Adventure & Review. The Sony A9 with the Voigtlander 50 f/3.5 Heliar. What a Lens!
By Steve Huff
MUST SEE! Check out my latest video! Debby and I visit Beautiful Sedona, AZ with the Sony A9, Olympus PEN-F, this Voigtlander lens and a DJI Spark with Epson BT-300 Glasses! Subscribe to my YouTube HERE to see future episodes like this! We have 12 more planned over the next 2 months!
OK! It’s Friday and instead of sitting down on the couch watching the old disco classic “Thank God It’s Friday” I am sitting in my office, at my desk, listening to some old Vinyl while I write this review. If you must know, I am listening to Simon & Garfunkel as I am in a retro kind of mood today after spending the day yesterday shooting with a fantastic lens that itself is very “retro”. I am talking about the Voigtlander 50 f/3.5 Heliar and before you discount this lens for being an f/3.5 design, hold on! I did the same…but that was a mistake.
I have had this lens with me for a few weeks, using it sparingly as truth be told, it did not initially excite me due to that slower aperture. But just as I learned in the past with that little Leica 28 f/5.6 I should never discount lenses due to slower aperture speeds. I have been so used to fast aperture lenses over the years, I trained myself to only like fast aperture primes! Yep, I still do love fast lenses of course, my fave, but sure enough, these lenses made with slower apertures, like this beautiful Voigtlander 50 f/3.5, do indeed have something special about them.
Click images for larger. 50 f/3.5 at f/3.5. You can see me take this shot in the video above…
This lens from Voigtlander came to me from CameraQuest.com. When it originally arrived a while ago I was blown away by the small size, the jewel like build and the retro vintage vibe it was putting out. Even so, I slapped it on my Sony A9 at the time using the Voigtlander close focus M to E adapter and away I went. I shot a few images here and there and then set the lens down for a while to review to other “more exciting lenses” (or so I thought). When I went to go back to the lens I tried pulling up my photos that I snapped so far with it and they were lost! Somehow, I accidentally deleted a folder they were in, and they were gone. So I had to start over with y evaluation. So I did some tests around the house with the Sony A9 and Leica SL and this lens and found it wad working better for me, IQ wise, with my Sony A9.
The Sony and this lens was putting out superb color and just the right amount of sharpness for my tastes. I call it a “rounded sharpness”. Not sterile, not at all..but sharp with character and smoothness. The color, again, usually you see color performance like this with more pricey APO designs. At $529, this lens was starting to look like a true bargain.
A quick snap of Debby while we were out in Sedona filming the video for this lens and other gear.
Yep, I started to fall for this lens for many reasons. As I stated, I love the funky design and look. It’s an eye catcher and conversation starter. I love the small size and jewel like build. I love the IQ and color and finally, the price. What is not to like here? Manual focus maybe as some only buy AF lenses but man, manually focusing on todays cameras could not be easier when we are talking about mirrorless. This lens is one you can use on just about ANY mirrorless system. Fuji? Check! Olympus? Check! Sony? YES CHECK! Leica? YES, it is an M mount after all. ; )
Click for larger!
All images here were shot with the Sony A9 as it was a perfect match for size, weight and handling and yes, IQ. The new sensor in this A9 is stunning and while I have said about all I can say about it, it seems I can not say it enough. This Sony A9 is fabulous for any kind of shooter, no matter what you shoot. It does it’s all besides crazy high-resolution, of which some may need, but not all. For me 24MP is plenty for my uses, and I still think Sony will come out with a high res powerhouse soon..or soon-ish.
But back to this lens. When Stephen Gandy at cameraquest.com sent me this lens for review, I am sure he was expecting it back. After having it on hand here for a while, I do not believe I can bring myself to send it back. At $529, it would be a shame to not fork over the cash for this lens. Do I have other 50’s? Sure. I own a few. But all are different and if you ask me, one can never own enough 50mm lenses ; )
Click this to see how sharp this lens is. You will see the full 100% crop when you click it but across the frame is not only sharp, but has that smoothness I spoke of earlier.
This lens comes with a lens hood as well. When attached it looks a. tad funny as the lens barrel get skinny as it gets closer to the tip. But again, I love the look. I have had a few ask me what was on my camera while walking around, lol. When I told them it was a lens, they were amazed. I mean, we are knee-deep in the smart phone generation, so that is understandable. Some do not even know what a lens is today….yes, really.
This lens is also on Amazon via CameraQuest with prime shipping BTW. Tax free, free ship…$529.
I have no doubt that this lens would also be a great match on the new Leica M10, as it is made for the M.
This is a simple lens my friends, as simple as it gets. There is also only so much one can say about a lens such as this, so now that I have gushed about it, and talked about it, and made a video with me using it for these very photos, the last thing I can say is BUY IT if you want a nice vintage looking easy to use amazing sharp yet smooth lens that delivers great color and cool bokeh to boot. $529. You can not go wrong here. If you own a fast 50mm like I do, this is a change of pace, but sometimes a change of pace is awesome and can kick start your creativity. This little lens, the one I discounted at first, did that for me and while I lost a slew of images I shot with it, including portraits, just one day of shooting yesterday got my blood pumping to use it more. So next I will do some side by side portraits with the Leica SL and A9 both. I may be getting an M again just to keep in hand for comparisons such as these. If I can swing it of course. This lens does indeed render in a very pastel kind of way, with the colors being so nice, the bokeh being wonderful and the overall draw…it’s fantastic and the only weakness would be in low low light scenarios where one would need a bit more speed.
But outside, in decent light or even that warm golden hour, this lens will shine.
Click it for larger and check out the unique bokeh. I love it. 2nd shot shows the delicious color this lens puts out with the A9.
I have to say…I love life. I love my life. It is filled with love, peace, happiness, joy, and while we sometimes have challenges (for me, recent health issues that I am working out now) overall I am happy to be alive right here, right now. Being a self admitted camera/photo enthusiast now for the last 15 years and 10 years on this website, I have had the opportunities to use and review so much amazing gear, and it is getting better day by day (again, see the video at the top to check out the new Epson glasses with the DJI Spark). More reviews than ever will be on the way, and new video Adventures with Debby and I are also on the way. We already have our next 12 planned and will all feature trips, travel, fun and gear reviews within the videos.
It has never been a better time to be into this magical craft we call photography. It is still as important today as it ever has been and with companies like Voigtlander releasing kick ass lenses such as this for $529, it doesn’t get much better for us enthusiasts.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS LENS. Buy it at CameraQuest Direct or From CameraQuest on Amazon (Prime)
I will leave you with a few more images from the lens with the Sony A9. If you want to see a side by side with the SL and A9 using this lens, let me know in the comments!
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How does the rendering and sharpness compare to the 40mm f2.8 Heliar?
Much better IMO. This lens will not vignette, and will offer better color and pop.
Amazing lens! Do you have an opinion of how well it would get along with a Pen F?
These are great shots, Steve! I wonder how this lens compares to my Loxia 50mm /f2, which I love a lot (for its IQ and build quality).
Different IQ and signature. Different side (smaller) and build and feel. The Heliar will have better bokeh and color. The Loxia a more traditional feel when in use. Loxia is f/2 of course, so faster.
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Hi Steve! Amazing lens! Thank you for the review. How close should it render on A7II?
Should be very similar to the A9, thanks for reading!
hi steve, this lens is amazing….!!! do you still keep the heliar 40mm f2.8? have tried it with the SL? how do you compare the rendition with the 40mm and the 50mm?
i bought the 40mm and i sold it when i bought the SL, and then i found out i can use the 40mm f2.8 with the SL using hawk’s adapter. i really regret it as i couldn’t find the 40mm anywhere in my country. t seems these two lenses have similar character. very smooth bokeh, sharp but smooth.. i can’t explained it. what do you think?
No I no longer have the 40 2.8 for Sony. It was also a fantastic lens, though did have some vigneting. But both are great, this one beats the 40..and I would put this lens as one of the best performing 50’s of all time, top 3. Thank you.
There is nothing worse than accidentally deleting all your images. It has happened to me many times. So, bloody frustrating ! I loved this review and image quality is up there. I have been drooling over the Sony a9 fora while now but it is hard to change.
Your review, dear Steve, is reflecting as well confirming my experience with this lens. I’m using it with a Leica ME, enjoying the typical Voigtlander-look: firm and strong, fine and rich tonal transitions, analoglike sharpness, pastel shades in lights and darks, almost rembrandtesque, simply likeable and sympathetic.
I have the version 1 of this lens and have always been pleased with it, although the focusing mechanism can be a bit impractical on a M. A great review – thank you Steve.
Dam that lens looks sharp as a tack beautiful colour rendering thanks Steve hope your health is getting better sending some healing vibes your way
Thanks Steve, these images remind me of that slow Leica lens – did you do that horse with it also? What are your thoughts on the comparative image quality – I’ve been really wanting that Leica but this may satisfy until I’m filthy rich.
Yes I did, in the review for the 28 Summaron… http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/FULLSIZEHORSE.jpg
The Voigtlander 50mm f3.5 Heliar is a crazy sharp lens.
I love it for its sharpness but not for its handling with a quite long throw.
A Miata MX-5 and a lady love. An iPhone would be sufficient for a camera.
Hi Steve, I would love to see more images taken on the Leica SL. I have wondered what this lens would be like but there are no competent reviews until yours. Cheers Brian
Will do, soon. Thank you.
Thanks so much for writing and posting this Steve! I was really interested in this lens when it came out, but had not really seen much about it. I was hoping you would do a write up. The colors are amazing and I’m really surprised about the bokeh at 3.5 – I love it!
If you do get a chance to upload some images on the SL or M10 that would be great. Thanks again!
Thank you! I plan on testing it on the SL next week.
Oh yeah please do it…. you are awesome…