A tale of two lenses

Sigfrid Lundberg's Stuff 2010-12-02

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Here I discuss two lenses. Both are very new. I've owned them less than three months, and they represent recent developments from the respective companies building them. But appart from that they differ in almost all aspects. Even in the very idea behind their existence.

Superwide Heliar 15mm F4.5

Heliar is produced by Cosina Voigtländer. There is no company having that name, though. Cosina is a Japanese company building cameras and camera lenses. Voigtländer is one of the very old brands in German optical industries. It is Johann Christoph Voigtländer founded the company 1756 long before Louis Daguerre invented the photographic process.

PC013081.JPG by Sigfrid Lundberg, on Flickr

Copenhagen harbour. Photo taken from the office of the development team at Royal Library using the Cosina Voigländer Superwide Heliar 15mm F4.5.

Cosina, on the other hand, was founded 1959 during the Japanese industrial expansion after the second world war. The company have made very little for sale under its own brand but much more producing lenses and bodies for sale under brands like Nikon, Contax, Zeiss and now most recently Voigtländer. While Cosina builds, for instance, Zeiss Ikon cameras designed by the German Company, Cosina has leased and controls Voigtländer brand. The products sold as Voigtländer are interesting, such as lenses bodies for the Nikon S, Contax and Leica M systems. You can actually get a modern lens produced for a camera system that Nikon discontinued 1965.

I can very much symphasize with those ideas. Cosina is designing and marketing new stuff in a more of 50 years tradition. And a lot of people wants their products, but, yes, the products addresses various niche markets.

The Superwide Heliar is a Leica M mount lens. I bought it because I wanted a classical wideangle lens and because it has got wonderful reviews. One that allows me to set focus at 3 meter, and aperture 8 and then be able to expect that just about everything from one meter to infinity is within focus. It works. Heliar is exectly that kind of lens. Excellent for candid street photography where you are not able to focus at all. Such a lens is wonderful for capturing a lot at the same time, such as a lot of water or a lot of just about anything, such as trees. The wideangle lens captures it all. For some reason, there always seem to be even more of the stuff on your photo. More water or more trees.

M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm F3.5-5.6

I cannot mount the Superwide Heliar on my Micro Four Thirds (MFT) camera without an adaptor. The M.Zuiko lens came with the camera. MFT is its native language as it was designed to be the kit lens, and I suppose that such a thing has to be as good as ever possible at a minimum cost. This lens is one of the basic sales arguments for the body as well as further investments. It has got good reviews, and I think that it deserves it.

Other sale arguments involves ease of use, rapid autofocus good zoom and whatever.

The zoom starts at 14mm. It is actually wider than the Heliar. The snag is that when I mount a zoom I mentally adjust myself to zooming. I use the zoom as an aid for composing, basically for cropping. What I'm not doing is mentally to have both a wideangle and a short telephoto mounted and that I am able to choose between a shallow and a deep depth of field. Here we come to the point that is crucial to me. Fixed focal length manual lenses make me aware of the lens.


I don't like this lens because I feel that I'm not aware of what's going when I use it. It is not the zoom, it is not the automatic focussing but rather the fact that the zoom goes from wideangle to telephoto. I think that sort of loose the awareness of what kind of lens I'm using. The new M.Zuiko 14-150mm would be a nightmare for me, but I think I would love the new 75-300mm one and similarly I think I would like the 9-18mm.

I think a lens need an identity. Heliar has got the wideangle niche in my heart.


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My name is Sigfrid Lundberg. The stuff I publish here may, or may not, be of interest for anyone else.

On this site there is material on photography, music, literature and other stuff I enjoy in life. However, most of it is related to my profession as an Internet programmer and software developer within the area of digital libraries. I have been that at the Royal Danish Library, Copenhagen (Denmark) and, before that, Lund university library (Sweden).

The content here does not reflect the views of my employers. They are now all past employers, since I retired 1 May 2023.

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