CRAZY COMPARISON! Leica 50 APO vs Voigtlander 50 APO. A $9k vs $1k Lens.

CRAZY COMPARISON! Leica 50 APO vs Voigtlander 50 APO. A $9k vs $1k Lens.

By Steve Huff

So I just posted a video to my YouTube comparing the Leica 50 APO against the Voigtlander 50 APO. Both in M mount. The Leica is a lens that is considered to be one of, if not THE best 50mm in the world. I think that rang true when it was released but today with so many amazing 50mm lenses out there it may not be the case today. Even so, it is a gorgeous 50mm lens and while a small f/2 design it comes in at $8995.00 retail.

See the video comparison below!

The Voigtlander is also a 50 APO f/2 lens design and while a bit larger than the Leica it is still tiny in comparison to todays big auto focus 50mm’s. To have this kind of quality in such a small inexpensive lens is pretty remarkable. This lens is $999, and if you want the metal hood add an extra $100. You can see the size difference in the video above.

One would think that a lens that costs $8,000 less than the Leica would never be able to compete with the lovely little magical summicron. After my tests over the last week I can say that it not only competes but gets 95% there (or more). In fact, some may even prefer the rendering of the Voigtlander over the Leica. There is no better here just oh so slightly different.

I shot both of these lenses on the SL2-S and the results surprised me. I knew the Voigtlander was a great lens (see my first video from last winter) and could get close to the Leica but for the cost difference, this is kind of ridiculous.

Let’s get started.

I shot with the Leica M adapter this time, setting aside my old fave Novoflex adapter. The Leica adapter allows you to set the lens profile, even with uncoded 3rd party lenses. This is what allows the camera to correct the 50 APO vignetting. By applying a lens profile to the Voigtlander it will also do the same for it. I tried out several profiles with the Voigtlander and found the one for the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH worked the best, so that is what I used.

 Two lenses. Same camera. CLICK THEM for larger and better versions. 

SAMPLE 1: Portrait & Bokeh

The top image was shot with the Leica at f/2. The Bottom with the Voigtlander at f/2. The Leica’s bokeh is just a hair smoother but to untrained eyes they will look exactly the same. In fact, Debby could not tell a difference in these images. Neither could family members. I asked which one they though was from the $9k lens and which from the $1k lens and they thought it was a trick and I used the same lens! This shows just how close the Voigtlander is to the Leica. Do you see $8,000 worth of difference here?

SAMPLE 2 – Sharpness and Bokeh

Below you can see another example that shows the same as above. There is a teeny bit more “puffiness” to the Leica’s Bokeh but again these two lenses are doing the same thing for color, detail, sharpness and the only slight difference is in the Bokeh. So so slight. Click them for larger and below you can see crops from each. 

SAMPLE 3 – Casual Candid Portrait

After 7 hours of working in the yard cutting down trees and hauling and burning the wood we sat down and had a beer. I shot this one of Debby with each lens and in the one I prefer the Voigtlander ever so slightly but they are so close it is pretty remarkable. 

SAMPLE 4 – CLOSE UP

Two more with the same vibe again. Click them for larger.

SAMPLE 5 – MID DISTANCE

Click it for a larger version. Leica up top, Voigt down under it. 

 

At the end of the day this comparison showed me that we do not have to spend $9,000 to get this kind of performance from an M lens. We can get 95-98% there for $1k. This $8,000 savings could be used for a trip, for 7 more Voigtlander lenses or just to keep in the bank. Yes the bokeh  with the Leica is a hair smoother and provides an overall slightly smoother looking image but it is oh so slight. You can see this effect in the image above, of the gazing ball. The Voigtlander has a bit more pop and the ball is separated from the background with more definition. The Leica also has a slightly smoother bokeh and subject. 

As for build, Leica’s are known for their immaculate build quality but the Voigtlander is built to a high standard as well. All I will say on that is in my lifetime I have had three Leica have issues and need repair. I have had one Zeiss break and need repair. I have never had a Voigtlander lens break on me. So build on both of these lenses is good and I do not see the Leica as having a better build.

I have not experienced flare, or any nasties with the Voigtlander either and as for resale, buying NEW Leica will always have you losing thousands if you decide to resell within 10 years. Buying a new Voigtlander? You can sell anytime and lose around $300 on a lens like this vs $2500+ on the Leica.

Sure the Leica is made in Germany. The Voigtlander in Japan. Both amazing places for lenses to be made ; )

I can highly recommend the Voigtlander today even more than when I first talked about it. I have seen just how close it is to a lens that sells for $8,000 more and it’s pretty incredible.

Voigtlander has come a LONG way in improving their lenses over the last few years. Today they offer some pretty amazing lenses and many that can and do compete with Leica. I will be taking a look at the 35 APO from Voigtlander soon ; ) Maybe compare against the Leica 35 Summicron APO M?

You can buy it from CameraQuest.com HERE for $999 and they also have the HOOD! 

You can also get it on Amazon (via Prime) HERE

32 Comments

  1. i am read you many years,maybe i am offer stupid idea,you not want test irix lens,this are not expensive,but quality is good.

  2. Cosina can make great lenses. Don’t they manufacture the various lines of Zeiss lenses many people love over the years?

  3. Hi Steve, there seems to be issues with the Voigtlander 35 apo with a lot of focus shift based on tilting the lens after focussing as well as severe focus plane curvature. It would be great to see see your experience with this.

    • I stopped using M cameras for these reasons. The RF’s go out of whack with a slight bump. Some lenses have shift. It’s the rangefinder and the antiquity of the system that causes these issues. You may have one lens that does great and another that doesn’t. It’s why I afore the SL system. With the M lenses it’s not a huge system anymore and focus is 100% spot on every time. Focus shift doesn’t exist and IMO, the files are better than the M10 files. On the SL I do not think there will be issues with the lens. I am hoping to get to it in a week or so ; )

      • Hi Steve. Maybe you should hafe mentioned that an M-Mount Voigtländer does not fit an M-Camera well? Ich think part of the lens Qulaity by Leica is the ability te be used on such a complex System. A have to admit neither on the M4P nor the M8 i had Problems with lenses, and i owned the Voigtländer 2/28. So maybe its more a Problem oh the modern Leicas?

  4. I like both of these brand, Leica and voigtlander. For me, many new lenses from Voigtlander are worth to buy because good quality with reasonable price for me. I wasn’t interested in Voigtlander 50 APO until i read this review (I’m a bokeh lover who prefer f1.2 something like that lol).

  5. i know this is not a direct comparison but stopped down how do you think it compares to the amazing Voigtlander 50/3.5 that you thought so highly of?

  6. This so-called test is a FRAUD.
    Sean Reid outlines in detail that M lenses do not deliver their full potential on an SL body.
    You are causing massive damage to Leica’s reputation, with an unfair test on the wrong body.
    If I was you, I would immediately withdraw this “Crazy Comparison”.
    Or do you believe that Leica will not claim compensation from you?
    This is a well-meant warning.

    • Well, when I tested it on the M10-R Leica sent me, the RF was off and therefore focus was slightly off. IME, the 50 APO did better on the old SL (vs the M) and I reviewed that lens on both bodies. Leica says clearly that ALL M LENSES can be used on the SL bodies, it’s a feature of the SL after all, and their $450 adapter which recognizes the lens and does the corrections (of which it does). Fair test 100% and it is what it is. Just because you do not like the results doesn’t mean anything. The Voigtlander is stellar and renders very similarly to the Leica. If the truth hurts you, do not read the truth. This was about as far of a test as it goes. Both lenses tested on the SL2-S. As for your “warning”, that made me LOL. ; ) Have a nice day.

    • Wow Erwin, relax man. Steve has reviewed hundreds of cameras and lenses, including countless Leicas. I have owned 7 Leica bodies and dozen lenses since September 2019, including the 50 APO from Leica. While it’s a really nice lens, I totally agree with Steve’s findings: Leica is a niche product that’s hand built in Germany and of excellent mechanical quality, however, as far as output goes: it’s really good, but not as good as the best out there that cost a fraction of the price and surely not worth the asking price. Look at DPReview that posted last year a test between the Leica 35mm FLE and Ttartisans 35mm f1.4 and people couldn’t tell the different, the only perceivable difference are the 4,900 usd difference. Lastly, just relax and enjoy whatever brand you choose, no need to get acknowledgment from everyone.

      • I disagree with there is no difference between the Leica and the ttartisans lens. All lenses render differently- especially with lights in the lens in high contrast situations. There are great value propositions but if money is no question on a core usage lens, the Leica is a clear win for me in this comparison. However, I love the rendering if the Zeiss 35/1.4 even more but it is bigger and blocks more viewfinder. We have choices that are a complex and depend on our personal priorities. But no lens is identical in rendering and Steve is clear on that.

        • I would never compare a TT artisans lens to a Leica lens. NEVER. TT Artisans are good for $100-$400 lenses but do not compare to Voigtalnder. The Voigtlander here is 95% of the Leica but cost $8k more, never said it was exactly the same as the differences are there in the bokeh, but slight. The Leica does not have more detail, sharpness or even better corners. It has slightly different Bokeh, and that is SLIGHT. I’d take the Voigtlander all day long (and have) for the cost as in print or online, yo would never know the difference nor would anyone care. The Leica is for those who must have a lens that says Leica on it. It’s not built any better, doesn’t feel any better, and is super similar when you use the Leica adapter and profile. On an M, simply choose the profile there with the lens. Today I feel Leica is absurd in their pricing. We do not get $9k worth of lens in this 50 APO from Leica.

          • I totally agree with you steve. I didn’t mean to say that a Leica is comparable to a TTartisans, however, the article just posted the same pictures taken with the same camera without pointing out which picture was taken with which lens, and the majority of people couldn’t tell the difference. In fact, quite few like the TTartisans’s pictures more. I am not dissing the Leica FLE, I own it and love it, but I do think I am buying the name, first and foremost with Leica – besides, best build-quality, I don’t see any discernible advantage. In fact, I owned the Hasselblad X1Dii for few months and thought that the build quality exceeded my M10R and the OOC output was second to none, never had to move a slider in LR. Thanks for your work and interesting comparisons Steve – please keep it up. God bless!

  7. Hello,
    Thank you for this interesting comparison.
    Just a question. Does the stabilization of the SL2-S works with the Voigtlander lenses ?
    Best ragards

  8. Thank you Steve! Great review and the best kept secret out there. You really can’t beat the value proposition of Voigtlander. Really enjoyed the comparison shots featuring Voigtlander’s recent APO lens. The Voigtlander 35mm APO Sony E-mount is equally stunning. Pair these Voigtlander lenses in E-mount with the Sony A7RIV and you have a fantastic setup for less than the cost of ONE Leica lens.

  9. Hi Steve,
    Five stars, not six stars for this review.
    How can Huff fans choose between two 50mm APO lenses-without photo comparisons of the Huff Jeep?
    A lesson here for the upcoming 35mm L. vs V. APO shoot-out.
    Cheers
    Jay

  10. To my eye the difference in bokeh seems to a slightly higher macro contrast from the Voight. Even in the close up of the painted bricks the lettering has a wider difference between black and white values. Better? No. Just different. The Leica is certainly as detailed. If it weren’t $9k more I’d prob prefer the slightly flatter contrast.

  11. Hi Steve/Great articles and video, thanks.I am amazed at the Voigtlanders performance and eagerly await your view on the 35mm.May we see a 28mm APO or is that unlikely to happen.Cheers.

  12. I should have added a question… how did you like using the SL2S for manual focus M shooting? I’ve been trying out M lenses on my Nikon Z5 and it is very difficult to get the image to magnify. You have to hit a button at the bottom of the rear of the camera and it is very awkward. Otherwise more accurate than using an M camera body.

  13. Thanks for this. The Voigt looks pretty good but for bokeh I’d pick the Leica. However for being practical the Voigt wins hands down.
    Now a comparison of 35 APOs would be fun.
    Your lucky that you’ve only had three Leica M lenses needing repair.

  14. Lovely article
    I use the Voightlander APO 50 Lanthar on my M10P and M9M and love it.
    I agree with you, I could not tell the difference between those lenses( I used to own the Leica 50 APO in the past)
    Danny

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