Ultron 40/2 – How Does It Fare?

The Ultron has been attached to the 5D2 almost exclusively for four months now. Fascinating! I normally change lens at least every week, if not only to try the Mamiyas for a while, or the EF 200/2.8 for fun and a new view through the finder. Not so any longer apparently.

The Ultron is really about the smallest lens you can put on a DSLR these days. As it extends only about 2 cm it turns even a 5D2 into an everyday point and shoot, however with exceptional picture quality.

This is not a review of the lens, more some few personal reflexions. I leave pixel-peeping out of this, others do that much better and have more experience on how to evaluate the minute differences between different lenses.

Over all I am extremely pleased with the lens. The Ultron 40/2 works well and has a feel of stability and smoothness I have come to like too. Looking back I think the size of it may be its biggest advantage: Even a 5D2 turns into a camera you actually can bring along almost anywhere! And if you do bring it along the lens performs very well be it inside shots at close range or outside landscapes.

The size comes at a cost of no autofocus, it is all manual. In my kind of photography that has shown not to be a disadvantage. Action photographers should look elsewhere, but for me the manual focus is now automatic – to the level that my fingers try to manual focus even the EF 24-105/4 when it is set in AF:)

With the EF 24-105/4, I now notice that, I was more used to “fire away and see what got on the pictures”. The Voigtländer Ultron 40/2 has made me more aware of what I am doing and as such there has been a “learning curve” with it. I now play even more consciously with both focus, aperture and the camera’s histogram to pull out what the lens really can deliver. It feels like more care is taken of each shot. Great fun!

There seems to be a bit of confusion about the Ultron and Canon EOS. The Ultron is fully compatible with the EOS body except that it is manual focus. There is focus confirmation (the red dots in the viewer light up as expected when the object is in focus) and the camera’s aperture setting is communicated to the lens and it reacts accordingly. Thats said – and that I use the suggested Eg-S focussing screen – it is easy to miss focus. The Focussing screen only helps so far, I usually rely on the focus confirmation to light up. I still question the practical use of the focussing screen as double checking with the confirmation dots is almost mandatory.

One word summing up my experience is convenient: it makes me carry my camera with me more often, the 40 mm angle of view comes very natural for me (it was in fact no learning curve at all in this respect!), the pictures are very sharp with full-bodied colours and, finally, the range of apertures (f/2 to f/22) makes it ideal in many situations too.

The lens comes with a combined sunshade/lens hood/filter/close-up lens adaptor. With the close-up lens attached it focuses down to 25 centimetres instead of the usual 38 centimetres. Make certain the lens hood is screwed in tightly or it can unscrew itself and fall off. It happened to me a few weeks after this shot. Spare parts are available but at a cost and delays of several weeks or months.

I was sort of surprised that the 40 mm angle of view was so generally useful, but it was. There is a so called “nifty fifty” EF 50/1.8 II amongst the lenses. This is widely acclaimed for its capabilities, but I have never been happy with the 50 mm angle of view, no matter how “normal” the angle of view people say it is. 40 is more “normal” to me!

Just to show small it really is, here it is alongside the “nifty-fifty”. While the “nifty” is light and made out of plastic the Ultron is more compact, made entirely out of solid metal (and some glass…) with only some rubber surface  for the focusing ring. Quite outstanding!

The lens is excellently sharp even at full open, it vignettes rather heavily at f/2. I often stop it down a bit to avoid the vignetting issues. Its resolution peaks at f/4 – f/5.6 or thereabouts [see 1].

The birches at full jpg-resolution. This shot was taken with the camera’s Large setting and not RAW unfortunately. As a RAW more detail could be extracted. Still the resolution is quite enough for being a pleasing picture.

Spring Birches – Ultron 40/2. 1/1000s @ f/2.

An update and a warning: Make sure the lens hood/filter adaptor is screwed on tightly! Mine apparently was not and unfortunately unscrewed itself and fell off somewhere. Bummer! While the lens performs just as well without it in almost all cases, the close-up lens is of no more use of course.

Update: The lens hood is now an official spare part for the lens. So I can now use the close-up lens again. Yeay!

Two years later this is still the favourite lens of mine. Amazing lens. Something a bit wider could be useful at times though, perhaps a Voigtländer Color-Skopar 28/2.8?

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2 Responses to Ultron 40/2 – How Does It Fare?

  1. pixelogist says:

    nice post, very useful review. thanks for sharing.. i might look into this!

    • jabcam says:

      Glad you liked it! Yes, the Ultron is a helluva lens. Small, sharp and rectilinear. A bit steep but it pays back in picture quality. Cheers!

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