Friday Film! The Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f1.7 Aspherical: The secret little gem
by Mattia Giovanni
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you have the opportunity, you have to try it!