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Author Topic: In Praise of the Voigtlanders  (Read 1793 times)

Michael Erlewine

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In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« on: February 12, 2020, 05:22:11 pm »

Over time, in day-to-day and actual use, I continue to be impressed by Voigtlander lenses. And I keep acquiring more and more of these Cosina/Voigtlander beauties, now made in Japan. That simple fact is they hold up in several ways, and I find myself reaching for them more of the time.

They are wonderfully made, many are very well corrected, even worth calling APO, sharp, and aside from classics like the 125nn APO-Lanther f/2.5, are relatively inexpensive. Each one is kind of a precious package. I don’t have all of them because some are not lenses I use a lot for my work, but here are some of the ones I actually use, and the ones I use the most are marked with an asterisk.


125 ** Voigtlander  125 F/2.5 Macro APO-Lanthar   
010 ** Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 Aspherical Lens for Sony E
090 ** Voigtlander  APO_Lanthar 90mm f/3.5 SL
021   Voigtlander Nokton 21mm f/1.4 Aspherical Lens for Sony E
040    Voigtlander  40mm Ultron f/2.0 SL II       
050 ** Voigtlander APO-LANTHAR 50mm f/2 Aspherical Lens for Sony E
058    Voigtlander  58mm f/1.4 Nokton       
065 ** Voigtlander MACRO APO-LANTHAR 65mm f/2 Aspherical Lens for Sony E
090    Voigtlander  90mm f/3.5 SL II with Close-Up Lens
110 ** Voigtlander MACRO APO-LANTHAR 110mm f/2.5 Lens for Sony-E
180 ** Voigtlander 180mm  APO f/4     

Photo taken today using the Nikon Z7 with the Voigtlander 110mmMacro APO-Lanthar f/2 and the TechArt TZE-01 adapter
« Last Edit: February 15, 2020, 02:07:44 am by Michael Erlewine »
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Paul_Roark

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2020, 11:16:42 am »

In addition to the Voigtlander optics, Sony a7 owners ought to seriously consider the adapter for Leica M optics.   See https://www.amazon.com/Voigtlander-Adapter-VM-Mount-Mount-Camera/dp/B00I4BD3WO .  The adapter stays on my Sony permanently.  All of the optics I use are Leica M mount, and they are available from a number of different, high quality manufacturers.

Paul
www.PaulRoark.com
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David Good

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2020, 05:20:09 pm »

I feel the same way about these lenses and am surprised at the lack of buzz about the CV's other than over on FM. I only have the 65/2 but plan to build around it, the 21/1.4, 40/2 and 110/2.5 lenses in particular.
Lovely image Michael,
Regards,
Dave
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Herbc

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2020, 05:53:07 pm »

Amen to Michael:  125 and the 65 are really good lenses.
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BernardLanguillier

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2020, 06:12:04 pm »

I love my 125mm f2.5.

It happily replaced both a Zeiss 100mm f2.2 and Zeiss 135mm f2.0.

The story being that Voigtlander (Cosina) had to stop manufacturing the 125mm due to agreements with Zeiss, knowing that the Zeiss high end lenses (including the Otus) are manufactured by Cosine in the very same factory where the best Voigtlander glass is manufactured.

Cheers,
Bernard

Chris Kern

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2020, 07:05:47 pm »

Photo taken today using the Nikon Z7 with the Voigtlander 65mmMacro APO-Lanthar f/2 and the TechArt TZE-01 adapter

Outstanding image.

RobertJ

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2020, 04:05:50 pm »

I sold my Sony system, but kept my Voigtlander APO lenses.  Can't bring myself to sell them.
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BernardLanguillier

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2020, 07:36:50 pm »

I sold my Sony system, but kept my Voigtlander APO lenses.  Can't bring myself to sell them.

If I may, what did you sell your Sonys for?

Cheers,
Bernard

Michael Erlewine

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2020, 07:41:37 pm »

I sold my Sony system, but kept my Voigtlander APO lenses.  Can't bring myself to sell them.

They work perfectly on the Nikon Z systems, given a ultra-thin TechArt TZE-01 adapter.
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RobertJ

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #9 on: February 15, 2020, 12:03:25 pm »

They work perfectly on the Nikon Z systems, given a ultra-thin TechArt TZE-01 adapter.

Yup, that might be my plan for the long term.

Bernard, see the thread you started about Sony colors.  :)
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nazdravanul

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2020, 04:13:52 pm »

After many years of Zeiss ZF / ZE, Otuses, Loxias, Batises, Hartblei Zeiss tilt shifts, and many super high-end OEM lenses (Nikon, Canon, Sony) if I were to go back and shoot 35mm with MF glass, it would have to be Voigtlanders, all the way.
Zeiss messed up, in recent years (with a few exceptions - think primarily Otus). The splendid ergonomics, perceived build quality and “magic dust” feel of the images compared to the competition, have vanished or been seriously diminished in the newer generation lenses. The competition, from multiple brands, has made them obsolete in just a few short years.
Voigtlander is the new Zeiss for me, with the added bonus of excellent pricing. Build quality, excellent ergonomics, perfect size, smart design compromises, solid and distinctive IQ, again, with really smart pricing. And they feel like photographer’s tools, not consumer electronics / marketing designs.
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David Good

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #11 on: February 25, 2020, 09:25:09 pm »

Voigtlander is the new Zeiss for me, with the added bonus of excellent pricing. Build quality, excellent ergonomics, perfect size, smart design compromises, solid and distinctive IQ, again, with really smart pricing. And they feel like photographer’s tools, not consumer electronics / marketing designs.

Amen
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BernardLanguillier

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2020, 02:49:26 am »

After many years of Zeiss ZF / ZE, Otuses, Loxias, Batises, Hartblei Zeiss tilt shifts, and many super high-end OEM lenses (Nikon, Canon, Sony) if I were to go back and shoot 35mm with MF glass, it would have to be Voigtlanders, all the way.
Zeiss messed up, in recent years (with a few exceptions - think primarily Otus). The splendid ergonomics, perceived build quality and “magic dust” feel of the images compared to the competition, have vanished or been seriously diminished in the newer generation lenses. The competition, from multiple brands, has made them obsolete in just a few short years.
Voigtlander is the new Zeiss for me, with the added bonus of excellent pricing. Build quality, excellent ergonomics, perfect size, smart design compromises, solid and distinctive IQ, again, with really smart pricing. And they feel like photographer’s tools, not consumer electronics / marketing designs.

I would agree about Voigtlander, but the Otus 100mm f1.4 is still very very special (even more so than the previous Otus)! :)

And so easy to focus accurately on the Z7, a bit less so on the GFX-100. But I agree that this way too heavy, expensive and bulky compared to what you could get with a Voigtlander on the Z7/Sony.


GFX-100 + Otus 100mm f1.4

Cheers,
Bernard

nazdravanul

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2020, 10:00:43 am »

I would agree about Voigtlander, but the Otus 100mm f1.4 is still very very special (even more so than the previous Otus)! :)

And so easy to focus accurately on the Z7, a bit less so on the GFX-100. But I agree that this way too heavy, expensive and bulky compared to what you could get with a Voigtlander on the Z7/Sony.


GFX-100 + Otus 100mm f1.4

Cheers,
Bernard

The Otus 100 is the only Otus which I didn't own / try. But I did love my other Otuses - which I've owned and used extensively. Not only for IQ but also for multiple other characteristics: build quality, well controlled focus breathing, splendid colour correction, individual lens calibration meaning highly reduced sample variation, consistent performance across focusing distances and, equally important, across f-stops. Most lenses will have a performance peak, normally 2 stops after wide open, and the difference between optimal f-stop and the rest will be quite significant. Not so with the Otuses. The fact that you can shoot them in any light, any working distance, any f-stop is still an amazing feat for the Otuses, that few lenses can really match - but the competition is picking up and when it does, it does it with added features - AF, weather sealing - and most of the times significantly better pricing. 2 immediate examples come to mind: the Sigma 40 1.4 and the Sony 135 1.8 GM. The new Canon RF primes seem to be really good as well. 
In this context, it becomes a lot harder to live with the  manual focus only, lack of weather sealing, 2.5 -3 times the price of the Otus line-up. Some advantages are still there, but they totally go into the increasingly diminishing returns category.
If I would look for an Otus class lens, in 2020, and not  4-5 years ago, when I made my purchase, I would take a hard look at the Leica SL primes (with a Panasonic S1R or even a Leica SL2 body): lighter, smaller, weather sealed, smart f2 design choice, clearly distinctive look, splendid APO performance, and AF to boot. For the same price as an Otus.
Voigtlander starts to offer the main value proposition of the Otuses - manual focus,  great ergonomics, splendid resolution and colour correction, with a distinctive look, for 1/4 the price of the Otus, and half the weight and size.
Again, I loved my Otuses but it's hard for me to really make a sales pitch, to myself, for an Otus, in the 2020 competitive lens / camera ecosystem landscape.

Side note to this thread but relevant for the "Otus - ultimate IQ - rivalling MF" idea: Ditching my 35mm gear completely, for a GFX 100 with GF primes, due to my extra-large printing needs, made me discover the GF glass & ecosystem.
And I really appreciate the design compromises in those lenses, they make more sense for me as an image creator: I get Otus level optical performance over a larger & higher resolution sensor, with autofocus, in a sometimes lighter and more ergonomic package (GFX 100 with some GF primes vs my gripped Sonys with adapted Otuses) while giving up 1 or 2 stops of light and some focus breathing control.
A 35mm 42-62MP camera with 3 Otuses (no autofocus) vs a medium format 100 MP camera with 3 autofocus primes: unless shooting handheld in a cave, the IQ and creative freedom from the GFX 100 primes combo will kick serious 35mm + Otus combo. For roughly the same price!
The GF lenses have killed for me the whole idea that you need to have 2 separate kits: a manual focus (Otus based) kit for ultimate IQ resolution and a separate kit for when autofocus is really needed.  The GF lenses have narrowed or eliminated that gap, enough for me to be able to do the same work with a lot fewer lenses.  That makes them more "ultimate lenses" in reality than a spec sheet  might be able to convey, enough to finally replace the Otuses in my wet, gear whore fantasies :))) Sorry, I meant, my creative process :)))

So let's recap:
-for manual focus 35 mmm - the Voigtlanders offer very similar IQ in a much lighter and cheaper package
-for autofocus 35 mm - the "worst case scenario"  would be Leica SL lenses, similar IQ, f2 "only", lighter, smaller, weather sealed, autofocus, same price
-for ultimate IQ - the GFX 100 with GF primes offers a much more substantial alternative for "ultimate IQ" seekers than anything 35mm, at a very competitive price point

The Otus is nowhere on the list, as go-to-lens, for anything, anymore, except maybe  f1.4 manual focus performance ONLY. Which is a tricky spot to be for the "ultimate lens" status.
My 2 cents, based on my direct experiences and my creative preferences - as a stills images creator.


 
« Last Edit: February 26, 2020, 10:21:30 am by nazdravanul »
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kers

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2020, 01:01:39 pm »

Bernard, I thought you also have the 105mm f.14 nikon , so how does it compare to the Otus and why have them both?
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BernardLanguillier

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2020, 04:30:07 pm »

Bernard, I thought you also have the 105mm f.14 nikon , so how does it compare to the Otus and why have them both?

Yes, I own both and love both.

It’s clearly not rational for 35mm cameras. The Nikon is truly excellent in all accounts but it’s image circle is a bit smaller which is a problem on the GFX-100.

If there is another thing that the Otus does a bit better it’s probably micro-contrast that gives a unique pop to images and a reality that I also see in Nikon S lenses such as the 85mm f1.8.

I don’t see the same results with most other lenses, including GFX lenses except the 45mm perhaps.

Cheers,
Bernard

nazdravanul

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #16 on: February 26, 2020, 04:37:02 pm »


I don’t see the same results with most other lenses, including GFX lenses except the 45mm perhaps.

Cheers,
Bernard

What about the 23 GF, 110 GF and 250 GF ?
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BernardLanguillier

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #17 on: February 26, 2020, 08:15:23 pm »

What about the 23 GF, 110 GF and 250 GF ?

I like these 3 lenses of course, they are excellent, but I fail to see the same magic I see with the Otus.

I also use the Sony 135mm f1.8 and it's very good, but again lacks the magic.

Cheers,
Bernard

scooby70

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #18 on: February 27, 2020, 04:27:54 am »

I have the 35mm f1.4, 40mm f1.2 and 50mm f2 apo all in Sony mount.

The new 50mm f2 is an outstanding lens but one I think that doesn't get enough love is the 35mm f1.4. I really like mine as it's such a compact and lovely thing. The only criticisms I have are that the extreme few corner pixels are always mushy, but you'll only see this when pixel peeping, and the bokeh can be wild with a messy background at the widest apertures but it tidies up when stopping down and the bokeh can be quite nice even at f1.4 if the scene is friendly or even if the wildness suits the picture. I also really like the look it gives when stopped down.
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nazdravanul

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Re: In Praise of the Voigtlanders
« Reply #19 on: February 27, 2020, 11:14:25 am »

I like these 3 lenses of course, they are excellent, but I fail to see the same magic I see with the Otus.

I also use the Sony 135mm f1.8 and it's very good, but again lacks the magic.

Cheers,
Bernard

I totally understand what you are saying, up to a point.
My experience with the GF ecosystem has been interesting regarding lens performance: I also felt that the lenses, while really good, lacked that immediate, absolute, undeniable magic punch of the wide-open (close to wide-open) of the Otuses. And some of the new Voigtlander / older Zeiss distinctive "magic dust" look, at all stops.
3 things came to mind:
-not enough shallow DOF due to the not so fast glass (uncompensated by the extra sensor size)
-good contrast and even "raw" resolution but not enough micro-contrast (the real sucker punch that had kept the Zeiss lenses on top of most other lenses for years)
-different glass tint, lacking some of the warmth of the Voigtlander / older Zeiss glass
The moment I started to play with the files (Capture One)  2 things became apparent:
-there was no shortage of minute detail or colour gradations, anywhere in the frame, and even more, zooming in to 400% on a GFX 100 file was a completely different experience than zooming in on the best 35mm files; 400% looked at least as clean and 200% / 300% zoom in on an Sony / Otus optimally shot & processed file. It even looked a lot more "organic" - something that kept coming up from the GFX files
-colour and white balance made a huge difference in the way that detail was rendered (and even captured) and the level of pop / perceived "special character" of the overall image
I know and agree that sheer lens performance should be judged before any postproduction is applied.
But I believe that Fuji (and subsequently Capture One) are preparing those raws and the standard raw profile with a much more neutral / subdued approach, so that enough room can be left for the famous Fuji Film Simulations to do their work. Those simulations can immediately push an image into seriously different edges, and since they are all starting from the same base, that base should be left as neutral and potentially dull as possible, so that the maximum colour and dynamic range is available, in all directions (ok, we all know what a raw file is supposed to be, but we know different camera makers make serious design choices that impact the way that raw file is created and rendered, out of the box).
Now, with just 3 clicks I can get my GFX lenses to look like Voigtlanders, for example. Without touching any sharpness / clarity settings. Just colour adjustments, basically. This is something I couldn't do on t some of the Sony's GM or Canon L  lenses or Nikon G lenses - simple colour tweaks would have made the same image look at bit coarse due to the fact that there wasn't enough microcontrast present in those files, to get them to properly match the "Zeiss look", even with extensive post (again, for web viewing images, it's a lot easier to match things, for enlargements / large prints, not so - you cannot really replace missing microcontrast / missing colour tonality). But on the initially somewhat "dull" GF glass / GFX 100 files, wow, I could have my Voigtlander or Zeiss images with very basic tweaks. And that was an eye opener for me.
I was able to play in parallel, on the GFX 100, only with Hartblei Zeiss TS lenses (tweaked Hasselblad Zeiss optics) vs GF glass. I had sold my Otuses for the GFX system, and I was worried that I might need to keep my Zeiss TS lenses, precisely for that special / subtle look. That is no longer the case. In some borderline scenarios I could not fully replicate some of the blue rendering of the Zeiss / Voigtlander glass, for example. But the differences were too small, and the advantages of the fully functional autofocus and improved ergonomics of the GFX / GF combo, really made it a no brainer, for me, that the GF glass should be more than good enough for most of my creative needs.
Special note regarding that "3d pop". Wide open superfast, high quality, APO 35mm primes will give a shallower dof, with a more abrupt transition from in to out of focus, with plenty of details in the focused areas and clean out of focus areas. And that will give a more aggressive "3d with pop" look to the 35mm files than a GFX 100 GF 110 wide open image. That is note yet fully replicable on the GFX.  But it's really a one trick pony.
Because you do get some other things in return: that "organic" feel of the image, with smoother OOF transitions, throughout f-stops,  and more room for enlargement. The 35mm images will start falling apart a lot sooner, on close scrutiny. And even for the portrait, low-light photographer - it was so hard getting that 3d pop together with a meaningful image with my Otuses. With a moving subject, wide open, handheld, I would get up to 95% of my images out of critical focus. And while those that were in focus looked amazing, the best images - best light, best movement, best character expression, best overall dynamic - were normally lost. Because in those scenarios the lens would get in the way. Technical perfection killed creative freedom.
This is were the GFX 100 / GF lenses combo comes into play - now I can have my beloved Voigtlanders / Zeiss look, if I want, with decent eye-af, letting me focus on the interaction with my model and creating the image, and / or IBIS and focus bracketing allowing me to focus stack handheld when I'm on a cliff by the sea, catching the full landscape under of the fleeting light of a small cloud opening in a storm.
So while I may not have the ultimate last few 0.xx % of Otus goodness in my setup, or the adorable pop-up of web images with high resolution /aggressive dof changes / clean oof (those 35mm "3d pop" images start to look a bit "rushed" or "rudimentary to me, now), I have some splendid image making tools that get out the way a lot faster than my beloved Voigtlanders or Otus lenses, with a lot more upsides than I would have expected.
I know this thread is about the Voigtlanders, and it should get back on track. But one thing I'll clearly remember is the revelation when shooting with rapidly changing light near the sea, a few months ago: if in one series of shots my 110 Voigtlander seemed like the "magic stardust" bringer vs my 135 1.8 GM (back to back shooting), in another series of back to back shots, the opposite was true. How was that possible ? (constant WB, similar composition elements, 100% enlargement or not) Well, the same basic photography truth still stands: light and composition are much more critical factors in an image than lens / camera performance. In that case, the composition was rather constant, but the small changes in lighting impacted the rendering of the lenses in much more dramatic ways than anticipated. For the better part of the last decade, when testing my Zeiss ZFs against Nikon or Canon primes, the special qualities of the lenses were visible across minor changes in lighting. With lenses like the 135 1.8 GM vs a supercompetent 110 Voigtlander, that was no longer the case. Minor light changes would immediately overturn small lens rendering performance.
So while I did love my Otuses and Voigtlanders, it's time to say good bye, for me. My new "ultimate lenses" are potentially a bit less perfect and distinctive, out of the box, than my uber-Otuses, but they allow me to create images that my manual focus 35mm lenses would deny from me.




« Last Edit: February 27, 2020, 11:17:45 am by nazdravanul »
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