If you’re just starting to build a Micro Four Thirds kit for video go buy the Lumix 12-35mm f/2.8. This lens is constantly on back-order from B&H for a reason. With an extremely useful equivalent focal length of 24mm to 70mm, a fixed aperture and image stabilization built-in this is the Micro Four Thirds video workhorse. I’ve shot hours of commercial and documentary video with the 12-35mm and it is my m43 desert island lens. Now that we’ve got that out-of-the-way lets talk Voigtländer 42.5mm f/0.95, the lens equivalent to Jamón ibérico.
A hand sliced pound of this heritage ham can cost over $200.
Do I need Spanish heritage ham? No. Do I want Spanish heritage ham? Without a doubt. And I’ll bet a good portion of you meat eaters out there are now plotting on how to get your hands on some of this rare pork. Let me point your desire in a different direction. The Voigtländer 42.5mm f/0.95. In many ways this lens is just like that cured meat product. It is an expensive luxury item with pedigree. Voigtländer was founded in Vienna in 1756 and is the oldest name in cameras. Since then the Voigtländer brand has passed through many hands including Carl Zeiss before being purchased in 1999 by Cosina, a Japanese lens manufacture. These lenses are now made in Japan. Regardless this is a nice hunk of glass, ideal for creating that ever sought separation between subject and background in interviews.
This man makes beer for a living.
The temptation to shoot wide open with the Voigtländer is strong. You have a lens with an aperture less than one in your hands, you’re gonna want to use it. Resist the urge, the 42.5mm is the sharpest when stopped down to f/2.8 and f/4. The good folks at lenstips.com provide proof of this claim for you pixel peepers in their far superior, pork product free review of the Voigtländer 42.5mm found here.
Notice that Chuck’s right eye is in focus and his left is out of focus. I wasn’t wide open for this shot, I was stopped down to f/1.4 and even then both eyes are not in focus at this angle. This an ever-present danger when shooting with fast glass. It could be an artistic choice to have only one eye in focus or just lazy image making. My high school photography teacher Shiloh Burton keyed me into the difference during my first year shooting 35mm black and white film. I would present images that were overexposed, out of focus and argue these were artistic choices. She made me aware that I must know how to make a technically perfect image, before I rush off making artistic choices.
Now when I blow my highlights it is a conscious choice.
If you don’t know why you want the Voigtländer 42.5mm, it’s not for you. I sought this fast prime portrait lens when I wasn’t getting the images I wanted from my Micro Four Thirds interviews. The extreme shallow depth of field softens features, shapes the face and creates a pleasant bokehlicious background. The Voigtländer 42.5mm f/0.95 is a powerful storytelling tool that is built like a tank. It provides a distinct look that is hard to find in the Micro Four Thirds world. A tool to be used always for good and never for evil. The lens can be yours for five pounds Jamón ibérico, roughly one thousand US.