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True to Voigtlander’s fashion, design is elegant and functional. Every single hardware feature is there for a reason, and it’s adequately located: the aperture ring is placed towards the front, well separated from the focusing ring, which makes it really easy to operate without looking, just by positioning your fingers on the right place.
This lens is one of the three that Voigtlander has made available for Sony’s FE mount so far. It’s definitely bigger than the 15mm version (reviewed here), but they share the same general design. One difference worth mentioning, is the way the lens cover attaches to the front element. On the 15mm version there is a pinch style cap, whereas the 10mm is simply a non-threaded cap that is held in place by friction (however, it seems to be metallic).
The focus ring is fully mechanical, meaning that it has both start and stop points as opposed to the focus-by-wire method used by modern auto-focus lenses where the focus ring turns freely in both directions. Mechanical focusing provides a better feedback and allows to achieve accurate focus easier and faster than focus by wire most of the time.
It’s worth mentioning that the camera can be set to activate the focus magnifier as soon as the focus ring is operated, which is a feature that some people may find appealing. I prefer setting one of the camera’s configurable buttons to do so, but that’s just my personal preference.
One disadvantage of Voiglander’s design, is the fact that the lens hood is permanently attached. That means that, no filters can be used on this lens.
This lens is built like a tank. No plastic components (other than the lens caps), even the fixed hood is made of metal. It feels as solid and well built as the Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 or any other Zeiss lens made for the FE-Mount. This may not be a coincidence as Cosina Japan also manufactures several Zeiss lenses.
The focusing ring is as smooth as it gets, with just the right amount of friction to move from one end to the other. The aperture ring makes an audible and pleasant “click” when changing apertures. However, it can easily be de-clicked to improve operation and handling when filming video.
It is a fairly heavy lens for a mirrorless system, but it doesn’t makes the Sony A7 series cameras feel out of balance. Really, there is nothing that can be criticized about the build quality and features of this lens.
Using such a wide prime lens on a camera like the Sony A7 II is a lot of fun and opens up a world of composition possibilities. Since almost everything will be in the frame, it forces the photographer to be creative and mindful of their surroundings. One of the nicest things about this lens is that it’s not only super-wide but also it’s a rectilinear lens (i.e. non-fisheye), which is not easy to find at this focal length.
On the downside, at f/5.6 it’s a fairly slow lens, meaning that it’s not ideal for indoor use or poorly lit areas. Under those circumstances, a tripod is a must.
Sharpness / Corner tests
The Sony A7 II was setup on a tripod, ISO was set to 100, Steady Shot was disabled and the lens was focused to infinity. Several shots of the scene below were taken at different apertures (f/5.6, f/8, f/9, f/11 and f/22). Images are Straight Out of the Camera (SOOC), no post-processing was done unless specifically stated.
Three square samples were cropped from each photo at key frame locations: center, midframe and corner. Here are the results:
In pretty much all lenses sharpness tends to degrade as you get closer to edges to the image. This is an unavoidable characteristic due to the nature of glass and optics. The effect is also more prominent when using extreme apertures (in the case of this lens: f/5.6 and f/22).
It’s evident this lens is the most sharp at f/8 and f/9 (the latter being the sharpest one). However, at apertures above f/11, the corners lack detail, and even the midframe sharpness suffers as we go up. I would say the Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 version continues to be the sharper Heliar to this day.
Straight out of the camera, contrast performance is excellent, very similar to that of the Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 version. This is true throughout the frame and at all aperture values. Obviously, this can further tweaked on post production via Lightroom.
There is considerable flare when deliberately putting the sun or a strong light source in the frame at the right angle. Take the following picture as an example.
Lens flare can be observed towards the middle of the shot. Here is a closeup of the area:
Some people are particularly offended by flare in their pictures, and some others think it adds character when done tastefully (I fall in the latter group).
The Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6 exhibits minor distortion, which is really impressive for an ultra wide lens. Although images are almost perfect to be used Straight Ouf of the Camera (SOOC), the distortion can easily be corrected in Lightroom by enabling Profile Corrections in the Lens Corrections section.
Move the slider below from left to right to see the difference before and after enabling the lens profile correction. Also, note the change in vignetting towards the edges.
Vignetting is the term given to the fact that, depending on how wide a particular lens is, it may darken the edges of the image. This is also accentuated at certain aperture values.
As seen in the picture above, the case of the Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6, presents some vignetting, which is just expected on a lens with such a wide focal length. It’s worth mentioning however, that it’s much controlled than the vignetting presented by previous Heliar generations (For Leica M mount).
At $1,100 this is not a cheap lens. However, there aren’t many ultra-wide options for Sony FE (i.e. Full Frame) mount, and the list gets even shorter when looking for focal lengths below 15mm. At 10mm, there aren’t any native competing products for Sony FE mount. Other options close to this focal length would be the Voigtlander 12mm f/5.6 ($999) and the soon-to-be released Laowa 12mm f/2.8 at around the same price ($979). The latter is advertised as having close-to-zero distortion, but that claim is yet to be confirmed.
A special shout-out to CameraQuest, official Voigtlander distributor in the USA. Their customer service is fantastic: straight forward and concise communication without automated emails/tickets, fast response and exceptional support. I have bought lenses from them in the past just because of that and will continue to do it in the future.
Ease of Use
This lens is as easy to use as any other manual focusing lens. Actually, I would say it’s easier to use: since it’s such a wide angle lens, setting the focus ring to infinity would put everything beyond 2 mt. (6.6 ft) in focus. That means you can set the camera in Aperture Priority, se the aperture ring as needed and you are ready to shoot. It doesn’t get easier than that (.. on a manual lens, that is).
Reviews of this lens do not abound on Internet. Perhaps this is due to the fact that it was released towards the end of April 2016 and it’s currently in high demand. It currently has a rating of 4.4 stars out of 9 reviews on Amazon and also 4 stars out of 1 review on Adorama. Although it’s just a few reviews, they seem legit and unbiased. Therefore, these ratings have been used when calculating the Quarks Rating.