Guest Reviews Lenses

Voigtlander 25mm Snapshot Skopar – Review by Eddy Lambert

Voigtlander Snapshot Skopar 25mm LTM on a Leica M2

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?

Voigtlander Snapshot Skopar 25mm LTM looking quite at home on a Leica III from 1936

Voigtlander Snapshot Skopar 25mm LTM looking quite at home on a Leica III from 1936

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.

The Snapshot Skopar on a Leica III in the middle of some other famously small cameras

The Snapshot Skopar on a Leica III in the middle of some other famously small cameras

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.

With the optional LH-1 hood attached

With the optional LH-1 hood attached

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.

Example shots

Dungeness, Portra 400

Dungeness, Portra 400

Beirut, Portra 400

Beirut, Portra 400

Laugharne, Portra 400

Barmouth, Portra 160

Oxford, Portra 400

Dartmoor, HP5

Lake District, HP5

Lake District, HP5

Dartmoor, HP5

Oxford, HP5

A few more thoughts can be found on Filmosaur here

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    JF BONNIN
    January 7, 2018 at 10:39 am

    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 !

    • Reply
      Callum Ross
      January 7, 2018 at 5:04 pm

      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.

    • Reply
      Eddy
      January 8, 2018 at 4:49 pm

      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.

  • Reply
    Adam Laws
    January 7, 2018 at 11:36 am

    Beautiful landscapes Eddy. I envisage the price of these lenses going up after your musings on here.

    • Reply
      Eddy
      January 8, 2018 at 4:51 pm

      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.

  • Reply
    MIke HINKLEMAN
    January 7, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    Great lens. BTW the coupled M mount 25/4 P version is still available I believe. same optics. n
    m

    • Reply
      Eddy
      January 8, 2018 at 4:55 pm

      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.

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    January 8, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      Eddy
      January 11, 2018 at 1:27 pm

      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 😉

  • Reply
    Brett Soul
    January 9, 2018 at 7:22 am

    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 .

  • Reply
    Neil
    January 9, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    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!

    • Reply
      Eddy
      January 11, 2018 at 1:31 pm

      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.

  • Reply
    jon
    January 24, 2018 at 11:10 pm

    Wonderful shots!

  • Reply
    Eddy
    January 27, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Thank you very much Jon!

  • Reply
    Todd
    March 9, 2018 at 5:01 am

    Eddy –

    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.

    • Reply
      Eddy Lambert
      March 10, 2018 at 11:20 pm

      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.

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