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.
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.
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.