Photographica Pages

An online guide to collectable cameras and related stuff


Voigtlander is one of the oldest companies to become involved in the production of photo related products, it was founded in 1756 by Johann Christoph Voigtlander to manufacture scientific instruments. His son, Johann Friedrich Voigtlander began producing optics. The third generation, Peter Wilhelm Voigtlander, hired a military mathematician, Dr Joseph Petzval, to design a lens mathematically. This revolutionary approach to lens design led to a four element lens with an aperture of f/3.7, fifteen times faster than what was currently available. Voigtlander then mounted the lens in the world's first all metal camera.

Voigtlander was one of the largest and most respected of the German camera manufacturers until the merger that formed Zeiss Ikon in 1926. It soon found itself in the shadow of the Zeiss behemoth, and after the second world war built products designed for advanced amateurs. In 1956 the Carl Zeiss Stifung, the parent company of Zeiss Ikon, bought Voigtlander. It was operated as a separate company until 1965, when it was absorbed into Zeiss Ikon to form Zeiss Ikon-Voigtlander. Unfortunately the product line was not rationalized to make both companies profitable by avoiding competition with themselves. At that time the new company had five SLR camera systems on the market (Contarex, Contaflex, Contaflex 126, Icarex and Ultramatic/Bessamatic), none of which were compatible with another, usually even down to simple accessories such as lens hoods, caps or filters.

The merger failed to bring profitability. In 1972 production of Zeiss Ikon-Voigtlander cameras ended, and Voigtlander was spun off as a separate company run by Rollei. New Voigtlander products were available in 1974.

Unfortunately the Japanese were dominating the photographic market, and Rollei went into bankruptcy in 1981. Voigtlander was sold off to Plusfoto, a chain of German photo stores, who used the brand on products they had built for them by others. Finally, in 1997 the name was purchased by Ringfoto, and a deal was struck with Cosina to produce 35mm rangefinder cameras and lenses in Leica thread mount. This has led to a resurgence in the marketing of 35mm rangefinder cameras using vintage mounts, inspiring cameras and lenses from makers such as Konica, Minolta and even Zeiss.

Voigtlander Folding Cameras