Review of a rare bird: the Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar

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According to multiple sources, total production of this optic is somewhere between 700 and 1000 units in Nikon AI-S (unchipped F) mount; there were a few more made in Pentax K, and M42. The lens came out of the Cosina Voigtlander factory in the early 2000s, on the heels of the now-legendary 125/2.5 APO-Lanthar and more common 90/3.5 APO-Lanthar. All of these lenses had very short production runs, probably because it was right about the time the CV factory was switching over to produce the modern Zeiss lenses. This is a shame, because they’re relevant lenses more than ever. During my last trip to Tokyo in December, I found not one – but two of the very rare 180mm lenses. Bellamy at Japan Camera Hunter says this is the first time he’s seen one for sale – let alone two. Naturally, it followed me home. The other lens found a home with one of the site regulars…

Samples were shot on a Nikon D750 and D810.

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Shown with its even smaller 90/3.5 sibling.

Whilst the Zeiss Otuses and other ZF.2s deliver ultimate image quality across a very wide shooting envelope, we’re somewhat limited on two fronts: there’s nothing above 135mm, and the weight of all of these lenses is a serious factor to consider. Especially when you’re also packing a 6kg tripod/head combination, two bodies, and your aim is to hike to make landscape images – something which I’m doing with increasing frequency because I find it find the environment, process and results satisfying and relaxing. My landscape kit comprises a Nikon D810, the 24PCE, something in the midrange, a short tele and a long tele – plus a set of NDs and polarizers for all of these lenses. The 24PCE is not to correct verticals or extend depth of field; it’s because if I need something wider I can shift-stitch for an effective 19mm or so.

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The middle choice alternates between a 45PCE, 45P, or 55 Otus depending on a) whether I anticipate needing movements; b) plan on walking a very long distance, or c) need to work with maximum depth of field flexibility and/or aren’t carrying anything heavier or longer respectively. The short telephoto choice is either the 85 Otus (my preference, because it’s possibly the best lens I’ve ever used across the board) or the 90 APO-Lanthar, again depending on weight. If you’re at f8 on a tripod for sufficient depth of field anyway, those extra stops and kilograms aren’t really justifiable. The final choice is a tricky one: it used to be the 2/135 APO or the 70-200/4 AFS; though as outstanding as the 2/135 is (probably the closest of the regular ZF.2s to ‘Otus level’) it isn’t really that much longer than the 85 in practice, and I may well leave the 85 behind and pair it with the 55. The 70-200/4 is large and heavy, though not as bad as the 80-400 AFS, which I really like for its flexibility and ability to provide a lot of frames for high resolution stitching – but the weight and size are a killer.

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Two times

Thus, the rationale for something long, light and good; there aren’t really that many choices. Especially not if weight is a consideration. My research lead me to the least common of the three APO-Lanthars: the 180mm. More than a year of hunting turned up either nothing or some suspect eBay listings which I didn’t feel confident enough with to put down a not immaterial sum of money; for a lens that retailed for about $350 when new, it’s now well over the $1,000 mark. Not a bad ROI for an eight or so year investment.

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Omotesando on a Sunday

Despite the ‘Lanthar’ part of the name, the lens is not radioactive – which is a good thing. It does have lanthanum glass, whose dispersion properties are part of the apochromatic part of the optical formula. It is a 9/7 design, with 9 aperture blades and hole that is a rather irregular circle. There are no aspherical elements as far as I can tell, which is good news for bokeh. First impressions are of solidity and density: this is not a big lens, perhaps the length of the Nikon AFS 60/2.8 Macro and with a skinny 49mm filter thread (you’ll want a pinch cap to replace the beautiful but very impractical metal screw-in cap, too). Around the business end is a chrome bayonet for the hood, reminiscent of the current ZF.2 line; it’s pretty but can result in reflections if you’re shooting something near. You’ll also need a lot of luck to find the matching square hood; it wasn’t sold with the lens, and it appears that there were fewer hoods than lenses made. My own hunt continues.

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Upward mobility

The lens is so small it pretty much disappears on a D810 and balances much like the AIS 105/2.5. But it’s all-metal, which can be unpleasant in very cold environments and if you accidentally drop it on your foot. It is a manual focus lens, like all of the Nikon-mount Voigtlanders, which undoubtedly contributes to keeping the internals compact. The focus throw is long because it has an unusually close 1.2m near limit, and can get a bit twitchy towards infinity – you really have to have a subject more than a kilometer away to be able to use the hard infinity stop with any confidence, especially at f4. Fortunately, the focusing ring has quite a stiff action and no backlash, which makes adjustments of small increments easy.

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Dark flows

I would say it is a difficult lens to use handheld for several reasons: lack of a stabilizer or any meaningful weight making precise framing and stability while focusing critically difficult; the relatively long focal length and slow aperture requiring a lot of shutter speed to avoid shake on high resolution bodies; and finally, difficulty in acquiring critical focus wide open. It is not something I’d use for street photography or documentary work. However, all of these handling attributes are quite well suited to architecture and landscape – if you’re working off a tripod with live view, it’s capable of some really excellent results.

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Resolving power and acuity seem to vary with distance. Maximum aperture of f4 at infinity is less than ideal; you really need f5.6 or preferably f8. Beyond f11 diffraction sets in, so you’ve really only got two usable stops at infinity. At middle distances, say up to about 300-400m, things move up a stop: f4 becomes acceptable, f5.6 is excellent. And at middle-close distances – between say 20-100m – all apertures are usable, and f4 is pretty darned good, even towards the edges on a D810. At no point does the microcontrast threaten an Otus; it’s a fairly low contrast lens that has high resolving power but moderate contrast at best. Perhaps the best relative analogy is sandpaper: if a sharp Nikkor or Canon lens is 120 or 220 grit (excellent global contrast, somewhat hard/ crunchy microcontrast), a normal Zeiss is 400 grit, an Otus is 600-800 grit (a good balance between overall contrast and very fine microcontrast) – then the APO-Lanthars are ultra fine grit: not much high level bite, but the grit is there.

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The hive

The 180 flares in a dramatic and contrast reducing way, but can be tamed to a large extent by shading the front element (and I really wish I could find a long hood to fit it). It does not, however, exhibit any longitudinal or lateral CA that I could find – and no purple fringing, either. This is truly an apochromatic lens. Color transmission is best described as a bit ‘thin’: it reminds me of the way the Foveon files look; accurate, but somewhat desaturated. It doesn’t have the transparency and clarity of the Otuses, but it doesn’t have the price tag or weight, either. What it does produce is an easily worked file with plenty of tonal information.

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I personally like what it does with out of focus areas, which is a good thing because at anything except for very long distances, you’re going to have some out of focus areas somewhere in the frame. In that sense, it has the same ‘abrupt’ transition between in and out of focus areas I’ve come to associate with well-corrected apochromatic lenses; the plane of focus is sharp, then it isn’t. The intermediate transition zone isn’t nervous or double-edged, even with busy subjects such as branches. It simply goes soft, which is quite pleasant. I suspect this lens would be very good for portraiture, given its rendering characteristics – enough bite to define hair and features, not so much global contrast as to be unflattering, and a nice out of focus area in both fore and background. Focusing may be a challenge, though.

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Of the three APO-Lanthars, the only one I’ve not had a chance to use is the 125/2.5 Macro; reputedly the best of the lot. The 90 is very similar to the 180, but with somewhat lower overall contrast and a flatter rendering. I personally think the two lighter lenses – the 90 and 180 – are very worthy of consideration for landscape photographers simply because of their unique combination of weight and image quality. Fortunately, the 90 is fairly easily obtainable – there were a few versions made, and in my mind the preferred version is the one without the chrome bayonet – simply because it isn’t distracting or reflective. The 180 should be snapped up in whatever version you can find that fits. It earns a permanent place in my bag, because there is simply no other option if you need a high quality lightweight telephoto. MT


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  1. Hi Ming, do you think the VL Apo Lanthar 180 version with M42 connector would obstruct the light path so that it is likely to show vignetting on my X1D sensor?
    Thanks, Holger

    • Difficult to say – depends on the baffling inside the M42 adaptor. I used the F mount version with no issues.

      • Can I send you a pic?

        • Wouldn’t help, I’m afraid – no easy way to calculate the geometry there without proper measurements…

          • OK thanks anyway …

            • Ming – I found a mint 180 Apo Lanthar for Nikon F and ordered it in Japan today – I guess the Novoflex Nikon-XCD mount adapter is suitable? Thanks a lot for your support and the great recommendation of this lens for my X1D II. All the best, Holger

              • Yes, that’s what I used.

                • Oh good – I just ordered it in the version for the X1D and for my A7R III. Have you got an idea what hood to put on the 180 Apo Lanthar as the original hood seems impossible to get ….?

                  • Sorry, nope. I have the even harder to get square hood.

                    • OK, so would need some construction / adaptation of some orther hood …. I will report here if I find a solution

                    • Ming – and to whom it concerns:
                      I found a cheap and obviously workable solution from another user on the internet: a step-up ring from 49->52 mm and a Nikon hood for the 105/2.5 and 135/3.5 lens. Thanks, Holger

  2. Ming, just received a Voightlander 180mm f4. Cosmetically near mint with clear glass. Was excited to try on my D850. I cannot get sharp focus at infinity. There is a hard stop at the infinity mark on the lens. Does your copy focus beyond infinity to achieve proper focus?
    I have the Voightlander 125 f/2.5 which I’ve used for several years with excellent result and no issues with focus.

    • No, mine hits infinity exactly. It’s possible the lens was serviced at some point and reassembled with the wrong entry point on the helicoid. Fortunately this is not a really serious problem to solve, and most camera repairers should be able to address it.

      • Ming, Thank you for your response. The seller in Japan was truly apologetic and had no idea there was an issue with the lens. He was willing to cover the repair cost within reason however when I received a repair quote of $500 fromCameraQuest, the USA importer of Voightlander for repair, the seller and I agreed that a return was the best option. The search continues! I’ve had the Voightlander 125mm Nikon mount for several years and enjoy the slower pace of manual focus landscape photography, particularly where I live in southern Utah. My photography actually is centered around commercial and editorial work 500px dave becker for a small sample of my work. If you’re in the region, give me a shout as it would be great fun to spend sometime showing you some of the spectacular local attractions.
        Best regards,
        Dave Becker

  3. Fabrizio Zerbini says:

    Hi Ming. I am targeting an apochromatic lens in the 135-200 range. You do own both this Voigtlander and the Zeiss 135 f/2, which however you never reviewed. Apart the obvious differences in aperture and focal length, how would you compare the two, especially when considering optical characteristics such as OOF rendering, resolution, and (micro-) contrast? Will you ever consider reviewing the Zeiss as well? Thanks a lot for your input! Best Fabrizio

    • The Zeiss is crispier and has higher overall global contrast, but micro contrast is similar between the two lenses (as is resolving power and CA control), but I seldom use it because of weight and for something of that length, I tend to aim for high visual compression which requires small apertures only. For shallow DOF cinematic work, AF helps immensely…which is ‘best’ is down to what you want to do with it, I suppose.

      • Fabrizio Zerbini says:

        Thanks a lot Ming! It confirms my expectations. This shall complement my 100-400 and my 85 1.8 on a ML body for portraiture so there are pros and cons which are obvious to me in the choice. Information on contrast and micro contrast is very helpful to anticipate the lens style. I guess I will fish for the 180 on eBay for a while and then will see. Again thank you!

  4. Ming, reputable dealer has a couple of these. Says both samples have a little rattle inside lens. Does this match your experience with this lens?


    • There’s some mild rattling from the aperture coupling mechanism – I think there’s a fairly light sliding spring or something in there. Should sound like heavy clunking though, that would indicate something broken I think.

  5. Ming Thein, I might have missed it in all of the comments, I’d kept a Hasselblad bellow lens shade that made gel filters work well for about every lens I used at one time, thinking if I could have a good lathe worker make several adapter rings, I could use it with what ever “wonder glass” I end up with, believe with the Hass. 250mm, the bellows had light metal 3-InchX 3-inch cropping sheet that would allow in even less outside-the frame-light (that I also have). Just a thought, great site and I’ve enjoyed and learned from your excellent videos as well. Bob

  6. I will be heading to Japan soon, so a quick question here, any plan for post on Japan’s camera store or your favourite store there? Also, if I may ask, where did you get this lens in Tokyo?

    • No, I’ll leave coverage of shops to other people – that isn’t the purpose of this site, sorry. You could try Map Camera in Shinjuku, which is also near the huge Yodobashi mothership. I also like Lemon Camera in Ginza and Fujiya in Nakano.

      • Point taken. Still, looking forward to your future posts on philosophical image making, enjoyed your writings and pictures more than everything else, despite initial intention was to read up gear reviews.

  7. Hi Ming, do you know the Nikon 180 2.8mm? How would it compare in your opinion? Thanks

    • I used one a long time ago in the D2H/D2x era; even then it had some fringing wide open, so I can only imagine that’s worse now with higher resolution. It was pretty good stopped down. AF is a little grindy and imprecise, and the override mechanism is clunky. If AF is a must, I’d honestly rather have the 70-200/4 VR, which isn’t much bigger or heavier but focuses better, has VR, and superior optics. Neither the 180/2.8 nor the 70-200/4 are superior to the 180 APO however.

  8. Scott Marcellus says:

    Have you compared it to Leica R 180/3.4 APO? That is a wonderful landscape lens IMHO, so the two seem optimized for different purposes.

  9. I purchased my first 180 for Nikon and it behaved like yours or perhaps worse. It did not do well at infinity. In fact, it would not focus fully all the way to infinity, thus giving poor performance at wider f stops. The seller graciously accepted my return. My second 180 does beautifully at all distances. Perhaps the infinity stop can be adjusted ?? I wish you well with your lens. Mine is a beauty. Like another user, I use a 135 Takumar lens hood on my lens. It works fine.

  10. Interesting information in this article! I had no idea the lens was so cheap originally. Also in the US they’re on eBay fairly frequently and it took me only a couple weeks to find mine, so while I knew it was rare I had no idea how rare: <1000 examples is less than my 180 APO-Summicron!

    I'm wondering if you got a so-so sample. I'd agree it's not optimized for infinity but I'd definitely not call it merely "acceptable" at middle distance and closer. I'd say it's pretty competitive with my APO-Summicron. Of course I'm using a D750 so I may simply not be taxing these lenses / seeing the Leica's full potential as one would with a D810.

    Anyway, great review and sample images as always!

  11. Ahh, I finally found one in like new condition on eBay, with round hood, and it arrived today, just in time for my winter holiday vacation! Yay! So much more portable than the 180mm Nikkors (or the 135mm Apo Sonnar). I’m looking forward to giving the Apo Lanthar 180mm/4 a good workout.

  12. Ming, would you know if any nikon extenders work well with this lens?

    • Not recommended – they all won’t mount because of the narrow back throat, not to mention the slightly different bayonet to prevent mounting incompatible lenses.

  13. Ming, regarding the 90mm; since the Nikon non-cpu setting does not have a setting for 90mm, your choice was 86mm or 100mm. Can I assume you went with the 86mm setting?

  14. Nice review – I was lucky enough to pick up a 180 SL in Canon FD mount on EBay about two years ago, but I’ve never seen another one listed in this mount. It was brilliant on an OM-D, but I’m now using it on a Sony A7R, where it is almost as good, and allows use of the same mount as the other FD lenses that I tend to carry. Like you, I find it great for hiking, and have it in my kit for an upcoming multi-day trip into our Fiordland mountains, along with a Canon TS-E 24 and FD 100 F/2 – a very similar combo to yours. For a hood, I purchased an alternative circular Voigtlander hood (LH75S) from the US Voigtlander agents (, which fits beautifully and comes with its own little friction fit cap – very tidy and completely eliminates flare. Your comments about colour rendering, out of focus and transition, and difficulty in hand holding very much mirror my own, but when you get it right, it sings quite a song.

  15. Nice pictures with an uncommon lens. I’ve never really been interested enough in that lens to look for one, but am surprised that the price is now going in the four figure range. I have a Voigtländer 90/3.5 for lightweight use (and the Nikkor 85/1.8’s LoCA drives me nuts with landscapes), it’s not spectacular but it doesn’t having any significant weaknesses either, goes reasonably close and is compact. But the lack of spectacularity leads me to consider the Zeiss 100/2 or even Nikkor 85/1.4, the Otus being as you say very big and heavy (and expensive).

    I was a bit surprised by your normal lens choices; my go to lens is the Zeiss 50/2 Makro, since it’s a good macro lens and it does very well when stopped down at landscape distances. The wide choice is hard, but I’m completely happy now with the Zeiss 25/2. It’s pretty nice when reaching a “plateau” where one no longer things about changing the equipment.

    • There’s also the Nikon 85 PCE, which is really excellent – I think better than the 90 APO, Zeiss and 85/1.4 – though larger and heavier and in a similar price bracket. Not quite as bad as the Otus though.

      Normal lens – I owned the 2/50 MP but never used it because the focus throw is just too short above near distances; it’s far too twitchy. The Otus is spectacular but again weight and cost…

      • Ah, good point. I actually have the 85 PC and it’s a good workhorse, but its size and format makes it hard to pack and it’s really a f4 and smaller lens, the maximum aperture is not satisfactory. I also hate how fast it focuses near infinity; I find the 2/50 MP fine in that respect, but the 85 PC is irritating when doing fine focusing near infinity, especially in cold weather. But all macro lenses tend to be a bit trickier in terms of focus throw.

        Realistically, one will not find the perfect lens 🙂

  16. I have the 180mm and the 90mm. At the time of purchase I rationalized that I could get two lens’ for about the same price as the 125mm. I love the 180mm and totally agree with your description. I less enthusiastic about the 90mm, not bad just not up to the 180’s performance. About the hood, I had a takumar hood for a 135mm f3.5 laying about and use it on both until I got a deeper hood.

  17. Jim Suojanen says:

    I have a Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5. It was originally a Pentax mount, but I had it fitted with a Nikon mount by SK Grimes. No EXIF data is transmitted to the camera, but it works fine. I’m happy to loan it to you if you’d like to try it out. I’d ship it insured; what is the best service to Indonesia from the USA? I can e-mail you some pics if you want to see some amateur examples before you decide.

  18. What a coincidence !! I was looking to buy this lens for some time and finally it arrived last week and today I read this article. 🙂
    I am using it (mine in Nikon mount) on Sony NEX and Leica M. Sharpness is there but I liked the bokeh, front and back very much. It is certainly a sunny weather lens for me but it is so light and compact that I could not resist getting it.

    Now I have to decide how to use this tele lens. 🙂 I normally shoot normal to wide. Maybe you should do an article on long lens alone.

  19. ray loades says:

    at the time of my writing this, your Flickr links don’t work.

  20. Great images Ming – great examples of how to use 180mm compression.

    I little research on Stephen Gandy’s Cameraquest website archive at the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine reveals that (on the June 2004 capture I looked at), the 180mm was released in September 2003. The price in June ’04 was $425, and $39 for the optional hood. The price for the 125mm on the same day was $619, including a hood, and the 90mm was $329 plus $39 for an optional hood. (The price now for a new 90mm SL “II” version is $579, including a close up lens adaptor. So, we might expect that if Cosina-Voigtlander had updated the lens to include it in their SL II revision, the price for the 180mm today, new and in plentiful supply, would be around $700 to $800 including a lens hood. So… $1000 for a used one in good condition doesn’t look quite so bad perhaps.

    In 2004, Gandy reported of the 125mm Voigtlander “One shooter compared the 125/2.5 to his 100 Zeiss Macro lens, and reported he could see no different in the results — high praise indeed.” Different focal lengths of course, but today the price of a used Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar and a 125mm Voigtlander APO-Lanthar are quite the other way around. At $2500 to $2800 for the 125mm, it would be hard to pass up the Zeiss in comparison.

    • Thanks Linden – now if only we’d had the foresight to buy some 125s!

      The Zeiss has visible LoCA and LCA which I’ve not seen in the 125 APO. Plus I believe the 125 goes to 1:1, compared to 1:2 for the Zeiss. But the lineage in design and external cosmetics is pretty clear…

      • Yes, 1:1 for the 125.

        Hopefully Zeiss will bring out a killer macro in the Otus lineage.

        Incidentally, I checked today in a Tin Cheung store (a Hong Kong authorised dealer for Voigtlander), and they still have new 90mm APO-Lanthar SL IIs in stock in A-iS mount for the normal new price. If the lens is out of production though I guess that stock won’t last, especially as the price for a new one is about the same as a price for a used one on eBay. The 90mm is such an amazingly compact size and good performer. It makes a great travel lens.

        Incidentally, I checked today in a Tin Cheung store (a Hong Kong authorised dealer for Voigtlander), and they still have new 90mm APO-Lanthar SL IIs in stock in A-iS mount for the normal new price. If the lens is out of production though I guess that stock won’t last, especially as the price for a new one is about the same as a price for a used one on eBay. The 90mm is such an amazingly compact size and good performer. It makes a great travel lens.

        • The 90 isn’t that good, to be honest. It really needs f8 and a tripod; doesn’t touch the Otus at any aperture or distance. I’ve got a chance to use a 125 this week…I shall report back…

  21. Martin Fritter says:

    Lovely images. The Voightlander 40mm pancake is also a wonderful lens.

  22. I have a number of the Voigtlander APO lenses, including the 180mm APO. The 180mm APO is a nice, relatively smallish, lens that is very well corrected. Since I am a close-up photographer I can’t really get close enough with this lens, but the most important reason I don’t use my 180mm APO more is what I would call the lack of contrast. I have, but do not use, the 90mm APO lens much, but I do use the Voigtlander 125mm f.2.5 APO-Lanthar a lot, and have for years. Until I got the three new APO lenses in the Zeiss Otus series, I used the CV-125 all the time, along with the Leica 100mm APO Elmarit-R, which I converted to Nikon F-mount. In fact, I had three copies of this lens, but recently sold one. The new Zeiss lenses are just… better, except they are not true macro lenses, so I still use the CV-125 sometimes. I wish Zeiss would give us an Otus wide-angle and a macro lens.

    • Stop down a little. I agree there’s not as much contrast as the Zeisses, but there’s plenty of information to work with in the file. I was also told there’s a whole line of Otuses planned, but exactly what FLs this covers – no idea.

  23. What about printing in 3D the lens hood? 😉

  24. NeutraL-GreY says:

    The sand paper analogy is brilliant!

  25. Ron Scubadiver says:

    The photos of rocks in water remind me of Japanese gardens with rocks on white gravel. In my own photography I find the problems which must be overcome are are far more gross than whether a lens is great or merely good. That is probably because most of what I photograph is moving.

  26. Very nice review, thank you, and stunning images. Did your 180 come in its original box? I only ask as I bought the 125 (in EF mount) in its box, like a fool, instead of coming to your Prague workshop, and my 125 is packed with the hood (plus a strange, rubber front hood cap). As you say, the front cap is weird and totally unwieldy. I’m as bad a photographer as I was then, so I haven’t taken any decent pictures with it. Best wishes, Nick

  27. Thanks for the review Ming, it has been a lens on my long term list for Pentax K mount – so your review is really useful. I have a Voigtlander 58/1.4 in K mount, as as others have noted, while not APO it is a very nice lens to handle and use.

  28. plevyadophy says:

    I took a look at the image entitled “Crossing” and started laughing.


    Coz only Ming could go shoot something so mundane and make it look like a work of art; .”typical Ming”, I said as I smiled and I shook my head in disbelieving admiration.

    Thanks for the Review and images.

  29. wayne s. says:

    Lanthar 180/4 is a nice lens.
    I like my Leica R 180/2.8 APO whic h is very sharp starting from wide open and with usual Leica colors and nice bokeh.
    I use it for landscape and hike with it. It is 947g in weight which is more than your Lanthar and has become pretty expensive now.
    One sweet lens which I use on D800E and it can hang with my other APOs, Leica 100/2.8 APO and Otus 55/1.4. 🙂
    Enjoy your Lanthar!

    • Thanks. That’s quite a bit of weight difference 🙂

      • wayne s. says:

        Yes, but ultimate IQ even wide open at 2.8, butter smooth and easy to move focus ring, and built in retractable lens shade.
        I hope you get to try one day as I have no doubt you would buy it. 🙂

  30. Absolutely stunning images Ming! Even at web sized images one could ‘smell’ just a tidy bit of the rendering of this fantastic lens. Or is it just the wonderful images that fools you to think so?
    I’ve seen Andre Yew’s work with this lens too, and hat off for what he has captured with his 180 Lanthar lens. Stunning as well.

    There is just a handful lenses out there when it comes to ultimate transparency and one could hope that the high-res sensor race also would lead to production of more transparent and flawless lenses with AF in a closer future. A very few manufacturers have picked up the glove yet, but hopes are still we will see more lenses at the wider and longer focals.showing the quaility as seen here with the 180 Lanthar lens.

    • Thanks Gerner. The rendering is quite – gentle/tight, I guess is the best way to describe it. It isn’t as contrasty as the Otii but also doesn’t really lose much detail. Curious that three of us now have them – Ciao has one too…

      I will have a couple of prints from it for Prague. And yes, hopefully there are more light/small/APO lenses to come!

      • And before I forget, the day-into-night photo’s great!

      • I think I get what you mean by gentle/tight … anyways, great if you bring a couple of UP’s taken with the lens. Normally will expose most of its merits 🙂

        Oh… apology to Ciao. Yes he has the lens too. Can’t remember if I ever saw some of his work with that lens? But for sure the images from Ciao will take you to dreamland with their stunning colors and genius compositions.

        • I’d really like to see more compact APO lenses too. Whatever may lighten our shoulders from wight is very welcome )

          • Well there is the little old and cheap Sigma 180 5.6 APO lens. Sharp but maybe a little low in contrast. AF in some makes too.
            A very good lens for the prices it can be found for.

        • I’m pretty sure he was enjoying it in Tokyo, but we had the same problem of it being very difficult to use handheld without the Zacuto.

    • Thanks Gerner! 🙂 Though now that I have the 70-200/4, the Lanthar is relegated to garage queen status.

      And Ming, I’m glad I got my copy before this review came out, though it’s hard to see it appreciating more than the current price. I can’t believe the original selling price was $350! Anyway, great review, especially of an item that’s so out of the mainstream.

      I’m also glad you mentioned the near-infinity focusing twitchiness. I often find myself tweaking the lens and staring at the D810’s liveview screen for almost a minute trying to decide whether something’s in focus or not. And this is at 1:1 and max sharpening!

      • Really? The other way around for me – the 70-200/4 is a nice to have, but the size/weight means it’s a lens of deliberation. The 180 is something you can just throw in and use if you need…

        Part of the issue deciding if something is in focus or not at greater distances is atmospherics start to come into play – especially if you’re in a location with less than perfect air. Then heat/convection or pollution between you and the subject can cause shifts in clarity…

      • Really .. did the 70-200 f4 displace the 180 Lanthar. Wow .. I am excited to hear that. Perhaps it also tells me why I am so crazy glad about that zoom. This is one of the best investments I did for a long time beside upgrading to 810.

        • Ming and Gerner, it’s more about versatility than quality though the zoom’s VR does increase my shooting envelope considerably. But since I’m mostly tripod bound these days, that’s a theoretical benefit for me. My kit is the 24PCE and something else. The 180 was too far of a jump though it is an interesting exercise to shoot all day with only those two lenses. Also, the copy of the 180 I have is in such good condition, I’m still in fear of getting that first scratch on it! 🙂

          I did find the 180 hard to use handheld even with an LCD magnifier. The shake magnification along with the D810’s jello-ey liveview made it hard to get critical focus right.

  31. Stephan says:

    Very nice pictures! I am happy to read that you are more and more into hiking because I always felt exactly the same way you do. It’s relaxing and if you do it all alone can even be meditating for me if the photo spot is a nice and quiet place.

    Enjoy your future journeys into nature! I will be happy to see more nature pictures from you! 🙂

  32. Caesar Merlin says:

    Could I ask how much you purchased this one for

  33. I’m using the 90 with my Oly EM5, where it becomes a 180!
    Very good lens indeed, certainly for the price. And in a pinch it can do some very acceptable close-up work.

  34. Right, these set of images really blew me off. And yes, I’m going to purchase your video tutorials after dithering all these while. Now… where do I begin… ;}

  35. Harvey Steeves says:

    the ebay priced just jumped to $2000 …

  36. Cool to see a review of the SL 180mm.

    I’ve had the SL 90mm and handled friends’ SL 180mm and SL 125mm APO Lanthar (all Pentax K mount). The legendary 125mm is truly a beast in every way to handle. I had a chance to buy the 180mm and was torn between it’s handy size and not really being a long lens guy. But lovely lens, as was the tiny joyful 90mm (which I later sold with mixed feelings for funds).

    I also had the SLII 40mm and have the SLII 58mm. Less dramatic build quality but better built, smoother, more consistent and less rattle-y. Both great lenses too, not APO but very low CA nonetheless. (I sold the 40mm because I find that length neither here nor there on APS-C (as I do the 20mm length)). I wished the SLII 28mm was available in K mount but alas.

    • I also have the 90, and it’s nowhere near as good as the 180. Not tried the 125; those things are even rarer still. I suspect it’d probably be something like the Zeiss 2/135 APO though.


  1. […] perhaps one of the systems should be accompanied by other glass that adds versatility – a 180/4 APO Lanthar, for instance. Taking this reasoning a step further, if I’m on a relatively open-ended […]

  2. […] exactly pleasant, but the gear survived just fine. If you look closely you may also spot one of my favourite lenses, adapted…Interestingly, the e-shutter behaviour (0.3s rolling sensor readout time) is such that you […]

  3. […] Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar** (review) When people ask ‘why small and slow?’ – this is the lens I cite. Barely 10cm […]

  4. […] series was shot with a Leica Q, Nikon D810 and Zeiss 28 Otus, 180 APO-Lanthar, Sony A7RII and Zeiss 85 Batis. You can also look over my shoulder at the underlying […]

  5. […] series was shot with a Leica Q, Sony A7RII, Zeiss 2.8/35 PC Distagon, 1.8/55 FE, 1.8/85 Batis and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar. Images in this set were processed with Photoshop Workflow II. You can also look over my shoulder […]

  6. […] going to need much better lenses than you think. Unsurprisingly, the Otuses still sing, as does the 180 APO-Lanthar and 2/135 APO, but other lenses that are very good even on the D810 – like the 45 PCE and 85 […]

  7. […] the A7RII’s seals appear somewhat questionable). I could carry the 55 FE, 85 Batis and perhaps Voigtlander 180/4 APO together with a Q and have an extremely versatile and high quality travel kit without printing […]

  8. […] series was shot in several countries with a Nikon D810, 24-120/4 VR, 45 PCE, 85/1.8G and Voigtlander 180/4 APO lenses. Postprocessing and color management was done using Photoshop Workflow II and The Monochrome […]

  9. […] series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24 and 45mm PCE lenses, a Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus, a Voigtlander 180/4 APO Lanthar and processed with Photoshop Workflow […]

  10. […] if the A7RII’s seals appear somewhat questionable). I could carry the 55 FE, 85 Batis and perhaps Voigtlander 180/4 APO together with a Q and have an extremely versatile and high quality travel kit without printing […]

  11. […] series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24mm and 45mm PCEs, Zeiss Otus 1.4/85, and the Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar. Postprocessing using Photoshop Workflow II, of […]

  12. […] series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24 and 45 PCEs, the Zeiss Otus 85, and the Voigtlander 180 APO-Lanthar and post processed with Photoshop Workflow […]

  13. […] series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24/3.5 and 45/2.8 PCEs, the Zeiss 85 Otus and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar. A tripod is a must, it’s pretty dark in […]

  14. […] with a Nikon D810 and the 24-120/4 VR, with additional contributions from the 24 PCE, 85 Otus and Voigtlander 180 APO and a Ricoh GR. I post processed using PS Workflow II and The Monochrome Masterclass. I also […]

  15. […] series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24/3.5 PCE, 24-120/4 VR, Zeiss Otus 85 and Voigtlander 180/4 APO and postprocessed with Photoshop Workflow […]

  16. […] had nothing to mount on, and the Contax Zeiss 100-300/4.5-5.6 MMJ when I need more reach than the 180 APO-Lanthar and less weight or more quality than the 80-400 AFS. Finally, 36 vs 50MP makes a difference when […]

  17. […] series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24/3.5 PCE, AI 45/2.8 P, Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar lenses. Some images are stitched, all were processed withs PS Workflow II. You can also travel to […]

  18. […] with a wide range of equipment over several months, but mostly the Nikon D810 and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar and processed with PS Workflow II or The Monochrome […]

  19. […] are absolutely brilliant – like the performance of the stabilizer with any and all lenses (the Voigtlander 180/4 APO becomes a light, incredibly sharp and easy to focus 360mm f4; the Zeiss ZM 1.4/35 Distagon […]

  20. […] series was shot with a Nikon D810, D750, 24/3.5 PCE, 45/2.8P, Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar and processed with PS Workflow II; you can also travel vicariously to Japan with How To See Ep.2: […]

  21. […] of view of somebody who has been shooting mostly with highly corrected apochromatic primes (Otuses, APO-Lanthars) or tilt shifts (24, 45, 85 PCEs) for the last year. I’d say a good copy of the 24-120/4 is […]

  22. […] with the PCEs (24, 45, 85) or apochromatics such as the Zeiss 55 or 85 Otuses, 2/135 APO Planar and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar. Some of the Nikon zooms aren’t too bad, but they lack the optical correction and can’t deliver […]

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