- Very compact and well-constructed lens
- Well damped focus and aperture rings
- Very sharp over the central portion of the image, with the edges moving into good territory stopped down
- Very nice color and contrast
- Good control of lateral chromatic aberration
- Very good flare resistance
- Corners are soft wide open and still show residual softness and smearing stopped down, especially on distant subjects
- Some purple fringing in backlit situations
- Moderately strong barrel distortion
- Very pronounced vignetting
The Voigtländer 12mm f/5.6 Ultra-Wide Heliar is a lens that lacks perfect sharpness or control of all lens aberrations, but it hits the mark well overall. Image sharpness is very good over the majority of the image frame, and stopped down it will work well in most situations, while leaving the corners still a bit soft or smeared. If this were a 24mm lens, corner sharpness like this wouldn’t be acceptable, but given the extreme focal length, it’s to be somewhat expected. Compared to something like the Sony 12-24mm f/4, the Sony is a bit sharper at the edges of the frame, but otherwise, the Voigtländer competes well at significantly lower cost and size. The lens has fairly strong vignetting and a fair bit of barrel distortion, but both can be corrected with a lens profile. The extreme ultra-wide segment is a battle of compromise, and I think Voigtländer has done a good job balancing those issues in the design of this lens. The result is a lens that is very small, and can complement a more traditional ultra-wide zoom to provide that bit of extra width without taking up a lot of space in the bag. The good sharpness and excellent color and contrast make it a lens that I really enjoy using.
While the 12mm has been discontinued by Voigtländer, it should be available on the used market for some time, so if you’re in the market for an extreme ultra-wide, but don’t want to spend thousands, the Voigtländer 12mm is a great option.
Click on an image to enlarge.
2 thoughts on “Review: Voigtländer 12mm f/5.6 Ultra Wide Heliar”
I have this lens and I agree with everything you’ve said about it. My only problem with it is learning to see in 12mm. This is a lens that requires a lot of practice and patience, at least for me it does. I may be wrong but it seems that for a lens like this to be effective I need to have a certain esthetic in mind and only put it on the camera when I find a shot that fits that esthetic.
This lens is amazing, a true work of art that can inspire and create truly dynamic photos. Since I first started photography I was drawn to wide angles, this lens, along with the 15mm Heliar, represent some of the best wide angles ever made. I own both and can’t imagine photography without them.
Here is sample I took with the 12mm Heliar: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54171644@N07/48130543857/