How well does the new Voigtlander Apo 35mm f/2 aspherical stack up to the Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM? In the most critical areas, like architectural and landscape photography, the two lenses might be difficult to tell apart (although we still think the Sony will prevail); however, with its fast f/1.4 aperture and the quickest, most reliable autofocus of any manufacturer, the Sony is hands-down the more versatile lens, rendering it suitable for many more situations, including casual photography, shooting pets, family and any living, breathing subjects, fast-paced street photography, news gathering, event photography, fashion and portraiture, working in the late hours or in dimly lit interiors – in practically every conceivable circumstance. Even if you never shoot at f/1.4, the wider aperture has a much brighter image (it lets in twice as much light as the CV), allowing for faster, clearer, more precise manual focusing. In addition to critical eye autofocus, the Sony also offers the advantage of increased creative control over depth of field. It cannot be overlooked that the Voigtlander lacks weather sealing, a feature we have come to expect from a premium lenses. The best landscape pictures are not always captured on sunny days.
Novices who whine about the cost of premium GM lenses often overlook the basic fact that it’s vastly more challenging and costly to construct a fast, wide, compact prime with uncompromising optical quality than to design a slow f/2 lens like the CV. It’s a more formidable task to suppress the vignetting of a lens like the 35mm GM – particularly while striving to contain the overall dimensions. Flare resistance is a pretty huge deal, and Sony has made tremendous strides in this important area, too. Pronounced flare is the number one enemy of contrast, especially when it comes to HDR video. Sony, a technological juggernaut, using their considerable resources, have invested millions in autofocus technology and in the research and development of the manufacturing processes employed to create aspheric lenses that don’t produce unsightly onion ring bokeh. Even when stopped down to f/2, the Sony delivers creamier bokeh than the Voigtlander wide open. Yet they’ve managed to offer all this at a very competitive price. Flare resistance and pleasing bokeh have never been Voigtlander’s strong suits.
The Sony GM Advantage:
1. Creative control over DOF – check. 2. Greater versatility – check. 3. Vastly improved lens coatings resulting in excellent flare resistance – check. 4. Overcome difficulty of constructing a fast, wide compact prime without compromise – check. 5. Substantial low light advantage – check. 6. Responsiveness – check. 7. Fewer lateral chromatic aberrations and higher resolution for formats like 8K throughout the aperture range – check. 8. Ability to shoot in inclement weather – check. 9. Brighter image allows for more precise manual focusing in dim light than the CV – check. 10. Price commensurate with performance – check.