Voigtlander 25mm F0.95 Micro 4/3rd lens review
Strictly speaking the Voigtlander 25mm F0.95 Nokton Micro 4/3 lens was not made specifically for the Panasonic AF101 film-like camcorder, but it might as well be. I say this because the Voigtlander 25mm F0.95 micro 4/3rd lens and the Panasonic AF101 camcorder are a marriage made in heaven.
From what I can gather, the Voigtlander 25mm F0.95 is the very first non-Olympus/Panasonic native MFT (Micro Four Third) lens by such a high quality and highly respected lens manufacturer. Considering this is Voigtlanderís very first MFT lens, they have absolutely nailed it in every way.
The Voigtlander is ridiculously fast at F0.95, yes thatís right, F0.95. How fast is that? Well given that the Panasonic AF101 has incredibly low noise that is none-existent even with the gain switched in at +9dB, with amazing low-light shooting capabilities also. With the Voigtlander F0.95 lens you can pretty much shoot black bats in a coalmine with no additional lighting; thatís how fast this lens is.
The super fast aperture of this lens also allows you to achieve incredible depth-of-field control if beautiful bokeh shots are your thing.
Below picture shows me setting up the Panasonic AF101 with the Voigtlander lens, a Chrosziel matte box and a Formatt polarising filter and ND grad, ready for a time-lapse shot to be filmed over 42 minutes at 1 frame every 10 seconds, that will equate to a final sequence of 10-secons.
There is a lot of confusion other focal lengths and field-of-view regarding various lenses and the Panasonic AF101. I will try and make this simple for those who donít fully understand these Scientifics. Firstly, it is worth remembering that the actual focal length of a lens does not change no matter what camera it is on. For example, a 50mm F1.4 Nikon AIS lens designed for a 1980ís Nikon F3 stills photographic camera, is going to remain a 50mm focal length lens, whether it is on a Nikon F3 stills camera, or a Panavision motion film camera, or the Panasonic AF101; nothing changes. The only thing that changes is the size of the sensor, or film frame size. It is when you change the sensor size that the lensís field-of-view changes.
In a nutshell, a 30mm lens on a 35mm movie cinema camera will have the exact same field of view as a 25mm lens on the Panasonic AF101, or a 50mm lens on a stills camera.
Take a look at this lens comparison list:
25mm on the AF101 = 30mm on cinema = 50mm on stills.
28mm on the AF101 = about 33mm on cinema = 56mm on stills.
50mm on AF101 = 60mm on cinema = 100mm on stills.
85mm on AF101 = 100mm on cinema = 170mm on stills.
What does change is the field-of-view, which could be argued as being the focal-length equivalent. So it could be argued that a 50mm F1.4 lens designed to fit a stills full-frame photographic camera becomes the equivalent focal length to a 100mm lens when attached to the Panasonic AF101 (via an adaptor from MTF Services of course, see www.mtfservices.com), in reality, the lenses field-of-view becomes that of a 100mm lens.
So, why this little explanation about field-of-view and focal lengths? It is so I can explain what you are getting with the Voigtlander 25mm lens when it is fitted onto the Panasonic AF101. Note also that the Voigtlander lens is a native micro 4/3rd (MFT) lens so no adaptor is required. Voigtlanderís focal length of 25mm equates to the equivalent field-of-view of a 30mm lens on a 35mm cinema motion picture camera, or an equivalent field-of-view to a 50mm lens on a 35mm stills photographic camera. This is all very old-school actually, at the end of the day, the Voigtlander 25mm is just that, a 25mm lens; pop it onto the AF101 and look at the field of view for yourself. If you are used to shooting stills photographic work, basically, the Voigtlander is a Ď50mm standard lensí. And in my opinion, the Voigtlander 25mm F0.95 should be the first lens you go out and buy for the Panasonic AF101 camcorder, it is the ultimate standard lens for this camcorder.
The Voigtlander 25mm lens is made up of 11 precision elements arranged in 8 groups. Its minimum aperture is F16 with 10 aperture blades. It weighs in at 410g with an overall length of 70mm. Focusing is external, but donít worry because the lens only increase in physical length by less than a centimetre. It is built like a bomb in a heavy-duty all-metal construction; even the focusing barrel is tough metal. This lens is tougher than John Claude Van Damme, and itís a lot sharper too ;)
Itís made in Japan to the very highest standards. The build quality reminds me of Zeiss lenses from Germany; the precision and workmanship is top drawer. It comes with a lens hood, which you can leave on the lens permanently as the lens hood has a 67mm lens cap diameter. You can also put a screw in filter directly into the lens hood, and then put the lens cap on that. Or you can screw filters directly into the lensís 52mm filter thread, then attach the screw in lens hood onto the filter; your choice. I personally used the lens hood, even though I was using my Chrosziel matte box, I found the Voigtlanderís lens hood fitted nicely into the Chroszielís rubber donut ring.
You may or may not know that in the UK, the BBC have recently approved the Panasonic AF101 film-like HD camcorder for full HD television acquisition; with the caveat that it must be used with an external recorder capable of a minimum of 50Mbps and 4:2:2 colour space via the AF101ís HD/SDI output. Such devices include AJAís Ki Pro Mini, but there are many cheaper variants out there also. The BBC also requires decent glass, and this Voigtlander is right up there and capable of giving you those tack sharp HD video images that the BBC demands for their HD programming. Itís remarkable to think that today you can buy the Panasonic AF101, this Voigtlander lens, and a 50Mbps recorder for under £5,500 inc vat; wow! Just 3 short years ago the same system to meet the BBCís requirements for HD broadcast would have cost closer to £40,000.
In use the Voigtlander is a very nice lens, it feels solid as a rock, its focusing barrel is smooth and precise, so too is the aperture ring, which has precise click stops in half stop increments from F0.95 through to F16 (16 clicks in total). The aperture ring and focusing barren are reversed from the norm i.e. the focusing barren is nearest the camera body, while the aperture ring is towards the front of the lens. These are the only two moving parts externally on the lens. Its layout is very neat with clear markings for feet and metres.
Shooting with this lens on the AF101, it is an all-manual affair, one that I personally am in love with as I detest the use of most automatic functions on camcorders anyway. The AF101 has some amazing options for controlling focus and exposure. One such option are the little focus and exposure lines that appear horizontally along the bottom of the LCD screen, regardless of the lens, as you focus the Ďfocusí line on the LCD screen moves further to the right; the more in focus the shot, the further to the right the line moves. The line eventually reaches its maximum place on the right when the picture is most in focus. Exposure is based on a similar line display on the LCD, only this time there is a small vertical line, as the horizontal line moves to the left of this vertical line the exposure is going under, as it moves to the right, it is going over; get the horizontal line to stop where the vertical line is and your exposure is bang on. These features work to perfection with the Voigtlander lens, so to do the zebra and various vector and waveform monitor function of the AF101.
Iíve been shooting with the Panasonic AF101 with the Voigtlander 25mm MFT lens for some weeks now and to say Iím impressed is an understatement. The quality that the Voigtlander optics produces is truly amazing. As for the Bokeh, it is truly amazing. At F0.95 you can achieve the shallowest depth-of-field; itís incredible and it yields some incredibly artistic results. The sheer depth-of-field control totally allows you to fix the attention of the viewerís eye on any given part of the scene; independent feature filmmakers will love this lens. The depth-of-field advantages are also there for control in other areas also. At about F8 for example, I could focus on something approximately 30 feet away, and have virtually everything in focus from about 7 feet to infinity. This makes the Voigtlander a superb lens for landscape and documentary work. We donít always need or want very shallow depth-of-field. This lens should be seen as a tool that will allow you to achieve shots in less than ideal lighting situations, as well as for creative bokeh purposes.
The Voigtlander lens is tack sharp at the point of focus, and beautifully smooth in all the other areas of the shot. At F0.95 (wide open) I rarely detected any CA (chromatic aberration) and fringing, and when I did, it was only slight, beating many broadcast 2/3rd zoom lenses Iíve seen costing over £10,000. Remember, any lens wide open will reveal any potential nasties that any given lens might have; wide open is not exactly the Ďsweet spotí of any lens. Remember, it is virtually impossible to find a lens at any price that doesnít have a tiny slither of CA and/or fringing present. Based on the video footage I shot, I would not have any problem shooting wide open with this lens all the time. Blue or purple fringing is simply not there 98% of the time (the 2% is on wide and only in certain instances) and I pushed this lens to itís absolute limits filming white swans across a dark ripple-free river, tree branches and flowers against a clear blue sky and a windmill against the sky; none of which revealed any noticeable fringing. At mid aperture points of F4, F5.6 and F8, the lens performs flawlessly. F8 appears to be the lenses sweet spot; Iíd almost go so far as using the word Ďstunningí at F8.
Shooting outdoors in bright sunlight produces some very mild flare when shooting directly into the sun, with the sun in frame, but once the Chrosziel matte box was in place, this soon cleared up. Remember, this was an extreme test, it would be rare that anyone would need to shoot straight into the mid-day sun with the sun bang in the middle of the frame. Also, anyone who is serious about their video work would always use a matte box anyway, or at least a decent lens shade.
The colours produced by the Voigtlander are incredibly accurate and very punchy. Contrast is nicely balanced also. Adding up to a very natural and film-like picture that is very pleasing indeed. I love everything this lens stands for, itís build quality is incredible and should last a lifetime, itís optical performance is exemplary. If I had to find a fault, it would be that the lens is too small for my personal tastes, it is a little difficult getting your hand between the AF101ís body and the Chrosziel matte box to focus and adjust aperture. But this is a silly little point, and one that probably wonít bother anybody else. It doesnít really bother me that much, Iím just used to working with much larger lenses, Iíll get used to this cute little gem of a lens regarding itís small ergonomics.
The Voigtlander 25mm F0.95 MFT lens cost £695 plus vat (prices subject to change) and is available via Robert White Photographic, who also happen to be the UKís sole importer of the lens; oh, and they are incredibly nice people to do business with! You can contact Robert White Photographic on 01202 723046, or visit their shop in down in sunny Poole, Dorset. See their website for full details at: www.robertwhite.co.uk
©2011 Nigel Cooper
Model: 25mm F0.95 MTF lens
Reviewed by: Nigel Cooper
Review Date: 02-05-2011