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View Poll Results: Which 35mm and/or 50mm lens do you prefer?
Voigtlander VM Ultron 35mm f1.7 11 20.37%
Zeiss Biogon ZM 35mm f2.0 32 59.26%
Voigtlander VM Nokton 50mm f1.5 13 24.07%
Zeiss Planar ZM 50mm f2.0 27 50.00%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 54. You may not vote on this poll

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Voigtlander VM versus Zeiss ZM
Old 06-20-2019   #1
lawrence
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Voigtlander VM versus Zeiss ZM

I'm interested to hear the preferences of those who have experience of these pairs of lenses. In other words, those who have tried either or both pairs of lenses.
  • Voigtlander VM Ultron 35mm f1.7
  • Zeiss Biogon ZM 35mm f2.0
  • Voigtlander VM Nokton 50mm f1.5
  • Zeiss Planar ZM 50mm f2.0
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Old 06-20-2019   #2
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Voigtlander VM Nokton 50mm f1.5
Zeiss Planar ZM 50mm f2.0

I had them at the same time.

VM. Odd body shape, stiff focus, so-so, self unscrewing shade. Sharp wide open with visible purple fringing sometimes. Very nice rendering BW on M-E and awesome bw negatives.
Odd shaped lens with good rendering, if not the best among many 50 RF lenses I have tried.
Sold it because it is no focus tab lens and focus was too stiff for reportage photography.

ZM. Most impressive packaging I ever seen. Even ZM filter was packaged like 10K$ item. Most clear glass I ever seen. Yet, this was my first and last ZM. Annoying wrestling of 1/3 aperture clicks. Walking on the streets or just switching shadows/sun at fire pit stop on the trail hike and wrestling it between f5.6 and f11 every time light is changing is annoying. Rudimentary focus tab. Makes it looks odd. Big lens with pimple. And absolutely flat rendering with not pleasing, green to blue shifted colors on M-E. I didn't bother to test in on film. I need lens which does well on both.
The only good thing about ZM I have - it has zero focus shift. I have tried Rigid, III and IV 50 Crons, they all have focus shift. III and IV ain't better in build quality than this ZM. If not worse. But how they render on M-E, ZM is not even close.
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Old 06-20-2019   #3
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I’ve only used the two ZMs and have no issues with either . Film only , B&W mainly but not exclusively.
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Old 06-21-2019   #4
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Well so far the Voigtlanders have been well and truly trounced in the poll but the reason is unclear. Any side by side comparison would be appreciated.
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Old 06-21-2019   #5
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All of them are lenses of high optical quality. I suspect favoring one over another involves some hair splitting.
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Old 06-21-2019   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steveyork View Post
All of them are lenses of high optical quality. I suspect favoring one over another involves some hair splitting.
Agreed but it would be interesting to hear from users. Thanks to Ko.Fe. for his comparison. Personally I can live without a focus tab, although I do find it useful on smaller lenses.
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Old 06-21-2019   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
Voigtlander VM Nokton 50mm f1.5
Zeiss Planar ZM 50mm f2.0

I had them at the same time.

VM. Odd body shape, stiff focus, so-so, self unscrewing shade. Sharp wide open with visible purple fringing sometimes. Very nice rendering BW on M-E and awesome bw negatives.
Odd shaped lens with good rendering, if not the best among many 50 RF lenses I have tried.
Sold it because it is no focus tab lens and focus was too stiff for reportage photography.

ZM. Most impressive packaging I ever seen. Even ZM filter was packaged like 10K$ item. Most clear glass I ever seen. Yet, this was my first and last ZM. Annoying wrestling of 1/3 aperture clicks. Walking on the streets or just switching shadows/sun at fire pit stop on the trail hike and wrestling it between f5.6 and f11 every time light is changing is annoying. Rudimentary focus tab. Makes it looks odd. Big lens with pimple. And absolutely flat rendering with not pleasing, green to blue shifted colors on M-E. I didn't bother to test in on film. I need lens which does well on both.
The only good thing about ZM I have - it has zero focus shift. I have tried Rigid, III and IV 50 Crons, they all have focus shift. III and IV ain't better in build quality than this ZM. If not worse. But how they render on M-E, ZM is not even close.
Sorry, what I take away from this one: "big lens with a pimple" - I can't help but laugh at that. Dear Zeiss: you have a zit, you better pop it before it gets worse.
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Old 06-21-2019   #8
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I did not vote because I like both pairs of lenses.

I used both ZMs for several years, as everyday carry lenses. I used the VMs when I needed more speed. Ended up selling both VMs after getting a nice ZM 50/1.5 which gave me the speed I wanted, and made handling consistent, which is important to me.

Image-wise, can't go wrong either way. I favor the Zeiss look. The VMs are more classic, Mandler-like.

I'll go back and vote for all of 'em.
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Old 06-21-2019   #9
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The ZM being an older lens may have a greater userbase on the forum.


I've had a ZM 35/2.8C and the VM 35/1.7 (but several years apart). I really enjoyed the images from both and I think the feedback above about handling/IQ is spot on. Ultimately I elected to buy the VM when I rebought into Leica as I wanted more speed and TomA's photo posts with it were all I needed to be convinced.
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Old 06-21-2019   #10
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I'm also very curious to see if the significant trend to the two ZM options in the poll is based on actual experience (side by side with the VM's) or just happy ZM owners.

The interwebs is full of assumptions that Leica > Zeiss > Voigtlander, but an awful lot of it seems based on reputation and expectation, rather than experience (for which I thank Ko.Fe. for his valuable comments )

I have the VM 50/f1.5 and have been very happy with it. But I've never used the Planar so won't be participating in the poll.
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Old 06-21-2019   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by traveler_101 View Post
Sorry, what I take away from this one: "big lens with a pimple" - I can't help but laugh at that. Dear Zeiss: you have a zit, you better pop it before it gets worse.
I think the Zeiss zit is already pretty bad.... it turned blue!
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Old 06-22-2019   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nickthetasmaniac View Post
The interwebs is full of assumptions that Leica > Zeiss > Voigtlander
Concerning optics, as a practical matter (hand held, B&W film), really only in price. When people chuck out a lot of $$$ into something, they feel the need to justify -- I mean, come on, they cost so much more they must be "better." I use to be one of them too, having the best, but now it just seems kind of silly. I like Leica optics for B&W film, but they're not so much better or so different to drop a couple grand more on a lens. Twenty-five years ago we didn't have a choice. Today we are truly living in the golden age of rangefinder optics.


A little off topic, but after using many different cameras over 25 years, I've come to the conclusion that what was best about Leica, historically, was not there optics, but the viewfinders. The Leica M3 trounced what came before. Similarly the Leicaflex SL remains the best viewfinder I've ever used in an SLR. Once I had a variety of f/.4 and f/2 50mm lenses in rangefinder mounts from the late 1950's from Leitz, Nikkor, and Zeiss. From my limited examples (1Z, 2L, 3-4N), Zeiss > Nikkor > Leicas. Anyway, anecdotal, and I'm really not up to speed on modern Leica optics, although I had the 50mm Summilux Asph when it came out and that was truly outstanding, albeit large.

Although cost for Leica stuff is a bit of a red herring too, because it retains value. I sold all of my m mount lenses 10 years for more then I paid for them new. This assumes Leica keeps raising prices; a fair assumption.

My whole issue with the ZM lenses is that they tend to be either too damn big or too damn slow, with the 50/1.5 being a notable exception. Never owned any of the ZM's though. Nice optics from what I see on Flickr.
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Old 06-22-2019   #13
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As for the 50s. In general I use the Nokton on my Leica M-A and the Planar on my Zeiss Ikon ZM. Build quality for both lenses is excellent.

My Zeiss Planar 50 seems to have a tad more resolution through f/4 but both lenses are very good after that. The Planar is not quite as fast as the Nokton but it does seem to be a tad sharper at f/2 than the Nokton at the same aperture. Just my opinion of course. I really like the hood for the Planar but since flare is almost non existent with this lens I often leave it home. I prefer the color rendering from the Planar but with BW film this really doesn't matter. The 1/3rd stop aperture is really nice when I am shooting slide film but other than that it really doesn't seem to matter for me since I primarily use the main stops and not half stops.

The Nokton interferes with the viewfinder a little more than the Planar, especially with the hood. My Nokton is the chrome version so it is a bit heavier but it actually seems to help a little at low shutter speeds. The Nokton uses 49mm filters, which I like since I can use all my Pentax filters that I have collected over the years. The Planar uses a 43mm filter and I don't really have any other lenses that use this size so I have a skylight and a yellow for the Planar, that's all. I do get some fringing occasionally wide open with the Nokton but this is pretty easy to clear up in post if you scan.

As for the 35s, I do own the ZM Biogon 35/2 but since I don't have the Voigtlander Ultron I can't make any comparisons. I will say that since I bought the Biogon 35/2 I haven't had any GAS for any other 35, if that means anything.
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Old 06-22-2019   #14
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I really like Voigtlander lenses for the price/performance factor. ZM not so much as it is much more expensive and due to the poor QC early on with the wobbling and awkward handling with the pimple I was never tempted by any of it. A ZM purchase is already half way to that coveted Leica lens. Voigtlander when it is good it is very good and great value. The early ltm lenses were brilliant. I wish Voigtlander will make tiny ltm lenses again.
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Old 06-23-2019   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pioneer View Post
As for the 50s. In general I use the Nokton on my Leica M-A and the Planar on my Zeiss Ikon ZM. Build quality for both lenses is excellent.

My Zeiss Planar 50 seems to have a tad more resolution through f/4 but both lenses are very good after that. The Planar is not quite as fast as the Nokton but it does seem to be a tad sharper at f/2 than the Nokton at the same aperture. Just my opinion of course. I really like the hood for the Planar but since flare is almost non existent with this lens I often leave it home. I prefer the color rendering from the Planar but with BW film this really doesn't matter. The 1/3rd stop aperture is really nice when I am shooting slide film but other than that it really doesn't seem to matter for me since I primarily use the main stops and not half stops.

The Nokton interferes with the viewfinder a little more than the Planar, especially with the hood. My Nokton is the chrome version so it is a bit heavier but it actually seems to help a little at low shutter speeds. The Nokton uses 49mm filters, which I like since I can use all my Pentax filters that I have collected over the years. The Planar uses a 43mm filter and I don't really have any other lenses that use this size so I have a skylight and a yellow for the Planar, that's all. I do get some fringing occasionally wide open with the Nokton but this is pretty easy to clear up in post if you scan.

As for the 35s, I do own the ZM Biogon 35/2 but since I don't have the Voigtlander Ultron I can't make any comparisons. I will say that since I bought the Biogon 35/2 I haven't had any GAS for any other 35, if that means anything.
Thank you, that is exactly the kind of comparison I was after
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Old 06-23-2019   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rayt View Post
I really like Voigtlander lenses for the price/performance factor. ZM not so much as it is much more expensive and due to the poor QC early on with the wobbling and awkward handling with the pimple I was never tempted by any of it. A ZM purchase is already half way to that coveted Leica lens. Voigtlander when it is good it is very good and great value. The early ltm lenses were brilliant. I wish Voigtlander will make tiny ltm lenses again.
Agreed, some of the tiny LTM lenses are lovely E.g. 28mm & 50mm Color-Skopars.
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Old 06-23-2019   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by steveyork View Post
My whole issue with the ZM lenses is that they tend to be either too damn big or too damn slow, with the 50/1.5 being a notable exception. Never owned any of the ZM's though. Nice optics from what I see on Flickr.
Yes, it's compact, but the Sonnar is a Zeiss lens that I couldn't get on with due to the focus shift issues. I don't have the kind of brain that can work with 'now I'm at f2.0 and five feet so I need to focus on the left earlobe!'. Having said that, when it did work as expected the results were lovely.
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Old 06-23-2019   #18
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Not specifically on your list, but I was out this weekend shooting the 40mm Ultron f2 on my Nikon FE, and a Carl Zeiss Biogon 35mm f2.8 on my M2. The latter is absolutely brilliant for colour, sharp, precise, light and accurate and it is my absolute go to colour lens. Equally I loved the black and white images produced from Ultron - not quite as contrasty but lovely in every respect. Honestly, I would choose on the characteristics you are looking for, build quality is excellent on both lenses.

Shot on the Biogon on Lomography 800



Shot on the Nokton on TriX shot at 200 and souped in HC110 dilution B

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Old 06-24-2019   #19
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Voigtlander lenses are optically excellent, but they tend to have strange body shapes and handling.

The VM 35 mm 1.7 is an excellent lens. I have it.
But, I almost never take it out because it's so bulky and heavy.
I much prefer my 35mm Summicron ASPH instead, for the tiny size.

As for the 50mm lenses, there are so many to choose from.
I tend to prefer tiny and light here also.
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Old 06-29-2019   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Lai View Post
Voigtlander lenses are optically excellent, but they tend to have strange body shapes and handling.

The VM 35 mm 1.7 is an excellent lens. I have it.
But, I almost never take it out because it's so bulky and heavy.
I much prefer my 35mm Summicron ASPH instead, for the tiny size.

As for the 50mm lenses, there are so many to choose from.
I tend to prefer tiny and light here also.
Color Skopar 21, 25, 28, 35 and 50 are normal shape, regular focus tab lenses.
Noktons 35 and 40 1.4, Ultron 28 f2 as well.

Ultron 35 1.7:
Dimensions : 2.1 x L: 2.0" / : 53.0 x L: 50.6 mm
Weight 8.4 oz / 238.0 g

Zeiss 35 f 2
Dimensions L: 2.2" / L: 56.0 mm
Weight 8.5 oz / 240 g

Leica 35 f2
Dimensions : 2.1 x L: 1.4" / : 53.0 x L: 35.7 mm
Weight 9 oz / 255 g

BH must have it wrong. Leica is only 1.5 cm shorter, but 15 gm heavier and slower than Ultron.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #21
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I settled on ZM because their F2 images pleased me more consistently than comparable CV, and the handling became second nature. I even fixed my ZM 50/2’s wobble.

The 50/1.5 CV haptics were a distraction from ZM; I had it on a Nikon S2 during a time of a Try This Try That; I sold both. To be fair, the ZM 50/1.5 not only had shift issues, but I also still had inconsistent results from Try This emulsion, Try That subject at f1.5.

I never tried the 35 Ultron. I enjoyed the little 2.5 Skopars (21, 25, 35) in daylight, but they’re mostly gone, and I am trading/selling the CV remainders (35/1.4, 28/1.9, 21/4). I also have ZM 21/2.8, may get a 35/1.4 Distagon.

Just another story about how coherence, consistency, and second nature haptics matter in creating taste and preference. (But a few different M lenses are coming my way, Leica and MS-Optics, to mix it up again.)
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Old 1 Week Ago   #22
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I really liked using my old ZMs. The 35/1.4 is an optical gem in every way. However it's also absurdly large on an M. The 35/2 is super well balanced, and I loved it on my M4.

However eventually I noticed that the images I got from it were indistinguishable from those I get from my plain Jane Nikon 35/2D. I think that says less that the Zeiss is lacking, but more that the Nikkor is one great lens.

These days I am using Pentax Limited lenses on an MZ-S and LX.

I think the modern VM line will be a bit better than the old ZMs. Remember the ZMs were made for film. The VMs have high res sensors in mind. (If sharpness is your thing).
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