The beast in question is the Voigtlander 15mm Ultra wide and taming it is as hard work as it is fun. If you’ve ever shot an ultra wide you’ll know what I mean and this lens is no exception, in fact when coupled with a Leica M9 it becomes even more difficult.
I’ll start by saying that firstly, I’m no expert on lens design and don’t have my experience with ultra wide angle lenses so this is just going to be my musings rather than I technical report.
So, why does this beast need taming? Well to start with it’s an ultra wide and with this comes a set of unique characteristics. The field of view is unlike anything I’ve shot before, the M9 not only doesn’t have frame lines for this lens it doesn’t even have a viewfinder big enough. This means that you need an accessory finder mounted on the hotshoe if you want to accurately compose. This viewfinder cost me almost as much as the lens did. Unlike the first version of the CV15 the V2 is rangefinder coupled so you process of shooting goes:
Look through the accessory finder to compose.
Look through the M9’s viewfinder and focus.
Look back through the accessory finder and shoot.
The wide angle nature though gives another advantage, you barely have to focus. F8 and be there could be written about this lens. The M9 basically becomes a point and shoot with this lens on. Great for street photography, or sticking your lens under the nose of a farm animal. Which brings me to my next point, composition. Ultrawides give the effect of exaggerating objects in the foreground and making objects in the distance seem tiny. With this kind of lens you’ve got to get close. Really close. If you do you can get some amazing dramatic shots.
The next tricky bit with this lens is the speed. It’s slow. I live in the North of England. We don’t get much sun (I’m hoping that summer falls on a weekend this year). Also I mentioned I’m shooting mostly on a Leica m9 so I don’t have the high ISO capabilities of the newer cameras (I like to leave it at to 160 at all times). This means I’m used to shooting at f2. The change to f4.5 is taking some getting used to and I’ve ended up with a fair few images suffering from camera shake. The trick is of course to either shoot in good light or take more notice of shutter speeds. I suppose I could use a tripod but I hate them…
Next problem, on the M9 you get colour casts on the files. These can be fixed in post production but it’s one more thing to do. As I shoot mostly black and white it’s less of an issue.
The build quality is great and it feels as nice in the hand as a much more expensive lens. Ergonomically it’s fine and I don’t keep getting my fingers in the way like I did with the Summaron 28 I tried a while back. One slight bugbear is that the lens hood is fixed which means using filters might be tricky.
So, this lens distorts the image, gives weird colours, is quite slow you might be getting the impression that I don’t like it. On the contrary, this is one of those lenses that when all the conditions are right and all the pieces fall into place the files really blow me away. It’s tiny and light, sharp as a pin and the rendering is lovely. For that, it’s worth taming the beast. – R. Poole
We want to thank Rob for being a part of FP and sharing his experience with and opinion of the Voigtlander 15mm, all photos were published here, along with the content with permission of R. Poole. All photos and content is owned by Robert Poole and not to be use without his permission. FP