I learned about the Voigtländer Brilliant while I was doing a little research on TLRs and pseudo-TLRs. I’d read that the Voigtländer Brilliant V6 was the basis for the LOMO Lubitel TLR, so of course I wanted to get one. Alas, I jumped the gun on an eBay auction without reading carefully and ended up buying the second metal model, rather than the bakelite V6 I’d been wanting.
That’s OK, though. I rather like this little camera. It’s the oldest in my collection, manufactured in 1935, and it definitely takes photos with character.
Since I went out in bright sunshine for my photo walk that day in late August, I kept the camera at its fastest shutter speed (1/50 sec) and its smallest aperture (f/22) the whole time. I’d loaded the camera the night before with Ilford 100.
There appears to be a focus “sweet spot” in the lower right quadrant of the frame. The entire left third and upper third of the frame appears to be out of focus in all photos on this roll. I’m actually OK with that — it gives me artistic restrictions when I’m using this camera, kind of like knowing where the focus and light fall-off happens with each of my two Holgas (and they are definitely different from one another).
I took two versions of the photo above: one focused in the mid-range (“Groups,” between 6m and 20m, pictured above), and one focused at infinity. The lesson learned here? Just never focus this camera to infinity. It’s not really any better than focusing at 20 meters.
I also discovered that there are two film counter windows, and that the one to use is the one on the side of the camera, not the “real” one on the back. Using the one on the back results in wide gaps between the exposures, and a huge waste of film. The camera can actually fit 12 exposures on a single roll of film, not just eight.
My assessment: The Voigtländer Brilliant is a quirky antique — and I’m a fan of quirky cameras. I’ll be taking this one out again, but next time I’ll load it up with color film, I’ll work on finding some closer subjects to photograph, and I’ll remember to compose them in the lower right quadrant of the frame. And I’ll get all 12 exposures next time, instead of just eight.
Would I rather have gotten the Brilliant V6 or the Brilliant S (aka the Focusing Brilliant)? I don’t know. Maybe. I actually really like this antique metal camera. It’s quirky. Like me.