Ever since Voigtlander announced their Heliar Vintage Line 50mm f/3.5 VM full frame lens for Leica M mount ($529), I was curious to try it out and when I had the opportunity to shoot with it for a few days, I jumped right to it.
This lens uses a unique historical design to match some of the earliest Voigtlander lenses from the 19th century. The lens design has been on the market for a long time. Several different versions exist in Leica thread mount (LTM) and Nikon S mount. I believe that initially the lens came with the Bessa R2S Nikon S-mount rangefinder as a special edition and many people just used it with adapters on Leica M mount cameras. The new version of the lens is the first to be available in Leica M mount and is not collapsible - there was also a collapsable version in the past:
The Voigtlander Heliar Vintage Line 50mm f/3.5 VM lens has a "shiny" silver (not matte) all-metal body and it is sometimes hard to read the really tiny font on the aperture and focusing ring. Because of its shiny surface, the lens often reflects the light like a mirror which makes it even harder to read the aperture and distance numbers:
Rotating front element: by moving the focusing ring of the Voigtlander 50mm f/3.5 VM lens, the aperture ring moves as well and it may end up on the bottom side of the lens where you cannot see the aperture values. When shooting the lens, you have to get in the habit of moving the focusing ring back to default position in order to be able to see the aperture without having to turn the camera upside down. Here is what I mean:
Otherwise the lens is light (7.4oz/209g) and very sharp. The maximum aperture of f/3.5 makes is easy to focus on a rangefinder (the depth of field of a 50mm f/3.5 lens at 10 meters is almost 2.5 meters).
The Voigtlander Heliar Vintage Line 50mm f/3.5 VM lens has a simple 5 elements in 3 groups Heliar classic optical design which provides very sharp and color accurate images. The minimum focusing distance is 0.7m/2.3ft. The lens has de-clicked manual aperture ring and a 10-blade diaphragm.
The lens comes with a screw-in metal hood and a metal front lens cap:
|Aperture||f/3.5 to f/22|
|Camera Mount Type||Voigtlander VM bayonet; compatible with all M-mount cameras and adapters|
|Angle of View||46°|
|Minimum Focus Distance||2.3' / 70 cm|
|Optical Design||5 elements in 3 groups|
|Filter Thread||27 mm|
|Dimensions||2.0 x 1.7" / 52.0 x 43.2 mm|
|Weight||7.4 oz / 209 g|
Next is a quick color comparison of the Voigtlander Heliar Vintage Line 50mm f/3.5 VM with the almost $4,000 Leica M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH lens:
Focus shift, barrel distortion, lens flare, ghosting, purple fringing
In the short time I was using the lens I did not notice any signs of focus shift, barrel distortion, lens flare, ghosting or purple fringing:
Some vignetting can be seen at f/3.5 and f/5.6 (lens detection/correction off):
Here are a few wide open (f/3.5) sample photos:
Sample photos of the lens can be found on flickr (the jpg files are straight from the camera, taken with Leica M9 and M10, no correction or post processing):
Cons (what I don't like):
- Focusing scale only in meters
- Small font on the aperture and focusing ring, DOF scale
- Clickless aperture (for some this might be a plus)
- 27mm filter thread
Pro (what I like):
- Cool looking (for all the vintage fans out there)
- Cheap: at the time of this post, the US price of the Voigtlander Heliar Vintage Line 50mm f/3.5 VM lens is $529.