Voigtländer 25mm. The original and the best?

Wow, In between a hard week at work and fighting with a numpty about his attempts to (at best) spread FUD about me on the net, I managed to nip out to give my newly arrived Voigtlander 25mm a road test.

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High level, it isn’t as impressive a lens as the 17.5mm. You might almost expect that from the pricing. That said, it has an awful lot going for it.

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Let’s start with some of the bad stuff. This is a good bit worse than the 17.5mm wide open. Both share the same glow, but the 17.5mm is much sharper (and so images can easily be recovered in post).

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Both voigtlander lenses suffer from CA but you would expect that from lenses as fast as this. The 25mm is a bit worse though, you can really see the CA in the viewfinder. I suspect some of the extra size and weight of the 17.5mm is related to optical correction of CA.

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The 25mm is harder to focus than the 17.5mm (perhaps because it is a little softer).

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So there is no point buying this lens, right? Wrong.

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F0.95 might be more of a low light aperture but stop it down just a little and it gets sharper, a little more and you’ll injure yourself. At F1.2-1.4 the lens is entirely useable, by F4.0 there are few sharper lenses for M43s.

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The build quality of the lens is immaculate. All metal body, large, solid looking coated elements, smooth clicking aperture ring and solid focus ring. All very good. It’s smaller than the 17.5mm and lighter too, but it’s still reassuringly heavy and solid.

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The bokeh is relatively good for M43s, but it doesn’t seems as good to me as lenses like the Oly 45 and 75 (or even the Voigtlander 17.5). I know this was seem as a very good feature of this lens when released, but this reminds me a little too much of the busy bokeh on some of my old Voigtlander M mount lenses. That said, I don’t thinks it’s awful.

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If shooting with the E-M5 in low light, remember to tell the camera the focal length of the lens. Lacking contacts it cannot do that, even though it’s native M43s mount.

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You will see not only glow but a bit of coma around light sources if shooting wide open at night.

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I actually like the effect but it may not be to everyone’s taste!

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So to finish up, you need to recognise that this lens is not perfect, but when it is good it is great. It’s fantastically solid and there is no doubt you can create magical images. It’s weakness is its performance wide open and I do wonder if it might not have been better if it was rated as a F1.2 lens.

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4 thoughts

  1. Since coming to m43 from NEX, I really have found the need to use a legacy lens and deal with manual focusing, but when I have put the older lenses on there, I find the manual focusing much more difficult without the focus peaking. These images are spot-on with focus, and many appear to involve targets in motion…. would really like to hear a bit about your technique for manual focusing with these lenses and how that plays into your decision to put this 25mm on the camera instead of the PL 25? (Maybe that is a topic for a future post?)

  2. Now I’ll confess I never liked focus peaking for stills on either my NEX-5 or 7 (too many near but not quite moments focusing) and that I own a rangefinder in the form of an M9. For me, the esiest way to achieve critical manual focus is to assign magnification to one of the function buttons and double tap on it and focus on my subject.

    To get focus on moving subjects, don’t shoot wide open (stop the aperture down a little, to at least F2) and prefocus where you expect your subject to be (pick a crack in a paving slab or something similar).

    I actually own the PL 25mm as well, but just enjoy the experience of MF lenses, especially when they are ultra sharp stopped down.

  3. Great photos, and I appreciate the comparison to the Nokton 17.5 by a rangefinder shooter.

    A question about your copy of the 25/0.95: Is infinity focus on the focus scale accurate? Because on my 25 the focus ring exactly at infinity actually focuses beyond infinity, infinity is closer to the left ring of the infinity sign. Not sure if I should take it somewhere to get adjusted, or if that’s just because of the 0.95 aperture. It’s a nuisance when I know I’m at a hyperfocal distance, but I can’t just turn the focus ring all the way.

  4. Great photo and review, personally I find the results at 0.95 very acceptable, and the real quality gap at about f1.7 / f/2, so I find myself never using f1.2 or f1.4.

    @Andre, on my copy, the focusing ring rotates beyond infinity by about 1mm., so if I focus to the maximum, everything including very distant objects (moon, stars) are out of focus. It is written in the manual that this normal, and this is made to allow you to focus to infinity at extreme cold/hot temperatures.

    However, at normal temperature (around 10-20° Celsius) the infinity symbol is painted right on the real infinity focus : you have to align the white dot with the exact center of the infinity symbol. This way, I achieve good infinity focus quite fast.

    You can also draw a line from the center of the infinity symbol to the outer of the focusing ring to make the alignment more easy.

    Cheers

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