A 35mm in M mount, the big review part 2

 

In the Part one, here, I have reviewed from a non lab perspective the Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f1.2 and 1.4 Classic. The first one is very special and really made for special photography. The second one is playing in the Summilux field, and has the advantages of this fabulous lens.

Now, I’m going to come with three lenses that are really playing in the same bucket.

 

  • The Leica Summicron 35mm f2 Asph. Type V.
  • The Zeiss Biogon ZM 35mm f2.
  • The Voigtländer Ultron VM 35mm f1.7 Asph. Vintage line, chrome version.

These three lenses are doing the same job and they are really very close to each other. Let’s start with the Zeiss.

The Zeiss Biogon ZM 35mm f2.

The Zeiss ZM lenses are designed in Germany and manufactured by Cosina in Japan. They are coming from the same factory as the Voigtländer lenses. Zeiss is a very well-known and renowned company for the quality of its optical products. In the details, I don’t know from where the glasses are coming and who’s making the T* coating on it.

Marienplatz | Munich

MP & ZM35/2

The 35mm Biogon f2 is a solid performer. The lens is very well manufactured. This is not the « Leica Tank », but the quality is really set to a very high level. The lens is sharp, extremely sharp, even wide open in the center. The aperture at f2 is the same as the one on the Summicron (an obvious sentence). It has also this famous Zeiss micro-contrast. This makes the lens really interesting. The colors with this lens are really beautiful.

Marienplatz | Munich

MP & ZM35/2

I primarily bought this lens to replace my first Leica Summicron 35mm Asph. I sold it to a friend, with many regrets. But when you need money rapidly, Leica is a good value. The behavior of the lens is very good, the mechanic is butter smooth and fluid, the precision is very high. The lens is really made to be used as a work horse for the Leica.

MP & ZM35/2

MP & ZM35/2

From the good side, the lens is light, a little bit longer than the absolutely fabulous Biogon 35mm f2.8 (the compact version, sharper than the f2). From my stand point, this is what makes the difference with Leica Summicron. The Leica is really compact, at least without the sun shade.

MP & ZM35/2

MP & ZM35/2

Though, even if the lens is a solid performer, they are stuffs I don’t like in it. First of all, wide open, in some circumstances, the corners and the thirds are not at the level of the center. Stopped down, the lens comes to a good sharpness level.

Sushis in Munich

MP & ZM35/2

I took this lens to replace my Summicron at a more affordable price. But at the end, the Biogon stayed unused. I was not shooting with it. Even today, I don’t know why. Whenever I used it, the results were awesome, but how to say that, it’s a matter of feeling, of sensation, of comfort maybe. I have no clue.

Freising Bayern

MP & ZM35/2

The handling is good, certainly better than the big Nokton or than the the Ultron, It’s precise and provide very good and sharp images. But I’m simply not in love with it. When I compare the Zeiss lenses I have, I have usually the same feeling. The images are somehow metallic and cold. This is probably the rendering I have on the M240. On the M9 and in black and white, the result is more pleasant. But I have to admit, I’m stuck with bad feeling.

Waiting for the bus

MP & ZM35/2

Another thing I have to say is that the Biogon doesn’t work at all on Sony A7 series. The sides and the corers are smearing. The images are really bad. As usual, the A7s has a better output, due to the bigger pixels. In some conditions it could be acceptable, but the Biogon is certainly not the right lens design for the thick Sony sensors.

Le bout du tunnel?

M9P & ZM35/2

So to summarize, I’m producing good quality images with this lens, from a technical stand point. The lens is good; it’s a serious candidate to replace a 35mm Summicron. To be perfectly honest, it’s hard to see a difference between the two lenses. For pixel peeper and brick wall shooters, you’ll certainly see some minor differences in a lab, but nothing really significant in the real life. It’s a good choice at the end. But if you have ever shot with a Summicron, it’s hard to leave with anything else.

Petit 5 à 7

M9P & ZM35/2

Sometimes it’s possible to find the Biogon on the second hand market for 500 bucks or equivalent in your local currency. That means almost four times less than a second hand Summicron and I’m not speaking about a new one. The quality is equivalent, or very, very, very, very, close, really. It could be a very good choice. The lens is very lightweight, well made and with Zeiss glasses.

Walk, just walk

M9P & ZM35/2

A good choice, a really good. If you like it.

French summary, en Français dans le texte…

The Voigtländer Ultron 35mm f1.7 Vintage Line

Some years ago, Voigtländer introduced the excellent Nokton 50mm f1.5 asph, a modern copy of their famous lens of the fifties. A solid performer and maybe one my preferred lenses. A couple of years later Voigtländer announced the 35mm made on the same concept. I’m not sure that a similar lens rally exists in the fifties in the same focal length.

Square #77

MP & VM35/1.7

I was one of the first who reviewed the lens at that time and I found it really wonderful. I was surprised by the quality of the lens, but I was not able at that time to compare directly with the Leica’s Summicron.

MP & VM35/1.7 #1

MP & VM35/1.7

As usual, I would say with that kind of lenses, the manufacturing quality is very high, from my stand point better than the Zeiss one. The rings are butter smooth.  I own the silver version that is made of chromed brass. The feeling is a heavier lens. The lens is also longer than the Summicron and then the Biogon for a couple of millimeters. It’s the heavier of the (2nd) bunch. If you look at the weight, then consider the black aluminum version.

Square #160

MP & VM35/1.7

On the optical side, the lens is very sharp wide open, and it goes better when you stop down with the aperture. I like the fast aperture of this lens, f1.7, even if it could sound like a marketing gimmick. The difference is not that big, but it is a half stop faster anyway. It allows better deep of field effect, especially with close focus.

Bus stop

M9P & VM35/1.7

Some of the things I dislike are the close focus at 0.5m. This could sound like an improvement, but when you are shooting, a hard stop is certainly better that to guess here is the minimum of your rangefinder. This point is really boring. If you use the lens with an EVF all the time, then this remark has no importance for you.

MP & VM35/1.7 #4

MP & VM35/1.7

The lens is also very good with the Sony A7(s) & A7II. The image is sharp and the behavior in the corner is pretty decent. No smearing and a little fall off. The main problem with Sony, is the thick lass on the sensor. The Voigtländer Ultron has some issue with field curvature as reported by many reviewers on internet. I haven’t faced personally this problem, but it could happen.

MP & VM35/1.7 #2

MP & VM35/1.7

Used on M9 or on M8, this lens is also a solid performer in every aspect. It is sharp wide open and only goes better when stopped down. A real gem, especially when compared to the price of the Zeiss or of the Leica. From my stand point, this is certainly the best choice after the one whom coming, I talking about my reference in my tests: The Leica Summicron.

The lonely guy and the Big Mac packaging

MP & VM35/1.7

But just to summarize, the Voigtländer is a real beast, often underestimated, by snobs or by review on internet, made by « serious » reviewers. In fact, the Voigtländer Ultron has not so much reviews and this lens is not very well known. I have used it foer two years now, it came straight after the sales of my first  Summicron 35mm, and it faced the comparison with the Leica legend. The Ultron is from my stand point a clear winner. The quality of my copy is excellent. The lonely things I have against it is its weight, and the 0.5m minimal distance, but this last point is very personal. The weight is almost one third lower with the black version, that’s a lot.

Café des Artisans

MP & VM35/1.7

If you have the opportunity to grab one, this is certainly the closest lens to the Leica Summilux option at a very fair price. The Zeiss Distagon is playing with its size in a totally other category; definitively too big (in the same ratio as the Voigtländer Nokton 35 f1.2).

The Voigtländer Ultron is one of my favorite 35mm. I’ll keep it or I’ll get the black aluminum version.

 

 

The leica Summicron 35mm f2 Asph.

That’s the last lens of this review. The legendary Leica Summicron 35mm. This is the absolute benchmark, first by its optical quality and second by its size. The lens is really tiny. But it’s brilliant. The lens I have now is my second 35mm Summicron. The first one was sold to a friend, initially after my MacBook Pro died. It was not necessary to sell it, but after the insistence of my friend, I sold it. It was a good way to make some cash. But it’s also an easy way to build regrets. That was my case. And it was worse when my friend sold it a couple of month after for a 35mm Summilux. Regrets, I have a few, but not more I would share. So to summarize, this is my absolute benchmark. I have tried this lens with all cameras except Sony and it worked perfectly. Some results are still stunning me years after. Recently I made a trip to London. This was my main lens, definitively stuck on my Monochrom.

London in Mono #25

MM & LM35/2

Are you doing better photos, because you are using a Leica Summicron? Are you playing better piano with a Steinway? Would you be a better virtuoso if you play with a Stradivarius? Not sure, but maybe you’ll be better inspired. What’s important is to have a tool and to use it. Using a Summicron is providing a lot satisfaction, usually weeks or month after. Is there a big difference in quality with the two previous lenses, certainly in the lab, but not really in the real life configuration?  The Zeiss and the Ultron are really coming to scratch the back of the Summicron in terms of quality and definition. I would say that it’s almost impossible to say afterwards what the lens on the camera was. All three are very good choices technically speaking, but when it comes to the details, then the Summicron is winning. It has everything, ease of use, perfect mechanics, focusing tab, small size, perfect or almost perfect glasses and a huge price… bouuuuh!

London in Mono #1

MM & LM35/2

Yep, the price is huge. It could be perceived as a total non-sense in comparison with other manufacturers. But a Leica is made as a tank, as a German tank (I made my army in a German tank… ). I also have some Leica lenses that are older than me and they are still working perfectly.  I had my Summicrons on the second hand market. This is a good place to avoid spending a lot of money and a good place to avoid losing a lot.

MP & Summicron 35/2 Asph. #1

MP & LM35/2

Go back to the performance of the lens: sharpness, typical Leica, with a very high level wide, and this is just amazing when stopped down. What is incredible is that lens provides not only sharp images but also a lot tonality, there’s this incredible 3D pop, that is visible and it works especially well with the M9. It’s like this couple was born to live together. The lens is providing this special little thing. Unfortunately, once the file downsized to JPGs and uploaded to Flickr, it’s not possible to see this difference anymore, or I haven’t found the way. Flickr certainly applies some compressions to the uploaded images and the loss of quality is quiet impressive.

Square #232

MM & LM35/2

The Leica Summicron 35mm Asph. is my dream lens. It works well, it’s tiny, the glasses are almost perfect, and the tonality, contrast and sharpness are amazing. The other lenses of this review are coming very close to it, sometimes in certain conditions; they are even producing very similar results. It I have to say most of the time impossible to make the difference. The Zeiss, the Nokton and the Ultron are very very close in terms of results, but the Leica has this little extra that makes me love it. I usually like the fast apertures, at least bigger than the f2 proposed by the Summicron, but the size and the compact form factor makes the real difference.

My father, this hero...

MM & LM35/2

The purpose of this review was to see what is the differences in terms of results with this bunch of very interesting lenses. The outcome is that they are all very close one of the other. The real difference is more a question of feeling than a real or perceptible difference in results. I’m not shooting in a lab, I’m not shooting walls. I’m shooting in the real world, in the streets, early in the morning, during the day time or late at night. I’m shooting when I have time and then my perception is really related to my shooting conditions.

M9P - The return of the old Jedi

M9P & LM35/2

It you have the opportunity the get a Summicron, then take it. This is certainly one of the best technical choices. The Zeiss Biogon is also playing in the same category optically speaking. The manufacturing is somehow lighter. The real surprise here comes from the Voigtländer Ultron that is really good and price wise very well situated. I was able to get one on the second hand market for 350€/$. New, in a perfect state. Somebody else is playing with it now and I hope he’s happy. My will is to go down and to simplify my gear. I have to be rational. Can I?

Bus unstopped

M9P & LM35/2

I’m fortunate enough to be able to play with several Leica and rangefinder cameras. Actually I have the Ultron on the Zeiss Ikon, used with film. The Leica Summicron is mounted on the M9P, almost fixed on it. The Nokton is the M8 and provides wonderful results. The Zeiss Biogon is for sale because I have to be rational. Not a real technical choice, just financial.

M9P - The return of the old Jedi #2

M9P & LM35/2

So for you what could be your choice? I hope the above review will show you that the differences between these lenses are very minimal. You can get awesome results with all of them. It is more a matter of opportunity to gather one than a real technical choice. All these lenses are good and the Voigtlander Nokton Classic is really made for a special purpose.

Hundred strangers take #2

M9P & LM35/2

Hope you have appreciated, let me know in the comments if you need additional information. On my side, I think I’m done with my lens chase. The Summicron is what I need… Until I have the opportunity to grab a Summilux… Oups! : )

Cheers

 

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4 réflexions sur “A 35mm in M mount, the big review part 2

  1. Bonjour
    J’ai toujours pas résolu ma recherche d’un 35 mm , soit un Summicron récent mais c’est minimum 1600€ en occase soit un voit. Ultron .D’apres ton article et malgré mon anglais scolaire tu à l’air de bien aimé l’Ultron , tu peu m’en dire plus ? Cordialement
    Jean

    1. Bonjour, pour répondre à ta question, utilisé sur Leica, le Voigtländer Ultron vaut bien le Zeiss Biogon et il est très proche du Leica Summicron. Rien à redire. c’est une petite merveille méconnue. Je crois que l’essence de mon article est de démontrer que dans une utilisation normale, il n’y a pas de différences visibles entre les trois dernières optiques. Personne ne regarde les images à la loupe 20x et le piqué est plus que bon avec les trois objectifs. Après, il y a de subtiles nuances quand au fonctionnement, tab ou pas, mise au point minimale à 0.5m pour l’Ultron. En noir, version Alu, il est léger. Sans le pare-soleil, il est très compact. Alors en ce qui me concerne, sans hésitation. Cest une merveille. En occasion, à ne pas manquer…

      1. Merci pour ta réponse ultra rapide , se sera donc un Ultron ….en attendant de m’offrir un Summilux 😜

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