A new K-mount SLR from Voigtlander

Discussion in 'Film Discussion and Q & A' started by ThomThomsk, Jun 18, 2006.

  1. ThomThomsk

    ThomThomsk New Member

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    While the big manufacturers wring their corporate hands about the future of film SLRs, little Cosina Voigtlander has introduced a new 35mm manual focus model with AE and manual exposure, with a 35-70mm zoom K-mount lens, for a total price of $225 (that's about £120). Looks like it's only available in the US:

    http://www.photovillage.com/html/vsl43.html
     
  2. LWW

    LWW New Member

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    That looks like a slightly restyled Nikom FM-10.

    LWW
     
  3. ThomThomsk

    ThomThomsk New Member

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    The FM-10 is made for Nikon by Cosina, so you are probably correct.
     
  4. DocFrankenstein

    DocFrankenstein Clinically Insane?

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    Talk about an Ugggley lens.
     
  5. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones New Member

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    I don't wish to dis your find, but I am a huge fan of Cosina, and I feel compelled to note that they have made a number of SLR film cameras for a number of manufacturers over the years - all were built on essentially the same platform.

    Beginning with or near the Cosina CT-1, Cosina produced an all metal body that had TTL metering and the Pentax screw mount (M42) for lenses. These were produced for a large number of companies with tiny modifications for each one - Vivitar, Argus, Petri and even one for Exakta (the Twin TL).

    Later, they produced a plastic-bodied SLR for Canon (T60), Nikon (FM10), Yashica/Contax (FX-3 Super 2000), Vivitar (V2000 and many others), Olympus (OM 2000) and many others. Each of these had the same basic controls - some with AE, some without. Some with 1/2000 max shutter speed, some with 1/1000. Each with the proprietary lens mount of their manufacturer (Canon got an FD-Mount, for example) and all seemed to share a Copal Square vertical-running 'window blinds' shutter.

    The basic plastic SLR was the body they morphed into the Voigtlander Bessa R, then the R2, R3, the Rollei, the Epson R-D1, and now the Zeiss Ikon, although that shares very little with the original Bessa, so probably not the same at all. Also, they put the pentaprism back on top and made the Bessaflex TM in two versions (Topcon style and classic black). Now they have put the K-mount back and they call it the VSL-3.

    If you want a Cosina-body K-Mount SLR film camera, a Vivitar V2000 or any of the Vivitar SLR series are the same as the newer Voigtlander. They may or may not have AE, but they're otherwise pretty much the same. Go for five to ten dollars in good shape on eBay if you're patient.

    They are good cameras. Basic, simple, and plastic-bodied - but they work and tend to keep working.
     
  6. Don Simon

    Don Simon New Member

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    Yuck... sorry, I'm just being a snob here, but IMO Voigtlander (before Cosina) produced some classic camera designs; in addition to working well, they looked very nice.

    Meanwhile Cosina cameras as you say tend to be effective and reliable, but cheap and plasticky. Now in the case of something like the Bessa R3A I can understand the use of the Voigtlander name, since from what I can tell it's a very good camera and offers something that many other cameras do not, even if it's not quite as aesthetically nice as the older German cameras. This on the other hand is a generic K-mount SLR, furthermore as Wigwam said it's basically just an existing Cosina model. You can actually find a virtually identical camera under the Cosina name; the only difference is it's black.

    I don't see why they couldn't just sell it as a Cosina, except that they think it will make more money if sold as a Voigtlander. It reminds me of some of the Rover "MGs", there's no way they can be compared to an MG B, similarly I can't look at that camera and think of it having anything to do with the company that made my '50s Vito B rangefinder. In my opinion (not that it counts for much) they're just devaluing the name. They would do well to reserve it for products with some kind of distinction (like the Bessa R series and lenses, an affordable alternative to Leica) and use the Cosina name for generic student cameras like this.

    Just a final thought... why is there even a need for this camera? Have people not heard of Ebay? Look there, or in any second-hand camera shop, and there's all the K-mount bodies you can eat. Some of them made by Cosina. When I heard of the 'new Voigtlander K-mount SLR' I got slightly excited but really I should have known better; it's just an attempt to remarket an existing camera using a more impressive-sounding brand name, and as far as I can tell is aimed at people who haven't worked out they can get the same thing second-hand for 1/5th of the supposedly great price... not impressed.
     
  7. markc

    markc New Member

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    I was thinking exactly the same thing. Ugly with a capital Ug.
     
  8. ThomThomsk

    ThomThomsk New Member

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    And that is exactly why it is interesting that Cosina should choose to launch this camera at all, my original point being that the big manufacturers are getting out of this market.

    I have a Bessa R2a and the Ultron 35mm 1.7 lens, which is excellent and you can understand why it sells well. The Zeiss Ikon is also made by Cosina, and it sells for more than 10 times as much as this new SLR. You would expect those kinds of cameras to do well, in spite of digital, because they are high quality items that can't really be accused of badge engineering with the Voigtlander or Zeiss name - they stand up perfectly well on their own.

    But what about the VSL43? It's a £120 camera, probably a re-worked FM-10 or similar, with an obselete lens mount. OK, it got a good review from Frances Schultz in the latest Black & White Photography magazine and it appears to be good value for money, but who does Cosina think is going to buy it? Students, who at least for now have the choice of eBay or the Nikon FM-10 for the same price, made in the same factory? People with a broken Pentax and lots of K mount lenses? Clearly it isn't a product with mass appeal, but if the sky really is falling and film does become a niche market, considered alongside its other products this camera gives you an insight to what Cosina thinks that market looks like.
     
  9. usayit

    usayit Well-Known Member

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    The link reads like an ad on the side of a box of cereal....

    The picture only shows speeds up to 1/2000... but they state it has a max of 1/3000 of a second. Kinda confusing... The camera reminds me of the many k1000 copies coming out of china. There's so many K1000 copies out there.

    Don't see the value-add of this product over a used Pentax K-mount camera.. Pentax ME, MX, K1000 which gets you a nice sharp looking metal body.
     
  10. Don Simon

    Don Simon New Member

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    Ouch! I realise everyone now has a Canon or a Nikon and you get some funny looks for not using either, but is the K-mount really obsolete? Pentax don't seem to be developing any new film cameras but then neither do the big boys. Meanwhile the K-mount is still being used on Pentax's digital SLRs (and the ones rebranded Samsung). Admittedly their DSLRs don't currently look as impressive as the alternatives from the big two, KM/Sony etc, but Pentax are releasing a new 10mp model soon, so I don't consider the K-mount obsolete just yet.
     
  11. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones New Member

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    Couple of things...

    The K-Mount is probably the least-obsolete manual-focus lens mount that there is - in that my Pentax *ist DS will work with every K-mount lens ever made, without modification of the lens or the camera. Show me that with a Canon, Nikon, or Minolta (now Sony) lens mount over the years. The K-Mount has changed, yes, but has preserved backward compatibility. So it is a pretty logical lens mount to support.

    Second, although there are indeed plenty of classic K-mount (and M42 mount) SLR cameras out there - most of them are pretty old now. They were very well-made, but they're still old. Many of them never had TTL metering or higher-than 1/1000 shutters. They are in need of service, from refoaming to a total rebuild. On the other hand, lenses can be kept in a drawer for decades; if they don't get fungus, then tend to be just as good as they ever were. So why not build a modern camera to support the old lenses? Makes sense to me - but then I have a Bessa R (rangefinder), a Bessaflex TM (SLR) and some of the classics too. Guess which ones I take out and use? The modern bodies, with the classic lenses.

    Third - to understand why the Voigtlander name is being used by Cosina, you really have to have an idea what the CEO, Kobayashi-san, is into. The guy's a camera nut. He loves the older cameras, and he wants to do them homage. When he made his Bessaflex TM SLR that looked like a classic Topcon, he went to the Toyo Optical Company (who used to make the real Topcon) and got their blessing to do it. The guy's for real, give him his props.

    http://www.popphoto.com/blogsandcolumns/2307/speaking-frankly-the-contrary-mind-of-hirofumi-kobayashi.html

    Kobayashi bought the rights to use the name 'Voigtlander' from Ringfoto in Germany and he basically revived the nearly-dead rangefinder market. He reintroduced M42 screw-mount lenses, made to mount on all those M42 cameras out there, and he's even done Contax and Nikon RF mount cameras and lenses. Basically, he's serving very tiny niche markets, and selling them at incredible price points given the size of the market (usually boutique market items cost MORE, not less). I suspect if it were not for crazy Kobayashi, we'd have none of this Voigtlander stuff, no rangefinder revival, just a bunch of boring AF digital cameras and dying film cameras and nothing interesting except maybe Lomo, for whatever that's worth.

    Is Cosina Voigtlander 'the' Voigtlander? No, not by a long shot. But here's a clue - the 'real' Voigtlander is dead and gone, and to revive that company in the form it existed - quality and all - most of us could in no way afford it. You want to pay ten grand for a 'real' Voigtlander camera? I can't afford it, can you?

    So what it isn't a 'real' Voigtlander? I don't see it as Cosina stealing the famous name - I see it as a guy who is crazy for classic cameras, supporting a niche boutique market just because he wants to. So for this, we should all spit on him...right?

    I can understand people having a problem with someone using a famous name to make shoddy products - I'd be mad too. But Voigtlander - the original Voigtlander - is dead and gone. They're not coming back, ever. Cosina is trying to do them honor, not destroy their name. Everybody who is interested in these cameras knows perfectly well that this is not the 'real' Voigtlander. It is no secret, and no harm is being done. This company is legit, and they show us a lot of love. Real camera enthusiasts making cameras instead of bean counters. What's not to like?
     
  12. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member

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    I wish them nothing but good luck here. If they're marketing with the student in mind, they've done a great job. The lens is not pretty, but totally functional for a beginner. The fact that it's K-mount is what matters here, and they freely point to the used market to add on. Again keeping the student budget in mind, it seems. ;)

    Sure, folks can pick up deals on used bodies on eBay, but students seldom know what they want or need. For a brand new entry level SLR that can go from AP to manual, it's not a bad deal at all.

    Doesn't appear to have the dreaded IR film advance counter, either - meaning you could shoot IR through it. :thumbup:
     
  13. Don Simon

    Don Simon New Member

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    I don't remember advocating spitting on anyone. I also didn't say Cosina stole the name, just that I didn't agree with their use of it for this camera. I said that I thought they were devaluing the name by putting it on the VSL43 (which looks like a generic plastic K-mount camera) and that it could just as easily be sold as a Cosina. But that was only after I gave Cosina props for the Bessa cameras.

    As I said, the Bessas IMO have some kind of distinction - new M42 cameras and lenses and affordable alternatives to a Leica system. I don't see the VSL43 as having much distinction. Unlike the Bessas it's not part of the niche boutique market you mentioned. It's a generic plastic K-mount body, of which there are plenty already.

    You ask why not develop a new body to use K-mount lenses on... because there are already new bodies. Loads of them. Vivitar, Phenix, not to mention the newer Pentaxes (like the MZ-M)... and of course Cosina. People can buy any of these; they don't as you seem to suggest need to go buy and repair an old Spotmatic.

    I guess all I'm really saying is why release this camera as a Voigtlander when it's already been released as a Cosina? (It's a Cosina C2 with a different name on it).

    Again I give Cosina all due credit for the Bessas, several of which I would like to own. I just can't say the same of this, when I can get something virtually identical from several other manufacturers (or a Cosina-branded Cosina) for the same price or less.
     
  14. ThomThomsk

    ThomThomsk New Member

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    I must have been thinking about something else - possibly not even Pentax...
     
  15. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones New Member

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    Beg pardon, you didn't advocate spitting on Cosina, and I apologize. I'm used to hearing a lot of people who are quite angry with Cosina and spew a lot of venom about their use of the brandname - I over-reacted. I'm sorry.

    The 'Vivitar' SLRs you mention *are* Cosinas - Vivitar has never made anything, they have no factories. Just rebrands and have things made to their order. They used to be called "Ponder and Best" and then Vivitar and then they were bought out by Australian company Hanimex and they kept the more recognizable name "Vivitar".

    The Phenix cameras are X-370 clones which used to be made on actual Minolta tooling that they left in China and sold the rights to make - but now they are Phenix's own design - still an X-370 under the covers, though. Nothing wrong with those either, but IMHO less quality than a Cosina. Both may be plastic, but the Cosina doesn't actually fall into pieces in your hand on day one (LOL). As to the newer Pentaxes - hey, you got a point. I really was thinking of the older SLR's. Not the Spotty, that's an M42 mount, but the K-1000 and the like.

    And finally, as to why buy the Voigtlander instead of the identical Cosina, I guess some folks just like to see the Voigtlander name on the camera and will pay more for it. When the first Cosina/Voigtlander camera without a viewing system at all (the Bessa L) came out, there was also a Cosina-branded version. The Cosina branded version didn't sell, you could pick one up for about $40 new - the Voigtlander branded version was $100. Now the Cosina-branded ones are collector's items!

    Funny old world. Personally, I don't care what they're called, I just like 'em and I like the company. Sorry again if I reacted too strongly.

    Peace?
     

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