Which one? Sony Zeiss 35 2.8 FE and the Voigtlander 40 f/2.8 Heliar


Which one? Sony Zeiss 35 2.8 FE and the Voigtlander 40 f/2.8 Heliar


I posted a very 1st quick look at the new Voigtlander 40 2.8 Heliar a few days ago and one question was: “Why would I want this when there is already the Sony 35 2.8 Zeiss lens that has Auto Focus”?

My answer to that is that not everyone will! Some of us NEED Auto Focus and others much prefer a mechanical old school lens with a solid build, gorgeous appearance and the fact that we need to manually focus the lens! When you have an old school (but brand new like this lens is) lens on the Sony A7 series of camera, manually focusing is not only very fun, it is also a way to slow you down, take your time, calculate your shots. It is an alternative to the quick AF snaps we so often do. It will have us looking more and taking our time with the composition.

In other words, I much prefer a solid manual focus lens over an AF lens when using the A7 series. Especially M mount glass, classics and new lenses alike.

The Voigtlander 40 2.8 is TINY but hefty and solid. It has a Nickel finish and looks amazing. The sharpness? Just as sharp as the Sony/Zeiss at half the size and cost. All you miss out on is Auto Focus yet you gain small size, solid build and a much more beautiful lens to look at..as well as a $400 savings.

Below is a video I made on the two lenses with my thoughts on them and after that a quick comparison shot with full size images direct from RAW from the Sony A7S. Also in the video you will see the striking new strap from Artisan & Artist, which is their new ACAM-310 silk strap. Also, the wooden sticky shutter release from Artisan Obscura and the shiny metal buttons on the back of my A7s from rluther.com. 

This is how each lens performed on the camera, and I let the camera choose exposure for each lens to show how each lens will behave on the camera. They are similar for sure..both are sharp yet each lens made the camera expose slightly different. I also see more of a 3D look to the Voigtlander lens. Both of these were shot wide open at f/2.8. Click them for full size.



So which one is for you? That is easy..the one you feel most drawn to! Do you need AF? If so, the Sony is the one! If you prefer manual focus and some old school charm, plus a smaller and better made lens, the Voigtlander is the one to beat. 🙂

Where to Buy?

You can order the Voigtlander 40 2.8 at cameraquest.com HERE

You can order the Sony/Zeiss 35 2.8 at Amazon HERE

You can order the cool all wood sticky shutter release at Artisan Obscura HERE

You can order the Shiny Buttons or read about them HERE


  1. The Voigtlander Color-Skopar 28mm F3.5 is one of my favorite lenses on the A7s.
    Zone focuses without issues and doesn’t suffer from any corner softness or cyan drift across the frame (as can be seen with the M 240).

  2. Hi Steve,

    This looks real interesting!

    But I really want to know if dust will be a problem with all that collapsing action. I want to get this lens to throw in my waist pouch or jacket pocket but am afraid of getting dust/lint sucked inside.

    I plan to use it like you on the A7s, but would also want to use it for daily video, so I wouldn’t be able to clone dust spots out from moving images.

    Maybe you have more experience on collapsible lenses on digital sensors and can chime in a bit.

    Also, since there are no electronic contacts, does it mean that you need to press a button for magnification to come up? I currently only have FE lenses on my A7s so I don’t know how it works with old school manual focus lenses.

    And lastly, with the lens fully extended and the hood on, length wise is there a significant difference vs the FE 35 2.8?

    I’m going to japan soon and the price of the FE 35 2.8 is actually cheaper than the heliar + vm-e adaptor, but am really interested in the idea of the heliar being more pocketable.


  3. It all depends on the images you produce with it 🙂

    I’m very happy with the Sony/Zeiss 35mm on the A7s.
    For me, this is the best low-light combination I’ve tried.
    Check out my Facebook page for lots of low light examples at some seriously high ISO.


  4. Look I get the point of the voightlander … I’m a big fan of this brand…. Altogether I have 8 , 4 each for F and M mount….but I have to say the Sony is sharper if a bit more “technical” looking if you know what I mean…. What the voightlander has going for it is a little less sharpness and a bit more character….

  5. Hi Steve! In your review of A7S, you mentioned Zeiss 45 f/2 Planar is also a fantastic lens. Since you tried both already, I’d really like to know which one is a better choice in your opinion.

  6. Both have that maroon/red/orange cast of Sony. Not a “bad” thing, but affects both pics. Voigtlander is better focused (Kudos Steve) and a bit more saturated. had the Zeiss been focused better it may be closer,

    As usual the A7s is a bear of a camera.

  7. interesting that the CV seem to have more pop. i like the color rendition from the Sony/Zeiss better (especially skin tones). the 35 2.8 is a super sharp lens on my a7r, so it will be on the a7s. i am not so shure if that is true the other way around.

  8. The Voightlander is a dumb lens. It will slow you down too much if you want to use the lens other than wide open. Better use the Loxia instead if you want to focus manually…

    • Lol and you are basing this on what? The lens has not slowed me down one bit and I am enjoying the small size and beautiful build. It is razor sharp wide open, which you will see in my full review, sharper than what you see here. Fantastic lens 100% and compared to any other manual lens, not any “slower” as you say. It is also much smaller than the Loxia lenses..much smaller.

      • Based on:
        1. Open the aperture wide open to focus…
        2. Once the image is focused set back the aperture to the desired position (if other than wide open). You might have to bring down the camera to visually make sure it is in the right aperture.
        3. Take the photo.
        4. The Leica avoids all this by not looking and not focusing through the lens. But all other cameras do (like the Sony)…
        5. That’s why the Loxia is so much more efficient.

        • Actually, the Loxia operates the same. There is no electronic aperture control, so focusing is performed at the working aperture. I agree this isn’t ideal, but in years of using adapted legacy lenses I haven’t found it to be a showstopper. With focus magnification and EVFs it’s almost a non issue. I do think the issue is more unfortunate in the case of the Loxia, which is a new lens line designed for the FE mount and with much higher prices ($1299for the 35 vs $400 for this CV). I suspect Zeiss felt the additional cost to modify the ZM planar to support electronic aperture control wasn’t worth the effort.

          • >>I suspect Zeiss felt the additional cost to modify the ZM planar to support electronic aperture control wasn’t worth the effort.

            …which is why I don’t think it’s worth paying the $950 Zeiss wants for the 50mm f/2 Loxia. But that’s just me.

  9. Does the adapter have a focusing scale? From what it can tell, it does not, which means it would be less than ideal for preset focusing and street shooting. That may not matter at all to some, but it’s a point worth mentioning.

    • Nope..many never use this. Even me, I have used a focusing scale 4 times in my lifetime. Others use them every day, so if you need one, this will not give it to you.

  10. I have two of these adapters and even if the voigtlander is a tad nicer I would hate to have to use this adapter as my only means of focus. The focus ring is obviously very close to the mount which for me and my large hands makes it very fiddly

    • Yea, the Sony is an ugly lens. I agree. The Voigt is gorgeous. The Sony looks like a cheap big plastic barrel, and feels like a $200 lens (yet performs like a $1000 lens). The Voigt feels like a $2000 Leica lens and performs like a $1000 lens (yet costs $400). Thx!

        • Guess you did not read the entire text..I clearly mention the adapter and the cost of it. The lens is $400, fact. Many of us have this adapter already (or the hawks adapter) as I did or many of those who I know who do. if you do not have the adapter you need to buy it (or the hawks) and then this lens will work as well as future lenses that are released in this way. Anyone who uses M glass on their Sony should have this adapter, period. But yes, I clearly mentioned the adapter and cost here. But many have it already anyway.

  11. Steve, the samples, which one do you think has closest to the reality rendering of the scene, color and contrast?.

    • These samples are very similar but after more shooting I MUCH prefer the Voigtlander lens..it is a gorgeous lens in every way and f/2.8 is providing some superb bokeh and it is bitingly sharp at 2.8 when the focus is nailed. I will post some cool samples in my full review.

  12. Definitely gotta go with the voigt on that one, more separation, I finally see that 3d pop everyone talks about, the sony looks flat, and I find myself focusing faster with manual lens once you know your gear since you’re focusing as soon as you grab your camera rather than putting it to your face then pressing a button. And of course when shooting zone focus or hyper focal auto focus isn’t needed at all.

  13. No contest. The Voigt wins by a mile! Makes Debbi look human, real, touchable, tactile etc etc. The Sony just looks flat, plastic unreal etc etc.

    kind regards

  14. I just grabbed one of these after your first look, Steve. Haven’t shot it yet but will this weekend. Folks are missing the point on this lens; it’s not an either/or, but an addition to one’s lens arsenal 🙂

    Anyone who has used a collapsible Leica screwmount lens will get it–these light collapsible lenses are for portability, and with their “slow” maximum apertures they typically are ridiculously sharp. Simple lens formulas give classic rendering. And put on an A7/r/s the camera will fit in your coat pocket! It’s not quite a thin as a classic IIIc or other screwmount body due to the EVF, but it’s close enough for a coat pocket.

    Pocketable A7s with a 40/2.8? Yes, please! I might be more excited about this lens than any so far for the A7. It makes it pocketable! That’s astonishing. THAT is what this lens is for. I find it laughable to compare in size to the FE 35, as this one collapses to around 1cm thin! 🙂

    The biggest bummer I can see is lack of a distance scale. I pre-focus to a specific distance quite often when I’m out and about shooting family, and I won’t be able to do that with this lens. I suppose I can conjure my old Rollei 35 skills, guess the distance by looking at the ground or an object, focus, and leave it there as a workaround. It’s just so much faster to dial in 5ft (for instance) and shoot when my subject gets around that distance.

    In that vein: do you know why Voigtlander designed this with no focus helical? Just to cut cost? Size? Allow increase of the maximum aperture? Curious…

    My take on the images? Focus is better in the Voightlander shot–further back, with both eyes in focus. That’s AF for you 😉 I like the color better on the Heliar, and it looks to extend the shadow tones a bit, which is nice. Voightlander does look more 3-d in this shot. The Sony’s only “win” is smoother bokeh, but this wasn’t perhaps the best bokeh test, it’s very close.

    These Heliar designs are usually ridiculously sharp over 5.6 or 8. Great for travel and documentary shots. I think there’s some barrel distortion, though, so that might have to be accounted for in compositions.

    Thanks again for posting. By the way: the Mikaton’s (50/.95) are shipping again. I grabbed one of those, also, due to your writeup 🙂

  15. I have two o these close focus adapters. I have to say they are not the easiest things to focus with. The ring is so close to the barrel if you have slightly larger hands it becomes quite fiddly. ESP when using fr extreme close focusing. I’m sure they may loosen up over time.

    • Of course, we all do. We have hundreds to choose from via adapters. This was about the NEW Voigtlander compared to the existing Sony, of which there is only one 35 in native mount at this time by Zeiss.

  16. Thanks for the quick comparison. I think the Voigtländer renders a tiny bit better than the Sony lens, but either way I’ll pass and wait for the Zeiss Loxia 2/35.

    • To add to my previous comment, how does this lens compare to the similarly priced Voigtländer 40/1.4?

      I really wish Voigtländer would do a Loxia-style line of lenses with electronic contacts and with a clean no-nonsense design that fits the Sony cameras better. This 40/2.8 takes retro to an extreme, which is a shame because the resulting images are not at all as gimmicky as the design of the lens suggests.

      Also, one thing the Sony 35/2.8 has going for it is the kick-ass lens hood / lens cap hybrid, making it a fantastic outdoors (e.g. hiking) lens if you consider the weight and the weather sealing.

  17. Nice lens but the part in your video which interested me most was how you pimped your A7s. The stick on metal buttons look like a good idea and the strap is cool.

  18. Steve, do you have a chance to compare the Voigtländer lense with the old Leica Summicron-C 40f2.0 ?


      • I have both of these lenses and the rendition is much different. the CV 40 2.8 has a different look and color rendition than either the MC os SC version of the 40 1.4 or the rocker/summicron. I wonder if the optics on this lens are the same as on the 40mm EF lens? whatever it is, its really special. I like it a lot.

  19. Assuming the camera settings were the same, it is surprising how different the two shots of Debbie are. The Voigtlander gives a much warmer image which makes the Zeiss pale, literally, and is the least appealing.

    • No, mor ethan that as the hood is pretty small and does not make the Sony much larger at all. IN fact the Sony is much wider, taller but also much lighter. Feels hollow in comparison. The way this one should be decided is simple. Do you want AF or do you want MF? That is the way to find out which one is best for you.

  20. For this image I’d say the Zeiss 100%. I’d like to see this same comparison done with the Zeiss Touit 32mm and the Voigtlander if it hasn’t been done already.

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