15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/4.5
Convinced that I needed a wide angled option for my M9 kit I opted for the 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/4.5 Aspherical. Unbelievably the Mk-1 version of this lens still sells for under US$500.00, comes complete with the 15mm Viewfinder and is available in Silver & Black.
I’m not a huge fan of overly technical reviews, that said, I will read them if I’m seriously considering a particular lens. In truth I would much prefer to read the thoughts and experiences of a photographer, what is often referred to as a “user report”, especially one accompanied by images. With this in mind I have attempted to create a post that is exactly that, in essence, a post I would read myself.
This will be my most in depth post on a lens since I began using the Leica M9, it will detail my opinions and what I have learnt about this lens when used with both the Leica M9 and M6.
I’ve said previously on this website and others that I am a big fan of Voigtlander lenses, the 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/4.5 Asph does nothing to diminish that opinion. In this section I will give a brief point by point note on the key aspects of this lens, at the foot of this article I will post links to various other sources of technical information that I would recommend you read.
This lens comes in LTM/M39 mount, in short that means you will require an LTM/M39 – M Mount adaptor in order to shoot it on the M9, M6 or any other M mount Leica.
Adaptors are available for between $20-70 on ebay. From experience I would choose very carefully as some of the cheaper offerings are not machined accurately and subsequently the fit to the M9 will be less than satisfactory. You can get a sound version (Here), another benefit of this adaptor is the ability to add 6-Bit coding, thats going to be very useful…. As you’ll be looking through the 15mm finder the adaptor you choose is not technically important, however for reasons I mention below I think it is best to select either the 35-135mm frame line version or 28-90mm version.
For those familiar with the Leica M9 it will come as no surprise to learn that what you see through this viewfinder is not what you get…..on the horizontal axis, to the left and right you will capture a little more than appears in the finder, Vertically I will often allow a little more space above the subject, only experience will make you comfortable with this. The closer you are to your subject the more exaggerated these adjustments become. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not quite at the silly stage where your viewing something completely different through the finder but it’s frustrating all the same.
Another tip is to keep your eye looking straight ahead, I realise this sounds obvious but the view through the finder is expansive, it’s quite easy and tempting for your eye to roam and with that you begin to see more than will appear in frame. As there are no frame lines in the finder I found it difficult at times to get my shots level, especially when holding the camera in portrait orientation, using the 28mm or 35mm frame lines in the M9 finder to level your shot works well with a little practice.
I guess it’s important to know that this lens is not rangefinder coupled, now the thought of zone focusing may make some a little uncomfortable but it’s really no big deal so don’t be put off. With the aperture set to f/4.5 and the focus ring to 2m your depth of field will range from just under 1m to infinity. The lens performs so well at f/4.5 you could shoot like this and never adjust anything again….Stop down to f/8 and your depth of field is an incredible .5m to infinity. If this is simply too much for you then the Mk 2 version of this lens which is optically identical is rangefinder coupled and subsequently more expensive. Your biggest problem, if thats the right way to look at it is remembering to check the focus ring has not been moved between shots, this is quite easily done.
Unfortunately there is no easy way to attach a filter to this lens, unlike it’s successor the Mk 2. Whilst it’s not easy that does not mean there aren’t ways around this. Hopefully I will look to add a couple of long exposures taken with this lens and an ND filter at a later date.
Lens Technical Details – Courtesy of Voigtlander.com
On the Leica M9
Bridge Dynamic has been selected by the Editors as a Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.
"Dynamic compositions are what this wide angle lens is all about"− Jason Howe
Dynamic compositions are what this wide angle lens is all about. Although I think it took me five attempts to get this shot looking the way I wanted due to the inaccuracies of the 15mm Viewfinder. This bridge is an old favorite of mine, I think this may be the sixth shot I have squeezed out of it, I suppose that is proof if it were needed that its sometimes worth returning to previously photographed locations.
Architectural Strength – Leica M9 – 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/4.5 ISO 160 1/1000 Sec
Architectural Strength has been selected by the Editors as a Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.
The real strength of this lens is architectural imagery, it loves lines, angles and beautiful geometry. The lens exhibits no visible distortion and is sharp to the corners at all apertures. This is great news, unfortunately for me there is a real lack of architectural subject matter here, I intend on visiting Auckland soon with this lens to put it through its paces.[pullquote1 quotes="true" align="right" variation="slategrey"]The real strength of this lens is architectural imagery, it loves lines, angles and beautiful geometry.[/pullquote1]
Awakenings – Leica M9 – 15mm Super Wide Heliar f/4.5 ISO 80 1/500 Sec
Awakenings has been selected by the Editors as a Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.
Street Possibilities – Leica M9 – 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/5.6 ISO 400 1/4000 Sec
I have to say I’ve only shot briefly with this lens on the streets but I think there is potential and I will perhaps do a separate post on the subject if I can get a good range of images. Generally I would shoot a lot of my street photography wide open or at large apertures. With this lens there is no bokeh so you’ve lost that element of creativity, however what you gain is the ability to capture dynamism in the background. Employing zone focusing and shooting from the hip is something I’ve not previously done with the M9, indeed I have not done it since the departure of my X100. I’m not saying the image posted here is a great one, however I think it show’s just enough potential to delve a little deeper.
- Export your finished profile image as a .DNG file.
- Open Cornerfix
- In the main menu select File->Open->”Your Profile Name.DNG” this will load your image in to the left hand pane of the corner fix software.
- With .DNG file loaded in to Cornerfix from the main menu select Lens Profile->Create Profile, it may take a moment to complete the conversion. You should now be looking at your original image in the left hand pane and a “Flat” or corrected image in the right hand pane.
- Once more from the main menu select Lens Profile->Save As. Suitably amend the name of your .cpf profile, the default location is the Cornerfix directory. When you are happy, hit save to complete the creation of your profile.
- You will recall that in order to open an image in Cornerfix your file needs to be in .DNG format, in my instance I export the image above as a Master from Aperture 3 to a Temp directory on my Desktop.
- To avoid any confusion close down Cornerfix and re-open.
- In Cornerfix go to the main menu and select File->Open->”Your Image.DNG”
- Now select the Lens Profile you made previously, go to Lens Profile->Open->your.cpf profile
On the Leica M6
15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/4.5 Asph on the Leica M6
If you shoot film then there is no bad news at all, this lens works superbly on the Leica M6, and other M’s. The issues that effect the digital M’s are just not relevant when it comes to film. Much to my wife’s despair I have photographed a lot of my camera and lens combo’s, I absolutely love this image of the M6 and 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f/4.5…..just beautiful!!!
- Price – Just exceptional value for money
- A complete lack of any distortion
- Light weight and compact
- Very Sharp
- Additional workflow with Cornerfix on Digital M’s
- Can’t attach filters easily