Mention the name “Leica” and the M-rangefinder comes to mind. Leica is synonymous with excellent optics through which they justify their sky-high prices and I do agree that their optics are excellent, and in some cases, inspiring to use.
And of course, third-party manufacturers like Zeiss, Voigtlander, TTArtisan, and even recently, Light Lens Labs (it is a long list) understand that not every M-rangefinder owner can splash out the equivalent of a house in some countries for a coveted Leica M lens and have sought to provide their own equivalents for the users however earlier attempts though well-intentioned were only occasionally well-executed.
But, the purpose of this review is to share my opinion that I may have made a mistake (in life it is important to be humble) in assuming that third-party M lenses must be lacking in some way due to their much lower prices and to share about how the Voigtlander 35mm f2 Ultron lens has deeply impressed me, espeically so for an M-mount lens easily one-fifth (or 20%) the cost of a Leica 35 Summicron ASPH v1.
For modern third-party M lenses, being cheaper than Leica does not necessary imply they are inferior
Enter the Voigtlander 35mm f2 Ultron
*there are two versions of this lens, and they only have aesthetic/ergonomic differences and share the same optical formula. The one I have is Version 1 with the focusing knob instead of a tab.
To start, this lens is immensely well-built with all-metal construction, the Voigtlander 35mm f2 Ultron feels as solid as the Leica 35 Summicron ASPH v1. Voigtlander includes one aspherical element at the rear of the nine elements in seven groups construction to minimize spherical aberrations and distortions. The Leica 35mm Summicron ASPH ver 1 instead has a seven elements in five groups construction with one aspherical element too.
The Voigtlander is a 2019 lens design formula while the Leica is a 1996 lens design formula.
One huge advantage the Voigtlander 35mm f2 Ultron has is its significantly shorter minimum focusing distance of 0.58 meters vs the Leica 35 Summicron’s 0.70 meters. Weight-wise to be honest both are tiny and light and one should probably not be in photography if one deigns either heavy. The Voigtlander 35mm f2 Ultron has a 10-bladed aperture design while the Leica 35mm Summicron ASPH v1 has an 8-bladed aperture design.
The 35mm f2 Ultron is presented in a sleek silver and black design profile, with engraved markings on it. The aperture ring turns with a click and the focusing ring with a buttery smooth feeling and the right amount of resistance. Holding it, I know this lens will last me a good number of years.
Performance and Handling
From my experience, the Voigtlander 35mm f2 Ultron appears to be basically distortion-free, with minimal or basically nil chromatic aberrations, similar to the much loved Leica 35mm Summicron ASPH v1.
The rendering is sharp across with pleasant corners, which was a surprise to me. A hallmark of a well-designed lens, both lenses are sharp in the center at f2. The Voigtlander 35mm f2 Ultron retains resolution even into the corners but it does seem to exhibit a sort of glow around bright objects (in the corners). The sweet spot seems to be around f2.8 to f4, where it is basically perfect.
The distinctive Leica pop thanks to the beautiful M10 sensor is well presented, with details beautifully reproduced.
‘Bokeh’ rendition was smooth and to my liking.
Some users have mentioned that the Ultron renders out of focused backgrounds more ‘busily’ in comparison to the Summicron but my take on ‘bokeh’ is always that it is very subjective and personal and in my case, I like how the lens renders the out-of-focused areas and moves smoothly yet ‘surely’ to the focused areas with a crisp separation.
Vignetting when shooting wide-open is present but very mild, and obviously easily managed in post processing. At some points, I had the feeling the 35mm f2 Ultron had a cooler rendering versus the 35 Summicron ASPH v1 but I was not able to see this as a consistent trait.
Using the Voigtlander 35mm f2 Ultron for street shooting also proved to be enjoyable. While the focusing knob design of version 1 may prove to be an issue for some who are used to managing a focusing tab, the version 2 comes with a focusing tab hence it is more of a matter of choice rather than availabilty.
The focusing throw and using zone focusing on the lens was basically akin to using a Leica lens.
For a lens smaller, lighter, cheaper than the Leica equivalent, the Voigtlander 35mm f2 Ultron impresses not only with its build but also with its optical performance, easily pitting it toe to toe and in some aspects slightly edging it forward.
It is important that I highlight that I am not putting Leica down in any way here, Leica’s optics quality and design are still Leica-distinctive beautiful, and excellent. Instead, my aim here is to not be a prude of a purist and share that there are also excellent options available for the M-rangefinder user where there is a beautiful match of price and performance.
The 35mm f2 Ultron is smaller, lighter, 440% cheaper with a comparable level of optical performance.price versus the 35mm Summicron APSH, USD3795 vs USD699. If versus the 35 Summicron APO, it will be USD699 versus USD8195
For now, a big issue with third-party lenses is the huge variety of possible choices across a full range of prices. Not all are gems is also a reason why some users do not embrace the third-party lenses. For example, a 7Artisans 35mm f2 for M-mount costs USD289 vs Leica’s USD3795’s equivalent.
In all, while the Voigtlander 35mm f2 Ultron may be surpassed by Leica’s 35mm Summilux FLE (USD5995) or the 35mm f2 APO (USD8195/SGD12,000), at its price point of USD 699, one can hardly find any fault with its performance and this lens will be one I will be using on my Leica M10.
Thank you for reading.
- The Leica M10 is my personal set and running firmware version 188.8.131.52.
- All images shared are shot by me in DNG and processed in LR CC Classic to my preferences. All product shots were shot by me on the Nikon Z6 II.
- I take pride in not being a writer who earns through selling affiliate links etc and as such, am able to provide a neutral point of view. The best way to support me will be sharing my reviews, for which I am very thankful for.