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Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO Lanthar E Lens Review

John Riley is putting the Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO Lanthar E lens through its paces on the Sony A7R III camera.

| Interchangeable Lenses

Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO Lanthar E Lens Review: Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO Lanthar E

Collectors of fine vintage cameras will be well aware of the legendary Voigtlander Bessa II rangefinder of the 1950s, available with several different lenses, but most sought after with the superb APO Lanthar lens. Here we have a modern Voigtlander APO Lanthar 50mm f/2 lens for Sony mirrorless full-frame cameras and, as well as that enticing name that implies quality in itself, we have the declaration "The best performance standard lens in Voigtlander history". This sounds like a worthy challenge for our review process, so let's team up this fine looking lens with the 42MP Sony A7R III body and put that statement and the lens to the test. It should be interesting.



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Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO Lanthar E Handling and Features

Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO Lanthar E Lens Review: Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO Lanthar E

First impressions show us a metal lens construction, very nicely engineered. There is no weather sealing. The Apo Lanthar name refers to an apochromatic design, that is, one that is corrected fully for all three colours red, green and blue, with the intention of eliminating CA or colour fringing. Lanthar traditionally indicated the use of lanthanum glass, although whether or not that is still the case is not known. In any event, we have a compact lens, beautifully finished and weighing in at a very modest 364g. 50mm is of course a standard lens for full-frame Sony mirrorless cameras, but the lens can also be used on crop sensor APS-C models, where the “35mm equivalent” field of view would be around 75mm.

At the very front of the lens, there is a standard 49mm filter thread and a screw-in round metal lens hood is provided. Lens hoods are always a good idea, not only for protection from flare but also for protecting from slight knocks to the front of the lens.

Just behind this is a thin ring with small raised and ribbed areas to assist with grip. If this ring is pushed towards the aperture ring it can be rotated so that the aperture index mark is moved from the white dot to a yellow line. At this position, the aperture is de-clicked, a benefit, particularly for videographers.

The aperture ring itself is quite slim but easy to grip and very well engineered. The click stops, if used, are smooth and operate in steps of one-third of a stop. The direction of travel is the traditional Nikon/Pentax.


Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO Lanthar E Lens Review: Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO Lanthar E

The wide scalloped metal focusing ring is also simple enough to grip and the action is reasonably firm but smooth, the direction of travel following Canon convention. The distance scale is part of this ring and is clearly marked in metres (white) and not quite so clearly marked in feet (red). Finally, there is a small depth of field scale that is extended enough to be useful at smaller apertures. Focusing is of course manual only and goes down to 0.45m, about 1.5 feet. This is exactly what might be expected from a full-frame 50mm lens of traditional design.

The metal lens mount is as well made as the rest of the lens and carries electronic contacts so that EXIF information can be exchanged with the camera body.

Optical construction is 10 elements in 8 groups, including 5 with anomalous partial dispersion glass and 2 aspheric. There are also floating elements in the design, usually aimed at improving the close-up performance.

Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO Lanthar E Lens Review: Voigtlander 50mm f/2 APO Lanthar E

Not everyone can get along with manual focus lenses, and there are plenty of AF alternatives for those who prefer them. Manual focus is something that needs perhaps working on as we have become so used to automation, but slightly putting on the brakes and having a more thoughtful approach can yield benefits of its own. Clearly, with so many MF lenses appearing, manual focusing is nowhere near being a lost art. The Sony A7R III actually makes the process very simple and very accurate, with its quick enlargement of the centre of the image kicking in as soon as the focusing ring is turned. A half-press on the shutter release and we are back to full-frame to recompose and make the exposure. Or, if on a tripod, just to take the shot straight away. Focusing can be done at full aperture and then the clicks counted down to the required setting and the precision of this technique is very high.

In summary, a very fine lens in use and the critical question now is how does it perform?

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