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Modifying a Voigtlander VF 101, then Enjoying It

As mentioned, Neil and I are now the proud owners of a very well rounded vintage/retro camera collection.  The Baby Brownie requires a lot of modifications to bring it into the 21st century without losing any of its charm or causing a major dent in my household’s finances ($50 to get film to Australia!  $50!!) and I am a little bit intimidated of the Minolta, with all its buttons and settings.  However, the Voigtlander VF101 seemed like an approachable camera.

First things first — batteries.  There were batteries stored with it, but because we had no idea how old they were, we felt it was best to replace everything.  Neil and I took it down to Vanbar Imaging in Carlton to seek their advice.  I understood that it took four 625 batteries, which used to be made with mercury.  Naturally those aren’t available anymore, and it seems that non-mercury equivalents are few and far between, Vanbar certainly didn’t sell any.  Nevermind, the Internet had been talking about using a lithium battery once a small modification had been made, but I couldn’t figure it out.  I was loathed to experiment and hope for the best, but with my Dad’s help (a lot of these entries are possible With My Dad’s Help) we got to the bottom of it.  This is awesome:

I won’t put mine back together for the sake of a tutorial but here is a picture of it from the manual.  With some good light, a couple of very small screwdrivers, my glasses (oh, okay, yes, and a beer, I was at my parents’ for dinner), I unscrewed everything.  The bit that you really need to remove is the red plastic casing from the bottom part that eventually screws back into the camera, but I found it easier to wield my screwdriver with the other parts removed.

I’ve stored all the tiny screws and pieces in an old 35mm film cannister container, except for one screw, which I dropped through the hole on the remaining battery pack part.  I then picked up a CR-123 lithium battery and with the positive polarity facing into the camera, screwed the battery pack on.  That tiny little screw helps the battery maintain contact so that the circuit completes, although you may find it unnecessary.

This is what you’ll have left after your handiwork.

After that, there’s nothing left to do but load it with film and fire off some shots!  I did some reading up on Rangefinder cameras and how they work, before proceeding to get silly.  My first roll of film (the colour film) yielded six great shots out of 24, but once I had some practice, my sucess rate increased!

July 27th, 2010
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  1. Richard Wintle on May 7, 2013 at 2:33 am

    Nice tutorial, thanks, and the modification to use a CR-123 would make using the camera a little more conventient. However - it's not necessary to make this modification in order for the VF-101 to work. The manual does *not* specify 1.35V PX625 mercury batteries - it calls for 1.5V 625 batteries, which are still produced today (as regular alkalines). Mine has four in it and it works perfectly. You can even get away with two (stacked on either the left or right side of the central divider in the red battery holder you show above).

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