Voigtlander 50mm F/2 Heliar Classic
At a time when I was trading lenses on a monthly basis I managed to get good deal on a Voigtlander 50mm F/2 Heliar Classic. This lens was produced exclusively for the 2006 Voigtlander Bessa R2M and R3M 250th anniversary sets. 800 lenses were produced in chrome and 1700 were produced in black, I was lucky enough to find one of the rarer chrome models. This lens is very similar to the old Leica 50mm summicron produced between 1953 and 1960. Both lenses have a collapsible design allowing it to almost be body cap sized once collapsed. This design makes travelling with this lens very easy though I only collapsed then lens when I put the camera back in my bag. Unlike its main rival the Leica 50mm Elmar F/2.8 this Voigtlander is a F/2. Though this is only one stop difference it can sometimes make a big difference. This lens has five elements in three groups Cooke Triplet design, with the front and rear singlets split into cemented doublets allowing this lens to be an F/2 opposed to and F/2.8 or F/3.5.
When using this lens, I was using my trusty Leica M3 which suits 50mm's very well. For the first day of owning this lens I shot around London and quickly found some of the unusual quirks about this lens. For me one of the most interesting things was the aperture ring. From F/2 to F/8 are evenly spaced with half stop increments then F/11 and F/16 are in full stop increments. Though this wasn’t an issue for me if I had been shooting slide film at the time or photographing landscapes this may cause an inaccurate exposure. Another aspect to note about this lens is the focusing ring. Like with many collapsible lenses the focus ring is quite small and I felt myself pinching it rather than gripping it. Though some people will not see this as a problem it is something that should be noted.
After owning this lens for over two months I can safely say that it’s a good performer and should highly be considered if it can be found at a good price. When shot wide open this lens renders in a very classic way with dreamy backgrounds and razor-sharp centers. Due to the low element count this lens handles contrast very well giving rich images with a huge amount of depth. Though this lens isn't designed to be shot stopped down I decide to shoot some architecture around swiss cottage. This lens is super sharp and shows no signs of distortion.
For many people this may be a perfect lens. It has classic characteristics while retaining a modern build and modern coatings. It is defiantly a unique lens that is often overlooked when searching for a 50mm. Even though Zeiss and Leica both offer a wide selection of 50mm F/2 lenses but the Voigtlander is vastly different to both of their offerings. I think the reason this lens is not as popular is because it was part of a limited edition run and was paired with the camera. If you can find one of these for around £500 I'd say go for it. After owning this lens, I swapped it for a Zeiss 50mm F/2 and after using that lens for a month I ended up selling it as it was nowhere close to the Voigtlander 50mm F/2 in terms of character and ergonomics.