VOIGTLANDER HELIAR-HYPER WIDE 10MM F/5.6 REVIEW
THE WIDEST WORLDVIEW ON THE MARKET: DISCOVER IT IN THIS VOIGTLANDER HELIAR-HYPER WIDE 10MM F/5.6 REVIEW!
In this Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 review, we’ll examine together how Voigtlander pushed the limits of Ultra-Wide-Angle lenses into new territories. To date, there is nothing on the market like the Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6, period. As you know, I am an avid user of ultra-wide lenses for my Fine Art landscape work. I love the different look on the world that they offer, and I find the challenges they present very stimulating to develop and express my vision.
Since getting the Leica SL, I am really enjoying working with ultra-wide lenses in M mount. To me, the Leica SL is just the perfect platform for it (click to read my A LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHER IN-DEPTH LEICA SL REVIEW and my LEICA TRI-ELMAR 16-18-21MM VS VOIGTLANDER SUPER WIDE-HELIAR 15MM III REVIEW). While the Leica 16-18-21mm Tri-Elmar is a very accomplished performer, if you want to go wider Voigtlander is the only manufacturer to date pushing the M mount into extreme wide-angle land, with the exception of the huge Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 ZM.
Voigtlander’s 15mm and 12mm M-mount lenses have been out for a long time. While optically the older version left something to be desired, the last versions of both lenses, version III optimized for digital, is great. But, making a 10mm rectilinear lens (not fisheye) in M mount?
Wow. I was incredibly curious to see in this Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 review how the new lens would perform, so as soon as it was available I got my copy from NEWOLDCAMERA in Milan, my favourite shop, and I tested it to decide whether to take it with me in the field.
Disclaimer: At the time of writing, I am not affiliated with Voigtlander, Leica or NewOldCamera in any way. I am a professional photographer looking for the best equipment for my work, I buy all my gear with my hard-earned cash and I don’t get paid by anyone to write articles for my blog.
BUILD, SIZE AND WEIGHT
The Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 is aesthetically very similar to the 12 and 15mm version III, so much so that you could mistake one for the other. It features a built-in lens hood like both its siblings. Like the 12mm, it doesn’t have a filter ring. This all-metal little lens is built like the proverbial tank, feeling extremely solid in the hand, without any rattles or plays. The focus ring is very well damped and very easy to find by feel even in the dark thanks to its ridges and grooves; the lens will focus seamlessly as close as 0.5mt. The aperture ring, also very well damped, clicks securely into places at half-stop intervals.
The Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide is very small and light: with its 59mm height, its 68mm diameter and its diminutive 312 gr weight, you can add it to your bag and take it with you all the time, almost without noticing it. The lens cap is of the pressure-fit type, but contrarily to what often happens with this kind of caps it’s beautifully made, it slides securely into place and it doesn’t fall off easily.
USE OF FILTERS
The ability of using filters is very important for me when I choose a lens. For this Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 review, I tried to adapt my 100mm square filter system to the lens, but it proved impossible to use it without getting some mechanical vignette caused by the filter holder.
While with the Voigtlander Super Wide-Heliar 15mm you could saw off the built-in hood and use its filter ring with your regular 100mm system without any problem (see SURGERY ON THE VOIGTLANDER SUPER WIDE-HELIAR 15MM III to learn how to do so), the bulging front element of the 10mm would make this impossible.
Since to date there is no way to adapt any square filter system to the 10mm, including 150mm filters, I guess I’ll have to live without using filters on this lens – for now at least.
UPDATE: Vietnamese manufacturer Bombo produces a 100mm holder system for the Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 (and for the 12mm and 15mm as well).
Build quality is really not great, in fact is pretty horrible if we have to be honest, but it’s an option to use your favourite 100mm square filters on this lens without having to go up in filter size.
USING THE HELIAR-HYPER WIDE ON THE LEICA SL
As with any other Leica M lenses, doing this Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 review I loved using the lens on the Leica SL. The Leica SL’s manual focus magnification feature, available all over the frame at a click of the joystick, makes achieving perfect focus a breeze.
The automatic brightness adjustment of the Leica SL’s EVF makes the lens easy to focus under any light conditions. Clearly, focussing such a slow lens is not as easy as focussing a fast, f/1.4 lens wide open. Your subjects will never really “pop” into focus using the Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6, but you’ll definitely be able to focus it precisely. Contrarily to other reviewers, I don’t find it difficult to frame and focus using the Leica SL’s EVF under harsh and contrasty light, but of course your experience might be different.
SHARPNESS AT INFINITY
Methodology: using my usual “real world” test scene, I manually focussed on the tree on the far ridge in the middle of the frame. I then prepared 900 x 600px, 100% crops of the center, lower left corner and mid-right side at full-stop apertures ranging from wide open to f/16. The series has been shot without coding the lens. Please note that manually focusing the lens at infinity, the focus mark on the lens barrel will read 3 m, thanks to the tolerance introduced by the Leica M-Adapter-T. Let’s see the full scene image first (click on the image to enlarge):
Let’s now examine the center crop (click on the images to enlarge):
Performance in the center is already spectacular wide open; the lens is extremely sharp and shows good contrast and colours. Stopping down, the Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide stays equally sharp at f/8; sharpness then declines slightly from f/11 on due to diffraction.
Let’s now examine the lower left corner (click on the images to enlarge):
Despite the enormous depth of field provided by such a wide-angle lens, when focusing at infinity the extreme lower corners, being much closer to the camera than the point of focus, are slightly soft wide-open. Stopping it down fixes it: at f/8 the Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide is extremely sharp all over the frame even focusing it at infinity. This is an amazing performance, especially considering that in real world situations you’ll not focus all the way to infinity if you wanted your images to be sharp from near to far, over such a big focus range.
Finally, let’s check the mid-right side (click on the images to enlarge):
In this series, you can see how both the relatively close vines and the far hills are sharp nearly to the end of the frame already wide-open. Best aperture is, again, f/8; after that, sharpness declines due to diffraction.
SHARPNESS AT MINIMUM FOCUSING DISTANCE & BOKEH
To examine sharpness at minimum focusing distance for this Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 review, I focused on the Phillips screw right under the mailbox’s red flag in the lower right corner of the frame. Together with the full frame image I included 900 x 600px, 100% crops taken at the point of focus, center crops at mid-range distances, and mid-left crops practically at infinity. This way, together with sharpness at close distance, you’ll be able to examine how the Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide deals with whatever out-of-focus areas is able to create.
Let’s see the full image first (click on the image to enlarge):
Let’s now examine sharpness at the point of focus (click on the images to enlarge):
Wide open, the lens is not extremely sharp here. Stopping it down to f/8 and f/11 improves things a lot though, creating very useable results; at f/16, diffraction takes its toll.
Let’s see now how the Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide renders out-of-focus areas at mid-range distances (click on the images to enlarge):
Wide-open, the lens’ rendition is pleasant to my eye; stopping it down to f/8 is enough to make everything sharp. As always, at f/16 sharpness degrades again due to diffraction.
Finally, let’s examine how the Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide draws at far distances when focused at its minimum focus distance (click on the images to enlarge):
As you can see, the out-of-focus rendering of this lens is pleasant enough and the images, while never getting really sharp, are never mushy. Focused at minimum focusing distance, despite the ultra-wide focal length, depth of field cannot compensate for lack of focus, and the mid-left side never becomes really sharp even stopping the lens down.
Overall, as a result of this Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 review, I found the lens’ performance to be really impressive when focused at infinity. Extremely sharp in the center already wide-open, at f/8 it’s equally sharp all over the frame, which is even more impressing if you consider the ultra-wide focal length. Due to its extremely generous depth of field, you don’t need to stop the Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide down too much to keep everything in focus. Using it at f/8 and carefully choosing your point of focus will guarantee you images sharp all over the frame, right deep into the extreme corners, and in focus everywhere from your feet to infinity.
We need to keep in mind that I purposely designed my test to examine sharpness at minimum focusing distance as a “worst case scenario”. Focusing a lens at its minimum focusing distance while placing the focus point into one corner would make most lenses run away screaming. The Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6, while not perfectly sharp wide open, stopped down a bit performed well in this torture test. A word of praise for the Leica SL: being forced to use the classic “focus and recompose” technique would have made it very difficult to do a test like this properly and precisely, due to the large change in focus distance introduced by shifting the Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide with its ultra-wide focal length. The great EVF and the fantastic focus magnification feature of the Leica SL made this test not only possible, but also very easy to do.
VIGNETTE AND COLOUR CAST
During this Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 review, to test the lens for vignette and colour cast I shot a perfectly white wall evenly illuminated using my Elinchrom Quadra flashes. Due to the extremely wide field of view of the lens, I then kept just the left half of each image, to get rid of those shadows cast by the camera itself on the right-hand side. Please don’t mind the leftover shadows on the lower right-hand side. Let’s see the results (click on the images to enlarge):
As you can see, the Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 shows a lot of vignette wide open; vignette clears a bit when stopping down, but it never completely goes away. As well, the lens creates a slight blue colour cast on each side of the frame.
Let’s see now what happens applying Photoshop CameraRaw’s profile for the Voigtlander Super Wide-Heliar 15mm f/4.5 v. III, a lens featuring almost the same optical formula. Again, please don’t mind the leftover shadows on the lower right-hand side (click on the images to enlarge):
While not completely decisive, this profile eliminates most of both the Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6’s vignette and colour cast. I trust that Adobe will soon develop a dedicate profile for this lens, in the meantime using the Voigtlander Super Wide-Heliar 15mm f/4.5 v. III’s profile will output perfectly usable images without introducing any distortion problems (see below).
To check for distortion, for this Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 review I shoot my garage door adding various red lines in PP to see distortion better. Let’s see the results of both the original image and the image with the Voigtlander Super Wide-Heliar 15mm f/4.5 v. III’s profile applied (click on the images to enlarge):
Left un-profiled, the Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide is perfectly corrected for distortion, negligible in real world use. Applying Photoshop’s Voigtlander Super Wide-Heliar 15mm f/4.5 v. III’s profile, while waiting for Adobe to develop a dedicated profile for this lens, will help enormously to control its colour cast and reduce vignette, without introducing any distortion (just apply a -3 barrel correction to obtain a perfect image.
FLARE RESISTANCE, GHOSTS & CONTRAST
Bringing this Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 review to a conclusion, let me start by repeating what I said at the beginning. If you need to shoot as wide as 10mm, as I write this there are no alternatives to the Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6. The Canon 11-24mm, the Sigma 12-24mm and Voigtlander’s own 12mm might get you close enough, but none of these lenses will give you the 130 degrees of field of view that the Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide offers.
The Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 is extremely sharp all over the frame, is very well contrasted at macro level and, for such a wide lens, offers great micro-contrast as well. The lens is slightly weaker when used at its minimum focusing distance, but this is rarely going to be a problem in real world use. More, the lens draws quite beautifully, outputting very good colours as well, if a bit cold. Add the practically absent distortion and for architectural shootings, especially interiors where space is limited, this becomes a must-have lens.
For landscapes, ultra-wide lenses are very difficult to use but they open up a whole new range of possibilities. The only serious limitation of the Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide for this kind of work is the inability to use filters, which might make you prefer the 12mm version I or II to it.
That said, no lens is perfect, something even truer the more you descend into ultra-wide territory, as this Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 review shows. The Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 adopt a symmetric optical formula with 13 elements in 10 groups, including two aspherical lenses. The upside of using such a formula is great sharpness and almost no distortion; the downside is a lot of vignette and a bit of colour cast on digital.
To keep size and weight (and very likely costs) in check, Voigtlander decided to make this lens f/5.6, which is quite slow. This is not a problem for depth of field control, since nobody would choose a 10mm lens to isolate their subject via depth of field anyway. However, a slow lens is more difficult to focus precisely, which might be an issue in some shooting situations and despite the lens’ huge depth of field. Last, such a slow lens would make your viewfinder darker if used on a traditional DSLR: this problem is obviously non-existent on a rangefinder camera such as any Leica M, and is brilliantly solved by the wonderful EVF of the Leica SL with its automatic brightness control.
Finally, as mentioned before, there is the inability of using filters, which makes this lens very limiting for landscape photography. The use of 100mm square filters is impossible with this lens due to its extremely wide field of view, but I hope some manufacturer will produce an adapter to use 150mm filters with it soon. Until then, I will keep it for interior architectural work, and perhaps will bring it along for my landscape work as well. Despite the limitations mentioned above, I am looking forward to exploring the possibilities that such a wide lens opens for my work.
What I liked:
1. Unique focal length, opening up new artistic possibilities;
2. Extremely sharp all over the frame;
3. Perfectly and solidly built;
4. Small and light;
5. Relatively inexpensive for what it does.
What I didn’t like:
1. Impossibility to use filters with it;
2. Vignette and colour cast;
3. Sharpness at minimum focusing distance;
4. Maximum aperture a bit slow.
Thanks for reading this Voigtlander Heliar-Hyper Wide 10mm f/5.6 review, I hope you enjoyed it! Why don’t you share it with your friends, or drop me a comment to let me know how you feel about this?
Have a great day, and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER!