Voigtländer, a division of Japanese lens maker Cosina Optical, is known for producing surprisingly affordable lenses that, with few exceptions, deliver outstanding image quality. One of the company’s latest offerings is the Voigtländer MACRO APO-LANTHAR 65mm f2 ASPH, slightly longer than normal and faster than most macro lenses, which focuses down to 12.2" from the image plane. The new MACRO APO-LANTHAR features 10 elements in 8 groups including a single aspheric element, a 38° AoV, a 10-bladed diaphragm, contacts for transferring EXIF data, and 67mm filter size.
Available exclusively for Sony E-mount cameras (full-frame and APS-C), the MACRO APO-LANTHAR 65mm f2 ASPH is a hefty, all-metal lens that, design-wise, harks back to 1960s-vintage manual-focus Nikon lenses. Modern polymer lens barrels are cost-efficient, lightweight, and more ding-resistant than metal-alloy lens barrels, but there’s something to be said about a lens that’s built like a cylinder head from a Chrysler Hemi.
Voigtländer’s new 65mm macro lens is well-matched to the 42MP imaging sensor in Sony’s A7R II, a camera that seriously challenges the abilities of most consumer lenses. An added benefit of 40-plus megapixels and high-quality glass is that, combined, they enable you to crop in closer than the half life-size close-focus limitation of the lens.
The focusing ring on this lens turns with just the right amount of resistance, with an arc of 250° between the closest focusing point (12.2") to about a meter (39.37") with an additional 40° of travel from that point to infinity. Rather than stenciled numbers, letters, and symbols, which inevitably get scuffed or rub off, all distance and aperture markings along the lens barrel are engraved and filled with white or red paint.
Stopped down, this lens is remarkably sharp, with neutral color, even tonality, and dead-on contrast. At wider apertures, whatever is in focus is tack sharp while everything fore and aft of the plane of focus feathers off into a pleasing form of bokeh with perfectly round specular highlights.
When shooting wide open at minimum focusing distances, the depth of field is impossibly narrow. Depending on the reflectance and texture of my subject, a small degree of chromatic aberration was sometimes visible, but stopping the lens down a stop or two seemed to clean things up without hampering my ability to focus selectively.
When shooting handheld, I strongly recommend engaging the camera’s image stabilization system. For best results, use a tripod when possible, which is the best way to eliminate camera-movement issues. You also might want to make use of the camera’s Focus-Assist Magnifier, a function I personally prefer calling up as needed rather than using as a full-time function.
Macro lenses tend to be sharper than their non-macro counterparts and, in this regard, the Voigtländer MACRO APO-LANTHAR 65mm f2 ASPH can easily be a standard bearer for the genre. Resolution aside, what makes this lens—and other Voigtländer lenses I’ve used and/or owned—so special is its visual signature, specifically the way it interprets the color and light of the scene. Voigtländer lenses might be made in Japan, but the DNA of the company’s German roots runs through-and-through the company’s current offerings.
Voigtländer has produced many quality macro lenses in a variety of lens mounts. Have you used any of them? If so, let us know your thoughts about these classic lenses.