The Voigtlander Ultron 40 f/2 SL II
by Julien Hautcoeur
I’m Julien, one of your readers, thank you for all your work that you share with us on your website. I’m a French engineer living in Canada. I like to travel and take photographs of the places I visit. I would like to share with you my experience with the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 SL II that I use with my Nikon D700. I thought it could be interesting for your other readers.
This “review” will be more about the feeling of using this lens than the evaluation of the technical aspects. There are already lots of websites to describe the build and the qualities of this lens, so, I won’t do it here. It took me a while to finally buy it, but I had mainly three reasons to do it:
- The size: this a very small pancake lens which makes my big D700 to look smaller. As lots of DSLR photographers, I was looking for a small camera to complete my D700. Something I could take with me every day, on a walk, instead of the big and heavy 24-70 f2.8. I bought the Olympus Pen E-P1 when it was just released but I discovered how the lack of viewfinder was making it difficult to use for me. I was tempted by the Fuji X100 or X100s but didn’t want to spend another 1k$ for a camera. The Voigtlander 40mm seemed to be a good alternative.
- The manual focus: I wanted to slow down my photography to be more concentrated on the frame and the action. As the Voigtlander 40mm is a manual focus lens, it was a good response to that need. Due to the chip inside the lens, I can use the green dot in the viewfinder of the D700 to focus properly.
- To give a present to myself: it’s important to do it sometimes.
I couldn’t find the lens to buy in Ottawa, so I ordered it online. When I received the lens 3 weeks ago and I took it in my hands, the feeling of this metallic build directly surprised me, it feels really serious. It is really solid, well made and feel very comfortable. Moving the focus ring is a joy; it is so smooth compared to my plastic Nikkor 50mm AF-D f1.8. With the D700 I have a nice compact combo, still bigger than some cameras such as the Fuji X series or the new Sony ones but already small enough to have it in my bag every day.
One of my fears was to not like the 40mm focal. I have the cheap 50mm AF-D f1.8, but I don’t use it because it seems to short, I had the 35mm f2 but I sold it because I didn’t use it enough. But surprisingly I feel comfortable with the 40mm for indoor and street photography. I can’t explain why the feeling is that different compared to the 50mm and the 35mm but it’s real. It’s probably a personal feeling, which is different for every one. When I see something interesting and I want to take a picture, the 40mm seems to frame it as I want.
The other important point is the manual focus, I’m used to the fast AF of my D700 with the 24-70 and 14-24 f2.8 lenses, but the manual focus seems to give me more pleasure to use. I feel more into the process of taking pictures. When I’m traveling or visiting a new place, with the AF, I see something, I frame it, I click, it’s done. With the manual focus I have to take my time, I correct the frame; I pay more attention to what I do. It’s a very good feeling, and even better when the result is a good photograph. I won’t stop using AF lenses but this little Voigtlander will be used a lot this year, perhaps I will also add the Voigtlander 28mm for more possibilities.
Finally this experience is a success for me. I think it’s important to move from what we know to try something different, to at this end, learn more and more.
I really recommend this experience to photographers who have only used AF lenses.
Thanks for your great article! Love the pic’s!
Just got mine 🙂 I will use it with my Canon 1D’s MKIII , wish it will do what I expect! After your article and shots I think it will 😉
I’m still shooting with that little jewel of a 40mm three months later. I have however replaced the 20mm Nikkor with the Voigt 28mm F2.8 for my kit. Just don’t shoot the 20mm enough. The 28, 40 & 85 is all I really need from here on. They look good on my F3 Titan & the F2 Titan. Got rid of all my zooms except the Nikon 75-150mm Series E. I’ll never sell that one. I’m in total agreement with everyone’s post on this blog regarding the 40mm. It’s such a “cool” little lens.
Dimitris, I was thinking the same thing with regards to the old Nikkor 40mm GN F2.8 lens. I still have that lens but I did buy the 40mm Ultron because I still wanted a 40mm length but a stop faster. I use the Ultron with along with a Nikkor 20mm F2.8 AIS and an Nikkor 85mm F1.8 AF-D lens. These three are a great combination for shooting. I’ve got no complaints about the Ultron. None whatsoever.
Excelente reseña sobre el 40mm Ultron de Voigtländer, son los comentarios de los usuarios lo que hacen grande a este pequeño objetivo, gracias Julien.
Es mi lente preferida para ir siempre montada en la Canon 5DII, que bien pareciera que no lleva objetivo.
Su calidad de imagen es indiscutible y el color soberbio, entre f 4 y f 11 su contraste excelente, lo que la convierte en ideal para salir a pasear con ella……enfocar manualmente es un placer, concentrarse en lo que uno busca con discreción es todo un lujo.
Saludos amigo Julien.
I have just ordered the Voigtlander 58mm f1.4, I will let you know what I think about it after few weeks. But I’m sure it rocks.
Thank you all again for the nice comments on my pictures, don’t hesitate to visit my website or facebook for more.
Thanks for your great article….I like the photograph taken from Ottawa looking over at Gatineau (formerly
Hull) on the river….I have a number of friends in Ottawa and miss it except for the winter which I here
was pretty cold this year….Like you, I too have a great affection for the 40mm view point….I use the lumix
20mm on my Oly. Keep up the good work
It is good to see your lovely images and favorable review. This lens, in Nikon mount, is high on my wish list. I have already used a Canon EF 40mm STM on a 5D, and like the quite natural angle-of-view, and the way a DSLR is transformed into a much less-burdensome package.
Thanks for sharing!
Liked your pictures and review which reflects my thinking exactly. I use a Nikon 28mm Series E on my D7100 for the same reasons you stated in your review. I love the compactness, the manual focus and find the 40 mm focal length more useful than either the 50 or 35. I want to get the Nikon DF this summer and was pondering what lenses to get with it and this lens was on my list. Your review confirms my thinking. Thanks.
Nice to see some lovely photos taken in my back yard! I’m currently on the lookout for some lenses for my new Pentax, and had forgotten about the ultron. I’ll have to keep it in mind!
This lens is a permanent fixture on my Nikon FM3a. I believe the focal length to be more representative what our eyes see than a 50mm. I really like how solid it is built. The focusing ring is perfectly balanced (smoothness vs. resistance).
Thanks you guys for the comments!!!
“To give a present to myself: it’s important to do it sometimes.”
Could you explain this concept to my wife please?;))
Love her as much as I do, I don’t want to save money for when I’m dead.
Little beauties like this lens add value to life. Nice post.
If I had to pick one focal length it would be 40mm. It is the magic spot for me.
I had the CV 20mm. I loved the build quality but found it awfully soft even when stopped down and sold it. Some of the shots i took with it had a nice dreamy rendering but as i used it on the D800, couldn’t live with the lack of resolution
Hi Julien! Thanks for your review! I feel absolutely the same about your pan-lens Ultron!
I used the D700 for three years and I was satisfied with it so much. I was dreaming to have capability to shoot video, that’s why I changed D700 to D800. Even now I feel disappointed by D800 because this camera requires the best optic, very short exposure time, gives not good quality camera’s JPEGs and not so reliable if compare to D700. I tested Ultron 40 mm, I like it but I bought Carl Zeiss 35/2, 50/2 and 50/1.4 mm which are great and optically better. I shot with it but I realized that 35 mm are too wide for me and 50 mm are too narrow. When I traveled and shoot on mountains with Nikkor 28-200 AF-D I lately noticed that most of my photos had 38-40-42 mm, it’s the most comfortable focal length for me. Now I think to sell CZ 50/1.4 and buy Ultron 40 mm which is small and light and good for hiking with a heavy backpack.
I’m also agree with you about 28 mm – my experience gave me this focal length as good for wide angle because really wide angle needs something 14-18 mm. (I’m a squanderer for good lenses, I bought a CZ 18/3.5 without wasting money for other things). I’d like to use expensive and bigger CZ 28/2 or smaller and chipper Voigt 28/2.8 for the future.
I visit this site almost every evening but I usually don’t leave comments. Your review is very actual for me and I really like your pictures and D700 colors. Once I visited Canada for two years ago and I miss this beautiful country so much! Sorry about my English level, I live and study English in Ukraine.
I wish you to shoot many nice and sincere photos and have fun with your equipment and process!
As with Julien, this is my standard lens on the D700.
When I first got the Voigtlander 40mm, the Canon 40mm f2.8 didn’t exist. I had a 50D at the time, but I didn’t like how the built-in flash overhang made it hard to see the markings on the lens. Once I upgraded to a 5D II, that problem was solved. I always liked how sharp the lens is, even wide open. I eventually bought the 20mm too. I eventually sold them both. I found I just didn’t use the 20mm all that much (just too wide for me). I eventually bought the Canon 40mm due to sometimes being frustrated that the CV didn’t have AF. But the more I reflect on the CV, I wish I still had it. However I now wonder if the 28mm would be better for me. As zone focusing at f8 on the 28mm would include a lot more in focus than the 40mm. For anyone that doesn’t mind manually focusing, I do think the 20mm, 28mm and 40mm make a very nice, compact three lens kit for a Canon or Nikon DSLR shooter. Although it’s not a pancake, there is also a 58mm f1.4 in Nikon mount too. If I didn’t already have a small investment in Canon gear, those four lenses on a Nikon DF would be very nice.
P.S. I Forgot to mention the lens comes with a wonderful closeup lens that lets you do real sharp macro photos!
The 40mm Ultron is a fantastic lens that I have used for years on my Pentax K1000SE.
It has one of the smoothest most silky focus mechanisms I have ever felt on any lens ever.
The lens is very sharp, has high apparent acutance so things have a grainy look to them on film which I like.
The colors really pop on this lens and contrast is very high.
Bokeh is very busy though so don’t expect any smoothness.
This lens is more like a photo journal lens designed to be sharp all the time and wide enough to get it all in but still get you close to the subject.
I can’t recommend this lens highly enough.
I now have GAS. Again. I have the 20mm manual for my full frame Nikon, and it is useful — I now switch between it, the 35 mm f2 (which I love) and the 85 mm for most work, hardly ever using the zoom lenses.
Focusing these little beauties is fun.
The pictures are very nice. The lens is also very nice.
The Voigtlaender Ultron 2/40mm is an excellent lens equivalent to the Nikkor 45/2.8 P. For me, that’s a personal approach, excels the Nikkor in that slightly “muted” colour rendition that makes it exceptional for a certain kind of photography. The lens is very sharp even on the D800 and it works marvels mounted on any Nikon or Canon full frame body from f4 onwards. It has this something of the old Nikkor GN Tessar type lens, and this is nice and film looking.
Thanks for the photos and wish you more happy shooting sessions.
Dimitris V. Georgopoulos
Photographer at Large
The 40mm focal length matches the way our eyes see very well – maybe that´s why you connect so well with it.
Finally! Thanks for that very nice review! This is my favorite lens on my 6D. For what the 40mm Ultron is, this lens is much underestimated and should be in every dslr-photobag… It is so versatile and with the close-up lens good for macro pics too. If I had to choose one lens only, it would be the 40mm Ultron.
The 28mm color skopar is another very nice and small Voigtlander lens. Highly recommended! Very sharp and clear wide open but needs to be stopped down to f5.6 – f8.0 for edge sharpness if one does pixel peeping. In practice, this 28mm makes a good travel combo. See Ming Thein’s review.
Both lenses deliver very good IQ. Some technical reviews and MTF charts do not correspond with my very good personal experience. For what I use these lenses, they are close to or on par with Zeiss glass, the Canon EF 2.0/35mm IS and the EF 2.0/135mm L. That should be good enough for most of us…
Thanks for your review and the nice pics!
One thing I find with manual focus is the pictures I decide not to take. With auto focus I snap everything, then cull during a break, or after returning home.
With manual the number of captures drop, but the percentage of keepers increases. Quality vs quantity.
I agree that this is a great little lens… Actually makes it reasonable to take my D800 out for a walk or hike…..And 40mm is a bit of a sweet spot for me too for street and travel….. My favorite lens for M43 is the Panasonic 20mm also because of the 40mm effective focal length…. Nice shots by the way.
Hey, so nice to see my post on your website.
Thank you so much Steve !!!
The 40mm focal length is great, my favorite. Close enough to 50mm without being too long, and just a little tighter than the 35mm. Nice pics!