Cosina Voigtländer Macro APO-Lanthar 125mm F2.5 SL
NOTE: Images with an icon next to them have been artificially shrunk to better fit your screen; click the icon to restore them, in place, to their regular size.
desktop background image of the perfect flower -- as seen in &#8220; An Amazing Day of Photography at Some Eastern-Kyoto Temples &#8221; <!-- -- Imakumano Kannonji Temple (今熊野観音寺) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/640 sec, f/2.5, ISO 560 — map & image datanearby photos
as seen in “An Amazing Day of Photography at Some Eastern-Kyoto Temples
desktop background image of a closeup of a dandelion -- as seen in &#8220; Exploring the Sharper Side of the Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 &#8221; <!-- -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1.3 sec, f/22, ISO 640 — full exif
as seen in “Exploring the Sharper Side of the Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5
as seen in &#8220; The Towel Museum in Imabari Japan, Part 2 &#8221; -- Imabari, Ehime, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/500 sec, f/2.5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
as seen in “The Towel Museum in Imabari Japan, Part 2
desktop background image of cherry blossom in Japan -- as seen in &#8220; Revisiting the Road to Imabari: Stops #1 and #2 &#8221; <!-- -- Sanyo Highway Seto Parking Area (山陽自動車道瀬戸パーキングエリア - 下り) -- Okayama, Japan -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/8000 sec, f/2.5, ISO 720 — map & image datanearby photos
as seen in “Revisiting the Road to Imabari: Stops #1 and #2
desktop background image of very tiny little orange mushrooms among the moss on a decaying roof at the Gioji Temple (祇王寺), Kyoto Japan -- as seen in &#8220; Gioji Temple Photoshoot Continues: Little Orange Mushrooms and Depth-of-Field Comparisons &#8221; <!-- -- Gioji Temple (祇王寺) -- Copyright 2012 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
as seen in “Gioji Temple Photoshoot Continues: Little Orange Mushrooms and Depth-of-Field Comparisons
desktop background image of a flower at an ikebana show in Kyoto Japan -- as seen in &#8220; Haphazard and Defocused: Elusive Lesson in Photographic Composition &#8221; <!-- -- 未生流笹岡 Ikebana Show 2011 -- Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/500 sec, f/2.5, ISO 640 — map & image datanearby photos
as seen in “Haphazard and Defocused: Elusive Lesson in Photographic Composition

Note: the photos above are from among the hundreds of shots taken with the Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 that have appeared on my blog since I first published this article. The photo I originally opened the article with, seen below, was one I just happened to have taken just before writing the article, but it reallly doesn't do the lens justice, so I came back to add a few that do.


Give Me an Inch and I'll ask for a mile 125mm handheld at 1 / 20 sec, ISO 8000 -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/20 sec, f/2.5, ISO 8000 — map & image datanearby photos
Give Me an Inch
and I'll ask for a mile
125mm handheld at 1/20 sec, ISO 8000

A couple of months ago I wrote about a new (for me) lens, a Cosina Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 that I introduced in this post. It was my intention to eventually write up a nice post all about it, with samples that I actually took time to take carefully, but free time is just not something I've had yet this year, so today's post will have to do.

Tube of metal and glass: no plastic -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/320 sec, f/2.5, ISO 1250 — full exif
Tube
of metal and glass: no plastic

Last fall's “Holy Cow, the Gardens at Kyoto's Eikando Temple are Gorgeous!” post represented an awakening for me to a whole class of lens that far exceeds Nikon's offerings, at least by some metrics. In it I had used a friend's manual-focus Carl Zeiss 100mm f/2, and was thrilled with both the joy of using it and the photos it allowed me to take. It's solid metal and glass, with a long focus pull that makes manual-focus photography a luxury of satin proportions. Modern SLRs tend not to be designed for manual-focus use, but I have a Katz Eye focusing screen, which makes manual focus a pleasure.

Not long after this experience with the Zeiss, in an exchange with a blog reader, I commented that I was looking for a nice macro (super close-up) lens, and that the Zeiss was nice, but that I longed for more close-up than its 1/2-full-macro abilities.

He replied:

As for macro lenses, I have almost all of them and the Zeiss 100 f/2 is next on my list, but I already know (from reviews of the Zeiss) that I have the best of the best, which is:

Voigtlander 125 APO Lanthar f/2.5 (by Cosina)

Just the best, better than any Nikon macro (and I have a dozen, probably). It also has a very long throw, which is exquisite to use. Of course, it is all manual, but that is how I work anyway, from choice. They are very hard to find now in Nikon mount, but they can be found and are about $1800 or so, but worth every cent. Each time I use it, I am amazed. Most copies come from Japan. Bjorn loves it. On a full-frame camera, it is a joy.

(“Bjorn” refers to well-known lens geek Bjørn Rørslett, whose review of this lens is toward the bottom of this page.)

Something about this really struck a chord with me — the calm “just the best” or the vivid “exquisite to use”, perhaps — and I felt that intuitively, sight unseen, that I just had to have this lens.

After long months of watching Yahoo! Auctions (they're not only still alive in Japan, but the market leader... the “eBay of Japan”), I finally procured one, and was not disappointed.

SN 9120700 N/AI-S means Nikon &#8220;AI-S&#8221;-spec Mount -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/320 sec, f/2.5, ISO 2200 — full exif
SN 9120700
N/AI-S means Nikon “AI-S”-spec Mount

The “exquisite” that so aptly describes the Zeiss 100/2 is only a starting point for the Voigtländer, with a focus pull that takes almost two complete turns of the lens barrel to move from infinity to the minimum focus of 38cm. Two turns of the barrel! It exudes solid, velvety-smooth quality.

The numbers around the barrel in red are the focus distances in meters during the first turn, in white the distances during the second turn.

The lens extends considerably as you focus closer, as if it's reaching out to the subject being photographed, and by the time you're at the minimum focus distance, the length of the lens proper (sans hood) has almost doubled. That's a neat engineering trick in and of itself.

Focus At Infinity / Focus At 38cm With funky square hood. The comparison would have been better sans hood. -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/320 sec, f/2.5, ISO 4000 — full exif
Focus At Infinity / Focus At 38cm
With funky square hood. The comparison would have been better sans hood.

It comes with a funky square lens hood of speckled metal, and a rubber square “hood cap” that seems to be the only thing not made of metal or glass.

Cosina Voigtländer Macro APO-Lanthar 125mm F2.5 SL -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/100 sec, f/11, ISO 4000 — full exif
Cosina Voigtländer Macro APO-Lanthar 125mm F2.5 SL

The official name is the long mouthful captioning the photo above. The Japanese company Cosina actually manufacturers the lens. Voigtländer is venerable names in cameras, being licensed by Cosina for the name's recognition and heritage, I guess.

Macro means that the image projected on the sensor by the lens can be made at least as big as the actual object being projected. The larger the projection, the more the object fills the frame, and so the more detail is rendered. This full-macro lens can project an image twice the size of the Zeiss (which is also manufactured by Cosina, the agreement with Zeiss likely being what caused Cosina to stop producing this Voigtländer lens in the first place).

APO refers to a type of lens construction that reduces color fringing, while Lanthar seems to be another name borrowed for its heritage. I'm not sure.

125mm F2.5 are the focal length and maximum aperture. SL seems to be a designator for a line or family of lenses at Cosina, but again, I'm not sure.

The maximum aperture of f/2.5 is sort of middle ground... not bad, but it's not f/1.4, either. Still, when combined with the D700's low-light capabilities I tend to want to push the limits, so I grabbed it on the way out one evening to check out fireflies with Anthony (and found none, where there had been a gazillion the previous day... odd), yielding not much but the photo that leads this post.

I haven't had much chance to use it since, but a few photos with it appeared on my Lightroom JPEG Quality writeup.

X4 -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 — 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 6400 — full exif
X4

Around the barrel in orange at various spots next to focus distances are “X2”, “X3”, and “X4”. I could not find any reference on the web to what these mean, so perhaps this will be the first: at very close focus distances (less than half a meter), the effective aperture starts to narrow, reducing the light by 2×, 3×, and 4× at the respective focus distances. Those with modern TTL metering just let the camera take care of the exposure, but those doing the exposure manually will need to adjust their exposure by 1, 1.6, and 2 stops, respectively.

Besides the square lens hood and hood cap, it comes with an all-metal screw-on lens cap. Here's a photo of the cap balanced on the hood at my living-room window:

Lens Cap and Lens Hood -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 cropped — 1/2500 sec, f/5.6, ISO 4000 — full exif
Lens Cap and Lens Hood

The lens cap is nicely machined, with a knurled ridge offset at an angle around the circumference. It's less convenient than a modern plastic clip-on lens cap, and it can't even be accessed when the lens hood is on, but I suspect it's meant only for when the lens is in storage.

Anyway, the lens cap doesn't look particularly interesting when you're holding it, but looking at it close up reveals all kinds of interesting plays of light. I set the cap in front of the window, and used a tissue box to steady the lens (because walking all way back to my room to break out my tripod was more work than I was willing to invest), and ...

Edge of Knurled -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2010 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Voigtländer 125mm f/2.5 cropped — 1/400 sec, f/8, ISO 4000 — full exif
Edge of Knurled

This is, of course, the subject of my most recent (though not very recent) Disorienting “What am I” Quiz.

I took an interesting photo yesterday that I want to post as a “What am I?” quiz, so because I don't want to have two open quizzes, I was sort of forced to post about the Voigtländer today. So there we are.

Now back to the Lightroom plugin bit mines...

(ignore this... it's just some ASCII-only versions of some names, for the search engines: Bjorn Rorslett, Voigtlander 125mm


All 8 comments so far, oldest first...

Maybe not the comment you were looking for but worth saying: this photo of your son also represents consumate Japan:

1. Wood + Stone
2. Old-lady bicycle
3. Narrow pathway crowded in by small dwellings
4. And the ultimate: flip-flops and white socks -> Where I live in the U.S. is known for its ex-pat Japanese population /burgeoning Korean population and the white socks/flip-flops motif is ever popular. Please tell me that those white socks have individually knit toes… that would make this photo even more consumate Japan.

— comment by Ron Evans on July 14th, 2010 at 2:53am JST (6 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

The original Lanthar lenses used elements made from low-dispersion glass with the rare earth element Lanthanum in them, hence the name.

— comment by Fazal Majid on July 14th, 2010 at 3:42am JST (6 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

I think the SL designation indicates Voigtlander’s 35mm SLR lenses. The SL II line comes in mounts for Nikon, Canon, and Pentax.

— comment by Chad on July 22nd, 2010 at 9:16am JST (6 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

Congratulations that you joined the elusive clube of CV125 owners. I have mine since a few years and also had the Zeiss ZF 2/100 which I immediately sold then, although I like and have a lot of Zeiss glass, but the CV125 is so much better.

— comment by Dr Klaus Schmitt on July 24th, 2010 at 9:16am JST (6 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

You must be the only amateur photographer in the world who takes lens pictures with another copy of the same lens!

— comment by Andrew Shieh, Sunnyvale on July 24th, 2010 at 9:16am JST (6 years, 6 months ago) comment permalink

I just purchased this lens, and found your site while surfing for information. Very helpful write up. I look forward to using it in the Kamakura area once the weather cools a bit.

On a related note, how do you like the Katz Eye in the D700? I have considered ordering one for mine, but I hear it affects the autofocus and spot metering off the center focus mark. I tend to use MF, but there are time when I need the auto focus.

Love the Katz Eye… would never do without it. BTW, in case you didn’t get a manual for your Voigtländer, here’s a copy (in Japanese) —Jeffrey

— comment by Alex V on August 20th, 2010 at 12:37pm JST (6 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

“Around the barrel in orange at ….. respectively.”
You are right about the exposure compensation.

I looked at the link you posted of the Japanese manual. Its what you said. If your camera has TTL metering, there is no concern; otherwise manual exposure compensation from the user is required.

— comment by wx on September 30th, 2011 at 6:27pm JST (5 years, 4 months ago) comment permalink

Nice article Jeffrey.
Would you consider selling? or do you know of one for sale?

Regards
Nik

If you can give me a good price on my firstborn, and perhaps one of my kidneys, I’ll perhaps think about considering selling the Voigtländer. I watched Y! Japan Auctions for some while before one came up. They seem to come in batches. I saw one last month that sold for about $2,000. Watch the auction sites in your country, and hopefully you’ll get lucky… —Jeffrey

— comment by Nik on June 12th, 2012 at 7:30pm JST (4 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink
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