The Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 is a rather unique lens that combines a wide angle perspective with a very tight max aperture. While this may sound odd initially, it’s worth noting that landscapes (and some other wide angle subjects) are generally shot at higher apertures, thus having a bright max aperture doesn’t matter.
What Voigtlander has done with this lens is brilliant. They’ve created a mighty little full frame wide angle lens that is both tiny and incredibly well built.
So is it worth losing all these extra stops of light to keep the form compact? Let’s dive in and find out.
Looking for just a quick summary before jumping in?
- Incredibly small and compact
- Built like a tank
- Fun and concise manual focus
- A great compact wide angle option
Size & Weight
The size & weight of this lens is, in my opinion, its biggest strength.
It measures a length of 2.44 inches (6.2cm) even with the included lens hood and only weights a conservative 10.35oz (294g).
The Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 is, I’d say, one of the smallest and most compact full frame lenses on the market. This, again, makes it excellent for landscape photographers as it doesn’t mean trying to lug a giant lens up the side of a mountain.
Is the lens well built?
The build quality, as we’ve seen with pretty much all Voigtlander lenses, is nothing short of spectacular.
Manufactured in Japan, the lens feels bulletproof, sporting an all-metal build that is just the perfect blend of hefty yet compact.
Even the non-removable lens hood is made entirely of metal, protecting the front element from both bumps and flaring.
I cannot emphasize how well built this lens is, from just the barrel, the ribbed focusing rings, and even down to the aperture ring itself. You really have to hold itself yourself.
Overall, despite lacking weather-sealing, this lens is built like a tank and certainly feels like it’ll last forever.
Aesthetics & Ergonomics
The Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 doesn’t just win in terms of build quality, but aesthetically as well.
The lens barrel is sleek black, and the text engravings are filled in with white and red paint, creating an incredibly premium look that feels almost like a classic vintage lens.
The way I’d describe it is a mixture of industrial and minimalistic design. It works exceptionally well, especially when combined with the durable and premium feel of the lens. I could go on for hours about how much I loved the build and aesthetics of this lens.
As for ergonomics, it’s very small. It won’t weigh you down and I didn’t find myself suffering from any hand fatigue when out shooting for a couple hours. It balances incredibly well on my Sony a7 and the tiny size allows it to slip into a coat pocket or even the smallest of bags.
When it comes down to sharpness, the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 performs as nicely as it looks.
When “wide open” at F4.5, the lens shows fantastic overall quality with only a minor hint of corner softness. To be honest, though, even the most extreme of pixel peepers will struggle to see that little bit of softness.
Stopping down doesn’t really do much as the lens already performs so well wide open. Diffraction starts to set in after F16.
Overall, simply fantastic optical performance. Voigtlander lenses tend to have an excellent reputation for great optics and this one is definitely no exception.
Optical Flaws & Quirks
As for any sort of optical flaws, the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 handles everything fairly well.
Distortion is minor and, honestly, is to be expected on such a wide lens. It’s hardly noticeable and easily fixed in post-processing.
Chromatic abberation is also incredibly minor and is easily corrected. Flaring is handled well, being able to shoot directly into the sun with minimal issues. However, minor ghosting can show up in certain extreme circumstances. Sunstars look great.
Finally, vignetting is quite strong, but it’s not a dealbreaker by any means. In truth, it’s easily correctable in post, just at the risk of introducing some level of digital noise.
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Focusing & Other Notes
As one would expect from a company that only specializes in manual lenses, the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 offers an excellent MF experience.
The focusing ring, despite not being very large, is well knurled and very easy to locate and grip without having to look at the lens.
It’s perfectly dampened, and offers a great focus throw of about 90 degrees, allowing for fairly precise yet quick focus adjustments (although having to refocus on a wide angle is rare).
Coupled with the (beautiful) focus scale and all of Sony’s excellent focus assist features (more on that in a minute), this lens was an absolute joy to use, and I found it quite reminiscent of some of my favorite vintage lenses.
Another cool feature is that the physical aperture ring can be set to either be clickless or clicked. I’m very partial to clicked aperture rings myself, so this was very exciting to discover!
To change it, there’s a tiny ring under the main aperture ring that you pull forward and rotate 180 degrees. If the white dot is on the top of the lens, it’s clicked, and if the yellow line is on top, the ring is in clickless mode.
This is a very neat feature that I’d love to see more manual lenses implement.
As a bonus, the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 actually has electronic connections as well. This allows the lens, despite being fully manual, to “transmit” various bits of data to the camera body.
As a result, you’ll have full EXIF data, an automatic focus magnifier (digital zoom when you turn the focusing ring), and support for full 5-axis stabilization (for stabilized bodies). This is really cool to see and actually quite useful. It makes for a very interesting experience combining manual focus and modern tech.
Some photographers have decided to try this lens for astrophotography. I’m not an expert at shooting the stars myself, but I’ll do my best to touch on this category.
The lens is very slow which is inherently poor for shooting the night sky. A wide aperture is generally needed to keep noise levels low and avoid star trails.
However, to this lens’ credit, it has excellent coma performance and the ultra-wide angle of view is able to “hide” star trails, allowing for exposures of around 30 seconds or so with no easily visible trails. This can, for the most part, cancel out the downsides of having a tight aperture.
Again, I’m no expert on astrophotography, so if that’s something you’re interested in, check out this article from lonelyspeck.com. They are incredible when it comes to anything astro-related.
My Final Thoughts
At the end of my articles, I always like to give alternatives. However, this is a very niche lens so it’s hard to give direct comparisons.
In any case, the Sigma 14mm F1.8 is comparable only in build quality and sharpness. It is, however, absolutely massive and also substantially more expensive.
At the end of the day, the Voigtlander 15mm F4.5 fills a very specific niche: a wide angle lens for those who value a compact build.
For me personally, I see it as an incredible landscape lens. Since a bright aperture is largely irrelevant in landscape photography, Voigtlander made the right choice in building a lens that sacrifices a few stops of light in order to retain a tiny, compact build.
I’d have no hesitations about carrying this on a long day hike or even a multi-day backpacking trip. It’s so tiny, and so light that you barely even notice it’s there.
Combining that with the fact that it’s incredibly well built and offers excellent optical quality makes this an awesome little wide angle lens. If you’re interested in picking one up for yourself, I’ll include purchase links below. Thanks for reading. 🙂
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