The Voigtlander 35 f/2 Ultron Review. Vintage Perfection.
By Steve Huff
I loved this lens so much for its small size, vintage character and build that I now own one. It came from CameraQuest HERE.
So I have had this tiny jewel like lens for a couple of months now and have been enjoying it from time to time, taking it out either on a Leica SL or Panasonic S1 via a Leica M to L mount adapter. First things first! This lens will not compete with uber modern day sharp as a tac “perfection” lenses. It will not compete in sharpness with a modern day Leica Summicron ASPH. Instead this little $799 lens that has a classic vintage design and vibe is meant to render your images in a way that take you back to a time when lenses had character and style instead of perfection and an analytic draw. I know many photographers LOVE analytical, sharp, uber detailed…me, I always have enjoyed character much more than perfection. In my opinion, it makes your images stand out more in certain situations like street photography or travel photography. I have also seen prints shot with lenses that give preference to character over all out sharpness that have invoked a more emotional response from the person viewing the image. Many of us have an emotional response to vintage or the past, and this lens helps bring that mojo to modern day photography.
My Video on the 35 Ultron
This lens is part of the VINTAGE LINE from Voigtlander and while they are making some STUNNING glass today in the likes of the 40 f1.2 and 50 f1.2 that have a more modern sharpness and bokeh, this lens is going to be put on your camera when you want a small lens that packs some vintage character, and by vintage I do not mean soft, mushy or with bad color. I mean there is something about this lens that reminds me of shooting film, probably because the rendering takes me back to that time when film was hot, and these were the kind of lenses many of us shot. A small fast prime. When you go into low light territory where you get some grain from your cameras sensor, it really takes me back to the old film days. It’s also vintage in appearance and build, which is actually why voigtlander calls it the Vintage Line. Pure retro design and style and when people on the street approach you after seeing it, they will ask you “What lens is THAT”?!? Happened to me twice now.
Two shots below, taken at night on the street. The Voigtlander 35 f/2 Ultron and the Panasonic S1 cranked to ISO 12800. The 1st image (click on it to really see how this lens renders) is the full frame shot. The second is a crop of the image. Not sure which I liked more so I posted both here. This also gives you a chance to see how this lens renders. It’s modern yet classic and GREAT for black and white tones, which I found to be one of this lenses strengths. With the DR of this camera and the character of the lens it so reminds me of shooting B&W film. Lovely tones. Sharp yet rounded. Not sterile in any way.
Build and Size
The Voigtlander 35 Ultron is tiny. It has a little focus lever that you use to focus and it’s a joy to use. Not everyone enjoys these levers but I love when these small lenses have them as it makes it much easier to nail focus. Having a lens of this size means your camera (no matter which one you shoot the lens on) will be lighter and smaller as well. Shooting this on a Leica M or on something like the Leica SL or Panasonic S1 is so awesome to shoot but it will be most at home on a Leica M. As I shot it on the SL and S1, I enjoyed the huge EVF experience but would also adore this lens on an M, without question. It feels like it is made for a Leica M6 or M7 or even the newer M10. Would make a sleek vintage combo.
We do NOT all need perfection in lenses as when we chase perfection we end up with huge lenses, expensive lenses and a look that over time we may tire of. I know I do. I used to buy lenses that were expensive, large and rendered my images with everything perfect. I still love some of those lenses… the small ones like the Leica 50 APO and the much less expensive Voigtlander 50 f/3.5 that renders a lot like that Leica 50 APO. But, the large lenses…I am over those. I think that for what I shoot, which is low light club musicians and street scenes (most of the time) I will stick with small fast prime’s. Over the last year or two I have fallen in love with what Voigtlander has been doing as they have been bringing us some remarkable lenses for amazing prices.
I’ve realized I do not need or want perfection as in reality, it doesn’t matter. Someone looking at a print is not even going to notice if you used a $6,000 lens or a $500 lens. It’s the image that matters and not the lens. It really is. In these days of the smartphone taking over photography (and for good reason, as modern day phones are crazy good) I still love shooting a real camera. Having real controls. Taking hold of a lens to manually focus it instead of letting the camera do everything for me. For me, this makes photography more exciting, more challenging and more fun. This is why I love shooting with lenses such as this one and why this lens is sort of a “Vintage Perfection”. It’s more than good enough to compete with modern lenses yet offers some vintage charm in not only the design but the output..again, not in softness but in “roundness” which is what I call NOT sterile or analytical.
Click the images for larger. All three were shot on the Panasonic S1 (review here). The second image was shot in near darkness at ISO 25k. All images here shot wide open at f/2 as this is where a lens like this gives you its full character!
This lens, like most Voigtlander lenses is priced right. At only $799 brand new, this lens is a value if you are a fan of this kind of look and style. If you are a fan of manual focus and small lenses that are built very well. Make no mistake, this lens feels just as solid and good as any Leica 35mm lens, and in some cases, it feels more solid. Take for example the Leica 35 Summarit. To me, this lens feels better, looks better and offers more character while coming in at less than half the cost! The Summarit is a gorgeous lens, and it has its charms as well because it is not one of those all out perfect lenses but for value, it’s tough to beat Voigtlander. I will say the Summarit is a top notch lens though and will offer a more contrasty and crisp rendering while still giving some beautiful bokeh.
Images 1-3 were shot on the Leica SL, the 4th was on the S1
This is a short review as it is a simple lens. Here are some words from the CameraQuest website about this lens:
- Classical retro styling reminiscent of the 1950s
- Small compact size, weighing only 6 oz
- The smallest 35/2 Leica M mount lens in current production
- Retro styled focusing knob
- Element with aspherical surfaces ensures excellent performance
- Extremely solid and durable all-metal barrel
- Manual focus for precise focusing
- Aperture mechanism with 10 aperture blades for beautiful bokeh
- Convenient and popular 39mm filter size
- Easily adaptable to all digital mirrorless cameras with proper lens adapter
- Optional LH-11 Bayonet On Lens Hood
I do have the hood with mine and love it. It adds to the retro charm of the lens. I highly recommend picking up the hood with the lens (see the hood here).
Focal Length: 35mm
Aperture Ratio: 1:2
Minimum Aperture: F16
Lens Construction: 5 Groups 8 Elements
Angle of View: 62.5°
Aperture Blade: 10
Minimum Focus: 0.58m
Rangefinder Coupling: Infinity ～ 0.7m(Depend on camera body used)
Filter Size: Φ39
Diameter X Length: Φ52mm x 28.1mm
I adore this lens. It may not be one of those that will be one of my all time favorites (but maybe it will as after a few more days with it after writing this review I have truly fallen in love with this lens) but for street, low light and overall plain fun this is a lens that can rock on MANY cameras. The Leica SL, the Panasonic S1, the Sony A7 or A9 series, Leica M and even a Nikon Z or Canon EOS-R. I have tested these lenses on the Sony’s, the Canon and of course the SL and M and S1. As for mirrorless, I love the Panasonic S1 with these kinds of lenses as I do not see most of the issues I see when using them on other cameras. For example, this lens was unusable for me on the Canon EOS-R. It had massive vignetting and just did not look right at all. On the Sony’s it did good but not as good as it does on the M or SL or S1. But at the end of the day these newer Mirrorless cameras are awesome because we can experiment with lenses, and something like this may even help to get you out of a creative rut. Put it on the camera and take control instead of having the camera take over. I think you will find it refreshing and with a classic like this it will not break the bank.
The truth is we do not need to spend thousands on a 35mm f/2 lens in M mount. Doing so may bring you a 5-10% difference, but that will not make your images any better. That has to come from within you, and this is a lens that can help you do just that.
You can read more about this lens at CameraQuest.com HERE. It’s where mine came from! BTW, the 4th image below was shot on the S1 at ISO 51,200 and is a pretty severe crop. As you can see I was shooting in some crazy low light here!
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