Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f/2.0 Review (original version):
The Best Things Come in Small Packages!
Having large hands, I never quite understood the appeal of pancake lenses. They seemed more awkward than practical. I was a reluctant buyer as I never favored 35mm wide angle lenses but I like odd lenses and love to experiment. A fellow photographer stated that the 40mm was a surprisingly good street and travel lens. Did I miss something all those years? It sure peaked my curiosity.
Its small size is certainly no handicap; the focus ring is fine yet easy to find, grab, and turn. The resistance is perfectly balanced and smooth. The focal length is surprisingly useful and is indeed good for a multitude of applications. The manufacturer, Cosina, succeeded at making this 40mm lens distortion free so it gives you flexibility without the look of a wider angle. Image quality is just superb. It is extremely sharp wide open as well as stopped down. Color rendition is very neutral which can come across as a lack of character, especially for street and outdoor photography. While I did enjoy the focal length, I did not care for its color rendition outdoors.
I found another and totally unexpected application for this lens. Several times a year we photograph magazine spreads and book covers. These are usually elaborate settings with many artifacts and the go-to lenses have always been a 50mm Nikkor or 60mm Micro-Nikkor. The results from these lenses were usually just satisfactory. I ran out of height one day with our 9-foot camera stand photographing an elaborate set with a 50mm. I often find myself working every inch just to get the composition into the frame. In a bind, I switched to the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm and what a surprise that turned to be. Not only did the Voigtlander give me so much more flexibility composing the frame, the images were sharp without compromise or distortion, something the 50mm and 60mm never achieved. The neutral color rendition that I initially disliked now turned out to be a blessing. Color rendition on the set is extremely accurate without color cast. The flexibility of this little lens continues to surprise me, it has taken more and more a role in the studio with product photography.
I suspect that Cosina got some unwarranted push back on the pancake lens format and its separate macro add-on filter. The new and larger lens version is aesthetically more pleasing and incorporates the macro feature while retaining the excellent performance of the original version.
The fact that the Ultron has 6 elements with 9 aperture blades certainly contributes to the excellent image quality. It should be noted that the original release version of the pancake lens did not have the CPU lens contacts and did not communicate with modern cameras. It is worth checking the mount to see if the contacts are present when buying a used lens.
What I anticipated to be a niche limited-use lens turned out to be an essential daily use lens. This is a must-have manual focus optical performer, there is no more appropriate name than "Ultron"!
PS: My reviews are never sponsored, all equipment is purchased by us for use in our business.