The Voigtlander camera announced in 1840 and first placed on the market early in 1841 was a radical design departure from the few cameras that had been made to that point. Both the Giroux Daguerreotype instrument of 1839 and a camera designed by Charles Chevalier had been constructed from wood. These cameras were substantial boxes based largely on a variety of box-style camera obscuras made for a number of decades. The Voigtlander was constructed entirely of metal in a radically different form. Instead of a slightly small box sliding in and out of a larger box to focus it was fitted with a newly developed lens with a rack and pinion focusing mechanism. [The very fast Petzval Portrait Lens will be described separately]. The Voigtlander still looks modem today.
The camera consists of two separate joined cones. The larger front cone holds the Petzval Portrait Lens. The rear cone is fitted with a magnifying lens at the rear of the cone and a piece of ground glass in front at the focal plane. In use. the camera, with its stand, is placed on a solid fixed surface such as a firm table. The camera was intended mainly for taking either portraits or possibly a still life. When the subject was brought to good focus, the rear section of the camera was removed. The photographer would then remove the rear cone and the ground glass. Then in a dark area a sensitized Daguerreotype plate took the place of the ground glass. at the focal plane. The camera had been pre-focused and could be precisely refitted to the stand. There was no shutter in the modern sense of the word. The lens cap was simply removed and replaced to expose the plate. [see The Daguerreotype Process under Processes].
The camera was not a marketing success. About between 6 and 700 were made over two years. Perhaps 2 or 3 of the original Voigtlander Daguerreotype Cameras have survived. With a single exception, the Voigtlander on display in a Museum in Vienna, Austria, any camera you see today is a fine facsimile like the one in this gallery. The Voigtlander company while they were still active in Germany made three short production runs of the instrument, 25 in 1939 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of photography, 200 in 1956 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the firm of Voigtlander & Sohn and a further 100 in 1978 mainly to satisfy the growing number of camera collectors. The facsimile instruments all have been engraved with the same serial number, 81.
Manufacturer: Voigtlander &Sohn, Braunschweig, Germany
Year of manufacture (original camera – 1841)
Process used: Daguerreotype
Image size: Circular: 92mm
Lens: 149mm Petzval Portrait Lens –f/3,7
For further reading
The Art of Photography by Peter H. Snelling 1849
CAMERAS –From Daguerreotypes to Instant Pictures –Brian Coe,
Crown Publishers 1978 [This book has been reprinted]
A History of the Photographic Lens by Dr. Rudolf Kingslake,
Academic Press, Inc., pp. 35-38.