A Change Of Perspective – The Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 III By Alan Schaller

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A Change Of Perspective – The Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 III

By Alan Schaller – My Flickr linkhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/alanschaller/

Buy the 15 lens HERE at CameraQuest or HERE at B&H Photo

Hello everyone. First off, a big thank you to Steve for giving me the opportunity to write again on his great site.

I heard very good things about the first and second versions of the Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5, namely their low price, compact size and classy rendering. They were however known to colour shift on the M9, M240 and the A7 series, meaning many digital users used the lens as a black and white tool. From what I can tell from my pictures colour shifting has been completely sorted in this third version of the lens, which of course is a great thing. Also worth mentioning is the incredible lack of distortion.

I happened to have a holiday booked to the South of France a few days after I received my lens, and thought it would be the perfect place to let this super wide-angle flex its muscles! The region I went to (The Côte d’Azur) features crazily photogenic villages, street scenes, the sea and mountainous areas, so I had a lot fun shooting in a variety of environments with the 15mm on my Sony A7s and Leica Monochrom. The shots in this review were all taken on that trip.

Sony A7s ISO 2500 – f/4.5 – 1/40 sec

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I had not extensively used a lens wider than a 35mm before getting this 15mm prime. My main reason for buying a super wide angle lens was to shake up my shooting style. I can confirm that it has, and recommend trying one if you haven’t already! I enjoy the 50mm focal length most of all, and being so used to looking for photo opportunities through the ‘eye’ of a 50, what I was seeing through the 15mm viewfinder initially seemed almost comical. The first day I had the lens, I walked around London with it on the Monochrom, initially marvelling like a child at how I could get whole buildings in frame whilst standing a few meters away from them.

I eventually calmed down and started thinking about how I could get the most out of my new lens. It seemed immediately obvious that it would be useful for shooting landscapes or epic sky scenes, but being primarily a street photographer, I wanted to try and use it on the streets too. Initial test shots proved this to be tricky! A lot of the time you have to get extremely close to the subject to make an interesting shot. The silent shutter on the A7s made me feel more confident to do so. It’s something I am going to enjoy experimenting with.

The thing I have found most interesting and creatively rewarding about using this super wide angle lens is the way it presents an image with such an unfamiliar perspective to the human eye. A 50mm lens is great as it is so familiar to our field of view, but I am really interested by the way this lens is so unfamiliar. Certain scenes that would be very mundane with a standard focal length can become surprisingly interesting when you use a super wide angle. This one was taken on the plane going to France:

Leica Monochrom – ISO 320 – f/4.5 – 1/30 sec

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The Monochrom gets on very nicely with this lens! Images are detailed and have great contrast. If you stop down to f/8 the depth of field is impressive. Also, as the DOF is so deep on a lens this wide, at f8 the lens is focusing from its closest point of 0.5 meters all the way to infinity, so there is zero need to adjust focus! This is a welcome attribute as it takes more consideration to get a shot perfect with a 15mm due to the extra surrounding context inevitably being in frame, and not having to worry about nailing focus helps speed up the whole process.

I have found sharpening to be totally unnecessary when using this lens on the Mono. This lens and camera combo feels great to use, and is perfect in terms of size and weight. They feel seriously solid together in the hand, and look great too! Same goes when it is used on the A7s. It feels well-balanced.

I expected the lens to work fantastically on the Monochrom (as the previous version did too), but I have been super impressed with the results on my Sony A7s. The colour is to die for!

Sony A7s – ISO 100 – f/8 – 1/200 sec

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Sony A7s – ISO 100 – f/8 – 1/250 sec

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As many people know the A7s is a low light monster, which meant I could shoot at any time of night despite the fact that this is a pretty slow lens. Simply crank the ISO to 8 or 10 thousand and snap away handheld, knowing the images will retain great detail and colour. Simple! As I mentioned before, the edges retain their colour well, even under pixel peeping scrutiny, so hats off to Voigtlander for taking the time and putting in the R&D to revise this lens so well for digital sensors. Chromatic aberration seems very well controlled, but can still be spotted if you pixel peep. I am sure Voigtlander will sell many of these, as the price, although an increase from the previous generations of the f/4.5 15, is still way way below the outlay for similar offerings from Leica or Zeiss. Despite being relatively cheap, the lens is built excellently, has a metal hood and body, and takes sensible 58mm filters. Most importantly, from what I can tell, the image quality is right up there with those more pricey offerings from Leica and Zeiss.

Leica Monchrom – ISO 320 – f/5.7 – 1/125 sec

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I can already tell that this lens is a keeper, which means more of my shots taken with this lens will be going up on my Flickr page for the foreseeable future! So if you are interested in seeing more shots, feel free to have a look!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/alanschaller/

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33 Comments

  1. Hi! I”m trying to make a decision between this new voigtlander lens and the Zeiss 18 mm for my M9 to mostly shoot interiors and exteriors of homes my partner has built. I know both are great lenses. Im wondering if this third version of the voigtlander corrects the previous problems enough to make it a viable contender. Any guidance would be appreciated.

    • I have the Voigt version 2 and 3. The big difference is that the 2 is noticeably smaller than the 3. There wasn’t a lot wrong with the 3 and in many situations you would be hard pushed to notice which photo came from which version. The version 3 is better in extremely low light but in good to fair the 2 is fine and any problems can be sorted in post processing. I only have the Zeiss 16-35 F4 so can’t comment on the 18mm you mention. I love my Voigt 15mm mk2 and 3. Great value.

      • Thank you Robert. I am really leaning toward the Voigt, but I am a little concerned because the Mark II got a lot of criticism for compatibility with the Leica M9. It sounds like the III corrects a lot that was wrong, but I still can’t find information on if this lens is now compatible with the M9. Thanks for letting me know about the low light capabilities, because that’s what I really like.

        • Steve Huff did a review of both the version 2 and 3, and if I recall said that the v2 gave no problems on the A7s (but did on the Leica). I’m pretty sure that he said the colour fringing in the corners were now gone with it on The A7 series and, the Leica.
          As I have only used the v2 and v3 on my Sony A7s I have not had any problems, and I have tried v2 on my Sony A6000 with no real problems (but this camera is an APS-C sensor).
          I don’t think you’ll have any problems with the v3 on your Leica. With The A7s I’d say to anone that the v2 is fine and don’t bother upgrading or save money and get the v2.
          I paid £500 for my version 3 and love it. I use it for astro-photography and it works quite well despite being an F4.5. The 15mm perspective makes up for the F4.5! I have the Zeiss 16-35 F4 (a lot more expensive lens) but the infinity marking is out and it’s not so easy to get it spot on in pitch black in the middle of a field!!
          I’d say get the v3 as it’s a superb optic for the price. I believe it will be fine on your Leica, but if it isn’t you won’t have any problems selling it. You may even want to keep it and do any minor post processing needed. It’s a really well made and it makes you want to use it.
          Good Luck!

  2. Alan,

    One of the main problems the old Voigts had on the Sony A7 was smearing and blurring in the corners and of course the magenta color shifts.
    Your sample pics look sharp in the corners.
    Have you done more critical tests to prove the Voigt 3 is not smearing in the corners?

    • Hi Steven, I havent noticed any issues whatsoever on with it on my A7s or Monochrom. The corners look sharp on both cameras. Distortion is handled excellently too. Colour issues and smearing found on the old versions of the lens are non existent on my Sony. Steve Huff’s findings are similar, and I haven’t read anything to dispute this anywhere..so I think its safe to say this lens lives up to the hype. It’s great.

  3. I would love to know how this lens compares to a WATE optically. Despite the WATE not being the best reviewed of lenses, it’s performed for me when it matters, so I would be wary of replacing it with the Voigtlander unless it offered equivalent or better results.

    • The Voigtlander is optically superb. If you compare the 16mm end of the WATE to the Voigtlander, I don’t think you would be missing anything at all shooting the 15 f4.5. I once had a quick go with a WATE, and whilst I’m certain it would be great to own, and is more versatile, I personally couldn’t justify purchasing one when Voigtlander have released a lens that performs excellently, is built so solidly, and is so cheap in comparison.

  4. Great images! As a street shooter what are your feelings toward the A7s? I was thinking a street shooter would prefer it over other cameras being you can crank up the ISO and not worry too much.

    • Thanks. The A7s is a very capable street camera. You can notch up the iso over 10000, stop down if you like and have shutter speeds that leave most cameras in the dust for low light street shooting. It’s very liberating not worrying about settings. Also the silent mode is great. I now feel conspicuous shooting with my MM, even though it’s shutter is quiet, but people rarely seem to notice a Leica M camera!

  5. You are using my dream combo! A7S and MM. I’m half way there with the A7S but would love that Leica Monochrom! nice images by the way…
    Happy shooting
    Steve

  6. Thanks for sharing. The III looks very tempting. I have the 15mm M39 on my Bessa L and I love it. I also have the M-mount II which I use on my a7 and it’s good. But the non-issue version III – sigh.. – we shall see if I can sell the II well, maybe ,-)

    BTW: the Sony FE 28mm might be an interesting lens at less than CHF 400, but I do love those Voigtländer lenses because they adapt well to many bodies I own, which include an old M8, the a7, Fuji X and Oly mft ,-)

  7. Lovely images, Alan. I particularly like #1 and #3 as I am partial to town/city images myself. Lovely capture of the evening colours in #1.

  8. Great shots. I’m always impressed by wide photos that *work* because it’s something I struggle with. Good to know you’re seeing success on the A7 – I may have to look into one.

    • Thanks Chris. I can vouch that the A7s is a fantastic camera. From what Ive seen posted by Steve, the A7 II looks incredible as well. It’s a great time to be a photographer!

  9. I have the first version of this lens and use it on the Sony A7s. As you say, no need to focus and pics are great. Love yours by the way.

      • Slightly off topic, but I have just ordered the Sony FE28mm F2 for about £350. I have been using the Voigt 15mm for astro photography but the faster F stop will be interesting. I did fancy the FE35mm F1.4 Zeiss but it’s a hell of a price. It makes you realise how well priced these Voigt lenses are – and so well built. Actually, I have version 2 of the 15mm aand bought it a year ago after reading Steve’s review. No reason to upgrade as there’s no problem with it on the A7s……..and it looks a bit smaller than v3.

        • VIII IS better on the A7s than the VII. There are absolutely NO issues. VII will give slight issues on the A7s, and major issues on all other digital full frames. So it is a much better lens.

          • I bought VII less than a year and have been used in A7S and with no issues. With M240, with free software I can fix the color shift in post process. I cannot see how Voigtlander can increase a lens from $450 to $750 for that even though they fix the color problem.

          • Because it has no vignetting, is sharper, has better color performance and zero color issues. It’s more like a $500 improvement. I would never go back to the old one, just sold my VII for $200. It’s a much much better lens and for most, not having to deal with software to fix issues is a huge bonus. But it’s more than just that. It’s improved in many areas and still a super small lens.

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