I have to admit, my favorite focal length on a 35mm camera is 35mm. It is not my most used focal length…but it is still my favorite. I use 35mm often for live events as well as my own personal work. A large portion of my Emotions In Stone project was shot with a 35mm lens. My personal go-to 35mm lens is the Canon 35mm f/1.4L. Once I got into the Leica M system, the first thing I had to have was a 35mm lens. There are so many choices available. Leica has the Summilux (f/1.4), the Summicron (f/2), and the Summarit (f/2.5) currently. Zeiss has a great f/2. Voigtlander has the f/1.2 Nokton, an f/1.4 Nokton, and the f/2.5 Color Skopar. (Then there are all the variations and vintage lenses still available!)
So many choices. The Canon 35L is huge. The M system is alluring because of its size. A small M camera with a huge lens seems to cancel out the benefit of size and weight. I knew I wanted something small and light to start with. That eliminated the Leica 1.4 and the Voigtlander 1.2. I really did not want anything slower than F/2 but the size, weight, and price of the Color Skopar was really hard to ignore. How much would I be losing with half a stop versus the Zeiss or the Leica? The Leica is several thousand dollars more, and the Zeiss several hundred. Was the Voigtlander Color-Skopar just a joke? I had to try it!
The 35mm Color Skopar has a vented hood. It is sold separately unfortunately. The twist and lock design works great and I prefer it to other twist style hoods.
When it arrived I could not believe how little this lens is. It is seriously tiny. As you can see in the following photos, the lens is not even an inch long from where it meets the camera body to the threading on the lens.
You can see more pictures of this lens on my Leica M8 review.
I use an IR-cut filter with this lens. I have also coded it to the Leica Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH. The code is 011110. Basically white, 4 blacks, and another white. This coding works great with the filter and the M8.
The Skopar has a focus tab which works great. You can use it with one finger on the inside, or a thumb and finger holding the outside. It has a very smooth focus feel. Sometimes the focus feels as if it sticks…but this is actually me pressing on the focus tab in towards the lens instead of gliding across its path. The distance scale on the lens is nice and usable from f/4 and on for zone focus.
On the Leica M8 (a 1.33x crop camera) the 35mm lens gives a view of approximately 46mm. I still have the subject relationship of a 35mm lens…but I get less of the frame than I am used to. I have never been a fan of crop cameras for this reason. 35mm is a distance where even a little bit of crop still gives you a decent amount working space and framing. It’s certainly not wide, but it doesn’t have a short tele or 50mm normal lens look either. 35mm is still a comfortable working focal length even on the M8. The Skopar triggers the M8’s 35mm frame lines. You have just about perfect viewing and framing distance in the viewfinder. The hood does not block the frame lines at infinity nor at minimum focus. The aperture dial has nice half-stop clicks and small tabs on the left and right side for easy adjustment.
The following pictures are some snapshots from every day being in a variety of settings. I try to really get a feel for a lens and how it renders situations before I throw it into a working environment. I will have some shots from a couple events I did recently coming soon.
This image was shot at minimum focus distance (about 2.3 feet) and wide open at f/2.5. Focus was on the eyes of the frog.
This is a 100% crop from the center of the last frame. The frog has great detail resolved.
This next image was taken at F/22. As you can see contrast takes a bit of a hit in heavy flaring light. Personally this reminds me more of a film capture than a digital shot.
No this isn’t my ride…but I just couldn’t resist changing the front plate! Do notice how much the vehicle pops from the background even at f/2.5. F/2 or f/1.4 would have been even better, but 2.5 is still nice. You get a little more depth, but you can fit the camera in a coat pocket! I can live with that trade!
The focus area falls off in a very pleasing manner in this next shot. Even with a busy subject like the pumpkins the bokeh is not fussy.
This shot of the statue is wide-open at f/2.5. When there is distance between you and your subject…but only a short distance between the subject and it’s background you can get an impression of more depth of field. When focused to 10ft at F/2.5 you will get just under 3 feet of depth of field range around your subject. Focused at 15 feet you will get almost 7 feet of depth. Understanding this, you can shoot wide open and still get a a storytelling view if used properly, especially if you aren’t after full sharpness of the entire depth of the image.
At minimum focus of 2.3 feet you only have 1.7 inches of focus depth! Placing the subject a bit further from the background and getting close means you can really get a beautiful blurring of the background. This next shot was wide open at about 3 or 4ft.
The 35mm Color Skopar has a very interesting habit…flare. Generally flare and direct sun look great with this lens. Even if there is a reduced contrast, it still has feel in the rendering. Except at one certain angle where everything falls apart. You can get a very nasty flare when the sun is a bit more than a 45 degree angle and low on the horizon. These are the only conditions I have been so far able to replicate this problem in. You not only get the usual flare, but you also get a vibrant red streak in the frame.
This first shot shows an angle to the sun with no major flare issue.
This next shot shows the camera turned a few degrees closer to the angle of the sun. You can see the major red streak through the frame.
If you are careful you may be able to tell when you will get this streak. I noticed anytime my focusing patch in the viewfinder because reflective and glared, there was a good chance I was at the exact angle for the flare to happen. If I turned even half and inch away the streak would just as easily vanish. Is this a real problem…not really. As long as you are aware and pay attention to the viewfinder you should be able to avoid this generally.
Overall I love the color and rendering from this lens. Sharpness is great from wide-open. I love a 35mm lens close up. Unfortunately a rangefinder doesn’t generally focus closer than 2 feet on average. The Canon 35L focuses at 8″. This is the biggest difference for me between these two lenses. If the Skopar could focus to 8″ I think I would have a new favorite lens. I like the rendering and in focus area of the Skopar a lot. Even at 2.5 the in focus area is very defined. Contrast is not over the top. You can always add more if needed.
In all honesty, for around $350 this lens is an unbelievable value and top performer in my eyes. Sean Reid has done extensive reviews of sharpness and everything under the sun on his website and he also found some surprising results. The images comparing Leica’s Summicron and other expensive lenses versus the Skopar all show how well the Skopar stands on it’s own. If you don’t need F/1.4, the Voigtlander 35mm Color Skopar is definitely a hard lens to pass up! It is coming with me everywhere from now on!