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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:

  1. Vignetting - less severe than the Noctilux when wide open
  2. Weight - formidable, like a 90 Summicron ASPH, but still significantly less than the Noctilux
  3. Size - bigger than a 35mm Summilux ASPH, but smaller than the Noctilux
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. Slower shutter speed use - I can usually hold a 35mm lens one s/speed slower than a 50mm, and still retain visual sharpness
  7. 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.

Discussion Link(s)

In Jan 2005 there was a detailed online discussion about the Nokton, complete with sample images. See this URL:

<Photo.net: #00Ahay>

A note about possible broken links

This FAQ has over 900 external links. Over time it is inevitable some of them will break. If you are bothered by this, see this detailed topic elsewhere in the FAQ.

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