1951: Voigtländer Prominent
Voigtländer Prominent 1 (left) and Prominent 2
Mirror box with eye-level viewfinder attachment
The Voigtländer Prominent was launched in 1951, a time when 35mm coupled rangefinder cameras were at their peak. Yet it anticipated the approaching popularity of single lens reflexes by offering a device that converted it from rangefinder to reflex use. And it surrounded itself with interchangeable lenses, viewfinders, close-up attachments, filters and other accessories that put it at the heart of a system capable of tackling just about any subject.
There are two models. Early versions of the Prominent I lack an accessory shoe and use a knob to wind the film; a later variation of that first model adds a shoe and a two-stroke lever wind. The Prominent II, made in 1958, is similar to the Prominent I but with an extra-large, life-size viewfinder incorporating brightline frames for wide-angle, standard and telephoto lenses. The basic controls of all the cameras are similar.
The Prominent accepts three 50mm standard lenses, a 35mm wide-angle, 100mm portrait and 150mm telephoto. The lenses bayonet onto a body-mounted Synchro-Compur shutter, speeded 1 - 1/500 second. Standard lenses attach via an inner mount; others use an outer mount.
The camera is mostly found with the 50mm f/2 Ultron, which stops down to f/16 and focuses to 1 metre.
To focus, a knob on the top plate is turned while watching a coincident-image rangefinder in the viewfinder. This moves the shutter and lens backwards and forwards to attain correct focus with standard lenses. The other lenses remain static during focusing as the moving shutter presses on a collar inside the mount to alter positions of elements and attain focus. With X and M synchronisation and a leaf shutter, flash can be used at any speed.
The Prominent’s range of accessories is particularly interesting.
The full range
Flashgun in ever-ready case
Lens hood, lens
hood masks and filters