As a fan of the Voigtlander M Mount lenses and owner of the 50mm 1.2 Nokton lens for my Leica MP film camera, I came to really enjoy using the 50mm 1.5 and of course, the 50mm APO Lanthar lenses from Voigtlander. I found the 1.5 to render very much like a vintage 50 summilux from Leica and the F2 APO lanthar is 95% of the image quality of the Leica F2 APO but at a fraction of the price. How good are these lenses next to each other? I actually did a test in the video to show you how good this Voigtlander is!
Voigtlander 50mm f1.5 Nokton Vintage lens
The build quality and design of this lens are outstanding. I chose the nickel plated and black two-tone variant with the multi-coat for digital cameras.
The lens is small and compact, yet has enough weight to let you know you have a quality lens in your hand. The focus ring is smooth and the aperture ring has enough tension with that click which we as photographers enjoy. However, the one design choice that did confuse me was a tab on the aperture ring instead of the focus ring where it usually sits. It took me a few days to get comfortable with it, but once I did, it became second nature.
Voigtlander 50mm f2 APO Lanthar
For years, Leica dominated this APO space with their own 50mm f2 APO, also known as one of the best 50mm lenses for Leica M mount ever made. Optically its sharp, high resolving and great bokeh give you that pop to your images that is unique in the Leica 50mm lens lineup. Additionally, it’s also compact considering the quality of glass and construction this lens has. However, there is a hefty price tag attached to it, but second-hand prices do come in slightly more reasonable considering the initial MSRP price tag.
Voigtlander was also known to make great APO lenses that were categorised as the Lanthar series, however they never took that optical design to the M Mount. Not sure if there was an agreement with Leica or a company decision not to, but after a number of years and almost a year after they released the Sony E mount variant, they decided to release the 50mm f2 APO Lanthar for the Leica M Mount.
At first glance, the lens looks exactly like the 50 1.2 Nokton but slimmer and smaller, and it still has the chrome ring on the front which I do not like. Personally, I prefer the all black look that is on the Sony E Mount variant but to each their own.
Build quality is also to the level of other Voigtlander lenses, but compared to the 50 1.5 nickel variant, I prefer the nickel feel and weight. If I were to compare it to the Leica, I would say it’s roughly 85% of what the Leica is in terms of feel and build quality. In terms of feel, the focus ring is smooth with good tension on the clicked aperture ring and standard to any Voigtlander lens.
However, when it comes to image quality, this is where the 50 APO Lanthar pulls away from the other 50mm lenses in Voitglander’s lineup. It’s bitingly sharp, great separation with that pop you would expect. Also, the color coming off the lens has a slight warm tone to them. It very much compares to the Leica 50 APO and IQ wise is roughly 95% of that lens at a fraction of the price. Where it falters is in two areas: Vignetting at f2 and a little more CA than the Leica.
The lens tend to photograph wider in terms of focal length compared to the Leica. If you were to crop the Voigtlander to be the same as the Leica, you would be hard pressed to see the difference in images unless you zoom in around 400%.
Overall, I’m impressed with Voigtlander’s offerings. The lenses are great optically with good design and priced competitively for third party M mount lenses.
However, Voigtlander needs to improve on its presentation.
In the box, you get white styrofoam and clear plastic to cover the lens. No case, no hood. It’s a bare bones presentation. Compared to the Asian companies like 7 Artisans and TT Artisans that offer a nice packaging and presentation to their customers, Voigtlander fails in this comparison. It’s a shame really, because these items don’t cost much more to make, and they are charging more for their lenses than the Asian counterparts so from a consumer standpoint, the lack of attention to packaging and presentation isn’t justified.
Besides that though, if you are open to third party lenses for your Leica M camera, I highly recommend you check these out.
Big thanks to Riceball Photo/Video for providing the lenses for this review and Danny Tiong for allowing me to showcase some of his sample images taken with the Voigtlander 50mm APO Lanthar on his Leica SL.
Written by Bobby Tonelli