A new lens, mount it on the camera, take a test shot. it’s a common compulsion, but It happened to me earlier this week in rather strange circumstances. Voigtländer had sent me a yet another new lens for review. This time it is the unusual 65mm f/2 Macro Apo-Lanthar Aspherical designed especially for the Sony a7 and a9 cameras.
Since I’m currently sampling the excellent a7III, I thought it would be good to try as many E-mount Voigtländers as possible. I’ve already had the 40mm f/1.2 Nokton for a couple of weeks and now the Apo-Lanthar is poking its not inconsiderable snout into the pie. I’ll be going into more details about the lens when I’ve had more experience, but I certainly like what I see from my first encounter.
The Apo-Lanthar is another impressive lens, just as impressive as the 40mm Nokton, and works so well with the Sony. Because of the electronic connections — unusual for a fully manual lens — the camera records EXIF data and knows when to start focus magnification without being prompted by pressing a button.
Quite by chance, the lens was due to arrive last Tuesday and I couldn’t arrange a suitable delivery time at home. However, since I had an afternoon appointment in the beautiful suburb of Richmond-on-Thames, I called the courier company to arrange a local drop off.
I found myself at a rather nondescript newsagent across the bridge from Richmond on the Middlesex side, in St. Margarets. I borrowed a pair of scissors and had the impressive Apo-Lanthar out of the box and mounted on the a7III in record time. It was then just a few steps back to the famous 18th Century stone arched bridge at Richmond for the first test shot.
So it was that I poked the camera over the parapet to take the very first shot through the Apo-Lanthar. I hadn’t thought of it as an ideal landscape lens, but it captured Richmond with impressive detail and wonderful colours. The weather was perfect if a little hot and sticky, and the sun brought out the best in the scene from the old bridge. I was rewarded with a couple of picture-postcard landscapes that I will be able to use in the later review of this lens.
Since Tuesday I’ve had the camera and lens to London’s South Bank and I’ll be taking it to the annual Bus Day at Brooklands on Sunday. It’s always good for a few interesting character shots. With a focal length of 65mm, the Apo-Lanthar will force stand well back to get those London Transport buses in the frame but it should be great for detail and portraits of the bus fans.
In an attempt to check out the close focus, I grabbed the following quick shot of discarded helping of caramelised peanuts perched on a Thames-side wall. It has encouraged me to experiment a little more. Strangely for a manual-focus lens, the Apo-Lantharhe has an extremely long focus throw of over 300 degrees. That’s three times as much twiddling as on, say, a 75mm Apo-Summicron. This makes close focus photography much more precise and easier to handle.
But the interesting thing is that 80 percent of the non-linear throw comes in the first 50mm up to one meter. This helps macro focus but bu squeezing the 50mm-infinity range into about 40mm, the lens creates a very fast focus for general photography. It seems to have been well thought out by the designers but I will have more views on this later. I’m not quite sure I nailed the focus (on the foreground nut) but I will get used to it. In this type of close work, the 5-axis body stabilisation in the Sony a7III is an undoubted boon.