So, I visited The Photo Village in NYC for the first time the other week to check out some of their used Leica gear and see about the Cosina / Voigtlander glass that they are also known for [they are a major US distributor for Voigtlander]. I left with the great little Voigtlander Color Skopar 21mm f/4 lens and a metal 21/25mm viewfinder. I couldn’t be happier with the value and new capability in my M kit. Want to skip to the photos? You impatient little Boss? Scroll down, my friend, and you will not be disappointed! (Ok, you may be disappointed)
I knew that I had a Leica MDa on the way. Never thought I’d be saying that. The MDa is a clever little mutant camera that is the body of an M4 without a viewfinder or rangefinder. So, I wanted a nice wide 21mm lens that I could scale focus to use with this camera. Here were the general choices:
- Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 – Awesome lens, little bit of distortion, great for color, FAST – around $1,350
- Zeiss 21mm f/4.5 – Brilliant for architecture, almost distortion free, great size – solid ZEISSEY build – around $1,100
- Leica – Older versions are really not that great and still carry the Leica Tax. There, I said it. The new 21mm f/3.5 looks awesome (once the focus issue is fixed) but to get anything current generation will be very very expensive. And the faster 21mm is way too big. Basically, the Leitz 21mm lenses just don’t fit the Leica formula to me – $2,000+++
So that leaves Voigtlander. the 21mm Color Skopar f/4 lens for Leica M-mount. $499 plus another $140 for the 21/25mm finder.
First impressions on the lens:
- It’s very small and light, the build quality is certainly not Leica or Zeiss but it still makes most Japanese DSLR lenses feel like toys
- The aperture ring has a tiny bit of play but feel secure to use, with the half-stop clicks being well-defined
- The finder is very solid – way better than their plastic finder
- The 25mm frame lines are actually pretty good for the M8 – the frame line actually has a small mark that equates to about 28mm – so this one finder works for my Film M cameras and the M8… JOY!
First impressions on handling and image quality (Leica M8):
- At 21mm and say f/8, there’s almost no guessing when it comes to focus – but the throw of the focus and the tab work very intuitively. an hour with the M8, and chimping a bit left me very confident focusing by feel
- It’s small – the way the M system wants its lenses to be!
- On the M8 and un-coded, forget color photos if natural edge-to-edge color is important. You get a cyan gradient at the edges. Yes, it’s fixable, but it’s a pain
- It’s very sharp – generally sharper than my handholding will allow, so in the run and gun shooting dynamic – technique was the limiting factor – not the lens
- I love the way it renders – it’s not a Leica look, but it’s a very pleasing look. It almost has a slightly classic feel – particularly with color
- It’s not too too contrasty and I actually like the black and white conversions a lot. The files were very readily sharpened and I was able to control contrast well.
- It is far better to me than say the Canon L zooms (17-40mm, 24-105mm, 24-70mm) on the wider side
Here is a gallery of images from the first days shooting with this lens: