Author Topic: Voigtländer SL 180mm f/4 APO Lanthar  (Read 7038 times)

Vilhelm

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Voigtländer SL 180mm f/4 APO Lanthar
« on: January 11, 2016, 21:20:29 »
The Voigtländer SL (series I) lenses with silver/black barrels and the easily distinguishable Red/Green/Blue stripes are long since discontinued. While they've all certainly drawn attention due to the outstanding 125/2.5 Macro APO Lanthar, none of the others are as outstanding as the 125/2.5 (the 180/4 comes close though). They all however are finely crafted, metal construction and they all share a common character - very pleasing rendering of out-of-focus areas.

The 180/4 IMO ranks #2 in this "family" that consists of the 12/5.6 Aspherical (mirror lock-up), 15/4.5 Aspherical (mirror lock-up) and the "normal"  40/2 Aspherical, 75/2.5, 90/3.5 APO, 125/2.5 APO and 180/4 APO. Save some time and I'll add photos and thoughts about the other members of Voigtländer's SL series for Nikon (later).

(subjective quality ranking)
#1 125/2.5 Macro
#2 180/4
#3 (not far behind) 90/3.5
#4 40/2
#5 75/2.5

The 180/4 is one of those lenses your motoric memory has to learn and master, because it shares a common design factor with all the SL lenses: the focus gearing is optimized for close-up use, making them really easy to handle at close to medium distances, but very bitchy near infinity. They all come from the factory adjusted so that you can focus them "past infinity". I spent lots of time last decade (bought most of mine new) with live-view, a tripod and carefully fine-tuning focus to get optimum sharpness at infinity. Of course that's not a big issue with the 40/2 (because of DoF) but with the 180/4 especially you will curse a few times before you learn that you can't just focus it until it "infinity stops" and then compose.

That said, I thoroughly enjoy this lens. I always have, ever since I bought it new from Steve Gandy about 10 years ago. It paints very delicate look in images and it was long my Zen practice as I practiced with it going at everything from butterflies to dogs trying to nail focus manually (and eventually I did master it). I picked up the lens today after a long break in using it, and wow was I pleasantly surprised how my motoric memory remembered exactly how much to turn it to nail focus.

Anyway, here are some samples of the look you can expect, should you find it. Beware though, of all the SL lenses manufactured in Nikon Ai-S mount, it is the most rare - production run is likely no more than 1,000 copies based on the serial number spacing*. Should you find one on eBay prepare to pay 800-1100 EUR, which is almost twice what a lens of this quality, focal length and aperture should cost IMO...

* source: my own "mini-project SL serials" inspired by Roland Vink
http://forum.mflenses.com/voigtlaender-sl-apo-lanthar-serial-numbers-production-volumes-t24547.html
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Chip Chipowski

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Re: Voigtländer SL 180mm f/4 APO Lanthar
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2016, 21:38:39 »
Thanks for sharing these comments and your very nice images.  I am impressed with your manual focus game - the dog shot could not have been easy!

Jakov Minić

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Re: Voigtländer SL 180mm f/4 APO Lanthar
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2016, 21:49:08 »
The images are really nice. I feel it's not only the lens, contrary, you make great photos.
How would you compare it with the Nikon 180/2.8?
Free your mind and your ass will follow. - George Clinton
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John Geerts

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Re: Voigtländer SL 180mm f/4 APO Lanthar
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2016, 21:51:26 »
Beautiful, lovely. I have only the CV90, which I like very much. And the Nokton 58/1,4. Were does this Voigtländer belong to your idea, because I value that lens very high.

Bjørn Rørslett

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Re: Voigtländer SL 180mm f/4 APO Lanthar
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2016, 21:56:44 »
I have a love-hate relationship to my Voigtländer 180 mm f/4 APO-Lanthar. It is a dog to focus, or rather, to shot it without getting the focus off. This because the focusing collar moves easily, the lens is so compact, and you very easily by accident make it go out of focus. Thus a lens mainly to be used with a tripod-mounted camera in my experience.

That being said, it delivers nicely detailed images with excellent bokeh and strong colour. Sharpness is excellent through not entirely up to the level of its 125 sibling, contrast is slightly lower, and the APO character less prevailing so some colour aberrations occasionally need to be cleaned out from the final image.

On the other hand, it does IR very well and can be used for UV too, if one accepts its not-so-deep-into-UV rendition. Sharpness in either spectral range outside the visible is very good. This makes it the most versatile of the three APO-Lanthars.

As far as I can recall, "chipping" (CPU-modifying) the 180 was a less hellish undertaking than with the 125 APO.

A patch of Geranium sylvaticum set against soft green ferns is a perfect motif for the 180 APO-Lanthar.

Bjørn Rørslett

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Re: Voigtländer SL 180mm f/4 APO Lanthar
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2016, 22:08:29 »
Thanks to Vilhelm for his valuable contributions on various lenses be they for F-mount or other cameras  - bring them on!!

Vilhelm

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Re: Voigtländer SL 180mm f/4 APO Lanthar
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2016, 22:27:23 »
Most kind of you Bjørn, my humble thanks! My posts here are on F-mount lenses only, using Nikon DSLR/SLR. I have no adapted lenses and I sold the Canon, Leica and Hasselblad systems already last decade. With the storm approaching I will continue digging archive disks (it's fun actually because it shows how little I have had time to shoot my own stuff as opposed to shoot what pays the bills).

I 100% agree with your assessment of the 180/4. It's very tweaky and quick-focusing near infinity, and s l o o o w turning at close distances. Zen-lens, requires/builds patience and drives anyone furious for sure hahaha

Beautiful, lovely. I have only the CV90, which I like very much. And the Nokton 58/1,4. Were does this Voigtländer belong to your idea, because I value that lens very high.

I also really like my CV 90/3.5, and the 58/1.4 SL II was my favorite (before I found a reasonably priced Noct and bought the 58/1.4 AF-S). I look forward to adding my thoughts and photos taken with those two lenses, later, in separate lens topics.

The images are really nice. I feel it's not only the lens, contrary, you make great photos.
How would you compare it with the Nikon 180/2.8?

Very flattering, thank you. I also have the 180/2.8 Ai-S ED and the 180/2.8D AF Nikkors (don't know which one you were referring to?). I would need to do a lens tag search to find photos to substantiate my opinion but... my general feeling is that the 180/2.8D AF gives less contrasty fingerprint than the CV 180/4 or the 180/2.8 Ai-S ED. 180/2.8D AF is not a bad lens, but "good" isn't enough when compared to the 180/2.8 Ai-S ED or CV 180/4 which both are great. The CV 180/4 flirts with Japanese love for saturation and bokeh, but I don't think I have ever seriously compared them against each other although they all sit in the same lens cabinet.

Thanks for sharing these comments and your very nice images.  I am impressed with your manual focus game - the dog shot could not have been easy!

One month of surfing, a diet of fresh/raw fish, aztec beer, local errm herbs and most importantly: time to practice will do wonders to anyone's focusing capabilities.
Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
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Jakov Minić

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Re: Voigtländer SL 180mm f/4 APO Lanthar
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2016, 22:32:02 »
Vilhelm, I am sorry I wasn't precise enough.
180/2.8 Ai-S ED was what I had in mind :)
Thanks for your extensive reply!
And thanks for the review!
I am looking forward to more  :)
Free your mind and your ass will follow. - George Clinton
Before I jump like monkey give me banana. - Fela Kuti
Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem. - Woody Allen

Fons Baerken

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Re: Voigtländer SL 180mm f/4 APO Lanthar
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2016, 23:00:39 »
Funny thing i have all three apo voigtlanders but i almost exclusively use the 125mm/2.5.

John Geerts

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Re: Voigtländer SL 180mm f/4 APO Lanthar
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2016, 23:11:56 »
I also really like my CV 90/3.5, and the 58/1.4 SL II was my favorite (before I found a reasonably priced Noct and bought the 58/1.4 AF-S). I look forward to adding my thoughts and photos taken with those two lenses, later, in separate lens topics.
  That would be great, thanks. 

Bjørn Rørslett

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Re: Voigtländer SL 180mm f/4 APO Lanthar
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2016, 23:19:15 »
I already mentioned the 180/4 can do service for IR and, in a pinch, also for UV. Funny that its APO-ish character is showing off here when you go outside the limits of the visible spectrum, since there are negligible focus shifts in either UV or IR.

The 180 can do passable close-up as it goes to 1:4 on its own. Here are fallen birch leaves in a slurry of fresh ice, at the near limit. IR photo taken with the Fuji S3 PRo (UVIR Limited Edition) a camera the Live View implementation of which is a bad joke so worse than useless, and one has to rely on visual focusing only. As there is virtually no focus shift (IR), I managed to retain crisp sharpness in the intended plane even this close to the subject.

Bjørn Rørslett

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Re: Voigtländer SL 180mm f/4 APO Lanthar
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2016, 23:27:15 »
The 180 also does UV. This is a little unexpected for a fairly modern lens with advanced coatings, but I for one won't complain :D Of course the UV response is not in the UV-Nikkor league but then most lenses cannot match that legend anyway.

A French Nymphea alba (coll) flower graces the sun. Nikon D40X with built-in Baader U (Venus) filter.

Vilhelm

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Re: Voigtländer SL 180mm f/4 APO Lanthar
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2016, 23:37:27 »
Wow - that's like one huge bombing target  :D for pollenating insects!
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Fons Baerken

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Re: Voigtländer SL 180mm f/4 APO Lanthar
« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2016, 09:31:47 »


D800 180mm @ f5.6

Fons Baerken

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Re: Voigtländer SL 180mm f/4 APO Lanthar
« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2016, 14:59:17 »


Df 180mm @ f/5.6