A Sudden Attack of GAS:The Voigtländer Brillant pseudo TLR camera, 03 March 2024

A Sudden Attack of GAS:The Voigtländer Brillant pseudo TLR camera, 03 March 2024

I feel that I'm reaching GAS saturation point. I have most of the film cameras on my wish list now, and although I'm always on the lookout for some interesting noughties digicams I'm nearly there with digital cameras too. But sometimes ... sometimes I come across a camera that calls out to me and I think, 'I have to get that'.

And so it was that I was on the Kamerastore website recently and came across a wonderful piece of camera history, the Voigtländer Brillant. Originally launched in 1932 as a cheaper competitor to the 1929 Rolleiflex TLR, it was produced until around 1951. The Voigtlander Brillant was a 120 film Twin Lens Reflex (TLR) camera, although the early versions were pseudo-TLR, that is the viewing lens was for composition and you had to focus the taking lens separately. The Brillant (or Brilliant as it was known in the UK) went through several variations during production, most noticably in 1937 when the metal body was replaced with a Bakelite plastic body. The later variations also included a neat little compartment to carry filters, which is lacking in the earlier versions.

The Brillant on the Kamerastore website fell under their 'not passed' category, which meant that it had some fault that would either need addressing or working around, although the optics and so forth were fine. In this case, the slow shutter speed of 1/25s was faulty and also the viewfinder doors would not stay closed. For me, neither of these things were an issue, the odds of me using slow shutter speeds were minimal, and a little tape could keep the viewfinder closed. Of course, I had to have it, and for the bargain price of 15€

Within less than 24h, the Voigtlander Brillant was in my possession. As an aside, the service and delivery from Kamerastopre and DHL is second to none. Most of the time Kamerastore will spend a couple of days arranging and packing the order, and once it is handed over to DHL, weather permitting, the packages are delivered within 24h from Finland to Portugal. In this case the delivery was exceptional. I ordered the Brillant from Kamerastore in the morning, it was handed to DHL in Finland that afternoon, and the next day our friendly neighbourhood DHL driver was ringing the doorbell. Sometimes I can't believe how efficient they can be.

Cosmetically the Brillant was in rough shape. The Voigtlander logo was mostly worn off, as were most of the text on the front of the shutter/lens assembly so it's hard to see what options exist for shutter speed and aperture. From what I can tell though, by comparison with other Voigtländer Brillant cameras pictured online, this is one of the first versions, from the early 1930s. Inside it was remarkably clean and the felt inside was in remarkably good condition for such an old camera.

To determine the camera's true age I searched for the serial number, which for the Brillant is a letter (D-1932 to J-1937) followed by six digits. After looking all over the body and failing to find a serial number I resorted to the Internet, and in a Photrio thread from 2018 found the location of the serial number; on the lower inside of the front part of the viewfinder front cover just below the square 'stamp'. The serial number of the Voigtländer Brillant is E192998, which dates it as being from 1933, ninety-one years old.

Looking at the lens/shutter assembly this is a German version, with zone focussing positions of 'Landschaft', 'Gruppe' and 'Portrat', or 'Landscape', 'Group' and 'Portrait', respectively. Beneath the lens and above the text is a nearly worn away distance scale with ranges of 1.2m, 2m, 6m and ∞. On the outside are the aperture marks for f6.3, f11 and f22. Along the top of the lens/shutter assembly are the shutter speeds of T, B, 1/100s, 1/50s and 1/25s. All seem to be working properly although the 1/25s speed tends to stick.

On the base of the camera is the obligatory red window for lining up the frames, but for a 6x6 film camera it's in the wrong position, to the left of the film strip, as if for 6x9 frames instead of in the centre, as is normal for square 6x6 frames. That's because the Voigtländer Brillant has a film counter on the side of the camera that when you wind on the roll of film counts the frame number to line up the film for the next image. If you use the red window you will only get eight exposures on each film with a huge space between each frame.

After a general clean of the camera it was time to load it with some film. I still have a few rolls of Fomapan Retro left over from last year's Frugal Film Project, so this was a perfect opportunity to use these with the Brillant. Loading the camera is just like loading any other 120 film camera so long as you remember to feed the film under the first felt bar across the back of the camera and then reset the film counter to '1' when you get to jthe number 1 in the red window. At this moment the camera is loaded and ready to go. The next post with this camera will be the results, which may be some time as the weather is pretty dismal at the moment.

#Voigtlander, #Voigtländer, #Brillant, #MediumFormat, #6x6, #TLR, #PseudoTLR, #TwinLensReflex, #VintageCamera,