Understanding Voigtländer Lenses

Updated: Sep 14

Voigtländer range of beautiful manual focus prime lenses is extensive, as the oldest lens maker in the world from Germany and passionately hand crafted in Japan today, they offer a variety of high-end camera lenses, with timeless designs, names & form factor that have been perfected over centuries. Quite understandably, many of our customers express their desire to own all of our lenses, an epitome of class, perfection & precision engineering, as each one of them tell their own unique story in their own beautiful way, capturing life moments like no other lens in the world does with such finesse & soul. You can also read a brief history of Voigtländer here.

Our new APO-LANTHAR 50mm F2 Asph E-mount Lens

This post aims at helping those first-time buyers who really want to understand the legacy & philosophy behind our lenses. This will also help you understand how we classify & name our lenses and what do they really mean especially when you are looking to choose between your preferred type of lenses. We also want our customers to know that when they invest in our lenses, what is the most optimum way of using them.

Sample from MACRO APO-LANTHAR 110mm F2.5 Asph E-mount Lens courtesy Mystic Focus

Firstly, All Voigtländer lenses are beautiful High-End precision optics that have their own unique character, deliver exceptional micro-contrast, signature rendering, superb ergonomics with top build quality & durability. They are made of highest quality of glass, the fanatical approach to achieving very high refractive index of not just the individual glass elements, but also the entire set when grouped together in a high quality metal barrel is simply extraordinary. All lenses are measured & passed only when they meet those tight tolerances. Besides, the entire process of glass formation and coatings is carried out in such a way that they exhibit no wear for years together, regardless of how rigorously they are used. The glass elements are directly coupled to the focusing ring, allowing precise focusing control and bring an exquisite feel while doing so.

Sample from HELIAR 40mm F2.8 Asph Sony E-mount courtesy Mystic Focus

Secondly, the lenses are made to meet or exceed the highest standards of the best lenses ever produced. There are four main reasons for that -

  • everything is made from scratch in our own factories in Japan

  • we benchmark and control the selection & quality of materials to be used and even make our own tools to exacting standards

  • conduct academic driven research & development, work with the best photographers on the field

  • have an unmatched reputation of having the highest quality standards in the industry

© Cosina Co.,Ltd.

How do we classify our lenses?

1. Basis of Optical Design that represents the lens family

When you browse through the entire collection, you will find that we make lenses for four camera systems today. Three of them are in Full Frame Format, i.e. Leica M-mount (LM / VM), Sony E-mount (SE), Nikon F-mount (NF) and the fourth one in Micro Four Thirds-mount (MFT) Format. Each of these are then further categorized under the the following five family of lenses –

  • NOKTON – represents ultra-fast lenses with speed from 0.95 to 1.5

  • ULTRON – represents fast lenses with speed from 1.7 & 2

  • COLOR-SKOPAR – slower lenses with speed from 2.5 to 3.5

  • APO-LANTHAR – apochromatic lenses that have all 3 colors i.e. RGB corrected & have extremely low dispersion

  • HELIAR – a simple grouping of glass elements for lenses designed for portrait & landscape photography

All these designs have their respective construction parameters & a pre-defined grouping / assortment of glass elements that are over 200 years old & have been in production ever since. No design is better over the other because they all fulfill their respective categories that complement a shooting scenario & lighting conditions.

2. Basis of Glass Coatings

All Voigtländer glass elements are skillfully multi-coated, with an exception of two specific models available only in M mount - Nokton Classic 35 F1.4 II & Nokton Classic 40 F1.4 that are both offered in multi (MC) and single-coated variants (SC is engraved on the front ring of the barrel). The single coating does not alter with the overall micro-contrast of these lenses, color saturation or sharpness as the refractive index of the glass used is already very high. The single coated lenses are preferred by those who either use Leica M monochrome body or those who adapt this lens with other brand of mirrorless bodies for shooting in B&W as the blacks & whites are naturally well saturated in these lenses. The single coated lenses can also add flares naturally when held against a light source, which is hard to add to your images using any post-processing tool. These lenses deliver classic smooth color rendering not to be confused with those so called old washed out images that may have been poorly developed with used chemicals? With digital cameras today, it all depends upon whether you rely on your preset in-camera JPEG conversion settings or want to work your way up with RAW image processing. Neither will disappoint in any scenario. (Images courtesy Cosina Co., Ltd.)

3. Basis of Barrel Design that represents the form factor of the lens

The Barrel Design comes in 3 flavors –

a. Classic – these are extremely compact, all-metal barrel, traditional rangefinder lens bodies that are lightweight and offer great value for money. The bayonet & petal hoods in some of these variants further adds to their beauty and provide great stray light & damage protection. A notable attribute with these lenses is that with their time tested design, they do not have to use the expensive Aspherical Glass elements, which keeps the cost of the lens drastically low making it far more accessible, but at the same time, provide dreamy, colorful, sharp & beautiful images. Best way to start your Voigtländer journey especially when you need a top of the line everyday walk around lens, offering exceptional image quality, meets most of your shooting requirements and works in all conditions.

NOKTON Classic 35mm F1.4 II MC M-mount Lens

b. Vintage Line – these gorgeous, silver black metal lens barrels reminiscent of 1950s are spectacular for being extremely light weight, offering great ergonomics, quality of images & uniqueness in design. From using highly polished heavy brass metal to our new super lightweight aircraft grade material that offers exceptional rigidity. These are our jewels, pride & joy and no denial they are one of the most sought-after collectible lenses in the world. For example, our new Nokton Vintage Line 75mm F1.5 Lens weighs only 350 gms and considered now as the gold standard for portraiture work. They have set such high bars in lens design & manufacturing processes that they will remain undisputed forever. If you are a high profile candid photographer known for your out-of-the-box work, or a hobbyist or even a collector, just go for these. (Left - Right - NOKTON Vintage Line 75mm F1.5 Asph M-mount Lens, ULTRON Vintage Line 35mm F2 Asph M-mount Lens)

c. Modern – these are modern day looking rangefinder lenses that complement the new age digital camera bodies. They are compact, sturdy, have great contouring, offers features such as click-less aperture for videography, APO & macro lenses, electronic connection for Sony E mount & AIS for Nikon F mount bodies, Still Editions, etc. These lenses are a workhorse for pro & RAW shooters as they all have Aspherical Glass Elements, providing minimal spherical / chromatic aberrations & purple fringing (for those pixel maniacs) and are a no brainer when you are not sure where to begin your Voigtländer journey. Like we tag our Classic (e.g. Nokton Classic 40mm F1.4 SC) or Vintage Line (e.g. Nokton Vintage Line 75mm F1.5 Aspheric) series lenses, we don't specifically tag our Modern lenses. Unless tagged as Classic or Vintage Line, lenses that have "Aspheric" or "Asph" (e.g. Nokton 40mm F1.2 Aspheric) are your Modern barrel design lenses.

NOKTON 40mm F1.2 Asph M-mount Lens

Please refer to the chart below for a quick overview of the barrel design options that are available within each one of the 4 lens mounts.

© Mystic Focus

-------Bonus Q&A session –-----

Q - I see that there is almost twice the price difference between your Nokton 35mm F1.2 III and Nokton Classic 35mm F1.4 II lenses when both are almost equally fast. Why?

A – That’s because the Nokton 35mm F1.2 III is a Modern lens with two Aspherical Glass Elements & has 12 aperture blades whereas the Nokton Classic 35mm F1.4 II is a Classic design lens with no Aspherical Glass Elements & 10 aperture blades. Isn't that amazing that you can still own a high-end super fast lens at a very reasonable cost!

Q – Does that mean the Nokton 35mm F1.2 III will take sharper images with more contrast and saturation?

A – No. The Nokton 35mm F1.2 III is designed to remove spherical & chromatic aberrations, remove purple fringing and be more technically corrected than the Nokton Classic 35mm F1.4 II however, it does not mean that the Classic lenses are flawed or will exhibit any of these artifacts in your images prominently (see the picture below). Its a different design altogether so we wouldn't even compare them together in the first place. Only when you do deep pixel inspection side-by-side is when some of it can become noticeable but, people love them the way they are as-is because end of the day its the Image Quality that matters. They are equally rich in micro-contrast & sharpness when compared to the 35mm F1.2 III. But most importantly, the Classic Lenses provide dreamy images in low light conditions or indirectly lit subjects – say for example, just when the sun is about to rise, after sunset, overcast with cloud, or indoor with artificial lighting, the Classic lenses are perfect then. In broad daylight, their rendering is also excellent, but becomes a bit more subjective and if you are the one who prefers technically correct images then you have to use the 35mm F1.2 III. Photography is all about lighting. The idea is that when you have a specific lighting condition, you should have the right lens that will render exceptional images without you having to sit and work that up afterwards in photoshop. Lens designers & photographers knew it even 100 years ago that there is no one lens design that fits all lighting conditions. Likewise, even though the 35mm F1.2 III will take exceptional images during broad daylight, its rendering may appear to be too technically correct & subjective in situations where you’ll see the 35mm F1.4 II excels.

Sample from NOKTON Classic 35mm F1.4 II MC M-mount Lens courtesy Mitsuru Kano

Q. How would you compare the Modern Lenses to the Vintage Line series then?

A. The Vintage Line is no different to the Modern or Classic line in terms of Image Quality other than that it uses special materials to be light weight, employs simpler & clever grouping of glass elements and ergonomics that breaks engineering design barriers. The Vintage line adds the same old 1950’s look & feel to your powerful digital camera and offers exceptional handling experience through unique shapes & form factor. Just like it is with the Modern or Classic line, depending upon the optical design aspect, the lenses will excel in their respective lighting conditions.

Sample from HELIAR Vintage Line 50mm F3.5 M-mount Lens courtesy Hideaki Omura

Q. So which lens would you recommend starting with?

A. Well, we recommend all our lenses, provided you have the creative ideas of using them to their utmost performance under the most apt lighting conditions :-). The best way of going about selecting your first Voigtländer lens is to decide the focal length of your choice and narrow down on the options based on your budget. Honestly you cannot go wrong with either of them.

Sample from Color-Skopar 21mm F4 P M-mount Lens courtesy Mystic Focus

Q. We have found people complaining of having bad copies of Voigtländer lenses. Do I have to be worried?

A. That's an untrue & unverified claim. There are two things that can possibly go wrong with a lens of any brand or make. Either it has an inherent issue with its design or, it probably did not undergo a stringent quality check that may lead to a mechanical failure sooner than anticipated. In either case, the manufacturers & distributors are aware of these problems. Fortunately, our lenses do not suffer from any such issues as they have been in production & perfected over 100+ years already. And since they are produced in limited quantities, there is no option for any piece to miss its stringent quality check. Given our long history, none of our lenses have ever suffered from a bad copy situation, where they had to be recalled either because of a design or a quality issue or had to pre-empt it with replacements or free servicing. When you see some of our lenses are in their version II or III, these are improvised versions of our already very popular lenses that further push design & manufacturing barriers by use of better tools, materials and techniques as they become available. We recommend people of using only high-quality precision engineered adapters if they intend to adapt the lens to a non-native body. At the outset, an adapter may appear to be a very simple metal ring after all, but we have demonstrated experiences with how a good-looking bad adapter can turn a genuinely good lens into a bad copy. Since adapters are unsuspecting, the lens is always blamed. Not everything thick & made of metal warrants good quality if it isn’t precision engineered, so please keep that in mind that when you intend to adapt a lens, your primary focus should always be the adapter itself. Please visit our Adapters page to learn more intricate details about them.

Q. I have a camera which has poor low light sensitivity. I am interested in the fast Modern lenses but they are too expensive and I don’t know if your fast Classic lenses will give me those colorful images I want?

A. We have explained the differences between our Modern & Classic lenses earlier in this article. If budget is a concern, Classic Lenses will serve the purpose just right. On a separate note, we have seen that by using a very fast lens with a camera that has poor low light sensitivity does not really help in all situations. Now, consider a situation, where you have a 35mm F1.4 II lens and you want to use that to shoot a family picture inside a room where you cannot stand more than 8-9 feet away from them. At 400 ISO & F1.4, you are already at a shutter speed of say 1/15 in order to keep the exposure at 0. But, since you are not shooting from infinity distance, you will not have the entire frame in focus at F1.4. To compensate & bring the entire frame in focus so that everybody comes in focus too, you reduce your aperture to say F5.6. But, your ISO then goes up drastically and since you cannot go past 800 as then the image will become too noisy, you limit it down to 800. But doing so, the shutter speed goes further down to say ¼ or even ½. At this shutter speed, shooting subjects (people) that may not be completely still will result in ghosting effect which means a tripod will become necessary. So, unless you want to take close-ups and have shallow depth of field or want to have nice pleasing bokeh in your images, it does not really make great sense to always invest in fast lenses. Understand that a fast lens is not a direct substitute for compensating the poor low light sensitivity of your camera’s sensor unless you always want to shoot at infinity in low light.

Sample from NOKTON Classic 40mm F1.4 MC M-mount Lens courtesy Mystic Focus

-------End of session ----------

Key Takeaways, Summary, Conclusion….

Your investments in Voigtländer lenses are secured for life as they are built for perfection. There is a lens in Voigtländer for every lighting condition. There is a lens in Voigtländer for every demanding situation. The lenses offer a myriad of options that sets it apart from the rest and continues to help photographers turn their vivid imaginations into reality.

Sample from MACRO APO-LANTHAR 110mm F2.5 Asph E-mount Lens courtesy Mystic Focus


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