The Voigtlander 25mm Snapshot Skopar is an unusual lens that won’t suit everyone but might be perfect for some. It’s small and light but also quite slow and comes only in Leica thread mount (LTM) without rangefinder coupling. It’s been discontinued for over 10 years but for those who want high quality results at a relatively low cost and with minimum hassle it’s a superb little lens and not too hard to find used. I love mine, especially for travel and landscape shots. Here are some reasons why:
Modern lenses on very old cameras are fun
It’s quite common to see vintage lenses on modern digital cameras and I love that these beautiful old things are getting a new lease of life. But outside the rarified world of Leica M-mount it’s much less common to see modern lenses on the front of vintage bodies, especially the near-antique type. A Hamish mentions in his reasons to own a thread mount Leica post, you stick a lens like this on a Barnack Leica (or any clone from back in the day for that matter) and you get modern, high resolution, flare-controlled optics on an ancient body. It may not have oodles of optical ‘character’ but you probably already have your old personality lenses for that anyway right?
Small is beautiful
The Voigtlander Snapshot Skopar weighs just 90 grammes and is only a few centimetres deep. Like most readers of 35mmc compactness is important to me. This is one of the smallest, lightest wide angles ever made. The tiny standard hood adds only about 7mm to the size. There is an optional rectangular hood available which makes the lens look quite ‘serious’, what with it being textured matt metal and all, but it adds a lot of size so I hardly ever use mine.
Snapshot by name, snapshot by nature
At 25mm focal length and with a minimum aperture of f4 fine focus is rarely needed – you’ll be within a workable range for zone focusing pretty much every time. With that in mind the really lovely feature of this lens for those of us who like to point and shoot is that the three most useful focal distances (1m, 1.5m and 3m) are marked with physical click-stops as you move the focus tab.
There is a later version of this lens in Leica M mount which is rangefinder coupled – from what I’ve read it’s very similar but does not feature these click-stops. In practice I mainly use this lens in daylight at f8. By setting the focus at 3m I’m good from infinity down to about 1.5 meters. It really is like using a point and shoot most of the time.
Design and build
The Snapshot Skopar is an all-metal lens – body, lens cap, hood. It’s not up to Leitz or Zeiss engineering standards but is significantly better built than you’d expect for the price. The focus is smooth and those distance click stops are just the right balance between definitive to prevent accidental slippage and loose enough for easy adjustment.
As an added bonus there is no annoying infinity lock to fiddle around with. It has a 39mm thread so most Leica users won’t have to adapt their stash of existing filters. The only plastic in the package is the separate 25mm viewfinder. This viewfinder is bright and true optically and exceptionally light but does add a bit of size to the hotshoe of a small camera – not enough to bother me most of the time but do bear it in mind because smaller 25mm or 28mm viewfinders of the same optical quality are rare and expensive.
Snapshot Skopar Optics
The Snapshot Skopar is sharp, has lots of contrast, relatively little vignetting (none at all by f8), not much distortion, and renders remarkably evenly from the centre to the edges. In other words it’s a modern lens with very few obvious flaws apart from a little flare in extreme situations. Images from it sometimes remind me of the look I get when I hit the sweetspot on a high end smartphone (but with lots more resolution and way less plasticky digital enhancement of course). It’s the kind of lens that gets out of the way and lets your film and processing choices take the limelight. I repeat, if you’re looking for a lens that imposes its personality on your pictures you’re better off looking elsewhere.
Value for money
This is a big one. A black Snapshot Skopar goes for around £225 on the used market in good, complete condition, typically a little less for the chrome version. That’s some price!. No other lens I own comes close to the quality/usability/value ratio of the Snapshot Skopar 25, especially considering the premium you normally pay for anything in LTM mount.
If you want a small, modern and fun lens for your Leica or compatible camera without breaking the bank the Snapshot Skopar is an excellent choice. They’re holding their value well so the financial risk is minimal and if you’re like me, you might just find yourself totally smitten and committed to it as a lens for life.
A few more thoughts can be found on Filmosaur here
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23 thoughts on “Voigtlander 25mm Snapshot Skopar Review – by Eddy Lambert”
I used to have one of these, mounted mainly on a Leica M6; an interesting lens, high quality and (relatively) cheap when one cannot afford Leica or Zeiss lenses.
But I sold it because for me, ultrawide-angle lenses (say, under28 mm) are difficult to use on RF cameras.
I do enjoy your website !
Excuse my ignorance but why do you find ultra wide-angle lenses difficult to use on rangefinders? I thought it was supposed to be easier than with an SLR. I’m asking as I never go wider than 35mm which I find about equally easy on either system.
Thanks. Agree about the good value this lens offers. I think the M version was/is rangefinder coupled so probably a different experience to the zone-focus I use on this LTM version.
Beautiful landscapes Eddy. I envisage the price of these lenses going up after your musings on here.
Thanks so much Adam, I really appreciate that! I’ve been a bit surprised at how stable the prices have been. I guess the very wide angle combined with zone focusing makes it a minority sport for most.
Great lens. BTW the coupled M mount 25/4 P version is still available I believe. same optics. n
Thanks Mike. Good point. I should have mentioned that in the article. The optically identical M version is still available new. It’s a wee bit bigger and doesn’t come with a viewfinder but is rangefinder coupled.
Personally, I agree with JF Bonnin. I’ve never had much success with lenses wider than 35mm. I use a M2 & a CL; I focus and forget to check my composition with an aux. viewfinder, or I compose & forget to focus…I’m also bad at putting things away @ home.
A familiar problem for me too Dan! Took a fair while for the ‘focus in one finder, compose in another’ to become natural on my old Leica iii as well. As for putting things away at home – well the less said about that the better 😉
I shoot regulary with the Voigtlander Color Skopar 25mm M mount, I use it on my Leica M4-P it’s by far my favourite combination, ideal for my kind of street photography and I would say I use it mainly in zone focus, it then becomes the fastest set up I have, as for frame lines I basically use the full viewfinder within in the camera but my subject is mainly central and it works for me .
Great read this. I particularly like your Dungeness shots as that is a place I love visiting. You are making me want to buy one of these lenses now!
Thanks so much Neil. Dungeness is a magical and unique place. Every time I’ve been there it’s offered something new, often slightly unnerving truth be told. The light can be spectacular.
The location looks almost surreal. Someday I shall cross the pond and visit!!
Love the article and images. I have wanted this lens for a long time.
Scale focusing on such a wide lens does not scare me, I do it all the time on my Perkeo II and that is a normal lens on 6 x 6!
Thank you Liliana. I’m sure you’d love using this lens. It was interesting to hear that you use a Perkeo II. I’m a huge fan of that camera and it’s rare to hear of other users. It’s probably my favourite medium format camera in fact – so small and beautiful. Do you have any images taken with yours online?
Thank you very much Jon!
Excellent review of an underrated gem of a lens.
I have the PEN FT and XA in your “group shot” of small cameras… as well as the small sized Ricoh 500 GX and Konica S3 Auto.
Could you tell me what camera is in the lower center of the pic? I cannot place it.
Thanks Todd. I’ve always been curious about that Ricoh 500gx – do you enjoy it? The little camera bottom-centre in my group shot is a Rollei 35s – a real favourite of mine.
Thank you very much for the review of the Voigtlander 25mm f.4 lens I have a Canon 7 rangefinder camera . I think you just gave new life to my old camera . Had to order one from Japan very nice shape silver model .just wondering if the LH-1 hood is worth getting
I bought the 25 Snapshot a few years ago for environmental shots on a pair of M4-P bodies and got the Leica 40mm F2 (reviewed on 35mmc) as I’m not really a telephoto guy. It would be nice if the 25 were F2 but I took some shots in Lichfield cathedral and it was 1/4 @ f4 with XP2 . I managed to put the body against something most of the time. I use hyperfocal so just move the focus one click and try to go with f8. I don’t bother swapping lenses, hence the two bodies. My combo of 25 & 40 suits me fine and I find no difference between the two lenses, both looped and projected. It really is a very good lens. The 39mm filter thread really helps with coloured filters on mono film. The 40 thread is not the same but it is possible to attach filters, just attach and stop turning when you meet resistance. I mostly use the 25 for filtered shots and ‘experiments’. I have the 25 viewfinder – it came with the lens, but rarely use it as the M4-P has a 28 frame. I use the entire camera viewfinder for the 25 lens. For the 40mm lens, although I have a 40mm VC viewfinder, the 40 lens brings up the 50 frame so I use that. So yes, I strongly recommend this lens.
Nice lens, fast to use if u get used to it. I liked its kinda soft and sharp at the same point look. And the contrast too. Just dislike the build design a bit. Front group is weirdly mounted to the rest of the lens, prone to wobble sooner or later. But after quick disassembly and look, just tightening it a bit, putting some screw glue, it was fine. Good lens. Fast to use.
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