The 24/25mm focal length is anything but an embarrassment of riches for a Leica rangefinder user. This is not surprising given that there are no native framelines and an external finder is generally warranted for accurate framing. Perhaps using a 24/25mm lens on a Leica rangefinder is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole and this whole thing is a stupid exercise in frustration. Nonetheless, for me, this is a useful focal range and not going there is not an option.
In our price range, options are limited. If you look back at my overview of the 24/25mm range there really isn’t much. Leica does not provide us with any sort of option even if we wanted to go slightly (or even moderately above our price range). It is also hard to find Canon 25mm LTM lenses these days. I have been hunting for one I haven’t seen one come up on eBay (or anywhere else) that wasn’t completely beat up, suffering from aging disease, and/or stupidly priced. I debated heavily about getting an MS-Optics 24mm Aporia lens but, ultimately, I couldn’t pull the trigger. I just couldn’t get myself there.
I didn’t buy the MS-Optics lens for lack of trying. I almost pushed the “buy” button 20 times but couldn’t do it. First off, for the purposes of this website, buying a cultish, small batch lens, from a lens master in Japan which is not widely available but it known for quirky rendering isn’t what “normal” people probably want to be doing. Therefore, it doesn’t quite fit the intent of this website. Second, with 24/25mm lenses I really do want everything in focus as I discussed here. Weirdness is not what I am looking for in this focal length. Last, as a part time Japanophile, I cant tell if I am just caught up in the whole Miyazaki thing which is not a good reason to buy a lens. Either way, I didn’t buy it…but I am still considering an MS-optical 28mm in the future. The pull of Miyazaki is strong these days.
Which, at least until I can find a good copy of the Canon 25mm LTM (at which point I will update this page) or Leica drops their prices, brings us to our only two options for photographers looking to go a bit wider than 28mm without going all the way to ultra-wide 21 or wider.
I thoroughly tested the Zeiss ZM Biogon 25mm f/2.8 and tested the Voigtlander 25mm Color Skopar f/4 lens until red disease put and end to that. Both of the options available to us are modern options so I don’t have much for you with vintage rendering.
In the 24/25mm focal length, in our price range, your decision is easy.
- If you shoot digital, get the Zeiss option. The red disease on the Voigtlander is a pain and not something I want to deal with. The only way I could see buying the Voigtlander for digital is if 1) you shoot mostly film and only rarely digital 2) you really object to the larger size of the Zeiss lens 3) you want something inexpensive just so you have something in this focal length because it is not something you shoot often and 4) you want to spend your time correcting red disease in post or you don’t care about a magenta band on the margin of your image. I am not sure how many people live in the intersection of that Venn diagram but, if you do, know what you are getting into before you go there. You have been warned. Removing vignetting is easy. Removing color casts on one side of an image is a bit of a hassle.
- If you shoot ONLY film and will never shoot a digital rangefinder, you have a decision to make and that really depends on two things. 1) can you deal with f/4? 2) are you OK with the larger size of the Zeiss lens? For me, as much as I love ultra small lenses, with film, I want the 2.8 option just in case I am loaded with slower film and find myself after hours or inside. As you can see, this decision has essentially nothing to do with image quality. To be honest, I would be 100% happy shooting film with either of these lenses as far as image quality goes. On digital, I like the Zeiss rendering a bit better but with film, even if you had a gun to my head, I couldn’t get myself to care enough either way to tell you which is better and prevent you from putting a bullet in my head. If you really did have a gun to my head, would probably pick one and blurt out something randomly but that would be to stop you from pulling the trigger not because I really thought one was better than the other.
Because I shoot digital as much as film, I ultimately sold the Voigtlander and kept the Zeiss.