135compact.com       35mm ultra compact cameras       Voigtländer Vito C / Balda CA 35

If you look at the Voigtländer Vito C, you are certainly reminded of the Minox 35 series. There is a very similar Minox model, the Minox 35 ML. And there is a Balda CA 35, which is technically the same camera as the Vito C. There is a reason for this.

Karl-Heinz Lange, a camera engineer with close ties to Balda,
was involved in the development of the Minox 35, as Balda produced the shells and other parts for Minox. For some Minox models they did the assembly as well, sometime completely, sometimes partially. When he worked for the Rollei company, owner of the Voigtländer brand since 1971, Lange had begun the development of a new camera, the Voigtländer Vito C. The choice of this name is a bit unlucky, as there was already a Voigtländer Vito C from 1959 to 1967, a very popular high quality camera. The new Vito C camera was also to be produced by Balda. So obviously the camera was inspired by the Minox 35 models already made in the Balda factory, but had a slightly different design, a hinged back, a bigger finder and an entirely automatic shutter. This shutter was introduced into the Minox series in 1982 with the PL model. The new Minox 35 ML in 1985 adopted the Vito design (except the finder and the back), but had both, aperture priority and program automatic shutter.

When the Voigtländer closed its Singapore production in 1981, Lange changed back to Balda, and became chief engineer at the Balda factory to improve this production. So there was a Vito CL which had a self-timer added and a backlight compensation and a Vito (without further letter), a simpler camera with a cheaper F5.6 Voigtar lens. Voigtländer stopped to produce any cameras shortly after.

Already before, when production numbers went down, Balda issued a camera under its own brand to raise profitability. So they did with the Vito C, which became also the Balda CA 35, technically the same camera with a different shell texture. Balda improved its line by adding the CL features (CE 35) and they produced a Revue branded edition. Production material was then sold to China where the CE 35 was continued.

Voigtländer Vito C was released around 1980, dates are a bit uncertain. It's an automatic camera. Its main features are:

38mm F2.8 Color Skopar lens, 4 elements in 3 groups, min. focus 0,9m
Electronic shutter, 1s at F2.8 to 1/500 at F16 (mine does longer times than 1s)
Size 103x62x32,  Weight 147 gr.
25-800 ISO, special flash connection, cable release socket, low light warning and distance setting in the finder, indicator whether shutter is cocked

Camera with strap, case and Balda flash. You can see the differences in shell texture, but they perfectly match.

Front closed. Very sober design.

Back view. Viewer and advance lever at the top.

Seen from above. Rewind lever, shutter status indicator, exposure counter, shutter release button with cable release socket. If the arrow points towards the shutter button, it's cocked.

Seen from below. Rewind unlock button, tripod socket, battery compartment (2 SR44).

Camera open, lens extended.

The lens with 2 CdS cells and ISO setting. Note the massive mechanism for lens extension, said to be more reliable than the Minox one. On the edge of the body, near the strap: strap release, press with a ballpen and the strap comes off.

Camera open, seen from the top.

The bright finder has framelines and parallax indications.

Camera and flash. The flash has it's own photo cell. ISO setting slider is at the inside of the connection.

Seen from top: Function slider, off and two distance ranges. The ranges are indicated in the window. Between flash and camera: ready light.

Flash on and set to close range. Mine is noiseless, it doesn't beep or whine.

Seen from the back: the battery compartment lid is hinged and opens from the inside when the flash is detached. Takes 2 AA batteries. Guide no. 18 (m/ISO 100)

Seen from below. Releas lever.

Flash detached.


Camaera with Voigländer Flash.

Except the texture of the housing it's thesame as the Balda flash.

Film compartment open.

The Voigtländer Vito C is a very small and lightwight camera with a luminous, superb lens and an automatic shutter/aperture system. It resembles the Minox ML series, but is quite different. It's an automatic camera, the aperture/exposure time settings are not indicated, there is just an "OK" in the finder or a flash warning. The distance indicator in the finder is a great help. It uses simple SR44 batteries, easy to find, no battery type issues. The shutter is audible, it's said to be more reliable than the Minox ones. Same for the lens barrel extension, its stronger than the Minox mechanisms. So this is an easy camera, set to hyperfocal distance it's just point and shoot. It feels solid, but is very light.