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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