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The Voigtländer 40mm f2.8 VM - A field report

Mehrdad had the opportunity to take a closer look at the Voigtländer Heliar 40mm f2.8 VM. Read and see what he thinks about it here.

Today I want to share with you my experience with the Voigtländer Heliar 40mm f2.8 VM. An interesting lens in many respects.

The lens was provided to me by Voigtländer Germany with no stipulation as to what I may or may not say. Neither the review, nor the video below, was available to Voigtländer Germany or the Ringfoto Group for approval in advance.

As always, you can expect my honest personal opinion here and I won't just throw praise around. ;)

In the video and also here in the article I refer only to the VM variants, so not to the screw variants, which Voigtländer fortunately also offers. But Voigtländer was kind enough to send me both the black and the silver version.


The 40mm Heliar is a classic 5-lens lens in 3 groups, developed around 1900 by Hans Harting for Voigtländer. The Heliars (from the ancient Greek Helios = sun) were known at that time for their very good sharpness with relatively soft contrasts, which made them especially popular for portrait photography.

The lens is equipped with an aspherical lens which promises pinpoint sharpness over the entire focus range.

Voigtländer offers this in two different versions. Once the VM's, so for the Leica M, and the LTM version for older analog cameras with screw bayonet. There hasn't been a new lens for this bayonet in many years, which should come as a welcome surprise to some analog photographers.

Both versions are offered in black or silver.

At 131g in VM or 110g in LTM, this is a very light and small lens. A lens hood is included in the accessories. A nice metal hood cap sits tight and secure on the hood, yet is quick to mount/dismount. I actually like it a lot. The angle of view is 57° and the filter diameter is 34mm.


When I first put the lens on the camera, I was ecstatic. It looks really very cool. A beautiful compact lens. Especially in black, it looks very cool on the Leica M10P.

But when I tried to take the first photo, I was irritated. I didn't know why at first. The size or just the lack of this and then the possibly slightly fiddly it was not. The thought shot through my head first, but I didn't really find it fiddly. It took me a few moments to figure out what was bothering me.

It's the aperture ring. It rotates with the focus ring. I did not know this before. I had at least no such lens so far in the hand.

I refer here to the video which I have published on YouTube, there I try to support this also pictorially.

As much as I like a smooth focus ring, it's a bit of a problem with the Heliar 40mm, because when you turn the aperture ring, unfortunately the focus ring shifts as well. This requires a certain sequence when working with the lens.

First set the aperture and then focus. Anything else produces frustration and very quickly.

From 0.7m (closest focusing distance) to infinity requires half a turn on the lens. For M users, this also takes some getting used to, and at the same time, with this particular lens, it causes Voigtländer to have to stamp the aperture scale onto the aperture ring twice here, since the aperture row is otherwise on the bottom. Funny in a way. The little lever for the focus ring lock, is a super focus stick.

The small lens does not protrude into the 28mm viewfinder frame, even with a sunshade, and as mentioned above, just looks very cool on the Leica M.


But for those of us who not only want to pose with their camera, but also like to produce beautiful photos, I would like to share: Rest assured!

The Voigtländer Heliar 40mm f2.8 VM delivers really nice pictures. Sharp, no distortions worth mentioning and the slight vignetting disappears almost completely at f4.0.

In terms of sharpness, the lens really draws beautifully. For those who expect/desire APO sharpness, the lens is not the right one. The combo of the really high sharpness and the balanced softer contrasts gives the lens a really nice rendering. I find it draws very harmoniously in terms of sharpness and blur. You get a nice pop and the results don't look clinical. I personally really like the bokeh as well. Unflustered describes it beautifully for me without being boring.

Also nice: The characteristic Voigtländer aperture stars can be teased out of the lens. ;)


For the Leica M10 Family users pay attention!


A little something I had to determine on my M10P and the M10R and probably older M digital. I also tried this at Meister Camera in Berlin on a total of 4 (M10R) other cameras to rule out errors on mine.

The following does not apply to Leica M11 users!

Those who like to use the black version of the Heliar 40mm f2.8 VM should know that the paint on the inside of the bayonet apparently messes up the sensor in the bayonet of the M10 family.

If the black, and only the black here, Heliar 40mm is locked on, the camera does not recognize this. So you get the message "no lens locked". This only happens when you try to use the Liveview. Photographs can be taken nevertheless.

If you manually select a lens from the menu, the Liveview works again. Unfortunately, the camera does not save this information, or after each sleep or new switch-on, the camera apparently makes the query, whether a lens is locked, from new and just states: "no lens locked".

Analog Leica M, M11 and adapters to other systems do not have this problem. The M11 does not seem to make this query anymore.

The silver version, on the other hand, does not produce this error on the M10 family.




My conclusion about the lens is very positive. The imaging performance makes this lens a no-brainer.

The handling and the 40mm focal length on an M, on the other hand, will take so much getting used to for some that you run the risk of not getting along with it.

However, anyone who can look past these things or can come to terms with them will get a lens with excellent imaging performance with the Voigtländer Heliar 40mm f2.8 VM.

Below I have linked my video review and also a few pictures to look at in peace.

Have fun with it!