Lenses

Shooting the new Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f/2 ASPH in Hong Kong – By Ong Sien Hong

Can I start off by mentioning that I am a fan of the 35mmc, I love reading the articles and reviews by varied photographers from all walks of life. Naturally I wanted very much to contribute an article and what better way to do so by sharing a few frames taken with the new tiny Voigtlander Ultron Vintage Line 35mm f/2 ASPH VM lens (quite a mouthful).

Voigtlander has definitely turned lots of heads past couple years. The introduction of 40mm f/1.2 and subsequently the equally excellent lens of the 50mm f/1.2 got me very curious about the new Ultron 35mm f/2. I won’t lie, I was first attracted by its look especially when coupled with the vintage looking hood (LH-12), but am now at this point, after taking about 6 rolls of films, definitively decided its gonna stay on my camera for a long time.

Going Hong Kong

Just this March, I had the opportunity to visit Hong Kong (my first trip), so armed with a rather used Zeiss Ikon and 5 rolls of Kodak Portra 400, I went there with the full intention to see how well this lens performs.

My genre of photography is street photography but I primarily focus on capturing moments of people on the streets. Size of lens matters a lot to me. If it is too big, too heavy, I won’t use them no matter how excellent the lens is. I have tried the Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH, a fantastic lens that captures beautiful images but even that, I considered heavy for my photography. The Ultron 35mm f/2 comes in at 170g, with a 39mm filter thread size. It is tiny (especially when you not using the hood but please use the hood, too pretty to be taken off) and light, you really don’t feel the weight of the camera with the lens, and that is essential to me.

Being a Street Photographer

Walking around the street, taking pictures of people can be intimating for both the photographer and the subject. I find rangefinders most friendly-looking to people. I got my Zeiss Ikon from another photographer, it is so used that perhaps some would be wondering if it is even in working condition. Pairing it with the vintage-looking Ultron 35mm f/2 fits perfectly for me. I really love the looks.

I think it is important that you feel good about your equipment. Taking photos of people on the street comes with a certain anxiety, you want to be as relaxed as you could be and hope you don’t rub people off the wrong way and I honestly think that starts with the camera and lens you are using. If you like the looks (it’s that superficial huh?) of the camera and lens, that goes a long way to make yourself feel at ease on the street.

Bokeh Test

The Ultron 35mm f/2 renders well with no visible aberrations or distortion. I didn’t experience any front or back focusing issues either. In terms of Bokeh, it has a smooth creamy Bokeh that is very pleasing to my eye, so it passed my Bokeh test with flying colors.

Picking Bones Out of Eggs

I have heard some people mentioned about the Ultron 35mm f/2 not having a focusing tab (it comes with a focusing knob instead) as an issue, it doesn’t bother me. I generally use zone focusing and when I do need to be more precise in my focusing, the knob is rather easy to handle as well. It really is about familiarity, the more you use it, the less you feel the lack of tab a bother.

The Ultron 35mm f/2 is however not without valid criticisms, one of which is the lack of feet measurement in the distance scaling of the lens. All my life I read distances in meters, so once again, that too did not bother me. I know many people read distances in feet and that can be a real nuisance especially in zone focusing when your practice has always been in feet instead of meters.

A Matter of Preference

That said, if you can work around that tiny discomfort of a knob and the distance scale in meters, there really is little to complain about Ultron 35mm f/2. I roamed the streets of Hong Kong using just the Ultron 35mm and to me that was sufficient. As street photographers, most of us are either 28mm, 35mm or 50mm shooters. I am no exception. I use 35mm and 50mm. I do find the 28mm a little too wide for me, taking pictures of people, I have to go very close to them and that is extremely uncomfortable for most people. I have used many 35mm lenses and this is one lens I think I will keep for the long haul.

There is really little to dislike about the lens unless you don’t dig the look. I would have preferred either all black or all chrome look but it is what it is, perhaps something for Voigtlander to consider for future iterations.

Ideally, I would have loved to add the Zeiss Sonnar 50mm F1.5 ZM to my current set up, I have owned the Sonnar before and loved it. But I do religiously practice being a minimalist photographer with just one lens one camera. So, if I were to choose between the Ultron 35mm or the Sonnar 50mm, at this point (fresh off using the Ultron 35mm f/2, to be fair to the Sonnar), I pick the 35mm.

Conclusion

I really like what I got from the Voigtlander Ultron 35mm F/2 ASPH. It is priced reasonably and performs exceptionally well for my photography needs. If I were to make any comparison, I say it comes very close to that of Leica 35mm Summicron ASPH. The price difference as we know is huge so if you have a budget in mind, give some consideration to this tiny beauty. I say it is a keeper. In terms of looks, I prefer it over the Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon and for some reason, I never quite like the Biogon, looks, and performance. I prefer C-Biogon (the f/2.8 over the f/2 version) of the Zeiss 35mm. The 7Artisans 35mm f/2 is fun and extremely affordable but in terms of feel, the Ultron 35mm feels better constructed.

I am thinking this current set up of Zeiss Ikon and Ultron 35mm F/2 will probably stay with me a long time.

Thanks for reading.

Sien Hong.

Instagram.

 

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32 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Zach
    April 24, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    Really happy that you took the time to post this. I am a big fan of 28mm, 35mm and 50mm lenses for my Leica and Nikon film cameras. I have the Zeiss 35mm f/2 and have never felt that I really needed anything more. I did pick up a Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5 a while back and have also been impressed with that lens – and really liking its small size. When the Voigtlander 35mm f/2 was released I was caught up in wondering if I needed it. Well, certainly I didn’t need it, but I did want it. I looked all over the web for as many articles as I could find. Should I sell my Voigtlander and Zeiss for the new f/2? I would ponder this looking at the spec sheets and the limited articles available. In the end I decided that I am happy with what I have, and told myself that the 43mm filter of the Zeiss goes well with the 75mm f/2.5 Voigtlander and a Zeiss Planner if I ever pick the 50 up. But ultimately I am satisfied with my gear, and I haven’t been let down or really identified a true need to change. 99% of my photography that fails is not due to equipment – but due to operator error. I’m heading to Hong Kong in 12 hours actually, so the timing of this article was nice to see. Maybe when I am there I’ll have a chance to look at the Voigtlander in person. I am currently shooting with a Leica M6, 28mm Zeiss, 50mm f/1.5 Zeiss, and 90mm f/3.5 Voigtlander. Now that I think about it, Voigtlander really needs to make a new 90mm! Ok, ok. My ramblings are finished haha

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Kate Johnson
    April 24, 2019 at 6:39 pm

    So many Great Rangefinders out there. I must resist the temptation to collect……..Please HELP!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Sien Hong
      April 24, 2019 at 10:47 pm

      Can’t help you with that. Zeiss Ikon has the largest clear viewfinder I ever saw, that alone deserved a look.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ham-and-eggs
      April 25, 2019 at 2:47 pm

      Good shots!

  • Daniel Castelli
    Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    April 24, 2019 at 7:59 pm

    Damn Voigtlander! Just when I’m content with my rather minimal kit, a new lens pops up in their line. Must resist!
    I like the cat shot (and I really am not a fan of cats…) because it says CAT! And, of course, the tired child over granddad’s shoulder.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Sien Hong
      April 24, 2019 at 10:49 pm

      I know right! Voigtlander has been on a roll lately.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    eric
    April 25, 2019 at 12:05 am

    Great work, great eyes, great lens, great body.
    Do you get permission for publishing from the persons ?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Sien Hong
      April 25, 2019 at 6:10 am

      Hi thanks! My photos are never meant for commercial purposes. Its has always been more of artistic expression of street photography. Will be a tall order to track down each individual. 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Anthony
    April 25, 2019 at 5:28 am

    Enjoyed this read, awesome shots.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Scott
    April 25, 2019 at 6:28 am

    “Picking bones out of eggs.” What a great phrase. I’m guessing it means “Finding problems where there are none.” or something similar?

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Nick
    April 26, 2019 at 11:04 am

    Wonderful photos and a compelling case for the 35/f2 Ultron!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Peter
    April 27, 2019 at 4:21 pm

    I’m gonna wrestle with if I should sell my 40mm M-Rokkor for this, as I would love to have a normal 28-35-50mm setup…. Would love for someone to do a comparison. If you have the 35 f2 Ultron in NYC we can meet up and write it together and maybe even include the Zeiss f2.8 C-Biogon!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Sien Hong
      April 27, 2019 at 5:05 pm

      Aww, I live pretty far from the States, not in NYC too, won’t be anytime soon. I had a 40mm before, the Voigtlander 40mm f1.2, I pretty much use it as a 35mm. So I won’t change for the sake of a 28-35-50 set up. A comparison would be nice if someone else could help you with that.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Charles Morgan
    April 27, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    What lovely images. Certainly a lens to consider!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    ra_sasayama
    April 28, 2019 at 9:00 pm

    The bokeh is a little harsh/bright ring/double-lined wide open, and it smoothes out really well when you stop down 2 stops.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    carlos albisu
    April 29, 2019 at 2:35 am

    Nice street shots and such a compelling and beautiful combo

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Sien Hong
      April 29, 2019 at 3:00 am

      Thank you Carlos! Appreciated.

  • Reply
    5 Frames with a 7Artisans 35mm f/2 Lens - By Ong Sein Hong - 35mmc
    May 14, 2019 at 11:37 am

    […] silver version of the 7Artisans 35mm f/2. I have an excellent 35mm lens on hand currently – a Voigtlander 35mm F/2 Ultron – but the thought of the 7Artisans in silver excites me. I got the black one when it first […]

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Taffy
    June 11, 2019 at 3:25 am

    Hey Sien

    How does this lens compare to the C-Biogon 35mm? I’ve recently been falling in love with the Zeiss look on my M8. My ZM 25 Biogon is my current favorite lens and I’m seeing what users refer to as the 3D pop (and more than with my Summarit 35). Does the 35 Ultron give similar 3D qualities?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Sien Hong
      June 11, 2019 at 3:31 am

      Hi Taffy, I have not make a direct comparison with the C-Biogon 35mm, the last I used it was a couple of years ago, but my impression of the C-biogon was very good. Love the lens too. If you wanna know more about the 3D pop potential of the Voigtlander 35/2 Ultron, can I share a link with you? It is a review by Jonmajiro, making a comparison of the ultron and Leica 35mm f/2 Asph.
      https://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=167468
      Enjoy the read.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Taffy Ledesma
        June 11, 2019 at 5:06 am

        Thanks for sharing the link. Very helpful! All the best, Sien

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Marius
    June 11, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    Hello Sien,

    Thank you for your review on a lens that has surely gotten a lot of people talking. I wanted to ask you how you felt by the minimum focus distance of the lens which i believe to be 0.5m instead of the standard 0.7m for rangefinders.

    Being a film only rangefinder user as well as someone who has trained himself to shoot 35mm by feel (mostly location of tab : middle 1.2m, all the way left 0.7, and so forth) and with depth of field taking care of imprecisions; this is a relevant question for my use. When you are not using a large depth of field and focusing on a close subject, does it ever bother you that your rangefinder patch is not alligned with the focus scale of this lens?

    Of course this is an non issue for people who use digital rangefinders with EVF, but for film shooters i can see this being a concern. And bearing in mind you are into street photography, i am sure speed is always welcome, specially when using f/2 and guessing distances.

    Regards

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Sien Hong
      June 11, 2019 at 12:12 pm

      Hi Marius, thanks for reading the article. You know, I am probably not the best person to answer your question. Exactly the fact that I shoot street and many times my subjects are people… I generally, almost rule of thumb, don’t go closer than 1m. Most time, I stayed at 1.5m to 2m. That is the range I use for my zone focusing. So even though the lens might be capable of focusing 0.5m, I never once shoot that close with my rangefinder.. or any rangefinder. Am currently using a Leica M3, it has a focusing distance of 1m and I am perfectly comfortable with that. I hope you will be able to find your answer from another blog or someone else might be able to chip in with their experience.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Fredrik
    July 12, 2019 at 8:28 am

    Thanks for the excellent review! 🙇‍♂️

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