Voigtländer 35mm ƒ1.2 Nokton - user review
The following article was kindly sent to me by Toronto based photographer Marco Sobrevinas in Jan 2004. It is © Copyright M.Sobrevinas 2004 and is reproduced with his permission.
To me, Voigtländer's 35mm ƒ1.2 Nokton is a very sensible alternative to the [50mm Noctilux]. Although the 35mm Nokton is more often compared to Leica's ultra-sharp 35mm ƒ1.4 Summilux ASPH, I believe it really should be seen as more of a specialty low-light high-speed lens, like the Noctilux.
I still had my Noctilux over summer 2003, so I had a chance to directly compare the Nokton against it. This is what I found:
- Vignetting - less severe than the Noctilux when wide open
- Weight - formidable, like a 90 Summicron ASPH, but still significantly less than the Noctilux
- Size - bigger than a 35mm Summilux ASPH, but smaller than the Noctilux
- Focal length - for my purposes, I tend to use an ultra-high speed lens indoors & in close-quarters. The 50mm Noctilux was often too long. Having an ultra-high speed 35mm is preferable
- Apparent Depth of Field - with its wider 35mm focal length, plus approximately half stop slower speed than the Noctilux, the Nokton is a touch more forgiving for precise focus due to its increased depth of field
- Slower shutter speed use - I can usually hold a 35mm lens one s/speed slower than a 50mm, and still retain visual sharpness
- Price - the 35mm Nokton is less than half the cost of a Noctilux, with the street price being currently around $US 900
As the Nokton won on all above counts, by the end of summer I sold my Noctilux. Indeed the Nokton's performance is so good that I feel I don't need a slower 35mm lens for general photography either. Keep in mind I tend to work in low light and only shoot with fast (Tri-X) to very fast (Neopan 1600 or TMZ) B&W film, so YMMV.
Some other comments on the lens itself: The construction is solid, almost like Leica's best M lenses. It certainly inspires more confidence than some of Voigtländer's other rangefinder lenses, which tend to be very small & lightweight (like the 21mm, 25mm, and slower 35mm).
The focusing ring is very smooth, almost like a Leica lens. I miss not having a focusing tab, but the smoothness makes up for it.
Get the optional, vented "M-style" hood if you run your lenses without UV filters. It's a substantial hood which provides both optical and physical protection to your large, front element.
It is quite possible to use the Nokton as a general-purpose lens. Performance at smaller apertures is very good. The only downside is its weight and size. While it's not really that large compared to many pro-level SLR lenses, if you are used to tiny 35mm rangefinder lenses (such as the pre-ASPH 35mm Summicron), then the Nokton comes across as a bloated dumb-bell.
A note on lens mounting. Leica lenses have a fat, raised, red dot that makes aligning the lens for mounting intuitive and fast. I didn't realize just how intuitive and useful that red dot was until I started mounting the Nokton - it doesn't have a red dot for alignment, only a small red line. This slows down lens mounting quite considerably.
The fat diameter of the lens makes dismounting a bit tricky too, as it's a little harder to reach the lens release button on the M body.
In Jan 2005 there was a detailed online discussion about the Nokton, complete with sample images. See this URL: