Rolling Review: Voigtlander 110mm F2.5 APO Macro Apo-Lanthar

The Voigtlander 110mm F2.5 is among the very best E-mount lenses you can buy. In this review I evaluate whether the price and relatively large size are worth it.

Image Samples

You can find all images shown in this image in full resolution in this album.

Specifications

Diameter 78 mm
Length 100 mm
Filter Thread 58 mm
Weight 771 g
Max. Magnification 1:1
Working distance 17 cm
Number of aperture blades 10
Elements/ Groups 14/12

$1099 at CameraQuest or B&H (affiliate link)

If you are in Australia you can purchase it from the Australian distributor, Mainline Photographic for AUD 1595

Disclosure

Phillip bought this lens at full price from his own money.

David has a review copy from the Australian distributor, which he will return after the review is completed. If he wants to keep one, it’ll be purchased with his own money in the usual way.

Features

The Voigtlander 110mm F2.5 Macro APO-Lanthar is a fully manual lens so you have to change focus and aperture by yourself. The camera can’t change the aperture so S- and P-mode will not work as with native lenses.

It has electronic contacts to communicate with the camera though, so you will have correct exif-data, and the OSS in all Sony cameras with IBIS will automatically know the correct focal length and distance to use the 5-axis stabilizer. Focus magnification can be automatically activated when the focus ring gets turned.

The Voigtländer focuses down to life size magnification (1:1) like the Sony G 2.8/90 Macro or 2.8/50 Macro. It’s little brother the 2/65 APO only focuses to half life size (1:2).

Voigtlander also calls it an APO lens which means that chromatic aberrations are very well corrected. More on this further below.

Build quality and handling

The Voigtlander 110mm F2.5 Macro offers very good build quality. The lens hull is made from nothing but metal and tolerances are very low. Most but not all markings are engraved.

There is no gasket around the mount and Voigtlander does not claim any weather resistance.

Of course I can’t tell you how durable the lens will be in the long term. All I can do is give you my superficial impression which is very positive in this case.

Dealing with Voigtlander repairs can be a hassle since these are done in Japan and usually take many weeks.

Changing lenses

If you have used Zeiss Loxia lenses you will probably have been frustrated by the fact that there is no good place to grab them when you change lenses. This is not an issue with the Voigtlander since you can easily grab it by its base which is even textured for better grip.

Focus Ring

The focus ring travels around 250 degrees from 35cm (1:1) to 42cm (1:2), and a further 160 or so degrees to 1m and then about 70 degrees to infinity. That is a very reasonable transmission for a macro but it is steep at longer distances and therefore a bit slower to focus precisely. The ring itself is easy to grip and the resistance is about perfect. 

The Voigtlander focuses quite a bit beyond infinity which is also indicated by the focus scale.

Aperture ring

The aperture ring sits close to the mount and is less easy to reach than with some other Voigtlander lenses where it is a at the front. It is still pleasant enough to use. It is made from metal with distinctive stops and a very pleasant resistance. I am not a fan of 1/3 stops since it makes it harder to count the stops but that’s what we get. The Voigtlander stops down to f/22.

Hood

The Voigtlander 110mm F2.5 Macro’s front lens is rather exposed and it comes with a biggish hood. 

will be updated later

Size and Weight

The 110mm F2.5 does not focus internally and therefore extends a lot when it is focused at short distances.

Voigtlander 3.5/21 | 1.2/40 | 2/65 APO | 2.5/125 APO

The CV 2.5/110 is a substantial lens. In my experience so far handling is still pleasant but many smaller lenses feel better matched with my a7ii. In light of the great performance this is not a big issue but something to consider when you decide whether to purchase the lens.

Optical performance

These results are based on the use with a Sony Alpha 7II.

Flare Resistance

If you have the sun in the frame you will notice a significant amount of veiling flare which reduces contrast:

The lens hood can make a dramatic difference when there is direct light on the front of the lens:

Ghosting is very minor and only visible in more extreme scenarios:

 

 

 

 

 

So flare can be an issue but that is true for any longer lens I know of. The Voigtlander’s performance is actually above average for a lens of this focal length.

Sunstars

Well defined 10-pointed sunstars from f/2.8. I don’t have any decent samples yet though.

Bokeh

Scene 1: Short distance

Scene 3: Short distance

Scene 4: Longer distance

Some Observations

  • f/2.5 and f/2.8 look virtually identical at very close distances
  • Out of focus highlights are rendered very smooth
  • Cat-eyes are rather pronounced
  • As usual bokeh gets a bit harsher at longer distances
  • Stopped down the shape of highlights can be a little distracting
  • No onion rings

So most of the time the Voigtlander has very good bokeh but there are a some situations where it can become a little distracting.

Chromatic Aberrations

I was seriously impressed by the Voigtlander 2/65 APO’s correction of CA and came the conclusion that it delivered very well on the APO-label since it is really hard to produce any CA from it. Leica for example has been more lenient with it as has been Zeiss with their Otus lenses (which are f/1.4 lenses which makes it much harder to correct for CA). 

The Voigtlander 2.5/110 APO so far seems to be corrected even better than the 2/65 APO. So far I didn’t manage to provoke any CA. I am tempted to call it the best corrected lens on the market right now but I need to compare them directly before I make that statement.

Consider this worst case scenario:

100% crop from corner
100% crop from center (only small branch on the right is in focus)

 

 

 

 

100% crop

Vignetting

Wide open an at f/2.8 Vignetting is rather strong, by f/4 it is much reduced.

test will be added later

Distortion

will be added later

Sharpness

I have only done a preliminary test but that shows excellent performance from wide open. Here are 100% crops with default settings at f/2.5:

center
midframe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

corner

 

 

 

 

 

First Impressions for macro use

I (David) will be adding to review for macro purposes. Much more of this will come in early Feb, though I’ll be gathering samples while travelling in the coming weeks.

My first impressions, from life-size samples like the one above, are positive. It seems a touch sharper than the Sony at long distances, and at least as sharp as that impressive lens when you reach 1:2 and 1:1. You’ll need to wait a bit for me to confirm that, though.

A significant advantage to the Voigtländer is that it has a much longer focus throw. Although the Sony has a remarkably good manual focus experience for an AF macro, the throw is, while linear, a bit short in linear mode, so it’s harder to make small precise changes (and less importantly less pleasurable to use because not as buttery smooth). 

The effective focal lengths are rather different at macro distances. The Voigtländer I estimate to have roughly a 27 degree diagonal field of view on a full frame sensor, the Sony 34 degrees (this means the Sony has an effective focal length of around 70mm, the CV 90mm, so both lose a bit: which is surprising in the case of the CV given how much it extends). This means the CV gives a noticeably more telephoto perspective, magnifying the background relative to the subject of macro shots a little more, which serves to isolate the subject. It also, of course, affects working distance: you can keep the front of the lens about 4cm further away from your subject on the CV rather than the Sony, which may be of use for bug hunters.

People who do a lot of handheld close macro may like to use AFC on the Sony so as to help cancel out small movements towards and away from the subject. This, combined with IBIS, may give you a slightly higher keeper rate. But it’s not a big deal.

The only other preliminary observation (I’ve only been shooting for a few hours since receiving the lens) is that I think that CV is even better corrected for spherochromatism than the Sony. The Sony is extremely good, but the very slight touch of magenta discolouration in the middle of bokeh balls and hint of green edging is missing in the CV. But again, this is based on preliminary shooting not on direct comparison of the exact same scene. So you’ll need to wait!

Bokeh at Macro 1:1

I have begin testing the bokeh at life-size (1:1), comparing the Sony and the CV. This is a complex matter, because there are at least three scenarios that need testing.

(1) Lens set to same magnification, bokeh elements at same distance from sensor.

(2) Lens set to same magnification, bokeh elements at different distances to sensor corresponding to the different camera position for the same subject to be in focus (remember 1:1 corresponds to a different postion of the image plane in these two lenses)

(3) Lenses set to somewhat different magnification, focussed on elements the same distance from the sensor plane. (recall that if you focus on items the same distance away, the magnifications will be different between the two lenses.

Each of these has some claim to be called “comparing in the same situation” 

So far I have only got some final results from scenario (1) but it’s interesting. You’ll have to wait until I get back from travel next month for more.

But here’s a taster: Wide open there doesn’t seem to be much difference in the shape of the bokeh (i.e. much difference in cats eye effect). But oddly, the bokeh balls are much larger in the Sony (probably an artefact of scenario 1 – I leave it as an exercise to figure out why)

But by f5.6 cats eyes are noticeably more visible in the CV:

CV on left, Sony on right.

This result, and some others, makes choice difficult. By f5.6 the Sony is starting to show visibly nonagonal shapes. The CV is showing even (slightly) more visible decagonal shapes. At wider apertures, the Sony is ahead, at this aperture to my taste there is not much in it.

But the cats-eye distortion of the CV bokeh rugby balls is less to my taste than the more rounded Sony shapes. On the other hand there are some (very mild) polishing artefacts visible in a couple of the Sony bokeh balls.

On bokeh grounds (not others) the Sony is looking slightly ahead at this point in testing, but more to come.

Alternatives

Sony FE 2.8/90 Macro

David will compare them directly but so far I can say that the 180g heavier Voigtlander is better corrected for CA and offers a longer working distance (17 cm vs 12.5 cm). Another big difference is that the Sony is an internally focusing AF lens while the Voigtlander is a manual focus lens which extends a lot as you focus closer. Both are excellent lenses optically and I am curious if the Voigtlander can maintain it’s slight advantage at shorter distances. 

Review | 602 g | $998 | amazon.com (affilate link)

Zeiss Batis 2.8/135 Apo

Both lenses are as close to technical perfection as currently possible with similar aperture and focal length. The Batis is a little larger, the Voigtlander a little heavier. What sets them really apart is that on offers AF while the other one offers a superior manual focus experience and much better close focusing capacities.
Review | 614 g | $1699 | at B&H (affiliate link)

Tokina 2.5/90 Macro

A legacy lens which is a lot more affordable (still not that affordable for being more than 20 years old). Flare resistance, CA correction, and off center sharpness at f/2.5 are what is most noteable in comparison.
My review | ~630 g with adapter  | about $300 used | at ebay.com (affiliate link)

Zeiss Macro Planar 2/100

A more affordable manual focus macro which is an excellent lens with the exception that it shows a lot of CA. It also only reaches 1:2 magnification. If you aren’t very sensitive about CA it might be an alternative.
MTF-datareview | 660 g + adapter | about $750 used | at ebay.com (affiliate link)

Zeiss ZE/ZF/Milvus APO 2/135

Zeiss C/Y 3.5/100

If your focus is on landscape photography the much smaller and more affordable Zeiss could be a good alternative since it will take really large prints to actually see a difference for that application.

Review | ~380g with adapter 

Preliminary Conclusion

pros  

  • Excellent CA correction
  • Excellent Sharpness
  • Bokeh (most of the time)
  • Build Quality
  • 1:1 Magnification

average  

  • Vignetting/ Cat-Eyes
  • Price
  • Size/ Weight
  • Flare Resistance

cons  

  • No Weather Sealing

So far I am impressed by the Voigtlander 2.5/110 APO Macro. Optically it is hard to find any real fault with it beyond a few minor compromises like vignetting and some flare which any longer lens will display. I will of course perform more tests to make sure of my results but I am already certain that I haven’t tested a technically better lens.

I think the interesting question at least for me will be how often the Voigtlander will end up in my camera bag and how it handles in different roles I would use it for (occasional Macros, Nature Closeups, Portrait, Landscape). I didn’t use my Voigtlander 2/65 a lot after I got the optically inferior but more versatile Voigtlander 1.2/40 which I often paired with a modified Zeiss 2.8/90 since optical perfection by itself isn’t worth much. I think the 2.5/110 will pair well with my 3.5/21 and 1.2/40 but at close to 800g I will need to evaluate how often I actually take it with me. My 2.8/90 weights about a third of it.

Some time later David will explore the macro side more in-depth for which he is more qualified since he is a real macro enthusiast who until now swears by the Sony 2.8/90 Macro. Expect him to have a very close look at the performance of the Voigtlander in it’s macro role.

The Voigtlander 2.5/110 Macro sells for $1099 at CameraQuest or B&H (affiliate link).
If this review was helpful to you, please consider using one of my affiliate links. Thanks 🙂

More Image Samples

You can find these more images in full resolution in this flickr set: Voigtlander 2.5/110 APO.

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I like to be outside with my camera and I am also a gear head with a love for manual lenses.

44 thoughts on “Rolling Review: Voigtlander 110mm F2.5 APO Macro Apo-Lanthar”

  1. Many thanks for this report, I have been wanting to see life-signs from this lens since the pre-order was delayed, and Cosina hasn’t been up front about the reasons behind the delay, nor an up-coming release date.

    Is the surprising length the 110mm Apo Lanthar extends to, a sign of a long focus throw, as in the 65mm Apo Lanthar?

    Much looking forward to know about the qualities of this lens, and if the positive expectations the 65mm Apo Lanthar motivated, justified the pre-order.

    1. There’s actually nothing surprising about the length of this lens at close focus; it’s the length you would expect for a non-internal focus 1:1 macro of this FL. It’s the traditional design approach. The downside is the amount it extends. The benefit is you tend not to get effective focal length reduction at high magnification, and the length of the lens focussed arbor hear infinity is usually quite a bit less than IF non extending designs.

  2. Also, a comparison with the Zeiss Batis 135mm (or the preceding 135mm f/2 Apo Sonnar iterations), being another apochromatic lens in a more or less similar focal range, would be quite interesting.

    Schöne Grüße!

    1. If I end up with a copy of this to review first I might do brief some comparisons with those lenses – I do have them available – but my prime interest will be comparable tele macro lenses. If Phillip gets one first I suspect he will have a similar focus.

  3. Thanks for the brief and enlightening explanation, David, will stay tuned for your upcoming account of this promising lens.

  4. I’d love to see how this lens does with macro beauty shots, as the 65 has too short of a working distance, which causes issues with flash and shadows

  5. According to latest disclaimers from adorama, the 110mm f/2.5 Makro Apo Lanthar will start shipping today. Hopefully you’ll have a copy up for review soon; would much like to see a comparison to the Milvus Planar 100mm f/2, if possible.

    The Zeiss is not an apochromatic lens and only does half the magnificatoon of the Voigtländer, but it makes a fantastic telephoto lens for architecture and landscape – the use I would mostly give the Voigtländer, and I suspect many others would too.

    Both lenses are very similar in size and weight, so nothing to fuzz about there. If the performance is similar to the 65mm f2 Apo Lanthar, I can hardly imagine anyone whining about carrying it in their bag. If the performance bests the Zeiss, Voigtländer will have added yet another very compelling makro – and multi-purpose lens – to the E-mount universe. Fingers crossed!

  6. Got my copy today and was able to shoot it in a few settings.

    Some comments in Fred Miranda’s rolling review, with regards to difficulty focusing near infinity and a relatively short focus throw, had me a bit worried. I passed on the 21mm & 25mm Loxias for that precise reason, and the rather frustrating and fiddly overall experience working with these lenses. I decided that if there’s one thing I would not sacrifice for form factor, portability and compactness, it is a satisfactory and enjoyable experience. (I went with the 16-35 GM instead, which has a nicely implemented focus by wire, and although color and contrast are not as good as the Loxias, and 10-bladed sunstars aren’t included, I found it resolves noticeably more – even towards the longer end – and ultimately offers a more pleasing experience and price/value balance in my opinion.)

    Despite similar comments with regards to the 65mm Apo Lanthar, I find it significantly easier – and enjoyable – to focus with both Apo Lanthars. I agree that it takes minimal movement to throw you out of focus, but don’t see it being a significant difficulty, and don’t feel it is any different than with the 65mm Apo Lanthar.

    Color rendition – although a matter of taste – is just as beautiful as the 65mm, and build quality and handling is just as satisfying. So far, so good!

    Pushing it hard can certainly provoke fringing around tree branches shot against gleaming water or a bright sky, but nothing I believe unexpected.

    I can only hope Voigtländer will offer a 180mm or similar focal length for E-mount, and why not a 85mm, a 40 or 50mm Apo Lanthar lenses (with de-clickable aperture rings)? With the two makro lenses, Voigtländer has made it clear it can deliver exceptional world class optics at a fair price, and I’m sure there’s plenty more where that came from.

    Salut!

    Francois

    1. The focus throw of the 110 is actually very long. It’s just that with any macro lens, the amount of that throw left near infinity is not large. The 110 is better in this regard than many tele macros (and even some tele close focus but not macros like the cv180). But a dedicated non macro tele is best in this regard. But if you want macro….

      1. The one that got the boot this year for me was the 100mm STF. Loved it, but determined I simply did not have enough uses to keep it. However after a year of ownership, the 65mm is still getting a moderate amount of use for me, although I do admit it’s not my most used lens. So far so good. If I make it to the two year mark, then I know it’s a keeper. I rarely make it three years with any lens before switching it out…which probably isn’t a good thing now that I think about it. Ha. Oh well…

      2. Interesting – as someone who has been looking for a normal lens and is saving up for a 65, what makes you hesitant to keep it?

        1. The 65 is optically lovely. I’m hanging on to it, but if it ever goes it’ll be because it’s a bit big and it’s not even a true macro, only 1:2. I’d prefer a less close focussing 50 of similar quality (like an even better Loxia 50) that is smaller, and then have the macro in the longer lens.

          But in both Phillip’s case and mine it’s a question of how it fits into our kits, not the lens itself. If you are saving up for it, it must fit with your kit. In which case you won’t regret it. It is remarkable.

          1. Good point! I’m actually in the process of planning out a new kit. I bought the Sigma art 35, which is a reliable performer, but boy is it an absolute unit of a lens. So I’m replacing it with the CV 40 based on your review and seeing how that goes. Depending on if I like it, I’ll have to work out what other FLs may compliment it. If i’m not careful, I could end up with a bag full of Voigtlanders 😉

  7. Nice to see your review is rolling!
    Got my copy last week and have had some phenomenal time enjoying this wonderful lens – it’s everything I had hoped for. Compliments to Cosina/Voigtländer on this veritable gem!

    Haven’t put it through any torture tests yet, but no visible presence of aberrations so far, on over 200 keepers.

    As a makro lens it is absolutely superb, and I have shot everything hand-held so far, with very few focus misses. Bokeh is wonderful and colors are just as great as the 65mm Apo Lanthar.

    I am of course still curious about comparisons with the Zeiss Apo Sonnar 135mm f/2.8 (& f/2), ans to see the results of your up-coming tests and evaluations.

    While I agree with you on that “optical perfection by itself isn’t worth much”, from a purely photographic and aesthetic perspective, optical “perfection”, along with superb build quality and design (such as distance encoding for 5-axis image stabilization), are very much worth considering that we pay for them.

    Voigtländer has produced fantastic lenses for E-mount, which not only achieve optical prowess, but also character and other desired imaging results, and all at very fair price considering the competition. Quality control is still and issue with Sony GM lenses that cost several times more, and that also has its value.

    If lens manufacturers cared for quality along te example set by CV, we would have a different experience altogether as consumers. I have returned and changed over 50 lenses, and although return policies are satisfactory, they don’t replace quality control.

    I believe CV could release a comprehensive series of focal lengths in Apo Lanthar designs, and pretty much edge out Zeiss Loxia lenses – which are good but could be much better if the 52mm form factor wasn’t a priority – at a better price and quality. – I sincerely hope they do!

    Concurring with the frenchman’s comment above, I would very much wish for a 15, 24, 35, 50, 85 and 180mm Apo Lanthars. I would definitively sell my current lens collection for a complete line-up of Apo Lanthars, and not look back – I wouldn’t worry about size and weight either, for that matter.

    1. Voigtlander is certainly my favorite manufacturer: I bought their 21, 40 and 110 in 2018 and no other native lenses. For for people like me who prefr to focus manually in most scenarios their lenses and especially this one are great.

      1. I have to agree, since I bought my a7RIII, Voigtländer has also become my preferred lens manufacturer.

        I have been quite disappointed by Zeiss’ Loxia and Batis lenses, except for the 135mm f/2.8, which I do not yet own. It’s fortunate that Voigtländer has wisely filled the gaps Zeiss has left.

        I still shoot my Canon AE-1, and never owned any EOS camera or was particularly interested in autofocus. I own focus by wire lenses like the 16-35 and 24-70 GM zooms, but rarely switch to AF unless I really need it. Moving to E-mount was for me, motivated by the superior manual focus implementation, and the access to the diversity of lenses – especially manual ones – that the E-mount opened up.

        Size and weight was not a reason for me to buy into the E-mount. At the moment I am actually saving up for used copies of Otus 55mm and 85mm, to eventually replace my 24-70, along with the 65mm Apo Lanthar. I would much prefer a pair of slightly slower 50 and 85mm Apo Lanthars from Voigtländer, but I’m not convinced CV will go in that direction. One can of course always hope.

        I think optimum optical quality, balanced with reasonable size and weight, without giving up IQ for silly compactness or form factor pretensions, is the best approach, and I think CV nailed it right on with the Apo Lanthars in this respect.

        I make the effort to get out in the field with a perhaps rather heavy bag, but that’s for photography. If it’s hiking I’m out for, I just bring my binoculars and my Huawei P20 Pro. I don’t confuse the two 😉

        Cheers!

      2. Ditto.. 21, 40 and 110 in 2018 – No other native lens 🙂
        Apart from these – C/Ys 35-70 3.4, 85 1.4, 135 2.8,
        Then Pentax K 28 3.5 on your recommendation – thank you and Voigt 90 3.5 AIS
        Cheers
        Saurav

  8. Would like to know how it compares against the Voigtlander SL 125mm f/2.5 Apo-Lanthar and if it is worth switching over,

    1. Well I don’t have one handy nor the time to compare them if I did ;).
      At the current used prices and with some reports about longevity issues of the 2.5/125 I would probably upgrade anyway.

    2. I don’t have one to compare. I did try it once years back – though it was much better colour corrected than the Makro Planar 100, but not any sharper and maybe a touch less contrasty.

      I really shouldn’t say this without comparison, relying on vague memories (plus some guesses about optical progress) but I’d be very surprised if the new one isn’t quite a bit better. Given the price and rumoured fragility of the old one, you’d need to be a historical collector to get that instead.

      1. Hi David,

        Many thanks for the preliminary comparisons and the reply to one of my comments above.

        The mentioned fragility of the CV Apo Lanthar 125mm caught my attention here. I have been thinking of getting one and had not come across references to fragility or longevity issues. Would this also apply to the 90mm and 180mm CV Apo Lanthars of similar build quality?

        It’s hard to tell whether CV will release a 125 or 180mm in E-mount – or further focal lengths (I’d love to see 15, 21, 28, 50 & 85 Apo Lanthars) – in the future, so I was thinking of getting the 125mm legacy as well.

        Thanks again for your efforts!

        camilo

        1. You mean the f3.5 90mm? I have one. It’s great and built solid. Using the Nikon version with adapter on E-mount. It’s also quite reasonably priced. And smallish.

    3. The biggest difference might be the rounded 9 aperture blades with SL 125mm vs 10 blades with 110mm. I checked the 125 blades which keep rounded shape stopped down, so it doesn’t have the angular bokeh of 110mm. The new lens looks like better corrected for apo and sharpness…

      1. Yes I haven’t done a clos ecomparison with the nine rounded blades of the Sony yet, but on paper the ten straight blades of the CV110, while great for landscape, may be a bit of a pity in some contexts for macro. Stay tuned.

          1. Actually they aren’t octagons; they are decagons. The 110 has ten blades.
            The more striking issue, though, appeRs to be the stopped down mechanical vignetting at life size – the cats eye effect.

    1. I will think about that when I get back in Feb.
      Though shooting like for like comparisons is a lot of work, so don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen (these reviews are not our day jobs, and the little we get from affiliate links don’t really cover costs, so we do it for fun)

      But I can already tell you the new CV at macro distances has much more contrast at wide apertures than the Sigma 150. I’m not sure if there is much difference stopped down yet. Of course the Sigma is a useful, affordable lens and very good lens for when you need the focal length.

  9. No mention or comparison etc to the Sony 50mm 2.8 Macro? Not a lot of sites seem to reference this lens even though it’s one of the most affordable for Sony’s system.

  10. I wonder if you still use the Olympus OM 100mm f2.0 as a general purpose, portraiture and landscape lens or if you prefer your nice converted Contax G90 or the Voigtländer 2.5 110mm for these purposes now?

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