Voigtlander Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P Lens Review

Voigtlander Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P Lens Review:

For those looking for a wide angle lens that is M mount, there are quite a lot of them out there.  Leica, of course, makes a few but there are numerous other manufacturers as well.  One of them is Voigtlander, and the lens I was using for an extended period of time is the Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P.  As you can see by the name, it has a modest maximum aperture but it sure makes up for it in terms of size: this is seriously one of the smallest 21mm lenses that I’ve used.  Also, this has actually become one of my favorite 21mm lenses.  Here’s why.

Admin Note: While NYC is slowly getting out of lockdown from the Covid-19 pandemic, I am still limited to certain locations, and how much I can shoot, so there are less pics (and variety) than what I would normally post for a review before the pandemic.  Still, there are plenty of pics that will show what this lens can do.

Voigtlander Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P Lens Build Quality:

Voigtlander lenses, at least the ones that I’ve tested so far, are built extremely well, and the Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P is no exception.  It’s an all metal lens that feels very solid with no creaks or any rattles.  The focus ring has such a great feel to it; it’s ultra smooth with just the right amount of resistance to give you a nice feel.  It’s just about perfect if you ask me.  The aperture ring clicks solidly through each setting as your rotate it.  If you plan on attaching this to your Leica, let’s just say it will definitely not feel out of place.  The quality is all here.  The Color-Skopar 21mm f4 even comes with a tiny screw-in type lens hood as you can see in the photos.  I’m definitely happy with the build in every way, and quite frankly, I’m a bit surprised that this lens doesn’t cost more than its $419 asking price.  It really does have a high end feel to it, and more importantly, it has that true, and lovely mechanical feel that we all love from these rangefinder type lenses.

↑ Leica SL2 with the Voigtlander Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P attached.

The only issue that some may have with this lens is with its maximum aperture, which is a modest f4.  There’s no getting around this: this isn’t a fast lens.  I get that this may be a turn off for some, and I can understand.  I love fast lenses as well.  But hear me out.

↑ Top view of the lens attached to the SL2.

The Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P is an ultra wide angle lens, and I know a lot of people including me who shoot these types of lenses stopped down anyway.  When I use a wide angle, I generally shoot street photography, landscape, cityscape or I’m using it on vacation.  For these subjects, I’m usually stopping down my wide angles to around f5.6-f8…maybe even f11, and I’m usually doing a lot of walking, so I definitely don’t want to carry something that is huge.  Sometimes, I will even bring a tripod with me to shoot long exposure shots, which while I’m a portrait/boudoir photographer, I really love to do.  So, a lens with a larger maximum aperture doesn’t really benefit me considering what the trade off is, which is usually a larger and heavier lens.  Now, I’m not saying that a fast lens isn’t good; when you need the speed, you need the speed, and there’s nothing that will make up for it.  Yes, most cameras these days have decent high ISO capabilities but sometimes, you just want that clean image.  All I’m saying is if I know I’m doing a lot of walking around and not really using a large maximum aperture lens to its fullest, then there’s no point in carrying the often times, larger and heavier lens.

↑ Here’s the Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P attached to my Leica M6 TTL Millennium.

A smaller lens is something I would prefer, and in this case, it’s hard to find any smaller for this type of focal length.  The Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P is ultra compact.  It’s technically a pancake lens, and has a 1″ thick profile.  Its size is one of the reasons why the Color Skopar 21mm is one of my favorite lenses.  For those who’ve been in the M system for a long time, you’ll remember some of those tiny lenses that Leica used to make.  Remember the 35mm Summicron f2 Version 4?  The Color Skopar 21mm f4 is about the same size.  It even has the same 39mm filter thread as the Summicron.

↑ The Leica 35mm Summicron f2 Version 4 or as some refer to it, the “Bokeh King” vs. The Voigtlander Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P.  There is a lens hood attached to the Voigtlander.

During my time with the Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P, I found it to be so easy to live with on a daily basis.  It’s compact, and light; it weighs just 136 g, so this is something you can carrying around all day without feeling any fatigue.  Because it is so compact, this also makes for a great street lens.  Yes, since this is an ultra wide angle lens, you’ll have to shoot closer to your subject, if you’re using it on a full frame camera, especially, but the lens is small enough to be unobtrusive and discreet.  Your subjects may not even notice you, and if they do, chances are, they won’t even care, since it’s not a big hulking lens pointing at them.

Voigtlander Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P Lens Image Quality:

Now, the other reason I think of the Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P as one of my favorite 21mm lenses is because I found the image quality to be downright stunning.  I don’t really use test charts when I review stuff; I’ll look at them but that’s about it.  I base everything off of what I get from actual usage.  As you can see from my reviews, it doesn’t matter if it’s raining, snowing or if it is even extremely hot day; I’ll go out there to really give whatever piece of gear I currently have a real test.  From what I got using my Leica SL2, I was quite blown away.  I didn’t just enjoy using this lens (because the mechanics are a pure joy to use), I found the results that it produced to be fantastic.

↑ Here’s a pic of the Oculus.  I believe this was shot at f8.

↑ A 21mm is great when in a big city where everything is packed together pretty tightly.

↑ All these shots in this review were taken while we had just got out of lockdown from the corona virus pandemic.  As you can see, it is very quiet around the Oculus.

For one, I found the Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P to be extremely sharp.  Center sharpness at f4 is excellent with edges, and corners holding up quite well.  As you stop down, sharpness does increase a bit but overall, you should have no problems using this lens throughout its entire aperture range.  It’s really one sharp optic.

↑ This was taken at f5.6.  As you can see, this lens is very sharp.

↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the photo above.

↑ I always take the same picture when I test for sharpness :).  This was taken at f8.

↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the photo above.

↑ I was only doing short walks at the time I was testing this lens, since we just got out of lockdown.  Sometimes, I don’t get to choose the light I get to shoot with.  This was taken at f11.

As for other traits, the Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P has good contrast and color rending.  The images have really nice depth to them.  Subjects simply pop out of the page.  It does vignette at f4, and at least from my testing, I still saw a little at f8 but in real world shooting, I don’t think there’s any major issue here.  We’re not all shooting white walls everywhere ;).  I was shooting this lens at many different aperture settings, and I was extremely happy with the results.  As for flare, there were an occasion or two where some did show up but overall, nothing that was alarming.

↑ This was taken at f8.

↑ This was taken at f8.

↑ This was taken at either f5.6 or f8.  I don’t remember.

In terms of getting images where there’s a thin depth of field, that’s a bit difficult considering this lens is a 21mm with a maximum aperture of f4.  But depending on how close you can get to your subject, one could achieve decent isolation.  There are 10 diaphragm blades that help contribute to a beautiful and smooth bokeh.

↑ Here’s a shot of the Charging Bull with no one around it.  This was taken at f4.

↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the photo above.  Notice this lens is tack sharp at wide open aperture.

↑ Here’s another shot taken at wide open aperture.

↑ This was taken at f5.6.

Voigtlander Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P Pros And Cons:

Voigtlander Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P Pros:

  • Extremely well-made.
  • Ultra compact, pancake style 21mm.
  • Discreet and unobtrusive.
  • Great for travel, street photography, and landscape.
  • Great to carry around all day.
  • Superb overall image quality.
  • Really nice, three dimensional pop.
  • For what you’re getting, I feel the lens is a bargain in terms of price.
  • Fun to use, and one of my favorite 21mm lenses.

Voigtlander Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P Cons:

  • f4 maximum aperture isn’t for everyone.
  • There is some vignetting.

Voigtlander Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P Verdict:

When I first was thinking about reviewing the Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P, I thought it would be good but I didn’t realize how much I would actually enjoy using it.  In other words, I know Voigtlander makes some great lenses but this one really surprised me.  This is one of my favorite Voigtlander lenses so far.

↑ This was taken at f8.

First off, the Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P has the size going for it.  This is something you can just throw in your bag, and take along with you everywhere.  It’s small enough where it doesn’t really take up much space, and it’s light enough where you’re not saving that much weight by leaving it at home.  It’s something you’re always going to have around even if you don’t use an ultra wide that much.  If you do use one a lot, then great; this is something that excels in so many areas, and it’s something that won’t tire you out at the end of the day.

↑ This was taken at f11.

The other thing is the build is excellent.  The lens feels just like you’d expect from an all metal design.  The build quality is so good it reminds me of lenses from the 50s or 60s.  The moving parts like the focus and aperture rings feel great when they are manipulated by my fingers.  When I was just sitting around, I found myself turning the focus ring back, and forth simply because I loved how smooth it felt.

↑ It was definitely a different experience to walk around downtown Manhattan with it being so quiet during the day.

Then, of course, you add the image quality into the mix, which is brilliant.  I have not tested this on an M or a Fuji body but at least when it is attached to my Leica SL2, I have absolutely no complaints.  It’s, quite frankly, so cool to have this kind of quality in a lens that is also this compact and easy to live with.

↑ As you can see, the entire area of the WTC was very quiet.

Lastly, I feel the price of $419, while not cheap, is still a relative bargain for this lens.  There are lenses out there that cost more that I feel do not deliver the goods like this one.

↑ One last shot of the Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P with the Leica SL2.

↑ One last shot for M users.

I wish I had something really bad to say about this lens just to balance this review out a bit but truthfully, I love it.  As I said numerous times in this review, this is one of my favorite 21mm lenses, and if I was in the market for a lens of this focal length, I’d probably pick this one.  I think pound for pound, if you add everything up like build, size, image quality, and price, the Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P is hard to beat.  With the lockdown because of the corona virus pandemic slowly ending but not enough where I feel comfortable going out and shooting everywhere, I’m limited to only certain areas where I can shoot.  Sometimes, that can get a little boring or even repetitive.  But this lens was just so enjoyable to use that it made me want to go out, and shoot with it all the time.  It did help out with the creative process in that way.  So, bottom line is I highly recommend it to anyone looking to purchase a 21mm.

Thanks for taking the time to read my review!  If you’re considering purchasing the Color-Skopar 21mm f4, and my review helped you decide, please help support this site by purchasing from the link below or any mentioned in this review.  It will not cost you anything extra.  Thank you for your support!

Color-Skopar 21mm f4 P at B&H Photo

2 comments… add one
  • Bruce Chappell

    This is a lovely little lens in terms of build and sharpness and from your photos the colour rendering is great on the SL2. Unfortunately on a digital M it is not such a rosy picture, or maybe that is exactly what it is. I bought a copy of this lens to use on my M-P (typ240) whilst travelling (by bike) through Europe last year. When I finally got back to a computer and took a proper look at the landscape photos I had taken almost all were unusable without a lot of work as they displayed a really strong pink/magenta colour cast at the outer 20-25% of the image. I have sold the lens and will probably try the newer 21mm f3.5 from Voigtlander which as I understand it is corrected for use on a digital M albeit at the cost of slightly more bulk and some nasty retro styling.

    • Patrick

      Hi Bruce,

      apologies for the late reply, and thanks for the kind words. I’m sorry to hear about your experience with it on your M-P. I reviewed the 21mm f3.5 a long time ago, and found that to be an excellent lens as well. I do love the size of this version though :). It makes such a great everyday lens. Let me know if the f3.5 works out better!

      Best,

      Patrick

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