Friday Film! The Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f1.7 Aspherical: The secret little gem by Mattia Giovanni

Friday Film! The Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f1.7 Aspherical: The secret little gem

by Mattia Giovanni

Hi Steve,

Thank you for your great work of divulgation about photography!

My adventure with range finders began unexpectedly in a beautiful autumn sunny day of the 2009. I was exploring an interesting flea market, when I saw an old Leica M3. It was love from the first moment, and my photographic style and philosophy was strongly influenced ever since.

I was already enough expert about photographic techniques and instruments, both analog and digital, but I never used a rangefinder camera before. Was a real revolution! What a great find: I discovered an easy and lightweight stealthy camera, with a precise focusing system for any kind of lighting, at long last!

This camera came with the much-discussed Leitz Summarit 50mm f1.5 in screw mount, adapted for the M system. It was a great combo in my opinion: I really enjoyed the character and the classic output of this old couple, but they wasn’t appropriate for my photo ethnographic and reportage work.

I needed to have a camera that made my work more comfortable with TTL metering, and a lens with a wider perspective. Something like a 28mm or a 35mm, and at the same time a suitable for lowlight situations. To find a new camera wasn’t very hard: I went for a Leica M6. I was excited also by the Zeiss Ikon ZM, but finally the matchless charm of Leica Red Dot kidnapped me completely.

For the lens wasn’t so simple. My dream was the Leitz Summilux 35mm pre-Asph. An absolutely perfect lens for its dimensions, weight and performances, but too expensive for a poor student with only a poorly paid job.

Another possibility could be the Zeiss Biogon 35 f2, but again: no way with its price. At this point, because I did not want to bet on rare specimens by Nikon and Canon in LTM, with a bit of fear I began to explore the unknown shores of the Voigtlander continent.

Initially I found the interesting Nokton 35mm f1.4. It seemed to be a perfect lens: cheap, but small and unobtrusive like the old Lux 35 moreover! My road seemed to be written, but what about the focus shift? Argh! Sadly many sources on the web diagnosed that problem to this lens…

Of course, I could never love a lens with this defect.

Solutions on the horizon?

…maybeeee YES! another Voigtlander: the Ultron 35mm f1.7 Aspherical in LTM!

The only problem was that there wasn’t review available on the web, so I decided to risk and I at the end purchased it.

Ultron 35 - Kodak Ektachrome 64T - 01-2

Ultron 35 - Ilford FP4 125 - 01

Ultron 35 - Fuji Velvia 50 - 02-1

What I found?

The little Ultron it’s an hidden treasure. I’m not a pixel-counter and I don’t care laboratory tests, charts and strange artificial reviews, but I’m someone that loves take photos.

And in real life this lens shows formidable skills. With a maximum aperture of f1.7, this lens is suitable for almost every light situation: this is a fundamental characteristic for me because I really love shoot in natural dim light.

Ultron 35 - Kodak UltraMax 400-3

Its 8 elements in 6 groups, with one aspherical surface, produce shots with a great sharpness and seem to show every detail. Even wide open it’s a razor, with only a negligible loss of quality in the extreme borders. The Aspherical surface also protects from the focus shift and avoids distortions: I often use this lens for shooting architecture without perceiving any alteration of the field lines.

The color rendition is neutral, and respectful of the natural tones of subjects; also the saturation is well balanced and without any excess. Its yield, especially in black and white, allows to the films to express the best of their dynamic range also when contrast is very strong.

Ultron 35 - Fuji Velvia 50 - 04

Ultron 35 - Fuji Velvia 50 - 03

Furthermore the Ultron shows a nice smooth and buttery bokeh, without distracting elements, though it is not fully comparable to Leica results. Its dimensions are almost excellent, unfortunately is not small like the Nokton 35 or the Summilux pre-asph 35, but not much more, and then it intrudes only a bit in the viewfinder in the lower right corner. Nothing to worry about in short.

The only downside of this lens is the ergonomics. Why? It lacks the focusing tab, and though the focus ring is silky smooth, can be slippery sometimes. Be that as it may, I’ve taken great shots with this lens, and I found a perfect companion for my Leica M6.

Ultron 35 - Ilford HP5 400 - 01-4

If you have the opportunity, you have to try it!

Cheers!

Mattia

23 Comments

  1. I am in dilemma whether to go for Voigtlander Nokton Aspherical 35mm f/1.2 Lens II or Voigtlander VM 35mm f/1.7 Ultron Aspherical Lens (Black/Silver). They both cost around $1000. I’m not concerned about the size or looks. Which one is sharper?

  2. I’ll wait and keep the money for a Leica 1.4 asph, till then I use the 35. 2 ZM but I appreciate the review, please post again some other reviews if you have time. Mi sembra che hai veramente talento, bravo Mattia!

  3. It’s a great little lens. Good enough to put off my Summicron ASPH G.A.S. (or even Summilux for a lot more). I’ve got fantastic results wide open with my copy. The one downside is the close focus limitations. However: On Rangefinderforum, there are instructions on how to modify the lens to allow .7M focusing. One of these days, I might dare to do it.

  4. I used to have Ultron 35mm f/1.7 and I used it extensively with my Bessa R2 and even with my Leica MP. At some point I’ve bought Lica Summilux 35mm f/1.4 ASPH and I decided to sell the Ultron. Ultron was a great little lens. The quality of the lens iteself and images it produced was superb. I wish more lenses were built that well. In any event, thanks for posting the review and I hope you enjoy that lens.

  5. Really wonderful shots and refreshingly free from the obsessive post-processing we see so much of. I’m personally getting back into film after a long hiatus and even have a disused M6. This lens might be just the ticket for me, too.

  6. I agree with your characterization of this lens. Mine isn’t getting as much use as it deserves since I got a Summilux 35, but I still drag it out and enjoy using it on occasion. The biggest downside for me is how much the lens flares when it’s pointed anywhere near the sun.

  7. Thank You Huss!
    I was referring to the Leica M3 with Leitz Summarit 50 f1.5 as a lightweight combo, because I compared it with a professional SLR with a similar lens attached. For sure the Leica M3 is a dense camera, but its weight is an half of the weight of a Nikon d700 for example.

    No, for Velvia 50 shots I didn’t use a tripod. I prefer travel with a minimal instrumentation. I only was very lucky with the power of Italian sun! 😉
    Furthermore rangefinders don’t produces vibrations as reflex cameras, therefore it’s possible shot in a very dim light without tripod.

    Best regards.

    Mattia

  8. Excellent photos! (Mike D800, if you hover over the photos it tells you the film type in the jpg. I was about to ask the same question!)

    Mattia, I find it amusing that you think the M3 is a lightweight camera. It is extremely dense and ingot like – which is one reason I love mine!

    Did you use a tripod for those shots on Velvia 50?

    Best regards.

    • Thank You Huss!
      I was referring to the Leica M3 with Leitz Summarit 50 f1.5 as a lightweight combo, because I compared it with a professional SLR with a similar lens attached. For sure the Leica M3 is a dense camera, but its weight is an half of the weight of a Nikon d700 for example.

      No, for Velvia 50 shots I didn’t use a tripod. I prefer travel with a minimal instrumentation. I only was very lucky with the power of Italian sun! 😉
      Furthermore rangefinders don’t produces vibrations as reflex cameras, therefore it’s possible shot in a very dim light without tripod.

      Best regards.

      Mattia

  9. I fully agree, this Ultron is a little gem. I bought it together with a 75mm Heliar as my first kit for use with an M4, and then M8.

    On the M8, it performed even better as a 50mm equivalent. Biggest issue to me was not the ergonomics, but the minimum focus distance of 0.9m. I sold it when I got a 35mm 2.5 Skopar, which is a nice tiny lens, but I missed the lovely rendering of the Ultron.

      • I have that lens too and love it. Plus the size is great too especially on a relatively small NEX5/6. I use a helicoid adapter with it thus my minimum focusing distance is much closer than without the helicoid.

        • Hi, I just bought this lens.. can you share details for the helicoid adapter that you used? thanks in advance.

  10. The Rodney Dangerfield “I don’t get no respect” 35mm lens. The Ultron was one of the first four lenses, the 35/2.5, 35/1.7 Asph, 50/1.5 Nokton Asph, and 75/2.5 Heliar, introduced with the Bessa R in 2000. Pop Photo did a test of it in the July 2000 issue, and performance was the best of the four. It is unfortunate that the 35/1.4 Nokton is not an Asph design like the Ultron.

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