On a recent trip to Paris, a friend of mine was kind enough to lend me a Voigtlander 15mm version II lens for my Leica ME. He also lent me a Leica 28mm which he thought I would fall in love with. End result, I prefer my Zeiss 35mm to the Leica 28mm but I fell in love with the 15mm. The lens was not perfect by any means but it gave me some interesting perspectives that added a bit of spice to my images.
When I got back I began doing a bit of research and found that three versions of this lens has been made. The original, now labled as ver I, did not work well on Leicas. The ver II, helped a great deal but it suffered from color fringing on the edges and it was not coupled (no way to check focus). The ver III was supposed to fix all that.
After a few months of saving, I picked it up as a combination birthday and Christmas present for myself. The lens made massive improvements, and while still not perfect, it is a much better lens!
One thing that has confused me is that ALL the reviews I have found for this lens are for the Sony E Mount. Apparently with an adapter you can use this lens on the Sony. I did not see anyone discuss how this lens performed on a Leica M camera. So I took a leap of faith and purchased it. I have not had it too long so I cannot write up a complete review of it but here are the initial findings.
1. The version III is coupled. You can focus it on the Leica just like any other lens. This is an improvement but not as big as you might expect. With such a wide angle you can zone focus without an issue. Putting the lens on f/8 pretty much gaurantees that everything is in focus. If you open it up to f/4.5 then you have to be more careful.
2. The color fringing is now fixed. This version can be used in color. The problem with the previous versions is that color was not an option unless you cropped it a great deal. If you only shoot in B&W then this is not a problem. The old version is a better choice and here is why...
3. The new version is MUCH larger than the previous versions. One reason my friend likes the 15mm is that it is so small it is easy to toss into your camera bag and take it along. This version is larger, in fact it is larger than my 35 and 50 mm Zeiss lenses.
4. Image quality is spectacular BUT you must know how to shoot with it. There are small tricks to really get the most out of this lens but that is a topic for another post.
Thus far I am extremely impressed. With my Nikon equipment I have the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 which is a mother of a lens. It is large, heavy but amazingly sharp. It also weighs as much as the camera itself. This lens is small, albeit bigger than its predesessors, and sharp. I would like a stop or two faster but the size would make it unmanagable. It will not shoot most of my pictures, as my 35mm and 50mm will continue to carry that burden, it will however add a special perspective to my images. It is a niche lens but does it wonderfully.
For those of you who have never shot with a Voigtlander lens do not fear. The quality is top notch and the glass is amazing. I am pleased with my purchase and while I have not had enough time to know the lens in and out, what I have seen, impresses me a great deal.