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Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5
APO-Lanthar SL-II AI-P (2009- )
© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

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Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5

Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5 SL-II, Nikon mount. enlarge. (52mm or 39mm filters, 11.350 oz./321.7g, about $550. Also comes in Canon EOS and Pentax mounts.) This one came from this link to it at Adorama. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use that, or any of these links, when you get anything. Thanks! Ken.


September 2010       more Voigtländer Reviews    Nikon   Canon   LEICA   Pentax

Sample Image


Ideal Uses

General-purpose high-quality tele and macro lens.


Not for

No autofocus; I wouldn't use it for sports, kids or action since it's too hard for me to track focus by hand.


Ergonomics: (manual focus)
Overall: expensive


Introduction       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations


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The Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5 SL-II is a high performance tele and macro lens that comes in versions for Nikon, Canon EOS and Pentax mounts. The Pentax mount has been discontinued from lack of interest.

I am addressing the Nikon version here, and using it on full-frame. You may make the usual inferences when used on different cameras or formats. I'll compare it to Canon lenses, too, if you read the review carefully.

It works great on just about any camera, especially on Nikon FX and Canon full-frame cameras.

It's a joy to use: its focus feels better than my Nikon lenses!

This lens comes with a dedicated close-up lens and 52mm -> 39mm filter adapter. The filter adapter doubles as an impromptu hood, and there is a miniature hood extension included as well. More under Usage. I'd not bother with all these accessories; I'd leave them home in the box and just carry the lens alone; it focuses very close all by itself (1:3.5 repro ratio unaided, or 1:1.8 with the close-up lens).

Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5

Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5, hood and close-up filter. enlarge.


Compatibility       intro     top

The Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5 is a manual-focus lens, and has an on-board computer to work with the meters and electronics all Nikon manual focus, autofocus and digital cameras.

So long as you don't mind moving the ultra-smooth focus ring all by yourself, this AI-P type lens should be compatible with every Nikon made since 1977.

The Canon version also has CPU contacts for what should be complete compatibility with metering and exposure automation on any of the Canon EOS 35mm and digital cameras made from 1987 through today. You have to focus by hand (look for the AF sensor blips to confirm focus instantly), and otherwise you're all set.

Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5

Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5 SL-II. enlarge.


Specifications         top

Intro    Specifications    Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations


Cosina calls this the Voigtländer APO-Lanthar 90mm f/3.5 SL-II.

APO-Lanthar is simply an old trademark dredged-up from the 1950s, as is the Voigtländer name.


Optics            top

6 elements in 5 groups. If used with dedicated, included close-up lens, 7 elements in 6 groups.

Multicoated. The close-up lens is very efficiently single-coated in magenta.

Slightly telephoto design; rear exit pupil is a little smaller than the entrance pupil.

Focal Length: 90mm, which looks like 135mm when used on DX.


Diaphragm            top

Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5

Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5 SL-II at f/5.6. enlarge.

9 curved blades give a pretty much round aperture at every setting.

Stops down to f/22.


Aperture Ring            top



Full-stop clicks, except that Voigtländer forgot the click at f/4!


Close Focus            top

1.64 feet (0.5 meters).

Voigtländer throws in a free close-up lens good for a close focus of 1.05 feet (0.32m).


Maximum Reproduction Ratio            top


1:1.8 with included close-up lens.


Hard Infinity Focus Stop?            top


This is great for astronomy; just turn to the stop and you have fixed laboratory-perfect focus all night.


Focus Scale            top



Depth-of-Field Scale            top



Infra-Red Focus Index            top



Filter Thread            top

52mm, metal.

A 52mm -> 39mm adapter is included for the close-up lens, which also lets you use 39mm filters.

The 39mm threads are fine (0.5mm) pitch, which matches LEICA.

Does not rotate.


Size            top

2.51" (63.8mm) diameter by 1.92" (48.7mm) extension from flange, measured, Nikon mount.

Voigtländer specifies 48.2mm length by 63.5mm diameter.


Weight            top

11.350 oz. (321.7g), measured.

Voigtländer specifies 320g.


Hood            top

You may use the 52mm -> 39mm adapter and doofy little extension as a hood.


Announced            top

17 February 2010.


Made in            top



Packaging            top

It comes in a small, semi-glossy black corrugated cardboard box with two white foam inserts.

Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5

Box, Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5 SL-II.


Performance       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

Overall   Focus    Bokeh   Color   Distortion   Ergonomics   Falloff

Filters   Color Fringes   Macro   Mechanics   Sharpness   Sunstars

Sample Image


Overall      performance     top

The 90mm f/3.5 SL-II is a sharp, compact, well-made lens.

It is slower, but focuses much more closely, than similar Nikon or Canon lenses.

I'm referring to its performance on Nikon below. I tried this Nikon-mount sample with a crummy adapter on a 5D Mark II, and it didn't work anywhere near as well optically as a Canon 100mm f/2 USM.

Sample Image


Focus      performance     top

Manual focus is beautiful. It's as smooth as silk, perfectly damped with no play.

The D3, D3X, D3s, D700, F4, F5, F6 and most professional AF cameras have three very precise electronic manual focus indicators, with which this lens works perfectly.

Lesser digital cameras, like the D300s and down, usually have just one "OK" focus dot, which is not as precise as two arrows and a dot.

Canon's cameras usually flash the relevant AF areas the instant you hit focus, making them very easy to use, as well as precise.


Bokeh      performance     top

Bokeh, the character of out of focus backgrounds, not simply how far out of focus they are, is plain. Backgrounds are soft and relatively undistracting, but not completely soft.

If you want to throw a background out of focus, a faster 85mm lens does an even better job.

Here are crops from the center of 100% FX 12MP (D3 or D700) images, focused on a reference phase lattice at 3 meters (10 feet) with synthetic reference vegetation at 15 meters (50 feet). Printed full-image at this size, these would be about 42 x 28" (105 x 70cm) prints, at least as seen on most 100 DPI computer monitors:


Color Balance      performance     top

I tried this Nikon-mount sample with a crummy adapter on a 5D Mark II, and it was the same as the Canon 100mm f/2 USM.

I didn't see any difference compared to my modern NIKKOR lenses.


Distortion      performance     top

The Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5 has no visible distortion on FX.

Its invisible pincushion distortion can be corrected for more critical use by plugging these figures into Photoshop's lens distortion filter. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.

FX and Film
10' (3m)

© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Sample Image


Ergonomics      performance     top

Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5

Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5 SL-II. enlarge.

The Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5's ergonomics are perfect.

The focus and aperture controls are just right!

Likewise, the grab ring in the middle works great for mounting and unmounting.


Falloff (darkened corners)          performance     top

Falloff on FX is visible at f/3.5 and f/4, and gone by f/5.6.

It shouldn't be an issue on DX (see crop factor).

When comparing to faster lenses, they have already lost any falloff by f/3.5.

I've exaggerated this by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background:


Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5 SL-II falloff on FX and film at infinity, no correction.


© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.




Filters, Use with      performance     top

There is no problem with vignetting, even with combinations of thick filters.

You have your choice of standard 52mm filters, or use LEICA 39 x 0.5mm filters with the included adapter ring.

Good times!


Lateral Color Fringes      performance     top

There are no lateral color fringes on the D3, which would correct them if the lens had any.

I tried this Nikon-mount sample with a crummy adapter on a 5D Mark II, and it had some magenta lateral fringes. The Canon 100mm f/2 USM had none.


Macro      performance     top

Here's how close you get on full-frame, without the close-up lens:


Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5

Without close-up lens on full-frame.

It's not convenient to carry and attach and remove the included dedicated close-up lens, but if you do, it works very well. Here's how close you get:


Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5

Full FX frame with close-up lens, f/3.5.

Close-ups work great, and they're super-sharp, too. As everyone who shoots macro knows, trying to get things in focus will be your biggest limitation to sharpness, not the sharpness of this lens.


Mechanics      performance     top

Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5

Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5 SL-II. enlarge.

The Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5 SL-II is built very well.


Barrel Exterior

Anodized aluminum (no enamel).


Filter Threads

Anodized aluminum.


Filter Adapter and Hood

Threaded anodized aluminum, engraved.


Focus Ring

Metal, rubber covered.


Focus Helicoids

Feels like brass: smooth and silky with no play or need for damping grease.


Depth-of-Field Scale

Engraved into barrel and filled with paint.



All metal.


Aperture Ring

Machined anodized aluminum.

Engraved markings.






Engraved into the metal and filled with paint.


Identity and Serial Number

On the bottom of the barrel, engraved into the metal and filled with paint.


Ass-Gasket (dust seal at mount)



Noises When Shaken

Very mild clicking from the diaphragm blades and actuation system.


Made in



Sharpness      performance     top

Warning 1: Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens.

Warning 2: Lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers.

The 90mm f/3.5 SL-II is among the sharpest lenses I've used on a Nikon.

It's super-sharp and contrasty everywhere at all settings,at least as seen on a 12 MP FX camera.

I tried this Nikon-mount sample with a crummy adapter on a 5D Mark II, and it wasn't as sharp as the Canon 100mm f/2 USM. I hope the real Canon-mount version is better.

Sample Image


Sunstars      performance     top

Its diaphragm is so round that I doubt it will make any sunstars on bright points of light.

I'd rather it used 9 straight blades instead of curved, which would give us sunstars.


Usage        top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

Voigtlander 90mm f/3.5

Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5, hood and close-up filter. enlarge.

Normally, one removes the goofy screw-in hood and treats this as a standard 52mm filter-thread lens. I'd use a conventional screw-in rubber hood for sanity's sake, or not bother with one at all.

If you want to use Voigtländer's hood, leave the short (5mm or 1/4") little extension screwed into it, and use the 39mm cap provided.

As-is, this is a very close-focusing lens. If you want to carry and use the additional and included close-up lens, first remove the little hood extension,then thread the close-up lens directly into the 52mm-39mm adapter. This ensures the optimum optical alignment. If you get lazy and screw the close-up lens into the front of the short hood section instead, optics will suffer slightly.

Feel free to attach the microhood to the front of the close-up lens.

If I used the close-up lens, I'd leave the hood extension home in the box, and screw the close-up lens into the 39mm-52mm adapter permanently. I'd carry the assembled 39-52mm adapter and close-up lens and treat them as another 52mm accessory, using the 39mm cap on the close-up lens.

See also Deployment.


Compared        top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

This Voigtländer is ultra-sharp, but so are all Nikon's and Canon's own 85mm normal and 105mm Micro lenses.


Compared to Nikon

When compared to Nikon's 85mm f/1.8 AF-D and 85mm f/2 lenses, the Nikon lenses are a bit softer at f/2, but the Voigtländer doesn't even get to f/2, so this doesn't count. The fact that the Nikons get to these much faster stops are big advantages of the Nikon lenses.

When stopped-down to f/3.5 and smaller, I can't see any difference between any of these lenses on a 12 MP FX camera. They are all superb and indistinguishable from each other.

For macro use, the Nikon 105mm f/4 AI or 105mm f/2.8 AI-s are slightly less sharp at infinity in the corners, and otherwise, all are superb, especially used in the macro range. The Nikon 105mm AF-D and Nikon 105mm VR are all the same as the Voigtländer; all super-sharp everywhere.


Compared to Canon

I prefer either of Canon's EF 85mm f/1.8 USM or EF 100mm f/2 USM. Each is as sharp, and adds autofocus and two additional stops of speed and background blurring, each for less money.

They don't focus as close, but the Canon 100mm Macro does, also for about the same price. I've seen manufacturing quality variations between samples of this complex lens; I suspect all the simpler Voigtländers are equally excellent. If you get a good one of these Canon 100mm Macros, it is also spectacular — and adds autofocus and a stop of speed.

Canon's 100mm IS L is also wonderful, but costs twice as much.

I tried this Nikon-mount sample with a crummy adapter on a 5D Mark II, and it wasn't as sharp as the Canon 100mm f/2 USM. I hope the real Canon-mount version is better.


Recommendations       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

The Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5 SL-II is an optically and ergonomically superb lens.

However, at $550, you must be kidding. That's more than the price of a brand-new Autofocus Nikon 85mm f/1.8 D, and far more than a used Nikon 105mm f/4 AI or 105mm f/2.8 AI-s micro.

Imagine buying this lens for $550. It's like buying the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 D for $400, and then paying someone $150 to break the autofocus and remove two full stops of speed, in exchange for a closer focus distance (0.5 versus 0.85 meters). I'd suggest this Voigtländer lens only if closer-than-normal focusing is critical to you.

If this is what you want, go for it, but personally, I prefer the feel and utility of the much faster Nikon 85mm f/2 AI-s for my sort of photography. We all have different needs.

For Canon, personally I bought Canon's 100mm f/2 USM, and it also costs less!

A particularly apt use of this Voigtländer lens is fine-art reproduction, where you may need the closer focus, prefer the perfect manual-focus feel, and need the super-high optical quality.


Deployment      top

I'd pitch the 39mm Voigtländer cap and get a new 52mm "pinch" type Nikon cap.

I'd leave either a 52mm Nikon Clear (NC - UV) filter, or a 52mm Hoya Super HMC UV on the lens at all times.

I would leave the hood, close-up lens and screwy adapters at home.

If I was working in nasty, dirty areas, I'd forget the cap, and use an uncoated 52mm Tiffen UV filter instead. Uncoated filters are much easier to clean, but more prone to ghosting.

For color slides like Velvia 50, I use an old Nikon A2 or new 52mm Hoya HMC 81A outdoors.

For B&W film outdoors, I'd use an old Nikon Y48 or O56, or a new 52mm Hoya HMC K2 Yellow or 52mm Hoya HMC Orange.


More Information      top



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