london architecture 6


Snapshot Skopar 25mm


david burnett


The man is a legend but I was reminded recently just how good David Burnett is. Whether it’s his astonishing shots from the 2012 Olympics, taken with a large format Speed Graphic camera, his shots of presidents, or just about anything from over forty years of photojournalism, there’s a special quality to his work; something unique.

The Voigtlander Snapshot Skopar 25mm

wpid-IMAG0047.jpgI’m finding that, of all my lenses, it’s the Voigtlander Snapshot Skopar 25mm that spends most time fixed to my camera. It’s a really lovely lens and a lot of the shots on this site were taken with it.

It’s lightweight and absolutely tiny, even with the adaptor, and on the NEX5n its equivalent focal length is close to the classic 35mm. Optically it’s of fine quality, very sharp across the frame, with good contrast.

Being a manual-focus lens it has a proper distance scale, something that so many modern lenses don’t, so you can set focus without needing to confirm in-camera. Best of all, it’s wide enough that it simply doesn’t need focusing at all for most shots. On the NEX5n an aperture of f8 and focus distance of 3.93 metres (the hyperfocal distance) will result in everything between 1.9 m and infinity being in focus (near enough). This makes it perfect for street photography, where auto-focus will often be too slow or likely to target the wrong thing.

It’s a great landscape lens too.

One nice feature, if more accurate focus is required, is that there are click-stops at 1m, 1.5m and 3m so it’s easy to rapidly focus by feel alone. There is a focusing lever too, which is wonderful.

The only real downside is that, with a maximum aperture of f4, it’s a rather slow lens. This can bring shutter speeds down a lot in low light, and it’s certainly not for night shooting. It’s also not capable of narrow depth of field and creamy bokeh (or much bokeh at all) but if I want that I’ll switch to my Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 anyway. Of course there’s no way the lens could have been this small if it offered wider apertures so it’s a trade-off. For daytime shooting with large depth-of-field it’s simply perfect.

This screw-mount Snapshot Skopar is now discontinued and has been replaced by the M mount rangefinder-coupled Color Skopar which is optically identical but doesn’t have the click-stops.

At current rates you should be able to pick one up used for something in the region of £200.

A word of warning however: like a number of rangefinder wide-angle lenses the 25mm Skopar can lead to colour-shift issues on some digital cameras, notably the NEX7 and the Leica M9. This can normally be fixed by software (Cornerfix) and will not of course effect monochrome shots. Corner sharpness may however also suffer and will be difficult to fix. Check with someone who knows before parting with your cash. On the NEX5n I have not noticed any issues.