Ultra-Wide Angle Optics, 15mm and 16mm

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by al_kaplan|1, Sep 17, 2005.

  1. I know that a good number of us own the Voigtlander 15mm Heliar and a
    few have the 12mm. Does anybody here own the M mount Zeiss Hologon
    lens that was marketed by Leitz, or the Zeiss Hologon camera with
    fixed lens? At the time they were both failures on the market. I
    wonder if there are any snobs who won't buy the Japanese made Heliar
    but would gladly spend 5 or 10 times as much for a made in Solms
    genuine Leica 15mm lens? What are your thoughts on this?
  2. Al, I have never tried the Zeiss Hologon, but I'd tried the Heliar, and all I can say that it's only good because it's cheap. Definitely not what I'd consider Leica or Zeiss standard. I remember it was ok sharp and distortion free, but vignetted horribly. The Leica 15mm R looked amazing, and I'd expect the same from the ZM 15mm Distagon. Of course they are probably more than 10 times more expensive too. However, I can see how people who need it for serious architectural work (or whatever one does with an ultrawide) might appreciate it. So I think calling them snobs would be too harsh.
  3. Over 10,000 posts? Get a life, Al... : )

    I saw Luigi offering one of these 15mm M-mount Zeiss Hologons a couple of years ago for around $8,000-$10,000.
  4. Al, the last time I saw a Hologon-M it went for $7000, a bit more than 5 or 10x the cost of a Heliar! And I recall seeing mint ones go for as much as $12-$15 thousand at the height of the Japanese collecting frenzy back in the late 90s. I don't know what they're selling for nowadays but if a mint one came along at 5x the price of the Heliar I think I might seriously consider it, after all it's a piece of history.

    Max, in re the vignetting, the Hologon came with a graduated center filter for exactly that reason, it vignettes severely. You ought not compare it to the 15mm R lenses, they are completely different animals. For the brief time I owned the 15/3.5 Super-Elmar I was delighted with its performance, though it's front lenscap weighed as much as my Heliar!
  5. Max, the Hologon vignetted badly also, so much so that it was supplied with a center filter that cut your exposure by 2 stops when you needed even coverage. If you're using a lens for pro uses the new Zeiss and Leica R lens prices might easily be justified. My thoughts were more about the type of buyer who just must have "The Best" and only in pristine perfect condition. I used to have Vivitar 20 and 24mm lenses in Leicaflex T-4 adapters that I used on my SL and R4s and had no complaints from clients. They were good enough for use in grand opening brochures and/or newspaper ads for several Miami area malls including The Mall at 163rd St., Omni International Mall, Dadeland Mall, and Loemann's Plaza.
  6. I seem to remember that Leitz closed out those 15mm Hologons for a mere $1,200 each with the center filter and finder because they couldn't sell the things. That was still a pile of money 30 years ago!
  7. Al

    I don't think it is a question of being snobs...it is just being practical. Would I spend that kind of money for a 15mm lens (Hologon)...no. The ZM Distagon sounds pretty nice but like the Heliar it is fairly slow. I prefer to use the heck out of my 21mm Biogon and 21mm Color Skopar but when it comes to something wider I'll use my other camera system and the wider, faster, inexpensive, high quality glass that is available.
  8. Al,-- I bought one of the Zeiss Hologon cameras because it was MUCH
    cheaper than the lens in an M mount. As I recall, it was labeled as
    a Contarex Hologon, but it had none of the features of the Contarex. Got rid of it a long time ago.

    I have been told that the Zeiss 16mm Distagon is an order of magnitude
    better than the Hologon and much faster too. Only 1 millimeter longer.

  9. Well, this Leica snob, when he decides to get a 15mm, will go for the Heliar. I like the best, but there are limits, and I have to draw the line somewhere.

    I don't usually think "I won't use this too often, it doesn't have to be that good" "I will just use this occasionally, cheap is good enough." Or, "I'm just an amateur, what do I need with such a good camera (or lens)." I usually figure than when I need it, I want it to be good. But I guess there is room for such thinking, especially along the lines of "I'll start with this inexpensive one, and if I use it much, I'll upgrade."

    I bought (asked my wife for) a russian Zenitar fisheye. I just couldn't see shelling out hundreds for a Nikkor or Leica one. I've used it for a few shots, not too often. It's nicely made, looks good, the pictures are fine, and you know, I can say, "For something I don't use that much, it's good enough" especially since I can't find anything wrong with it in the first place. But of course I had to have a 21mm ASPH, and that is in addition to the 21mm SA f/3.4 I already had. So there's over $2500 in used lenses right there, that don't get used every week. I needed the 21mm for a shot of Landscape Arch last year. And I took a shot with it last week. So that justifies it right there, sort of.

    Experience with a couple of lenses like the Zenitar and an occasional Tokina or Vivitar have shown me that not every lens has to cost a fortune to be adequate. So the answer is "No, I would get the VC lens in this case."
  10. The 15mm f/8 Hologon (integrated in a Zeiss Ikon camera) is a rectlinear lens just like the 15mm f/4.5 superwide heliar. Recently, a Zeiss Hologon 15mm was sold for the Contax G series cameras.

    The 16mm f/2.8 Distagon is a fish eye lens.

    I have no experience with the hologon (seen them around) or distagon. I do use a CV 15mm lens.
  11. "Recently, a Zeiss Hologon 15mm was sold for the Contax G series cameras."

    I meant- In the recent times (before the demise of Kyocera Contax 35mm), Zeiss Hologon 15mm lenses were sold for the Contax G series cameras.
  12. When my ship sails in, I might check out the Hologon as I complete my transition from shooter to (gasp) shooter/collector. But that ship is still a long way over the horizon. Meanwhile, I have found absolutely nothing to complain about the 15mm VC Heliar and have posted a lot of shots taken with that lens. I haven't noticed enough vignetting to put me off. I am also saving up for an adapter to mount my 15mm f3.5 SMC Pentax-M on my Leicas. That's another rectilinear super-wide that's given me awesome results, but proved rather heavy to lug around. I like the Pentax 15mm for Black and White, and its built-in filters. That's a sweet, but BIG honkin' lens.

    The 12mm is an interesting lens, but it is really, really hard to manage properly. My results with that baby have been very hit-and-miss.

    I used to be a very heavy 21-28-50 user, or 15-21-35-75/90 user. Lately, I'v found myself leaving the 21 at home and just taking the 15. Maybe it's just a passing phase. I've had them before.
  13. One US dealer had a Leica Mt Zeiss for sale for months at $2500 a few years ago. Mint condition

    The was a comparison review in Leica Photography when the Heliar came out. The Zeiss was a fixed F8 and 16 with the center filter. Al would probably like it as he could get his knuckles in the pic in addition to his elbow as it is a very flat lens (humor attempt).

    At f8, the Heliar was as good for a fraction of the price.

    I`ll stay with my Heliar. The Leica one will be $5000. Now guys who are chomping for a digi Leica RF will need one for their wide shots.

    The 12 vignettes so I start all the prints thru a board with a 6"hole in it, then raise it up to finish the print. Comes out perfectly. Al could use this one too so we could see if he wears shoes in Florida ( more Humor).
  14. Al, as often you posting your pics taken wtih the CV 15, I do not see why Leica couldn't use you as their representative for the 15mm SLR lens. They ought to just give you lens, you know.
  15. "Recently, a Zeiss Hologon 15mm was sold for the Contax G"<p>That was a 16mm.
  16. I wouldn't mind getting a free 15mm lens from Leica! I guess that next week when I go to the Leica Demo Day at Dale I'll be carrying an M2-R body with a 21/3.4 Super Angulon and stick the 15 Heliar in a pouch, at least while I'm around the Leica rep...LOL

    As for my footwear, I have a collection ranging from lace-up cap toes to sneakers but I uusually wear leather boat shoes with no socks when I'm wearing jeans. Dang, you guys can get nosey!
  17. My 15 mm Heilar is a very nice lens. The build quality of my 21 Asphere Elmarit is better, but optically, it's in the same league.

    It doesn't couple with the rangefinder. Hardly matters, though.
  18. OCULUS New York

    OCULUS New York Still shooting, but posting less here.

    Hi all, I have the 15 Heliar and (two) Zeiss Distagon 16s for Rolleiflex 35s. (The user version is about to be offered for sale). There is no comparison. The Zeiss produces magnificent frames, the Heliar is a proverbial sideshow piece.

    Here is a sample of the Zeiss (sorry, but I no longer have anything from the Heliar posted to my pages).

    Ya gets whats ya pay for.
    Ray Hull
  19. I remember reading a review of the 15mm Zeiss Hologon compared to the VC Heliar (I thought it was here) with pictures showing center and edge comparisons. I seem to recall it was about a year after the Heliar's release. The review (wherever it was) gave a slight edge to the Hologon, but it was so slight that's when I decided to buy the Heliar.

    In any case, as seldom as I use my 15mm, it will suffice until something extraordinary comes along.

    BTW, I personally refuse to buy the Zeiss 15mm T* in M mount (no matter how good it is) because an M-mount lens in the $4,000 price neighborhood should couple to the RF irregardless of the wide DOF. Plus, I also seem to recall hearing Leica has one up their sleeves for the near future.
  20. Occulus-- Good photo! Where does Vivek get the idea that the 16mm
    Distagon is a fish-eye lens? It is obvious from your photo that it is not.

  21. No complaints using the CV 15mm ... used it all morning at a street festival mounted on a Bessa L, alternating with a Hexar AF 35mm ... I almost always use mine at f16 though ... all afternoon I was out on the bike using a Tokina 17mm on a Minolta XD11 ... I find a lot of use for ultra wides ...
  22. Once upon a time I bought a Contax G2 so that I could enjoy the Zeiss Hologon 16 offered in Contax G system mount. Slow but a very good lens. I then acquired a Leica CL and CV 15, did a bit of comparison testing. The Hologon outperformed it on all counts, but I got more and better photographs with the CV 15 as it was simply easier to use more of the time.

    After a lot of photos, I decided that, for me, 15mm field of view was simply a little too wide for my taste: I couldn't really get comfortable with it. I went back to a 21mm, 90 degrees across the diagonal. That works for me. Moving to a Pentax DSLR, their DA14/2.8 lens gives me the same field of view and does the job well.

    Oxford Street Corner
    ©2005 by Godfrey DiGiorgi
    Pentax *ist DS + DA14mm f/2.8
    ISO 400 @ f/8 @ 1/250 sec, Av mode, +0.7EV
  23. Correction: Fisheye is the F-Distagon.

    And, yes the Contax G lens is a 16mm Hologon.
  24. In the sere and yellow leaf of my late middle age, I am coming to the conclusion that ultra wides -- including my beloved Hassie SWC/M are overrated.
  25. How so, Paul?

    I honestly think two factors are in play in your situation- 1. Getting used to the square format 2. Inadequate metering/scanning.

    I could be very wrong as well.
  26. [​IMG]
    Bride, Isle of Man
    ©2002 by Godfrey DiGiorgi
    Hasselblad 903SWC, Kodak TMax 100, HC-110 1:31 7min@72F

    The Hasselblad SWC, all models, is one of my favorite cameras. I'd wanted one for many years and obtained one in 2002. I used it for about a year: It made wonderful photographs, the field of view is near perfect for my ultrawide needs, and the big negative combined with that wonderful lens is amazing.

    Only reason for selling it was to fund more equipment that I use more frequently/ productively: my work has gone to digital capture in its entirety now. The Pentax DS with 14mm lens returns a similar field of view and not-quite-but-comparable image quality now.

  27. Ultrawides are just another tool in the toolbox. There are times one cannot do without them, especially in really close quarters ...
  28. One of the things I find with the Heliar is that it really creates deeply saturated blue skies. Here's a shot where the blue skies get so dark they are almost black ... but it isn't vignetting ... the lower corners are perfectly clean, and it was shot in bright sunlight at maybe f16.
  29. This isn't a pretty shot, but it was a challenging exposure, as I wanted the exterior to expose well, while maintaining detail in the shadowy interior. The Heliar was able to capture the interior of the bridge, while showing detail outside, along the two banks of the Thames ...
  30. I wouldn't say that the sky darkening is not from vignetting. I think it's a combination of vignetting plus the tendency of the sky to darken with increasing altitude. There is some vignetting in the lower areas, just not as obvious.
  31. The Heliar 15 has a lot of falloff (about 1.5 stops from center to corner) but doesn't
    vignette from my experience. Vignetting is caused by some component of the lens falling
    within the field of view, causing a shadow. Falloff comes from the fact that the lens' nodal
    point is very close to the film plane and the difference between the distance from nodal
    point to center vs nodal point to corner is relatively large.

    Most wide-angle lenses with a short nodal distance show falloff like this and it is
    exaggerated as the lens becomes shorter in focal length. The Heliar 15 is an inverted
    telephoto design, which helps ameliorate it somewhat, but it's not as strong an inverse
    telephoto as a similar focal length lens designed for an SLR, which would pull the nodal
    point further from the film plane and generally even the center to corner falloff a good

    The Zeiss Hologon 16 shipped with a custom graduated ND filter with 2 stops center
    density to counter this fall off issue. Without it, it has almost 2 stops of falloff to the
    corners because it is NOT an inverted telephoto design.

  32. Godfrey, your distinction between vignetting and fall-off is an important one. I don't doubt that the Heliar exhibits fall-off, and at its widest aperture, it may even be enough to look like vignetting. My understanding is that vignetting on any lens, if it occurs, is most likely and most pronounced wide-open, and this is probably because the lens is trying to gulp in light rays from the full circumference of the barrel and hence it's more likely that the barrel construction will occlude the corners. At f16, I'm sure there is some fall-off, but vignetting in the form of physical occlusion doesn't seem likely. Here's another shot where I think the tone of the corners is nice and even. At f16, I don't see physical vignetting, nor do I see significant fall-off.
  33. Incidentally, and quite O/T, I used a Minolta Spotmeter F to meter off the armoured shield of the Bofors, with the intention that that area come out neutral grey. Shot in color, desaturated to B&W, and it turned out pretty well. The more I try it, the more I think I am just going to standardize on Superia 400 and 100 for both color and black and white.
  34. Falloff is also a type of vignetting (the type that Godfrey is referring to is called mechanical vignetting). See http://www.vanwalree.com/optics/vignetting.html for a good intro.
  35. Tom, that link is a great inro. Thanks.
  36. Great page. Although I think the distinction between "optical/artificial vignetting" and
    "natural vignetting" is a bit of semantics, to some degree.

    Fred, I can certainly see the Heliar's known 1.5 stops of light falloff in that shot. Happily,
    color neg is very tolerant of exposure error and I think it actually helps in this instance.

    With a 15mm lens, f/16 is well beyond the point where diffraction begins to intrude
    seriously on resolution. Since I normally make 11x17 to 13x19 sized prints, I most
    normally used my Heliar 15 at f/5.6-f/8 (diffraction begins to intrude between f/6.3 and

  37. There is fall-off, just not enough to mind. It was a bright sunny day, so f16 was necessary ... under normal circumstances, I tend to use the Heliar at 5.6-8.
  38. My inside shots are all wide open at f/4.5 and outdoors during the day in the 5.6 to 8 range. Slow shutter speeds are likely to have a bigger effect on sharpness in low light than diffraction will outdoors. As for light fall-off, I usually edge burn my B&W prints anyway but with the 15 sometimes I do the opposite and "edge-dodge".

    Sometime soon I'm going to try some color with the 15, first time in the 3 or 4 years that I've had the lens! CVS Pharmacy has 24 exp. Fuji 200 on sale for $6.99 in the 5 pack, and I had a CVS coupon for $2.50 off on a $20 purchase so I bought 15 rolls yesterday. To sweeten the deal each box has a $1.00 of coupon for the next Fuji multi-pack purchase. I can't bulk load B&W that cheaply!
  39. I had the Heliar and yes, it is a fun lens. But for me it was too slow @ f/4.5. I
    can't imagine using a lens with a maximum opening of f/8! I sold the Heliar
    and used the cash to buy my 50mm Nokton which is now my fastest lens. [My
    widest now is the 21mm Elmarit (non-ASPH) which suits me just fine.]

    If I had the $$ to pay for 120/220 media, pro lab processing fees and a larger
    scanner, I agree with Godfrey: the Hassy SWC with its 38mm Biogon is a
    jewel of a wide angle camera and in a class by itself!
  40. "Slow shutter speeds are likely to have a bigger effect on sharpness in low light than diffraction will outdoors." Well said!
  41. .."Slow shutter speeds are likely to have a bigger effect on sharpness in low light than diffraction will outdoors." Well said!" ..

    Did someone say something about using f/16 in low light? In low light, most sensible photographers will use the Heliar wide open or, at most, stopped down one stop.

    Most sensible photographers will also use a tripod for low light work with an f/4.5 lens, or very high speed film. Very high speed film will have a greater effect on sharpness than diffraction as well.

  42. Fuji's really blowing out their color film at low prices, Al. I hope it isn't the fire sale, but I see the same in London as well.

    I'm starting to experiment a lot more with using color print film for both color and black and white. The fact that Superia might have a different sensitivity to colors than HP5 or FP4 doesn't bother me too much, at least not yet. "Color print film is more forgiving of exposure error" .... read: "more lattitude" ... read: "Can handle a wider tonal range without blowing out highlights or blacking out shadows". One can do a lot with those characteristics.
  43. I don't think I've ever used the Heliar at 4.5 ... simply because I didn't want to see the dreaded vignette. I've only ever stopped down to 5.6 or tighter.
  44. "BTW, I personally refuse to buy the Zeiss 15mm T* in M mount (no matter how good it is) because an M-mount lens in the $4,000 price neighborhood should couple to the RF irregardless of the wide DOF."

    You realize that the original Zeiss Hologon 15/8 fixed aperture lens also sis not couple to the RF. And it had only a rudimentary focusing scale that skipped from a few meters to infinity. At least the ZM lens has a diaphragm and opens to F/2.8. But it is true, I too would have like to see the lens coupled to the RF.

    I agree with several other posters that the 15/4.5 Heliar (which I have) is only mediocre in optical quality. It is inexpensive for a lens that wide but it is not in the same league as the Leica ASPH wide angle lenses. You get decent but entirely unspectacular optical quality with this lens.
  45. I just leave it focussed on one meter almost all the time. Even at f/4.5 the depth of field will cover you for nearly all inside shots. At f/8 DOF will be from about one half a meter to infinity.
  46. There is an old saw that the best lens is the one you have with you when the shot presents itself. In that sense, the Heliar is great, as the lens and finder easily fit in a pocket. It may not be perfect, but I would have missed a lot of shots for not carrying a bigger and heavier lens with me.
  47. I agree...

    Arundel Castle, UK
    ©2005 by Godfrey DiGiorgi
    Pentax *ist DS + DA14mm f/2.8
    ISO 200 @ f/11 @ 1/250 sec, Av mode

    A 'half-rez' version is available at

  48. Godfrey, where did you take that shot?
  49. It was taken from the walkway leading to the main entrance to the castle from the car park. I
    liked the sense of scale the 14mm allowed, from tiny flowers to the imposing structure of the
    castle on the hill.

  50. It's nice ... the composition works, and the field of flowers in the foreground makes it more than one's average shot of the average castle.
  51. Thank you! I appreciate the compliment. :)

  52. Just as an aside. There is a company that for about $550 US will convert all the contax G lenses (except the 90/2.8, last checked) to M moun, with all but the 16/8 being coupled. Not cheap, but for $1500 you could have a new Hologon M 16/8. Funny, but this service would be my first stop if I ever finally convert to M.
  53. Robert, who's the company that does the G lens to M conversions?

    Nik Recob

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