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Alternatives

There are very few alternatives in this focal range. As mentioned, Carl Zeiss makes Distagon T* 15mm f/2.8 ZM, which costs almost 5x the price of the tiny Voigtlander. Leica also makes Wide Angel Tri-Elmar 16-18-21mm f/4, but the price of that lens is also astronomical. For slightly longer focal length, there is an excellent Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 18mm f/4 ZM, but it also costs twice as much as the Heliar. Your best bet really is another Voigtlander lens, the Ultra Wide Heliar ASPH 12mm f/5.6, assuming of course you want to get a wider lens. The first version of this lens was available only in LTM mount, but Cosina announced the availability of an M version of the lens for April 2010. And if you are willing to move to 21mm focal length, then your selection will triple, as all three companies offer a number of options here, from the value oriented Voigtlander Color Skopar 21mm f/4P to mid-range Carl Zeiss Biogon T* 21mm f/2.8 ZM and to the super expensive Leica Summilux M 21mm f/1.4 ASPH.

 

Recommendation

You will be hard pressed to find a better lens for the price then Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar 15mm f//4.5. Seriously. While the lens is by no means perfect, Cosina struck a good balance in delivering value where one needs it. Good image resolution, build quality, decent color handling and more importantly the right price. The main drawback with the new lens is that it does not come with a viewfinder. The LTM version did, and cost less then the M version. Success typically translates in higher prices and Cosina is certainly benefiting from the success of its M series lenses. I'm not complaining - even at the slightly higher price premium compared to the older LTM version of the lens, the new M one offers two major improvements - filter thread and rangefinder coupling. These two improvements alone easily justify the ~US$100 premium and if you own the older lens, seriously consider replacing it.

 

Sample Images