Review: Voigtlander 65 mm F2 Macro APO-Lanthar

The Voigtlander 65mm F2 Macro APO-Lanthar is the second APO branded E-mount lens and promises great image qualities as well as macro capabilities in an unusual focal length. In this review I evaluate whether the high 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 91 mm
Filter Thread 67 mm
Weight 635 g
Max. Magnification 0.5
Close Focusing Distance from the sensor 0.31 m
Number of aperture blades 10
Elements/ Groups 10/8
The Voigtlander 2/65 APO-Macro sells for $1059 at amazon.com or ebay.com, 999€ at ebay.de (affiliate links).

Disclosure

This copy was loaned to me from Voigtlander’s German distributor ringfoto.de for a few weeks.

Features

The Voigtlander 65mm F2 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. That provides correct exif-data, the OSS in all Sony cameras with IBIS will automatically know the correct focal length and the focus magnification can be automatically activated when the focus ring gets turned.

The Voigtländer carries the Macro tag but unlike most other modern Macros like the Sony FE 2.8/50 Macro it only reaches a magnification ratio of 1:2. This is quite usual for a manual lens which does not focus internally, it would need to have a very large helicoid otherwise.

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 65mm F2 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.

Handling

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 31 cm to 1 m and a further 40 degrees to infinity. I think that is a very reasonable transmission for a macro but it is a bit slower to focus precisely at longer distances. The ring itself is easy to grip and the resistance is about perfect.

Aperture ring

The aperture ring is a joy to use. It is made from metal with distinctive stops and a very pleasant resistance. I am not a fan of 1/3 stops but apart from that it is great. The Voigtlander stops down to f/22.

Hood

The Voigtlander 65mm F2 Macro has a deeply recessed front element so I see no reason for a hood but none the less it comes with a small hood made from metal.

 

Size and Weight

from left to right: FE 2/28, 2/65 APO, FE 4/16-35, FE 2.8/90 Macro, FE 4/70-200

This is not an internally focusing lens so it extends a lot when focused at 1:2.

The CV 2/65 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 if the great performance this is not a big issue but something to consider when you decide wether to purchase the lens.

Optical performance

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

Flare Resistance

When pushed very hard the Voigtlander will show ghosting, some veiling flare and an unusually high amount of sensor reflections at least on my a7ii.

pushed by two stops but otherwise unedited

I made the image above early in my rolling review and it lead to me rating the lens average in this aspect. Since then I have had a closer look at the flare resistance and usually it performed well even in demanding scenarios so now I would rate it quite good actually.

Sunstars

Voigtlander lenses are known for their very defined 10-pointed sunstars. Personally I like this effect a lot, other people don’t. You just need to stop down to f/2.5 until they are very well defined.

Bokeh

It is quite hard to rate the Voigtlander’s bokeh.

Wide open at f/2 it is nearly as smooth as that of the FE55 which in my eyes has one of the smoothest bokehs in any normal lens but the APO-Macro has a lot less bokeh fringing. As usual bokeh is the smoothest at close distances and deteriorates a bit as you focus further.

The transition zone is neither good nor bad:

Cat eyes are quite pronounced and there are minor onion rings:

 

Stopped down beyond f/2 the aperture shape becomes visible because the Voigtlander has straight aperture blades. This can be annoying especially if you have a high contrast background or it can be of little consequence if your background has less contrast. It is also less noticeable as the oof-highlights get smaller as you stop down.

So most of the time the Voigtlander has pretty good bokeh but there are a few situations where it isn’t that good.

Chromatic Aberrations

Since the apochromatic correction is one of the more unusual features of the lens and because not all lenses which are called APO offer exceptional CA correction I was curious how the Voigtlander APO 2/65 would fare.

In short: It lived up to my expectation to the fullest. Optically I was pretty impressed by the FE 1.8/55 except that it showed a lot of axial CA and spherochromatism. The 2/65 APO in contrast shows almost zero CA, even in a worst-case-scenario as backlit water fountain.

Vignetting

Vignetting at f/2 is 2 stops which is quite a bit and easily visible if uncorrected. Stopping down to f/2.8 reduces it to 1.2 stops which are still noticeable. At f/4 vignetting is hardly noticeable at 0.7 stops and at f/5.6  I measure 0.6 stops:

Distortion

The Voigtlander 65 mm F2 Macro shows no visible distortion. That is not unusual for a macro but still an achievement.

Sharpness

Just wow! I have never before tested a lens with such great results. The Voigtlander 2/65 APO is excellent across the frame from wide open with only the slightest bit of falloff towards the corners.

At 1:2 the Voigtlander 2/65 is also a great performer, I think it is a tad less sharp at f/2 though.

100% crop

Alternatives

65 mm is a rather unusual focal length so I have to interpret the term  alternative a bit more loosely here.

Sony FE 2.8/90 Macro: I currently own the Sony and for me it is either the Sony or the Voigtlander. Of course the focal length is quite different but apart from that I found the Voigtlander a tad sharper at longer distances and both lenses similarly sharp at shorter distances. The Sony has smoother bokeh, especially in the transition zone. The Sony offers pretty good CA correction but it does not reach the perfection of the Voigtlander. The Sony of course offers AF and 1:1 but I find the manual focus rather sluggish and I also prefer the handling of the more compact and much more solid Voigtlander. Another advantage of the Voigtlander are the very nice sunstars which come at the cost of stopped down bokeh.  I think that I will sell the Sony but I wouldn’t if my focus was on macro photography.
602 g | $998 | amazon.com (affilate link)

Sony FE 2.8/50 Macro: The much smaller, cheaper and slower Sony lens can reach a higher magnification ratio of 1:1 but I think the Voigtlander is the more universal lens since it is faster and better corrected. Optically the Voigtlander is superior because it is sharp in the corners from f/2 with no CA but the Sony is a bit more flare resistant. Manual focus on the Voigtlander is much more pleasant than with the Sony which has a very indirect transmission.
If your focus is on macro or light weight the Sony might be the better option but I found it very slow AF frustrating and the 7 aperture blades can be an issue.
My review | 236 g | $448 | at amazon.com (affiliate link)

Sony FE 1.8/55: The Sony is a damm fine lens with only a tad smoother bokeh (although with much more CA and onion rings). The only aberration which I found at times annoying was the axial CA which is a no-issue with the Voigtlander. The VOigtlander is a tad sharper in the corners at wider apertures but both perform on a very high level here. The most important argument for the Sony I see is the fast AF and the fact that it weights not half as much. The Voigtlander focuses much closer and is build much more solid with great manual focu so personally I prefer the Voigtlander.
My review | my comparison | 281g | $898 | amazon.com (affiliate link)

Tokina 2.5/90 Macro: The nicest legacy macro-lens I have come across so far. It is very sharp in the center from f/2.5 but needs f/5.6 for great corners and it also shows CA at times. Its biggest disadvantage is the weak flare resistance. Bokeh of the Tokina is a bit smoother. A more affordable alternative which does not offer the perfection of the Voigtlander
My review | 530 g + adapter  | about $300 used | at ebay.com (affiliate link)

Zeiss Macro Planar 2/100: Now I am streching it because the Zeiss is a very different focal length but both are modern high performance manual macros. The Zeiss is a bit larger and heavier (with adapter) but not by much. In the end I sold it because I was too bothered by the high amount of axial CA which outweighed its otherwise awesome performance. Now the Voigtlander overcomes that issue and I find it the much more convenient lens.
MTF-datareview | 660 g + adapter | about $750 used | at ebay.com (affiliate link)

Sigma AF 2.8/70: Optically a great lens which approaches the Voigtlanders performance you loose one stop and more importantly the ease of handling because the manual focus is not as pleasant as that of the Sony. With the right adapter it also offers AF though not as nice as that of native lenses. A good choice if performance and value are your biggest concerns and you are willing to sacrifice some ease of use.
Photozone.de review | 525 g + adapter | $ 220 | ebay.com (affiliate link)

Legacy 50/60mm Macro lenses: Lenses like the Nikon Ai-S 2.8/55 can be had for a fraction of the cost and they usually perform quite well although not as exceptional as the Voigtlander 2/65. They are usually smaller and lighter and some even do 1:1. With the exception of a Olympus 2/50 they are not as fast though which to me would limit their use as a standard lens.

Conclusion

pros

  • Excellent CA correction
  • Excellent Sharpness
  • Bokeh (most of the time)
  • Build Quality
  • No Distortion
  • Sunstars
  • 1:2 Magnification
average

  • Vignetting/ Cat-Eyes
  • Price
cons

  • Size & Weight
  • 1:2 magnification
  • No Weather Sealing

I think I haven’t found so little fault with a lens before. The Voigtlander Macro 65mm F2 APO-Lanthar shows excellent sharpness from f/2 across the frame. It also does the APO-label justice since its CA correction is close to perfect. Neither is there any distortion. Bokeh is smooth most of the time but cat-eyes can be a bit distracting as can be the straight aperture blades. Only vignetting is on the higher side but that is a small price to pay for this exceptional performance. In my eyes it is optically the best E-mount lens at the moment, together with the Batis 2.8/135.

The Voigtlander is a rather large and heavy lens, especially if you compare it with the smaller and much lighter FE 1.8/55 so to enjoy its performance you have to put up with the weight. I would probably leave it at home for a hiking trip but for my everyday use I am happy to carry a little more for that level of performance. Handling is close to perfect for a manual lens with a very nice focusing ring and excellent build quality.

So who should buy this lens? I think the Voigtlander APO 2/65 is an interesting amalgam of the classic 50mm and 85mm lens, still wide enough to function as a normal lens but with a bit more compression for undistorted portraits. I think it works great in a kit with a 35mm and 135mm lens. The 1:2 macro function and the superior performance is a clear advantage over classic normal lenses but I don’t think that it is great choice if your focus is on macro since it doesn’t get that close and you would probably want something longer for that. Manual focus will be an issue for some, for me it is a bonus. I can’t say that I enjoy the large size but for the level of perfection it is a small price to pay.

All in all I have never before been that impressed by a lens. The Voigtlander APO Macro 2/65 delivers a nearly flawless performance. For me this is the optically best E-mount lens at the moment, only rivaled by the Zeiss Batis 2.8/135. It is quite large but the handling is a joy if you like manual lenses. The price is quite low compared to lenses of similar performance.

The Voigtlander 2/65 APO-Macro sells for $1059 at amazon.com or ebay.com, 999€ at ebay.de (affiliate links).
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 2/65 APO.

 

You can find these and more images in full resolution in this flickr set: Voigtlander 2/65 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.

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79 thoughts on “Review: Voigtlander 65 mm F2 Macro APO-Lanthar”

  1. That’s some pretty incredible results. If it was a 90mm F2 I’d start saving up for it immediately. If it was 50 or 55 I might consider selling my just acquired Loxia for it. I’m not sure I’d find much use for the odd focal length though. I’ve used a 35mm lens on my Olympus E-M5 (which is reasonably close at 70mm) and I’m not sure I’d like that focal length, especially since 50mm is my favorite focal length. I suppose my Vivitar Series 1 90mm F2.5 will have to make do until a macro I really like is released at that focal length.

      1. I’m sure you’ll get some incredible results with it. If budget allowed I’d probably get it as well. I already spend more than I should on photography though.

  2. Hallo Philipp,
    thank you for your effort testing the Voigtländer 65 f2!
    Would you mind to include some portraiture photos of humans at f2 ? (This could help to evaluate the lens for portraits)
    Thanks,
    Reinhard

    1. I will try but for privacy reasons I don’t publish pictures of friends and family and I don’t do model shootings so my opportunities are very limited and usually I end up with portraits of sheep or ibex 😉

  3. Could we get some more macro photographs and comparison with alternative lenses, especially Sony FE 90mm F2.8?
    How about old Contax Zeiss C/Y lenses?

    1. I added a few macro samples and also ran a short comparison with the FE 2.8/90 which you can find in the flickr album. The are similarly sharp. The Voigtlander has no CA, the Sony some. But the Sony has the smoother bokeh.

  4. Phillip, great review as usual. Thanks.

    In your conclusion, a word is clearly missing on the second line after “very” – “…Voigtlander 2/65 APO is one of the very E-mount lenses…”

    This meant as a private message. You can delete it afterwards.

    Marc

      1. The Sigma 70 mm f2,8 works flawless on fullformat. It is though a bit “loose” in the focus ring for manual work, but it has autofocus that works just fine togeteher with a7mk2 and a7 r2. Sharpness excellent… one of the best out there. If You can find one, try it and compare it with this 60 mm…
        Thanks for excellent work and the best of the best info on the whole internet regarding photo gear. I am also very impressed about Your layout and writing, – Less is More:)

          1. Canon mount and Metabones adapter. Autofocus works pretty ok. The main problem is when You turn Your Camera on is that the lens focus from infinity to closest… but then it works ok. Of course if You have it on manual focus this doesn´t happen…
            A other strange thing is that some examples can have a slightly yellowish tone…
            I have used the lens several times for Magazine covers on 2.8 with excellent results. Sigma macro lenses are among the best if You ask me… 70, 105 and the 150 are very very good but heavy lenses.

          2. Seems like it is a very affordable solution for those which are interested in excellent image quality and are willing to sacrifice some comfort over that. Thanks for your input, I will include it when I add the “alternatives” section.

  5. Which one is sharper between Loxia 85/2.4 and CV65/2 in your opinion? I plan to get Loxia85 soon but this one came of nowhere and start to sway my decision a bit.

    At first, I want CV 50/1.5 Nokton but I don’t like using adapter and non-exif data is quite problematic since I still in learning stage (I might need to review photo I take) that’s why I drop it and start to looking at Loxia.

    My main purpose is portraiture, Thanks.

        1. I have compared them (and started the topic that Phillip was kind enough to link to). I don’t think there is a sharpness advantage between the Loxia 85 and the CV 65/2. Buy one or the other (or as in my case, both) based upon focal length and drawing style. Also, the CV is more versatile due to its macro capability, but both are extremely well corrected optics that are sharp across the frame from wide open. We are increasingly spoiled for choice with Sony E mount lenses. The Voigtlander is also fatter than the Loxia (67mm filter thread versus 52mm for Loxia). Both are A+ lenses.

  6. If You are interested of some test pics from a Sigma 70 f2.8 just let me know. I can easily photograph some in my Backyard (field and forest in Dalarna, Sweden) based on how You normally test Your lenses… You can have jpeg´s and raw if interested.
    Normally I work daily with Canon EF lenses, (some Sigma favourites like their macro lenses and the 50 f1,4 art) on Sony A7 cameras since I have felt in love with their sensors, -but still find my Canon lenses better then many others….
    Just let me know to whom I should send the pics!

  7. The Leica R 60/2.8 Macro may be a good alternative. Also 1:2 Macro, manual focus, close in focal length and aperture. A really impressive lens from mfd to infinity. I’m very interested in the Voigtländer and maybe replace my Leica with it. If you guys want to to a comparison, I may lend it out.

    1. I own the Leica Elmarit R 60mm f2.8 myself since yesterday and I am also really impressed by the image quality in both macro and normal use. With the macro adapter I can reach 1:1 magnification!

  8. Wenn das Teil auf Unendlich schon am 24MP-Sensor wahrnehmbar weniger Schärfe zeigt, als das 90mm von Sony, dann sollte das dringend an der A7R2 überprüft werden.

    Zwei Linsen, die ich gerne im Vergleich sehen würde, sind die Rokkore 1.2/58 und 2/85

  9. How does this compare with milvus 50 (or 85 if you have worked with that) from an IQ perspective. Guessing based on review that

    Milvus has better flare resistance and maybe better bokeh quality

    APO-LANTHAR has better control of chromatic aberration

    Difference in sharpness likely negligible in real world use at f2 and f4

    Real question is 3d pop and color rendition for me. Can APO-LANTHAR play in same league as Milvus for these characteristics.

    *Note – I am not asking for a precise technical performance evaluation between the lenses. Asking for your opinion / impression because you have used both.

    1. I think the lens plays a much smaller part than processing in these aspects than and I used the Zeiss only for a few weeks so I find it hard to give you an answer, there is no significant difference in my eyes.

  10. Great review like always, but it could be great to not post slug pictures, I find it absolutely disgusting… cats and squirrels are better 🙂

  11. Excellent article. I’ve been curious about this lens since reading about it’s release. I have the Sony 90mm macro, so your alternatives section is especially helpful. I’ll probably stay with what I have, but always interesting to read about other high quality lenses.

  12. Great review Phillip! I’m looking forward to the Sony 55mm comparison to this lens! I keep bouncing back and forth on which one I want to pick up LOL

  13. Drooling for this. Your reviews often make me want a new lens, but this is worse than usual. I’ve been wanting a shorter than 90mm macro that I love (at 90 I would prefer the Tokina or the OM 90/2 over the Sony 90, which I also own but don’t use any more). At 50 for macro I’m using the OM 50/2, which sometimes has some very lovable character, but sometimes that character seems more like flaws. I’m looking to replace the OM50/2, but it’s been hard to say what could really replace it until now. 65 is maybe too long to replace it? Hard to say.

    This focal length isn’t all bad. I was in Iceland for the last two weeks of August, and I had brought a Contax C/Y 35-70 zoom, which got wobbly and unusable on the trip. No problem, using 35 and 50 primes instead, but some days I found myself missing the 70-ish end of that zoom, which really would have been perfect. I didn’t have a prime to cover that. Hard to say if a somewhat heavy macro lens would have made the cut for that trip though. I didn’t choose to bring any macro lens with me, and weight was certainly a consideration as I packed my lenses.

  14. I have Sony FE 90mm f2.8 G macro oss and I love it. But this lens,Voigtländer 60mm f2 offers more flexiability,because You can use it for macro,landscape,portrait and general pictures. 60mm is also easier to focus handheld than 90mm, the focusing are great with these Voigtländer.
    Some times 90mm macro is to long and you need 50-60mm macro, so I Will buy this lens and keep the 90mm macro because I love it too. Thanks for the review!

  15. It’s more than I’m usually willing to spend on a lens, but this would be a great companion to my Voigtlander 35mm f/1.7 Ultron VM. 50mm is too close to 35mm for me to carry them together in a kit, and the jump to 85/90mm often seems like a bit much.

  16. To me, the obvious alternative is the Voigtlander 58, f1.4 for Nikon. If your adapter has electronics, it also transfers exif info. Much less expensive and a brilliant lens. Not macro though.

      1. Have you handled the 58mm? It is brilliantly sharp from f2.8 to f5.6 corner to corner. Sure the corners are nothing at f1.4 and only a little better at f2. I think the 58 is better at flare resistance. Still, I might agree with you if I had the 65 to compare and was comparing full res images. I have not handled a copy of the 65 yet.

          1. I have the older version of the 1.4/58 for Nikon. It’s a nice lens, but not really that much better than the Nikkor 1.4/50 AIS. Comparing it to the 1.4/50 Sony, Sigma or 55 Zeiss Otus should show a very obvious difference (I don’t own any of those). The Lanthar, however, is Otus quality for 30% of the price. And EXIF data to boot.

    1. Hard to compare, as these are very different focal lengths. The nice thing about the 3.5/90 Lanthar is its small size. Even with a Nikon F to Sony adapter, it feels much smaller than the 2/65. The 52mm filter thread is nice too (especially if you happen to come from Nikon). But its maximum magnification is just 1:3.5, which is too far from macro territory for me. For vacations, I used to take a Nikkor 2.8/24, the 3.5/90 and a Nikon 4T close-up lens, and was quite happy with the results. Optically, while good, it is not as good as the 85 Loxia or the Sony macro, and far from the 2/65.

  17. Hi Phillip, thank you for this review. The lens being 625g, I am curious as to how lighter or heavier it actually feels wihen using. For example, SEL100F28GM makes a magical impression as though it were much lighter than its real weight (700g), or at least, it did not make me feel drained by weight. In comparison, SEL1635Z being 518g feels quite heavy to me when attached to the camera.
    I always enjoy your articles and like the way you express in writing as well as photos.

  18. Fantastic review! Very interested in this lens now.

    Can someone please tell me if the electrical contacts on Voigt 60 f2 activate the focus assist (as the loxias do).

    Thx

  19. Good review, seems like a very nice lens for a number of scenarios.

    65mm is an interesting “middling” focal length, f/2 is useful, good sharpness at infinity and nice sunstars.

    I like my clinical “dust-sucker” 55 2,8 ais but it would be interesting to try this Voigt one day.

  20. This is a comprehensive and balanced review. I purchased this lens within a week of its release merely because I like its field of view (like a 50mm on my old Leica M8.2). I agree with all of your results. One additional thing I notice is the vibrant color from this lens. I find that I need to apply much less post processing to images from this lens, in fact, settings that I use for other lenses tend to over saturate images from this lens. Have you noticed this too?

  21. great review as always! Looks like a great lens. I was wondering how close a loxia 85 and extension rings would come in image quality vs this lens for macro? Thanks

    1. This article contains some shots I have taken with Loxia 85 + Kenko extension tubes.
      The Loxia is an extremely high resolving lens and holds up quite well with extension tubes.
      Nevertheless, I doubt it is a match for a real macro lens at a magnification of 1:2,
      furthermore there is of course some lack of flexibilty when using extension tubes.

  22. If I may ask, given your usage up until now, would you recommend this over the 50 loxia? I have the loxia and while I like it, I’m finding the new 35mm 1.7 ultron to have better bokeh although the color signature is a bit more muted- which I quite like. This looks to be better in every way minus the odd size and FL.

          1. OMG !! Even better than the 50 1.4 . I am going to definitely get the 65 and Sony 85 1.4 or maybe just dismiss the 85 and go for the 135 2.8. And the 21 loxia 2.8.

  23. I find the focusing ring too loose on this lens. First, the lens focus is twitchy — near infinity focus, turning the ring by even one degree can result in a soft image at 42 MP. Second, the lens’s internal tube is very heavy and full of glass. Consequently, if I touch or move the lens slightly, (e.g. for a handheld panorama), the lens can go out of focus easily. I would prefer slightly more damping or some kind of set screw or lock.

  24. Thanks for the great image set on Flickr for this review. I just purchased this lens and have really enjoyed it so far. It’s double the weight of any lenses I have owned, but otherwise it’s super in all regards. With that said, I never take it anywhere 😉

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