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Voigtlander 12mm f/5.6 II Ultra Wide Heliar Leica M Mount Lens Review

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We are working to fill out the last of our Leica M mount lenses. Right now we have 35,50,90 in the kit and a 28mm on the way. We tried, but didn’t gel with the M39 mount Leica 135mm F14.5 Hektor.


Instead of looking for another focal length longer than 135mm we went the other direction and opted for the super – wide!


There was a decision between three wides – 12mm, 15mm, and 21mm.


Already having an equivalent21mm field of view with the Ricoh GR III, our sight turned to the 12 and 15. Both in the world of Voigtlander. Based on our research, both lenses are good, but the 15mm is very close to 21mm so we go for the even wider 12mm! It did not hurt that the price of the 12mm used was just over $300 USD.


Some say that working with the super wide 12mm can be challenging. Let’s go on a fun journey together and see what we can do with this Heliar!


Disclosure were post processed to my liking and in various styles. Some were processed from RAW and others may be custom film simulations that were run in camera.




Super wide and a large front element, this lens does have some weight to it, but it is small due to the aperture being f/5.6 to start.


The aperture ring is setup for 1/2 stops and you can tell by feel where you are. I did find it rather easy to accidentally move the aperture ring, so sometimes it got shifted half a stop from my desired setting.


I found it easy to determine by feel the difference between the aperture and focus ring.




Weather Sealed


Not sure of the weather sealing, but it should survive a few drops from a light shower. However, please make your own decision on what you feel is an acceptable risk on weather sealing claims and the conditions you will be shooting in.






Image Quality
So here is what most want to know. This is a sharp lens – full stop. I am pleasantly surprised that a wide angle lens is this well corrected and sharp. This will by my first foray into an m-mount wide angle. This is not our first time using wide angle lenses though as me have used fisheye and 10-12 mm rectilinear before.


We can compare against those. This lens is better than those fisheye and wide angle zoom lenses. It should given the asking price for the m mount 10 through 15mm wides.


Since Leica cameras do not have a viewfinder frame lines for these wide angles, your options are guessing, getting a hot shoe viewfinder that matches the field of view of the lens, or if so equipped using the live view feature on your digital Leica.


The biggest downside of this lens? The heavy vignetting. It does have noticeable edge and corner darkening/vignette. If shooting JPG, you’ll have to manually deal with that. However, shooting DNG/RAW – you can use the lens profile in Lightroom to correct it pretty well.






Focus on this lens has a very deep depth of field. You could basically set this thing to it’s hyperfocal stetting or infinity and use it as a point and shoot. This will give you more time to focus on composition. Rangefinder coupling works, but is not as critical due to the focal length and the generous depth of field.


For almost all these shots, except the street art shots, the lens was set to f/11 and infinity and I just snapped away!


While you can use the rangefinder for focusing, framing was done using the Live View screen. It was not easy in the daylight as the rear screen is reflective – but we made it work. In the future we will see about getting a 12mm viewfinder for the hotshoe to make framing easier.








OIS (Optical Image Stabilization)
This lens has no VR built into it nor do any Leica bodies in the rangefinder style that I am aware. If that is a need then this may not be the camera system for you! However, m-mount lenses are very adaptable to many mirrorless systems, so you could take advantage of those alternative systems that have IBIS and use these very sharp m-mount lenses there!




Bottom Line
This is not a pick up and use it kind of lens. This takes some thinking, pre-planning. I would not consider this a walk about or everyday use lens – but something you would take for a specific application.


When you get it right, the images are satisfying. I look forward to using this lens more in the future and getting to know it’s strengths.


Bottom Line = Highly Recommend, but this is not an easy lens to just pick up and use. It will take some practice to get used to the wide angle, how it renders the subjects in the frame.





















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I shoot Nikon, Olympus, Minolta, Pentax and Leica.  Probably not enough!  LOL

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