Voigtlander Heliar 50mm f/3.5 (on Sony NEX) - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Sony Alpha/NEX (APS-C)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published September 2010


I reckon that some of you will ask "Did he go nuts now ?" ... well, sometimes even lens testers need to have some fun and rather than testing the just next conventional lens I thought it's time to go for something more unusual - the Voigtländer Heliar 50mm f/3.5 is a limited edition (600) anniversary lens celebrating the original Heliar design which dates back to the year 1900. It is supposed to the one of the sharpest 50mm lenses ever made and yes, you can mount it to your Sony NEX using a Leica M39 to Sony NEX adapter.

Such adapted lenses can only be used with manual focusing and "working aperture" - there's no data coupling whatsoever here. The field-of-view is equivalent to about 75mm in and in terms of depth-of-field it behaves like a f/5 lens in this scope - a portrait lens if you can live with the rather slow max. aperture. The Heliar looks expensive but at around 600-700EUR/US$ it isn't totally out of reach (if you can still find one).

You may debate whether the Heliar is a beauty of a lens but it is certainly far from the ordinary. The build quality is very fine albeit not perfect. The body is, obviously, made of metal - nickel that is. The lockable focus ring is located at the rear portion of the lens - it operates smoothly (damped). The aperture ring sits at the lens front. While also being made of metal it is a fairly wobbly being. As usual it locks in distinctive f-stop "clicks". Any change of the aperture is applied immediately so you can check the effect on the depth-of-field on your screen (without the darkening like when stopping down a DSLR with a conventional optical viewfinder). The lens extends a tiny bit when focusing towards closer focus distances. The front element does not rotate. The Heliar is a collapsible lens (not shown here) so if ever needed you can make it even smaller. It's a bit of an awkward procedure so most will probably leave it in its working position.

Manual focusing may sound like a major annoyance but it is not that bad actually. On Sony NEX cameras you can easily switch to a magnified focus view so accurate manual focusing is really simple ... unless you try to track a moving object of course. We recommend this camera-lens combination for static scenes only.

Equiv. focal length75 mm (full format equivalent)
Equiv. aperturef/5.3 (full format equivalent, in terms of depth-of-field)
Optical construction5 elements in 3 groups
Number of aperture blades10
min. focus distance1 m (max. magnification ratio 1:?)
Dimensions47 x 42 mm (collapsed: 47 x 23 mm)
Weight147 g
Filter size27 mm (non-rotating)
Hoodbayonet mount, supplied, barrel shaped
Other featurescollapsible

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