine was, but then, it was 30 years newer...

Nothing lasts forever.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 05-30-2014   #6
KoNickon
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I think they can be, but as has been mentioned, if they've seen a lot of use I think they will be unreliable. A fellow down in North Caroline, Wolf Umbach, used to service these but he has been retired for a number of years now.

Quite apart from the plunger film transport, I understand that adjusting the rangefinder on the Vitessas is a real nightmare.
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Old 05-30-2014   #7
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I've been having a footer with the Vitessa and, touch wood, it seems to be working perfectly at the moment. I put it aside a couple of weeks ago as it wouldn't fire even thought the shutter was cocked. Tinkering with it tonight, I noticed I'd knocked the flash synchro X-M setting onto M.

I'm not sure why it should have made a difference as it's only supposed to delay the shutter release to give the flash bulb time to power up but the shutter started firing properly again when I switched it back to X. Flash contacts worn maybe? Even the slow speeds are working fine albeit the 1s is probably one-and-a-half seconds. The only issue it has at the moment is a somewhat grubby viewfinder but the Vitessa doesn't look the easiest camera to work on.

Handsome devil, though, isn't he:




And the Ultron! What a great name for a great lens.

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Old 05-30-2014   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Mine was, but then, it was 30 years newer...

Nothing lasts forever.

Cheers,

R.
That's my worry, Roger. It might just be starting to fall apart but it's behaving itself for the time being.
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Old 05-30-2014   #9
Monochrom
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my vitessa is very reliable, i did had to dismantle it because it had too much beach sand....the mechanism is kind of amazing.

And is very reliable, very well made and the ultron lens is wow!
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Old 05-30-2014   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by citizen99 View Post
I had a Vitessa for a while; the shutter arming and film transport was unreliable due to wear in the plunger mechanism assembly. This is an unusual design that, being worn to the extent that mine was, would be difficult to repair reliably unless you had access to new spares (I know, I know, just dreaming) or a machine shop, or enormous patience hand-crafting replacements. I didn't feel tempted to try, as the mechanism is clearly not, shall we say, a design that by its very nature promises a long-life future . But if yours is not so bad, such that the repair man that you mention in your blog can fix it for £60, I would be tempted to go for that, because, as others have said, the Ultron lens is superb. Best of luck whichever way you go.
1+

Loved my Vitessa T, but the "combi-plunger" mechanism was its undoing.
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Old 05-30-2014   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Koolzakukumba View Post
That's my worry, Roger. It might just be starting to fall apart but it's behaving itself for the time being.
Voigtländers are among the very best made cameras I have ever encountered, and I would be surprised if a competent strip, clean and overhaul couldn't give you decades more reliable use out of it. But (a) do you want to spend that much and (b) of course I don't know: very few "Bomb Doors" are used hard today. It might be one of the few Voigtländers that actually can wear out.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 05-30-2014   #12
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Isn't Ed Trzoska the man for Voightlander repairs.
Apart from the odd wind on hiccup, a corroded film pressure plate is a problem with mine resulting in scratches along the film length.
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Old 06-01-2014   #13
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KoNickon View Post
I think they can be, but as has been mentioned, if they've seen a lot of use I think they will be unreliable. A fellow down in North Caroline, Wolf Umbach, used to service these but he has been retired for a number of years now.

Quite apart from the plunger film transport, I understand that adjusting the rangefinder on the Vitessas is a real nightmare.
I scored a Vitessa quite cheaply from an Australian seller early this year (with the Skopar lens, not the Ultron, but it was quite inexpensive). I had to do quite a few things to it to make it go (and now have to do more things, I'll get to that) and one of them was adjusting the rangefinder. It really wasn't a big deal at all.

I think part of the reason people mention the difficulty is because the top cover has to be replaced every time you check it between adjustments and as there can be some trial and error involved this can be tedious. But it wasn't an issue. Once you have the knack of getting the depth of field scale dial into the opening in the cover for it, and engaged with the focus knob, it takes just a few seconds to replace the cover. I can't recall without pulling the camera apart again but you might even be able to leave the DOF counter dial off between adjustments altogether... And it's not necessary to screw the cover back onto the body, every time focus is checked between adjustments. You can simply hold it firmly in place against the body with thumb and fingers of both hands, as an infinity check is carried out (which is what I did, without any problems). I had to adjust the stop of the focus knob as well (from memory, might stand corrected on that) as the actual lens focus on the film plane of my example was slightly off (and this should always be checked and set, first, because, after all, what it the point of getting the rangefinder spot on, if the lens isn't correctly set?). But this wasn't hard, either.

I suspect the Vitessas suffer a bit from Contaflex syndrome. They are quite different to most other cameras, and, hence, must be a complex nightmare to work on, right? Umm, no not really, in my experience. Access is good, the external covers remove in an easy, straightforward manner (there are a couple of screw types and thread lengths for the bottom cover, and a couple of loose washers that will show you where they should go, if you keep the camera right way up as the cover is detached, just take some photos, or make some notes), and there are no sprung loaded parts to fling off into the furthest reaches of your work area. Even the unusual shutter release, featuring the curved tube and ball bearings isn't anything to be afraid of, despite the fact most texts about the camera always warn you not to remove the balls from the tube (and this, I believe, is plain wrong, they should always be removed, the tube cleaned out with solvent, dried, and lightly lubed, before the correct number of 1.5 millimetre balls is re-installed, if you want the doors to open correctly, and the shutter and double exposure prevention to function as intended).

Somebody else mentioned beach sand in theirs? Yes, I had to tip half a beach out of the bottom cover of my own, there was an amazing amount of sand and sludge. With the lens extended, dust etc. may be blown straight into the cavity under the bellows, where it will lodge inside the bottom cover--this, admittedly, is a disadvantage of Voigtlander's design for the Vitessa, and I think they are not the best choice for imaging in dirty conditions.

I know that when I was into old Citroens in a big way, local mechanics would avoid touching them like the plague, but I did all my own work on mine, and for the most part found them to be well designed, reliable, cars, with some truly advanced and ingenious design features eventually copied by other manufacturers years or decades later: disc brakes, centrepoint steering and directional lights being a few that come immediately to mind, (and please don't bother pointing out the Tucker, or Caddies, with turning lights that preceded the D, none of them were serious, or successful, series production cars or made in any significant volume).

I mention the Cits, because mechanics used to fixing Fords and Holdens with OHV straight sixes and cart spring back axles seemed to have difficulty adapting to new (dare I say, better) ways of designing an automobile. I suspect the same may be said of many camera technicians, who are in their comfort zone with, for example, a typical Canon, Nikon, or Pentax focal plane shutter, or simple rangefinder and lens shutter, but will blanche when a customer asks them to look at a Vitessa, Contaflex or Retina Reflex. And yet Chris Sherlock in New Zealand has an excellent reputation for successfully reviving these "nightmare" designs (and I've persuaded more Contaflice back into life than I prefer to think about personally). How can this be, if these cameras are the diabolically complex, and unreliable nightmares, that many assert they are? The only reason that makes sense to me is also quite simple: they're not really all that bad. They're just different. Well, a lot of people can struggle with "different", especially if being open minded, and thinking laterally, are not their strong points.

So what is the OP's camera actually doing, or not doing, that it should or shouldn't be? Unless I've missed it the precise nature of the problem has not been specified...
Cheers,
Brett
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Old 06-01-2014   #14
skopar steve
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Like most, my Vittessa T was purchased at a thrift shop. Came with "never ready" case, manual, original box with sales receipt. It became my motorcycle camera as I thought vibration would be bad for my digital camera. The Color Skopar and Ektar image quality is simply amazing.

Had to have it serviced twice. CLA the first time, film advance the second. Could own a modern Voigtlander for what I've got into it now, but I simply like the images this one produces too much to give up on it.

Advance camera in Portland Oregon did the last service. Good work and reasonably priced.

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Old 06-01-2014   #15
skopar steve
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Oops, here is my Vittessa.


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Old 06-01-2014   #16
kanzlr
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Film transport jammed on mine, had it CLAd in Germany by a former retired voigtländer technician and it purrs along nicely since. The Ultron lens is amazingly good. Planar formula afaik.
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Old 06-01-2014   #17
dschal
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My Dad had one for more than thirty years, with maybe one service. That was the camera I started with, and it planted my love of rangefinders. His was stolen on a trip, and I found a replacement on eBay. My father recently passed away, so I just got the camera and will run a roll through it this week. The shutter sounds a bit slow on the slow speeds, but otherwise okay. It's a great camera.
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Old 06-01-2014   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarcophilus Harrisii View Post
I scored a Vitessa quite cheaply from an Australian seller early this year (with the Skopar lens, not the Ultron, but it was quite inexpensive). I had to do quite a few things to it to make it go (and now have to do more things, I'll get to that) and one of them was adjusting the rangefinder. It really wasn't a big deal at all.

I think part of the reason people mention the difficulty is because the top cover has to be replaced every time you check it between adjustments and as there can be some trial and error involved this can be tedious. But it wasn't an issue. Once you have the knack of getting the depth of field scale dial into the opening in the cover for it, and engaged with the focus knob, it takes just a few seconds to replace the cover. I can't recall without pulling the camera apart again but you might even be able to leave the DOF counter dial off between adjustments altogether... And it's not necessary to screw the cover back onto the body, every time focus is checked between adjustments. You can simply hold it firmly in place against the body with thumb and fingers of both hands, as an infinity check is carried out (which is what I did, without any problems). I had to adjust the stop of the focus knob as well (from memory, might stand corrected on that) as the actual lens focus on the film plane of my example was slightly off (and this should always be checked and set, first, because, after all, what it the point of getting the rangefinder spot on, if the lens isn't correctly set?). But this wasn't hard, either.

I suspect the Vitessas suffer a bit from Contaflex syndrome. They are quite different to most other cameras, and, hence, must be a complex nightmare to work on, right? Umm, no not really, in my experience. Access is good, the external covers remove in an easy, straightforward manner (there are a couple of screw types and thread lengths for the bottom cover, and a couple of loose washers that will show you where they should go, if you keep the camera right way up as the cover is detached, just take some photos, or make some notes), and there are no sprung loaded parts to fling off into the furthest reaches of your work area. Even the unusual shutter release, featuring the curved tube and ball bearings isn't anything to be afraid of, despite the fact most texts about the camera always warn you not to remove the balls from the tube (and this, I believe, is plain wrong, they should always be removed, the tube cleaned out with solvent, dried, and lightly lubed, before the correct number of 1.5 millimetre balls is re-installed, if you want the doors to open correctly, and the shutter and double exposure prevention to function as intended).

Somebody else mentioned beach sand in theirs? Yes, I had to tip half a beach out of the bottom cover of my own, there was an amazing amount of sand and sludge. With the lens extended, dust etc. may be blown straight into the cavity under the bellows, where it will lodge inside the bottom cover--this, admittedly, is a disadvantage of Voigtlander's design for the Vitessa, and I think they are not the best choice for imaging in dirty conditions.

I know that when I was into old Citroens in a big way, local mechanics would avoid touching them like the plague, but I did all my own work on mine, and for the most part found them to be well designed, reliable, cars, with some truly advanced and ingenious design features eventually copied by other manufacturers years or decades later: disc brakes, centrepoint steering and directional lights being a few that come immediately to mind, (and please don't bother pointing out the Tucker, or Caddies, with turning lights that preceded the D, none of them were serious, or successful, series production cars or made in any significant volume).

I mention the Cits, because mechanics used to fixing Fords and Holdens with OHV straight sixes and cart spring back axles seemed to have difficulty adapting to new (dare I say, better) ways of designing an automobile. I suspect the same may be said of many camera technicians, who are in their comfort zone with, for example, a typical Canon, Nikon, or Pentax focal plane shutter, or simple rangefinder and lens shutter, but will blanche when a customer asks them to look at a Vitessa, Contaflex or Retina Reflex. And yet Chris Sherlock in New Zealand has an excellent reputation for successfully reviving these "nightmare" designs (and I've persuaded more Contaflice back into life than I prefer to think about personally). How can this be, if these cameras are the diabolically complex, and unreliable nightmares, that many assert they are? The only reason that makes sense to me is also quite simple: they're not really all that bad. They're just different. Well, a lot of people can struggle with "different", especially if being open minded, and thinking laterally, are not their strong points.

So what is the OP's camera actually doing, or not doing, that it should or shouldn't be? Unless I've missed it the precise nature of the problem has not been specified...
Cheers,
Brett
Great post Brett. Thanks for that. My Vitessa is now working pretty well, truth be told. When I got it the slow speeds were sticky and the plunger wasn't always advancing the film properly, if at all. I used lighter fluid to clean out the plunger mechanism and removed as much debris as I could using a cotton bud. Then I used used a little WD40 to lubricate the parts I'd just cleaned (I know, but it was all I had to hand).

Lighter fluid managed to get the shutter firing regularly but then the camera just stopped firing even though it was wound on. I put it aside and that's the point at which I started this thread. I imagined it would need a good service to get everything working smoothly. However, I picked it up again and switched the flash synchro switch from M to X and the shutter started firing OK again. Now everything seems to be operating as it should with the exception of the rangefinder which has some vertical displacement so the images down align perfectly but it's still usable and seems accurate enough.

I put a film in the camera to see how it's working and I'll maybe get the results back tomorrow if I can finish the roll. The only other thing that's annoying me at the moment is a dim viewfinder window. Can you say how you remove the top plate from the camera?
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Old 06-01-2014   #19
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Koolzakukumba View Post
Great post Brett. Thanks for that. My Vitessa is now working pretty well, truth be told. When I got it the slow speeds were sticky and the plunger wasn't always advancing the film properly, if at all. I used lighter fluid to clean out the plunger mechanism and removed as much debris as I could using a cotton bud. Then I used used a little WD40 to lubricate the parts I'd just cleaned (I know, but it was all I had to hand).

Lighter fluid managed to get the shutter firing regularly but then the camera just stopped firing even though it was wound on. I put it aside and that's the point at which I started this thread. I imagined it would need a good service to get everything working smoothly. However, I picked it up again and switched the flash synchro switch from M to X and the shutter started firing OK again. Now everything seems to be operating as it should with the exception of the rangefinder which has some vertical displacement so the images down align perfectly but it's still usable and seems accurate enough.

I put a film in the camera to see how it's working and I'll maybe get the results back tomorrow if I can finish the roll. The only other thing that's annoying me at the moment is a dim viewfinder window. Can you say how you remove the top plate from the camera?
Hi,
the rangfinding system in the Vitessa is interesting as it is a swinging pivot design and it uses a number of different glass lenses as well as the actual beam splitting prism. With all these glass surfaces in the viewfinder and the rangefinder window, mirror, lenses etc. I can well appreciate how an example in need of cleaning would be dim. The good news is I cleaned all the components in mine with nothing more sophisticated than some lens cleaning tissue, some tweezers and some lens cleaner. Naturally I was very gentle with the RF mirror however it suffered no ill effects and after re-assembly and adjustment I had a very usable viewfinder and focus patch. It's not up to the standards of, for example, my Konica Auto S2 but quite good enough for general use including indoors under moderate room lighting for instance.

The main thing to be aware of if removing the top cover is that it will not come fully off unless the knob on the end of the plunger is unscrewed first. And you do have to be a bit careful here, because the plunger itself is one of the weakest points of the design. It has a metal tag, sort of flag shaped at its lower end to actuate the mechanism and this isn't particularly strong. I'm aware of a couple of instances of this breaking off the plunger shaft--one of those is mine! Frustrating because I had the camera working very well prior to this. I'll discuss why this may have happened and how to avoid it in a bit.

Getting back to removing the cover, it is possible to lift the cover up enough to clear the viewfinder and focus system with the plunger fully extended and the knob in place. And if the knob is really tight, it's possible you may have to accept this and work around it. But given that you may be removing and installing the cover a few times if you want to set the rangefinder, it's easier if the knob is removed to get the cover right off the camera and out of the way, so it's worth at least trying to unscrew it. As I mentioned, the plunger isn't particularly strong where that metal tag is attached to its lower end. An excellent way to break it off, would be to simply grasp the knob, and twist it against the plunger mechanism (I didn't do this, but perhaps a previous owner did, and weakened it for me!). So you must not do this. FYI, all I did was to simply wrap a small piece of rubber around the extended plunger shaft to grip it with, so I had the purchase needed to unscrew the knob with another piece of rubber. This worked fine for me, and by doing this, you are placing absolutely no stress on the mechanism. If a piece of rubber fails to persuade the knob to unscrew (normal right hand thread of course) you might consider devising a means of gripping the knob more tightly (a piece of rubber around it with a pair of grips, for instance), but in any event, ensure you are bearing against the shaft of the plunger, and not the camera internals!

As the plunger extracts from the bottom of the body, failure to remove the knob is a deal breaker, as it cannot be extracted through the top, so if it refuses to co-operate, let it be, and work around the cover as you clean and adjust the focus...but hopefully the knob will remove for you, unless some numpty has previously over tightened it, that is.

The cover is retained by two screws reached from inside the camera. There are no external screws visible because it fastens from underneath. For all their quirks, it is the little touches like this that make you have to love Voigtländer, in spite of their often eccentric approach to camera design! How neat. The one on the rewind side is in plain view after the camera back is unclipped. The one on the wind side is actually obscured by the end of the take up drum, but once again, Voigtländer thought of that, and there is a small opening cut away from the end of the drum, so if you rotate the drum by hand, you will expose the wind side cover retaining screw, and obtain access for a screwdriver to remove it. Speaking of the wind side, one of the other things that makes the Vitessa interesting is that it feeds film Exakta-style from right to left, so referring to the wind side of course means the left hand side looking from the rear.

The focus wheel comes up with the top cover, as does the indicator dial for depth of field. Set the focus to infinity before removing the cover (you may want to alter this on re-assembly, there is a "sweet spot" for re-introducing the cover, wheel and dial back onto the body, but I honestly can't recall where this is, sorry--but it's not critical). The folding doors and focus carriage are sprung, and the wheel will be under tension from this, which may initially make it appear reluctant to lift off from its perch on the focus system. The trick is to apply a little gentle thumb pressure onto the lens mounting (note the two red oblique marks Voigtländer engraved above and below the lens, indicating where to depress it, in order to fold it away). You may even want to wind the focus wheel slightly off infinity, and then gently rock, or push, the lens mount towards the body just a fraction, and this will relieve the tension on the wheel, releasing it and the cover. It's more complex explain this than it is to actually do it. The same approach can make it much easier to re-install the wheel when you subsequently introduce it to the focus system with the cover.

You've mentioned cleaning the accessible parts of the wind system has sweetened the action of the plunger. I'm not surprised at this, and I suspect the plunger design would not be as problematic as its reputation suggests if it was always in a clean, lubircated condition. However as I have previously mentioned, the folding design of the Vitessa makes for a real dirt trap in the bottom of it, and when this happens there's a great deal of potential for things to stick, wear, and eventually stop working.

I would not try to persuade you beyond your own comfort zone for repairing cameras, but, if you are up to it, I would definitely recommend actually cleaning the mechanism properly by removing the bottom cover. There's a fairly good chance it will be filthy inside (any lighter fluid you've used to flush the plunger is only going to dump any contaminants into the bottom cover anyway, which, apart from anything else, may then cause problems with the shutter release and double exposure prevention). There are a few more screws needing to come off to remove the lower cover compared to the top one, and also a couple of different screw types, and one or two particular thread lengths that go with certain locations, however I replaced most of those temporarily after removing the cover of my own, and you can always make some notes or, better yet, take plenty of digital images to assist with correct re-assembly.

If the bottom cover is removed with the camera inverted, it would make for quite a bit of fun and games working out where various pieces are meant to go, not to mention those pesky ball bearings which may (or may not, if the innards are filthy enough) run everywhere from inside that interesting curved tube Voigtländer used to transmit the action of the release button. However with all the retaining screws removed, and the camera body in the upright position, gently removing the lower cover will see the two loose washers (one around the rewind button) and the guides for the bottom part of the doors and sliding focus system, all sit precisely where they need to go when you re-assembly things. So by taking plenty of photos prior to cleaning there is little risk of incorrect orientation--nothing is sprung loaded to the degree things will pop off or fall out of place ,as the cover is taken off, as long as the camera is upright when this happens!

If you are OK with this, the advantage is you will be able to remove decades of filth from the bottom cover, and (if you're keen enough), remove the balls from the curved tube, clean this out and re-install the correct number with a dash of lube. Mine was missing several which caused problems--clearly someone lost a couple and didn't bother replacing them so when problems manifested themselves I couldn't really fault Voigtländer's design for that... Doing this will help ensure that the release system not only operates smoothly when you fire the camera, but also opens the barn doors easily when they are closed. You will also be able to properly access the gearing actuated by the plunger for the wind system for thorough cleaning, and (after removing the two screws near the film counter dial and taking off the small cover on the wind side), to take out the plunger itself and clean and lube its spiral gearing properly. The benefits of this will be greatly reduced resistance and less force needed on the plunger to actuate the mechanism, which will make it less likely to wear and malfunction.

The Vitessa is a unique design, and no, I don't think it's perfect, by any means. In typical Voigtländer fashion, parts like the release system and the plunger have to be able to perform a couple of functions, or at least, be able to do different things, when the camera is in different states. I believe they can do this reliably, but, in order for this to happen they do need to be in optimal condition. Whilst removing the bottom cover and ensuring the internals are well cleaned and correctly lubed may seem like a major inconvenience, I suspect it is the only way to really get any extended reliable usage out of them, and, whilst I congratulate you for getting yours working again (although I can't really condone the use of WD40!) I'm afraid that in a couple of months, or more, or less, you'll find it going back to its old ways and giving you more grief. Because yours is working at the moment, by devoting an afternoon to cleaning the mechanism properly and lubricating it where needed, it's fairly likely you'll be able to enjoy using it for several years without problems. If, of course, you're up to doing it, and I'll leave you to contemplate that, but, let me know if you need any more information.

In the meantime, I am going to have to either find a replacement plunger assembly for my own Vitessa, or manage to re-attach the tag to the bottom of the plunger in the correct position, before I can enjoy mine again. I think there's much to be said for such a pretty design, with such a fine lens (especially the Ultrons) that one can literally slip into a jeans pocket, so I certainly plan to do so.
Cheers,
Brett

Last edited by Sarcophilus Harrisii : 06-01-2014 at 20:34. Reason: typos etc.
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Old 06-02-2014   #20
Koolzakukumba
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Many, many thanks, Brett, for such a detailed explanation. It's greatly appreciated. Can't say right now if I'll give the camera the big clean but I'll see how I feel as I get more into it. Sometimes these things seem scarier than they are in real life and I've got some experience of working on "normal" cameras.
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Old 07-02-2014   #21
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Hello again Brett,

Thanks to your excellent info, I took the top plate off the Vitessa and gave everything a good clean - apart from the rangefinder which I left well alone. I can now see through the viewfinder! I don't know yet if I'm going to keep the camera but it'll will certainly be better to use now that I can frame a pic.

I wrote about it here: http://www.theonlinedarkroom.com/201...r-vitessa.html

As I said in the post, the only thing I'm not too happy with is the feel of the focus wheel which is a little rough. I put a drop of light oil in the shaft in which the wheel rotates but maybe I should have used some grease? Here another couple of pics from the Vitessa for decoration.



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Old 07-02-2014   #22
kanzlr
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when mine was seriviced I also asked about the rough focusing wheel. I was told thats inherent of how it is engineered.
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Old 07-02-2014   #23
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I shot a Vitessa for a couple years, and it worked great. I didn't use the fastest or slowest speeds, a good practice with 50 year old shutters that probably have never been cleaned! Never did a thing to it, except shoot a bunch of film through it.

Honestly, compared to a Contex or Kiev, with their sharp tiny wheel, these focus really well. I liked the plunger mechanism, and especially how small and light they were folded. If you have one that is not working it's simple: sell it, and get one that is.
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Old 07-04-2014   #24
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Koolzakukumba View Post
Hello again Brett,

Thanks to your excellent info, I took the top plate off the Vitessa and gave everything a good clean - apart from the rangefinder which I left well alone. I can now see through the viewfinder! I don't know yet if I'm going to keep the camera but it'll will certainly be better to use now that I can frame a pic.

I wrote about it here: http://www.theonlinedarkroom.com/201...r-vitessa.html

As I said in the post, the only thing I'm not too happy with is the feel of the focus wheel which is a little rough. I put a drop of light oil in the shaft in which the wheel rotates but maybe I should have used some grease? Here another couple of pics from the Vitessa for decoration.



Sorry, I missed seeing this a couple of days ago. I'm glad it went well for you and my comments were helpful. The issue with the focus wheel could be a couple of things. It depends on whether there's any grit or binding of the wheels focus cam or if the issue is with the actual lens mounting as it slides in and out. Remember my remarks about the propensity for the barn door design to encourage junk to accumulate around the back of the bellows, particularly inside the bottom plate? This can also affect the lens mounting as it slides in and out along the focus range. Removing the bottom plate as well and giving everything a good clean improves access and helps to ensure that the moving parts of the folding doors and the focus are clean. It's another reason I think the only way to really get one of these working sweetly, because of the peculiarities of the design, is to take a holistic approach to servicing them and to go right over them. They are pretty things but more than most cameras most parts of their functionality are connected to and dependant on other functions!

From memory I used a very small dab of moly grease on the focusing cam. Because the focus mount is sprung and the cam is under spring tension there's some loading on it as it slides, and I think grease is really more suitable for it than an oil as it can carry the load better.

If the top comes off again don't be afraid to gently clean the rangefinder mirror. Warnings about the fragility of focus mirrors in these old RF systems are often well heeded as some types can be extremely fragile. All I can say is that I gently cleaned mine with lens tissue and lens cleaner and the mirror was just fine. Providing a gentle touch is used you can clean the mirror and various lenses without fear of damaging them...
Cheers,
Brett
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Old 04-30-2016   #25
svaradi
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Anybody knows how many balls need in the curve tube? I count five in mine Vitesse, but I am not sure this is enough? BTW. What is the size of those balls, if I need more maybe I can put in more balls, if someone tell me exactly the original numbers.
Thanks.
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Old 04-30-2016   #26
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Lots of information here:

http://corsopolaris.net/supercameras...itessaeng.html

Site owner appears amenable to questions.
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Old 04-30-2016   #27
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Quote:
Originally Posted by svaradi View Post
Anybody knows how many balls need in the curve tube? I count five in mine Vitesse, but I am not sure this is enough? BTW. What is the size of those balls, if I need more maybe I can put in more balls, if someone tell me exactly the original numbers.
Thanks.
I'd be very surprised if five was anywhere near sufficient, it has been a couple of years since I wrote my posts above and in the interim I have acquired an early(ish) Ultron-equipped specimen with Compur Rapid shutter that is now working very nicely (and not to disparage the excellent Color Skopar lens, but I have to say I can now appreciate all the fuss about the 50mm Ultron, because I think it's a sensational lens).

At the time I recall getting a number of balls out of the tube of my Skopar equipped example (which, sadly, awaits a replacement plunger with its actuating tab intact). More than five, definitely.

Having now worked on an earlier Ultron example as well as a later Skopar, I can see that some of my comments above may be more pertinent to later variations, because the early Ultron has a number of differences, some minor, some quite significant. Eg. the rangefinder unit is quite different in design to the later Skopar type. I think they made it easier to adjust, as setting an early one precisely is, indeed, a bit more tedious than the later type (if not particularly difficult to do, well).

Getting back to those balls. I may have a record of the number needed in my later type (or I may not, you'll have to let me check). But I wouldn't take for granted that the quantity required stayed the same during Vitessa production. Hopefully, yes. But given the number of running changes that were made overall, you can't be certain different quantities might not be needed in different variations, and it may well be a case of trial and error to achieve proper functionality at all focus distances, etc.

As to the size of the balls, needed: this has been mentioned previously above.

What are the details of your own Vitessa?
Cheers,
Brett
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Old 05-01-2016   #28
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My Vitessa Ultron 1:2/50 lens is here. https://flic.kr/s/aHskz8pEpi Unfortunately I can not remove the spots on the front element. I tried with isopropyl alcohol, lighter Fluid, none of it worked. Any other idea? Otherwise the lenses nice and clean. No scratch, no fungus.

PMCC: Thank for the link. I still do not know mine is Vitesse L1 or L2. Rangefinder windows: two square on front and round on the back. What part is the "bubble" should be on L2?
Details: I cleaned all over my Vitesse. Take out the light meter resolder one wire to the sensor, unfortunately hairspring magnetized from my screwdriver, so the needle is always on the bottom of the scale.
I can not remove the film pressure plate, however I lubricated and it is moving smoothly now. Is it any trick to remove the pressure plate? Outside: only one leatherette partly missing one of from the barn door around the flash sync. Regarding the balls, I think some of are missing, however still functioning quite well.
Plunger and film advancing mechanism is working smoothly. Rangefinder mirror was loose inside the top. I glued back to it, but I think it needs replace it later on.
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Old 05-01-2016   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarcophilus Harrisii View Post
As to the size of the balls, needed: this has been mentioned previously above.
The question comes up a lot in current American electoral campaigns.

P.S. My example is a Vitessa A5 with Syncho-Compur and Ultron 2.0, in very good shape that works a treat. The eccentricity of the mechanism never ceases to delight me in use.
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Old 05-01-2016   #30
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PMCC Thank you for your answer. I research the size of the balls: "1.5 millimetre balls is re-installed"
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Old 05-01-2016   #31
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Svaradi -

Click on the thumbnail photos of the camera models in the right column to see expanded photos showing the details of the differences between the models. An easy to see difference is the meter window cover: one has window-panes, the other has a bubble diffusor. As far as I can tell, the diamond vs. rectangular rangefinder window refers to unmetered "A" models that have a diamond-shaped RF focussing patch. You can see an example of the diamond patch in the small RF window of the camera shown in post #7 of this thread. The original language of the cited website appears to be Italian, so there may be some terminology issues in translation.

Hope this helps.

P.
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Old 05-01-2016   #32
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PMCC -

Thanks for your advice. I contacted Max Bertacchi who confirmed my Vitesse is L1. Here are some pictures:
https://flic.kr/s/aHskz8NyVg
https://flic.kr/s/aHskz8pEpi
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Old 05-01-2016   #33
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Steve,

My pleasure. You're a braver man than I to delve into the guts of that Ultron.

P.
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Old 05-02-2016   #34
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I made three tries at this -
The first, with a skopar 2.8 lens doesn't properly advance the film because the plunger doesn't work right. It seems like a stripped gear or something

The 2nd, a skopar 3.5 w/o meter works fine, though I am not sure the rangefinder is accurate. This never get used, because....

The 3rd, an Ultron 2.0 with working meter actually performs well, and the few tiomes I actually use this camera I always wonder why i don't more often. With barnyard doors closed, it even fits in a jeans back pocket!

But I know that if the camera ever fails, or rangefinder goes out of whack, I won't have anywhere near the technical prowess to do anything about it...

See some results from the last outing:

Nov15_FP4_R_Vitessa_11 by Ben Sandler, on Flickr

Nov15_FP4_R_Vitessa_2 by Ben Sandler, on Flickr

Apr15_HP5_D_MX_50F2_26-Edit by Ben Sandler, on Flickr
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Vitessa top cover help needed
Old 08-06-2016   #35
largedrink
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Vitessa top cover help needed

Hi everyone,
I just purchased an older, working Vitessa (I think it's an "A" - without strap lugs, no light meter, no accessory shoe, Compur Rapid shutter, Ultron 2.0 lens). I decided to follow Brett's useful instructions in this thread to remove the top cover and clean the viewfinder which was very grubby.

This went very well, though with this model there didn't seem to be the need to remove the knob off the plunger, everything just slid right off.
As I removed the cover though, 2 small metal parts fell out, and I am struggling to identify exactly where they belong. One is a small thin rectangle with grooves and obvious signs of glue. It's the size of the head of a cotton bud (please see my pics). This part is the one I am most confused by as to where it needs to be glued back to.

The other is a thinner, longer strip or metal with a bluish tinge. I think with this piece I have found the location though, at the top cover itself has a similar piece glued next to the screw hole on one side, like a spacer, but not on the other side - there looks to have been one there previously.
Can anyone help identify or provide pictures of where the metal parts may belong?

I can attach more photos if needed, there seems to be a limit of 3 attachments per post.

Also, it would be good to know which screw is the vertical rangefinder adjustment as there is a small adjustment needed.

Thanks very much.

DSC_9766_s.jpg
DSC_9774_s.jpg
DSC_9785_s.jpg
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Old 08-07-2016   #36
largedrink
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Adding some more photos pertaining to my previous post:
Attached Images
File Type: jpg DSC_9773_s.jpg (26.0 KB, 9 views)
File Type: jpg DSC_9768_s.jpg (38.2 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg DSC_9778_s.jpg (33.2 KB, 14 views)
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Old 08-07-2016   #37
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Well done on the work so far.
When I originally wrote of my experiences repairing a Vitessa I had been working on a later version. Not an "L", no light meter, however with the integral cold shoe, rather than the slip on shoe the earlier models used. There are some differences along the way. One of these is that the earlier models had a larger hole in the top cover and the plunger knob is not removable (because it does not have to be!). I think this was a better approach for reasons I will get to.

Now, the vertical adjustment. Again, the rangefinders used in early and late types were quite different. Looking at your pic of the top it appears like my second Vitessa, also an early Ultron with Compur Rapid, but not quite as old as yours as it has strap lugs. Looking at the pivot point in the bottom right hand corner of your photo (Ie. as seen from above) there should be an adjuster screw and locking plate or enamel locking paint. This will vary the height of the pivoting mirror, and, hence, the vertical adjustment. Less is more! There is also an adjustable lens between the mirror and viewfinder. This may achieve a similar result possibly? I have not adjusted this, I set the screw described above and it worked well for me.

More later. Roast lamb awaits, now!
Cheers
Brett
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Old 08-07-2016   #38
largedrink
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Thanks Brett,

I dismantled both ends of the lens and it cleaned up beautifully, apart from a small area of fungus strands, seemingly inside the rear element. Looking forward to trying this camera out too in the near future (it will compete with my Vito III for bag space!).

Posting here a couple more close up pictures of the rangefinder, to make it easier to explain the adjustment. Do you mean to adjust the recessed large black screw, or the small silver screw that is jutting out, to change the vertical alignment?

Thanks again and enjoy your dinner!
Hugh
Attached Images
File Type: jpg DSC_9790_s.jpg (27.9 KB, 11 views)
File Type: jpg DSC_9791_s.jpg (28.4 KB, 11 views)
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Old 08-07-2016   #39
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Quote:
Originally Posted by largedrink View Post
Thanks Brett,

I dismantled both ends of the lens and it cleaned up beautifully, apart from a small area of fungus strands, seemingly inside the rear element. Looking forward to trying this camera out too in the near future (it will compete with my Vito III for bag space!).

Posting here a couple more close up pictures of the rangefinder, to make it easier to explain the adjustment. Do you mean to adjust the recessed large black screw, or the small silver screw that is jutting out, to change the vertical alignment?

Thanks again and enjoy your dinner!
Hugh
Actually, neither of the above, sorry, I think I've led you up the garden path a bit in my haste to get my dinner! If you remove the rangefinder assembly, then, on the underneath of the pivot screw at the corner is a slotted screw head that may be used to raise or lower the mirror. I believe it has a dab of red paint on it to lock it in place so you may need a cotton tip and a dab of acetone to loosen this. At least, I had to.

When you remove the rangefinder assembly, note that whilst it is held quite securely in place by the two mounting screws, there is still a little play in how it may be positioned. I'm not sure it matters where it sits, precisely, when it is installed, but do be aware that if you have the horizontal adjustment spot on, and the rangefinder block is skewed a little in comparison with its previous seating onto the top of the camera, this is, then going to impact how the pivot arm with the peg bears on the frame the lens slides in and out on, and, hence, on the precise horizontal adjustment. It's probably best to do the vertical adjustment, first, get this spot on and then you can dial in the horizontal (distance) adjustment without removing the RF and upsetting the vertical again.

Cheers
Brett
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Old 08-07-2016   #40
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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PS with the RF assembly, do not touch the two platinum coloured screws on the left side top. You'll have more work to do if you remove these by upsetting more alignments. Forgive me if you have already removed the RF previously, but in the event you haven't the two mounting screws are the darker ones fore and aft of the plunger itself. There will probably be a mounting shim underneath the RF block between the RF and the body. This should be shaped so that it will only fit neatly one way, but keep your eye out for it and ensure it is replaced on re-assembly.
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