Voigtlander Glass

Someone reached out to me via a comment on my last post and the more I considered it, the more I thought it would be best to take a quick dive into my camera and lens choices, something that I think deserves more than a “because its cool and takes nice photos” kind of a reply. So, here’s an off the cuff, little bit rambling answer to the following. I’m starting to wonder if I should just jump in and start posting from time to time even if I don’t spend time editing it to some perceived notion of “good enough to post”.

“John, I’ve always enjoyed following your work over the years. Curious, what attracts you to the Voigtlander lens? Any particular reason?” – Will Musgrove

Thanks Will! Why Voigtlander? Good question, one I have thought a long time about in the absence of a digital camera and one that digs way back into my personal history with photography. I’ll start by saying my ideal, daydream camera setup would be a Leica M10 and a Leica M7 with one nice 50mm lens and one nice 35mm lens but, well, that would be a significant loan that I can’t justify. Leica makes a fantastic product but with a price that is wholly unrealistic for most. I have used SLRs for over 20 years now starting with film then moving to digital with the Canon 10D (or was it the 20D?) ages ago but it was a Canon film rangefinder that really shook things up for me years back.

I loved shooting with a rangefinder, the size, focusing, simplicity, all of it. It broke down photography to my favorite aspects, composition and get-out-of-the-way bare bones exposure choices. Because of the cost of Leica digitals I never even considered a digital rangefinder but have often daydreamed of shifting to shooting only film, selling off every piece of camera gear I could, and buying a nice Leica M7 to shoot everything with. Yet this would make 50ft and its desktop/wallpaper centric self much harder to manage.

For a good long while I shot with a Voigtlander Bessa Rangefinder paired with a Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4 SC Lens and loved it. I sold it to my brother at some point to get some other gear but always manage to miss having it around. My time with that camera introduced me to the companies products and left a lasting impression because it presented me with a truly solid performance and build quality while maintaining a moderately affordable price range compared to what Leica had to offer.

While I had that body I had experimented with a few other lenses of theirs that I had borrowed from a friend while in Korea. An ultra wide and a super fast 50mm lens, but there was one of their lenses in particular that has long had my attention, their 35mm f/1.2 which is now in its second generation. I have always loved 35mm lenses and the way they allow me to either move in tight for detail or back up a bit and tell a story. Pair this with my long lasting love affair with fast glass and here we are, a sweet spot.

I can’t count the amount of times I have put that lens into the search field of Flickr and drooled over the results others have gotten with it both on film and digital camera bodies but for some reason I have never taken the plunge and picked one up, mostly because the camera bodies I have had around were never too friendly to Leica mount lenses. The prospects of this started to change with the smaller bodied yet full frame Sony cameras which I don’t particularly care for as far as their handling goes but I have started to overlook this once I realized that its abilities outweigh those concerns.

I started looking into it and realized that I could pick up an A7 II in great shape for under $1000 which has a solid resolution and feature set that I would be more than happy with and from the reading I have done, handles Leica mount lenses quite well with a good adapter on hand. The Voigtlander 40mm f/1.2 lens came to my attention when I noticed they had a Sony mount version of it available. Based on what I know that 40mm holds a similar performance and style to the 35mm and after doing some digging it does indeed have a similar feeling to the way it renders images. I lean toward to wanting the 35 in a leica mount with adapter because I could see myself pickup up an old M2 or M4 one day in the future and could easily put the lens to use there as well, not to mention, I prefer that tiny bit of extra width in my frame.

This is where your question will actually get an answer. I like the Voigtlander lenses in this speedy prime glass range because I love the way they render color, bokeh, vignetting, all of it. It suits my approach to photography well by allowing me a lot of flexibility but also gives me a familiar depth and loads of personality and that is a key word for me. The personality of a lens is something I feel closely in tune with. The texture of how a lens renders its background and in some cases even its perceived imperfections are ok in my book. I shot with my 35mm f/1.4L Canon for years and years because of exactly this. It held my catalogue of images together aesthetically and added to the story and mythology of Fifty Foot Shadows through the years.

At this projects peak back before the big social media pivot of the web I would find others online comparing other photographers work to my own or even mistaking the work of others for mine which had a similar feeling because of that consistency and that has always been intentional. So in that regard, as much fun as it is to have and shoot with a bunch of different gear and lenses, I have always come back to familiar focal lengths and tried to hold true to that classic style within these pages and I believe this Voigtlander lens will continue that tradition handily.

Paired with a smallish camera hiding a full frame sensor I hope for it to give me as close to my ideal as possible while shooting from day to day; a camera thats small enough to not get in my way but deliver results encompassing my aesthetic standards I have for digital shooting. Something I came close to with the fujifilm line but never quite fully connected with through the years of using it, but thats a discussion for another day. So, unless I end up being off base on its performance, it’s the set up I hope to find myself in possession of once I manage to find a way to make that happen.

That was fun. Anyone else have any questions?

Comments

  1. Will Musgrove - October 7, 2019 at 9:11 pm

    Wow, thanks for the reply! I’m in the market for a new rig too, and looking to experiment more with fast glass, so definitely adding the Voigtlander to the list to consider.

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