Initial Impression: Voigtländer 50 mm/1:1.5 Heliar Classic VM

Is the new Voigtländer Heliar Classic 50mm a budget version of the legendary Leica Summilux 50mm? Not really, it behaves more like a “toy lens” with intentional chromatic and spherical aberrations wide open, and yet deliver a relatively good and distortion free image when stopped down to f4 and above. This is a first impressions review of this unique lens.

The Voigtländer Heliar Classic 50mm F1.5 VM is a deliberate counterpart to the high performance lenses of today. It is designed to show a shaping-classic image at open aperture by intentionally leaving aberration. The lens configuration consists of six lenses in three groups, and interprets the original heliar design. In particular, at the F1.5 aperture, a bokeh effect is apparent, creating spherical and chromatic aberrations at the edges of the image that would be difficult to create through digital processing. This effect decreases with increasingly smaller aperture and from aperture F4 the Heliar behaves largely distortion-neutral. The overall image effect can be described as picturesque and velvety.

This intentionally created image representation gives you an extremely wide range of creative freedom, and the lack of a multi-coating also ensures atmospheric results, especially in backlit situations (the lens has a single coating).

The lens barrel is made of aluminum, the focusing ring is made of brass and has a fine diamond pattern, just like the aperture ring.

The close-up limit is 50 cm, a high-precision rangefinder coupling is available, and a lens hood is also included.

The Heliar Classic 50mm F1.5 VM is a creative tool with intentional “aberrations” and delivers a unique look. It is especially interesting for photographers and artists who work away from perfectionism and mainstream and who appreciate a warm, soft and analog image effect.

Specifications

Focal Length50 mm
Aperture Ratio1:1.5
Minimum ApertureF 16
Lens Construction6 elements in 3 groups
Angle of View45.9°
Aperture Blades10
Minimum Focus0.5 m
Maximum Diameter56.8 mm
Length41.9 mm
MountM-mount (VM)
Weight255 g
Filter Size49 mm
Colorblack/brass
OthersS.C. (Single Coating)

Unboxing and Lens Detail

As is typical for Voigtländer, the lens comes packaged in plastic wrapping surrounded by styrofoam in a relatively small box. An owner’s manual and lens hood are also included.

Lens mounted on a Leica M10

Initial Impressions

The relatively low cost of the lens compared to others in the Voigtländer range means one shouldn’t expect great image quality, but it’s meant to be relatively small and fun to use. Use it to achieve a certain “look”, but don’t expect to wring maximum resolution from the composition, or the most neutral looking or distortion free image. Look out for articles where I will be comparing the performance of this lens wide open (f1.5) vs f4.

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Posted by Chris Tham

Chris Tham is a co-founder of Visual Voyager Pty Ltd, the Principal Voigtländer Ambassador for Mainline Photographics and a Workshop Instructor for Mainline Photo Academy. She brings over 35 years of experience as a photographer to her role, starting with a Yashica rangefinder belonging to her dad, joining the Photography Club in school, and developing her own photos. More recently, Chris has been taking photos during her travels, and as a result has experienced some of the most interesting places in the world. Chris focuses on nature, street, and urban architecture subjects in her photography.