The Vilia

Alfred's Camera Page

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The Vilia is one of the few cameras I only bought for my collection. I never liked this camera. It never appealed to me, it didn't have any nice features, it wasn't important to the understanding of Soviet-Russian cameras, and at €13 I thought it was expensive. When I bought it I tried not to think of all the worthwhile things I could have done with the 30 guilders.

Looking back I'm still convinced that the Vilia is totally insignificant, although €13 for a near new one isn't a really bad deal. I've made worse.

To me the Vilia is one of those cheap cameras that people buy because "everybody ought to have a camera these days". I won't deny it takes pictures, but it's more like a Lubitel-2 for 35mm than a serious user.

According to Princelle, the Vilia was manufactured between 1973 and 1986 by MMZ-BelOMO in Minsk, Belorussia. (MMZ stands for Minskiy Mechanicheskiy Zavod, or the Minsk Mechanical Plant, and it's not hard to see what the 'Bel' in BelOMO stands for. OMO stands for Optical and Mechanical Association.) I have my doubts about the given production span, because my Vilia has serial number 9349046, which seems to indicate it was manufactured in 1993 AD. The production figure given is "over two million".

The Vilia is made almost entirely of plastic, although the outer casing is clad with metal plates to give it a better finish. The film beams on the inside seem to be metal too. The mechanics are for the greater part also metal. All the plastic gives the camera a bit of a cheap feel. I mean, the unreliable sight of the plastic lens fitting bobbing up and down as you rotate the focusing ring doesn't exactly bring joy to my heart.

The Vilia has a central shutter capable of B, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125 and 1/250 sec that does its work when you trip the lever next to the lens. The sound it makes is a bit metallic. The shutter speeds are set by using a ring on the lens barrel.

The control philosophy behind this camera is that you set the film's sensitivity in GOST on the shutter speed ring (25 GOST = 1/25 sec, 200 GOST = 1/200 sec and so on; the speed dial has a special GOST index on the bottom), and that you then adapt the aperture to the current weather conditions by matching a white dot in the viewfinder with the correct type of clouds. That should ensure a perfect exposure.

Focusing is done by rotating the focusing ring. It has both a symbol and a numeric index, and even a DOF scale. Nice. The close focus distance is slightly less than 0,8m. The Newton viewfinder (hazy blue, distorted) has parallax marks.

The film counter is on the base plate and counts from minus two to thirty-six. It resets automatically when you open the film compartment. The sprocket release is a small pin in the center of the camera. The Vilia has a hot shoe and an X contact, and because it has a central shutter will synchronize at all speeds. On the back is a memo dial for the film sensitivity that does nothing apart from helping you remember. The thumb wind handle has a 150° non-ratcheted stroke with a cheap feel to it. The film pressure plate is made of metal. One of the things I still don't understand about this camera is why there is a round plug in the back. It makes no sense. It puzzles me.

The tripod mount is left of the center. My Vilia has a carrying chord that screws into it and fits through a round opening in the cheap carrying bag.

So you see, there's not a lot I can say about the Vilia. With cameras like these, it's not about them, it's about the pictures they took.

A film speed dial

Thanks to Orazio from Germany for clearing up the mystery of the plug. This photo he sent me shows that on his Vilia, number 0701146 and judging by the metallic wind lever older than mine, there is a film speed indicator where mine has the plug. The factory probably dropped this feature to economize.

Again about the plug on the back. A reader englightened me to the hole's real purpose, namely for fine-tuning the lens' focus during post-assembly. Ah yes, that has to be it. It is located straight along the lens' optical axis after all. (© 2010-06-21)


Production span:1973-1986
Production number:Over two million
Film:Standard 35mm; 24x36mm
Lens:Triplet 69-3 40mm f/4
Shutter speeds:1/25 - 1/250s; B
Apertures:f/4 - f/16
Princelle No.M160
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