Prominent - Antique and Vintage Cameras

Prominent

Model of c. 1957

Voigtländer & Sohn

Braunschweig

West Germany

Image of Prominent Model of c. 1957

Lens:
f1.5, 50 mm Nokton, iris diaphragm to f16. Bayonet mount lens. Serial no. 3886531 .

Shutter:
Synchro-Compur, speeds 1 - 1/500, B. X, M synchronisation. Delayed action.

Construction:
Metal body.

Format:
36, 24 x 36 mm exposures on 35 mm film held in cassette.

Focusing:
To 3.5 feet.

Attributes:
Double image coupled rangefinder.
Focusing by wheel on top-plate incorporating a depth-of-field scale. Exposure counter. Film type reminder.

Identification:
Version with lever film advance and suspended frames in finder.

Serial Number:
B55012 .

With:

  • f3.5 35 mm Skoparon, iris diaphragm to f22, depth-of-field scale. Front and rear caps, instructions. Serial no. 4199874.
  • f4.5 100 mm Dynaron, iris diaphragm to f22, depth-of-field scale. Front and rear caps, instructions. Serial no. 3971282.
  • f5.5 100 mm Telomar in reflex housing. Iris diaphragm to f22. Focus to 6 feet by moving front cell. Depth-of-field scale. No. 2563. The reflex housing has a ground glass screen incorporating a condenser. The vertical finder has eye-sight correction and is removable. Serial no. 3530735.
  • f3.5 105 mm Color-Skopar for use with Macro Unit. Serial no. 4687990.
  • f4.5 150 mm Super-Dynaron. Iris diaphragm to f22, front cell focus to 13 feet, depth-of-field scale. Case with insert for accessories. Serial no. 4677068.
  • Filters 47 mm push-on fit: UV; GR1, case; G1; G2, case.
  • Filters 49 mm screw fit: Or.
  • Focar close-up lenses, 49 mm screw fit: A 1 metre; B 0.5 metre; C 0.3 metre.
  • Body Cap.
  • Kontur finder, leather case.
  • Proximeter I, leather case. Box.
  • Proximeter II, leather case.
  • Field Mask for 100 mm Dynaron. Early black metal version, later yellow acrylic was used.
  • Macro Unit for 1:1 and 2:1 copying.
  • Microscope attachment.
  • Instruction book. "Close Up Attachment Proximeter" - leaflet. "Secrets" - booklet on filters etc.
  • Unop Outfit Case. Early model for three lenses, two filters, lens hood and two finders.
  • Omnica Outfit Case. Ever-ready case.

The Prominent was introduced in late 1950 or early 1951 to compete at the upper end of the amateur market alongside the Leica and Contax. Only a limited range of lenses was available but these covered the requirements, if not the aspirations, of most amateur photographers. The camera also achieved some use by professionals due to the Compur shutter providing flash synchronisation at all speeds. In Britain the Prominent was not greatly advertised and import restrictions were in place for half of its life.

The Prominent was a well-built camera of high specification but suffered from the lens-range limitation imposed by the Compur shutter. The layout of the controls, especially the focusing wheel, proved awkward for many users, and the view-finder fell short of what might have been expected, it was also a heavy camera. The position of the shutter made coupling the rangefinder to the lens difficult unless focusing was carried out on the camera body.

When first introduced the Prominent had a Compur Rapid shutter, after this a Synchro Compur was used. Several other modifications were made most noticeably the inclusion of strap lugs, accessory shoe, lever-wind and a view-finder with suspended frames, these were introduced separately in that order. An improved model designated the Prominent II was introduced in 1959 with a larger and improved finder, the earlier model has become known as model I.

The example shown here is the last version of the model I prior to the introduction of the II.

Rangefinder Coupling
The decision to place the rangefinder focusing adjustment in the camera body and alter the lens focus by moving the shutter/lens mount forward and back worked well for the standard lenses but with the wide-angle and telephoto lenses it led to problems and restrictions. The 35 and 100 mm Dynaron lenses were mounted on the outer bayonet surrounding the shutter assembly which was fixed to the body, the linear movement of the shutter housing (from moving the rangefinder wheel) acted on a spring-mounted plate at the rear of the lens and this caused the necessary movement of the optical elements. In effect the rangefinder was driving the lens movement, in comparison, on the Leica focusing is carried out on the lens which moves a cam at the rear of the lens which in turn presses on a roller connected to the rangefinder optics. With the 150 mm Super-Dynaron the lens was left un-coupled.

Lenses available
  • f3.5 35 mm Skoparon.
  • f3.5 50 mm Color-Skopar.
  • f2 50 mm Ultron.
  • f1.5 50 mm Nokton.
  • f4.5 100 mm Dynaron.
  • f4.5 150 mm Super-Dynaron, not coupled to rangefinder.
  • f5.5 100 mm Telomar in reflex housing.

Accessories Available
  • Lens hood, filters.
  • Focar close-up lenses - A, B, C and O. Focar O was for use on the Telomar. Earlier lenses were designated Focar 1 and 2
  • Body cap.
  • Neck chain.
  • Turnit view-finder. For 35/100 mm lenses and 35/50/100 mm lenses, there was in addition a mask for the 150 mm lens.
  • Kontur view-finder.
  • Clip-on accessory shoe for early models.
  • Proximeter I and II for 50 mm lenses, additionally there was a mask for the 100 mm lens.
  • Copying stand. This is a small vertical stand with three legs, the camera body fits on the top and the lens underneath. A special lens - f3.5, 50 mm Repro-Skopar - was supplied for use with the stand. A ground glass focusing adapter was available.
  • Macro stand for 1:1 and 2:1 copying.
  • Microscope adapter.
  • Outfit case for lenses.
  • Outfit case for camera and lenses.
  • Flash gun built into camera case.

Telomar
The Telomar mounted in a reflex housing is a very odd device, the lens is only 100 mm in focal length which could be matched by a rangefinder-coupled lens. The lens is built into the housing, the front lens group can be removed for cleaning the rear group is fixed. The reflex housing, then, can only be used with this lens, unlike the Leitz Visoflex for instance. The standard finder for the reflex housing was a vertical 'chimney' type which could be hinged down to give an eye-level finder of Kontur pattern i.e. a direct vision finder. Two Kontur frames are shown, for infinity and 6 feet focus. The whole finder could be removed and replaced by a prism. The mirror sits between the two lens groups, it follows that the rear group behind the mirror has to be replicated above the mirror below the focusing screen. The mirror is only 20 mm wide and slides sideways when the release on the reflex housing is depressed.

Microscope attachment
This consists of two parts: A connecting tube to attach to the microscope collar (part no. 127/33) and a focusing attachment (part no. 127/34) which connects to the camera lens and has a fixed glass plate to reflect the image to a telescope eyepiece. The eyepiece has cross hairs and a field outline. The focusing attachment is clamped to the tube 127/33, a stud fixes into a small hole in the tube for alignment. This is the same device as was used on the Bessamatic range of cameras, an extra ring is required to fix the focusing attachment to the lens either 145/22 for Color-Skopar and Color-Lanthar or 145/23 for Septon and Skopagon lenses.

Proximeter
The Proximeter comprises a close-up lens placed in front of the camera lens and a 'spheric/prismatic unit' (a section of a plano/convex lens) to deflect light reaching the rangefinder/viewfinder windows. Two strengths were produced - Proximeter I focusing to 19.5 inches and Proximeter II focusing to 13 inches. The two units could be combined allowing focusing to 10 inches. When used with the 100 mm Dynaron lens a 'field mask' was fitted between the lens and the Proximeter to show the field of view. Early versions of the field mask had a clear acrylic window set in a metal frame, later yellow acrylic was used without a metal frame.

Unop Outfit Case
Early versions of the Unop had push-in fittings for filters and no provision for the Proximeters, later models (Unop-B) had a different layout with elastic loops for filters and space for Proximeters. The bag was introduced before the 150 mm lens and was intended to store the standard, wide-angle and 100 mm telephoto lenses.

Macro Unit
This was a very odd and complicated device giving two fixed reproduction ratios - 1:1 and 2:1. The 100 mm Dynaron lens was used attached to the camera, for the 1:1 ratio a 105 mm Color-Skopar was fitted to the Macro Unit base and the camera plus 100 mm lens attached to the Color-Skopar, for the 2:1 ratio the standard 50 mm lens was fitted to the base unit (but reversed so that the rear of the lens faced the object) the camera plus 100 mm lens then attached to the base unit.

The necessity for such an arrangement was that the shutter blades, fixed in the camera, would have a vignetting effect if an extension piece was placed between the camera body and the lens.

Code Names:
93/185 - Proximeter I. I93/186 - Proximeter II. 90/131 - Proximeter case. 93/189 - field mask. 308/48 - Or filter. 317/47 - UV filter. 306/47 - GR1 filter. 301/47 - G1 filter. 302/47 - G2 filter. 127/33, 127/34 - Microscope attachment.

References & Notes:
Dave Todd, Voigtländer Verein Monograph.

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