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For the last year I have been ordering cameras from the internet without knowing if they would work. 95% of the time they do. And when they don’t it's usually an easy fix. Sometimes, not so much and I destroy a $250 camera learning to fix it. Usually what happens is that I break something else while trying to fix the actual problem.
The Voigtlander Vito ii is an old camera. Maybe not my oldest, but my first folding camera! The problem with folding cameras, is that due to age, the accordion portion of the camera is prone to light leaks etc. Maybe I’ve just been lucky ordering cameras in unknown working condition, but these days I just have faith they will work. I wasn’t wrong! I spent exactly $50 after shipping on this little guy, which is no small amount but wouldn't have been the end of the world if it didn't work. The $1,000 Leica M3 I recently got would have been another story- Dont worry, that worked too!
A Brief history of the Vito ii
First made in 1949 as a follow up to the OG Vito. I know it was produced for several years and had several variations. I tried to figure out which year mine was produced in until I realized I don’t really care. But I do know this, it has an accessory shoe so it's a later model. But I don’t know if its by design or if its detachable (I haven’t wanted to try). Update: its easily detachable, but it looks like a shoestring production. I mean the shoe covers the damn logo! Important to note: the accessory shoe is just that. It is not a hot shoe and does not communicate with the camera. I also know that there were two models: one with 4 shutters speeds and one with 8. But mine has 9? Maybe it's my dementia but I can't make sense of it.
There is a standard looking button on the bottom of the camera that needs to be depressed to open it. Less obvious are two little tabs on the inside of the door that need to be pressed before closing the camera.
Aperture and shutter are set right on the lens in addition to a shutter tensioning lever, which must be wound prior to taking a photograph.
The camera uses zone focussing. It is not an SLR or a rangefinder. You basically approximate your distance and set it on the focussing ring denoted at 3.5 ft and in increments up to 60 ft before infinity. Oh, and there's also a triangle between 10 and 12 feet and a circle before 60ft. Voigtlander suggests you set your distance on the triangle for anything closer than 16ft and the O anywhere above. But honestly this is just a feature for people that don't use their brains too good. I never had a problem guessing distance. But I will say I embraced the challenge and quirks of using this camera and shot mostly at f16 to ensure a good amount of depth. When I did miss my focus it was experimenting with a more shallow depth of field at a closer focussing distance in which guessing by a foot or so off would make a bigger difference.
Look and Feel
I really love this camera. It’s a great camera just to have for decoration to be honest. It looks that great. If a Leica is a 10 and a Holga is a 1, I’d say the Vito ii is about an 8, maybe even 8.5. My copy is in great condition. It actually looks as if it were never really used. A bit of the leather was starting to separate from the body, but some glue did the trick.
And now for what really matters,
The Experience of Using a Voigtlander Vito ii
It’s hard not to marvel at the meticulous and clever designs of fully mechanical cameras and with the Voigtlander Vito ii there's no exception. Folding the lens out works flawlessly. When folded in, the camera is still quite a bit larger than say a Rollei 35, but the 35’s lens does not retract. What that means is that while the Rollei will fit in a front pocket, it feels awkward. On top of that, the Rollei’s lens being exposed means you will need a lens cap. I have not figured out if they make one in the Rollei size yet. I’m sure they do...
But with the Vito, when the lens is retracted into the body its mostly flush. In fact, most of the cameras components are streamlined into the body. Because of this the Vito slides right into my pocket and I don’t have to worry about the lens getting scraped. Nor do I have to worry about accidentally setting off the shutter release. So usually I would go ahead and wind the camera and set the shutter tension before closing it up. This way, when I was ready to take a shot the camera was ready to go once opening it up. This can be more important than you’d think since having to shift the tension lever before you can trigger the shutter ads an extra step which can make a difference when wanting to quickly grab a shot.
Operating the camera took some getting used to. Because the shutter speeds, aperture, and of course focussing scale are located on the lens, you need to reposition the camera to see your settings. It took me a few rolls to not constantly forget to wind the tension lever. But eventually It came naturally and I realized it made sense to always have the camera ready to go and started doing all that before closing it.
I have so much fun shooting with anything that gives me a novel experience. I especially enjoy the challenge and the process of getting used to shooting differently. The vito checked those boxes. But if this were my only camera, I would definitely prefer a rangefinder. I’m fine with scale focussing, but the viewfinder proved to throw my composition off quite a bit. In fact it straight ruined a few shots, cutting my subject off.
Should You Buy The Voigtlander Vito ii?
If it's going to be your only shooter, no. You may have trouble using scale focussing and the viewfinder (AKA a hole in the camera) is not going to be the most effective way to frame your shots. However, if you are like me and you enjoy using different cameras with different quirks, then yes, buy this camera!
I think I paid a pretty decent price for this camera considering its condition. It feels practically new. A camera twice my age and it still looks new! I could probably sell it and make a few bucks in fact, but I really love this guy and I’m pretty sure I will be keeping it. After fully testing it I still loaded another roll of film because I knew I wanted to keep shooting with it. I still have not developed my color film shot with the Vito ii, but here are a few black and white images I shot at the dog beach. Dogs. Hell yeah.
The Canon 1v is the best auto focus film camera Canon ever made. I give it a go at Venice Skate Park, shooting both Arista 400 and Tmax 100.
Instagram | @retrograding
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I'm really excited to post another episode of Some Photography Show. But in the meanwhile I made this video running through the basics of the Canon A-1
You may be familiar with the Canon AE-1, perhaps Canon’s most iconic manual focus film cameras. The AE-1 has surely secured its position as an icon. And as such, with the resurgence of film, commands quite a price. At the time of writing this article, an AE-1 can run up to $250.
Conversely, the Canon A-1 is far less iconic of a camera. Yet it is a superior camera in most ways. The Canon A-1 sits atop Canon’s prosumer line of the era and features full manual control, shutter priority, aperture priority and full auto control.
The Canon A-1 is built with more premium materials than the AE-1 or some of its competitors such as Minolta’s X-700.
During the production run of the A-1, there were over 50 lenses available. That means there are lots of options and lots of them out there.
Proudly smirk at all those suckers with an AE-1, knowing you have more camera.
You can get an A1 for about $100 at the time of writing this article. That’s not bad at all.
Advanced Event Photography Tips You've Never Heard
Pre-select your focal point
Rather than waiting for the viewfinder to reach your eye, consider where the point of focus will be and use your camera’s focus point controller to set it. Keep in mind, this will require you to develop the vision required to conceive your composition prior to seeing what you will see in you viewfinder. With practice this becomes intuitive. You will find yourself automatically adjusting your focus point.
Shoot with both eyes
While one eye frames your shot, use your other eye to monitor the action.
Doing so improves your timing as you’re no longer viewing what’s in front of you through the tunnel of your viewfinder. Additionally you are able to monitor the space for other potential images.
Read the room
Follow the energy. This is not hocus pocus. Do not overthink it. Follow the energy for more interesting candids.
Have you learned to follow the energy? Good. Now it's time to predict a smile.
watch the eyes and anticipate the pause
Time your shot ahead of the peak of action
Your motor skills has a delay. Your camera has a delay from the moment you press the shutter button and the moment it makes an image, albeit small. Experiment with timing your image just before the peak of action to counteract that delay.
a class leader.
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What is Composition in Photography?
Simply put, composition is the framing and structural elements of a photo.
Many decisions go into taking a photograph.
When I was studying photography the first thing I learned was the many “rules” of composition. However, its best to think of them as elements of design you have at your disposal, not as strict rules to follow. Here are a few to get you started.
RULE OF THIRDS
Imagine that your image is divided into 9 equal segments by 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines making a sort of tic-tac-toe grid. The rule of thirds states that you should position the most important elements where these lines intersect, or more simply put: one third of the way into your frame. Some cameras even have the option to overlay rule of thirds guidelines in the viewfinder or lcd screen.
Why rule of thirds? First, we are used to seeing subjects placed in the middle of the screen. By placing your subject somewhere else, you can instantly add visual interest to your photograph. Second it gives us an opportunity to use that space in interesting ways...
Try evening out a scene using the rule of thirds by adding something of similar visual “weight” (how much the eye is drawn toward an area). You can add in less important subject matter, or draw the eye toward your main subject using leading lines...
When we look at a photo our eye is naturally drawn along lines. By thinking about how you place lines in your composition, you can affect the way we view the image, pulling us into the picture, towards the subject, or on a journey through the scene. There are many different types of lines - straight, diagonal, curved, zigzag, radial etc - and each can be used to enhance our photo's composition.
examples of leading lines:
A winding river
Every image has direction- the natural journey your eye travels through a photograph. Use that direction to tell a story. Use a variety of elements of composition to create direction in your photograph.
SYMMETRY AND PATTERNS
We are surrounded by symmetry and patterns, both natural and man-made. Don’t be afraid to get up close to nature to look for those patterns and really pay attention to how patterns, symmetry, and geometric shapes are used in man made structures.
FRAMING (sub framing)
Use available objects to surround your subject, drawing the eye toward it, essentially creating a vignette.
Example uses of framing:
Placing your subject in the inside of a tunnel
Shooting through a hole
Shooting through a window
Shooting through a fence
Shooting through foliage
And now a big list of things to consider when making a photograph...
How close to my subject do I want to be?
Is my subject’s surroundings important?
How do I want to portray my subject?
If my subject is a person, do I want them looking at the camera? Why or why not?
Is there an emotion or feeling I want to capture?
Is there a story I want to tell with this photograph?
What inspired me to take this photo?
How does the eye travel through this photograph?
How many different ways can I shoot this photograph?
How is the photograph I am taking different than what anyone else would take?
Am I paying attention to my background as much as I am to my subject?
I hope this helps get you started on improving your photography. Feel free to comment below with your own tips or questions!
Premiere episode of Some Photography Show. A terribly serious show about photography.Read More
Check out a tour of my Darkroom at Barnsdall Art Center. When I'm not shooting events, I'm usually here teaching or printing.
How to get good at photography. The following are tips I have accumulated from over 10 years experience teaching and shooting professionally.
1. Always be working on SOMETHING. This can be a technique, a style, it can be shooting in low light. IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT IT IS. Just always be working on something. Don't get complacent. If you’re going into a job or personal project or just doing some travel photography, go into it thinking to yourself: “WHAT DO I WANT TO WORK ON TODAY”
2. Keep a Journal. This one layers onto the idea of always working on something. My advice: go into a job, a shoot, or project with an idea of what you want to achieve. Afterward journal what worked? What didn't? But this is important: YOU MUST DO THIS WITH KINDNESS. What does this mean? Remove the ego and do not limit yourself to what did not work. Be kind to yourself and ask, what went well and WHY?
3. TAKE A CLASS OR FIND A MENTOR Some people can go it alone but most cannot. It doesn't mean that they're not talented, just that that is not how they learn.
4. LOSE YOUR EGO Try to get honest feedback from your peers and DO NOT rely on social media feedback. I swear to you, my least interesting photos are the ones that get the most likes. The images that perform the best are not necessarily you’re best In the case of instagram the images that are successful are the equivalent of junk food that gives you that blunt sugar salt and fat fix. THERE IS NO SUBTLETY
5. GO OUT AND SHOOT How do you get good at Soccer? You play soccer. How do you get good at photography? You take photos.
Advanced Event Photography Tips You've never heard
Pre-select your focal point. Rather than waiting for the viewfinder to reach your eye, consider where the point of focus will be and use your controller to set it. With practice this becomes intuitive.
Shoot with both eyes. While one eye frames the shot, use your other eye to monitor the action. Improves your timing and you’re able to monitor the space while still framing a potential image. This allows you to maximize your coverage when shooting an event.
Read the room. Follow the energy. This is not hocus pocus. Do not overthink it. Follow where you are naturally drawn to. Something is likely about to happen.
Have you learned to follow the energy? Good. Now it's time to predict a smile. The trick is to watch the eyes and anticipate the breaks in your subject's sentences.
5. Time your shot ahead of the peak of action. Your motor skills have a delay. Your camera has a delay, albeit short, from the point in which you press the shutter and it actually makes an image.
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