Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Heliar III Review & Sample Images

 

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5mm III Review

The Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 lens is a Leica lens that’s been optimized for mirrorless digital sensors. This lens has an aperture of f4.5 to f22. It’s extremely small and light with full manual controls making it an incredibly fun lens to use. Plus it looks amazing.

I usually like to write what I like and don’t like about a lens, but there are very few things I don’t like about this lens. From a technical standpoint it’s very sharp from corner to corner with very little distortion. On an APS-C camera like the Fuji X-T1 the lens is near perfect and shoots at around a 22.5mm (35mm comparable). 

I imagine it would also pair very nicely with the Sony A6000 or one of their similar cameras.

On a full frame camera like the Sony A7r it’s main problem would be the vignetting and chromatic aberrations. But we’ll get into all that in this review.

Sunset at Tongva Park in Santa Monica

Tongva Park – Sony A7rII – Voigtlander 15mm Heliar III – ISO 100, F8, 30sec

 

Order Links

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Heliar III: Adorama

Be careful if you order this lens that you are not ordering version II or version I, some sites do not specify. The way you can tell is the lens should have a ‘III’ written on the rim.

 

Technical Specs

– Aperture Range: F4.5 – F22
– One Aspherical Element
– 11 Elements in 9 Group
– Manual Focus
– Minimum Focus: 1.6′ / 50 cm
– Optimized For Digital Sensors
– Built-In Hood
– 10-Blade Round Aperture
– Filter Threads: 58mm
– No Weather Sealing

The focus ring is marked for both meters and feet and the aperture ring is on the very front end of the lens.

The lens does accept a front filter of 58mm. I like to keep one around, it does help weather seal the lens slightly, especially when you’re shooting at the beach where water and mist are in the air, but I’ll take them off when I’m in a relatively calm area because they do tend to catch some extra light, especially when shooting in the city.

 

Resolution Test

Voigtlander did a really nice job on improving the corners and edges of this lens over version II. Sharpness is controlled very well all around from the center to the edges. It’s impressive for a lens this wide.

You do get chromatic aberrations on edge detail that isn’t all that great to deal with. You can remove it in post but sometimes you’re still left with this highlighted white edge.

You can see it here in these resolutions charts. Distortion is very minor and very easy to correct if you need to at all.

These were both taken on the Sony A7r with the center and edges cropped in to 100%.

I’ve tested a lot of full frame ultra wide lenses and these results are very good. Especially for how small the lens is.

 

Diffraction Test

This is how the Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Heliar III handles diffraction on the Fujifilm X-T1. These results should be similar on the Sony A7r since both cameras have near identical pixel pitch – assuming I put the A7r in APS-C crop mode or cropping in 100%.

F4.5-F8 are where you want to be on this lens.

If you were shooting on a Leica, Sony A7ii, you could easily get away with shooting at f11. With the Sony A7s you could shoot up to f16 no problem. With the new Sony A7rII even F8 might start looking nasty.

Shot with the Fujifilm X-T1

 

Full Frame Vignetting Samples

Shot with the Sony A7r.

This might be some of the worst vignetting I’ve seen on a lens yet. Yes, you can correct it, but when you start lifting exposure on the edges by several stops like this, the color contrast tends to do strange things.

Some people like vignetting, some people don’t. I don’t mind it but would prefer it to be a little less extreme. 

Update: Adobe’s latest update includes a lens profile for the Voigtlander 15mm Heliar III. It’s vignetting and distortion correction is perfect!

I don’t have the Heliar II but I’m assuming vignetting is slightly more controlled on this new lens compared to the older one based on how that profile was correcting.

From other samples I’ve seen, this lens also shows a drastic improvement in edge and corner color shifts.

Shot with the Sony A7r.

Corrected with Adobe Lightroom’s new Heliar III profile correction. It actually cleans up some of the chromatic aberrations as well.

 photo Voigtlander_Before_After_Lens_Profile_00000_zpsrzkbtota.jpg

 

APS-C Vignetting Samples

Shot with the Fujifilm X-T1.

Vignetting is well controlled on this camera. I feel like this lens really is better suited for APS-C. All around has fewer problems when cropped and I love it.

Shot with the Fujifilm X-T1.

 

The Stars

This is my favorite part about this lens. It’s my only lens I have that gives me this awesome look. Usually you have to shoot at f16 to f19 to get sun stars like this, with this lens you can get them even at f4.5.

You’ll also get it with street lamps, but they won’t be as bright and as long as when you point the thing right at the sun.

Shot with the Fuji X-T1 and the voigtlander 15mm iii.

 

Adapting Leica M To Sony E

To adapt this lens to the Sony E mount I used the Voigtlander Leica M to E-Mount adapter II.

The adapter is very solid, very well built. No complaints.

Voigtlander VM Adapter II – (Amazon)

I’m not sure the difference between version I or version II of the adapter. I ordered mine from B&Hphoto and it did not specify. I ended up getting version II.

 

Adaptering Leica M to Fuji-X

The adapter I used to get this Leica Mount lens working on my Fujifilm X-T1 was the adapter made by Fujifilm.

The reason this adapter is nice is because it automatically turns on “Shoot Without Lens.”

This allows the camera to pre-load any distortion, vignetting or color corrections you’ve programed into the specific lens.

The adapter is very solid, and well built. No complaints.

Fujifilm M Mount Adapter For X Mount – (Amazon)

 

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Heliar III Review Conclusions

The lens has a few flaws. Intense vignetting when full frame and some chroma on intense highlights. But because of the lenses size, weight and price, those issues become very, very forgivable. And the new Lightroom lens profile does a fantastic job at cleaning up most of it.

Voigtlander on the Fujifilm X-T1

I really love this lens on my Fuji X-T1, it’s so close to perfect. It gives the field of view of equivalent to 22mm. Manual controls make it very fun to use, it’s extremely sharp with manageable chromatic aberrations. Vignetting and distortion are well controlled so you really don’t need much post correction.

If you’re thinking about buying this lens just for your Fujifilm camera, I’m not yet sure how it compares to the Fujinon XF 16mm lens. This lens is a few hundred dollars cheaper, but keep in mind you would still have to buy a Leica M to Fujifilm adapter. They can range from about $100 to $200 dollars. If all manual controls and build quality is your thing, then this lens is for you.

Voigtlander on the Sony A7r

On a full frame camera like the Sony A7r it’s still a good lens and I’m amazed at how small it is.

Usually when I’m shooting this wide, it’s for very specific things like landscapes and architecture. Color shifts and sharpness are still very well controlled from corner to corner, something I really wasn’t expecting. I’ll be using this now as my primary ultra wide for my Sony.

Final Thoughts

There are very few options for an ultra wide E-Mount prime at a price like this. There is an old Zeiss Distagon Leica M mount and a Samyang 14mm mount. But this lens is special because it’s tuned specifically for mirrorless digital cameras.

I like this lens more than my Samyang 14mm because the distortion issues on that lens are annoying. I’ve yet to try the Distagon. I’m sure Sony / Zeiss will release some new ultra wide this year, but in the mean time, don’t ignore this lens. It’s a lot of fun, it’s so small and works on most mirrorless camera with the proper adapter. Plus it will look sick on your camera!

 

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Heliar III Sample Images

Since I shoot on both Sony E and Fuji X systems, buying Leica Mount lenses just makes sense to me.

I actually really like the lens on my Fuji so I’ll post sample images from both cameras. 

I’m sure the lens will also work great on Micro 4/3rds but I’ve yet to test that. Unfortunately you’re not able to adapt it to the Samsung NX unless you get out the power tools.

Sample Images – Sony A7r – Full Frame

These were shot around f8 to f11, ISO 100 with various shutters. All taken on a tripod.

Shot in downtown Los Angeles with the Sony A7r and the Voigtlander 15mm III

Shot with the Sony A7r and the Voigtlander 15mm III.

Shot with the Sony A7r and the Voigtlander 15mm III.

Los Angeles shot with the Voigtlander 15mm iii.

Downtown Los Angeles shot with the Sony A7r and the Voigtlander 15mm III

 

Sample Images – Fujifilm X-T1 – APS-C

These were all shot between f5.6 to f8. I think a few were at f11 but I don’t remember going over f8 often.

These were all handheld except the long exposure shot.

Long exposure shot in Downtown Los Angles.

Shot with the Fuji X-T1 and the voigtlander 15mm iii.

Shot with the Fuji X-T1 and the voigtlander 15mm iii.

Shot with the Fuji X-T1 and the voigtlander 15mm iii.

Shot with the Fuji X-T1 and the voigtlander 15mm iii.

Shot with the Fuji X-T1 and the voigtlander 15mm iii.

Shot with the Fuji X-T1 and the voigtlander 15mm iii.

Shot with the Fuji X-T1 and the voigtlander 15mm iii.

Shot with the Fuji X-T1 and the voigtlander 15mm iii.

Shot with the Fuji X-T1 and the voigtlander 15mm iii.

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