The Voigtlander 50 APO f/2 VM Lens (M Mount) Review (video)

The Voigtlander 50 APO f/2 VM Lens (M Mount) Review

By Steve Huff

Hello all! Today I want to share some words and a video on this lens from Voigtlander which is such a beautiful piece of glass. In fact, I firmly believe it is the best lens Voigtlander has made as I have said when I reviewed the Sony E mount version. I whipped up a video using this lens on the Leica SL2-S and Panasonic S5 and share video footage from each camera and photos as well.

My video of the Voigtlander 50 APO VM on the Leica SL2-S and Panasonic S5

This lens came to me from CameraQuest.com as they are the USA distributor for Voigtlander glass. It was sent to me to use to see what I think. My spoken words are above in the video and my written thoughts (nothing scientific) are below.

The beauty of this lens is that it is small and compact as M lenses are yet it offers stunning image quality in a 50mm lens. In fact, it is 8X less in cost that the Leica 50 APO and gets very close to that performance. I mean, I am not seeing the case to buy the Leica unless you want the name and even smaller design or the feeling of paying $8800 for a Leica lens. This is a true case of “diminishing returns” meaning you can pay 9X more but you will not get 9X the performance. Not even close.

This lens can be used on a Leica M or almost any mirrorless body with an adapter. I tested it on the SL2-S and Panasonic S5 and out of camera there is some slight vignetting that is easily fixed in whatever image processing software you use. This is because there is no 6-bit coding on the lens. With Leica M lenses, this coding tells the Leica Camera you are using to fix issues such as vignetting and distortion, if it exists. So on a Leica Camera, a Leica 50 APO will not show vignetting but on something like a Sony or Panasonic, it will. Same with this Voigtlander. This of course only happens when wide open, and it is slight and easily fixable in post.

This lens offers detail without being flat or etchy. It offers a organic rendering yet is very very sharp. The bokeh is smooth and easy on the eyes, as it should be. At $999 this lens is a true bargain, especially when you compare it to others in this focal range.

The Zeiss 50 Planar is also a 50mm f/2 lens but does not offer the same quality as this Voigtlander. The Zeiss comes in at $900 but is lower in build quality, lighter, and softer wide open as well. It has a much busier bokeh yet does have an enhanced color pop. It’s a lovely lens but doesn’t have the overall quality of this new Voigtlander 50 APO VM lens.

Here is an image I shot with the Voigtlander 50 APO VM and it is such a gorgeous image that was taken with some luck. I woke up, made some coffee, looked out my front window and saw 17 cardinals in my tree. I grabbed the S5 which had the 50 APO VM on it, set it wide open to f/2 and took a shot. I removed the color from the image, all but the Red to make the Cardinals pop, and pop they do!

Click the image for larger version! This was shot at f/2 with the new 50 APO VM. I took all color out besides the red so the Cardinals would POP!

The lens has a super smooth focusing ring that does not bring any attention to itself. It’s smooth and easy too turn and has a knurled focusing ring rather than a tab. I personally prefer the knurled design as I feel it is easier to use. The lens is solid, feels like it will last a lifetime and has a nice solid aperture dial as well. I feel this lens has most of its character and charm wide open at f/2, and that is the only way I will shoot with it. For me, any 50 can do f/5.6 but it is what a lens does wide open that tells me if it is worth its cost. This lens, for sure, is worth its cost.

I expect this to be a very popular lens for Voigtlander as it is giving us such amazing quality for such an unheard of price. If we think in Leica terms, this is a steal. Also, there is a myth that Leica lenses are built better than a lens like this but in my experience I have had 3 Leica lenses break down in my lifetime. A 50 Noctilux. A 50 APO and a 75 Summarit. One Zeiss has had an issue for me over time and it was that 50 Planar, which is known to have had sloppiness in it’s focus ring, and that is what happened with mine until it got loose enough to be concerned. With that, I have never had a Voigtlander break down. That’s not to say they do not, but in my experience, which is all I can write about, never an issue with a Voigtlander. They also have a bit more character and save thousands of dollars over the “L”. I have owned over 20 Voigtlander lenses over the last 15 years and one thing is certain. They have bene getting so much better over the last few years.

You can see my video review above with video samples using this lens on the SL2-S and Panasonic S5 though I preferred using it on the S5 for two reasons. On the SL2-S Leica does not allow us to use third party M glass while keeping 5 Axis IBIS and Auto ISO functionality unless yo use only their $435 adapter. The S5 lets me use my Novoflex or even a $20 adapter and still get IBIS and Auto ISO. Leica wants you to buy their adapter which is nice if you use only Coded Leica M lenses. If that is the case, I can highly recommend the Leica adapter if you are using a Leica Camera AND Leica M coded lenses.

To those who use lenses like this one from Voigtlander, it sadly weakens the case for the SL2-S and leans more towards the S5 which is essentially a similar camera with a different vibe.

Between the two, the SL2-S has the superior build, no question. I am holding both right now in my hand and the Leica is solid, feels like a solid piece of metal and has a beautiful minimal look. The S5 feels cheaper in the hand, has way more dials and buttons and is not as sleek. With that said, the S5 outputs a just as nice, if not a nicer looking image. Totally different color signatures but I like what I see in the S5. The Leica has a better EVF and much more refined menu experience. I love the SL2-S but admit the S5 is also very very nice for much less cash.

The S5 is almost $3k less than the Leica to boot.

In any case, if you want to check out this lens you can read more about it or order it at CameraQuest HERE. They also sell the hood, which you can see in my video above.

A few more test shots from around my yard. Hey, it’s like 0 degrees and there’s still a Pandemic happening, so I am staying close to home : ) 

These images were shot on the S5

Now a couple from the SL2-S

34 Comments

  1. Hi Steve, how would you rate it agains standard Summicron (non-APO) if you had one on hand or strong memory? Thank you

    • Different rendering really. The OG 50 Cron has more of a “cut out” effect up close at f/2 where the Voigtlander is smoother and more natural. I feel the bokeh on the Voigt is much nicer, and the color warmer.

  2. Steve,
    Your prior reviews of the 50mm Heliar on the SL mentioned how close it was to the Leica 50mm APO. Which of the two Voigtlander lenses to you like better as far as color rendering and overall image feel?

    • The Heliar is an f/3.5 lens, so much slower. But at 3.5 it does remind me ALOT of the Leica 50 APO. It’s a gorgeous lens if you shoot at smaller apertures. But if you want f/2, and a more shallow DOF the APO is the way to go. To be honest, the little Heliar is one of my faves.

  3. Steve thank you for this valuable info !
    This pull me a little bit off buying a SL2-S.
    Does this IBIS issue in Leica SL2-S apply on other cheap adapters as well ?
    Like FD-SL ; C/Y-SL ; Pentax-SL ; Konica-SL ; Ai-S-SL ; Olympus OM-SL….etc. ??
    Or this is exclusively problem for the LeicaM-SL adapter ?

    Thanks

  4. Can’t you match this lens with a equivalent focal length Leica lens in the menu to activate the IBIS in SL2-S? I remember this was an option on SL2. Please give it a try. 🙂

    • Sure, but ONLY if you use the Leica $430 adapter. The SL2-S doesn’t allow you to do that (or Auto ISO) with my Novoflex adapter. They used to allow it, but they probably wanted to make sure people paid up for their adapter. I do not own the Leica adapter so can not try this.

  5. Loved your review on the Voigtlander 50mm apo. The images look great. I love the story behind the photo of the Cardinals. That’s what great about photography the memories you have stored. I think that photo is a gift from God to you. Wondering if your little
    black dog is back in Arizona?

    • Unfortunately no, as that is a DSLR. You can adapt this to almost any Mirrorless camera, like the Z series. DSLR’s are different beasts and can not mount M lenses.

  6. I’ve been waiting for this review….thanks for doing it! I own the Voigtlander 50mm 1.2VM Asph and I have been very happy with it. That said, I’ve always wanted the Leica 50APO but could never justify the cost for ‘just’ a 50. This new Voigtlander might just get added to the list….

  7. Steve

    Great review and video, I enjoyed them both.

    It’s too bad that the SL2-S requires the Leica adapter to give us stabilization and auto-ISO vs. a third party adapter. This makes the SL2-S less attractive to me.

    Did you have a Leica adapter available to try? If yes, how does the SL2-S perform with this lens (and other uncoded lenses)?

    I agree with you about the S5 images, the color rendering is a bit different than the Leica and very pleasing.

    Looking forward to your next review.
    PaulB

    • You also need the Leica adapter to set the camera profile to a 50 APO. They have crippled the SL2 series so you kind of are forced to buy their adapter. To be honest, I did not know this when I wrote my SL2-S review. I missed it as I was shooting it with L mount lenses. I will be updating my review to reflect this dissapointment. I do not have a Leica adapter as it’s $435. I have a Novolflex, which is half that cost. I bought the Novoflex when I had the original SL, back when you could still change the profile and use Auto ISO.

  8. Hi Steve. I have tried out the APO CV 50/2 on my M( and M10. Compared with (many) other 50mm RF lenses, how do you find the colors with this new lens?

    • I find the colors camera dependent really. It gave me different color on the two cameras I used it on. I may do a post soon using it on the Hasselblad 907x. I see no issues with color, and to me it showcases the color differences of the cameras moreso than anything. On an M you would want to set the profile to 50 APO when using this lens. Something I can not do on the SL2-S without the Leica adapter. (I own the Novoflex).

  9. Hello Steve,
    first of all, thank you very much for this review. As always interesting and nice to read.
    Somehow we seem to share a little affection for Voigtländer lenses…?
    And I agree, maybe there still exist better lenses, but the ones I know from Voigtländer I find really good and from what I saw from your review, the 50 APO seems to be a really good one, too.

    But in the context of your review another point came up. You mentioned some limitations of the SL2-S with 3rd party lenses.
    I played a little with the thought to invest in a SL2-S but I am not sure anymore if this would be a good idea, as I would mostly use it with 3rd party lenses.

    Esp. as you wrote:
    “On the SL2-S Leica does not allow us to use third party M glass while keeping 5 Axis IBIS and Auto ISO functionality unless yo use only their $435 adapter“
    +
    “Leica wants you to buy their adapter which is nice if you use only Coded Leica M lenses. If that is the case, I can highly recommend the Leica adapter if you are using a Leica Camera AND Leica M coded lenses.”

    Although the purchase of the Lecia adapter would add a significant amount to the required budget, it would not yet be a final killer for me, as long as it would then perform as good as the S5 with 3rd party lenses (and would let you use the IBIS + Auto Iso).
    But according to the limitation of your recommendation to the Leica Adapter AND M coded lenses, I am not sure if there are further drawbacks (in combination with 3rd party lenses like the Voigt. 50 APO) except to the high adapter price.
    It would be nice if you could share some more details on this (or maybe a small comparison?).

    Thank you very much.
    Best Regards,
    Heki

    • Hello. I do not own the Leica adapter but I agree, if you are buying an SL2 or SL2-s, the Leica adapter is not gaing to break the bank, and one should buy it. I bought my Novoflex years ago and used it with the older SL. That camera allowed us to change the profile and use Auto ISO with 3rd party adapters but they changed these things via firmware so they would sell more of their adapter. I would think if you use the Leica adapter on an SL2 series body and set the profile to a 50APO you would get even better results. So yea, probably worth it for sure but kind of stinks that they did that.

      • Hello Steve,
        Thanks for your info.
        And I agree, probably worth it but somehow a very disappointing decision from Leica! I fear that they will lose much more business from this decision than they could gain from adapter sales…

        Regards,
        Heki

  10. Now there is also a new Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar 35mm F2 Aspherical VM lens for Leica M .

    Have ever you tried to use Voigtlander lenses ( 50mm APO , 75mm 1.5 ) with bigger MF sensor like Hasselblad ? Do they cover the bigger sensor ?

    • Ive used other M lenses on the 907x. Any M lens will vignette more heavily on the Hasselblad. It’s all easily fixable but some lenses will be more extreme than others. I have not yet tried this lens on the 907x but will as soon as this snow and freeze calms down. Thank you!

    • Not sure, as I don’t own any of them. Older lenses in general though will be much much softer wide open. Lens tech has come a long way and this lens can be shot at f/2 without compromise. You will also more crazy bokeh in some older lenses that range from swirly, to busy to dizzy! There are many wonderful older lenses, and they have gobs of character which in some cases is nicer than trying to be perfect. With that said, this lens and the Leica 50 APO are not analytical lenses. They also have character, which is nice.

  11. Hi Steve,
    Great review as always; thanks so much. You have now reviewed this 50mm APO lens, as well as the 50mm Heliar, which you rated very highly. Putting aside the slower speed of the Heliar, how would you compare the image qualities of these two Voigtlander lenses?
    Best regards, Jay

    • Hey Jay, the 50 Heliar is awesome but as you know, a slow f/3.5 lens. The 50 Heliar also has the flavor of the Leica 50 APO, just not f/2. I would say if you did not need f/2, the Heliar is a great option at a better price. I love both of these lenses. The Heliar is a jewel of a lens.

      • Thanks very much Steve. By way of background, I will want to use the chosen Voigtlander lens on my Leica M9 Monochrom so lens speed is beneficial. So if I went with the Voigtlander 50mm APO F/2, would a manual or coded lens setting as for a Leica 50mm Summicron be appropriate (say Version III, IV, V or VI)? And what manual / coded lens setting would work for the 50mm Heliar, if any?
        Best regards, Jay

  12. Looks like a great lens. My only question is how does it work on a Leica M9,M10
    does it need calibration? What do I do if the lens is not calibrated out of the box?

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