Voigtländer  –  Vintage Camera Brand

Voigtländer Brand Overview

Voigtländer logo

Founded: 1756 — Vienna, Habsburg Monarchy
(modern day Austria)
Currently: Voigtländer GmbH

Voigtländer Brand History

Voigtländer is an Austrian/German brand founded in Vienna by Johann Christoff Voigtländer in 1756, predating modern photography and making it the oldest name in the industry. Despite its somewhat erratic history, Voigtländer has been and continues to be synonymous with precision optics.

Under Johann Christoff, the company produced scientific instruments and later, when his son Johann Friedrich took the reigns, branched out into manufacturing optics like opera glasses and spectacles. In 1840, Johann Friedrich’s son Peter worked with renowned Hungarian mathematician Dr. Joseph Petzval to design and produce the famous Petzval lens. Voigtländer also produced a revolutionary camera to go with the lens, a tubular brass camera known as the “cannon” that produced 80mm diameter circular daguerreotypes.

Voigtländer relocated its headquarters to the German city of Braunschweig (Brunswick) in 1849 and, while it continued to produce lenses, appears to have taken a step back from camera manufacturing until the early 1900s. Like many of its contemporaries, Voigtländer primarily produced folding cameras for the first half of the 20th century. In 1956, the conglomerate Zeiss Ikon purchased the company and cameras bearing the name “Zeiss Ikon Voigtländer” began appearing until Zeiss Ikon ceased operations in 1972. Later that same year, Voigtländer was resurrected by Rollei (which was itself founded by former Voigtländer employees). Camera production resumed two years later in 1974 and lasted until Rollei declared bankruptcy in 1981. Voigtländer was then purchased by Plusfoto GmbH & Co., a group of German camera dealers who began using the brand name to sell cameras made by other manufacturers such as Regula and Balda.

The company was purchased again in 1997 by Ringfoto GmbH & Co. (yet another partnership of German dealers) and the brand name was leased to Japanese manufacturer Cosina in 1999. Cosina’s most famous Voigtländer-branded products are perhaps the high-end Bessa line of 35mm rangefinders. Different models were made to accept different popular rangefinder lens mounts: the Bessa R (Leica Thread Mount), Bessa R2 (Leica M mount), Bessa R2S (Nikon S mount), and Bessa R2C (Contax rangefinder mount). Cosina unfortunately stopped producing cameras in October 2015 but continues to manufacture high quality lenses for Sony E-mount, Nikon F-mount, Leica M mount, and Micro Four Thirds mount cameras as well as a range of accessories.

Interested in starting or growing your own collection of Voigtländer cameras?
Check eBay to see what’s available.

McKeown, James M. and Joan C. McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 2001-2002. (Grantsburg, WI, USA: Centennial Photo Service, 2001), p 653-669.

“Lenses,” Voigtländer GmbH, https://voigtlaender.com/lenses.html

“Accessorize your camera,” Voigtländer GmbH, https://voigtlaender.com/zubehoer.html

“Cosina Voigtländer,” Camerapedia, http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Cosina_Voigtländer

“Voigtlander Rangefinder Cameras Are No More,” PetaPixel, http://petapixel.com/2015/10/01/voigtlander-rangefinder-cameras-are-no-more/

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