Voigtlander Color-Skopar 20mm f/3.5 SL - first impressions

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by truman_le_sueur, Apr 3, 2009.

  1. Hi! I just received my new Voigtlander Color Skopar 20mm F3.5 SLII Aspherical lens in Nikon AIS mount today from Steve Gandy at Camera Quest. I opened up the box, played with the lens a bit, put it on my D300 and shot a few small jpgs outside (it's cold, gray and cloudy today here in Wisconsin USA). Below are my intial impressions. Over the weekend, I'd be happy to shoot a few more photos and post some further updates if you'd like.
    1. I could not believe how small and lightweight the lens is (only 200 grams). My Zeiss ZF 35mm F/2 at 600mm seems huge compared to this tiny lens. My first words upon taking it out of the box were - "Is that all there is to it"? It's by far the smallest lens I've ever owned. If you are looking for something lightweight in this focal length to pack light, this is the lens for you.
    2. The Voightlander front lens cap is pretty cheap and flimsy. I will replace it with one of my 52mm Nikon caps.
    3. It was harder to mount this lens onto my D300 than any other lens I've ever owned. Actually, I like that. It definitely gave me the impression that it fits really tightly onto my camera body. I suspect this "tightness" might be advantageous at keeping dust out and maintaining proper lens alignment.
    4. The focusing ring is firm, with a similar precision feel as the Zeiss ZF 35mm F/2. It takes 180 degrees to rotate the ring from infinity to 20 centimeters - not an issue one way or the other to me as I will almost always use it prefocusing using hyper focus.
    5. The aperture clicks in whole stops between 3.5 and 22. Nothing special here, similar to most of the manual Nikkors I've owned (e.g. 20mm F2.8 AIS, 24mm F2.8 AIS, 28mm F2 AIS, 28mm F2.8 AIS, 28mm F3.5 non Ai).
    6. Overall mechanical impression - good. Not quite up to the Zeiss ZF standards, and on a par with a new Nikkor AIS wide prime lens (which is very very good).
    7. The image you see in your viewfinder is not very bright. Buy I guess that's a function of it being a F3.5 lens.
    8. One Japanese reviewer commented that this lens has some barrel distortion. It did not notice any unacceptable level of barrel distortion, but I shoot landscapes, not architecture.
    9. The colors right out of the camera I'd describe as vivid, yet natural. By my eye, I like the colors better than my nikkors or the Zeiss ZF 35mm.
    10. I could see no visible CA. This is a big deal to me! The Zeiss 35mm ZF F/2 had so much purple fringing at high contrast edges that I sold the lens a few months ago. I've never had any significant trouble with CA on any of the Nikkor wides primes I've owned, or with the Nikkor 17 - 35mm F/2.8 zooms I've owned (2).
    11. The shaddow detail seems pretty good.
    12. Seems much sharper in the corners than the Nikkor 20mm F2.8 AIS.
    13. One characteristic that is very important to me (that I hope to check out this weekend) is sharpness of the lens both near and far (at infinity) when stopped down to F8, F11, and F16. I was blown away by the close sharpness of the Nikkor 28mm F2.8 AIS, but it was not that sharp at infinity. If this lens is sharp up close AND at infinity, I've got a keeper here.
    More to come...
  2. Photo of my D300 with the new 20mm lens on it...
  3. Photo at F16
  4. Test photo at F16
  5. Another small jpg test photo at F16
  6. Thanks for the impressions. I'm curious if anyone has tried one yet with a full-frame D700?
  7. Thanks for sharing. It really looks tiny, like my Nikkor 20/3.5 AI.
    When it comes to sharpness at infinity with manual focus lenses I found that the calibration of the register distance on the body combined with the calibration of the infinity mark on the lens is super important. On one body a lens can be super sharp at infinity and the same lens on another body could be soft at infinity. And the lens would be equally sharp at close distance on either body.
  8. It looks very nice Truman. thanks for your comments.
  9. Thanks for the review. I'm quite interested in a light weight wide angle.
    The 14-24 is very good, but heavy.
    Will you be able to try this lens on your D3X anytime soon? :)
    I'm curious how the lens performs on FX cameras.
  10. Looks good. Those shots of tree branches against an overcast sky will ruthlessly reveal any CA, and I don't see any in your photos.
  11. I would be very interested to see how this lens does on FX. How does it handle flair? If its much better than my 20mm f2.8 AIS I might just have to bit the bullet and get one. In this case I would trade speed for size without question.
  12. Unfortunately, I do not have an FX body to test it with. I would be happy to test for flare if someone would tell me how to do it.
    Been out doing some further testing this morning. Yesterdays photos were shot hand held at the smallest JPG setting I've got on my D300. Today I'm shooting: tripod, shutter delay, 14 bit RAWs (and it's a sunny day for a change).
    1. I can say now that if you've got a bright spot (or a strong) reflection in the image and this lens is at F11 or F16 you will get very nice 18 pointed stars, (because of the 9 blade shutter). I used to have a star filter. These stars are much smaller and less obvious than those garish stars the star filter produced.
    2. At arround F13, F14, the sharpness of this lens both in the close foreground and at infinity is nothing short of spectacular. I'm still working to find my sweet spot (i.e. what my optimum hyper-focus setting is). What I've found is that everything from about 1 meter in front of the lens to infinity is extremely sharp. I'm taking pictures of two foot signs with 2 inch letters at about 100 yards and every word is readable! Once I've nailed my settings, I'll make another post with what they are and a few sample images. With my old Nikkors, I'd pixel peep at 100%. With this new lens, I'm pixel peeping at 200% and 300%.
  13. Thanks for posting this. I have been looking for something similar. I may look into getting one.
  14. Here's a photo from today (Saturday).
  15. Here's another photo
  16. Save up and get the 14-24mm f/2.8 AFG Nikkor-N. OK it's nearly 4 times the price of the Cosinalander and several times the weight and size, but it has to be THE world's best ultra wideangle lens. It replaces 4 or 5 primes in one, so its cost effectiveness somewhat makes up for the hefty price tag. I have never seen such clean corner definition as the 14-24 Nikkor provides - on full frame and wide open - easily better than any wideangle prime that I've seen so far.
    If I want small and lightweight I have my old MF Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 Ai lens, which can be picked up used for almost pocket change these days.
  17. Mr Rodeo, you say "the Nikkor 14-24 is easily better than any wideangle prime that I've seen so far". I believe that - but I expect that you probably have not personally tried either this new Voigtlander 20mm or the new Zeiss ZF 21mm F2.8 lenses.
    I for one would love to see a seasoned lens tester compare these three lenses. I expect we'd all learn something.
  18. So when you have the sun or bright spot it just stars. I get aperture reflections doing this with the 20mm f2.8 plus soft corners open on FX.
    The 14-24mm reads fine except for me I don't need that range, weigth, size or price. I do what to be able to use a filter. If I wanted a zoom the Nikkor 17-35mm would be my choice.
    Thanks for the review and I am glad you are happy with it!
  19. Hello, I just received my new Voigtlander 20mm also. Jury is out as goes the bokeh, which is a bit angular in shape. Any new user experiences here regarding this subject? Thank you.
  20. I have ben shootingmore pictures over the last couple of days, and this lens is proving to be quite nice, despite my initial posting concern above. I do get a bit of overexposure by about 1-1.5 stops when mounted on my D300. Iam hoping that this is not going to be an issue, like with the first generation Voigtlander SL-I chipped lenses. When corrected, this little lens, and it IS little, seems to capture some outstanding detail within the composed picture. Flowers to wide landscapes capture a lot of detail. I will try to post pics when I have opportunity to resize them to crrect proportions for this forum. If anyone has some examples of their pictures taken with this lens, especially comments about bokeh shown I would appreciate hearing about it. Thank you.
  21. Help me out guys! Iā€™m thinking of getting one of these beauties for an entry-level body, and I just wanna make sure I understand exactly how it works.
    1. select focus point on camera, set distance & aperture on lens (if u have to), then frame shot
    2. half-press shutter. if the subject is already in focus (at f8, for example), then focus indicator light flashes & u just fully press the shutter. OR
    3. half-press button and if focus indicator light does not come on, turn focus ring until it does flash up. Then fully press button.
    The reason why I wanna be absolutely clear about it is that I have a small, dark viewfinder, so I would have to rely on the focus indication provided by the chip in the lens, unless I wanna drain the battery through live view, zoomed in 10x. Is the above process correct?
    Thx a million
  22. Gary - focusing MF lenses on most dSLR's goes something similar to the steps you lay out. The better the viewfinder the better you will be able to set and confirm focus using the glass screen in the viewfinder. When I used AI and AI-s lenses on my D80 I sometimes looked for the focus indicator button but usually did not and relied on focusing based on what I saw.

    Check out this other active thread talking about focusing screens for lots more discussion...
  23. Gary, the process described by you is fairy correct. With such a wide lens, the depth of field is very large and it is very difficult to assess precise focus even with big and bright pentaprism viewfinders. That's why having focus confirmation in viewfinder is very useful no matter what body you use.

    The large depth of field also makes the "focus and recompose" technique very appropriate, but one must not forget that the chosen focus point has an important role in the exposure calculations made by matrix metering algorithms; if you don't' use manual exposure or exposure lock before recomposing, you may end up with different results than you had expect. Not to mention here about the weird chip put in Cosina-Voigtlander SLII series, which overexpose by over 1 stop when using matrix metering (anyhow, that's the case with Nikon).

    However, the procedure described is useful when you want something in focus and you're not interested in anything else; that is generally the case with close subjects and/or open apertures, but hardly the common use of a 20mm f/3.5. If you use the 20mm for landscape shots, for which in general you're after bringing as much in focus as possible, from close foreground to distant background, then I suggest you make use of the depth of field to shoot at hyperfocal distance.
    Of course, you must first establish a circle of confussion suitable for the final output (monitor/web view of different print formats); the general reccomandation for FF is to use a CoC of 0.025mm and for a 1.5crop sensor to use a CoC of 0.016mm (the Zeiss formula is sensor diagonal in mm divided by 1730). The DoF scales are somewhat different between brands, but the CoC by which the scale is manufactured is between 0.030 and 0.035mm, helas not quite adapted since the film era. For a crop-sensor body, you'll probably have to set the infinity mark to 5.6 but shoot at f/11.

    For me, this is the way I use the 20mm almost all the time. I adapt these calculations based on the importance of the foreground/background elements in the frame and then I compose the frame, keeping a close eye only on exposure and not care about focus confirmation.
  24. Thx Tony & Dominic, you've been very helpful!

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