Add-on Review of the Voigtlander Heliar 40mm f/2.8 on the Sony A7II by Brad Husick

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Add-on Review of the Voigtlander Heliar 40mm f/2.8 on the Sony A7II

by Brad Husick

Recently Steve Huff wrote an extensive review of the Voigtlander Heliar 40mm f/2.8 on the Sony A7S.  Rather than repeat his conclusions, with which I agree, my intent here is to add on to his review by shooting the lens on the Sony A7II.

The photos here were taken at ISO 100, RAW, auto-exposure. The lens does not communicate aperture to the camera. They were opened in Adobe Lightroom 5.7.1 with Camera Raw 8.8. No adjustments were made in Lightroom. In the first series across the lake, the images were shot at f/2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11,16, 22. In all the subsequent series the images were captured at f/2.8, 5.6, 11, 22. In each case you first see the entire frame at f/2.8 followed by 100% crops.

The lens displays some interesting characteristics. There is vignetting when wide open at f/2.8 but not severe. The camera chooses an exposure for f/2.8 that is different from all the stopped down exposures and you can see this in the crops. I did not adjust for this in Lightroom so that you could see the effect.

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Also when wide open the focus plane is not uniform across the image when focused on infinity. There are some areas in focus and some out of focus as you travel across the image from left to right. This variation settles down as you stop down the lens, nearly disappearing by the time you get to f/8. This behavior is far less obvious when focusing on closer subjects.

By the time you stop down to the lens’ limit of f/22 you have passed the diffraction limit of the sensor. Without going into gory technical detail, the final image degrades at f/22 so you’re better off limiting yourself to f/16 or so. The lens does not have click stops in the aperture ring, so you can stop anywhere you like. It does have a tendency to move rather freely, so check each time when shooting.

Overall the lens produces lovely images and is about as compact as a lens could possibly be. Build quality is superb and typical for Voigtlander. The nickel finish adds a nice retro look to the camera. I shot all of these images in overcast / light rain conditions with the small built-in hood rather than the longer metal hood and lens cap provided with the lens. My objective was to keep the package as small as possible since that’s one of the key selling features of this lens. If you own the Voigtlander VM-E Close Focus Adapter for the Sony E mount (which you really should own as it is superb) then adding the Voigtlander Heliar 40mm f/2.8 lens should be a natural addition for your setup. You can almost stick the Sony A7II with the collapsed Heliar in a jacket pocket. Note: the lens REQUIRES the aforementioned adapter to enable focusing and it will not function properly without such an adapter.

Thank you to Stephen Gandy of CameraQuest.com for instantly loaning me the lens for review. He’s the best source for Voigtlander and always provides the best customer service. Shop there with confidence. 

The case in the photos is the Angelo Pelle leather half case for the A7II.

ALL IMAGES BELOW should be CLICKED on to see them the right way. Details are on the photos upper left text

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9 Comments

  1. While a bit tight when new, the aperture rotation losses up with use. It is a great lens that renders in a way that is much different than the Nokton or m-rokkor 40s. If you look on eBay,my out can find a generic helicoid adapter. It works fine with it and is much less expensive and lighter.

    BONUS for FUJI!!! Another bonus that no one has mentioned is there is a helicoid m adapter for Fuji, making this lens adaptable to it. If you have this lens on a x-me, you have quite a small kit that takes great shots at about 58mm. Not too shabby. You may have difficulty finding a ovf for 58mm but they are out there if you really want one. I find that in time, you can learn to eyeball FOV for 58mm pretty easily and this set at 5.6 or 8 or 11 is a great snapshot lens. The images. It produces at with the xtrans sensor at those f stops are really not equaled by any other option at the 40mm range, short of slr mounts.

  2. Lovely little lens. Sharp and perfect except for a little vignetting wide open. I have it on my A7r, but the focusing ring is a pain to use as its so thin and close to the camera body and with the Angelo Pelle case (which I also have) its makes it a tad more difficult yet. and its rotation is stiff. Did you find that too?

  3. The small hood (pictured) helps keep your fingerprints off the lens. I didn’t use the larger hood because I wanted the package as small as possible.

    • I used Lightroom version 5.7.1 with the Adobe Camera RAW plugin version 8.8 – both the latest versions.

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