Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar Review

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Introduction

The Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar is a new manual-aperture, manual-focus ultra-wide-angle prime lens for Sony Alpha 35mm full-frame mirrorless cameras. It features an aperture range of f/4.5-f/22 and a ten-bladed circular diaphragm for smoother bokeh blur in out of focus areas. It features 11 elements in 9 groups, a precision-engineered full-metal casing, weighs in at 294 grams, and can be easily de-clicked for movie making. The Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar retails for £649 / $799.

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar Review Image

Ease of Use

With a maximum diameter of 66mm and an 62mm length, the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar is a ultra-wide-angle fixed focal length optic that’s well-suited to Sony’s full-frame mirrorless camera bodies. Weighing in at 294g it’s also not too heavy, making this lens well suited to hand-holding as well as to life on a tripod. It is also compatible with APS-C cameras, where it will produce a 22.5mm equivalent focal length.

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar

The Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar lens mounted on a Sony A7R II

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar

The Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar lens mounted on a Sony A7R II

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar

The Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar lens mounted on a Sony A7R II

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar

The Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar lens alongside a Sony A7R II

The Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar boasts superb build quality, with all markings being both engraved and painted. The lens has an all-metal casing and also features a metal E-mount bayonet. With no need for a zoom ring, the manual focussing ring spans a significant width of the lens barrel and is exceptionally smooth to operate, complete with a useful depth of field scale.

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar

The side of the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar lens

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar

The front of the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar lens

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar

The rear of the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar lens

In front of this is the aperture ring, with 1/3EV stops ranging from f/4.5 to f/22. A second small ring directly behind the aperture ring lets you select whether the aperture ring clicks into place at each aperture stop or rotates smoothly for silent operation during movie recording. Simply pull it forward and rotate by 180 degrees until the yellow marker is on top to make it clickless, perfect for video use.

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar

The side of the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar lens

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar

The side of the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar lens

The Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar has 11 lens elements in 9 groups and an almost symmetric lens design that promises better distortion, color correction and image field flatness. A ten-bladed rounded diaphragm, combined with the fast maximum aperture, helps provide smooth bokeh blur.

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar

The Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar lens in-hand

There’s no optical image stabilisation, but the lens’ very short focal length and fairly fast maximum aperture alleviate the need for it. A non-removable metal petal-shaped lens hood is fitted, which means that you can’t use a slot-in filter system with this lens.

Focal Range

The 15mm focal length gives an angle of view of 110 degrees on a 35mm full frame sensor.

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar

Field of view at 15mm

Manual Focussing

The Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar’s manual focussing ring spans a significant width of the lens barrel and is exceptionally smooth to operate, complete with a useful depth of field scale. It also has a large rotation angle of 90 degrees which enables precise focusing and moves smoothly without any play. The precise engravings in meters and feet, together with the depth of focus scale, help make manual focusing a veritable pleasure, especially in conjunction with the excellent Peaking feature offered by the Sony A-series cameras.

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is rarely an issue with the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar, so much so that we couldn’t find any instances of fringing in our test shots.

Light Fall-off and Distortion

Light fall-off is noticeable wide open at f/4.5, though this is to be expected for such a fast lens and can easily be corrected in Photoshop. Stop down to f/8 and the vignetting is already less prominent, but it is still visible when shooting pale scenes that fill the frame.

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar

Light fall-off at 15mm

Macro

A 30cm / 11.8″ minimum focus distance and a makes the lens useful for shooting reasonably close subjects, although the maximum magnification is a modest 1:12. This image is uncropped and shows how close you can get to a Compact Flash card.

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar

Close-up performance

Bokeh

A major appeal of fast, wide-aperture prime lenses is their ability to produce an eye-catching separation between a sharp subject and a very soft out-of-focus background. Despite being such a wide-angle lens, the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar generates smooth out of focus areas through its use of a ten-bladed diaphragm, which provides smoother bokeh than nine, seven or five-blade designs. Bokeh is however a fairly subjective part of a lens’ image quality, so check out these 100% crops to see the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar’s bokeh quality for yourself.

Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar
Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar
Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following page.

Sharpness at 15mm

Our sharpness tests were conducted using a 42-megapixel Sony A7R II body mounted to a tripod. The camera’s shutter release was also set on a timer-delay to avoid any possible camera shake. The test subject was shot using ambient lighting, hence some colour and contrast variation is to be expected between apertures.

The full frame at 16mm

The full frame at 15mm

Centre sharpness is impressively high throughout the entire aperture range, with peak performance between f/5.6-f/16. Corner sharpness is also very good, producing optimal sharpness at f/8-f/16.

Aperture Centre Crop Edge Crop
f/4.5
f/5.6
f/8
f/11
f/16
f/22

Specifications

Focal length used on full format camera body 15 mm
Aperture ratio 1:4,5
Minimum aperture F 22
Click-stop 1/3
Lens construction 11 elements in 9 groups
Angle of view 110°
Aperture blade 10
Minimum focus 0,3 m
Maximum diameter 66,4 mm
Length 62,3 mm
Mount E
Electrical contact: Exif data transfer from lens to camera body for lens correction available
Manual focus assistant available
Weight 294 g
Filter size 58 mm
Color black
Others Lens hood (non-detachable), 58 mm clip cap, Rear cap, Selective aperture control system
Optional

Conclusion

The compact and lightweight Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar is an excellent ultra-wide-angle prime lens that delivers great image quality. Shooting at the maximum f/4.5 aperture does reveal a very minor reduction in sharpness in the centre of the frame, but this is quickly resolved by stopping down to f/5.6. The edges aren’t quite so sharp, though, with f/8-f/16 producing the best results.

with Leica M240

The Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar is a pleasure to use, thanks to its superb build quality and smooth focus and aperture rings. As this is a manual-focus only lens, you’d expect this aspect of the operation to be intuitive, and so it proved. Together with the A7R II’s excellent Peaking and Manual Focus Assist features, the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar delivered a very high percentage of keepers. The 30cm minimum focusing distance also makes the lens versatile enough to shoot close subjects.

with Sony A7s

In addition to the edge sharpness, there are only a couple of other drawbacks to the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar. Vignetting is obvious wide-open at f/4.5, and still fairly evident at f/8, although in real-world use it’s less of a problem than when photographing a white wall/test-chart. Secondly, the built-in lens hood prohibits the use of a slot-in filter system, which may or may not be a deal-breaker for some landscape photographers.

with Leica M9

With the full retail price of £649 / $799 being more than reasonable for such a specialist lens, the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 Super Wide Heliar is a compelling native ultra-wide-angle optic for full-frame E-Mount Sony owners.

(photographyblog.com, http://goo.gl/4pzGNG)

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