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Learn about Manual Focus or Rangefinder Lenses

Updated: Jan 27, 2023

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 manually focus and change its aperture to focus on a subject & take pictures. 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, though mostly attributed to the Leica M system. All manual focus lenses has its focusing range (minimum focusing distance to infinity) & aperture range (widest to smallest) engraved on the barrel of the lens body, which helps the photographer to apply zone focussing techniques without having to completely rely on the viewfinder. Besides, when used on a rangefinder lens is used on a rangefinder camera (like on an old Leica film or a modern Leica digital camera), these lenses can achieve accurate focusing by superimposing two out-of-focus images of your subject. Thanks to its rangefinder coupling with the small wheel that you see on a Leica M camera's upper center of the bayonet lens mount this technique allows the use of an optical viewfinder as opposed to an electronic one.

Both Manual Focus & 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 Voigtländer lens, even if the lens was designed to mount the camera natively. Because a Voigtländer lens does not have the gimmicky of an auto-focus 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

All Voigtländer lenses are prime lenses with no zoom functionality. The true Rangefinder lens category are denoted as VM as in - a Voigtländer M-mount lens as they natively mount on all modern digital or classic Leica M bodies. Similarly, our Sony E mount lenses are called mirrorless Manual Focus lenses as they natively mount on them have their exit pupil optimised to work only with Sony's Full Frame sensors in a compact form factor. Same goes with our modern & classic Nikon F, Nikon Z, Fuji X native lenses too. Should you have any questions, or is this your first time trying a manual prime lens, feel free to reach out to us.


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