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Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review

  
 
grantgoodes
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review


Well, Gear Acquisition Syndrome is real, and I recently fell victim to it (hopefully for the last time -- well, that's what they all say..)

I have what I consider to be a pretty ideal collection of lenses (at least for the type of shooting I do): Mostly Nikkor primes, but also a couple of Voigtländers. I have always lusted over the 180/4 APO-Lanthar, and I finally found one in excellent in-box condition, including the relatively rare hood, and all for about what it went for new back in the day. This lens is now my third 180mm lens (I both the AF-D and AiS f/2.8 versions), but after trying it out for a week, I think the Voigtländer may become my "only" 180mm lens.

The "biggest" thing about this lens is how incredibly small it is for a 180mm lens: In fact it is only 2mm wider and 1mm longer than the AiS 105/2.5, and weighs only 50g more. It takes 49mm filters rather than the Nikon standard 52mm. It is, perhaps not surprisingly, both shorter and lighter than the AiS 200/4. Compared to the f/2.8 180's, the Voigtländer is a LOT easier to carry around.

My three lenses for many years were the AiS 24/2, 105/2.5, and 180/2.8 Nikkors, but looking back I would say my approximate usage ratio with these lenses was 75% / 20% / 5% respectively, and the reason for light usage of the 180/2.8 was the size/weight and difficulty of nailing focus a f/2.8. That's why I was considering the Voigtländer as it would be pretty indistinguishable from the 105/2.5 size/weight so I'd be more willing to carry it around. But how is it to focus? Lots of people (including Bjørn Rørslet) have complained that long-distance/infinity focus is challenging with the Voigtländer. It's true that the focus ring is weighted to the closer distances (the lens goes to 1:4 at 1.2m, and has 350 degree focus throw), but I didn't find it difficult to adjust near infinity (which for this lens is over a kilometre away, so not just a telephone pole across the road!).

Mechanically, the lens is excellent, very solid feel, with a nicely damped focus (though some have complained the focus grip is a bit narrow which seems like carping to me). I have read that the focus-damping will loosen up with use, but mine is just perfect right now. It has half-stop detents on most of the apertures, and the ring is much higher quality than my MF Nikkors. I did find the lack of anywhere to grip the lens when mounting it a bit problematic (you are best to grip the aperture ring). I like the small bayonet hood with its own lens-cap, but reviews have stated that it doesn't do much to prevent flare & ghosting. I could easily adapt my HS-7 hood with a 49mm to 52mm step up ring if that was a concern.

I'm still mostly just taking test-shots with the lens, but the results seem contrasty and sharp wide-open, even into the corners. Verdict: I am very happy with this purchase (if not for the price!). I paid less than the collector-frenzy prices that have been the norm, but given the small production numbers of this lens (somewhere between 700 and 1000 lenses in Nikon F-mount), you will doubtless have to open your wallet a little wider than might be entirely comfortable. In optical quality it easily eclipses the Nikkor 200/4, and the size/weight advantage over the 180/2.8 while maintaining high quality wide-open makes it a no-brainer for me. I held off buying this lens in the hopes that Cosina would release an updated (presumably chipped) version someday, but that doesn't seem likely. And Nikon is "focused" on fast-but-large lenses, so aside from a few pancake wides and normals is highly unlikely to consider the need for a medium telephoto "street carry" lens, so this Voigtländer is the only option for me.

My next trip to Iceland will doubtless see this and my 28/1.4D as the two main lenses, and I will be glad to leave behind the 180/2.8D that I took last time.

Edited on Jun 05, 2024 at 02:35 PM · View previous versions



Jun 05, 2024 at 01:32 PM
Jepser
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review


Cool, would be nice to see som photos with it, and how it looks beside 180/2.8 AI-s.


Jun 05, 2024 at 02:14 PM
bernardl
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review


Thank you for the test report and for reminding me of the existence of this legendary lens.

I own a copy of their 125mm f2.5 APO in F mount and it’s absolutely brilliant even by modern mirrorless standards.

I have been using for years a Leica R 180mm f2.8 APO converted to F mount as my landscape long lens, which remains unbeaten for long distance sharpness, but the Voigtlander may be the best lighter alternative. Tempting..

Cheers,
Bernard



Jun 05, 2024 at 03:11 PM
grantgoodes
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review


bernardl wrote:
Thank you for the test report and for reminding me of the existence of this legendary lens.

I own a copy of their 125mm f2.5 APO in F mount and it’s absolutely brilliant even by modern mirrorless standards.

Yes, Bernard, my first Voigtländer was the 125/2.5 APO, bought to replace my Micro-Nikkor 105/2.8 that I was never very happy with. The 125/2.5 is, as you say, absolutely brilliant, though it's value and fragility mean I don't travel with it. The 180/4 seems more robust (and smaller), so should be fine for taking on the road. I also own the 15/4.5 SL (mirror lockup) which can be found for not much money, and is VERY compact (and the Voigtländer optical finder is excellent).


Edited on Jun 08, 2024 at 08:01 PM · View previous versions



Jun 05, 2024 at 03:26 PM
rico
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review


Finding high performance around 200mm has always been a bitch. My manual-focus primes off the shelf are either the huge CZ 200/2 C/Y or the dainty but middling Yashica 200/2 MLC. Modern zooms are amazing these days but fully automated and not small (I own the 70-200G and E). In the absence of tripping over the C/V 180, my best compromise with manual-focus and apo correction is the Canon nFD 80-200/4.


Jun 08, 2024 at 06:31 PM
Lee Saxon
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review


Awesome little lens. I sold mine for financial reasons years ago and still regret it. I've been keeping my eyes peeled for one at the right price and hope this post doesn't drive up interest/price up toward the territory of the 125.


Jun 08, 2024 at 06:55 PM
grantgoodes
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review


Lee Saxon wrote:
Awesome little lens. I sold mine for financial reasons years ago and still regret it. I've been keeping my eyes peeled for one at the right price and hope this post doesn't drive up interest/price up toward the territory of the 125.


The 125/2.5 in Nikon mount is (according to the numbers in the above linked posting) about 3x more common than the 180/4, but of course this reflects the fact that a full 1:1 (life-size) macro lens with a reasonably fast aperture was much more popular than a specialized, "small but slow", close-focusing medium-telephoto. Also the 125/2.5 was originally about 50% more expensive than the 180/4 (and that's not taking into account that the 180/4 was heavily discounted after it was discontinued, so for a while you could get one for about $350). The reputation of the 125/2.5 was already quite high even before it was discontinued, and then the prices shot through the roof as the word spread about its admirable qualities, while the 180/4 remained more obscure. Anyways, suffice it to say that it's no surprise the 125/2.5 is pricey, though I wouldn't consider the 180/4 to be exactly a bargain.

I know I didn't find out about the Voigtländers until after they were already discontinued (I recall CameraQuest only had non-Nikon mount lenses left when I figured out I might want one), and the 125/2.5 completely eclipsed the 180/4 in my mind. It wasn't until I (eventually) found a "semi-reasonable" priced 125/2.5 and could experience for myself just how well-built and designed these lenses were that I looked into the "other ones" with any seriousness. It took me even longer to find a good copy of the 180/4 than the 125/2.5, at least partly because I wanted a copy with the ultra-rare LH-75S hood included (this is the round hood with metal cap, which I think is less klunky than the square LH-75 hood with its rubber cap).

The 125/2.5 prices _have_ come down to below even what I paid for my mint-in-box copy 10 years ago: There are now alternative options for a high-quality APO/macro lens, and the Voigtländer has some downsides. First the lens is a bit fragile, and with heavy use, internal parts can come loose, eventually resulting in self-disassembly of the lens (as reported by Bjørn Rørslett). Knowing this, I baby my copy, and certainly don't take it backpacking! Secondly, all these Voigtländers feature Lanthanum ED lens elements (thus the "Lanthar" in the name) which have proven very susceptible to fungus, even for well-cared for examples (I store mine in a dry-box at all times). Thirdly, these lenses never came "chipped", so modern digital bodies will have reduced functionality, making newer alternatives much more desirable.

Personally, I still think these are amazing lenses, and worth what I had to pay for them. In fact, prices for excellent used copies are now often about what they cost new (taking into account more than 20-years of inflation!), so in that sense it's not a completely insane investment. My suggestion is to keep looking and remain patient, as it looks like the Japanese collectors are gradually liquidating their stock of classic Voigtländer lenses, and as the Yen is doing poorly these days, good deals can be found. Always avoid any Voigtländer lens which mentions "clouding" or any other indication of fungus, and particularly for the 125/2.5 avoid heavily used copies as there is the risk of internal problems that would be expensive to repair.



Jun 10, 2024 at 08:34 AM
grantgoodes
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review


One of the noted downsides with this lens is the propensity for flare/ghosting in strong side-light, with reviews saying that the dedicated hood does not really help at all. The lack of effectiveness of the bayonet-mount hood is not surprising since both versions (the square LH-75 with a rubber cap and the round LH-75S with a metal cap) were actually designed for the Color-Heliar 75mm F2.5 SL with approximately 2.5x shorter focal length: Basically the dedicated hood is just too short to do a good job. I don't have the square version, but the round one is 37mm deep and has a 60mm opening.

Looking for alternatives, there are many Nikon hoods for 105mm to 135mm lenses, most of which are for a 52mm attachment, so I bought a 49mm to 52mm step-up ring so I could experiment. I have an HS-14 (snap-on style) which is for my Micro-Nikkor 105/2.8, and it is 55mm deep (including the adapter) and has a 68mm opening so some improvement, but probably still too short. The HS-4 (for the 135/3.4 and 105/2.5) is probably the longest Nikon hood that would fit, at 7mm longer than the HS-14, so we're up to a little over 60mm deep. There's also a very little-known HN-32 (screw-in style) for the IX-Nikkor 60-180 lens (first version without the bayonet-style hood-mount), but I can't find any details about the dimensions except that it's a 52mm thread-mount. The few fotos I've found indicate the HN-32 is longer than it is wide, so it might be the best official Nikon hood for this application. The IX lenses only cover 16.7mm x 30.2mm, so on a 180/4 on 24mm x 36mm it would be necessary to check for vignetting.

Finally I found some cheap ($15 or so) Chinese hoods called "Extended Telephoto Metal Lens Hood with Filter Thread Mount" that come in a number of sizes, most of which are 78mm long. They are anodized aluminum and look actually pretty decent, with light baffles on the inner surface. I think the design is a simple tube, so the 49mm mount version would be a scant 50mm wide, which is certainly too narrow for such a long tube to avoid vignetting, so I've ordered a 62mm mount version which should be a little under 65mm wide (thus the same width as the 180/4 body, which will look nice). I will have to try it out to see if it's suitable, and order a wider one if not, but this seems promising as the "best" hood for this lens.

I will update when I've been able to try out these various combinations in some difficult lighting!



Jun 10, 2024 at 12:47 PM
philip_pj
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review


Some links you may enjoy:

https://www.closeuphotography.com/macro-lenses
https://www.closeuphotography.com/voigtlander-apo-lanthar-125mm-lens
https://dustinabbott.net/2020/03/voigtlander-110mm-f2-5-apo-lanthar-macro-review/
https://phillipreeve.net/blog/voigtlander-110mm-f2-5-apo-review/

I have the 110mm f2.5 APO-Lanthar, here with me on travels in Tasmania. It's one of the most striking lens I've used in small format. I won't overhype it until I see it on the big monitor, but my word it's good, with otherworldly correction and tremendous colour/contrast integration; images show great density with fine tonal gradation.

Cosina had a excellent target in the 125/2.5, and this is a worthy successor with a more versatile focal length and 20 years later glass formulae. Not a macro guy, general photography is my usage.



Jun 10, 2024 at 05:29 PM
coralnut
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review


The fungus susceptibility problem has always made me worry about the Lanthar optics. Have you ever had a problem with them?

Is the Bjørn Rørslett site still active? The last time I checked the site hadn't been updated since late June 2015 -- almost 9 years. I hope he's still doing well, as his site is a treasure of information.



Jun 10, 2024 at 09:28 PM
 


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Ripolini
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review


coralnut wrote:
Is the Bjørn Rørslett site still active? The last time I checked the site hadn't been updated since late June 2015 -- almost 9 years. I hope he's still doing well, as his site is a treasure of information.


https://www.flickr.com/people/birnaofthenorth/



Jun 11, 2024 at 01:08 AM
grantgoodes
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review


philip_pj wrote:
Some links you may enjoy:

https://www.closeuphotography.com/macro-lenses
...


Thanks for those links, Philip. That first link has also reignited my long-simmering interest in the Nikkor-AM ED APO Macro 120/5.6, which I had always thought would look really nice on my PB-4 tilt/shift bellows, with my thinking that its large-format coverage would allow movements at infinity, and would also be an excellent (to say the least!) macro lens. Alas, the auction gods never did smile on me for the AM ED APO lens, and I gave up and went with a Schneider Componon-S 135/5.6 (also found reviewed deeper on that same site) that now serves me very well in that role. Also, the Nikkor-AM has a built-in Copal-0 shutter mechanism which would be a total waste on a bellows, so maybe I'm better off with the Componon-S after all. I suspect the prices of those AM ED APO Nikkors will only continue to go up, as they're such beautiful and capable pieces of glass..



Jun 11, 2024 at 07:17 AM
grantgoodes
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review


Ripolini wrote:
https://www.flickr.com/people/birnaofthenorth/


Yes, BR transitioned some time ago and is now Birna Rørslett. And no, the naturfotograf.com site is no longer actively maintained (as it states on the landing page), but remains in archived form with lots of useful info there for all to peruse. She is quite active on the nikongear.net site, still giving cantankerous but wise advice. I was always jealous of how many amazing lenses BR was able to purchase at low prices (especially given how much camera gear normally costs in expensive Norway), such as a NOS Fisheye-Nikkor 10/5.6 OP that he got from the local Nikon distributor who discovered it on a shelf in some back room and sold for relative peanuts. BR's opinions heavily shaped my Nikkor purchases and has never steered me wrong (though I don't agree with the hatred of built-in lens hoods!).

Edited on Jun 11, 2024 at 07:34 AM · View previous versions



Jun 11, 2024 at 07:27 AM
coralnut
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review


So the Bjørn Rørslett site has been abandoned.


Jun 11, 2024 at 07:33 AM
grantgoodes
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review


coralnut wrote:
So the Bjørn Rørslett site has been abandoned.


I would say "archived", but yes, no longer actively updated. BR seems to have been retired from professional photography for some time, but still active on the nikongear.net site, posting pictures and advice, so still clearly a photographer ("old photographers never die..")



Jun 11, 2024 at 07:35 AM
coralnut
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review


I was not aware that the site had been moved and re-hosted. That explains the confusion. When searching for "Bjørn Rørslett" the top hit in my search results is this page on the original site --

http://www.naturfotograf.com/index2.html

- which appears to be his original/old index page. It is also the page that gets loaded in response to clicking on the "START" link at the top of his web browser frames. Unfortunately the search engines aren't directing users to the new root page on the site, they continue to direct to the old index page, with the result that there's no clue being shown about the site having been moved or archived unless you know the site's base URL and type it into your browser -

http://www.naturfotograf.com/index.html

I've always wondered why there was an abrupt end to his lens reviews in the early AF-S era.






Jun 11, 2024 at 08:00 AM
Steve Spencer
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review


With regard to a hood for this lens, I bought this one and I find it helps substantially with reduction of flare:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/11168-REG/B_W_65069625_49mm_Screw_In_Metal_Telephoto.html

By the way, if any one is interested I have the lens with this hood and adapters for Leica M and Sony E mount on sale in the buy and sell board. I wish I could keep it as I have loved the lens, but I need some money right now so I am letting it go.



Jun 11, 2024 at 08:15 AM
grantgoodes
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review




Steve Spencer wrote:
With regard to a hood for this lens, I bought this one and I find it helps substantially with reduction of flare:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/11168-REG/B_W_65069625_49mm_Screw_In_Metal_Telephoto.html


Thanks for the tip! Would you be able to measure the diameter of the opening and the length from the mount?



Jun 11, 2024 at 08:20 AM
Steve Spencer
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Voigtländer 180/4 APO-Lanthar mini-review


grantgoodes wrote:
Thanks for the tip! Would you be able to measure the diameter of the opening and the length from the mount?


Sure, I will do that later today and update the thread.

Best wishes,

Steve



Jun 11, 2024 at 11:07 AM







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