When focused properly, the Voigtlander FE 35mm f/2 APO-Lanthar has no competition at 35mm and it trounces even fine lenses like the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 GM at f/2 and f/2.8 for across-the-frame sharpness.
And that’s the rub: given its central rearward focus shift, a behavior I never expected when the lens was announced. But extensive field use and multiple samples testify to the reality and the challenge of getting the best results out of it.
This page demonstrates the sharpness-robbing central rearward focus shift of the Voigtlander FE 35mm f/2 APO-Lanthar at distance in a landscape image, along with the hugely superior results that can be achieved by compensating for the focus shift.
Includes 4 series focused differently showing the impact of different focusing versus the central rearward focus shift. Essential reading for CV 35/2 APO users.
See also the background information on this challenge in Focus Shift, Comparing and Mitigating (Roof and Deck) as well as the suggestions for how to get the best possible results by compensating for the focus shift.
Victor B writes:
Thanks for pointing out and displaying examples of the focus shift anomaly for the Voigtlander 35mm lens. I always run my lenses through a focus shift test with a ‘Lens Align’ but that doesn’t always correlate to real life images.
Sure enough - I was easily able to replicate what you displayed. It’s very important to know this to get maximum sharpness out of that spectatular lens. Focusing at f4 or f5.6 is really very easy and if necessary low level peaking can aid in focusing.
DIGLLOYD: in my field experience, focusing at f/4 or f/5.6 can be tricky: the increased DoF has a lot more ambiguity as to the centering of the zone of DoF, that is, finding that super-crispy focus point that goes away with a barely perceptible change in rotation of the focusing ring. It gets harder (even impossible) in dim conditions and/or with certain subject matter, which is why my numeric and visual tips are included.
My assertion that many photographers will just write off the loss of sharpness as a minor focusing error—which it is! But not the photographer’s error—focus shift.