Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 Classic on Panasonic GH1 - Part 1

Review of Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 Classic on Panasonic GH1 - Part 1


Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f1.8 Classic  Panasonic GH1


Yesterday I finally got round to trying out the Cosina Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f/1.8 Classic on my Panasonic GH1. 


Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f1.8 Classic  Panasonic GH1
f/8 ISO100


Build 
The first thing to say is that this is a beautifully made lens. Voigtlanders are well put together generally but this one is especially good. Lovely smooth focus ring and aperture click stops. It feels substantial but not over heavy. Its a thin design and medium long. (From review with M9 at
/soundimageplus/2010/10/voigtlander-75mm-f18-classic-heliar-on.html) Since the GH1 is a smaller lighter camera than the M9 there is a different feel to the outfit. At 427g the lens is slightly heavier than the camera. However there's a nice solid feel to the combination. 




Focusing
Anyone who has ever focused a telephoto lens manually on a m4/3 camera will know that its not easy. If you are working hand held there's a lot of "wobble" in the viewfinder and to get the point of focus sharp its often the case that you have to open the lens up fully, in this case to f/1.8, focus and then stop down to whatever aperture you want to use. Even with the GH1's magnification aid to manual focusing, this takes time and isn't particularly easy. However if you are prepared to take that time precise focus can be achieved. I had no problem getting a 100% success rate, but if you are working in a fast-moving situation then be prepared for a fair few mis-focused shots. 

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f1.8 Classic  Panasonic GH1
f5.6 ISO100

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f1.8 Classic  Panasonic GH1
f8 ISO100

Performance
Overall this is a very sharp lens. Performance at f/5.6 and f/8 is excellent. Wide open at f1.8 its slightly softer, which is to be expected, but still very satisfactory. During the course of the day I went into a dark church to give it a low light test.

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f1.8 Classic  Panasonic GH1
f1.8 ISO 640

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f1.8 Classic  Panasonic GH1
f1.8 ISO 1600

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f1.8 Classic  Panasonic GH1
f1.8 ISO 3200

As you can see the results are pretty good. The pictures don't show it but it was pretty dark in there. Focusing was quite difficult, particularly with the viewfinder image breakup that affects the GH1 at high ISO's. These shots did take a while, but were achieved hand-held.

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f1.8 Classic  Panasonic GH1

In common with many Voigtlanders the bokeh is pleasant without being spectacular, though if the subject is far enough away from the background it can be very nice indeed.

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f1.8 Classic  Panasonic GH1
f1.8 ISO100

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f1.8 Classic  Panasonic GH1
f1.8 ISO100

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f1.8 Classic  Panasonic GH1
f1.8 ISO100

It does work very well wide-open and working as a 150mm f1.8 (35mm or full-frame) equivalent is a very fast telephoto. Obviously hand-held, you have to make sure that your shutter speed is fast enough to ensure sharp results. There's no image stabilisation on the GH1 or any Panasonic camera, so you have to be aware of that. An Olympus m4/3 body does have IS but I've never found mine to give more than 2 stops of assistance. I tried to keep my shutter speed at 1/160th sec or higher. I did get the odd successful shot below this but also many affected by camera shake.

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f1.8 Classic  Panasonic GH1
f8 ISO100

Is it useful for m4/3?
This really depends on what you plan to use it for. If you have the time for focusing then its very useful indeed. Its a wonderful lens for landscape. I would suggest that for grab shots and any situation that you have to work quickly its not so useful. If you can use pre-focusing then it could work but a lot of practice would be required. It is of course an m-mount lens, designed for rangefinder focusing, which is a lot quicker than m4/3. The GH1 may enable precise focusing but  its certainly not quick. Using it on an Olympus would be even slower. If you're intending to do a lot of work at f/1.8 then its important to be aware of the possible difficulties of this. I've mainly bought this lens for my Leica and as a video lens for the GH1 (GH2). Being a telephoto on m4/3 I found it very difficult to achieve sharp focus without going through the whole magnification rigmarole. You may be better at this than me, but its not easy under most circumstances. 

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f1.8 Classic  Panasonic GH1
f8 ISO100

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f1.8 Classic  Panasonic GH1
f5.6 ISO100

Bottom Line
This is beautifully made quality lens that deliver excellent results. The chances of this focal length length and speed ever being released by Panasonic or Olympus are fairly remote I suspect. The Leica 75mm f/2 is £2000+ so its a bargain really!! Though there are some Leica S/H alternatives available. Its a great lens for m4/3 under certain circumstances, those circumstances being how much time have you got to focus it? If you are a manual focus speed merchant or you use it in relatively unpressured situations then it could be a wonderful addition to a lens collection. If you're looking to be Cartier-Bresson then do be aware your "decisive moment" could be long gone before you've even got it in focus.

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f1.8 Classic  Panasonic GH1
f.2.8 ISO100

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f1.8 Classic  Panasonic GH1
f5.6 ISO100

Voigtlander Heliar 75mm f1.8 Classic  Panasonic GH1
f5.6 ISO100

Words - D
Images - D & A