The 35mm focal length has been a staple of my photography for some years now. I consider it the perfect focal length for general purpose photography, so when Voigtländer announced the new compact 35mm F2 Ultron lens, I was intrigued.
For about two years, I had been making photographs with Voigtländer’s 35mm F1.7 Ultron, which replaced my Leica Summarit f/2.5 before it. Wide-eyed and well built, the F1.7 proved itself a workhorse for anything from black and white film portraits to digital colour landscapes on the Leica M Typ 240. The only problem I had with it was the size. At about 54mm long, it made the M7 quite a “pointy” camera.
The new F2 Ultron promised a lot — high-quality optics with an aspherical element along with an extremely compact form-factor, so I decided to switch earlier this year.
I’ve always been pleasantly surprised at the build quality of Voigtländer lenses, and the F2 delivered on this. Despite being tiny, it’s weight makes it feel like a Leica lens. The focusing barrel is very smooth and the aperture ring is tight and clicky without any mechanical looseness.
In my opinion, the matching lens hood lens hood (LH-12) isn’t much of an eye pleaser, so I opted for a vented metal hood from eBay for about $10 instead, pictured above. At 28mm long, even with a lens hood the F2 Ultron is shorter than my previous F1.7 Ultron without any hood at all. A big win for compactness!
Optics & Bokeh
As far as optical quality goes, it’s quite a performer. Impressively sharp at moderate and deep apertures, I did find that at longer focus distances, a wide open aperture exhibited more of a vintage spherical appearance in the bokeh (see below for a severe example).
For portraits and shallow depth of field, it renders quite beautifully, without distracting donut shaped bokeh rings, something I’ve always been weary of in a lens.
When stopped down for street photography and landscapes, it’s sharp and shows very little distortion, with pleasant contrast and very little flaring. Overall, I would say the optics are really quite impressive for such a small optical design.
For all this lens delivers in terms of size, build quality and optics, there are two issues I have with it that are worth mentioning. They’re not red flags, but they make the ergonomics suffer compared to other lenses on offer.
The focus ring (circled red) on the lens is tucked back toward the lens mount which makes accessing it directly more difficult. To counter this, Voigtländer has added a knob to the focus ring, not a tab like other lenses.
To use the knob, you generally have to grab it with your thumb and index finger instead of simply touching the bottom of a tab with the tip of your index finger.
It’s not awful, but it reduces the speed at which you can quickly grab and focus the lens. A tab for your fingertip would be much preferred.
The aperture ring (circled yellow) is designed with only two ribbed sections that are not even opposing each other at 180º, reducing the ability to quickly find and alter the aperture without missing one of these two grippy sections.
If they followed the design of the F1.7 Ultron and made the entire ring a grippy extrusion, it would make it easier to find and rotate the aperture ring without having to fumble.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for a 35mm Leica M-mount lens that won’t break the bank (comparitively) and also compares in size to the Leica Summicron in size, don’t go past the Voigtländer 35mm F2 Ultron.
If the occasional spherical “vintage” bokeh effect and minor ergonomic issues aren’t an issue, this lens is a great addition to any Leica camera. It’ll make your hiking, travel and every day carrying experience a lot leaner.
Here are a few more images showing the qualities of the lens on both Kodak Tri-X 400 and Portra 160 films on my M7.