Review: Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f/2 SLII

In a land of plastic zoom lenses and idiots who love them companies like Cosina Voigtlander are still interested in doing things right.  This is a manual focus lens made entirely of metal.  The fit and finish is beautiful with no indication of corner cutting.  The manual focus action is smooth and sexy and each lens has a built-in CPU for relaying exposure info to the camera.  The Ultron is available for Canon EF, Nikon and Pentax (sorry Sony owners, guess you should have stuck with a real camera company).  The lens accepts 52mm filters and comes with a screw in dome type hood (not pictured).  It also comes with a close up filter to achieve 1:4 magnification.  We applaud Voigtlander for not being a fucking sheep and following the rest of the herd.  This is a lens that truly stands out amongst others.

We’ve conducted a field review of this lens and won’t be referring to any charts or graphs this time.  If you want a dork ass review then this is not it.  At PTC we get out and shoot instead of just talking shit.  Over the past several months I’ve gotten to know this lens very well.  It’s small size makes it a constant companion on my Canon 5D (big dick camera).  The optical quality is good and I don’t hesitate to use it wide open at f/2.  I don’t mind some vignetting as i often add some in post and this lens has some mild darkening in the corners when shot wide open.  It pretty much disappears by f/2.8

 

Shot at f/2

 

You can see here that the sharpness, even wide open, is good with just a touch of vignetting.  The bokeh, which has come into question in other reviews, is of good quality.  I cannot fault this lens in that department.  As with any lens (except zoom) sharpness improves on stopping down.  By f/6.3 this lens is taking full advantage of my cameras 12mp image sensor.

Shot at f/6.3

By the way this photograph was captured in an employee lounge In Sendai, Japan.  In case you don’t know that is where Nikon makes all their primo shit.  The above area is for employees who manufacture zoom lenses while the prime lens lounge was lavish and luxurious.  Buying zoom lenses only contributes to these terrible conditions.  Anyway, back to the review.  CA’s and fringing are a non-issue.  I have never experienced a problem with either of these after months of use.  Sadly no lens is perfect.  The Ultron exhibits some barrel distortion that becomes evident when shooting flat surfaces head on.

 

distortion test

You can see a little bending along the edges of the frame in this image.  It is certainly better than any zoom lens so I’m not that worried about it.  If I had been using a Canon EF 17-40L this would look like a fisheye.  Don’t bitch, you know it’s true.  So after conclusive field testing PTC has determined that this beautifully crafted 40mm lens gets a solid 7 out of 10.  Build quality and mechanics are excellent.  No fringing or CA’s are evident.  Vignetting is well controlled and it loses only a few points for slight barrel distortion.  One of the best parts of this lens is the price.   It can be had for $379.99 US dollars from your favorite camera shop making it a lens within reach for almost everybody.  Do yourself a favor and pick one of these up, unless of course you shoot Sony, in which case you’ve got serious problems.  Peace from PTC.  Happy shooting!

 

Biggy

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Lemming51
    May 17, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    What a load of poseur drivel. The vulgarity doesn’t make you edgy or give you cred, it just emphasizes your weak writing and analysis. If you like using an metal manual focus lens for its high quality old school feel and it’s compact size, have at it. But don’t pretend CA is non-existant, and optical faults like vignetting and barrel distortion (which are non-existant in the 17-40L at 40mm) are virtues.

  2. Adalbert Schwafel
    May 17, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    kw303: did you read what Lemming51 wrote: the 17-40’s barrel distortion is non-existant at _40_ mm. You are comparing apples and oranges if you compare the Voigtlander at 40 with the Canon at 17mm. If you are overchallenged by zooms, and the complexity of physics and focal length in particular, feel free to get in touch for another lesson. What a pile of useless fucking bullshit.

    • May 17, 2010 at 9:19 pm

      Easy Schwafel we all make mistakes. You should really take it easy with the profanity though. Sheesh.

  3. Optimus Prime
    May 17, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Being a prime shooter I agree that build quality is just as important as IQ. I want a specific lenses for the subjects I photograph, not a zoom. BTW, if you like the Voigtlander 40mm f/2 that much you’d love Pentax DA40 f/2.8 Limited!

    • May 17, 2010 at 11:40 pm

      Finally a prime shooter joins the party. If you’d like to write a review of the DA40 Limited I’d be happy to feature it. Pentax makes some killer primes. Thanks Optimus! Stop by anytime.

  4. guillermo
    May 18, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Hi
    I don´t know very much about lens and bodie combination… Do you know if I can use this excellent prime lens in a Micro 4/3 camera as the Olympus or Lumix? I´m looking for a “really” first class lens and small camera for a photo proyect. I don´t like very much the Leica X1 or the Ricoh GXR.
    Thanks
    Guillermo, from Argentina

    • May 18, 2010 at 9:20 pm

      Hi Guillermo,
      You could use the lens via adapter. Novoflex makes the most and the best. Thanks.

  5. Bootstrap
    May 18, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    Congratulations! You and your alter ego have been successfully banned from DPReview.
    Good work!

    • May 18, 2010 at 9:21 pm

      we love you Bill. Really.

  6. Elio Di Claudio
    July 3, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Adalbert Schwafel :kw303: did you read what Lemming51 wrote: the 17-40′s barrel distortion is non-existant at _40_ mm. You are comparing apples and oranges if you compare the Voigtlander at 40 with the Canon at 17mm. If you are overchallenged by zooms, and the complexity of physics and focal length in particular, feel free to get in touch for another lesson. What a pile of useless fucking bullshit.

    “overchallenged by zooms”: are you kidding? I use regularly the Ultron on my D700 and film cameras and tried it against the best from Nikon and Zeiss in the range 35-50 mm even on a D3x (though rather inferior to scanned 5400 dpi, 35 Mp X 3, slides from top optics). Only the ZF 50 1.4 was “globally” on par and the Ultron is even better colour corrected, thanks to its modern and high quality (polishing, transparency) molded aspherics. It completely blows Nikkors 35 AFD and 50 1.8 AI at any aperture up to f/:5.6, especially at the borders. The performance of the Ultron 40 SL II with the D3x at f/2 impressed all present people. All these lenses are visibly superior to any zoom, in particular to the Canon 17-40 L, which I evaluated crappy even at only 21 Mp. And I don’t still mind colour, clarity and clean shadows typical of such prime lenses… Distortion of the Ultron is mild and similar to great high speed 50 mm’s, except Summilux ASPH.
    For architecture I use only VC 15 mm SW Heliar (superb), 50 f/1.8 AI (stopped down) or Micro 60 AFD and 105 2.5 AI, that have no visible distortion and resolution at will. I really don’t beware anymore on Internet folks, clearly not used to real quality lenses ans shooting techniques.

    Sincerely

    Elio

    Beware of i

  7. July 29, 2010 at 6:45 am

    “I prefer beer review to peer review… drink a beer with the editor…”

  8. January 18, 2011 at 6:13 am

    Greetings all, terrific site I find It quite helpful and it’s helped me out a lot
    I hope to give something back & support others like this site has helped me

    _________________
    redsn0w

  9. April 2, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Looks like an awesome lens for my kind of street shooting.

  10. April 13, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    ZOOMS 4 LIFE…………in hell.

    thanks for the review. might i ask you what ground glass you are using for the 5d? (for manual focus)

  11. Jae
    May 28, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    Sony = Minolta

    Minolta = makes better lenses than Nikon and Canon.

  12. May 30, 2011 at 2:59 am

    I agree with Lemming. This review isn’t edgy or clever, just wordy. Most of the words could be cut out as they just cut up zooms. Oh well. If that is the sort of view that is important to users of this site, that is cool, I guess. I tend to use mostly primes, though for sports like bmx and skiing, I use wide angle zooms and long zooms.

    I am looking at this lens for my FM2 and D200, and was hoping that this site would be helpful. The photos are massively shrunk so we cannot tell how ‘sharp’ the lens is, nor do we have any indication at all if they were post processed or not. I’m sure the lens is great, but this review was as helpful as a fanboi screaming: Everything else suxors! I am evar the best!

    • June 2, 2011 at 1:27 pm

      wow. if you cant tell these were processed you got serious problems. maybe you should quit the digital for a while and go back to film.

  13. August 24, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    I like the way you write, don’t change. Photography doesn’t have to be as boring as reading crash test report – there are already plenty of those on the net. I shoot exclusively primes, no one fucking zoom in my lens collection. Zoom lenses make people lazy, period. They zoom and shoot like zombie on the prowl. I find shooting prime to be about getting yourself into the position to get the best out of the shot, not just twist your wrist and shoot away. Every freaking single damn shot I take forces me to think more about what I want the shot to represent and the outcome shows that – it has a soul in it. When you shoot from 100 feet away you’re not connected with whatever the hell it is your subject, you just take the photo. I don’t like those perky tourists carrying around their big ass telezoom taking photos all over the place without even think twice how ridiculous that looks! That’s what I call photo-couching – well, most of those type don’t care about street shooting that doesn’t mean some gang members end up in the emergency room anyway. So, with that, peace and keep up the profane review; the world has enough T.S. Elliot we need more Hunter S. Thompson…

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