Fast M-Mount Portrait Lens
By Sandy Ramirez
May 5, 2011
Leica M-Mount rangefinder users want speed, but the price is steep. Can Cosina's latest 75mm lens compete with Leica and Zeiss for a third the price?
Voightlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 lens.
Rangefinders and their users live on speed. Optics faster than f/2 are the norm for most, with f/2.8 or f/4 begrudgingly accepted for optics that would other wise become too large, and therefore defeat the purpose of a rangefinder—a lightweight compact system that can produce outstanding images. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost. Rangefinder optics are usually not inexpensive. While a Canon 50mm f/1.4 EF lens may run you $450 or so, the same lens from Leica will run you about $3,700. The challenge here becomes finding a quality optic at a reasonable price.
Enter Voigtlander, a brand currently produced by Cosina in Japan. In recent years, Voigtlander has made a name for itself by producing just that—a quality, top-end optic for a reasonable cost that can be mounted on a M-compatible rangefinder. Some of it’s optics have become legendary (the 12mm f/5.6 Heliar and 40mm f/1.4 Nokton come to mind). With the new 75mm f/1.8 Heliar, the tradition continues.
The Heliar 75mm f/1.8 mounted on a Rangefinder
Coming in at nearly a third the price of its Zeiss or Leica competitors, the Heliar does not skimp on quality. The lens itself feels solid, with it’s machined metal barrel and knurled metal focusing ring and smooth action giving one a sense of confidence. This lens is a throwback to the solid lifetime investment mentality of lens construction from long ago. This is no plastic lens, but a beast of steel and glass, that when held in hand, let’s you know it is a solid contender.
In my short time with this lens, I was amazed by the image quality, especially wide open at f/1.8. a full ½ stop faster than either its Leica or Zeiss competitors. The draw is similar to the lenses of the 60’s—a look I love—with smooth bokeh and neutral coloring. From the short time I spent with this lens, I can honestly say it is one of the better portrait lenses currently available, no matter the mount or system. If you have a rangefinder with a M mount, do yourself a favor and get the Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8. You won’t be disappointed.
Mini-Portfolio of Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 lens
All photos shot at f/1.8 on a Leica M9. Photos for Adorama by Sandy Ramirez.