Introduction

Voigtlander APO Lanthar 90mm f/3.5 SL is one of about half a dozen limited production SLR lenses manufactured by Cosina up until 2006 when the company landed a Carl Zeiss contract to take over the production of the new ZF/ZS/ZK/ZM lineup. The lens used to retail for ~US$300 new, although the price has been slowly creeping up since the end of the production run.

The build quality of the lens is superb, as is pretty much the case with all Voigtlander SL lenses. The lens barrel, aperture ring, focus ring, even front lens cap are all metal. Focusing ring is very smooth and the aperture ring is snappy. The aperture ring moves in one full f-stop increments except in the f/5.6-f/8 range, where it moves in 1/2 f-stop increments. For a medium telephoto, Voigtlander APO Lanthar 90mm f/3.5 SL is pretty compact and light, measuring 58 x 64mm (2.2 x 2.5in) and weighing only 390g (0.85lb), although the inner lens cam extends during focusing towards closeup. The optical construction of the lens consists of 6 elements in 5 groups, including a single apochromatic glass element. The minimum focusing distance of the lens is 50cm (1.64ft), with a maximum magnification of 1:3.5. The filter thread is 49mm.

Image

The lens tested in this review was a Nikon Ai-S mount version, but Cosina also used to manufacture APO Lanthar 90mm f/3.5 SL in Pentax K, Minolta and Olympus OM mounts. When testing the lens on Canon cameras, I used a generic, non-AF chipped Nikon F to EOS adapter from Fotodiox. The lens is designed for full-frame cameras and on APS-C bodies with 1.6x crop factor, the field of view of the lens is similar to that of a 144mm lens on a full-frame body. The factory box contains Voigtlander APO Lanthar 90mm f/3.5 SL lens, front and rear caps, manual and registration card.

 

Summary
Lens Composition 6 elements in 5 groups
Angular Field ~27 degrees
Minimum Focus 50cm/1.64ft
Focusing Action MF
f-stop Scale f/3.5-f/22, manual
Filter Size 49mm
Lens Hood Square metal (optional)
Weight 390g/0.85lb
Dimensions 58x64mm/2.28x2.51"
Lens Case None

 

Field Tests

Voigtlander APO Lanthar 90mm f/3.5 SL showed very solid overall performance in the field. Images were sharp corner to corner throughout the aperture range on both APS-C and FF cameras (Canon bodies), with accurate but a little bit saturated colors and excellent overall contrast .

Like with most Voigtlander telephoto lenses, the APO Lanthar 90mm features extremely precise focusing - it takes almost a full 360 degree turn to focus from infinity to the closeup. While I personally prefer lenses with precise focusing, it might also mean some missed opportunities when you need to focus the lens quickly to capture a moment. You can probably mitigate this by presetting the lens in anticipation, but naturally there are limits to this method as well... And speaking of the closeup - the lens sports a pretty short minimum focusing distance - 50cm (1.64ft), which is quite rare in non-macro telephoto lenses.

 

 

Vignetting @ f/3.5 - full frame vs 1.6x crop
Vignetting @ f/3.5 - full frame vs 1.6x crop

 

The lens showed very low level of vignetting with wide open aperture on a full frame body. Of course, considering that this is not the fastest lens around, it does not come as a major surprise. On an APS-C body the lens showed basically no vignetting throughout the tested aperture range. Voigtlander APO Lanthar held up very nicely against flare, even at its widest aperture and showed no visible barrel distortion. Color fringing was basically non-existent across the frame.

 

 

ISO 100, 1/500, f/3.5, 90mm
ISO 100, 1/500, f/3.5, 90mm

 

Lab Tests

Please note that MTF50 results for APS-C and Full-Frame cameras are not cross-comparable despite the same normalized [0:1] range used to report results for both types of cameras. Cross-system (i.e. Canon vs Nikon) results are also not comparable.

 

Nikon APS-C: Coming soon...

 

Nikon FF: Coming soon...

 

Canon APS-C: The lens showcased pretty solid performance throughout the aperture range. Center was outstanding straight from f/3.5 and while performance degraded ever slightly towards f/11 (when compared to the wider aperture settings), overall quality remained on a consistently high level. Border performance was not far behind and also stayed on a consistently high level. At its peak, the lens is capable of producing outstanding 16in and very decent 24in prints. Conclusion? The lens clearly takes advantage of the relatively slow maximum aperture, but nevertheless the overall performance is rock solid, with no weaknesses whatsoever.

 

MTF50 (Line Width/Inch on the Print) @ 90mm
MTF50 (Line Width/Inch on the Print) @ 90mm

 

Normalized raw MTF50 @ 90mm
Normalized raw MTF50 @ 90mm

 

Chromatic aberration on an APS-C camera was nothing to speak of (thanks to the apochromatic lens element), averaging ~0.3px throughout the frame and across all aperture settings. Quite low even for a medium telephoto lens.

 

 

Image borders @ 90mm (100% crop): f/3.5 vs f/8
Image borders @ 90mm (100% crop): f/3.5 vs f/8

 

Canon FF: Voigtlander APO Lanthar 90mm f/3.5 SL continued to perform quite well even on a full frame Canon 5D, where it showed very even (and outstanding) overall performance across the tested aperture range. Consistency is always welcome, and this lens shows one of the most consistent results I have seen so far. Conclusion? Solid, solid, solid - all that comes to mind. The only complain I can think of is how come Voigtlander did not make this lens a bit faster?

 

 

Normalized raw MTF50 @ 90mm
Normalized raw MTF50 @ 90mm

 

CA on a full frame body remained well under control, not exceeding ~0.3px across the frame and throughout the aperture range.

 

 

Image borders @ 90mm (100% crop): f/3.5 vs f/8
Image borders @ 90mm (100% crop): f/3.5 vs f/8

Alternatives

Assuming you are looking for a Nikon mount medium telephoto lens, you might want to consider Cosina manufactured Carl Zeiss Planar T* 85mm f/1.4 ZF, which resembled APO Lanthar in build quality but obviously bears original Carl Zeiss design. Like APO Lanthar, Planar 85mm is also a fully manual lens. Alternatively, you might want to consider Micro-Nikkor AF 105mm f/2.8D or its newer variant Micro-Nikkor AF-S f/2.8G IF-ED VR.

 

Recommendation

Too bad that Cosina ceased manufacturing the Voigtlander SL lineup of lenses. The APO Lanthar 90mm is as good medium telephoto lens as one can get, with one (possible) drawback - it's not as fast as some of its main competitors currently available on the market. But with decent price, outstanding build quality, low level of artifacts and rock-solid performance, this is one lens to have if you don't need a large maximum aperture (and assuming you're OK dealing with a fully manual lens). Grab one while they can still be found since it looks like this one is going to become yet another collector's item pretty soon.