Save 69% on inPixio Photo Studio 11 Ultimate (discount applied at checkout)

Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5 Color Skopar SL II Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews this compact manual focus Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5 Color Skopar SL II lens.

|  Voigtlander Color Skopar 20mm f/3.5 SL in Interchangeable Lenses
 Add Comment

Handling and Features

Voiigtlander 20mm F3 5 SL II N Aspherical Lens (4)

This manual focus wide angle lens is available to fit Nikon and Canon SLR cameras. Both versions of this lens are manual focus, but sport electronic contacts to fully support all metering modes and aperture control from each brand of camera. This lens is compact but sports a modest maximum aperture of f/3.5 as a result and costs around £515. In this review we'll take a look at how it performs.

Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5 Color Skopar SL II Handling and Features

Voiigtlander 20mm F3 5 SL II N Aspherical Lens (8)
The build and design of this lens is reminiscent of a time gone by, when lenses were typically made of brass and designed to last a lifetime. This lens feels very solidly built, thanks to the all-metal construction and the scalloped metal focusing ring. Despite the heavyweight construction this lens actually weighs only 202g and it makes a perfect travel companion for the Nikon D600 body used for testing, due to it's small size.

Voiigtlander 20mm F3 5 SL II N Aspherical Lens (5)

The focusing ring is incredibly smooth and has just the right amount of resistance, which makes it a pleasure to apply fine adjustments. Closest focus for this lens is 20cm, which makes it suitable for exploiting the distorted effect on perspective you get when using an ultra-wide angle lens close up. The lens doesn't focus internally, extending by around 3mm at its closest focus. Focus distances are embossed into the focus ring, and there is a hyperfocal scale, which is very useful indeed. Electronic contacts to support metering and aperture control functions of the camera are provided. Nikon users will have to ensure that the lens is set to f/22, which is marked orange on the aperture ring for the lens to work properly on modern cameras. Unfortunately, there is no system provided for locking the aperture at this setting.

The lens accepts 52mm filters, screwed directly to the lens,  and the filter ring does not rotate during focusing, which is great for use with graduated and polarising filters. 

Voiigtlander 20mm F3 5 SL II N Aspherical Lens (6)

Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5 Color Skopar SL II Performance

Sharpness falls just shy of good in the centre at maximum aperture, although performance towards the edges of the frame falls behind somewhat further, producing fairly poor levels of clarity. Stopping down improves performance across the frame, although the clarity towards the edges of the frame takes a long while to catch up with the clarity in the centre of the frame, which is outstanding between f/5.6 and f/16. The best performance across the frame is achieved at f/11. Here sharpness is outstanding in the centre of the frame and just shy of excellent towards the edges.



How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D600 using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations are well enough controlled, just exceeding one pixel width towards the edges of the frame at f/4. This level of fringing should pose few issues, although it may become visible in harsh crops from the edges of the frame.



How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D600 using Imatest.


Falloff of illumination towards the corners is very pronounced, with the corners being 3.16 stops darker than the centre of the frame at maximum aperture and illumination is not visually uniform until the lens is stopped down to f/11 or beyond.

Imatest struggled to process the distortion rendered by this lens, as there is a strong wave to it, with barrel distortion in the centre, curling outwards toward the corners of the frame. The wave pattern may make getting absolutely straight lines in image editing software a chore, although the wave pattern is slight enough to pose few issues in normal images when left uncorrected.

Contrast is good, although it is reduced when shooting into the light at maximum aperture. No hood is supplied with the lens and an optional LH-20 hood is available, but it costs £47. As the LH-20 is a circular hood, it won't have much effect shading the lens from extraneous light, due to the wide angle of view of the lens, so you can probably live without it.

Voigtlander Color Skopar 20mm f/3.5 SL-II Sample Photos

Value For Money

The Nikon version of this lens costs around £515, which seems a little expensive, as the old 20mm f/2.8D lens is still available for around £470, sporting a faster maximum aperture and autofocus. Canon users have the EF 20mm f/2.8 USM lens as an alternative, which sports fast, silent USM focusing with full time manual override, as well as a faster maximum aperture for around £380.

Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5 Color Skopar SL II Verdict

Although this lens is capable of delivering good sharpness and low CA in the centre of the frame from maximum aperture, the performance towards the edges of the frame is disappointing until the aperture is stopped down, and may put many prospective buyers off, what is otherwise. a very nice lens.

The compact size, metal construction and retro styling are the main selling points of this lens. As Nikon and Canon both offer cheaper alternatives, sporting autofocus and a faster maximum aperture, value for money isn't the strongest aspect of this lens.

Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5 Color Skopar SL II Pros

Good sharpness in the centre
Excellent build quality
Smooth manual focus action
Compact and reasonably lightweight
Useful hyperfocal scale

Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5 Color Skopar SL II Cons

Performance towards edges of the frame at fast apertures
Really needs stopping down to produce the best results
No hood included and optional hood is expensive


Voigtlander Color Skopar 20mm f/3.5 SL-II Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Canon EF
  • Nikon AI-S
Focal Length20mm
Angle of View94į
Max Aperturef/3.5
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size52mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus20cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

View Full Product Details

Support this site by making a Donation, purchasing Plus Membership, or shopping with one of our affiliates: Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon CA, ebay UK

It doesn't cost you anything extra when you use these links, but it does support the site, helping keep ePHOTOzine free to use, thank you.

Other articles you might find interesting...

Fujifilm Fujinon XF 18mm f/1.4 R LM WR Review
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG DN Art (A021) Lens Review
Fujifilm Fujinon XF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 R LM OIS WR Review
Fujifilm Fujinon GF 80mm f/1.7 R WR Lens Review
Olympus M.Zuiko 8-25mm f/4.0 PRO Lens Announced
Start Saving As A Rare Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6L USM Lens Is Go...
Nikon Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lenses Announced
Nikon To Expand Its Z Mount Lens Range With 2 New Prime Lenses


alan53 13 United Kingdom
7 Jan 2015 10:47AM
I have one of these I use with Nikon DX cameras (have also tried it with a few mirrorless cameras). Itís very useful to me, but even on the smaller format itís best to stop well down. Iíve always suspected the edges would be a bit dodgy on FF.

Sign In

You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join For Free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.