After the 65mm 2.0, 110mm 2.5 and 50mm 2.0 this 35mm 2.0 Apo-Lanthar E is the fourth addition to Voigtländer’s Apo-Lanthar lineup.
From these previous Apo-Lanthar lenses we are used to see very high sharpness and contrast and generally a very high level correction of pretty much all optical aberrations. So we already know what we are in for here, or are there any surprises? Let us find us in this review.
You can find most of the sample images in full resolution here.
- Sample Images
- Specifications / Version History
- Handling/Build quality
- Flare resistance
- Chromatic aberration
- Sample Images
- Further Reading
Specifications / Version History
Cosina produces plenty of 35mm lenses under the “Voigtländer” brand and this is already the third native E-mount one we are reviewing here (the other ones being the Voigtländer 35mm 1.2 Nokton SE and the Voigtländer 35mm 1.4 Nokton E Classic). It also comes as M-mount lens – which at first sight seems to have the same optical design – but in fact doesn’t, as I will show you in my review of the M-mount version (coming soon).
The full specifications of the E-mount version are:
- Diameter: 63 mm
- Field of view: 62.2° (diagonally)
- Length: 67 mm
- Weight: 353g (without hood, without caps)
- Filter Diameter: 49 mm + 58 mm (in lens hood)
- Number of Aperture Blades: 12 (rounded or straight depending on aperture value)
- Elements/Groups: 11/9
- Close Focusing Distance: 0.35 m
- Maximum Magnification: 1:6.3
- Mount: Sony E
The Voigtlander 35mm 2.0 E looks and feels a lot like its slighly longer 50mm sibling, so if you have already used that lens you will immediately feel at home.
The focus ring has a nice, well dampened resistance and turns about 160° from the minimum focus distance (0.35 m) to infinity. The ring rotates a little past infinity which is a good idea, as we will see in my review of the M-mount version (coming soon).
The aperture ring has 1/3 of a stop click stops (which you can declick by rotating an additional ring at the front of the lens) and turns roughly 100° from f/2.0 to f/16.
The lens has electronic contacts to communicate exif data with your camera and if you wish so the focus magnify will be activated when you turn the focus ring.
The outer casing seems to be made completely from metal and all markings are engraved and filled with paint.
As is usually the case with E-mount lenses (but not M-mount lenses) there is a hood in the package and anohter nice touch: the hood features an additional 58 mm filter thread – which is shared with the 50mm 2.0 – and there is even a second lens cap for this 58 mm thread included.
Compared to the M-mount version the E-mount version looks a lot bigger (read: thicker). It is similar in size and weight to the Voigtlander 35mm 1.2 Nokton SE.
Wide open I measure almost 3 EV corner shading which is a lot, but similar to the competition. At shared apertures these values are about 0.5 EV better compared to the Voigtlander 35mm 1.2 SE, stopped down they are comparable to the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 GM which means still high.
infinity (42mp Sony A7rII)
The other Apo-Lanthar lenses showed very impressive results here and the 35mm manages to follow their footsteps easily.
From f/2.0 the resolution is as high as you may ever need it and stopping down is only needed to extend the depth of field with this lens.
The difference at wider apertures will be very noticeable compared to the Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 or legacy 35mm lenses, but differences to the faster, heavier and bigger Sony FE 35mm 1.4 GM or Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art DG DN will be academically at best.
If resolution at infinity is what you care about most and you don’t rely on autofocus this Voigtlander 35mm 2.0 E Apo-Lanthar is clearly the lens you should have a very close look at.
portrait distance (1.0 m)
For portraiture it isn’t so important how flat the field is, it is more interesting to see what the sharpness is like when focused at different parts of the frame to take field curvature out of the equation.
This is what I did here, I refocused for every shot and aperture to get the best possible result at different locations in the frame (center, inner midframe and outer midframe).
Focus distance was roughly 1.0 m and the circle of the dollar bill is more or less the size of a human eye.
100% crops, A7rII
Performance here is very good, even in the outer midframe area you still see lots of Moiré, so no complaints.
close (0.35 m, 1:6.3)
100% crops from center, A7rII
The performance at f/2.0 near and at the minimum focus distance is not that great as there is quite a bit of spherical aberration (softness). I didn’t really expect this.
The good news is that stopping down to f/2.8 is enough to elevate the performance to very good levels. Field curvature is also very low at closer distances.
As always evaluating flare is a complex matter since you can get any lens to look bad if you push it hard enough and a slight change of scenario can affect results a lot.
Generally the recent Voigtlander lenses have fared very well in this category, especially when it comes to veiling flare. Unfortunately the picture on top is already worse than anything I managed to create with the 35mm 1.2 or 50mm 1.2 lenses, but let us have a closer look.
Sun outside frame
With most lenses there is a very specific position close to the corner of the frame that will lead to a huge flare and the Voigtlander 35mm 2.0 E is no exception.
There is another position that leads to what looks like internal reflections, again, the light source needs to be in a very specific position for this, so this isn’t something you should encounter often.
Sun inside frame
With the sun inside the frame the situation is generally better, but sometimes even sensor reflections appear, which is something I have rarely seen on the Sony A7rII.
And that green/purple ghosts? Depending on the position of the light source in turns into a streak across the whole frame.
I took many pictures with a strong light source in the frame without any issues. All in all I consider the performance solid, but not great.
100% crops from extreme corner, focused on center, A7rII
Taking into account the very good corner sharpness at infinity it doesn’t come as a surprise that coma correction is also really good. If you are looking for a lens for astrophotography keep in mind the high vignetting though, the Sigmas 35mm 1.2 and 40mm 1.4 have about 1 EV less vignetting at f/2.0.
Distortion is hardly visible, but there is a slight waviness close to the corners. Nevertheless, even for architecture pictures I rarely felt the need to correct it.
When it comes to 35mm lenses a maximum aperture of f/2.0 is not that exciting anymore, as these days we have a very high resolving f/1.2 lens with autofocus and even an f/0.95 manual focus lens.
But when it comes to bokeh there is not only quantity, there is also quality, so let us have a closer look – as usual.
A minimum focus distance of 35 cm is not best in class but it is still nice and lets you get close to your subject.
As is ususally the case in close focus scenarios the bokeh is also generally smooth and non-distracting. Optical vignetting is also visible but not overly distracting.
Before the lens arrived at my doorstep I already heard people saying that bokeh is not exactly the lens’ strength and with complex backgrounds this is indeed already noticeable at mid distances. In many of the pictures I took there are double edges visible in the out ot focus areas than can be a little distracting.
At longer focus distances a maximum aperture of f/2.0 in a 35mm lens doesn’t really cut it for isolating your subject, but we knew that before. Especially the barely-out-of-focus foliage attracts more attention than I like and adds some nervousness to the pictures.
You might have noticed: I am not the biggest fan of the bokeh rendering of this lens, but this was also true for the previous Apo-Lanthar lenses. An almost perfect correction of optical aberrations doesn’t lead to exactly smooth and butterly bokeh (which is more what I like), but we should also keep in mind this is not what the lens has been designed for and there are faster lenses more suitable for that task available.
And in my eyes it still easily wins in this (or pretty much any) department against the Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0, which might be considered the direct competitor in the E-mount world.
100% crops from center, A7rII
Like the Voigtlander 50mm 2.0 Apo-Lanthar before this 35mm lens features Cosina’s speciel aperture diaphragm. At f/2.0, f/2.8, f/5.6 and f/16 the opening is perfectly round (no sunstars), at f/4.0 and f/8.0 the blades form a “crown cork” shape (whacky sunstars) and at f/11 they form a perfect dodecagon (sunstars).
Generally, I think the design is ingenious and I would love to see way more lenses using it, but compared to other Voigtlander lenses with only straight blades the sunstars are a little less distinct and they are harder to “control”, as you cannot adjust their strength by stopping down more or less.
As this is a reasonably fast lens and you might also want to use it for some shallower depth of field photography I still consider it a very smart decision to use this diaphragm.
I checked the amout of lateral CA having the lens attached without electronic connection to the camera to suppress built in correction profiles and they are still close to zero and therefore nothing to worry about.
In close focus scenarios longitudinal CA are hardly visible, but they may also be masked by spherical aberration a bit, so we will have a look how the lens performs at longer focus distances.
Sony A7rII/A7III | Voigtlander 35mm 2.0 Apo-Lanthar E | f/2.0
Well… It is not like the performance is bad, but considering the Apo tag on the lens and taking into account the performance of previous Apo-Lanthar lenses I can’t say I am impressed. The apochromatic correction was one of the main selling points of this series and here I simply don’t see it. What makes things worse: the M-mount sample I received performed even worse in this category, so you should not expect this being the worst sample you might possibly get.
To be perfectly honest, I would have not given this lens the Apo designation and I don’t think it performs visible better than the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 GM which is a full stop faster (as I don’t have this lens available anymore I cannot perform a direct comparison though).
Some of you may already have the Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 and think about switching. To those of you my recommendation is as follows: if you only use the lens at f/8.0 to f/11 anyway the upgrade won’t yield you a lot of benefits. If on the other hand you want a lens with better performance at wider apertures and a more appealing bokeh rendering the update may very well be worth it.
If you are a dual E-mount/M-mount user and you consider getting the VM version (review coming soon) I can already tell you with this lens the optimization for the thicker filter stack is very obvious. The infinity corner performance of the VM version stopped down never reaches the performance of the E version at f/2.0 when used on an E-mount camera.
If you want to have a general overview over the 35mm E-mount lenses have a look at our rather comprehensive guide on 35mm lenses for Sony FE cameras.
Expectations are a strange thing, aren’t they? If something does not meet our (maybe too high) expectations we are easily disappointed, no matter how good the product actually is.
And this is my problem here: I had too high expectations, set by the previous Voigtlander Apo-Lanthar lenses. The thing is, a 65mm f/2.0 and a 50mm f/2.0 are both easier to design than a 35mm f/2.0 and this is what I am seeing here: the longitudinal CA correction is not as good as I expect from a lens carrying an Apo tag. Don’t get me wrong, it is still good, but my no means as excellent as that of the 50mm and 65mm lenses.
Also at the minimum focus distance I would have expected the performance to be a bit better, similar to the 50mm 2.0.
Will these things matter to the typical landscape/architecture shooter this lens is supposed to appeal to? I don’t think so. For these the positive aspects – by which I mean the 35mm 2.0 being a flat-field small manual focus lens with very high resolution and contrast straight from the maximum aperture and low amounts of chromatic aberrations, distortion and coma – will easily outweigh those comparably small negative aspects.
You can find most of the sample images in full resolution here.
- Sony FE lenses: Our comprehensive and independent guide
- Sony FE lenses: Our guide to portrait lenses from 85 to 135mm
- What makes a picture good?
- Lens aberrations explained
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