I have seldom been so pleased with a lens as I have been with the Voigtländer Ultron 40/2. It is a real gem, not only because of its small size and weight, but also because of its excellent rendering of scenes. The focal length of 40 mm on full-frame DSLR is perfect for me, it matches my field-of-view (FOW) exactly.
Sometimes, specially in towns and for interior shots, the Ultron is a wee bit too narrow. A natural step is then the, likewise small, Voigtländer Color-Skopar 28/2.8 SL II for EOS mount. That lens has been gnawing in my mind for quite some time, but I postponed it in favour of the Mamiya 7 and several small projects that came in the way. To cut a long story short: Now I succumbed to the “gear acquisition syndrome” and ordered one.
The Color-Skopar 28/2.8 bears many outer resemblances to the Ultron 40/2. There is no lens shade included unfortunately, so putting ones fingertips accidentally on lens is easy.
The pancake lens get a bit less pancakey when focussed at 22 cm but in normal use, outside of this macro distance, it is in fact very flat as can be seen in the left picture.
This is a short view (short enough not to be a re-view) of my first, initial experience with it.
1. The feel. Like the Ultron, the focussing is silky smooth. Unfortunately the focus rim is not rubbered as on the Ultron but is lettered in the pure metal. It does give the lens a more robust look, but it is also a bit sharp for my fingers. Overall it feels a bit rougher, even though the actual turning of the distance ring is still silky in feel. I have read about the Ultron rubber wearing off so perhaps the new rim is a wise decision, I’d rather have the rubber anyway. My Ultron shows no sign of this wear.
2. Optically it appears as good as the Ultron. Tests on the net says it is not, and perhaps they are correct, but in my real life shooting these last few days I cannot say I have noticed any lack in shaprness. This is a sharp one!
Fully open (at f/2.8) there is some heavy vignetting though. While I found the vignetting on the Ultron to be charming, and sometimes even useful, the Color-Skopar vignetting is heavier and can get in the way. In well lit scenes it is not objectionable but for scenes that are already a bit dim towards the edges, the extra vignetting of the lens is too much in my opinion.
The near focus distance of a mere 22 cm has already proved useful. Here the Ultron would need the extra close-up lens, not always in the pocket.
3. What surprised me most is how tricky it is to use such a wide angle lens! This is of course inherent in the lens and not the lens’s fault per se. I was taken by surprise anyway. With the Ultron parallell lines stay practically parallell even if the film plane is not exactly parallel to the scene. It is quite easy to use.
With the 28 mm lens I have to be much more careful, or the perspective will be twisted and parallell lines go tilting all over the place. Funny I never really noticed this with my 24-105 zoom lens… Must have gotten too used to the results of the fine Ultron during the years.
Update: After being more careful I now generally get everything straight. In many cases it is so wide that I can get it parallell to the subject. I also seem to crop the images more than I did before.
4. A less surprise but still something to mention is that I find composing more difficult with this large field-of-view. There is so much going on in a scene, so much to take care of that each shot takes much longer to compose before taking the shot. So, in reality this is quite a different beast to use.
Update: Composition wise I still have a hard time getting close enough to the scene before picking up the camera. I always need to be closer, closer… Mind you, I also have started to really enjoy the near focus distance of a mere 22 cm!
To convey an idea of what to expect from the lens here are a few shots taken in the last two days. I will likely update with more photos as (when? if?) the weather gets better.
In fact, weather did get better so here goes: