There are two versions of the Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5, The older version is a screw mount. The newer version is an M-mount.
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On garden gnomes and parked cars:
In similar manner to the Nokton Classic II 35 f/1.4, there is nothing to nit pick or even criticize here. This is another perfect, little, rangefinder lens with a proper focusing tab. It is small but not too small and there is a double pronged (not sure what you would call it) aperture tab that helps you locate/adjust the aperture ring without looking. What else do you need if you are looking for a small 35mm Leica M mount lens?
There is an extremely minor annoyance that you should be aware of so you don’t do what I did. If you get the Lh-4 lens hood (it is sold separately), there is a white dot on the lens hood whose only function is to help you mount the lens hood. Once the lens hood is mounted, that white dot doesn’t do anything but confuse you into mistakenly thinking that you are using that dot to set your aperture. The aperture index line is tiny and black. If you are working fast (like I was) you might mistakenly use the lens hood dot rather than the aperture index line. This is a super minor issue bit if you are a dull as I am you might botch things. You have been warned.
It would have been nice to have the Lh-4 lens hood included but keep your hair on. That oversight isn’t enough to trigger any sort of outrage. This lens is only $400.00 brand new. Airlines make you pay for bags and you don’t get all that bent out of shape. Get some zen about the lens hood and let’s leave this discussion about ergonomics because there is nothing really to discuss. Besides, we need to talk about cycling.
Does it have SOUL?
Eh. Not really. Does white bread have soul? Don’t tell me that sourdough is white because you know it is yellow. I mean white bread like French bread or plain bagels. Do those have soul? Eh. Not really, but you eat them don’t you? Pretend you aren’t diabetic, your gut flora is in good shape, you are hyperthyroid so you know you will never gain weight, and there is essentially no health reason not to eat white bread. Would you eat it then?
You know you would and you and I both know hot white bread, right out of the oven, is something pretty special. If I was in a convincing mood, I would try to convince you that the reason you don’t choose white bread, even though you know it is special, is because there are other options that are a little more interesting so, in most cases, you just never reach for the white bread. That is how I feel about the Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f/2.5.
With this lens colors are colors, sharp things are sharp (even wide open), dull things are dull, shadows are shadows, it controls flare well, etc. etc, etc. Essentially, the lens just gets out of way without layering it’s own thumbprint on the images. It does what white bread does for a sandwich. Unlike rye or pumpernickel which hit you over the head and let you know they are part of the action, white bread, largely just gets out of the way and does what white bread is supposed to do for a sandwich which is hold things together so you can pick it up. The same goes for this lens, it is a remarkable little tool that doesn’t really get in your way but sometimes neutral is good.
This lens isn’t technically perfect. This, however, is where you need keep reading with skepticism if you are a normal person. Be warned that the following discussion should be better junked into a discussion called “The photographic narcissism of small differences.” As an example of an imperfection, this a closeup of an image (the full image is at the end). As you can see there is a pronounced chromatic aberration around the arm and hair.
In the same image, the water bottles on the periphery of the image are a little bit smudged.
Before you freak out and say “I knew it. I knew it. Voigtlander is lame and I will never put a Voigtlander lens on my precious Leica” you should first check your head and ask yourself “Does any of that matter?” I challenge you and say, probably not. It didn’t matter enough to me to remove the purple fringe. It doesn’t matter to me that there is some vignetting when shot at f/2.5. None of it mattered to any of the four companies that will be using this image. Truth be told, I didn’t notice it on my computer because I have better things to worry about. I only noticed it when it was printed out at 20 inches long. Another photographer noticed it but only because he looked for it when I told him that this was a lens I got on the used market for $300. He was more impressed by the image quality:price than he was concerned about the fringe. Importantly, the client never even noticed the fringe or the water bottles and she walks past the image every single day. Multiple times everyday!! So, are you buying lenses for street cred in the camera forums or are you buying lenses to make images? Ask yourself that before you freak out about a purple fringe or a smudgy water bottle on the periphery of an image. Hint: if you are only making images to put on instagram, none of this matters. you cant see any of this on Instagram.
You might be asking yourself why I even brought up the purple line or water bottle smudge up and then said it was a silly thing to worry about. If you are asking that you are very astute but there is a method to the madness. Trust me, I am going somewhere with this. That purple line is critical to understanding how a “big” German known for wearing pink spandex relates to camera lenses.
The important relationship between white bread, camera lenses, and “big” Germans in pink spandex.
I don’t watch sports. I don’t get watching sports. I don’t want to understand watching sports. In most cases I just don’t care about sports.
I do however ride a bike and once a year I spend a month watching the Tour de France. For about 5 years, year after year, I spent the entire month feeling sorry for a “big” German dude who wore pink spandex. His name is Jan Ulrich. Three times he came in second to Lance Armstrong. Each time, I thought to myself “Geez, if Lance didn’t survive cancer and/or have the best doping program in the world (yes everyone pretty much knew it back then), the big German in pink would have been remembered as one of the best cyclists of all time but now he will be largely forgotten (1).
The moral of this story is that someone who could have been a contender is now an afterthought and that is how I feel about the Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f/2.5. Dont go nuts with the analogy. I am not saying that this is the second best lens of all time. Not at all but an argument can be made that normal people (myself included) don’t need anything else if f/2.5 is sufficient and you are looking for a small lens. The problem for this lens is that there are other options with more speed, more soul, and are slightly better. So, if you want to own the technical best, this might not be it. If you want something with a little more soul, this might not be it either. You and I both know, however, that when it comes to camera lenses there are no single variable decisions. The question you need to be asking yourself is do you need to spend more than this lens to get what some dude in a forum taking pictures of brick walls would call the objective best?
I can’t answer that question for you but I can tell you that if you can’t make outstanding images with this lens, the problem isn’t the lens. Sometimes white bread is all you need to get the job done.
When I was using this lens, it had me wondering. If this lens was made in batches of 50 by some monk in the mountains of Japan, or an eccentric cigar smoking beat poet in Germany and sold new for $1359, would it get more love? I think so. It is easy to hate on an inexpensive lens that always comes in second but if the competition wasn’t around you would be perfectly happy and wouldn’t know any different.
When I was using this lens I also thought, on multiple occasions, that this lens is similar to whatever lens is on the Fuji X100f which I used to own (2). People drool over that camera. By definition, this little lens should also be considered drool worthy if that is what you are looking for.
So did I keep it?
Previously, I said I couldn’t answer whether or not you should spend more than this lens to chase “the best.” I can, however, answer that question for myself. To learn more about my decision and whether I decided to save some money and keep this lens or go with the competition, please register for my Leica Lenses for Normal People: The Recommended List. In those lists, I compare and contrast lenses and break down why I made my decisions. My hope is that saves you some time and money with your purchasing decisions.
- Epilogue. Nobody really does. In 2017, he was convicted of drunk driving, issues with alcohol and drugs led to a separation from his wife, and in 2018 he allegedly attacked someone which lead to hospitalization at a psychiatric hospital. Very sad. I always wanted him to win. I still do. Go Jan. Sample Images:
- I killed the camera when I got it wet in the snow. When they say it is not weather sealed – they mean it.