I've owned this Voigtlander Brilliant for years, I can't even remember where I bought it anymore, and although I knew the shutter worked and the viewfinder was bright (it's a good one to take off the shelf and show visitors how a older TLR works), I hadn't tried it out with a roll of film previously. I have another Voigtlander (a bakelite one, so slightly newer) that sits beside this one, but sadly its shutter no longer works, although the body and lens on the other one seem to be in better shape.
The camera details
This Voigtlander Brilliant is from between 1932–37, and has a metal body. The focus is done through 'zone focusing' using a dial on the front of the camera. The dial has the options of 4 feet (portraits), 7-20 feet (groups) and infinity (landscapes). It's easy when looking through the viewfinder where everything is in focus, to forget that you need to set the focus dial before you take the shot. The inability to focus through the viewfinder means that these cameras are often referred to as pseudo TLRs, as a TLR is considered to allow the user to focus through the viewfinder.
The lens is an Anstigmat Voigtar 1:6.3, and has an aperture range of f/6.3-f/22. The shutter speed options are limited to 1/25th 1/50th 1/100th Bulb and Time.
The test run
I loaded a roll of Ilford HP5+ in this camera and threw it in a camera bag for the first day trip we were able to go on as the Pandemic lockdown restrictions were starting to be lifted in mid-May.
We caught up with my parents for the first time in 2 months, and on our way back to Melbourne decided to stop and photograph some of the power station towers around Morwell.
Looking on Google Maps, I could see that one of the power stations was quite close to the road, so guided us there. It turns out that we had stopped to photograph the Hazelwood Power Plant towers, which only 3 days later were demolished in dramatic fashion. We had no idea about this happening, but would explain why the site security wasn't particularly pleased we were there photographing them. We managed to get a couple of shots, before moving further away to take a few more photographs from a distance, before we left to find a different site to photograph.
I was also testing a Kodak No.2 Folding Cartridge Hawkeye - Model B, so took three almost the same photographs at the Power Plant on both the Hawkeye and the Brilliant. I figured that at least one out of six shots should work.
I finished the roll taking some photos at a nearby park and on a walk around my local streets.
The below photographs are the best of the 12 shots. Although every photograph worked, there were a few where I hadn't 'guesstimated' the focus well using the focus distance ring on the front of the lens, and some were a bit under exposed.
About Madeline Bowser
I've been photographing with film for what seems like forever ... well since the late 90's. I shoot both film and digital, but film is where my heart is and I get the most ongoing enjoyment from and what I enjoy sharing and teaching to others. I also travel the world hunting down old cameras and unique locations to photograph in, and exhibit and sell my travel photographs.
When out shooting film, I often get asked the questions 'can you still buy film?', 'I thought film stopped being made 10 years ago' and 'why would you want to shoot film when you can shoot digital'.
My answers are, 'yes', 'no, it didn't', and 'I also shoot digital, both have their place in my mind'.
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All images remain the property of Madeline Bowser and may not be used without permission.