The Voigtlander 65 f/2 Macro APO-Lanthar Lens Review
VIDEO OVERVIEW of the LENS!
This lens is described over at camera quest like this:
“Thinking of the 65/2 APO-Lanthar only as a macro lens is a bit inaccurate and limiting. This is a super sharp highly corrected apochormatic long normal lens which also happens to close focus to 1:2. It is quite capable of being your standard normal lens.”
I was happy to hear this as I am not really a Macro kind of guy. I have taken maybe 100 Macro shots in my life, and usually for reviews. So having a lens that is fantastic for general use, with a f/2 aperture, having a nice solid feel and an APO design…well, I was all in to check it out. I was actually a little excited as these days, anytime I hear “APO” I think of the amazing Leica 50 APO which is the best 50mm lens I have ever tested. If this lens could get close for 1/7th the cost…wow. I did not expect it to but I was curious to see how it was.
My 1st shot was a macro shot though, of a quarter. The detail is mind blowing, this was at f/8 for max detail. Click it to see the full size:
Sony users, anyone out there who shoots an A7 or A9 series camera will also know about the amazing Sony 90mm Macro. The Sony is larger, but is autofocus. It is 90mm and an f./2.8 design. I reviewed that lens HERE long ago but this lens is different. So different in fact, I can see many owning both. I see the Sony as best for Macro use. I see this lens just as Cameraquest said…great for ANY use. In fact, Stephen made sure to email me and stress that this is NOT just a macro. So away I went.
Debby and I went off to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix and it was the 1st time we went there. I wanted to see of this lens, and the Sony A9 could deliver pleasing images of instruments inside of a museum situation and lighting.
Right off the bat, this 1st shot of some gorgeous inlays on this guitar showed nice color and detail. Now, do not just look at this image as is, please click it if you want to see it larger and more with detail. This shot was taken wide open at f/2 because I feel if a lens can not perform well wide open, then it is not worth owning.
Here is a different kind of image, and one that shows the Bokeh and depth one can expect. Again, shot at f/2. Click it for lager! Sony A9 at ISO 800.
The Lens Build and Feel
As we waled around the beautiful museum I was sure to pay attention to the lens and the way it operated. The lens itself is made very well, to the normal Voigtlander levels and standards. I used to always compare Voigtlander M mount lenses to Leica M mount lenses and to be honest, some of them were neck and neck. They are that good, especially lenses like the Voigtlander 50 1.5 Nokton. I love that lens. Maybe not as much as the Leica 50 Summilux, but that Lux is MUCH more costly for maybe a 5% improvement. With Voigtlander you will always get the most bang for your buck. So if you are trying to reign in your camera and lens budget, and there is a Voigtlander lens that suits your needs, be sure to take a look as the build, feel and designs are always great.
This 65 mm f/2 lens has a nice fat feel. It is stout but not too large. It gives a feeling of “This lens is fantastic” when using it. The Aperture dial is manual, as expected and it has solid clicks from f/2 to f/22. No loose rings or feel here. So the build and feel gets an A all the way from me. This is a lens that comes in at just over $1000, so we are not talking about a $3, $4 or even $10k lens here. For what it costs, the build and feel are amazing.
A B&W Conversion using Alien Skin. Shot wide open at f/2. I was using this lens as a general use lens, much more so than a macro. So far it was passing the test.
Using the Lens on the Sony A9
You all know my feeling for the Sony A9. As much as I love other cameras, the reality is that the Sony A9 is a tech tour de force and IMO the most tech advanced camera made today for 35mm in the mirrorless world. There is no question on that for me really. There may be other cameras with better things like an EVF or build, but for function, and overall use, the A9 is amazing. It’s my daily driver for photos and video.
Thanks to the brilliant EVF on the A9 this lens is super easy to focus though I will warn you now! At f/2 it has some shallow DOF and it can be tricky to nail focus at that aperture, as most manual lenses can be. There are a few shots in this review that are not 100% focused spot on, but maybe 96%. You can see when that happens if you view at 100% but resized it’s tough to tell. The best way to make it easier to nail focus with any fast lens is to A: Have good eyesight and B: Stop down the aperture a bit. Maybe f/2.8. At f.2.8 this lens tightens up some and makes for an easier focusing experience.
Either way, using it on the A9 is fantastic. It appears in photos that it would be from heavy, but the lens is not heavy. It balances almost perfectly on the A9. Almost as if Voigtlander tested it and made sure the weight was just right. If there is one thing that gets to me at times is large front heavy lenses that drag the front of the camera down. It makes them a pain to carry around your body with a strap as you always feel that lens hitting your side. This lens does NOT have this issue, so balance is great on the A9, and I assume it would be on the A7 series as well.
The Sony A9 with the 65 f/2 APO Lanther with a Rock N Roll M10 Strap ; )
Still browsing at the MIM (Musical Instrument Museum) I was taking shots that would try to show off a few things. One of them BOKEH. If the Bokeh quality is no good, that could throw the lens right out of the window. Luckily, these days most faster lenses have decent bokeh and honestly this is all personal taste anyway. What one person enjoys in their background blur may not be what another enjoys. So take a look at the examples below and see what you feel about it. We all know that bokeh can change at different distances, so I have included a couple samples. Up close and then at a mid distance.
Up close low lighting. ISO 2000, f/2 – Click it for lager.
You really need to click on those images to see them better. The last one was outdoors and can show what the lens can do when shot wide open at f/2. Here it is amazing as I see no CA, at least that I can see or anything that would bother me, no issues and wonderful almost painterly style bokeh. In the low light and weird lighting of the museum it did great but outdoors or in good light this lens can shine. This was wide open, that last shot of water above. While not as crisp and sharp as the Leica 50 APO (see that review here), this lens delivers amazing goods for just over $1k. NO correction was applied to the shot, and this was in bright mid day phoenix sun. When you mix a fountain, sunlight and a fast lens shooting digital it is usually a recipe for massive CA. When you shoot a scene like this and see no issues, you know you have a very good optical design.
The Bokeh in that water shot to me is very nice. If you look at the cacti in the upper left it looks as if someone painted it with a brush. Beautiful IMO. But again, Bokeh is something you have to decide on yourself due to personal preferences. ; )
In full sun, the A9 and this lens delivers a fantastic rendering. Great color, nice sharpness and an overall nice vibe.
Aperture Range f/2-f/8
Here are a few test shots from wide open to f/8 so you can see how the lens sharpens up. These are full size out of camera (from RAW) files, so click them to see the full size..
No processing or sharpness was added to these at all, they are direct JPEG conversions from RAW at 10 quality using ACR.
Here is a shot with a 100% crop and this is a JPEG from the A9. You must click it to see the crop in its full size.
Main Features of the Lens
Here is a list of the main features of this lens according to Voigtlander:
■ Full frame Sony E-mount with electrical contacts
■ Apochromatic optical design that eliminates chromatic aberrations
■ Enhanced high performance utilizing aspherical lens surfaces
■ Optical design optimized for digital imaging sensors
■ Extremely solid and durable all-metal barrel
■ Manual focus for precise focusing
■ Maximum reproduction ratio of 1:2 at a minimum focus distance of 31 cm
When you turn the lens to f/2.8 you will see this change on your Sony camera as the lens does have contacts to share this data with the camera. Unlike most Leica M lenses that will not record metadata, this one will. The lens is an APO design which eliminates CA and the lens was designed with digital sensors in mind.
My Final Conclusion and “Would I Buy It”?
This is a lens that I did not expect to really enjoy. When I was told it was a macro, I was like “meh”..as again, I am not a Macro guy. But when Stephen Gandy told me to think of it more as a general use lens with macro capability, that is what I did. When using it I realized that it delivers a look that is quite similar to many Voigtlander lenses. It retains the Voigtlander “house look” but even better as due to its APO design we do not have tat pesky purple fringing showing up in highlights. Even when wide open it offers a nice sharpness and while the only weakness would be that it can be tricky to manually focus wide open up close, that goes for any manual focus lens at f/2.
For just over a grand, this is a pretty nice bang for the buck lens. The build is sublime, the feel is smooth as silk, and using it is a breeze on the Sony A9. Made for Sony, and giving us the electronic contacts and advanced glass, this lens is a jewel for anyone who wants something different from your typical AF lens. This is fantastic as a general use lens, and yes, it is also a great macro lens. Just look at that quarter shot at the top of the page. The lens renders with a creamy thickness, almost like one is using a thick paint brush. In comparison, something like the Leica 50 APO would use a finer brush but which look would you prefer? That Leica 50 APO comes at a cost of over $7,000. This lens is just over $1000, and while larger, much larger than a Leica 50 APO, it is also offers that macro capability of which the Leica 50 APO does not.
My Dog “Baby” shot at f/2
I am not trying to compare it to the Leica as they are different lenses but that is where I set my sights here.
This is a lens that may be right up your alley. If you want a gorgeous design, with a little bit of a retro look and feel and a little bit modern, all manual focus and old school in use, and want a nice mid range slight telephoto 65mm FOV along with Macro capability in an APO design for just over $1k AND you shoot Sony E mount, then take a look at this lens over at cameraquest HERE.
I like the lens and will use it more over the next few weeks. If I shoot anything cool I will update this with a new post as I go along. The lens, IMO, is a bargain. I would buy one for my Sony.
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