The Voigtländer VSL is a series of 35mm SLR bodies manufactured by Rollei in the 1970s and 1980s under the brand name Voigtländer (which Rollei had taken over from Zeiss after the demise of Zeiss Ikon in 1972).
|Voigtländer VSL 1 (TM)|
image by Alf Sigaro (Image rights)
Rollei continued the production of the last 35mm SLR developed by Zeiss Ikon, the SL706, naming it Voigtländer VSL 1. It takes 42mm screw lenses and is today called the VSL 1 (TM) to distinguish it from its successor. It exists in chrome and black. It is quite a straightforward SLR, with a fixed prism and a CdS through-the-lens (TTL) meter. The exposure reading is possible at open aperture with specifically designed for it or the previous generation of lenses designed for the Icarex and SL706 (see Zeiss lenses).
Only five hundred VSL 1 bodies were built in Germany, and thereafter the cameras were assembled in Singapore. Quality control in the Singapore plant is rumored to have been poor at the beginning but thereafter to have gradually improved.
There is a name variant of the VSL 1 called the Ifbaflex M102, made for a French distributor, with an Ifbagon 50/1.8 standard lens (a rebadged Planar 50/1.8). It only exists in chrome finish, and was built in Germany.
At about the same time, a prototype called the VSL 2 CX automatic was developed, based on the Chinon CE Memotron. It has automatic exposure and takes 42mm screw lenses. It only exists in very small quantities, and was never released on the marketplace.
|Voigtländer VSL 1 (BM)|
image by Romuald Swieconek (Image rights)
The VSL 1 (TM) was sold at the same time as Rollei's 35mm SLR, the Rolleiflex SL35 and SL350, which used Rolleiflex SL35 lenses. This absurd situation ended in 1976, when Rollei abandoned development of the SL35 and SL350 and decided instead to concentrate on the VSL design. Rollei thereupon launched a variant of the VSL 1 with the SL35 bayonet mount. It too was named VSL 1, and is today called the VSL 1 (BM). It only exists in black, and was made in Singapore. The Rolleiflex SL35M was the same body with modified cosmetics.
In 1976 was developed a version with aperture-priority automation, called the VSL 2 automatic. The shutter speed selected by the meter is indicated in the finder by a needle. The VSL 2 automatic was sold together with the VSL 1 (BM). It only exists in black. Its Rollei equivalent is the Rolleiflex SL35ME.
|Voigtländer VSL 2 automatic|
image by Jörg Krüger (Image rights)
|Voigtländer VSL 3-E.|
image by Siim Vahur (Image rights)
The next generation came at the end of 1977 with the VSL 3-E, the last Voigtländer body to be designed in Germany. It has an all-new electronic vertically-running focal plane shutter going from 16s to 1/2000, with flash sync at 1/125, and a SiO2 meter with aperture priority automatic or manual exposure. The shutter speed is indicated by LEDs in the finder. It can also accept an external winder or motor drive. It exists in chrome or black. Its Rollei equivalent is the Rolleiflex SL35E.
The Vitoflex E is the pre-release version of the VSL 3-E, with a shutter going to 1/2000. The name was changed before the release because it was too close to "Visoflex", a trademark registered by Leitz. The VSL 3-E was produced in Singapore.
In 1981 Rollei went bankrupt. It had to close the Singapore plant and cease production of middle-range 35mm SLRs to concentrate on the expensive Rolleiflex SL2000F; and it stopped using the Voigtländer name.
Ringfoto VSL badging
- Afalter, Udo. Voigtländer Kameras und Objective. 2nd ed. Stuttgart: Lindemanns Verlag, 1998. ISBN 3-89506-137-9.
- Matanle, Ivor. Collecting and Using Classic SLRs. London: Thames & Hudson, 1996. ISBN 0-500-01726-3. Pp.107–9.
- Captain Jack's Rollei SL35 and Voigtländer VSL website, including:
- Rollei SL35 and Voigtländer VSL at the Rollei Club (the site is dead and the links point to the web archive version dated March 7, 2005)
- Voigtländer manuals (.pdf format), including a manual for the VSL 3-E at butkus.org's Orphan Cameras
- VSL pages at Office Heliar (archived), with rare photographs of the VSL 2 CX automatic and of the Vitoflex E
In French :
- VSL-1 at www.collection-appareils.fr