The Voigtlander 21mm f3.5 Aspherical Color Skopar is a full-frame manual focus lens for Sony mirrorless cameras. It has a focal length of 21mm and captures an angle of view of 91.2degrees. That means it’s a wide-angle lens and, amongst other applications, it’s useful for landscapes and interior photography. Despite the wide angle of view, distortion is controlled very well and although vignetting is visible, it’s not a major issue in most situations. The lens also captures an excellent level of detail with the best results being seen at f/5.6.
The Voigtlander 21mm f3.5 Aspherical Color Skopar is constructed from 9 elements in 8 groups. Its rear element is aspherical while the one just in front is an abnormal partial dispersion lens.
Voigtlander has used metal for the lens barrel, giving a solid, traditional feel.
In addition, the optic has a minimum focusing distance of 20cm, which means you can get in close while including a lot of background for context. In addition, the short focal length brings extensive depth of field.
- Focal length: 21 mm
- Mount: Sony E-mount (full-frame)
- Aperture range: f/3.5-f/22
- Lens construction: 9 elements in 8 groups
- Angle of view: 91,2°
- Number of aperture blades: 10
- Minimum focus: 0.2 m
- Maximum diameter: 62.8mm
- Length: 39.9mm
- Weight: 230g
- Filter size: 52 mm
Build and Handling
As I’ve mentioned, the lens barrel is made from metal, and this gives the optic a solid feel. At 39.9mm in length, it’s also compact.
The aperture ring towards the front of the lens has markings for f/3.5, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f16 and f/22 with click stops that cannot be declicked. However, the aperture can be adjusted in 1/3stops.
Behind the focusing ring, towards the middle of the lens, there’s a knurled focusing ring. This is about the width of my thumb and it’s perfectly positioned for rotating with my left thumb while I look in the viewfinder. It has smooth action with just the right amount of friction.
Although the Voigtlander 21mm f3.5 Aspherical Color Skopar has to be focused manually, there are electrical contacts. These mean that the camera can detect when the manual focus ring is rotated and magnify the image where the focus point is set. I used the Sony A7R III for this review and I have customised button C2 to magnify the view. Pressing it increases the magnification for easier focusing.
I find it best to focus with the lens aperture wide open as this give the brightest image with the least noise in the camera’s electronic viewfinder.
It takes a rotation of around 170-degrees to move from the closest to the furthest focusing point. However, the majority of this is in the 0.2-1m range. Using the focus scale as a guide, you can set an aperture of f/11 and get everything from 0.7m to infinity in focus. That’s very useful for shooting all sorts of subjects.
Aperture Priority or Manual Exposure
The electrical contacts in the lens enable the camera to detect which aperture is set via the aperture ring. In aperture priority mode, the camera adjusts shutter speed and or sensitivity in auto ISO mode as normal. You can also shoot in manual exposure mode as usual.
The Voigtlander 21mm f3.5 Aspherical Color Skopar captures an excellent level of detail across the frame. There’s a slight drop-off in the amount of detail towards the corners at the widest aperture, but it’s not marked. Closing down to f/4 improves the situation and by f/5.6 you’re hard-pressed to tell the difference between the amount of detail in the centre and at the edge. The results at f/8 and f/11 are also very good but the best results are obtained at f/5.6.
If you pixel peep, you’ll see that the results at f/22 are softer than those at the mid-range apertures. That’s just physics kicking in and diffraction having an impact.
Shooting a plain wall makes the vignetting at f/3.5 evident. However, it’s very gradual and not excessive. Again, closing down to f/4 reduces the problem and by f/5.6 it’s effectively gone. However, I didn’t find much of an issue with vignetting with most real-world uses of the lens.
Distortion is also controlled very well. There’s a hint of barrel distortion, but it wouldn’t stop me from shooting architecture.
I spent time hunting around my images looking for chromatic aberration and although I found a few examples, it doesn’t seem to be a major problem. There’s some purple fringing around a few twigs towards the edges of an image with a back-lit tree, for example, but I only spotted them when the images was at 100% on screen. More importantly, I was able to remove them from the raw files using the controls in Adobe Camera Raw.
In further good news, the lens is also quite resistant to flare. I have a couple of examples, but these images included the sun in the frame.
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With a maximum aperture of f/3.5, the Voigtlander 21mm f3.5 Aspherical Color Skopar isn’t the fastest 21mm lens available for Sony mirrorless cameras. However, it’s nice and compact, has a solid build and delivers great results.
A manual focus lens might seem strange in an age of subject-detecting autofocus systems, but it’s nice to not have to worry about whether the right subject will be sharp.
Naturally, the depth of field at any given aperture isn’t as deep as with the Voigtlander Heliar Hyper Wide-Angle 10mm f/5.6, but it’s extensive enough to give you some flexibility with the focusing. I tended to set the aperture to f/8 or f/11, with a shutter speed of 1/60 or 1/125sec and the sensitivity set to Auto ISO. This meant I was ready for pretty much anything and could shoot subjects from around 0.7m or more and be confident of getting everything in focus.
If you’re planning to shoot lots of subjects against a plain, pale wall and use a wide aperture, the Voigtlander 21mm f3.5 Aspherical Color Skopar might not be the lens for you. However, if you’re looking for a lens for landscape photography, or something a bit wider than average for street photography, it could make a very good choice.