Voigtlander APO-Lanthar 125mm f/2.5 SL - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (APS-C)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published March 2007

Lens kindly provided by Martin Miels!


Voigtlander (to be precise: Voigtländer) is a name which was once as legendary as Leica or Zeiss at its high times. The company was founded in 1756(!) in Austria - thus it is probably the oldest camera brand name. It started its camera production in the mid 18hundreds. In the 20th century the company saw many new owners like Schering, Zeiss and Rollei before the name disappeared in the dust of history ... till the late 90s when Cosina licensed the name rights (source: Wikipedia). Unfortunately the brand name was then quite polluted by using it for ultra-cheapo SLR lenses (also co-branded as Cosina, Exacta, Vivitar, etc. pp) which didn't really help to keep its reputation in modern times. However, Cosina also releases high-end Voigtlander-branded lenses for its rangefinder series and manual focus SLR lenses: the ultra low-profile SL series which lived almost unnoticed by the broad market. Cosina took advantage of the famous old lens names such a Heliar and also Lanthar. SL lenses are available in numerous mounts inc. M42, Pentax, Nikon F. Surprisingly the Voigtlander APO-Lanthar 125mm f/2.5 SL macro is also available in a native Sony Alpha and EOS mount - just without AF.

The optical design of the lens is made of 11 elements in 9 groups including 2x ED elements. I wasn't able to find out whether the lens has floating elements. This seems likely regarding its macro capabilities (1:1 max. magnification) @ 0.38m. The min. working distance is 19cm. The aperture mechanism features 9 aperture blades - one of the reasons for the absolutely stunning bokeh (out-of-focus blur). The lens is very compact (88x76mm) but fairly heavy with a weight of 690g. The filter size is 58mm. A square-shaped, snap-on type lens hood is also part of the package. The front lens cap is a little strange - you screw it in rather than snap-on. This has obviously the advantage of a rock solid attachment but it takes certainly longer to take it off. Alternatively you can use the lens hood with its dedicated rubber cap.

The build quality of the lens is excellent thanks to an outer metal shell and a very smooth and very well damped focus ring. Interestingly it takes a ~530 degree turn from infinity to the most extreme macro setting. As you can imagine manual focusing can be pretty precise as a result. The lens has a sturdy duo cam focus design and it extends substantially when focusing towards very close distances. The overall mechanical design is obviously very related to the current Zeiss ZF lenses which are also manufactured by Cosina. As mentioned above the coupling to the camera is fully integrated with a native EF (EOS) mount and the usual electronics (reads: it has an electronic aperture). There is no autofocus motor implemented so you better have a split-prism focusing screen or at least a bright viewfinder. Alternatively you may rely on the focus indicator in the viewfinder.