The Voigtlander 75 1.5 Lens Review. Small, Classic, Gorgeous.
by Steve Huff
Hot on the heels of Ashwin Rao’s review of this lens (See it HERE) I also want to put down my thoughts on this new lens from Voigtlander. It’s no secret! Voigtlander has been upping their game over the last several years and their latest offerings just continue to impress in both build and performance. The 75 f/1.5 ASPH is no exception.
My video review on the 75 1.5 ASPH
I have a love for lenses like this, always have. It’s one reason I adore the old Leica 50 Summilux Pre Asph lens. I remember owning a black paint version of the 50 Pre Asph and have regretted selling it ever since I let it go many years ago. It had a way of rendering that was just perfect for people. It didn’t have the crispness and sharpness wide open of the newer ASPH version but it had some magic that is hard to find in most lenses these days. I figured I would one day have to spend the bucks to find another good copy of this lens on the used market. The qualities I loved about it was it had a very rounded kind of draw. Tangible. 3 Dimensional. In fact I attribute “The Leica Look” with some of those old classic lenses.
Can a lens like this new Voigtlander approach that look or even improve on it? Spoiler alert…YES, and for much less cash than even a used old 50 Lux Pre Asph lens!
This new 75 1.5 is a lens that is sort of like two lenses. Wide open we get a nice organic classic kind of rendering that is rounded and very beautiful. Almost like a Noct Nikkor or Noctilux kind of look. Stopped down a bit it sharpens up very nicely…
Three crops from the 75 1.5 ASPH stopped down between f/2.8 and f/4. Shot on the Leica SL. Click the images for larger but wow, the color from this lens with the SL is stunning.
Nope, this lens will not be blistering sharp like a Leica 75 Summicron (my old review of the Summicron can be seen here) or even a 75 Summarit but this lens is not for those who want the crisp modern day perfection we see in almost all new lenses made today. This 75mm 1.5 will instead give you an interesting package that can go from dreamy to slightly modern with a twist of the aperture dial. Wide open at f/1.5 this lens will a tad dreamy, with that rounded draw that reminds me of some of the best classic Leica designs. At the focus point wide open, which will be very small with this kind of depth of field, the lens will be semi sharp but not critically sharp. That’s the beauty of the lens. If you want a more gentle rendering style with big smooth bokeh, keep that aperture set to f/1.5. If you want more sharpness, as I did above, set it to f/2.8 or f/4 and it will deliver.
Also comes in Silver. Click the image of the lens to check current stock and price of the SILVER version via Amazon Prime, sold by CameraQuest (where mine came from). All metal and gorgeous!
This lens is pretty cheap for what it is and many are asking how this lens compares to the legendary Leica branded 75 Summilux 1.4 which has a reputation for being a beautiful portrait lens as well. Dreamy, creamy and magical are some words to describe the 75 Lux but on the used market it is not only rare but expensive at nearly $4000 for a used copy. It’s also large and a tad heavy on an M camera.
I wondered if the new 75 1.5 could get close to either of these two lenses I remember from my past. The 50 Pre Asph and the 75 Summilux. If so, it would be a beautiful thing as the new Voigtlander comes brand new for $999. A used 75 Lux in decent condition may set you back $4000. Maybe more. An old 50 pre Asph 50 Lux depending on condition will set you back anywhere from $2900 to $5000. Ouch. If this little Voigtlander 75 1.5 can get 90% close to these then it would be the deal of the year for some of us who love that kind of lens and beauty.
Three quick snapshots with the 75 1.5 from Voigtlander. 1st one with a Leica M, 2nd with a Leica SL and third with a Sony A7III to show the bokeh. In the 2nd image with the SL the background bokeh looks like a painting. To me, this is always a good sign in a lens like this.
I tested the Leica 75 Summilux a long time ago (see that report here). Never did own one but had one for a week or two thanks to a friend who let me borrow one and I thought it was such a beautiful lens. Reminded me a lot of the original Noctilux f/1 actually (a must try at least once in lifetime kind of lens). I remember it as being a little heavy on an M but delivering the look it is known for. I loved it and wanted one but never could afford it or justify the cost as I am not a huge 75mm guy. Ever since that time with the Lux, I just assumed I would never own a 75mm lens that I truly loved as I am not a fan of “sterile and sharp” which most lenses in this focal length seem to offer.
To be brutally honest, I am not sure this Voigtlander can beat out the Summilux in character but it seems like it is not really that far off. I do not have a Leica 75 Lux here to test with this lens but looking back at my old images with it and this old post from 2010 by Kurt Kamka, they do seem pretty similar in the way they render. Remember, this Voigtlander is smaller, lighter and comes in at $999 while being all metal and having what seems to be solid construction. So you are saving around $3000 with the Voigtlander over a used Leica 75 Lux. The Voigtlander is 1/4 the cost, but around 90% of the performance looking back at those old Summilux samples!
Bottom line is that this lens is a deal at $999, in the usual Voigtlander tradition.
Two from the Sony A7III and 75 1.5 – Smooth as butter.
For the last week or two have been trying out this lens on a variety of cameras but mostly and mainly the Leica SL. Of all bodies I slapped this one (An M, the S1, SL and A7III) the SL was my fave simply due to the color performance. In this report I will mostly share images taken with the lens on the Leica SL and a few with a Sony A7III. Yes, I still own and adore the Leica SL! Been in my top list of cameras since it debuted but I only use and shoot M mount lenses with it (as well as a couple of Canon mount) and just love it’s basic approach and gorgeous rendering and colors. Not all cameras render colors the same and not all lenses render the same on adapted bodies.
DEAL ALERT: At the moment I am writing this the Leica Store in San Francisco is selling the Leica SL, brand new in box for $4495. Catch the deal here if you like as this is an amazing price for a brand new SL.
If you saw Ashwin’s review of the lens you saw images shot on the Leica M10-D (my review of that camera here), a proper M. Here you can see what the images look like when adapted.
Three more with the Leica SL. Click them for larger. The first two were shot wide open at f/1.5 and the last is the full image that the above crop was taken from.
Voigtlander Lenses I Own
Back 10-11 years ago I knew a few people, friends of mine who said Voigtlander was not very good. Called “The poor mans Leica” these lenses were sold at a much nicer price than Leica glass yet some lenses were known to be soft, have strange bokeh at times and just be “good” but not “amazing” all around lenses. Nothing magical, no fairy dust but the price was right and the IQ was good. Some ARE legendary and very well respected so it seems that it used to be hit or miss with Voigtlander, at least for me. I’ve owned and tested so many Voigtlander lenses on these pages over the last eleven years I can not remember all of them but I do have some faves that I purchased for myself after testing them.
- The Voigtlander 35 1.2 II. This lens has a certain character about it that I always admired. Nothing at all like a Leica 35 Summilux or Zeiss 35 1.4 Distagon which will give you a more modern rendering, this lens is all about CHARACTER. It has a unique look and vibe to it and many perfectionists hate this lens while the artsy crowd seems to love it. I use it when the lights get low and I want a specific mood. I’ve owned this lens for a long time. Love it. I did an update on it not too long ago HERE. It’s one I will always keep.
- The Voigtlander 35 f/2 “Vintage Line” Ultron. Such a GORGEOUS lens! I reviewed it HERE but used it mainly on the Panasonic S1 (review) in that write up. Either way this lens can compete with the Leica 35 Summicron EASILY for much less cash outlay. The build is all metal, all manual and feels amazing in the hand. It’s tiny!
- The Voigtlander 50 1.2. I also have a 40 1.2 but this 50 grew on me more and more so I settled in with it over the 40. Much like the 40 in rendering (though ever so slightly less sharp for my copy) this is a modern day classic. The build, the size, the look and rendering is super nice and it has the speed for low light situations.
- The Voigtlander 21 f/3.5 Color Skopar. While I love the Leica 28mm Summaron I reviewed HERE, the cost was just too much for me for such a limited use lens. The Leica is an f/5.6 lens so a daylight only kind of thing but it had some cool character about it. At $2500 it’s just too much for my pockets but this Voigtlander, even though it’s much wider at 21mm was a lens I enjoyed almost just as much. I get a wider view, it’s a great companion to the 35, 50 and 75 and it’s another beauty. Not perfect but character. I reviewed the lens HERE. I may only use this lens 1-2 times per year but I just love the size and character that comes from it.
- This 75 1.5 ASPH – I almost bought the older Voigtlander 75 1.8 Lens from Stephen Gandy at Cameraquest.com a couple of months ago. He told me “Wait for the new 75 1.5″ so I did. It’s the one I am writing about here on this page right now and yes, I really like this lens..alot. I do not use 75mm often but when I do, this lens will be the one I reach for as again, I am more of a fan of character and artistic lenses over perfection lenses.
Four more shots, all wide open with the 75 1.5 ASPH and the Leica SL
So these are the Voigtlander lenses I have stuck with and purchased. Total cost of these five lenses would be around $4500, or the cost of one used Leica 75 1.4 Summilux. Shows you the value you get for the money and to be 100% truthful, the build on these lenses is fantastic. I’ve said it before but I have had Leica lenses fail on me and needing repair. I have never had a Voigtlander fail on me. Not saying it’s not possible but just letting you know of my experience.
Btw, here is the image above with a 100% crop embedded so you can see the sharpness wide open…
click it for larger and to see the 100% crop
I have a soft sport for Voigtlander glass as there is something about it that just makes me feel good. The character of the lenses just makes me smile. Classic, surreal, colorful…happy. I’m also happy that I spent much less on a collection of lenses rather than buying just one used Leica lens.
But to be clear, Leica glass will deliver more sharpness most of the time and have a slightly cooler color rendering to them. Voigtlander will normally be warmer but not as punchy and warm (and not as much micro contrast, and yes, micro contrast IS real) as Zeiss colors. Voigtlander is somewhere in between Leica and Zeiss when it comes to color, and yes, lenses make a big difference when it comes to color performance. Sometimes cheaper lenses give you strange or ugly off colors and/or color casts. This lens here does not do that, in fact, the color is gorgeous from the 75 wether it is on the Leica SL or Sony A7III. As for the contrast, it is in the middle as it’s not low and it’s not high contrast. Just right and you can edit to taste.
Two with the Sony A7III and 75 1.5
The Leica SL, Bokeh and using on a Rangefinder.
I have said it a million and twenty times. The Leica SL is just one of my all time favorite cameras. Anytime I use it I am reminded of the color, the depth, the warmth and the signature of the files. I have not found any other 35mm format camera that I enjoy more than the SL. With the 75 1.5 attached, it’s pretty amazing because you never have to worry about front or back focus or even a miscalibrated RF. What you see is what you get with the SL’s large EVF so focusing is super easy. It’s my preferred way to shoot this lens or any fast lens these days.
When using this lens on a rangefinder like the M10 please note it has been optimized to focus between 1-3 meters. It’s not a landscape lens but really aimed at people/portraits and a mid distance for best results. At this distance the lens is at it’s best and will offer its signature rendering style.
The bokeh of this lens is quite nice. Big, fat, rounded and smooth. I see nothing that annoys me as it’s not busy at all. Reminds me of a painting at times, which is what this lens is great at…it’s like it is creating images with a big fat brush and wide strokes and in a flattering beautiful way.
Sony A7III and 75 1.5 at 1.5
This is a lens I was semi excited to receive and test. I’m a huge fan of lenses like this. Fast aperture, small but well made, affordable and of course that unique character in the rendering. It’s an M mount lens so made for something like an M9, M10, or any rangefinder body, film or digital. It works equally as well adapted to a camera like the Leica SL or even Sony A7III. I use THIS Novoflex adapter when using the SL for M lenses as I found it to be the 2nd best under the Leica adapter while saving some money. If you want the best adapter for M lenses, the one by Leica takes the prize but at almost $200 more than the Novoflex. if you are using 6 Bit coded M lenses, go for the Leica. If not, the Novoflex will do just as well.
As for the lens itself, I have tested quite few 75-85mm lenses over the last 11 1/2 years. From the Leica Summarits to the Summicron to the lenses from Zeiss, Sony, Canon, Nikon and even Olympus. The new Voigtlander lens for me offers something all of these other lenses do not (when all features are looked at as a whole) and they give it all in one package.
- Fast aperture and small size full frame. I know of no other full frame 75mm lens with this fast of an aperture that is smaller.
- All metal build. Seriously this feels just as good as any Leica when it comes to build.
- Solid yet smooth aperture ring. Just how it should be!
- Compatible with almost any mirrorless body via adapters. Works great on them as well.
- Very unique image quality and character.
- Great color performance, no color casts.
- Has the flavor of a Noctilux or Summilux, gobs of character.
- Low price of $999.
The lens does have some slight vignetting wide open, but if it does not bother you in the images you see here, then it will not bother you when you use it. It’s semi sharp but not critically sharp wide open but that is the beauty of this lens. It’s not meant to compete with the summicrons of the world, rather it is here to offer you a choice of style, character and beauty to your images that will set them apart from the norm. It’s manual focus of course so you will need to hone in on your manual focus skills but with a camera like the SL and even the A7III it’s pretty easy to focus. I had no issues, even with the A7III.
This lens seems to have lower micro contrast (yes it is a real thing, and lenses like the Noct Nikkor, 50 Summilux, Zeiss 35 1.4 have great micro contrast) than most Leica lenses but that doesn’t take away from what it is as the price is just fantastic for what you get.
The 75 1.5 has filled out my Voigtlander collection nicely and now I have a 21, two 35’s with different character, a 50 1.2 and this 75 1.5. I can use them on an M10, an SL or other mirrorless body so am not stuck with one system with these kinds of lenses. One of the many reasons these lenses are the ones I own, buy and keep. (M mount lenses). I do have other lenses like my Canon 50 1.2 L (use it on the SL) and the just arrived Noct Nikkor 58 1.2 which will also be used on the mirrorless bodies. I own other lenses as well like a Zenit 85 and a Sony 28 f/2. As you can tell by my lens collection, I love and adore lenses that reward us with a unique look and style over uber sharp modern day pixel peeping lenses. To me, the images taken with lenses like these offer more emotion and feel to the images. More painterly and rounded vs sharp, flat and crisp.
If you want a lens with gobs of character and one that is small, light, fast and offers you that 3 dimensional bokeh you crave all while being fantastic for portraits or daily life, take a look at this lens from Voigtlander. It can be purchased in Black or Silver. Mine came from Stephen Gandy at CameraQuest. He is pretty much the Voigtlander guy here in the USA and has ALL voigtlander in stock along with fair pricing and shipping.
Links below to his site and the lenses at Amazon (sold by Stephen as well, via Prime)
BUY THE 75 1.5 – $999
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