Heliar Ultra Wide Review with Images

Started 2 months ago | User reviews thread
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Lichtspiel Senior Member • Posts: 2,899
Heliar Ultra Wide Review with Images

Recently moving to Sony, I have been building my lens kit. So far, the Sony 20/1.8 was my widest lens, and I often thought about something even wider. I used to love my Roki 7.5 fisheye for MFT, but there is nothing comparable (small, good, inexpensive fisheye) available for FE mounts.

Then I stumbled over a few (mostly positive) reviews and discussions of the Voigtländer Super Wide-Heliar 15mm f/4.5 and got intrigued. There are some versions of this lens for Leica mounts, but VL came out with a native FE mount version, optimized for Sony cameras. The 15mm focal length seemed like a good complement to the 20mm, so I went for a gently used copy from the big auction site.

Initial impressions: A but a bit heavier (~300g) than expected from its compact size. Probably smoothest MF ring I've ever turned, and a nifty aperture ring allowing for clicky and clickless aperture. Clicks are important to me, since often focusing is easier at the fastest f-stop, and being able to count back to say f8 while continuing to look through the EVF is really nice.

While this is a manual focus lens, it has electrical contacts which transfer Exif info, and the camera will show which aperture is chosen. Love the 58mm filter diameter since I have quite a number of lenses with, and filters for that size. Overall the lens exudes quality, it feels and looks great.

What really counts are the results, and the resulting images don't disappoint. There is sharpness across the frame (although I have not photographed brickwalls recently), no issues with decentering or field curvature. What sets the lens apart is a certain "character", with saturated colors and pleasant rendering. And, like other Voigtländers, the 10 blade aperture makes for some nicely defined sunstars.

Landscapes are what I got this lens for, and it really delivers there. Some say to use telephoto lenses, I say, give me ultrawide! Sweeping vistas all the way. One needs to arrange things a bit to get a good foreground, otherwise images just look small and boring.

Interestingly there is relatively little distortion, for a lens that wide, and it is easily corrected. There is a certain balance between corner stretching (what the rectilinear lens delivers) and a fisheye look to offset this. Depends on the subject and personal preference which way works best. Bent trees... I won't tell if you don't.

Downers? Very few actually. Besides the price, lack of AF, and maybe weight, there is some nice strong vignetting which doesn't disappear when stopping down. Often it enhances images, and if not, it is easy to correct. There is a little bit of purple fringing, also fairly easy to remove. I use DxO to process images, and there isn't a lens module yet, hopefully they'll add one to automatically correct that. Like I said, very little in terms of downsides.

It's been a while since I fell in love... with a lens. But here we go... I have been using this in more situations than I expected for an ultra-wide lens. Besides landscapes, getting close to things exaggerates them for some interesting effects. For example, this lake... is just a puddle, about 5 ft across.

The minimum focusing distance is not amazing, but allows for somewhat close-ups. Definitely not a macro lens. And not fast either, at this focal length there is not much subject separation anyway. Perhaps too slow for astro/night sky shooting.

Well, that about wraps it. Do you own this lens? What are your thoughts? Any interesting shots with it?

 Lichtspiel's gear list:Lichtspiel's gear list
Sony a7C Sony FE 20mm F1.8G Samyang AF 75mm F1.8 FE Samyang AF 35mm F1.8 FE Tamron 70-300 F4.5-6.3 Di RXD III +3 more
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