Thursday, July 12, 2012


The box cameras and pseudo-tlr cameras with brilliant viewfinders became very popular in the decade after WWII.  I've enjoyed shooting quite a few of them, including most recently the Kodak Duaflex and the Ansco Panda. It seemed time to try out the granddaddy of them all, the  Voigtländer Brilliant, which first appeared in 1932.

Voigtländer Brilliant, First Model

Later models were bakelite, but this first model had an all steel case.  The shutter is a simple self-cocking type with 1/25, 1/50 and B settings.  The lens is a three-element f-7.7, 75mm Anastigmat Voigtar.

The picture of the VW is full-frame.  The following 100% enlargement of the lower-right corner of the picture shows the excellent edge sharpness the lens can deliver at f-22; quite a lot more impressive than anything you are likely to find on later cameras of this type.

I cropped down the shot of the sewer pumper to show the nice over-all sharpness and tonal qualities which the Voigtar can achieve.  All the negatives on the roll look under-exposed; I think the camera was working fine, but my HC-110 developer is down to the dregs.

The portrait suffers from under-exposure and a bit of backlight flare, but I think the sharpness still looks pretty good at the Voigtar's wide open f-7.7 setting.

I'll get a new bottle of developer and put another roll of 120 through the Brilliant soon.  It's a fun little shooter.


Dirk said...

Really nice! Have the Brilliant with Voigtländer Anastigmat 1:4.5 Skopar. F = 7.5 cm.

Jim said...

That homely camera surely does give good results. With an f/7.7 lens, it seems like you'd need a lot of sunlight to get a good photo.

Mike said...

Well, context is important. With most of the old pseudo-tlr cameras, it's f16 or the highway. The progression of f7.7 - f11 - f22 is pretty unusual, but it actually will get you a proper exposure in most daylight conditions using modern 100 ASA film. The shutter options of 1/25 and B will take care of about anything else given proper support.

Dirk said...

Take the Brilliant with Skopar 1:4,5!

Mike said...

Yes,I think they even made some Brilliants with the Ultron. And, the last model had the focus linked to the viewfinder. I have a weakness for the simple cameras, though, so I'm happy with the first model for now. I want to make some more pictures with it, and then I'll pull together all I have found on the Brilliant for a page at my vintage cameras site.

Alex said...

I have this camera as well. I found the lens to be quite sharp as you show. One thing I did get that I don't see in your photos is a glow in the brighter areas of the photographs which I attribute to an uncoated lens. Maybe I need to make sure my lens is cleaner than I thought it was.

Mike said...

The middle lens element on my was pretty foggy, but it cleaned up well. One of the nice things about this camera is the ease with which the shutter and lens can be disassembled. There is a good little tutorial on Flickr at

Julio F said...

Nice results. There is a lot to be said for simple designs with good viewfinders (in the right hands of course).