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Voigtländer lenses with Digital Medium Format body? Mystical!

Updated: Mar 12

YES :~)


Shot using Nokton Vintage Line 75mm F1.5 lens with the X1D II 50C. JPG SOOC. Image © MysticFocus
Voigtlander Heliar 50mm F3.5 Leica M-mount Lens
Chow Chow! Shot using Heliar 50mm F3.5 lens. JPG SOOC. Only cropped. Image © MysticFocus

Updated 12th March 2024


Welcome to our blog post about a mystical photographic journey, that taught us a few things we would like to share with you all readers here today. This blog post is an amalgamation of those nuanced thoughts & experiences we have had so far in this vivid journey that you might also want to embark upon. On board?


Disclaimers first


1. This is not a review of any product. Photography, like other forms of art is very subjective. Anything that is lesser, odd, imperfect, obsolete, better or best is all in your head. Or still, just buy a Voigtländer and be done with the rest!

Custom white balance is always better than AWB! Images © Mystic Focus


2. This article is based on our personal account of shooting with our full frame M-mount, F-mount & L39-mount Voigtländer lenses, and adapted to the digital medium format Fujifilm GFX 50r* (FUG or GFX) & Hasselblad X1D II 50C (HAX) camera bodies that we own. While we still love shooting with our other wonderful FF & APS-C sensor bodies, but the Hasselblad X1D II 50C & the GFX 50r* have now become our primary cameras for everything over the last 1+ year or so. This expedition is simply for our own sake and not an endorsement of either the HAX or GFX systems because we, like all of you, are also in our own journey, where we also like to use unique things that fascinates us. This article is not meant to dissuade anyone from buying a smaller sensor camera and in no way it construes that they will not give you similar or even better results than you would achieve from this combination. There is no outlier!


Voigtlander Heliar Classic 50mm F1.5 SC Leica M-mount lens
Shot with Heliar Classic 50mm F1.5 SC © MysticFocus. Un-edited

3. Our shooting style is a bit unusual or may be not. We normally shoot at least 1 stop underexposed. The darker the scene is, the more we like it and we further underexpose it. Some of the sample images that we have used for this article have their exposure corrected only for the purpose of this article as you would also learn why we did that as you'll read along. Those changes have been called out in their respective caption. We try shooting handheld as much as we can, without IBIS (even if the camera has one), sometimes down to even 1/25th off a second and don't bother with the obvious shakes as that is not the purpose of this article. We don't prefer, or rather avoid all forms of edits excluding crops, so our aim is to always take one final shot and admire it as-is.


4. And no, we don't chimp either. Hence, there will not be any consistency in the images of the same subject we have used in this article for side-by-side comparisons as they were all unique shots taken with different camera modes or lenses and not intended to be used in an article like this later on. We are not a seasoned reviewer either or believe in one. This is purely intended to familiarise our readers about our experiences with this combo.

Voigtlander Heliar 40mm F2.8 Leica L39 M39 screw mount lens
Shot with Heliar 40mm F2.8 L39-mount. Image © MysticFocus. Un-edited, un-cropped in-camera JPG

"Why" this bizarre attempt in the first place?


  1. The large digital medium format (DMF) sensor riding a large image processor at 14-bits squeezes more details off our full frame (FF) M-mount, F-mount and the very latest anniversary edition L39-mount lenses that is visible even to the least discerning. The results speak for itself

  2. Provides a greater balance between distinctive line pairs at greater distances and a good low light sensitivity. The effective bigger sized pixel (pitch size of 5.29 micro meter) at its resolution and pixel density gathers more light which naturally improves the ISO performance. It further allows for a decent +/- 2 F stops of DR recovery without sacrificing the original micro-contrast, details or characteristic rendering of the lenses

  3. The adapter for M-mount lenses barely adds 1.1mm to the GFX's flange back (27.8mm for VM-mount versus 26.7mm for GFX-mount) or 9.5mm to the X1D (18.3mm for HAX-mount) and likewise, 18.8mm (GFX) & 28.2mm (HAX) for F-mount lenses (46.5mm), thereby retaining the overall form factor of the camera pretty compact. There is a marginal increase in the body size if you are coming over from a FF mirrorless body but that's quite obvious

  4. Dimensionally, a DMF sensor is smaller than the true medium format (MF), at 44mm x 33mm versus 60mm x 45mm or 60mm x 70mm of the original MF dimensions. This reduction in sensor size thankfully gets anywhere between 90% (modest) to 100% of sensor coverage depending upon the full frame lens & the digital medium format body used. Also, our recent tests have shown that the newer GFX bodies (i.e. 50s II & 100s) have better macro-lenses on their sensors which gathers better light into the corners than our discontinued 50r* model, which makes this combo all the more appealing. We will update this further when we have tested the Hasselblad X2D 100C camera

  5. Worst case scenario is when using ultra wide lenses, the fixed hoods on the barrel could add a shadow into the image, which can be easily avoided by switching the camera to the 35mm mode instead (requires latest firmware). This mode also works like a charming full frame system because the in-camera software crops the DMF frame into a full frame format of size 36mm x 24mm and 3:2 aspect ratio, thereby retaining the 35mm equivalent focal length, FOV & aperture ratio of the lens used. With an effective resolution of roughly 31 MP the resultant full frame image is quite pleasing too. People who complained about Fuji's reluctance to produce a body with a full frame sensor will now appreciate having this feature, making it 2 camera bodies in one!

  6. The DMF sized sensor (FSI for older 50MP sensor or BSI for newer 100MP sensor) isn't temperamental when used with a variety of our modern as well as classic lenses. The floor noise of the sensor is also low at higher ISO and our assumption is that this is due to its perceived low resolution for a sensor of its size. There's hardly any noticeable artefact even when pixel peeping. The colours are rich, micro-contrasts are in spade loudly expressing their signature Voigtländer quality all the way

  7. We had not upgraded our camera body since a very long time so there was also that motivation. In recent years DMF bodies have overcome some of the limitations associated with their portability, for example, the Hasselblad X1D or the X2D are exceptionally compact cameras besides the 907x still being the smallest DMF camera with 16-bits of colour gamut. It not only made sense just to upgrade the body but even the system. Hence we summed up "Why" not!

There are a few things to know of course as the two systems neither have similar physical properties nor are designed for each other. But since we are a big fan of adaptation anyway, it was imperative to map our limited theoretical knowledge to our experiences on the field with this interesting combo. This post further intends to dispel some of the myths that may be associated with it, learn what we should or additionally do to extract maximum benefits from this combo if one wants to go this route. We may not be 100% correct, and there must be several other HAX or GFX owners that we don't know who have also tried this combo and penned their own experiences somewhere on the internet. But we do hope you will also find our article interesting & a good use of your time reading through.


Technical bits


The Image Circle of a Full Frame lens should have a diameter of 43.27mm to cover a Full Frame sensor and 55mm to cover a Digital Medium Format Sensor.


As you can see in the Fig 1 below, the yellow coloured circle represents the light that comes off a FF lens & falls on a FF sensor (left) & DMF sensor (right). The diameter of this yellow coloured circle must be equal to or greater than the orange coloured ring to fully cover a FF sensor or the blue coloured ring to fully cover a DMF sensor.


In the upper row of the image, we are showing the yellow coloured Image Circle which has a diameter not large enough to entirely cover the DMF sensor leaving dark corners in the image. This phenomena is prominent with the 50r* more than it is on the X1D and nearly absent in 50s II & 100s (please refer to the last para of this article). Depending upon how small or big these dark corners are, the image may be cropped accordingly. In the row below, we are showing an Image Circle which is large enough to fully cover the DMF sensor leaving no dark corners whatsoever. This will require no cropping as can be seen in the images Img 4 & Img 5 further below.


Voigtlander full frame lens with Fujifilm GFX medium format sensor illustration
Fig 1. Image © MysticFocus

Consider this. The area of a FF sensor in square millimetres is 864 and 1452 for a DMF sensor. Now when our FF lens isn't entirely covering DMF sensor (like in upper row of Fig 1), you may have to crop around the edges to get rid of the dark / unlit corners say by 10%. The total area of the resultant image will then be 90% of 1452 i.e. 1306 square millimetres which is still 50% more than what you get from the FF sensor. Most of our Voigtländer lenses will not require more than 3 to 5% cropping. Fig 1 above makes it aptly easy to interpret while also corroborating with our "why" reasons.


In the worst case scenario, refer to Fig 2 below. If you crop a DMF image based on the FF image circle diameter of 43.27mm, you will get a sensor coverage with an effective area of (27.98mm x 33mm) = 923.41 square millimetres with an aspect ratio of roughly 6.57:5.57 which is still ~ 7% larger than your FF sensor area of 864 square millimetres.

Voigtlander Full Frame image circle on GFX sensor crop
Fig 2. Image © MysticFocus. Cropping a DMF image as per the FF Image circle

Fig 3. Cropping scenarios © MysticFocus. Note that no cropping will be needed when the DMF sensor is fully covered by the FF lens

The amount of sensor coverage however also depends on how much light is going to diffract off the last optical element (i.e. the exit pupil) and other factors as outlined in the bullets below. As can be seen in Fig 4, the actual diameter of the Image Circle must always be bigger than the diameter of the image circle of a sensor it is trying to expose. Depending upon the design & various other factors, this could range from a minimum of ~ 44mm to 55mm or even greater. Based on our extensive use of this combo, we can confirm that almost all of the Voigtländer full frame lenses can comfortably cover anywhere between 90% to 100% of a DMF sensor.

Compare full frame and digital medium format image circle
Fig 4. Image Circles © MysticFocus

The variable factors from our experience suggests a pattern though not necessarily be a final basis for all considerations to be made there-off -


  • The focal length of the lens - sensor coverage area reduces with wider angle lenses

  • The aperture at which the shot is taken - sensor coverage area reduces with the increasing F stop whilst also adding the possibility of corner vignetting

  • Exit pupil optimisation - is independent of the above two criteria and can determine how much of the DMF sensor is covered on its own


As seen in Img 4 & Img 5 below, a combination of all the above factors shows that a FF lens can comfortably accommodate the entire DMF sensor, with no degradation in the image quality especially around the edges of the frame, leaving no dark circles or corners in your image either - a total win-win scenario.


A&A

Argument 1- a DMF camera has a crop factor of 0.79, it will only utilise 79% of the DMF sensor. So what's the point using a FF lens on a bigger sensor camera like an X1D or GFX?


Answer - well, a Yes, a No & two Bonuses.


Yes, congratulations on doing your maths / google correctly. The effective focal length and aperture of your FF lens will be cropped by a factor of 0.79 because the 35mm format is the reference or a numerator or 1.0x. Which means a 50mm lens would now roughly become 40mm from a field of view standpoint, though it will still be a 50mm lens and a F1.5 aperture ratio would become F1.2 from a depth of field standpoint, though it will still have the relative aperture of F1.5 even on a DMF camera. Which means you could step a bit closer to your subject and still have the same magnification and the depth of field a native 50mm F1.5 lens will provide with a FF body.


Image © MysticFocus
Fujfilm GFX 50R with Voigtlander Heliar 40mm F2.8 using Novoflex mount adapter
Image © MysticFocus

No, the DMF sensor also adds anywhere between 50% to 68% more pixel real estate over a FF sensor area as explained in our technical bits section above. The crop factor of 0.79 does not imply that the sensor coverage will also scale down to 79%. This will give you a bigger image, more resolution and a better low light performance which is the secret behind the ability to comfortably fiddle around with the DR of the image. In our experience, you can do the same to an image taken with a FF body, but not without destroying the micro-contrast & overall characteristics of the image


Bonus 1, the depth of field gets more shallower ("bo-keh") as the aperture ratio is also reduced by the factor of 0.79. So effectively a 1 stop advantage for more creamy "bo-kehs". This is a no brainer of course!


Bonus 2, your FOV will increase by 20 to 26%, depending upon how much you crop to remove the dark corners if there are any. The Img 1 is shot with the Super-Wide Heliar 15mm F4.5 III lens (12mm F3.6 DMF equivalent) at F11 (F9). An already super-wide angle lens at 110 degrees, the FOV is further widened to almost 135 degrees in DMF. Agreed this could only be an attractive option for landscape shooters with wide lenses, but it is indeed a bonus even for those who, like us will find switching between DMF & FF mode for that extra width in their frame easy incase they can't take a few steps back / forward or are in a hurry.


In Img 1 below, as expected, the Super-wide Heliar by far exhibits corner darkening + an additional vignetting overlap to the corners of the GFX sensor. Well, this is also not unusual for this particular lens as minor vignetting is visible even when this lens is used on a FF camera. But if you look at the top corner on the left, details of the tree branches can be easily seen even where it begins to get dark.

Voigtlander Ultra Wide-Heliar 15mm F4.5 with Fujifilm GFX 50r camera
Img 1. Unedited RAW. Look at the upper & lower edges of the frame. The FOV is so widened that even the integrated petal hood of this lens is visible. Image © MysticFocus
Voigtlander Ultra Wide-Heliar 15mm F4.5 with Fujifilm GFX 50r camera
Img 2. Post straightening, cropping & +1.5 F stop EV correction to show the scale of recovery. No vignetting, highlights or shadow corrections were applied. Catching our drift? Image © MysticFocus
Voigtlander Ultra Wide-Heliar 15mm F4.5 with Fujifilm GFX 50r camera
Img 3. Shot with in-camera 35mm mode. Unedited RAW. Notice only minor vignetting. Image © MysticFocus

The captions for Img 2 & Img 3 are self explanatory.


All the three images taken with the GFX have been put side by side to show the usable size under each scenario (un-cropped, cropped+corrected, & in-camera 35mm). The image at the centre was also straightened that resulted in more cropping than we would have liked.


In the context of this article and the samples we have shown here, the phenomena of vignetting must always be abstracted away from the topic of sensor coverage as the two aren't directly inter-related. Even if the lens fully covers the DMF sensor, it can vignette based on the incident light or aperture.


From our real world experience and depending upon the lens used, the ability to crop out dark corners could still yield an image that is upto 95% of a DMF sized image in almost all cases, or conservatively if you will. The image could either be in 4:3, 3:2 or even 16:9 & 16:10 (as with most macbook pro displays) or other cinematic aspect ratios the camera natively supports. Refer to the two unedited RAW converted images below.

Voigtlander Nokton 58mm F1.4 with Fujifilm GFX 50r camera
Img. 4 . Shot with Nokton 58 F1.4 SL IIs AIS F lens at F8. 4:3 RAW converted JPG in DMF size. Sensor coverage is >98% crippled by vignetting because the sunlight was also incident on the lens. Image © MysticFocus
Voigtlander APO-Skopar 90mm F2.8 lens with Fujifilm GFX 50r camera
Img 5. Shot with APO-Skopar 90mm F2.8 M lens at F2.8. 4:3 RAW converted in DMF size. Almost 100% sensor coverage with no vignetting or dark corners. Image © MysticFocus.

Argument 2 - images will be distorted or unsharp along the edges / corners of the image?


Answer - the short answer is no.


The long answer - If you simply look at Img 5 above, you can clearly see that no portion of the frame appears to bend over or distort around the edges. Like the pillars & arches of the building behind the white board or the letter R to the left or even the metal frame above by which the Kahve written board hangs. Just because DMF sensor is bigger than the last element (exit pupil) of the full frame lens and it would require every last bit of the light emitted from the edges of that element to lit up the edges of the DMF sensor will show distortion in any form is an incorrect assumption. It is clearly self evident from the unedited images above. First of all, the glass elements are cut from larger blocks of glass to ensure uniformity across the diameter of the element to be used. Secondly, these larger blocks of glass are not made in the manner a wine glass is made by blowing hot air through the molten silica and giving it a curved surface which often shows images bending or smearing when you see through its round or curved surface. Camera lens manufacturing has come a long way and it is indeed a very meticulously complex & highly sophisticated process!


Final wrap


In our first hand experience, this is a mighty great combination which serves two primary purposes -


a. Exploits the resolution of our lenses and delivers clean, aberration free images


b. Takes the modern DMF camera out of a tripod and out in the street free from studio environment making it a powerful multi-purpose camera without the added bulk of its native lenses bringing immense joy to your shooting experience


If you are intrigued about this combo after reading this article and would like to know more or have other arguments, please feel free to send us an email and we will try our best to keep motivating you :-)

Voigtlander Heliar 40mm F2.8 lens with Fujifilm GFX 50r camera
Shot using Heliar 40mm F2.8 M-mount lens. Image © MysticFocus. Un-edited, un-cropped in-camera JPG

The following Voigtländer lenses have been used extensively with the GFX with absolutely gorgeous results -

  1. Hyper-wide Heliar 10mm F5.6 Asph M-mount

  2. Super-wide Heliar 15mm F4.5 Asph III M-mount

  3. Ultron 21mm F1.8 M-mount (discontinued ~ end of life)

  4. Color-Skopar vintage line 21mm F3.5 Asph M-mount

  5. Ultron vintage line 28mm F2 Asph Type I M-mount

  6. Color-Skopar 28mm F2.8 Asph Type II M-mount

  7. Nokton 35mm F1.2 Asph III M-mount

  8. Ultron vintage line 35mm F2 Asph Type II M-mount

  9. Color-Skopar 35mm F2.5 P Type M-Mount

  10. Nokton 40mm F1.2 Asph M-mount

  11. Nokton classic 40mm F1.4 MC M-mount

  12. Heliar 40mm F2.8 Asph M-mount

  13. Heliar 40mm F2.8 Asph L39-mount

  14. Nokton 50mm F1 Asph M-mount

  15. Nokton 50mm F1.2 Asph M-mount

  16. Heliar classic 50mm F1.5 SC M-mount

  17. Nokton vintage line 50mm F1.5 Asph II SC M-mount (discontinued)

  18. APO-Lanthar 50mm F2 Asph M-mount

  19. Heliar 50mm F3.5 M-mount

  20. Nokton 58mm F1.4 AIS SL IIs F-mount

  21. Nokton vintage line 75mm F1.5 Asph M-mount

  22. Ultron 75mm F1.9 SC M-mount

  23. APO-Skopar 90mm F2.8 Asph M-mount

Some more un-touched / un-edited samples © Mystic Focus

Reference images (L - R starting with the 3 orange petal flowers facing down) -

  • Ultron 75 F1.9 SC M-mount

  • Ultron 75 F1.9 SC M-mount

  • Color-Skopar 35mm F2.5 P Type M-mount

  • Color-Skopar vintage line 21mm F3.5 Asph M-mount

  • Nokton classic 40mm F1.4 MC M-mount

  • Super-Wide Heliar 15mm F4.5 Asph M-mount

  • Ultron vintage line 28mm F2 Asph M-mount

  • Nokton vintage line 50mm F1.5 II SC Asph M-mount

  • Nokton 50mm F1.2 Asph M-mount

  • Ultron vintage line 28mm F2 Asph M-mount

  • Ultron vintage line 28mm F2 Asph M-mount

  • Nokton vintage line 75mm F1.5 Asph M-mount

  • Color-Skopar 35mm F2.5 P Type M-mount

  • Ultron 75 F1.9 SC M-mount

  • Ultron 75 F1.9 SC M-mount

  • Color-Skopar 35mm F2.5 P Type M-mount


*PS - if you read the marketing notes from Fuji about their current lineup of GFX bodies, they have clearly said that the sensors have a better macro-lens which provides better illumination of the pixels uniformly. Our tests with 50s II and 100s confirms this improvement. All the dark corners that you see in all the images here taken with the 50r will not be present when the same lenses are used with the 50s II & 100s. In fact, the lenses feel like it's a native lens and you will not have to worry about any cropping if you have one of these two bodies. So, this article wouldn't also really make sense to you, other than the fact that this combo is totally worth having.

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