Sony A7r + Voigtlander 15mm Heliar (CV15)

Around the interwebs there is a question that keeps being asked over and over.

"What does the fox say?"

I just learned of this the other day, I thought it was just some Vine or YouTube video....but this is real.  Our music industry, and society are in a sad state of affairs.  However, nobody has ever actually asked me this question...I mean...what would qualify me to answer it?  I'm actually allergic to foxes......and manual labor.

But when it comes to the Sony A7/A7r, there is one thing I keep getting asked about.  Blog replies, emails, Facebook/G+ posts, carrier pigeon and HAM Radio.  So much that I thought it was worth it's own article.  In my blog post "Life with the Sony A7r" I stated that the CV15 was one of my favorite lenses and I think I need to expand a little bit more on that. 

These days we seem to focus so much on technical perfection.  Corner to corner sharpness, color perfection, zero distortion, yadda yadda yadda.  We pixel peep images at 100%, 200% or greater.  We obsess about having the fastest this and the sharpest that.  We nit pick and judge lenses and cameras by these small details.  We upgrade based on frivolous little things and some of you think it's going to make your photographs better.  While sometimes they can actually make your photographs worse as the margin of error decreases and you actually have to be a better photographer to fully take advantage of the advantage you just bought.  There are plenty of amazing photographs taken with 6 megapixel digital cameras.

"So why not purchase the best thing money can buy?

Look...don't get me wrong.  I am ALL about technology.  I embrace us evolving as a society and human race.  I welcome it! 
So if pixel perfection is your thing, go for it.  Buy the best lens you can afford.  If you're doing commercial work, buy the best camera and lens you can afford that your clients will be happy with.  Hell why stop there...why are you even settling for shitty 35mm?  Everyone knows that all the pros use medium format Hasselblads and Phase-Ones.  So bury yourself in debt and spend the $50,000 for a H5D-60.  Booya!  Now your photos will be AMAZING! 
*Sigh*
We seem to forget the "art" part of photography.....phartography....ok, well that sounds pretty shitty (POWW!).  While it can be, art is not about technical perfection.  What you find beautiful someone else will not.  Being a skilled artist is not the same as being a rich or successful or famous one.  If this pixel for pixel perfection is so important to you...maybe you should marry into some money or get a job that makes you a lot of money before you worry about being an "artist".  The fact is that most of us are simply infatuated with "the new".

4 minutes, f/16, ISO50, Sony A7r CV15

I've shot commissioned, commercial as well as photojournalistic work.  But it's my hobby portion, the passion for creating photos that continues to drive me.  Will I ever be selling prints like Peter Lik for millions (upon millions) of dollars?  Statistically, probably not, but I would love to be on the same level as Peter one day.  Is he the best?  No....not at all.  I can think of at least 4 photographers within 100 miles of me who have the photographic skill and creative vision of Peter Lik.  Now a million dollar lab?  Print paper that's made specifically just for him and his prints and is not available publicly?  Nope.  The right personality?  The right connections?  The needed business savvy to turn your name into a brand?  Maybe...maybe not.  Just remember...there's much more to fame and success than taking great pictures.  Average pictures can make you rich....less than average pictures can make you famous.

"So what about the lens?...That's why I clicked this link dude!

I tend to rant and digress....deal with it.

The Voigtlander 15mm/4.5 Heliar is and will continue to be one of my favorite lenses for my A7r.  There's a good chance you will probably hate it and be super frustrated with it.  That being said...if I'm shooting architecture for a client...I will not be using it.  If I'm shooting fine art prints...you bet! 
If you want a super wide angle lens that's sharp(er) from corner to corner and doesn't contain the notorious magenta color cast in the corners that the CV15 (and 12 and 21) have for your A7/A7r...then here is my advice to you.  You ready? 

Go buy a DSLR super wide angle lens!

There you go...problem solved.  Want one that's small?  How about the Voigtlander 20mm f/3.5 Color Skopar SL II for Canon or Nikon mount.  It's a small very "Leica" looking lens.  Of course 5mm is pretty big difference at these focal lengths. 
So how about the Canon 17mm TS-E?  It's $2500, huge,  and tilt-shift isn't really needed by everyone.  So what's next? 
Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon T* ZE for Canon or Nikon mount.  Stunning lens....super low distortion, syringe needle sharp (these are sharper than tacks) and will only set you back $3000.  If I was shooting landscapes...good chance I would have this in my arsenal instead of the TS-E. 

EDIT:  Since writing this I've also purchased the Voigtlander 21/1.8.  Much bigger and faster than this 15mm and obviously not as wide, but click the blog link above and go read about it.  It's a very impressive lens.  The CV15 has pretty much found a permanent home on my Sony A6000 where it belongs.  All the negatives discussed here simply don't exist when shot on the APS-C sensor of the A6000.

Bottom line, if you want to shoot with a Leica M-Mount super wide angle lens, you will have these problems!  The Leica M8 and M9 have the same exact issue with this lens.  These Sony's are not some Leica replacement like some people make them out to be.  But there is LOTS that the Leica can't do that the Sony can.  If you insist on an m-mount lens then you need to get the Leica WATE (wide angle tri-elmar).  It'll set you back about $6300, but so is the cost of the Leica 16-18-21mm f/4.0 M-Tri-Elmar.

So below are some example shots pre and post processing.  These were all shot as *.arw RAW files with my Sony A7r.  If you switch the camera to cropped mode, you totally lose the outer edge and about 18MP.  It's the equivalent of shooting a APS-C camera.  Kinda pointless if you ask me.  Even if my intent was to crop the image...I rather just do it myself in post and keep the camera in "full" mode.  But you get much less of the problems associated with this lens.

The vignette and the magenta color cast are VERY obvious.  If possible, over-exposing will decrease it quite a bit.  This lens can be tricky to use and will not work in all photos the way you want it.  But it's fun!  I setup a profile for the CV15 in CornerFix.  Took me about 30 tries to get one that I'm happy with...but I've also found that I never want to use it.  I simply like the results from this lens where I simply don't want to remove what makes this lens unique to me.  Do you shoot a lot of black and white?  Well the color cast is no longer a problem for you.  Most people already add vignettes to their photos.

Some of these photos are repeats from my previous blog posts with the addition of the untouched RAW export.  So click away...and decide for yourself if this is the lens for you.  There's a fair amount of post processing in each of processed photos.  There is no "every time" formula and CornerFix wasn't used on any of them.  All were processed with some combination of Lightroom, Photoshop and NIK ColorEFX.  I obviously shoot a lot at night.  I do not recommend this lens to anyone.  It's one of those, "you must decide", lenses.  So scroll away for some photos to either get you to spend $600 or run away.

Leave questions or comments below.

Just the two of us....