Lens review: Voigtländer 40mm f2.0

Posted by on Jul 25, 2012 in Gear Reviews | 10 Comments

If you’re searching for an ultra-high performance “pancake” prime with superior optics and build quality — look no further. The Voigtländer Ultron 40mm f2.0 SL-II is a must-have fixed lens. Admittedly, I’m a gear-head and love finely crafted equipment. The lens body on the Ultron exudes excellence: all anodized aluminum barrel and threads with a rubber-coated metal focus ring. The build quality is better than some of my Canon L-lens. The optics are exceptional: The aspherical lens offers fast, sharp images with minimal barrel distortion, no discernible chromatic aberration and minimal fall-off—even wide open. The close-up ring adapter doubles as a modest lens hood. The included 39mm close-up lens attachment allows you achieve close focus at 0.82ft (0.25m)—a lovely added bonus!

Voigtlander 40mm f2.0 SL-II aspherical lens

The Ultron is old-school: featuring an all-manual focus, but the smooth, well-dampened focus ring is accurate and easy to use. Despite the lack of auto focus, the Voigtländer Ultron 40mm SL-II has a built-in microchip that communicates with the aperture and shutter controls of the camera and works with the focus points in your AF viewfinder. Once you’ve dialed in the manual focus, the illuminated focus point and audible beep ensures a focused shot.

The perfect lighter weight, compact walk-around lens — great for landscapes, street photography, portraits and macro work.

I find this lens a perfect lighter weight, compact walk-around lens — great for landscapes, street photography, portraits and macro work. It’s not ideal for action shots due to manual focus. This lens replaces my inexpensive Canon 50mm f1.8. I think the 40mm is the perfect Goldilock lens length: more versatile than the 50mm (sometimes too long) or the wide 35mm (sometimes too short with more barrel distortion).

The Voigtländer Ultron 40mm bokeh (aesthetic quality of intentional out-of-focus image) is fair and at times disappointing. At 40mm, you’re not going to achieve the same creamy soft blurry background that a long lens produces. The 9-blade aperture makes for a round and pleasing aperture at most settings, but the nearly round polygonal bokeh shapes are—at times—layered, like an onion when observed at magnification. Given the terrific overall quality of the lens, this subtle irregularity can be overlooked by all but the most discriminating photographer.

The Voigtländer Ultron 40mm f2.0 SL-II is a fun lens and lightens the load on your DSLR camera. While the retail price is steep (around $500), the quality optics, impeccable build, and natural angle of view found in a 40mm standard lens (close to how one’s eye perceives objects) make the Voigtländer Ultron 40mm f2.0 a high-value addition to your prime lens collection. This review was performed on the Canon EF mount. Voigtländer offers a Nikon mount as well.

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  1. Toad Hollow Photography
    July 25, 2012

    GREAT new site, Chris, I am really enjoying the presentation and navigation here! This is a great post, my friend, really an in-depth look at what appears to be a great lens. Can’t wait to see what you publish next!
    Toad Hollow Photography recently posted..Arriving In StyleMy Profile

    • Chris Wray
      July 25, 2012

      Many thanks for stopping by, Toad! Appreciate the feedback.

  2. Larry Miller
    February 18, 2013

    Just ordered the 40 F2 and the 28 F2.8. Can hardly wait to run them through some tests. From what I see, it looks like I’ll be taking these with me on a two week trip. I’ve always liked the 40-45mm lenses and the 28mm focal length. Light weight is important. Just don’t shoot with heavy zooms anymore. These two lenses plus my Nikkor 85 F1.8 should do just fine on the trip. Great review.

    • Chris
      February 18, 2013

      Thanks for stopping by. Have fun with your new Voigtländer lenses!

  3. Larry Miller
    May 8, 2013

    OK, got back from my two week April trip with the two new Voigtlander lenses. They really performed well. 95% of the time shot both at F8. The 28-40-85 combination turned out to be the perfect setup to take on a 3000+ mile road trip. The 28-40 combo really seemed very light on the F2 & F3. Man, Cosina sure built these lenses well. Better than those “plastic wonders” of Nikon’s. On a scale of 1-10, I would rate the 28 & 40 a nine. End of story!

    • Chris
      May 11, 2013

      Thanks for your update, Larry. Sounds like your Voigtländer lens combinations performed well for you. Can you post a link to your images?
      Chris recently posted..Studio tips: tropical bird photographyMy Profile

      • Larry Miller
        February 20, 2015

        Actually Chris I shoot film only. Not sure exactly how to post those pictures. I will tell you however the color and resolution on these lenses are A+. Don’t miss the Nikkors they have replaced. Great site buddy.

  4. Larry Miller
    November 6, 2015

    Took a 6000+ mile road trip in September to Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. Took the 28-40-85 combo again. The trio help up very well. Again, I shot 90% using the 40mm. I think I’m addicted to that lens! I personally would like to thank the folks at Cosina-Voigtlander for making this 40mm. It’s a gem!

  5. James
    February 28, 2016

    I don’t think the price is steep, I think this is a bargain for what you’re getting, a lens as good as a leica/zeiss lens, a great prime to have.

    • Larry Miller
      March 16, 2016

      Amen James…


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