Those out there who want a top-quality, standard view lens with a little extra width usually opt for a 35mm prime. This focal length has more width than a 50mm prime and is great for things like environmental portraits. There are quite a few options out there to choose from, but if you want a break from the norm, the Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f/1.7 is a possible option.
The Voigtlander brand may not be the most obvious choice if you’re used to sticking to the same camera brand options. However, these off-the-road choices bring fine optics to the table, while also providing a certain character and look. This point can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on your chosen subject matter and preferences. Let’s see what the lens has to offer and how it compares to similarly-priced options.
The Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f/1.7 comes with an M-mount, which means that it can fit Leica cameras and also the likes of the Sony a7 with an adapter. You would also be forgiven for thinking this lens comes from the nineteen-thirties, due to its very retro design. This is a plus point for many, as retro-chic never goes out of fashion in the camera world.
This is, of course, a fully manual focusing lens, which features a thin focusing ring and an easy-to-grip aperture ring that is sectioned off in half-stop increments from f/1.7 to f/16. A screw-in hood is also supplied with the lens, which provides just enough shade to keep out stray light rays. There are also two versions of this lens, black or silver. The silver version is made from brass, while the black example is a more affordable option made from aluminum.
As for general specifications, the aperture comes in at a nice, wide, and bright f/1.7, with a total of 10 diaphragm blades for smooth, out-of-focus backgrounds. The optical arrangement of nine elements in seven groups is accompanied by an aspherical element to reduce lens aberrations and improve image clarity.
The close focusing distance is a reasonable 50cm, which is just about acceptable for this type of lens. The whole package weighs in at a very reasonable 238g.
The Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f/1.7 in Use
In terms of general vignetting, the Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f/1.7 displays obvious light falloff in the corners at f/1.7. This is still evident even with the aperture stopped down to f/8. Different sensor types will give slightly different outputs in this regard, but you will still need access to a photo editing setup to remove this effect.
The lens also displays quite a bit of field curvature in most images. This is most apparent at longer distances but is much more acceptable when capturing close-up subjects. This means the lens may not be the go-to choice for starry night shots.
On the flip side, the Voigtlander is very good at handling flare and ghosting. You really have to push the lens in this regard, which is a definite plus point. Sun stars are the forte of this lens, which can produce them even at wide apertures. At f/2.8 out of focus, sun stars can be easily produced, and come into sharp focus by f/11.
Chromatic aberration is also well-controlled, with only small amounts visible on very high-contrast areas. This is the same with overall barrel distortion, with only minimal amounts being displayed.
In terms of overall bokeh rendition, the lens is very adept at producing smooth background blur. This effect is not always a prerequisite of a 35mm lens, but the Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f/1.7 can produce this in droves for the likes of close-up portraits.
The overall look of the bokeh is very smooth, without any jittery transitions of colors. Out-of-focus highlight balls tend to look like cats eyes at f/1.7, but become far more rounded at f/2.8. In general, bokeh looks better with close-up subjects.
When it comes to sharpness levels, the Voigtlander is very sharp at f/1.7 across most of the frame. The weird field curvature can produce slight softening in the middle of the frame with far-off subjects, but copes much better at close range.
When the lens is stopped down to f/2.8, most of the frame comes into sharp focus, with f/8 producing the best results right up to the edge of the frame. Because of the field curvature, it’s better to focus at a closer point than usual, rather than the center of the frame, to make sure the center and the corners are in equal focus.
The overall image rendition from the Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f/1.7 provides a filmlike look, with a good degree of contrast from the darkest shadows to brightest highlights. Colors and contrast have a good degree of saturation without going overboard, which is also a good starting point for post-processing.
How Does It Compare?
A comparison between the Voigtlander and the Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH may seem initially unfair, especially considering the massive price difference. But many people would be eyeing up the Voigtlander as a more cost-effective alternative to the Leica, with nearly the same levels of optical quality.
The Leica has a wider aperture and it’s just that bit sharper when both lenses are set to f/1.7. The Leica also has a touch more saturation and contrast than the Voigtlander and is obviously the faster lens. Voigtlander is not that far behind Leica in terms of overall performance so, if you don’t need the low-light capabilities of an f/1.4 lens, the Voigtlander works out to be a very affordable option. If you wanted to go up to a 50mm lens, the Voigtländer APO-LANTHAR 50mm f/2 is a possible option.
|Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f/1.7||Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH|
|Min. Focusing Distance||50cm||70cm|
|Optics||9 elements/7 groups||9 elements/5 groups|
The Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f/1.7 Can Compete with More Expensive Options
One of the standout points of the Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f/1.7 is the sharpness from f/1.7. This alone is quite impressive for such a small and fast lens. The bokeh looks great with close-up subjects and can easily rival more expensive lenses. From these points alone, the Voigtlander makes for a very good option compared to similar offerings from ZEISS and Leica.
The field curvature can be problematic if you want to get everything in the frame as sharp as possible. But like any lens, once you know its deficiencies, you soon learn workarounds and ways to play with its parameters. With the Voigtlander, focusing off the center of the frame generally provides the sharpest overall images.
In general, the Voigtlander is a fantastic lens for the money and without the field curvature, it would be more than snapping at the heels of much more expensive lenses.