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Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review

  
 
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review


FM Review: Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic
About the Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Lens


The new Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic was designed by Mr. Kobayashi and it achieves a unique soft focus look with distinctive signature rendering. The lens is intentionally under-corrected for spherical aberration and coma, which allows for a very special look while keeping the lens very compact.

The Heliar optical design always comes in 3 groups but we have never seen a fast f/1.5 Heliar before. The lens has 6 elements and is equipped with 10 aperture blades.



The Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic is in stock:

CameraQuest | B&H Photo


Review Quick Links:
  1. Initial Thoughts
  2. Infinity performance compared to Voigtlander 50mm f/1.2 Nokton
  3. Sunstar Rendering
  4. Distortion
  5. Field Curvature
  6. Distortion
  7. Spherical Aberration Glow
  8. Color Aberration
  9. Focus shift
  10. Rendering comparison
  11. Samples 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8


Image samples from FM members:
  1. @Juha Kannisto [1]










Leica SL2 + Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic




The optical design seems reminiscent of the Voigtlander 75mm f/1.8 Heliar (discontinued). Here is how they compare:

Voigtlander 75/1.8 Heliar (top), Voigtlander 50/1.5 Heliar (bottom)











The lens weighs 255 grams (9oz) and it's very compact with total length of 41.9mm. It has a 49mm filter thread (56.5mm diameter) and focus down to 0.5m. The closest MFD 50mm lens Voigtlander even produced.

The Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic is only available in single coating.











Main specifications:
  1. Focal length: 50mm
  2. Lens configurations: 3 groups 6 elements
  3. Angle of view: 45.9 į
  4. Number of aperture blades: 10 sheets
  5. Minimal focus distance (MFD): 0.5m
  6. Maximum diameter x total length: φ56.8◊41.9mm
  7. Filter size: φ49mm
  8. Weight: 255g
  9. Coating: SC (single coating)
  10. Lens hood: Dedicated screw-in hood included











Back to Quick Links

Initial Thoughts:

My initial impression after testing the Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic at infinity and close distances is that it was designed to achieve a soft focus look with a distinctive glow. So, if you are looking for a sharp modern lens, look elsewhere.

Rendering is reminiscent of classic designs like the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 with noticeable bokeh outlining and this effect is amplifed when focusing a subject at close distance.

This rendering is intentional by under-correcting coma and spherical aberration but there is also color error to contend with it, so expect to see color fringing in the scene's out of focus areas (axial CA) as well as fringing towards the corners at the focus plane. (lateral CA)

When using Live View or EVF, the camera is capable of focusing as close as 0.5m and surprisingly that's where the lens seem to be optimized for.
So, from my initial images, it seems to perform better at MFD and 0.7m compared to mid and infinity distance. As you will see from crops focused at infinity distance, the lens is definitely not a great performer at this distance.

The Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic's resolution and contrast improves greatly by stopping the aperture down to f/2 and at f/2.8 it's becomes sharp around the center area. However, away from center, it never achieves great resolution even stopped down to f/8.

Physically, it's a well-built and charming lens. The all-metal focus ring is knurled with a diamond pattern which seem to improve grip and operability. The same treatment was gives to the aperture ring which moves in half stops. The distance markings are engraved against a chrome background which sometimes makes it difficult to see when shooting outdoors. The lens in only offers in single coating for that classic color tone and intentional flare.



Sep 20, 2021 at 10:13 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review



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Infinity performance compared to Voigtlander 50mm f/1.2 Nokton


















  1. Distance: Infinity
  2. Focus: Center - Best of three
  3. WB: Daylight for both lenses
  4. Both Lenses perfectly centered using my decentering test
  5. Software: Lightroom with FM Default Landscape Sharpening. All other settings set to default
PS: Vignetting and distortion were NOT corrected for both lenses.



50mm
CENTER resolution/contrast comparison between Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic vs Voigtlander 50mm f/1.2 Nokton






Center at f/1.5: The CV 50/1.2 Nokton was set to f/1.4 here. It's clearly to me that the CV 50/1.5 Heliar is not optimized for this distance. There is a distinctive glow and low resolution/contrast wide open







Center at f/2: Both lenses improve but the Nokton is way ahead in terms of resolution/contrast







Center at f/2.8: Both lenses continue improving and now the Heliar is somewhat sharp







Center at f/4: Seems to be the optimal aperture for the Nokton







Center at f/5.6: Optimal aperture for the Voigtlander 50/1.5 Heliar. Still can't match the Nokton at this distance







Center at f/8: Signs of diffraction are now visible




Sep 20, 2021 at 11:29 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review


50mm
MID-ZONE resolution/contrast comparison between Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic vs Voigtlander 50mm f/1.2 Nokton






Mid-zone at f/1.5: The Voigtlander 50/1.5 Heliar is very soft at mid-zone and wide open. The Nokton 50/1.2 on the other hands shows good performance at f/1.4







Mid-zone at f/2: Some improvement for both lenses







Mid-zone at f/2.8: Big jump in resolution. The Nokton performs very well while the Heliar starts to recover







Mid-zone at f/4: Optimal aperture for the Nokton while the Heliar is now ok







Mid-zone at f/5.6: Optimal aperture for the Heliar but way behind the Nokton's performance







Mid-zone at f/8: Signs of diffraction creeps in.




Sep 20, 2021 at 11:37 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review


50mm
EXTREME CORNER resolution/contrast comparison between Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic vs Voigtlander 50mm f/1.2 Nokton






Extreme corner at f/1.5: Same pattern happens at the very corners. The Heliar is very soft while the Nokton is already decent at f/1.4. Both lenses show some glow in the highlights







Extreme corner at f/2: Both improve very slightly







Extreme corner at f/2.8: Big improvement for the Nokton while the Heliar remains soft







Extreme corner at f/4: Again, optimal aperture for the Nokton 50/1.2. The Heliar shows improved resolution but still way behind the Nokton







Extreme corner at f/5.6: Both lenses improve a little. The Heliar more than the Nokton







Extreme corner at f/8: Similar performance compared to f/5.6




Sep 20, 2021 at 11:40 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review


I have received two copies of the Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar and they perform similarly at all distances. The crops posted here was from the copy that was perfectly centered.
So, expect this lens to perform like this at infinity distance. Like I wrote on my initial thoughts, the 50/1.5 Heliar performs better at close distance where I think it was optimized for. I will be updating this thread as I do more tests with this lens.



Sep 20, 2021 at 11:58 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review


I'm getting a third copy in a couple days to make sure this is how this lens really performs. The two copies I have nat hands perform the same but I just wanted to be 100% sure. Also I want to confirm the 50/1.5 Heliar is optimized for close distance.


Sep 20, 2021 at 02:31 PM
rscheffler
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review


FWIW, in this post Juha states the same behavior: "reasonable sharpness and contrast wide open at close distances and it gets softer and bleeds more the further the focus distance." This behavior is also seen in the photos by Japanese photographer Fuya Yashima linked by Juha in that thread.


Sep 20, 2021 at 03:15 PM
genji
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review


I received my copy yesterday and will be returning it tomorrow. Iím not a sharpness fanatic by any means but the Heliar 50/1.5 is the lens you need when too much softness is barely enough.

Edited on Sep 20, 2021 at 04:19 PM · View previous versions



Sep 20, 2021 at 03:25 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review


rscheffler wrote:
FWIW, in this post Juha states the same behavior: "reasonable sharpness and contrast wide open at close distances and it gets softer and bleeds more the further the focus distance." This behavior is also seen in the photos by Japanese photographer Fuya Yashima linked by Juha in that thread.


Yes, that's what I'm seeing as well, thanks for pointing it out. By close distance I mean best results at MFD which is 0.5m for this lens. As the subject approaches 1m, sharpness already drops quite a bit. That's why I was seeing sharp close-up flower shots from Juha's samples.
That's of course intentional in the optical design to give subjects a glow, perhaps great for glamour/portraits shots. So, at the end, it's a character lens, not a 50mm one can use for all applications.



Sep 20, 2021 at 04:11 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review


Here is the amount of glow expected when the subject is around 1.2m wide open. I didn't take any other portraits yet but will post many samples later on when my new copy arrives and I compare all three!




  LEICA M10-R    Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Classic Heliar lens    50mm    f/1.4    1/4000s    100 ISO    0.0 EV  




Sep 20, 2021 at 04:34 PM
 


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Matt Kerby
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review


Cool looking lens, love the knurl pattern, but...
The glow reminds me of the Nokton 35mm f/1.4 II MC. Almost looks like haze, especially in the corners. Thanks for posting.



Sep 20, 2021 at 05:26 PM
Flavourdynamic
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review


The glow stems from undercorrected spherical aberrations, right?


Sep 20, 2021 at 05:47 PM
genji
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review


The Australian CV distributor has a 14-day return policy and wasnít the slightest bit fazed by my request to return the Heliar. He told me that itís now back-ordered at the factory until next year so itís clearly a runaway success.


Sep 20, 2021 at 07:47 PM
rscheffler
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review


Fred Miranda wrote:
Here is the amount of glow expected when the subject is around 1.2m wide open. I didn't take any other portraits yet but will post many samples later on when my new copy arrives and I compare all three!


Looking forward to seeing your rendering examples, particularly how much the image tightens up and the background calms down at f/2-2.8.



Sep 20, 2021 at 07:51 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review


Flavourdynamic wrote:
The glow stems from undercorrected spherical aberrations, right?


That's right!



Sep 20, 2021 at 09:44 PM
Arvaker
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review


I think the way Juha is using this lens in the other thread really shines. Pun intended - but, yeah, I think his close-ups and a bit further away has character, so if used well, this lens has its place



Sep 21, 2021 at 12:05 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review



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Sunstar Rendering:

Voigtlander (Cosina) is famous for designing aperture mechanisms that yield well-defined sunstar rendering. Because the aperture blades are straight, it's possible to get great definition for the sunstar rays by stopping two stops down from wide open.

This new 50/1.5 Heliar is equipped with "10" straight aperture blades while yields 10 point starts.

One could achieve the highest sunray definition at f/11.

From f/4 until f/8, it's well defined, although f/2.8 is also very good and only slightly less defined.

At f/1.5 (wide open) sunrays are not visible and I can see hints of definition starting at f/2. Atf/16, they no longer look symmetrical and also lose some definition compared to f/11.

Here is a sequence from f/1.5 until f/16 in stop increments:






f/1.5







f/2







f/2.8







f/4







f/5.6







f/8







f/11







f/16




Sep 22, 2021 at 09:50 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review


Composite showing all apertures from f/1.5 until f/16 next to each other:







Sep 22, 2021 at 09:51 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review



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Distortion

The Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar has low pincushion distortion. There are no profiles for Lightroom yet but it's easy to correct the distortion by using the Lightroom slider (-3) as shown:




Uncorrected straight off the camera. (f/4)






Corrected in LR






Distortion slider set to -3 for the corrected image




Sep 22, 2021 at 02:04 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Heliar Classic Review



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Samples 1

Few walk around samples. Mostly wide open:

Hard to avoid flare from the single coat but it's part of the lens' characteristic.




  LEICA M10-R    Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Classic Heliar lens    50mm    f/2.8    1/350s    100 ISO    0.0 EV  






  LEICA M10-R    Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Classic Heliar lens    50mm    f/2.8    1/4000s    100 ISO    0.0 EV  






  LEICA M10-R    Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Classic Heliar lens    50mm    f/2.8    1/3000s    100 ISO    0.0 EV  




Sep 22, 2021 at 06:43 PM
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