Lenses with wide views are hard to design and even harder to craft without fisheye distortion. But the Voigtlander 10mm f5.6 Hyper-Wide Heliar manages to cram a 130-degree view onto a full-frame sensor. And as a rectilinear lens, the Heliar does that without the typical fisheye distortion. Available in E-Mount or L-mount, the ultra-wide view and metal construction are alluring for many photographers.
But, at f5.6, the Voigtlander doesn’t have the typical wide aperture that entices many photographers to choose primes over more versatile zooms. The Sony 12-24mm f2.8 GM is only slightly less wide, while the Sony 14mm f1.8 GM is only a few hundred dollars more. And that’s not considering the other third-party lenses or the L-mount options. Despite the narrower aperture and manual focus, the Voigtlander 10mm f5.6 Hyper-Wide Heliar retails for $1,099. Is the non-fisheye, ultra-wide view worth the sacrifice? I tested the E-Mount version of this lens to find out.
The Big Picture
The Voigtlander 10mm f5.6 Hyper-Wide Heliar has impressively little barrel distortion and great amounts of character. While perspective distortion will quickly bend lines this wide, when carefully shooting subjects straight on, there’s little bend. The f5.6 may not be great for low light, but it works great at turning light sources into fun starbursts. Factor in a lovely metal build, and the Voigtlander has a lot of things going for it.
However, the $1,099 price tag seems high for an f5.6 lens with no autofocus motor. This lens doesn’t have the ultra-bright aperture that shooting with a prime typically delivers. And, while barrel distortion is heavily corrected, details and lines on the edges suffer from noticeable softness.
The Voigtlander 10mm f5.6 Hyper-Wide Heliar creates fun, wide images that play with perspective, light, and color. But, it’s best avoided if pixel peeping those edges.
I’m giving the Voigtlander 10mm f5.6 Hyper-Wide Heliar four out of five stars. Try it out at LensRentals. If you’re sold on it, purchase it from Adorama or Amazon.
- Metal build
- Fun ultra-wide 10mm view
- Rectilinear design with surprisingly minimal barrel distortion
- Lights tend to starburst
- Metadata is still maintained
- Easy to use
- Edges are quite smudged
- Chromatic aberration on the edges
- Pricey for an f5.6
I used the E-mount version of the Voigtlander 10mm f5.6 Hyper-Wide Heliar with the Sony a7 IV. Both the lens and camera were loans provided by Lensrentals.
Full-frame 10mm lenses that don’t create a fisheye bubble are hard to find: Sony’s own E Mount lenses start at 12mm. Voigtlander isn’t completely alone in creating a 10mm, but the lens focuses on minimizing distortion and maximizing sharpness using 13 lenses in 10 groups.
Thanks in part to an aperture that starts at a narrow f5.6, the Voigtlander 10mm f5.6 Hyper-Wide Heliar isn’t terribly large. It weighs about 11 ounces and occupies around a 2.3-inch slot in a camera bag.
The short nature of the lens squashes down the traditional depth of field scale. It’s still there, but in labeled f-values only, with no complicated system of lines. Of course this is also due to the fact that, as an f5.6 10mm, depth of field is pretty wide to begin with. The labels on the focus ring then show the range of what’s in focus. The focus ring has a nice patterned etching to it, and it turns smoothly.
At the end of the lens sits the labeled aperture ring, which turns with a satisfying click. This ring is much shorter than the focus ring, and has a different texture, making it difficult to mistake one for the other.
The Voigtlander 10mm f5.6 has a built-in, petal-shaped lens hood. The curved front of the lens means it cannot accommodate screw-in filters.
With a metal build, the Voigtlander 10mm f5.6 feels luxurious. In fact, the lens felts nicer than the a7 IV body it was mounted on. While I don’t know how many hands were on the rental lens before mine, the body still looks flawless. The metal build should help extend the lens’ lifespan.
The lens is not, however, weather-sealed. Weather sealing would have helped extend its lifespan further by helping to keep out dust. Alas, this lens will need a cover if in the rain. And unfortunately, this is the norm with many third-party manual focus lenses.
The Voigtlander 10mm f5.6 Hyper-Wide Heliar is manual focus only. But, as an ultra-wide lens with a pretty wide minimum aperture, this isn’t hard to do. Even wide open, there’s a few feet of room for error. The lens could also communicate enough with the camera to use focus peaking and magnification. As manual focus lenses go, this lens is among the easiest to use.
Of course, when you get in close to the subject, depth of field narrows significantly. The lens can focus as close as about 20 inches away. That’s not macro territory, and at f5.6 it’s pretty hard to achieve soft backgrounds typically created when shooting in close. At 10mm, though, getting in close can be a fun way to exaggerate perspective distortion.
Ease of Use
With the amount of room for error when manually focusing, the Voigtlander 10mm f5.6 is fairly easy to use. It’s not as simple to use as an autofocus lens, but it’s a good choice for a photographer new to manual focus. Even if you fall into the trap of constantly leaving it in its widest aperture, there’s a lot of wiggle room.
To get the most from this lens, photographers would benefit from understanding aperture, zone focusing, and perspective distortion. And, it’s not so difficult it would dissuade a mid-level photographer who hasn’t yet tried a manual focus lens.
A 10mm lens on a full-frame camera captures an incredibly wide view. To put it mildly, this lens is fun. The Voigtlander 10mm f5.6 Hyper Wide Heliar is a rectilinear lens, which means you don’t get that round fisheye look. In fact, there’s impressively little barrel distortion if you hold the lens just the right way. The trade-off for that ultra-wide view, however, is that those edges are less technically perfect.
Never mind the full-frame sensor, a 10mm at f5.6 isn’t going to create much bokeh. In fact, the wider aperture tended to create a starburst effect on Christmas lights rather than bokeh balls. Sometimes ultra-wides can create bokeh by getting in close, but with a 1.6-foot minimum focus distance, there’s not much bokeh this way either. If you’re looking for bokeh, this isn’t the lens for you.
Colors from the Voigtlander 10mm f5.6 had a bit more punch to them. The JPEGs looked as if the saturation was turned up just a bit. Colors aren’t over the top, but they tend to have more punch.
Stopping down the aperture on a lens tends to turn light sources into starbursts. But the Voigtlander 10mm Hyper Wide already starts at f5.6. This lens easily creates starbursts, even when shooting wide open. While you can create starbursts with almost any lens at the right aperture, these starbursts mixed with the ultra-wide view and punchy colors give the images character. These starbursts are sometimes paired with soft flare or green or purple ghosting spots.
The 10mm lens is so wide that you can get the roots and tops of the trees in a forest in one frame. That already builds character. Lines are surprisingly nearly straight; barrel distortion is controlled well. Because of the wide focal length, however, perspective distortion happens quite quickly. If you want straight lines, be careful to hold the lens at just the right angle and shoot subjects straight on. Of course, the perspective distortion and exaggerated distances of an ultra-wide build character too.
While the edges are largely straight, the borders and corners are far from perfect. Subjects placed in a corner will appear to be a bit stretched out, as if accidentally resized without holding down the shift key. Details here are smudged and the edges aren’t as crisp. Purple fringing occurs more on the edges as well. Most of the chromatic aberration is difficult to see at 100 percent, and the defect is corrected in many JPEGs.
Subjects at the center of this lens are nicely detailed and sharp. The edges and corners feel a bit stretched out, however, which results in a lack of sharpness and detail. The rocks in the corner of the photo above almost look as if I was creating a zoom burst. If you want the characteristic edge-to-edge sharpness of Sony’s best lenses, this lens isn’t it.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
Who Should Buy It?
Add the Voigtlander 10mm f5.6 Hyper-Wide Heliar to your kit if you want an ultra-wide view with exaggerated perspective distortion. But, only if you don’t mind smudging some details on the edges to get there.
If you’re looking for a lens with edge-to-edge sharpness and detail, this isn’t the right lens for your kit.
Try it out at LensRentals. If you’re sold on it, purchase it from Adorama or Amazon.
Lensrentals lists the following tech specs for the Voigtlander 10mm f5.6 Hyper-Wide Heliar (Sony E):
- Autofocus: Manual Focus Only
- Brand: Voigtlander
- Compatibility: Full Frame and Crop
- Focal Length: 10.0-10.0
- Hood Included: No
- Image Stabilization: No
- Item Type: Lens
- Lens Type: Wide Angle
- Max Aperture: 5.6
- Minimum Aperture: 22.0
- Mount: Sony E
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