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Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6 review: Compact, lightweight crazy W-I-D-E

There aren’t too many wide-angle lenses out there that go much wider than 12mm. This is part of the reason why I was so intrigued with the Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6.

As a real estate photographer here in Southwest Florida, there is always an occasion when I wish a lens could go even wider. It’s one of the widest rectilinear lenses available in the marketplace today. I had to give the Voigtlander a shot!

Small and compact for something that affords this vast field of view, I was expecting a much more substantial presence to the lens. By comparison, most of the wide-angle zooms I use are big and heavy. Sure the 10mm is maxes out its aperture at f/5.6, but I was still expecting bigger and heavier. Most real estate and architectural photographers won’t often shoot wide-open, even on fast aperture glass. In fact, they’re usually somewhere between f/5.6 and f/11.

So in that sense, the Voigtlander hits the sweet spot. But is it any good? Let’s take a look!

Pros

  • Extraordinarily wide rectilinear (non fisheye) lens
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Excellent build quality
  • Excellent image quality in the frame center

Cons

  • Heavy vignetting wide-open
  • Frame edge image quality falls off compared to frame center
  • Not weather sealed
  • Leica version of the lens is more expensive than other versions

Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6 — Technical specifications

Super small, but also super wide! Built to a very high standard.

All specifications for the Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6 are directly from the B&H website:

  • Focal Length: 10mm
  • Max Aperture: f/5.6
  • Minimum Aperture: f/22
  • Angle of View: 130°
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 1.6′ / 50 cm
  • Elements/Groups: 13/10
  • Aperture Blades: 10, Rounded
  • Focus: Manual Focus
  • Dimensions: 2.7 x 2.3″ / 67.8 x 58.7 mm
  • Weight: 11 oz / 312 g

Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6 — Ergonomics and build quality

Compare and contrast! The lens on the right is my bread and butter lens that I use on my Nikons, the 14-24 “S” — and it’s awesome! But the size and weight advantage of the Voigtlander cannot be overstated.

The first thing that struck me about the Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6 was the — relatively — paltry size and weight. As a real estate photographer, I photograph with wide-angle lenses all the time. Most of them are wider aperture, zoom lenses. As result, they are several orders of magnitude larger and heavier than the tiny Voigtlander.

The max f/5.6 aperture isn’t much of a handicap for me because I’m always trying to get everything in focus. Meaning that even on my wide-aperture zoom lenses, I’m still shooting at f/8 most of the time. The faster glass is nice, but it’s often not necessary given the subject matter the lens was designed to capture.

The lens compliments the small and compact Leica M bodies (like the Leica M10 I’ve been using) beautifully. As a completely manual lens, both the aperture and focus ring are manipulated by the photographer. The aperture ring clicks softly from setting to setting, but it’s not that tight, which means it’s easy to unintentionally knock it from its intended setting. In fact, this has happened to me on multiple occasions.

The zoom ring is dampened perfectly to my hands. Made almost completely out of metal, the build is robust and solid. On the downside, the lens is not weather sealed.

Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6 — In the field

I recently purchased my first Leica camera — I bought a used Leica M10-P “Safari Edition” — it’s a lovely, old-school-style camera that really forces you to think before you press the shutter. Everything is manual and as the photographer, I have to slow and contemplate every shot carefully.

The Voigtlander 10mm goes hand in hand in this arrangement. More often than not, I’ll have this combo with me to capture nighttime shots of the city’s landmarks. I’d use this camera and lens combo to take a break from my usual workflow to create images for me. That’s exactly what I’ve done.

Leica range finder series of cameras weren’t designed to be used with ultrawide lenses like this. The range finder won’t work with this lens because the field of view of the lens is considerably wider than the optical range finder. Making live view or the optional visoflex type 20 EVF a necessity. I have the visoflex and the scene is rendered very crisply and clearly and the full field of view of the Voigtlander 10mm is visible.

Carrying the lens and camera around on a tripod is light and easy. I love this set up for long exposures in the city.

Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6 — Image quality

This is the portion of the review that surprised me the most. I suspected a lens at this price point wouldn’t be optically, technically very good. I was wrong, dead wrong. The frame center is critically sharp, as we move out toward the edges I find they are very good.

However, in the extreme corners, the edges do suffer. Although, when stopped down a bit to say f/8 the situation improves, it’s still nothing to write home about.

The lens’ biggest shortfall is with vignetting. This is hardly a surprise, given the ultra, ultrawide nature of the lens. Fortunately, Adobe Lightroom has the lens profile and much of that vignetting is removed in post.

The 10 blade aperture gives us killer sun stars and light stars, you either love them or hate them, I love them, and the Voigtlander knocks it out of the park! Given the ultrawide nature of the lens, getting any sort of subject isolation is near impossible. Unless the subject is right up to the minimum focus distance.

Pro rip: We buy a lens like this to render the entire scene in sharp focus. We don’t buy it for subject isolation and bokeh. All in, for its intended purpose, the Voigtlander 10mm excels!

Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6 — Ultrawide perfection for Leica

For its intended purpose of ultrawide cityscapes or landscapes, I think the Voigtlander 10mm is a gem of a lens. However, I can see some value in really tight situations like the small rooms in a house or restrooms on a yacht. The extra 1 (or 2) millimeters on the wide end can make a significant difference in what we’re able to fit into a shot.

Given its unique superpower of being one of the few lenses out there that can shoot this wide, at this price, I think the 10mm is of good value. It’s not a cheap lens, but given its compact size and ability, it’s a difficult lens not to highly recommend!

What have been your experiences with the Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6? Sound off in the comments below!

Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 Aspherical Lens

Offering an incredibly wide field of view while maintaining a rectilinear design, the Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 Aspherical Lens from Voigtlander is designed for 35mm film and full-frame digital M-mount cameras, and features an updated Heliar design to limit distortion and maintain consistent sharpness and illumination to suit mirrorless camera designs. The lens also uses a manual focus design to permit fine-tuned control over focus placement, with a minimum focusing distance of 1.6′, and a built-in petal-style lens hood is also featured to reduce flare and ghosting, as well as protect the front lens element.