Since becoming serious about photography I have been interested in adding an affordable ultra-wide angle lens to my kit, but there weren't many options available for M mount that did not suffer from chromatic aberration and barrel distortion. The introduction of the new 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide-Heliar III changes that because, for the first time on M mount, there is a readily available, rangefinder coupled, ultra-wide lens that does not suffer from color shift and it exhibits remarkably low levels of distortion.
Before receiving the 15mm Voigtlander, the widest lens I owned for more than a month was a 28mm Leica Elmarit. I had a very hard time letting it go, but I couldn't justify keeping an expensive lens in my bag that primarily came out during trips to new cities. That being said, I have always found shooting wide to be creatively challenging and a kind of mind altering experience like no other for a photographer that largely uses 35-50mm prime lenses. It takes a little getting used to, but once you find a subject matter to shoot, the experience is not entirely dissimilar from picking up a camera for the first time.
Voigtlander did a superb job redesigning this lens for full frame digital cameras. It is very small, light and the best Voigtlander lens I have ever handled. It isn't quite up there with Leica or Zeiss build quality, but the focus is silky smooth out of the box and the aperture clicks firmly into place, unlike some other Voigtlander lenses that have a little wiggle. I am not one to drone on about build quality, but this lens is exceptional for the price.
If critical focus is important to you, then the M is the only real option for accurately focusing the new 15mm Voigtlander because it is almost impossible to use focus peaking with slow, ultra-wide lenses. Thankfully, the lens is rangefinder coupled and accurately calibrated on the copy I am reviewing, but I found myself zone focusing the lens the majority of the time for expedience so I could quickly stand where I needed to or shoot and move quickly when I was in less than safe parts of town.
The zone focusing potential of the 15mm Voigtlander is pretty astounding for someone not used to a lens this wide. When zone focusing and shooting wide open at f4.5 0.8m-∞ is in acceptable focus, and is plenty for low light shooting; When light is abundant you should probably leave this lens at f8, because the full focal range of the lens from 0.5-∞ is in acceptable focus and there is no perceivable vignetting.
Yet another aspect of shooting this wide that I found enjoyable was the ability to drop my shutter speed down to 1/8th of a second hand held at night and still get sharp photos. I have an exceptionally steady hand and was actually able to go even lower than that, but below 1/8th I shot continuous because it just felt wrong to shoot with that slow of a shutter speed. Thankfully, the M240 isn't a slouch in the ISO department so I was able to comfortably shoot at 3200 ISO all night long with this lens and, while you can always ask for more ISO performance, the ability to drop the shutter speed allowed me to capture some shots that I simply did not think possible.
The 15mm Voigtlander can be surprisingly sharp when critically focused and the subject is close. Modern Voigtlanders seem to be developing a look and color signature that is uniquely their own on the M and I like it quite a bit. I don't think they will ever replace your regularly used Leica glass, but they certainly have been creating some modern lenses worth owning along side Leica glass.
I would highly recommend this lens to anyone looking to shoot creatively wide or even professionally wide. Sure there are some other great options, like the Leica Tri-Elmar WATE 16-18-21, that come in a little faster at f4 and are arguably more well corrected, but they come at a much higher price. If you rarely shoot wide like I do then, in my estimation, the 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide-Heliar III is a better investment.
The 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide-Heliar III is current in stock at B&H Photo.
For more 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide-Heliar III shots visit https://500px.com/LouisFerreira/sets/voigtlander-super-wide-heliar-15mm.