Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 SL II for Pentax K Review – By Aivaras
I promised to get back with more “exotic” stories from the Pentax film world, and here I am! I’d like to share my experience with the Voigtlander 40mm lens in Pentax K mount. Most of the time I’ll be talking about shooting it on film, but there will be a few bonus frames shot with the Fuji GFX medium format digital body at the end.
Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 lens versions
There are two versions of this lens, the one I own is the “SL II’ model in PKA mount. Obviously, if there is a second version of this lens, there should be a first. The pentaxforums.com database states that the first and second versions are optically identical, and that where they differ is the build. From what I have researched they were also available in M42, Nikon F and Canon EF mount.
40mm focal range
40mm is a very interesting focal range for me. I mostly used to shoot with 50mm, but in time I began to appreciate what 40-43mm range has to offer. I never got along with 35mm – for me it’s too wide and too narrow all at the same time. I shoot 40mm just like a 50mm, but with ability to add more context into the frame.
I was introduced to this focal length range – as many fellow Pentaxians are – with the famous Pentax 43mm Limited lens. Naturally, when talking about the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 I have to talk about the Pentax 43mm as well. They have a lot in common, while surprisingly are very different lenses. You will see some pictures of the 40mm and 43mm lenses side by side, however what you won’t see here are side by side pictures FROM those lenses – if you want to see pictures from the 43mm – take a look here.
Why 40mm Ultron?
You might wonder why I acquired the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 if I already have the 43mm limited? The only real answer is – because I could, and because I wanted to!
But just in case you want excuses and an artificial rationalisation of the decision (the one that I created to explain the purchase to myself) – I wanted a manual focus lens to partner with my manual focus Pentax bodies. I just wanted this Ultron… and to be completely honest with you, there is one more slightly absurd reason: It goes very well as a compact (and good looking) set together with the Voigtländer Color-Skopar 20mm F3.5 SL II Aspherical PK…
Ok, let’s start with the nuts and bolts of the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2. It’s made of metal, with a rubberised focus ring. It is 63mm in diameter and 24.5mm long, and weighs in at just 200g. The Pentax 43mm is 64mm by 27mm and weighs only 155g! The Pentax gives the impression that it’s more compact, but all of this comes from its “tapering” design. The Ultron has a 52mm filter ring, and its aperture is clicked, although interestingly it has half stop clicks between f2.8 and f11 whereas f2-f2.8 and f11 – f22 are full stops. Unfortunately none of my later electronic Pentax bodies show aperture information in the finder. It is the same with the Voigtländer 20mm F3.5 SL II. The 40mm is also able to focus down to a very acceptable 38cm.
There is a dedicated lens hood, and it deserves a special mention as it has been designed to keep the whole system compact. This hood makes 40mm noticeably smaller that 43mm with hood. The inner, narrower part of hood is with filter thread and in original set there had to be a close-up lens that screws into hood. I didn’t receive this close-up attachment with my lens, therefore I cant comment on how it performs…
The combination of metal and glass gives the impression of a high-quality product; the focus ring handles with precision and leaves nothing to be desired.
It’s time go get to the photos. As usual I’ll split them into “closed down” aperture and wide-open aperture.
Photos shot using a stopped down aperture:
Photos shot wide open:
“Bonus shots”. Wide open on Fuji GFX50R
I’m happy with what I get from the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2. It could easily be the only “normal” FOV lens I own. It’s plenty sharp, has good “punchy” colour, good contrast and pleasant bokeh. However if I decided to nit-pick, I could come up with a few things. And it’s easier to nit-pick when comparing results with its natural competitor, the Pentax 43mm limited lens.
So what are the cons when comparing the Ultron to the Limited?
- 43mm is sharper when shooting wide open aperture. Ultron is more than acceptably sharp, but still the 43mm is noticeably better.
- 40mm Ultron colours are on the warm side. It may be a matter of preference, but I usually colour correct most of the Ultron pictures whereas the 43mm pictures are neutral right from photo lab.
- 43mm is more contrasty. Impossible for me to say how much, but I do notice this subtle difference.
- Ultron has noticeable barrel distortion, the 43mm distortion is imperceptible in normal day to day use.
- Ultron has smoother boked compared to the 43mm.
- A very specific aspect: the Ultron covers “digital medium format” sensors (33x44mm GFX) better than the Pentax 43mm.
And one more thing that I wanted to mention, but didn’t assign as a pro or con: The Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 has this “signature” flare thing. This big red ring that you can see partly in a few film photos and fully evident in picture taken with the Fuji GFX50R. This flare is quite easily provoked and, in my book, it’s a good thing, I take it as an advantage, it adds some “mojo” in photos. I saw those flares a lot while researching this lens and, in many pictures, photographers used them creatively (especially in portraiture). But talking about usual lens characteristics, I suppose it’s technically a weakness of the lens design.
The Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 SL II is an interesting and high quality lens with very good performance and some unique character traits.
There are many choices for “normal” field of view lenses in the Pentax range, and this lens isn’t necessarily the pinnacle of everything available. In case you’re after a narrower lens, prefer to have the highest IQ, want to have good manual and auto focus abilities – the no brainer suggestion is to go for the Pentax 43mm limited. They even have a revised model that Pentax says comes with more modern coatings. But if you are a crazy Pentaxian like me, you will have a burning desire to try the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2. And its worth it, I can vouch for that!
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