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The Voigtlander 110mm F2.5 : first impressions

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I was looking for a macro lens I could also use for other purposes (portrait and landscape short telephoto). The obvious choice could have been the excellent Sony 90 Macro, but I wanted to get out of the Sony lineup and also come back to my old times when autofocus was not a must. At the same time, I also wanted to get a lens with a modern design which could efficiently use the potential of my A7R III sensor.

I found the Voigtlander 110 mm 2.5 which is a brand new one produced by Cosina in Japan. I had read very nice comments on the Voigtlander 65 mm macro but the focal length was too short in my opinion, and it had only a 1:2 magnification ratio. Then came the 110mm and I bought it.

The lens : this lens has a somewhat unusual look, with different diameters in the front, rear, and middle. It is rather compact when not extended for macro. It is heavy, just 50g less than the big Sony 85 GM (820g), but as soon as you get it in your hands, you feel good and know it is a real solid and well built lens. You have to screw the good metal hood on the lens which is also unusual : you may like or not like that. On my side, I got used of this very quickly. The focus ring is wide and smooth enough to be capable to fine tune and find the right focus distance, with the help of the focus peaking: it is a real pleasure to use it. To this respect, my manual focus experience with the 90 macro was less good. Of course, there is no autofocus and this lead you to be more cautious, patient, and requires a little experience before being  easy with that. In some circumstancies, when your subject is moving, you may miss the autofocus (although I rarely used it for macro) or the eye AF for portraits.  I have compared it with the 85 GM, doing some shootings with both lenses and I was impressed by the 110mm even if I felt more secure on the result with the 85 GM.

The aperture ring, closer to the camera body, is relatively narrow and not always easy to move without touching the focus ring : you need to pay little attention for that.

But the real strength of this lens is its sharpness :  it is the best FE lens I have used, on par with or even better than the 90 Macro and the 55 F1.8. It is really outstanding. Not only the center of the frame is very sharp, but the corners too ! And it is true from the wider aperture f 2.5 to f8. At f11 the diffraction is visible although it is quite usable. So do not hesitate to shoot wide open unless you need more DOF. I have also compared the 110 mm to the 100-400 GM (at 110 of course) for landscape and it seems to me that the 110 is a little sharper : this is quite a performance knowing that the 100-400 is an excellent lens as fas sharpness is concerned. Some people will think that the 110 is too sharp for portraits : I myself never consider a high sharpness as a drawback, and wide open this lens gives you a very short DOF which helps to blurr anything you want. On top of that, I am a Capture One user and I can do a lot in post if ever I really need to reduce the sharpness.

You might think that a 2.5 aperture is not enough to get a nice bokeh but quite frankly what I saw with the 110 mm was really good and you get a smooth transition for the background. I did some comparison with the 85 GM at f2 and the result was fairly similar. I did not either notice any cat eyes with the 110 mm but to be honest the 85 GM seems to me a little better : however this is not something which has worried me. 

So, in a nutshell, if you are not afraid by manual focussing and you want an extremely well built lens with an outsatnding sharpness, do not hesitate. And by the way, it costs half the price of the 85 GM and almost the same as the 90 Macro.

 

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