Review of Voigtländer SUPER WIDE-HELIAR 15mm III for Sony FE mount

Sunset at Tadre Mill

Sunset at Tadre Mill in Denmark. One of the very first images I shot using my brand new Voigtländer SUPER WIDE-HELIAR 15mm III for Sony FE mount.

I have been waiting for this lens for what seems like AGES. Since I got my Sony A7R two years ago I have been looking for a good wide angle lens solution. I bought the Sony 10-18mm, and though some say you can use it for full frame, I do not agree. It is by far too soft in the corners, and the distortion is a mustache like distortion. And then I can use my Nikon lenses on my Sony cameras, using my Metabones adapter. But neither solution has been satisfactory.

The Metabones adapter has no electronic connection to the Sony camera, and does not transfer the EXIF information, and it does not trigger the focus peaking. Smaller things, and yet still annoying things. The reviews of the first automatic adaptor for Nikon to Sony FE mount, haven’t impressed me.

So Voigtländer SUPER WIDE-HELIAR 15mm III for Sony FE mount is the lens I have been waiting for, along with a native f/2.8 16-35mm.

At the time of writing, the lens is in pre-order most places. But if you like the review, and consider buying the lens, you can support me by using this link and buying it at BHphoto.

Overall remarks

The Voigtländer SUPER WIDE-HELIAR 15mm III for Sony FE mount is a prime full frame format lens. It also fits on APS-C cameras, like Sony A6000 and A6300, only it will be like a 22.5mm lens. Being prime means that it only has one focal length, in this case 15mm.

The aperture goes from f/4.5 to f/22, which means that it is not a super fast lens, on the contrary, a fairly slow lens. It will not be the obvious choice for low light photography.

The aperture ring has a nice feature, allowing you to switch between clicks and smooth turning. When using clicks, it’s 1/3 of a stop per click. The smooth and silent aperture ring turning is practical for filming.

There is no autofocus, but when you start using the focus ring, the lens triggers the focus peaking – God I love that! And even better all EXIF information is transferred. In Lightroom, it registers as:

Voigtlander heliar III

It uses 58mm filters and the nearest focusing distance is 30cm / 11.8″.

Built quality

When unboxing the lens, it feels heavy when picked up, but this is only a relative deception because the lens is small. The weight is between a third and a quarter of my workhorse, the Nikon 14-24mm, which is around 1000 grams. The Voigtländer is only 294 grams.

The built quality is excellent. It feels solid, though it has no weather sealing. The aperture ring is firm when set to clicks but not too hard. When ‘de-clicked’ it is smooth and easy to turn.

The focus ring is smooth and easy to turn.

Size matters

The Voigtländer HELIAR 15mm III is surprisingly small. I knew it would be small, and yet I became surprised. That you can construct such a small full frame lens is just amazing. This is compared to the lens I have been using so far:

Voigtlander 15mm Sony FE lens test-1-5

Nikon 14-24mm attached to the metabones adapter side by side with the Voigtländer SUPER WIDE-HELIAR 15mm III for Sony FE mount.

Image quality

I had some expectations to this lens, but I also expected some shortcomings. I have read reviews of the non-native versions of the lens, and of the Mark II version of the lens, so I was pretty excited to test this one.

Sharpness and barreling

The Voigtländer 15mm has a great sharpness in the center, at all apertures, though you can detect som diffraction at f/22.

If you stay around the mid apertures (f/8 to f/13) it also has also a great corner sharpness. I have been used to great sharpness, from my Nikon 14-24mm, and at f/8-f/13 I have absolutely no complaints about the sharpness from the Voigtländer lens.

Wide open at f/4.5 it does have some softness in the corners, but I have seen far worse.

Here are some examples. Click to download the full-resolution jpeg file (unprocessed 80% compression).

Voigtlander 15mm Sony FE lens test-f4.5

Shot with a Sony A7RII at f/4.5. Click to download full resolution file.

Voigtlander corner sharpness f4.5

100% crop of the corner af f/4.5. A bit on the soft side, but I have seen worse.

Voigtlander 15mm Sony FE lens test-f8

Shot with a Sony A7RII at f/4.5. Click to download full resolution file.

Voigtlander Corner sharness f8

100% crop of the corner at f/8. I can not ask for much more. This is great corner sharpness, and for landscape and city scape photography, this is more than good enough.

Voigtlander 15mm Sony FE lens test-f13

Shot with a Sony A7RII at f/13. Click to download full resolution file.

Voigtlander corner sharpness f13

100% crop of the corner at f/13. Again a great corner sharpness, maybe even slightly sharper than at f/8.

Voigtlander 15mm Sony FE lens test-f22

Shot with a Sony A7RII at f/22. Click to download full resolution file.

Voigtlander corner sharpness f22

100% crop of the corner at f/22. Now we again have soft corners, but again I have seen worse. Diffraction is also noticable, if you look at the center sharpness.

The lens is sharp, very sharp, even in the corners if you stay in the middle of f-stop range. This is normal behaviour to lenses. As a Landscape and Cityscape photographer I have no problem working in the middle around f/8-f/13.

What you can also see from the shots, is that barrelling is no big problem at all, and when Lightroom gets updated, it will fix this in lens correction with no problem at all.

Lens vignetting

The lens does have some vignetting, and it is worst at the extreme ends of the aperture, that is f/4.5 and f/22.

Voigtlander Barreling

f/4.5, f/8, f/13 and f/22.

Again when Lightroom gets the lens correction profile, this is easily fixed. But I think does have pretty strong vignetting, and definitely more than I am used to.

Flares and Chromatic Aberrations

I tried doing some flare tests. It is not a big issue, in fact I would perhaps go as far to say, that this is probably wide angle with the least flares I have tried.

Voigtlander 15mm Flare Test

Flares is always a problem on wide angle lenses. This might be one of the best I have seen. Click to downlod full resolution file.

Chromatic aberrations are very low. I have not been able to detect any.

Bokeh

Using a slow extreme wide angle lens, like the Voigtländer 15mm will not give a lot of bokeh, even at f/4.5. But here a 100% crop just to show it.

Voigtlander 15mm bokeh test

Sample images in full resolution

Here are a few sample images, and again you can click to see the full resolution files.

Voigtlander 15mm Sony FE lens test-1-f8

Voigtländer 15mm shot at f/8. Click to download full resolution.

Voigtlander 15mm Sony FE lens test-2-f8

Voigtländer 15mm shot at f/8. Click to download full resolution.

Voigtlander 15mm Sony FE lens test-3-f16

Voigtländer 15mm shot at f/16. Click to download full resolution.

Verdict

Overall I must say that I am very happy with this lens, and I expect it to be my wide angle work horse. And because the lens is so small, it fits nice on the A7RII, and will be perfect for travelling.

Voigtlander 15mm native sony e mount

Pros

  • Native super wide angle lens for Sony FE
  • Small
  • Very sharp also in the corners at middle f-stops.
  • The built quality is excellent
  • Triggers focus peaking
  • Minimum flares for a wide angle lens
  • Very low on chromatic aberrations

Cons

  • Slow lens, only f/4.5
  • No weather sealing
  • No autofocus
  • A bit strong vignetting

In short, this lens has definitely been worth waiting for, it is just fantastic.

If you like this review, and consider buying the lens (or other equipment) you can support me, by using this link and buying it at BHphoto.

–Jacob

8 thoughts on “Review of Voigtländer SUPER WIDE-HELIAR 15mm III for Sony FE mount

  1. How do those corners compare to the 14-24 at 15mm? Do you have a feeling about whether the 15mm is actually sharper at all–or is it mostly a size (and filter) benefit? Thanks!

    1. Hi Bill,
      I have been thinking this myself. I’ll try to find the time to do a comparable shot using the Nikon 14-24 mm – maybe I even throw in the Sony 10-18mm and the Nikon 16-35mm too. Before testing, keep in mind that the 14-24 lens is frigging awesome sharp. I also use the 16-35 from Nikon, and that has its disadvantages on sharpness, but it is lighter, and it receives 77mm filters. But no doubt that the small size of the Voigtlander is a huge advantage
      –Jacob

  2. Very good review, I get a good idea of what it would be like to use the lens. In fact, I’m very tempted to sell my Mk1 LTM version of this lens and get this. The EXIF, focus magnification and better edge definition would be worth it.

    Nice landscape photos too!

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