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Voigtlander 40mm f/2 Ultron SL II Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the compact Voigtlander 40mm f/2 Ultron SL II pancake lens for full-frame Nikon and Canon cameras.

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Handling and Features

40mm f/2 Ultron SL II

This manual focus pancake 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 sports a maximum aperture of f/2, which is quite fast for a 40mm pancake, and the lens comes bundled with a hood and a close up filter.

Voigtlander 40mm f/2 Ultron SL II Handling and Features

Voigtlander Ultron SL II N 40mm F2 (1)

The build and design of this lens is reminiscent of a time lenses were typically made of brass and designed to last longer than you might think. 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 only weighs 200g and it makes a perfect companion for the Nikon D600 body used for testing.

The focusing ring is silky smooth and has just the right amount of resistance, which makes it a pleasure to apply fine adjustments. Closest focus for this lens is 38cm, without the close-up lens attached. which is fairly typical for a lens of this focal length. With the close up lens, minimum focus is reduced to between 45cm and 25cm. The lens doesn't focus internally, extending by around 6mm at its closest focus. Focus distances are embossed into the focus ring, and there is a hyper-focal scale, although only values for f/8, f/16 and f/22 are marked on the lens barrel. 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.

Voigtlander Ultron SL II N 40mm F2 (2)

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. The supplied LH-40N lens hood doubles as an adapter for the close up lens, as well as helping to shield the lens from extraneous light.

Voigtlander Ultron SL II N 40mm F2 (6)

Voigtlander 40mm f/2 Ultron SL II Performance

Sharpness is very good in the centre at maximum aperture, although performance towards the edges of the frame falls behind somewhat, producing fairly poor levels of clarity. Stopping down improves performance across the frame, although the clarity towards the edges of the frame never really reaches the high levels of sharpness produced in the centre of the frame. The best performance across the frame is achieved at f/11. Here sharpness is outstanding in the centre of the frame and very good 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 on the high side, especially at maximum aperture, where fringing towards the edges of the frame exceeds 1.25 pixel widths. This level of fringing may be noticeable in areas of high contrast towards 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 2.55 stops darker than the centre of the frame at maximum aperture and illumination not visually uniform until the lens is stopped down to f/8 or beyond.

Imatest detected 1.68% barrel distortion, which is a fairly low level of distortion, which may be difficult to spot. If absolutely straight lines are paramount, you'll be glad to know that the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, which should make applying corrections in image editing software straightforward.

Contrast is good, although it is reduced when shooting into the light at maximum aperture. The shallow hood goes some way towards shading the lens from extraneous light that may cause issues with flare, but it isn't very deep, and the opening could be narrower without shading the image area.

Voigtlander 40mm f/2 Ultron SL II Sample Photos

Value For Money

The Nikon version of this lens costs around £415 from RobertWhite, which seems reasonable, given that there are no direct equivalents currently available from either Canon, or Nikon and that the build quality of the lens is excellent.

Voigtlander 40mm f/2 Ultron SL II Verdict

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

Those looking for a retro-style-pancake optic may still be tempted, especially as Nikon's 40mm f/2.8 P lens is no longer in production.

Voigtlander 40mm f/2 Ultron SL II Pros

Very good sharpness in the centre
Very good build quality
Smooth manual focus action
Compact and reasonably lightweight
Includes close up lens and hood

Voigtlander 40mm f/2 Ultron SL II Cons

Performance towards edges of the frame at fast apertures
CA a little high


Voigtlander 40mm f/2 Ultron SL II Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AI-S
  • Canon EF
Focal Length40mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/2
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size52mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus38cm
BladesNo Data
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens hood, close-up lens, front and rear caps

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Ahaios 8 1 United Kingdom
12 Jun 2014 10:38PM
I don't pay much attention to mft charts etc, to my eyes the portrait shot are beautiful Gary.
27 Apr 2016 3:42AM
This lens was recommended by Yannick Khong because of its extraordinary 3-D "pop" and micro-contrast, due in part to its low lens element count. I definitely see that in the sample pictures, which are very well done BTW. I did some comparisons of my modern zoom lenses against mid-to late-70's Nikkor prime lenses, and I found the latter to be superior in that respect. This has led me to re-prioritize my criteria for lens selection. Judging from the samples here and elsewhere, which show amazing depth rendition and realism, I'd say this Voigtlander is a very special lens!

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