Appreciation of the Voigtländer 17.5mm F0.95 lens

This is a bit of an odd lens. Fully manual, but for M43s. Max Aperture of F0.95, like a Noctilux, but not really in depth of field given the difference in sensor size. The problem with it is that it is unduly soft wide open. Apparently. It’s never bothered me.

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In all honesty the results this lens produces are nothing short of magical wide open. It has an almost dreamy quality. It also gives you back the DOF control you lose (relatively) in moving to M43s.

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Stopped down, it is so sharp you get paper cuts…

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Honestly, while I can’t claim its combination with the E-M5 is comparable to a M9 and summilux, it isn’t so far off.

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Sometimes I wonder if the reason that M43s never got focus peaking is largely because it’s overblown cr*p for stills work… I joke, but I’ve never thought in using a manual lens on mirrorless cameras that I would prefer peaking to magnification for critical focus. Put it this way, assigning a function button to magnification is pretty much essential, whether using peaking or not.

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So I had no qualms about this lens from a focusing point of view (thought it probably helps owning a rangefinder as well). What’s more of a problem is its size and weight. All metal construction and lots of glass = heavy. Combined with the length of the lens that means two handed, methodical shooting. That said, it’s still fun, particularly when you realise the lens benefits from stabilisation on the E-M5.

As you’ll see from the next shot, the DOF is razor thin – eyes in focus, nose not!

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There is an optical issue that is irritating, CA. That said, it’s easily fixed in post. The biggest issue I have with this lens is that I don’t use it enough!

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So in the negatives side of the column we have CA and weight/size and in the positives we have just about everything else.

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Personally, I can’t believe I haven’t used this lens more. I suspect the only real reason is that, owning an M9, when I feel like I will be slow and methodical I will take that. Having said that, taking this and a couple of the other classic primes (e.g. the 12 and 45) allows you vast flexibility.

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That said, having used this lens to shoot a family lunch this weekend I decided to buy the 25mm Voigtlander as well. Oh well, in for a penny…

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9 thoughts

  1. Absolutely gorgeous results. I’m picking one up with my Gh3 although no in body stabilization Im more than confident about the results I can achieve with this lens for I mostly do video work. I’m anxitious to see what it will be like ok wide open for stills. Time will tell. Thanks for this blog/post and thank you again from before from my previous posts on DPreview about the lens, cheers!

  2. I just recently got my OM 5. I had a epl1 before that and I’m wondering if it’s worth it to change from the pana 20mm f 1,7 to the voigtlander? Have you ever had both ? Is there no chromatic aberration at f 1,00 ?
    Anyway, good job with the article. it really confirmed my thoughts of changing my pana.
    Cheers from France ;)

    • Hi there and thanks for looking. I actually own the Panasonic 20mm and… I’m not sure I would exchange it for the Voigtlander. However, I will happily own both!

      For me this voigtlander definitely gives superior optical performance to the panasonic. However, it is also a lot bigger, heavier, more expensive and is manual focus (MF). While I think MF lenses like this can be amazing, they cannot completely replace AF lenses like the Panasonic for all purposes. For example, you do miss shots and opportunities using MF lenses, particularly shooting moving subjects.

      What’s more interesting to me is whether the new Olympus 17mm is superior to the panasonic 20mm!

      The lens does suffer from Chromatic Aberration at F0.95 but it can be cleaned up in Lightroom without loss of detail.

      • Hey thanks for the quick reply. Yes well by changing I meant owning both, I don’t think i would ever sell it. it is the lens to own when traveling, the camera with the pana on it fits in your pocket :)
        I guess I’ll start to save some money.
        Great blog too btw ;)

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