SIGMA FP L + Voigtländer Heliar 40mm: my first impressions!

By MESAGI, the


After a few test shots here are my initial impressions about the SIGMA FP L camera and Voigtländer Heliar 40mm f/2.8 lens. Please note this is not a review, just my humble but honest thoughts. Read on. Jump to the gallery.

SIGMA FP L: my first impressions

Image quality

What you’ll read about the image quality of the SIGMA FP L is of course subjective but my humble opinion. Switching from the APS-C sensor of the Ricoh GR III to the full-frame sensor of the FP L, the first thing that marked me was the greater dynamic range. The other thing is a better tonal balance for my black-and-white photographs. The 61MP sensor also captures more details and outputs bigger resolution files (9K vs 6K for the GR III). 

There’s no image stabilization in the FP L nor optical stabilization in the Heliar. I’ve found that I have to adapt a slower pace than what I’m used with the GR III—which has a 3-axis image stabilization—when shooting. So, you have to stand still till the camera does its thing or you’ll end up with blurry, not well-defined shots. With the GR III, I used to point, shoot, and move on to the next shot quickly.

Size and grip

At first, the SIGMA FP L felt big compared to my tiny Ricoh GR III. But it was just a subjective bias after spending so much time with the GR. The FP L is compact and has a minimalist form factor, it’s basically a rectangle. The grip isn’t great honestly but not too bad for my hands. Just use two hands to secure it well, with a single hand it’s pretty slippery.

Ease of use

I used the FP L with the Aperture Priority mode and skipped for now the manual mode. Why? Well, having used both modes with my GR III for some time, the manual mode gives more control but doesn’t add anything for street photography. On the contrary, you’ll lose in reactivity. The FP L is a joy to use with the Av mode and auto-ISO! It’s not more complicated than shooting with the GR III, the only difference is to focus manually with the Heliar 40mm instead of using buttons and dial.

Although the FP L has a touch screen, I’ve found its usage to be limited. You’ll navigate through the menu mainly with the rear buttons and dial. Finally, carrying the camera plus lens around the neck is not very comfortable. I’ve found it much more comfortable to carry it like a shoulder bag.


I haven’t found the SIGMA FP L’s software to be too complicated. The menu is rather easy to navigate through—but the navigation isn’t quick as you have to scroll from screen to screen. But once properly configured to your liking you will likely not dive into the menu that often. You have a QS button to access 8 configurable shortcuts, it’s ideal for accessing quickly and regularly used settings. There’s a dedicated button to change the mode (Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program, and 6 custom modes). Switching between the different color modes is quick with a dedicated Color button.

My main gripe with the software is the lack of different black-and-white modes. You’ll have to do with a single, configurable, Monochrome mode compared to the BW, Soft BW, Hard BW, HDR, and High Contrast modes of the GR III. But I knew that in advance, so I’ll deal with it, hopefully creatively. 

The focus peaking of the FP L is a delight and works well even with monochrome photographs. I’ve found the GR III’s focus peaking unusable with black-and-white but your experience may differ. 

Voigtländer Heliar 40mm f/2.8: my first impressions

Image quality

Again, it’s subjective but simply my honest opinion. The image quality is great! It’s not a cheap lens and you’ll see it through your shots. The Voigtländer Heliar 40mm is softer than the GR III. But not in a bad way. I find it to be romantically soft, a bit dreamy, to have a character of its own instead of being just another lens in the crowd.

Now, a few downsides… The minimum focus distance is 70cm, which is common for M mount lenses from what I gathered online. The Heliar is an M mount lens and the FP L is an L mount camera, there’s no communication between the two. Anyway, the Heliar 40mm doesn’t have any electronic inside to send data to the camera. In practice, your JPEGs won’t record the used aperture. For me, it’s not that important.

Ease of use

It’s my first manual lens, wait it’s even my first lens! So, I had the fear that it would take me a while to adjust and learn to use it. I was wrong. The Heliar 40mm is wonderful to use, it’s so pleasant to touch. Just set up the aperture ring between f/2.8 and f/22 (there are half-stops too). Turn the distance ring between 0.7 meters and infinity (steps include: 0.8, 0.9, 1, 1.2, 1.5, 2, 3, 5, and 10 meters). There’s a mechanism to lock the focus at infinity.

Just something annoying: the distance ring has a tendency to move when you change the aperture. You quickly assimilate it, though and it’s more of a minor annoyance.

All the photographs below were shot with the SIGMA FP L’s Monochrome mode at default settings, JPEG quality on fine. I had to downsize them for publication cause they are too big otherwise (around 30mb). Av mode used for all of them.

Update! See more test shots and read more impressions: SIGMA FP L and Voigtländer Heliar: new monochrome test shots.

For my first test shots I wanted to test a setting to capture urban landscapes and scenes in a soft, dreamy way. The three photographs you’ll see below were taken at f/4.

Other test shots, refer to captions

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