Learn about Manual Focus or Rangefinder Lenses

Updated: Oct 25, 2021

What is it & how are they different from a regular auto-focus or kit lens?

A Manual Focus lens is a lens that requires you to turn it’s focusing ring & aperture manually with your hand to focus on a subject. Although, an Auto-Focus lens can also be used in manual focus mode, but they employ a focusing-by-wire mechanism which isn't as precise as it is on a Manual Focus or Rangefinder Lens. Here at Mystic Focus, we are explicitly always referring to a completely Manual Focus lens which has no auto-focusing capabilities built-in.

The broad focusing ring as well as aperture ring are both contoured for your fingers to easily feel & find them

A Rangefinder lens is a Manual Focus lens, that has its focusing range (minimum focusing distance to infinity) & aperture range (widest to smallest) engraved on the barrel of the lens body, which tells the photographer the focusing distance of the subject in focus. Besides, when used on a rangefinder camera (like on an old Leica film or a modern Leica digital camera), these lenses can align two superimposed images of your subject to determine its focus. A Rangefinder lens can be a Prime or a Zoom lens. Rangefinder lenses have no electro-mechanical components inside, i.e. they are purely & only mechanical in nature, which means it only has a series of glass elements thereby making them extremely compact & lightweight as compared to any auto-focus lens. This also means that your Camera body or its controls will not be able to auto-focus or change any setting on your Rangefinder lens, even if the lens was designed to mount the camera natively. Because a rangefinder lens does not have the gimmicky of an auto-focus SLR lens, it simply puts all your money on the quality of optics therefore making them far more superior in image quality.

Illustration of a rangefinder lens with Focus scale & Apeture range engravings on its barrel

Thus, we also call a Manual Focus lens as a Rangefinder lens interchangeably as they are technically one & the same thing.

All Voigtländer lenses are Manual Focus lenses. The true Rangefinder lens category applies to our M mount lenses (denoted as VM in the world of Voigtländer) as they natively mount on all modern digital & classic Leica M cameras. Similarly, our Sony E mount lenses are called mirrorless Manual Focus lenses as they have been optimized to work only with Sony's Full Frame sensors in a compact form factor. The same applies to our respective SLR mount lenses for Nikon F cameras & MFT mount cameras from Olympus, Lumix & Blackmagic design, offering options for lenses that are not natively available in their own respective brands. FujiFilm X series cameras have known to deliver exceptionally high-quality images using VM mount lenses. Since Fuji itself has limited options in native lens offerings, a lot of people adapt our VM lenses with great results.