Voigtlander Ultra-Wide Heliar 12mm f/5.6 Aspherical II on Sony NEX - Review / Lens Test Report
Lens Reviews - Sony Alpha/NEX (APS-C)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published September 2010

Introduction

The Voigtländer Super-Wide Heliar 12mm f/5.6 VM is a dedicated Leica M mount lens. This may be a frightening thought for some already because "Leica M" tends to be associated with insanely high prices but the Heliar is actually fairly reasonably priced at around 700EUR/900US$. This alone may not be an interesting news for Sony NEX users but there's only a handful of native Sony E mount lenses (as of the time of this review) and one of the exciting aspects of the system is to use Leica M mount lenses via a Metabones Leica M to Sony NEX adapter.

You can, of course, use Sony alpha lenses using the Sony adapter but these lenses tend to be monsters compared to the tiny NEX cameras. Just like the Sony cameras Leica M mount lenses are also dwarfish beings and as such highly interesting if you want to keep your set as small and lightweight as possible. The aperture must be manually controlled on the lens rather than on the camera but that's really a non issue. Manual focusing is easily possible by taking advantage of the magnified focus view (you just have to press the lower "soft-key" here). Regarding the ease of use you may even consider Sony NEX cameras as the "poor man's Leica" actually. Some may consider the lack of EXIF data as a drawback though.

Anyway, the Heliar 12mm is an extreme ultra-wide lens within its native Leica scope but the Sony E system is based on an APS-C sensor. Therefore the field-of-view is equivalent to a "18mm" full format lens which can certainly still be considered as "ultra-wide". The Heliar is obviously a slow lens but this is naturally the advantage of allowing a very compact design. And, typical for its species, it's also a beauty on a black NEX. :-)

The build quality of the Heliar is very good. The lens body as well as the focus and aperture control rings are made of metal. The focus rings operates silky smooth. The aperture ring stops in distinctive "click" positions (full f-stops) but it is not damped like the focus ring. That's about the only downside compared to a Leica M or Zeiss ZM lens. The physical length remains constant regardless of the focus setting. The front element does not rotate, of course.

The minimum focus distance is ~0.5m. This is fairly long for such a lens but regarding the lack of speed this is probably an acceptable compromise.

Specifications
Equiv. focal length18 mm (full format equivalent)
Equiv. aperturef/8.4 (full format equivalent, in terms of depth-of-field)
Optical construction10 elements in 8 groups, 1x aspherical element
Number of aperture blades9
min. focus distance0.5 m (1:?)
Dimensions75 x 43 mm
Weight230 g
Filter size67 mm
Hoodpetal-shaped, build-in
Other features-




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