The Voigtlander 21 1.8 Lens Review by Steve Huff

maintitlevoigtreview

The Voigtlander 21 1.8 Lens Review by Steve Huff

Thanks to new site sponsor CameraQuest for loaning me this lens and viewfinder for review.

Hello to all who lurk here on stevehuffphoto.com! It is once again “review day ” and what I have to talk to you about today is a real GEM of a lens for any and all Leica M shooters, the Voigtlander 21 1.8 M lens. I have already posted many of my thoughts on this lens in my 1st look of it HERE, so if you missed that go take a look if you like.  Wether you shoot an old or new film rangefinder or use one of the digital versions like the M8, M9, M9-P, M-E, MM or M this lens delivers. While I have not shot it on the new M yet, it does well on the M9/ME and is gorgeous on the MM as well. In fact, it does so well I would PERSONALLY take this lens over the Leica equivalent (The Leica 21 Lux) any day of the week, not because it is superior but because it is almost its equal and I would save myself $6000 in cold hard cash, yes…$6000 separates these lenses and the Voigtlander is really good. I’d rather take the 5-10% less build and performance and pocket over $6k to take an amazing vacation/photo trip to really use the lens. If I were a rich man, I’d take the Leica but when it comes to saving money you can do so with this lens and trust me, your photos will not take the quality hit. Hmmm. Did I just finish the whole review? Well, not really, read on…

While not small in size, it is smaller than the Leica 21 Summilux 1.4 and about 90% of the performance..and then some.

DSC03006

These days, Voigtlander is really rocking it with some of their newest glass and this 21 1.8 is no exception. Compared to the Leica 21 Lux, it has less distortion, is only a teeny bit slower at 1.8 vs 1.4 and is also lighter and smaller. It is just as sharp if not sharper and gives no magenta edges on the M9/M-E, even without coding the lens. It also focuses close at .5 meters though you will lose the RF focusing at .7. I was able to shoot a few at .5 meters by guessing and it works quite well.  Compared to what I remember from the Leica 21 1.4, this Voigtlander has a little bit less micro-contrast and is also a little less contrasty in general and the Leica will win in overall heft and build, but that is about where it ends. When it comes to quality, the Voigtlander and the Leica has it, but this one will cost you MUCH less.

caneraquestadversion4

At $1249 for a fast quality wide angle lens, it is a steal of a deal. Even this little rescue dog thought so 🙂

The Voigtlander 21 1.8 Lens on the Leica MM, at 1.8

L1003681

While this shot is nothing special, the Bokeh quality from this lens is smooth and silky. 

L1003683

Shooting WIDE. It can indeed be a challenge. 

I am not really a wide angle shooter, at all. My go to focal lengths have always been 28mm, 35mm and 50mm with rare use of the 28. So shooting a 21, for me, was a challenge when trying to create interesting review snaps. My goal for review images though is to create a mix of interesting shots while showing what the lens can do on a given camera. I look for nice colors if shooting color, I look for shots that will present interesting Bokeh opportunities and I look for detail shots to see what the lens can do with sharpness and detail. I also like to see what the lens can do with B&W photography using the Leica Monochrom, so what you see in this review will helpfully help you to understand what the lens can do on the Leica MM and M9/M-E.

Product shots with the Sony RX1

DSC02987

Ever since selling off my Leica M 240 to be able to keep the MM (which I already miss… of course) I wondered what this lens would do on a color M. Any color M. I was able to get a hold of a Leica M-E for a few days and took it out with the 21mm. It performed much better than I expected in all areas. Sharpness, color, bokeh, etc. I kept thinking to myself “man, if Voigtlander did this well with a 21mm lens, I can not wait to get my hands on that sweet new 50 Nokton 1.5 that is set to hit in June. While shooting the Leica M-E I was reminded of the M9 color and signature, which is indeed different than what comes from the new M 240. After shooting the M-E again I can easily state that yes, I still and do prefer the new M 240. I hope to have one again within 9-12 months.

When I do get one again I will try out this 21 on it and add to this review.

The Voigtlander 21 at f/4 on the Leica M-E – AWB

L9853866

Nature Trail in full AZ sun, mid day. The 21 1.8 at f/4 

L9853895

While a challenge to those of us who are “wide angle challenged” the 21mm focal length can be very cool to use sometimes. While not an every day lens, in some situations it can help you capture “more” of the scene. I took the MM and 21 to a local immigration reform March here in Phx (that only had about 100 people show up) and shot some with the 21. It worked out well and using the external viewfinder was a MUST to frame the shots, and man what a nice VF it is. The version II VF from Voigtlander is all metal, hefty but small and just has overall amazing quality. I can HIGHLY recommend the Voigtlander 21mm VF for any 21mm lens you may use. It is large, bright and easy to frame with. One of those products that is a joy to use and at $209, it will not break the bank. If you are using the new Leica M and have the EVF, then you will not need the optical VF of course but this little guy is so clear, bright and well made…in addition to being sexy to look at. (more on the VF later on).

The next three shots ranged from f/2.8-f/4

L1003514

L1003515

L1003512

The viewfinder… it feels just as high quality (if not more so) than any Leica or Zeiss finder I have tried over the years. It is metal, solid, and feels like it will last a lifetime. Focusing using the rangefinder and then framing with the external is a pain in the ass but if you want to frame correctly, it is needed for this lens and any lens wider than 28mm.

Shooting the lens in B&W on the Monochrom was a pleasant experience as the lens just seemed to be quite amazing for B&W. Just the right amount of contrast and sharpness with pleasant Bokeh makes for a classic yet modern-ish rendering. Shooting at 1.8 also shows that this lens can suck in some light with the best of them. The self portrait shot below (3rd shot) was taken wide open in my kitchen which was actually a bit dim. The lens made it appear brighter than it really was. Great fast lenses do this but not all of them do. For example, the classic Nikkor 3.5cm 1.8 shot in dim lighting results in a duller and darker rendering. Lenses that do suck in the light? Noctilux, Summilux, Canon 85L, Nikon 85 1.4, etc. So this lens is in good company.

This is a crop of an image shot at f/1.8…

katiebabycrop

…and this shot was at .5 meters with me guessing the focus by bringing the camera down to the dogs level and moving it in to what I felt was .5 meters…

babyat1.8

…and a self portrait at .5 meters wide open. The Leica 21 Lux focuses to .7 meters while this one gets a little closer 🙂

L1003329

Some smooth bokeh in color – an OOC JPEG at 1.8 on the M-E

directjpegtree

Crop crop till you drop

Using the Leica MM and the 21 1.8 I often found the lens to be too wide for my tastes but at the same time, when viewing that full 21mm frame I kept thinking that I could really grow to love this focal length. To show how wide it is check out the shot below that I snapped in a restaurant. I will first show the original, then a crop and then an almost 100% crop. Click them to see larger and better looking sizes. They look VERY nice on my iMac 27″ display.

cropexamplefull

cropexamplemid

cropexampleclose

The Monochrom is a gorgeous camera that for me, easily replaces any film camera. It can indeed meet and exceed the quality of any B&W film. Outside of the window in the above scene was the full harsh Phoenix AZ sunshine. The camera and Voigtlander 21 1.8 captured it all, inside and out. This 21 1.8 has a little less contrast than the Leica 21 Summilux so when shooting on a camera such as the Monochrom, it will be easier to avoid blowing highlights as the lens will not render in a harsh way, unless of course you like that look. Then you can just process the photo to give you a higher contrast look like below where I purposely blew out the background to make the image pop more:

This lens has a very pleasing way of rendering on the Leica MM – I blew out the background on purpose to create more pop.

L9853934

How sharp is the Voigtlander 21 1.8?

This lens is sharp as any lens I have ever tested, has minimal distortion and during my 2 weeks of use I found no issues with the lens that would deter me from buying one. In fact, if I were more of a 21mm shooter this would indeed be in my kit. I may pick up the luttle brother to this lens, the 21 f/4 as it is much cheaper and smaller and for the amount I use 21mm, it could be just the trick. Then again, if I went that route I would lose the look of the 21 1.8 due to no longer having any shallow DOF capabilities. I love the way this lens renders and it reminds me a bit of classic mixed with modern and somehow they managed to get it all together in the perfect way.

But let’s get back  to sharpness. This lens is as sharp as you can ask for and on the MM and M-E, without any coding at all I did not have any color or vignetting issues, which is quite incredible for a wide angle lens such as this. The lens does vignette wide open at 1.8 a bit but nothing objectionable. Check out the image below which is a 100% full size file from the Leica M-E via RAW conversion. Click it to see the full size detail.

click the images below to see the 21 1.8 in full size on the Leica M-E

1st one at f/4 – focus is one the top of the metal rail, closest to me. Still some shallow DOF here at f/4. Corners are sharp, the ones in focus. The trees in the upper left are not in focus as that is not the focus point, so those are blurred due to shallow DOF.

fullsize3

This image was shot at f/2.8

fullszie2

So for me, this lens gives plenty of sharpness and detail, no question. No one would need more.

Below you can see the same shot at various apertures. This lens is sharp at 1.8 and stays that way as you stop down. You can see the slight Vignetting at 1.8 which is all gone by 2.8. Click each image for larger with 100% crop embedded.

brickwall1.8

bricvkwallf2

Sharp corner to corner…

brickwallf4

brickwallf5.6

The Voigtlander Viewfinders

Looking through the excellent 21/25mm Viewfinder – All metal construction – $209 

DSC03000

When shooting a lens wider than 28mm on a Leica M you will need an external viewfinder to frame your subject. You will still use the standard viewfinder/ramgefinder window of your camera to focus, but to frame it all up you will need the external viewfinder with 21mm framelines. This way you can see what you will get on your final image. External viewfinders can look really cool but in reality, for me, they are a pain in the rear. Having to use one VF to focus and another to frame kills any “decisive moment” shots unless you are zone focusing (which is easy to do with a 21mm) but I was able to try out a couple of cool Voigtlander viewfinders. One of them is the 21/25mm all metal designed version 2 viewfinder which is the latest and greatest Voigtlander 21/25mm finder. It is solid, small but has some heft due to its rock solid metal construction. THIS is the VF I would buy with the lens at just over $200.

Comes with a nice little velvety blue bag for storage 🙂

DSC02995

There is also the Voigtlander monster of a VF, the 15-35 which will give you 15-35 frame lines. So if you have the excellent 15mm f/4.5 you can use this one for both lenses, all the way up to 35mm. It’s large and bulky but versatile. You can choose between 15, 18, 21, 25 or 35. Also excellent but for those with multiple wide angle lenses.

It’s large and in charge…for those who want one viewfinder that will take on all wide angle lenses. Still smaller than the Leica “Frankenfinder”

DSC03009

DSC03010

DSC03012

What about the .5 meter close focus? How can you focus this close on an M9/MM/ME?

Here is a quick tip! It may not be the most practical thing to do but as most of you know a Leica M8, M9, MM, ME, etc can not focus closer than .7 meters, even if the lens you are using focuses as close as .5 meters. Old classic lenses usually had a 1 meter limitation. Newer lenses from Leica all focus to .7 meters (most of them) and some other lenses can focus as close as .5 meters, which is about 1.6 feet. Once you turn the lens past .7 meters to go to .5 you lose rangefinder focusing. You can just move in a little closer and guess but it can be hit or miss. If you want to focus close on a regular basis here is a way you can do so and all you need is a string (I used a cable for my example photo so you could see it clearly), a measuring tape and some scissors.

focusingcloser

Simple and effective. You could even tape a piece of light string to your camera body when shooting with a close focusing lens.

The cons of the Voigtlander 21 1.8. What is wrong with it? My final thoughts. 

In the world of 21mm lenses, this is a jewel of a lens for more reason that the quality it gives us in our photos. The reason it is so special is that it has the look as well as the build and feel of an old classic while giving performance that is nearing the $7250 Leica 21 Summilux. When I tell myself that this lens is $6000 less than the Leica 21 Lux, it boggles my mind. The Leica is larger, heavier, uses more expensive filters, has more distortion and is much more expensive. The Voigtlander has a llittle bit less micro contrast, which Leica is very good at but other than that…well, what can I say?

The Voigtlander is still on the large side for a rangefinder lens and the Voigtlander also has less overall contrast than the Leica equivalent. But without any question of a doubt I would not hesitate one moment to buy this lens if I were a wide angle shooter and wanted a fast aperture wide. It offers incredible performance for the price and gives superb quality build to boot.

So there really is nothing wrong with this lens, and for the cost it is a home run it. There is also a Zeiss 21 2.8 lens but the Zeiss is slower at 2.8, not as hefty in the build and more expensive. When you look for a fast 21 mm lens for your M mount camera, be sure to NOT look past this Voigtlander. They are making some superb quality glass these days and buying an all Voigtlander setup could help save you a ton of cash and possibly your marriage 🙂 This lens is HIGHLY recommended if you are in search of a fast 21mm.

If you have the mega-bucks, just go for the Leica and call it a day knowing  you have the ultimate but remember, you can get just about as good for much less 🙂

L9853945

Below: At f/8 this lens is insanely sharp and again, sharpness across the frame which is impressive for such a wide angle lens. 

L9853942

Where to buy this lens? 

This lens was sent to me for review by Stephen Gandy at CameraQuest.com. They are also a site sponsor and sell the 21 1.8 lens for $1249 with FREE fast shipping. You can go direct to their 21 1.8 page HERE.

L9853968

LENS SPECIFICATIONS:

Mount Type VM for M-mount Cameras

Focal Length 21mm

Aperture Range f/1.8-22

Angle of View 91º

Minimum Focus Distance 19.7″ (0.5 m)

Focus Range 27.6″ – infinity (0.5 m – infinity)

Lens Construction 13 Elements in 11 Groups

Number of Aperture Blades 10

Filter Size 58mm

Dimensions (Diam. x L) 2.7 x 3.6″ (69 x 92 mm) including lens hood

Weight 14.5 oz (412 g)

tomb

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

PLEASE Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help even if you are NOT in the USA as I have Amazon links to GermanyUnited Kingdom and Canada as well!

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +!

Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader!

Related Post

Share This!

50 thoughts on “The Voigtlander 21 1.8 Lens Review by Steve Huff

  1. Hi Steve,
    Thank you for the review. I am seriously looking at this lens. But I’ve seen some purple color-fringing issues with his lens. What are your thoughts and experiences with the color-shifting issue associated with CV 21? Thank you.

    1. I’m not Steve but If I may I can say that I don’t have any with my A7s, the sensor is much more forgiving…i heard bad things on a7R but can be dealt with using the camera app on your body.
      I’m so pleased with this lens, paired with the 50 1.5 nokton it’s a winning combo. 🙂

  2. nice review..again..
    read your review about the sony 28mm F/2 FE, which seems to be an amazing lens as well.
    I’m not always using 21mm, but sometimes it is really useful, and the adapter for the 28mm can tranform it into a 21mm as well, not as fast as 1.8, but still quite good.
    do you know how the 28mm reacts regarding coma ?
    is the rendering as good as the voigtlander 21mm ? Since the voigt. is close to the high end Leica I was wondering about that new lens that sony just made (not talking about quality construction but purely about image).
    what are your thoughts on this ?

  3. Ohh, I just read the latest review about Sony FE 16-35 f/4.
    That is a real beast.

    Please check Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 ZM on a7s !!!!
    There are only bad reviews about it on the internet.

  4. Any reliable comparison to Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 ZM ??
    It is obviously more compact and lighter. Not to mention beautiful.
    Perhaps also it balances and co-operates better on a7/R/s

    I am really looking for a decent wide lens for my a7s

  5. Hi Steve!
    Did you finally try the CV 21mm f1.8 with the M240? If so did you like it?
    I consider buying it but the Pancake f4 is lot cheaper and I don’t mind losing a few stops as the 21mm would be used only occasionally.
    I would love to hear you on the F4 vs the f1.8

  6. Hi Steve,

    have you tried this lens in the m240 yet like you said you would? Im interested but would like to know know of any issues with colors before i hit the button

    thanks for your great site!

  7. Hi Steve,

    what would be your opinion of purchasing this lens for m43 format (which lacks decent ’35mm’ focal length lens)? It would be 42mm focal length (with the Leica adapter) which I would welcome on my OM-D, got used to 40mm with Panasonic and 35 is a bit wide for me.

    I am not very satisfied with 17mm F1.8 Olympus (too wide with pictures with output like if taken with cheaper UV filter), and my Panasonic 20mm is giving me blue tint, silly chromatic aberration, is soft in corners wide open (strikingly compared to center) and isn’t focusing any faster than manual focus which I would have here (E-P5 has focus peaking anyway)

    So I am in search for similar focal length and this 21mm lens would be 42mm in m43 = perfect!
    Panasonic Leica 25mm F1.4 is unfortunately ‘too long’ for me for being general lens (and its vignetting is horrible) so I guess this Voigtlander would be absolutely sweet lens to have on my OM-D (plus image circle would be smaller as it is a full frame lens, thus bringing even sharper results – even in corners while wide open).

    What is your opinion on this? Would welcome if you would try it on m43 but hopefully I’m not only person looking for premium 35-40mm lens for m43 system…

    1. I’m not Steve, but to see if I could be any help to you – and because your description of the Panasonic 20mm sounded strange – I’ve just tried 5 different 21mm lenses on my OM-D:

      1 – Panny 20mm f1.7 (shot into the light): a bit soft and some vignetting wide open; sharp and no vignetting at f4, and very fast to focus. No ‘blue tint’ edges. Pleasant ‘bokeh’ at f1.7; not much out-of-focus at f4. Extremely close focus (about 1 foot).

      2 – ‘Leica’-brand Panasonic 14-50mm f2.8-f3.5 zoom (for Four-Thirds cameras), shot at 21mm at f3.1: extremely sharp, no vignetting, no blue edges, slow to focus (automatically), big and heavy – but a versatile lens. Very close focus (about 1 foot).

      3 – Leica 16-18-21mm ‘Tri-Elmar’ max aperture f4: manual focus, no vignetting, very sharp, pleasant ‘bokeh’ (even at f4), no blue edges. Small, versatile, but very expensive. Closest focus 20 inches.

      4 – Old ‘Exacta’-brand (Cosina?) Olympus OM-fit 18-28mm f4 zoom, shot at 21mm f4, manual focus: slow to focus, with smeared ‘dreamy’ bokeh (even at f4), no blue edges. Closest focus 1.5 feet.

      5 – ‘Voigtländer’-brand (Cosina) 21mm f4: manual focus, slow to get critical focus, sharp, some ‘bokeh’ even at f4, no blue edges. Closest focus 1.5 feet.

      From trying all these, what I realised was that individual preferences are the most important factors in deciding which lens to use: the cheap (£20) old 1980s ‘Exacta’ zoom gives a very pleasant ‘dreamy’ effect – even at f4 (looking more like f1.2) – because it’s so poorly corrected for various aberrations ..but that effect may be exactly what you want!

      The old wide-aperture Four-Thirds Panny/Leica zoom is astonishingly sharp, with rapid drop off to smooth bokeh, and looks the most appealing – to me. It also focuses very close.

      I haven’t tried Steve’s ‘Voigtländer’-brand (Cosina) 21mm f1.8 (closest focus 1.5 feet) described in this article, but it’s bigger and heavier than most of these – but then only you know what your particular personal preferences are in a photo, or in terms of weight and size – you may love the lens, or you may be unimpressed.

      (The surprising thing – to me – is that you were so dissatisfied with your small, lightweight Panny 20mm f1.7 ..could you have dropped it? ..Could it be out of alignment?)

      All in all, I’d say that the various differences between all those assorted lenses mean that it’s difficult for anyone to decide if something’s right for them ..when going by somebody else’s description – and that you – or anyone! – should really try a lens for yourself to see whether its characteristics really please you or not.

      1. Thank you for a great reply!

        Not that I’m ‘dissatisfied’ with the Panasonic lens – it is alright but is the most overrated lens on the internet. I can’t see any Canon L user would price this lens as much as m43 crowd seems to – for me quality means 75mm F1.8 and the like…

        very fast to focus? Maybe on Panasonic bodies, but on OM-D it is the slowest lens in terms of auto-focusing and its accuracy is also questionable. There isn’t any slower lens in terms of AF that I own. Also – shift to colder colors is confirmed by many people on the internet, it is a known fact of this lens (look how red colors look – a bit lifeless when shoot with this lens). Yes you are right, bokeh from F2.8 outwards is strange (you can see octagonal lights even at F2.8 more so on F4) on Panasonic – so you see. ‘Excellent lens’ but in apostrophes…

        F4 on Full frame is not a problem – but sadly OM-D can be pushed only to 3200 so wide aperture is a must – I’m shooting in 6400 sometimes but I wouldn’t use high-quality lens for such shots, as they are ‘screwed’ already by OM-D sensor.

        I have 14-54mkII lens from Oly and doing my research in deciding which to get – I skipped Leica (Leica tends to have very known mechanical issue, see amazon comments) it is much better lens than Leica anyway and focuses faster. So I went for it instead…but is 1.5 stop slower than Panasonic or this Voigtlander…

        Once again, thanks for discussion – but you see yourself there isn’t much to choose from a fast lenses which are top-notch to justify its:
        1. manual focus and no electronic connection (info/distortion correction..)
        2. high price
        3. high weight

        I am willing to forgive all those – be the lens top-notch. This Voigtlander 21mm looks like it and is ZILLION times smaller than similar fast Canon L lens.

    1. It would, but then it’d no longer behave like a 21mm lens (on a Fujifilm APS-sized sensor) ..it’d be more like a heavy, manual 32mm lens. So why not get the lightweight, autofocus Fujifilm lens (e.g; 18mm f2) instead?

  8. …..anyways, I love the character of this lens, I feel like I can almost spot an image from a Voigtlander like you can probably with a Lecia. I swear they have a nice bloom effect in highlights that I find, personally, very appealing.

    Sharpness schmarpness, the images look nice!

  9. If the exif from the image file ‘1st one at f/8’ is wrong, and the photo is really taken at F/8, then it proves my point even more … this is really not a sharp lens, and certainly not in the corners (at which aperture gives this lens it’s most sharpness really?). And I can see definatly lots of vignetting, please look on a calibrated monitor.
    @Dana: if Steve was aiming at showing off narrow DoF, why did he shoot this landscape in F/8 in the first place? I simply cannot see that this is a “superbly sharp lens” like you wish me to believe …

    1. The EXIF is usually wrong. If you know anything about the M digital cameras you will know the Aperture stated is a guess by Lightroom or Camera RAW as there is no data communication from lens to camera in regards to aperture. In this case, there was NONE at all. What you see was actually shot at f/4 though so the guess was correct. Trees in the background are blurred due to the depth of field. Focus was NOT on the pots. Ify ou look at the full image you can easily see where I focused which was the metal rail up top closest to me. What is behind that will not be as sharp due to shallow DOF coming into play, another basic photography fact.

      This lens is sharp, distorts less than the $7200 Leica and has no vignetting if you code the lens, it has minimal wide open and f/2 if you do not (on an M9). If you look at the wall examples you can see the corner to corner sharpness which is superb. If someone is going to buy this lens they are looking for the speed. No one who want to shoot at f/4-f/8 will buy this lens, that would be ridiculous due to the size and extra cost. While it is amazingly good at f/4-f/8, smaller lenses can do the job. This lens is built for speed so one must sacrifice cost and size/weight to get it, as always. Another Photography fact. So this review focused on what the lens was built for…speed.

      You normally do not get shallow DOF in a full frame Leica mount wide lens unless you want to pay MUCH MUCH more. With this lens you do, and it is a fantastic lens, especially on the MM.

  10. I downloaded the ‘first photo at F/8’, and opened it in PS CS4. I looked at the camera data, it says F/4, not at F/8. I looked at the image at 100%, and …
    How can you say this lens is ok?
    I see lots of vignetting, no micro detail and no sharpness at all. Was the photo focussed on the pots? And when I look at the edges of the photo, the leaves of the trees are really a blurry mush, nothing in focus anymore … And the shutter speed was 1/1500 sec so it should stop motion blur. Only the red flowers at the bottom of the photo have a bit sharpness. Can this lens really don’t do any better then this? I can make a much sharper photo of this scene with my Olympus EM-5 and 12mm.
    I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but this is what I am thingking, don’t want to bash or offend …

    1. If we’re looking at the photo of plants growing up the metal hoops (called “1st one at f/8”, or “fullsize31.jpg”) note that this was taken with a Leica M9, or so the EXIF data shows – but there is NO CONNECTION between a Leica and any lens mounted on it, apart from just the physical bayonet and (sometimes) the 6-bit black and white paint code on the lens mount.

      So the camera doesn’t ‘know’ what aperture is being used – no aperture data passes between lens and camera. So it’s either just a random aperture number shown in the EXIF file, or the camera’s made a stab at ‘guessing’ what aperture was used, based on the ISO, measured brightness, and max aperture of the lens described by the 6-bit coding, if any.

      But NEVER take as accurate any aperture reading from a Leica EXIF file; it can never be accurate – unless manually entered afterwards by editing the file – because the camera has no idea of what aperture’s being used!

      (By the way, I don’t see much vignetting, if this is the picture we’re both talking about.)

      “..Was the photo focussed on the pots?..” ..? But the pots at the far end are considerably out of focus ..why would you think that’s where the focus is? What IS in sharp focus are the little lamp and white box in the left foreground, and the shrubs at about the same distance away in the foreground, and – especially – the leaves in the foreground lower left corner. And, as you say, “..the red flowers at the bottom of the photo”.

      Of course you can make a much sharper photo than this with your Olympus EM-5 and 12mm ..but your micro-four-thirds 12mm lens won’t fit on a Leica, and you’d have far greater depth of field (overall sharpness) at any aperture with your EM-5 because you’d be using a 12mm lens, not a 21mm lens.

      Steve’s showing what this lens does on this camera. If you’re not using an M-fit camera (Leica M, Minolta CLE, Ricoh GXR, Epson R-D1, etc) then this lens would be of no interest at all.

      1. allowed for the same depth of field, which it can; this lens on a M9/MM/M would utterly destroy any m43 camera and lens combo. It is a superbly sharp lens and has far superior corner performance and does not vignette with profile. Steve obviously was aiming at showing off the narrow DoF characteristics of this lens, which is a very very rare trick for an ultrawide lens.

  11. I highly recommend buying from Stephen Gandy at Cameraquest as well. I was a little weirded out dealing with his low-tech site only allowing paypal purchases, but he has spruced it up some and he’s always been a joy to deal with.

  12. The Voigtländer 12mm, 15mm and 21mm lenses work poorly on Leica cameras . Their rear nodal points are so close to the sensor that they have red-tinged left sides and blue-tinged right sides. I have just read this in kenrockwell

    1. I have the latest 15mm and it is a great lens..on the MM. This 21mm works well on the MM and M9/Me, etc. No issues, so if KR said otherwise about this lens, he is wrong.

    2. For VM 12mm and 15mm, you can use Cornerfix software to correct the colour shift. It is kind of a hassle indeed but not unacceptable. The other ultra wide alternatives are either ZM15 2.8, which is insanely huge and very expensive, or the WATE 16-18-21 by Leica, which is also larger than the VM counterpart.
      BTW, Steve, the VM21 1.8 does seem promising. I’d be really interested in a cross comparison with ZM 21 2.8 though.

  13. Hi Steve,

    Nice write-up! Actually these are the 1st color-shots I’ve seen from it on M9/-E (to my knowledge, at least) and they look good. Normally I shoot it on the Monochrom but tried it for fun on my X-Pro1 as well although without much success due to serious corner-smearing when used up close… Not that thats due to any of the Ultrons shortcomings though. Still can’t decide whether to keep my copy or not… There’s quite a few good ones to choose from these days, eh?

    Agreed that the Ultron exhibits really really ‘nice’ behaviour on the Monochrom especially in terms of highlight-control and I think that the lens’ lower contrast is really a benefit here compared to the 21’lux… So perhaps, depending on which camerabody one uses, the scale tips even a little more towards the Ultron;o) Just kiddin’…

    btw. You mention ‘some’ M-(ltm)lenses can focus as close as 0.5m – in reality a few lenses focuses a little closer ie the ‘older’ ltm version of the CV 15mm f4.5 Heliar that goes all the way to 0.3m and Leicas ‘oldie but goodie’ the 21mm f3.4 Super-Angulon only hits the mark at around 0.4m-0.45m (16″) – so even these ‘slower’ 21’s can produce modest amount of shallow DOF with a little practice if that’s ones thing;o) You probably already know all this – just sayin’… Some might find this ‘useful’ additional info?

    Best
    klehmann

  14. Sorry, I don’t see the point with this big ass expensive lens. One would be much better served with either the Skopar 25/4 or the Heliar 15/4.5 as a wide-angle lens, or both.

    1. Are there any vignette issues with the 25mm scopar? Loosing 4mm wouldn’t be the end of the world I guess. 🙂

  15. Nice review.
    W/ re.to it being almost as good as the Leica equivalent, where it matters depends on the subject material and the intended usage.
    For the majority of photographers, and photos, there would be no real difference. But for the pros selling large landscape enlargements, where every bit of sharpness and micro contrast counts, then maybe to them it’s worth it. If they have decided to stick to the ’35mm’ format instead of going larger.

    While this Voigtlander is great, the Zeiss 21 f2.8 is even better, and for only $200 more. You lose one aperture stop, but that’s it.

    Both the Zeiss and the Voigtlander work even better on the M cameras if you use the 21mm f2.8 11 134 profile.

  16. Excellent review, just what I have been waiting for. My 21mm color scopar has been fine on my M8 but lets me down with a horrible vignette on my M9. This lens is now on my shopping list. 🙂

  17. Steve,

    I am impressed about the IQ of this lens. You know ? It would be supercool if you can do a quick M-E review. There are not much info on the internet and I think that camera is worthy. Am I wrong?

    Thanks and have a great day!

    Greetings from Guadalajara México! ; )

    1. Rafael, you may just want to look at some M9 reviews, and the ME and M9 are basically the same camera. The ME lacks the frame preview lever of the M9, and also the USB port I believe, otherwise, they are the same.

      1. Yes, the M-E is the same as the M9 and M9P. Same exact camera, different color. As Garry said, it does not have the preview lever or USB port, neither of them needed (I never used either of them even once over 4 years). So if you want to know about the M-E, look up the M9 🙂 Thanks!

      1. Yes, I know, I have the M8.2 and never use them.
        So Raymond… Is the ME worth it? I am in love with that camera because the new M is going to take a year to hit shelves an the ME i can get it now. 😉

  18. Fast, Wide, Sharp and Reasonably Priced! What’s not to love? I would like to point out that while 21mm is pretty wide for many users. For those of us who use M glass on 1.5X crop sensor cameras (Ricoh GXR, Fuji X, Sony NEX, etc) this new Voigtländer 21mm lens, has the EFOV of a 31.5mm f/1.8 which in my opinion is a big bag of awesome!

    1. Also, with the shots inside the restaurant, looks like the dude on the far right wants to beat the lens off your camera. Don’t think he likes the paparazzi. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: