Voigtlander 25mm F/4 Skopar
The Voigtlander 25mm F/4 color skopar is an updated version of the original 25mm snapshot skopar. The color skopar is very similar to the snapshot skopar but with updated optics and the introduction of rangefinder coupling which the previous one did not have. This means when you focus the lens the rangefinder patch will move to ensure precise focus. In terms of build quality this Voigtlander is the same as all other voigtlander lenses, having an all metal construction this lens will stand the test of time. The lens has focusing and aperture tabs very similar to other voigtlander lenses and has a small but effective metal lens hood. The lens has seven elements in five groups and apertures from F/4 to F/22 in half stop increments. This allows this lens to have a very compact design being only 30mm's long and weighing only 156 grams. It has a 39mm filter thread which means you can find a wide array of filters, which is useful if you plan on using this lens for landscapes.
Though this is a fairly modern lens it has many classic features found on older wide angle lenses. I will say now that this is not a perfect lens and if you are looking for perfection then try the 28mm Voigtlander or other similar 24mm lenses from Leica or Ziess. I have found that this lens has a colour shifted vignette and even once stopped down it dosnt disappear, This is caused because the rear nodal point is too close to the sensor causing light that passes through this lens to hit the sensor at angles steeper than the camera was designed to expect. This causes the light to be redirected to the wrong RGB micro sensors causing a colour shift. This is common on older wide angle lenses such as the Leica 21mm Super-Angulon. Modern wide angle lenses use a retrofocus design which moves the rear nodal point forward to reduce the angle of which the light hits the sensor. Though this is not an ideal feature of a lens I personally really like lenses with character and this attribute can be significantly reduced by using the Leica 21mm lens profile or applying a preset in lightroom or Photoshop. If you are shooting this lens on film you dont need to worry because the colour vignette only effects digital sensors.
In use I found this lens to be very fun to use, especially in crowded areas. Having such a small and compact design means I was able to carry it around with me all day and not feel as if it was getting in the way. Another key benefit of this lens is that it can be used in a point and shoot style. This can be achieved by setting the focus distance to around 1 meter and having an aperture of F/8 or higher. Though this way appeals to some people I still think taking time to look through the viewfinder always helps to compose a good image. As you would expect this lens is very sharp and you wont be getting much bokeh as its both a wide angle and an F/4. Unfortunately this lens does have a few downsides which are very important to consider if you are planning on purchasing this lens. First of all its a 25mm lens. Not a 28mm nor a 24mm but a 25mm. Though 25mm lenses have been produced in the past. In fact Josef Koudelka used a 25mm F/4 on his Exakta while photographing gypsies, overall most lens manufactures go with a 24mm focal length. This means you will need to buy an external viewfinder if you plan to have accurate framing on a Leica M. Sadly I did not have a viewfinder so I mainly used live view which took away from the experience of using a Leica M camera. Voightlander do make a 25mm viewfinder however I would highly recommend choosing a 24mm viewfinder instead as these will hold their value better and be easier to sell after as there is more of a market for 24mm viewfinders over 25mm ones. Secondly this lens is limited to daylight only. Though it is possible to use this lens in low light situations you will have to have a very low shutter speed for very high ISO. You can argue that this does stretch your creative abilities but personally I found myself missing a handful of shots because my shutter speed was just too low to capture the scene I wanted. The way around this is to use a flash which would allow this lens to be used effectively in low light. Finally there is the re-sell value. This all depends on market trends but from my experience there is much more interest in more conventional focal lengths such as 24mm and 28mm over 25mm. That is not to say that the 25mm focal length isnt any good, I would actually say in contrary as there is a negligible difference between 24mm and 25mm. Overall its a good lens if it suits your shooting style. Sadly I didn’t bond with this lens so I will be selling it shortly however if you are a landscape or architecture photographer this should defiantly be considered as it is small, lightweight, sharp and filters can be had at a much cheaper price due to the 39mm filter thread. Usually you will see these lenses go between £200 and £250 without the finder and between £250 and £350 with the finder.