src="http://www.mirrorlessons.com/wp-content/themes/mirrorlessons Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f/1.7 Review on the Sony A7r II - MirrorLessons
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Lens Reviews

Date: 08/12/2015 | By: Mathieu

Sony A7r II and Voigtländer VM lenses, Chapter II: 35mm f/1.7 Ultron Aspherical review

E-M1, 1/20, f/ 4/1, ISO 200

Sony A7r II and Voigtländer VM lenses, Chapter II: 35mm f/1.7 Ultron Aspherical review

Now that our full Sony A7r II test is complete, it’s time to continue with our reviews of interesting Voigtländer lenses to use on the camera. The former German brand has an interesting collection of compact lenses that go from extreme wide angle to fast medium focal lengths. These lenses are designed for the Leica M system but can easily be mounted to the Sony A7 series via a thin adapter (I have the Voigtlander VM adapter).

Voigtländer announced that some of these lenses will be released next year with a native E-mount and electronic contacts to transmit exif data. This is an excellent move, as doing so will reinforce the lifespan of these products in the digital age (many were designed for M film cameras). Among these new lenses, we will also see a brand new 10mm f/5.6 which will become the world’s widest angle lens made for the 35mm format.

The first lenses we took at look at were the 12mm f/5.6 II and 21mm f/1.8. The third lens is the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.7, which was announced in late 2014. It is an updated version of the first 35mm f/1.7 released in 1999 and has been corrected for digital sensors. It is not the fastest 35mm available however: Voigtländer also has a f/1.2 and f/1.4 Nokton version in its catalogue.

Note: the best way to tell the difference between the old 35mm f/1.7 and the new version is by looking at the barrel design. The new version of the black 35mm doesn’t have any red markings on the focus ring while the silver version has a dark ring in the middle. The new versions are also slimmer at the centre of the barrel.

voigtlander 35mm 1.7 ultron vm review
A7r II, 1/10, f/5.6, ISO 100
voigtlander 35mm 1.7 ultron vm review
A7r II, 1/400, f/2.8, ISO 100
The Voigtländer 35mm f/1.7 Ultron Aspherical Main Specs
  • Focal length: 35mm
  • Maximum aperture: 1.7
  • Minimum aperture: 16
  • Number of aperture blades: 10 aperture blades
  • Angle of view: 62°
  • Closest focusing distance: 50cm
  • Lens configuration: 9 elements / 7 groups
  • Special elements: 1 Aspherical element
  • Lens surface coating: Not specified
  • Optical Image Stabilizer: None
  • Dimensions: φ53 Ø, 50.6 mm
  • Filter diamater: 46mm
  • Weight: 330g

Design and Ease of use

The lens is entirely made of metal and comes with a metal lens hood that is screwed on the 46mm filter thread. The 35mm f/1.7 is compact and light so it fits the A7r II body well.

The aperture ring has a 1/2 Ev clicking mechanism and is located in the middle of the lens barrel. The ring is nice to use and the mechanism turns in decisive clicks. I inadvertently altered the aperture only once while shooting with it.

voigtlander 35mm 1.7 ultron review
The aperture ring has a nice 1/2 Ev step clicking mechanism.

The lens doesn’t have an inner focus mechanism but the length only varies a little when going from the shortest distance to infinity. The focus ring is located on the rear end of the lens. It features an indented design that makes it recognisable by touch but I do not find the ring very comfortable. It lacks some smoothness and I prefer to have the aperture ring near the rear of the barrel and the focus ring near the front.

voigtlander 35mm 1.7 ultron review
The focus ring is less pleasant to use.

The lens is not weather sealed nor does it have electronic contacts on the mount to transmit exif data to the camera, so your aperture value won’t be recorded.

The lens is available in two versions: a less expensive lighter black aluminium version and a heavier, more expensive silver brass version. I personally find that the black version suits the A7r II design better. Note that the silver version doesn’t come with a silver hood for some unknown reason. There are two front caps included in the box, one of which is made of metal and fits over the metal hood.

voigtlander 35mm 1.7 ultron review
The lens is available in two colours: black alluminium or silver brass

 

On the A7r mark II, make sure to select the focal length manually in the Steadyshot menu so that the camera can use the internal stabilisation correctly. I generally managed to get sharp shots down to 1/8s but you can also push it to 1/5s.

voigtlander 35mm 1.7 ultron vm review
A7r II, 1/5, f/4, ISO 100

Through the lens: Image Quality

I am going to say it right away: there aren’t a lot of negative things to highlight when it comes to the optical performance of this lens. I enjoyed testing it and it is actually one of the best 35mms I’ve had the chance to use.

As usual with a fast lens, the first thing I am interested in checking is how good the performance is wide open and this is the first aspect that really surprised me with the Ultron 35mm. At f/1.7, the lens is already very sharp at the centre.

voigtlander 35mm 1.7 ultron vm review
A7r II, 1/640, f/1.7, ISO 100
Click on the image to open the full res version
voigtlander 35mm 1.7 ultron vm review
A7r II, 1/640, f/1.7, ISO 100
Click on the image to open the full res version
voigtlander 35mm 1.7 ultron vm review
A7r II, 1/13, f/1.7, ISO 100
Click on the image to open the full res version

The performance at the centre remains constant throughout all the aperture range. It peaks at around f/4 but the difference at f/1.7 is not a lot. Past f/8 we start to detect some diffraction that becomes more noticeable at f/16. The corners suffer from astigmatism at the fastest apertures and the performance is worse than at the centre partly because of field curvature. The only apertures at which the result is almost perfect are f/8 and f/11.

voigtlander 35mm 1.7 ultron vm review
A7r II, 1/250, f/2.8, ISO 100
voigtlander 35mm 1.7 ultron vm review
A7r II, 1/50, f/4, ISO 100
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voigtlander 35mm 1.7 ultron vm review
A7r II, 1/8, f/5.6, ISO 100
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voigtlander 35mm 1.7 ultron vm review
A7r II, 1/200, f/8, ISO 100
voigtlander 35mm 1.7 ultron vm review
A7r II, 1/100, f/8, ISO 100
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voigtlander 35mm 1.7 ultron vm review
A7r II, 1/40, f/11, ISO 100
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voigtlander 35mm 1.7 ultron vm review
A7r II, 1/100, f/11, ISO 100
voigtlander 35mm 1.7 ultron vm review
A7r II, 30s, f/16, ISO 100

The lens can focus as close as 50cm which is perhaps the only negative point I have to mention. I always prefer a lens that gives me the option to focus closer because I like to play with shallow depth of field. That being said the 35mm f/1.7 not only maintains excellent sharpness at the closest focus distance but also renders a pleasant bokeh. It is soft with smoothed rounded specular highlights and soft edges. At the corners these specular highlights are slightly more distorted (cat’s eye form) which is caused by vignetting. The lens is reasonably capable of separating the subject from the background between f/1.7 and f/2.8.

voigtlander 35mm 1.7 ultron vm review
A7r II, 1/3200, f/1.7, ISO 100
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voigtlander 35mm 1.7 review
A7r II, 1/500, f/1.7, ISO 100
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voigtlander 35mm 1.7 review
A7r II, 1/500, f/2, ISO 100
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voigtlander 35mm 1.7 review
A7r II, 1/200, f/2.8, ISO 100
Click on the image to open the full res version
voigtlander 35mm 1.7 review
A7r II, 1/200, f/2.8, ISO 100
voigtlander 35mm 1.7 review
A7r II, 1/800, f/1.7, ISO 100
voigtlander 35mm 1.7 review
A7r II, 1/320, f/2.8, ISO 100

Vignetting is present but on the A7r mark II it is not too harsh and can be easily corrected with Lightroom and the dedicated lens profile without any colour cast.

Slide between the two images below to see how vignetting gets corrected easily with the lens profile in Lightroom CC.

 

You can find some small traces of longitudinal chromatic aberration at slower apertures such as f/8 or f/11 in high contrast zones and backlit situations. Once again this can be fixed in Lightroom.

Distortion is minimal and that is another good point about this Ultron lens. There is some slight barrel distortion but you can get rid of it easily. I admit that most of the time it was so mild that I didn’t feel the need to remove it anyway.

Finally, the lens also has excellent flare resistance. I admit I didn’t get much of a chance to test this aspect properly because of the lack of good weather over the past few weeks. However when the chance did present itself, I only noticed some slight ghost and veiling flare in a couple of images. The lens can also render a nice star flare at the slowest aperture.

voigtlander 35mm 1.7 a7r ii
A7r II, 1/800, f/11, ISO 100
voigtlander 35mm 1.7 a7r ii
A7r II, 1/1000, f/8, ISO 100
voigtlander 35mm 1.7 a7r ii
A7r II, 1/100, f/8, ISO 100

Conclusion

The 35mm f/1.7 Ultron really surprised me. It is very sharp, renders a pleasant bokeh and doesn’t present any other significant problems except some vignetting that can be easily fixed in post production. I’ve had the chance to test different 35mm lenses on the Sony A7 series and this Voigtländer Ultron version is probably the one I appreciated the most as far as optical quality is concerned.

voigtlander 35mm 1.7 a7r ii
A7r II, 1/500, f/8, ISO 100

The main negative aspect is the focus ring. It lacks some smoothness, and it is not comfortable to use because of its position (too close to the camera body) and the indented design. I could also mention the minimum focus distance of 50cm which is somewhat limiting for close-up shots.

The last thing I can add is my sincere hope that Voigtländer will release an E-mount version with electronic contacts so that we can have complete exif data and better stabilisation from the camera if the lens also transmits the focus distance.

thumb-up What I like about the Voigtländer 35mm f/1.7 Ultron Aspherical:

  • Small and compact with excellent metal build
  • Great sharpness at f/1.7 already
  • Good flare resistance with nice star flare rendering
  • Pleasant bokeh rendering
  • Minimal distortion and chromatic aberration

thumb-down What I don’t like about the Voigtländer 35mm f/1.7 Ultron Aspherical:

  • The focus ring is not very pleasant to use
  • Minimum focus distance is only 50cm
  • Vignetting is present but easily removable in post production
  • Some astigmatism and field curvature issues
  • It doesn’t come cheap at almost $1000

As always, a big thank you to Flaghead Photographic Limited for sending us the sample.


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About the author: Mathieu Gasquet

Mathieu Gasquet is a professional photographer with French and Italian origins. Besides running his own video and photography studio 3Dit Lab, he is also the official photographer for the National Cinema Museum in Turin. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com Mathieu

    I haven’t notice that in Lightroom. You are probably right, it is a bug of some kind.

  • John Norton

    It was my 1st. outing with camera, I’m pretty sure I left it at default of 8mm, didn’t know about the manual setting at the time, still gave some useful IS.

    I initally shot with the Sony 28mm f2.0 lens, then changed to the Voigtlander.
    The attached jpeg shows a section of directory listing, lens type identified as fe 28mm for the Voigtlander. Note that my buddys a6000 photos with manual focus lens enters correctly as — for his camera. My best guess now is that the fe 28mm entry is kept/carried over in a data field other than “Lens Type” and Directory Opus is incorrectly reading it as the current lens. That is unless Lightroom or some other program also shows this problem, I don’t have Lightroom.

  • John Norton

    This problem appears in a directory listing using the file manager “Directory Opus”, latest version. I have used Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 and DxO Optics Pro, latest version and the problem is not there. It may be simply that “Directory Opus” is incorrectly reading the metadata, sorry for jumping the gun.

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com Mathieu

    Could it be that you were having the steadyshot manual setting at 28mm?

  • John Norton

    Sony A7R II.

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com Mathieu

    On which camera were you using the 40mm?

  • John Norton

    Thats a great tip of yours, doing a small video clip re: adding f:number. I have used a Voigtlander nokton 40mm. One thing I noticed was that the metadata for all nokton photos carried over some of the previously used Sony 28mm metadata! i.e. you would think looking at the nokton metadata that it was a Sony 28mm lens. Looks like a bug, not being reset after lens change.

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