Voigtlander Heliar 50mm f1.5 Review (VM Classic) + YouTube
The Voigtlander Heliar 50mm f1.5 Classic is the new Voigtlander lens for Leica M mount, released September 2021. Following my YouTube review of the 50mm Voigtlander Heliar Classic 50mm f1.5 lens here is a written post with more photos from my trip to Poland and additional information.
Is the Voigtlander Heliar 50mm f1.5 really a bad lens?
From the thumbnail and title of my YouTube review you may expect this to be a bad lens. It is, but it was designed to be like this. Voigtlander bring us a new lens yet designed to render like a less perfect vintage lens (in very simple terms). The Heliar Classic 50mm f1.5 is less corrected in it’s optical design therefore being imperfect which in turn equates to a lens with more character.
Benefits of a new-old lens?
One huge benefit to having a brand new lens which renders more like an old lens is you can close focus the 50mm Heliar f1.5 to 0.5m. This is nothing new for modern Voigtlander lenses as many can focus to 0.5m but most old lenses can’t focus this close. Note, Leica M camera rangefinder only works to a close focus distance of 0.7m.
Leica M camera + Heliar 50mm limitations
The 0.7m rangefinder closer focus distance is only really a limitation on Leica M film cameras and the digital Leica M8 or Leica M9 (+ variants). With the Leica M240 and Leica M10 you can focus down to 0.5m using liveview (and or with a hotshoe EVF). For mirrorless Leica L mount cameras such as my Leica CL and Leica SL you can focus to 0.5m with ease via their built in electronic viewfinder.
Classic 50mm lenses are not perfect
Classic lenses tend to have a minimum close focus distance of 0.9m – 1m and I find this can be a limitation for portraits. This is only an issue on Leica M mount cameras as with L mount cameras you can use the 7Artisans close focus M-L adapter. This adapter is a game changer as my video confirms as it lets you close focus every Leica M mount lens (+ LTM lens) old or new.
Example photos at 0.5m and 1m distances
This shows how much closer 0.5m looks verses 1m. Both photos shot with the new Voigtlander Heliar Classic 50mm 1.5 on a Leica SL camera with no special close focus adapters.
New lens with warranty vs eBay headaches
Another advantage of buying a new-old lens, aka. the 50mm f1.5 Heliar Classic, is it comes boxed with a warranty. One problem with buying old lenses on eBay is ocassionally you can have issues with the seller or the lens is not as described. Common issues found with vintage lenses include scratches, haze, mould, fungus, cleaning marks, calibration and so on.
The advantage of buying used lenses on eBay is if you are patient you can sometime find real gems at a discounted price. I have bought many of my cameras and lenses on eBay and if there is ever an issue I just send them back for a refund. If you don’t have the time and patience to try to find a clean copy of an old lens you can now just order the Voigtlander Heliar 50mm f1.5 new and headache free.
Other Voigtlander Heliar lenses
If you are not aware there are four different 50mm Voigtlander Heliar lenses. Only two are current production lenses. The new Voigtlander Heliar 50mm f1.5 Classic and the Voigtlander Heliar 50mm f3.5 M mount lens shown in this video.
Voigtlander Heliar 50mm f1.5 photos
To test the 50mm Heliar f1.5 Classic lens I used two digital mirrorless cameras. The crop sensor APS-C Leica CL and the full frame Leica SL. Here are some Voigtlander Heliar 50mm f1.5 sample photos from each cameras edited with the MrLeica Leica SL preset pack.
Leica CL + Voigtlander 50mm f1.5 test photos
I only took a small sample of test photos using the Voigtlander Heliar Classic 50mm f1.5 VM lens on the crop sensor Leica CL camera. To see the fall off character from this lens I needed to use a full frame camera so I used the Leica SL. 50mm on the APS-C Leica CL equates to 75mm so that was also often too long for what I was trying to photograph.
Leica SL + Voigtlander Heliar 50mm f1.5 photos
Being a 50mm kinda guy I had the Voigtlander Heliar 50mm f1.5 lens on the full frame Leica SL camera for much of the time. (I did have the Voigtlander APO-Skopar 90mm f2.8 lens with me too if you want to see how the photos compare).
Voigtlander Heliar 50mm f1.5 portraits
Here are a few more portraits shot in Poland with the Voigtlander Heliar Classic 50mm f1.5 VM lens on the Leica SL full frame mirrorless camera. Click any image to view full res and to view the camera details. To see behind the scene videos from Poland visit Patreon.
Leica SL + Voigtlander Heliar 50mm f1.5 Portraits
More Voigtlander Heliar Classic 50mm f1.5 portrait photos using the Leica SL camera. The above portraits are full res edits. The photos shared below (and in the galleries above) are simple Lightroom exports, small size. Camera RAW files + MrLeica Leica SL Lightroom preset applied. You can find all my Leica presets here.