(photo courtesy of Voigtländer.com)
This is my favourite lens for photographing life’s little moments.
The Voigtlander Nokton 40/1.4 was my first M-mount lens, purchased back in 2008 along with a Leica M8.
Through the years, I’ve been hot-and-cold on it, for all of the well-documented reasons people either like or dislike it. And though I’ve experimented with some of Leica’s finest, I always seem to find a path back to this modest lens. If I had to explain why that is, I would say it’s because it’s small, light, fast (f/1.4), and has a focal length that sits between my most used focal lengths (35mm and 50mm). It also has virtually zero distortion, and is sharp enough. The bokeh can be harsh, but the optics that conspire to cause this can also impart a most desirable character to images.
Here are some examples:
Sample images taken with the Voigtländer 40mm f/1.4 Nokton:
74 thoughts on “The Voigtländer Nokton 40mm f/1.4 [shortest review ever].”
Oh Peter, you make me crave this lens … 🙂
Hi Felix! Don’t worry about this lens, I know you have some nice gear already!
Haha, you’re right 🙂
But I still lack a fast 50mm-equivalent. I was thinking of getting the new 35/1.2, but the price tag is a bit high. The 40mm might just fit the bill right.
Well Felix, the Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.2 is a fantastic lens, no doubt about it. I have been tempted to discuss that one too, because it optically equals and exceeds many of the Leica offerings. It’s one of my favourite lenses.
But if you’re looking for something in the 50-ish range that is compact and fast, the Nokton 40/1.4 is the obvious choice. The Nokton 35/1.2 is just a little too wide to serve as a “50mm-equivalent”.
Some beautiful sample images accompanying your write up. As you know I love my Nokton 40 and look forward to using it on my (soon to be delivered) M9 in the near future.
Congratulations on the M9 Guy! Your work with the Epson RD-1 and Nokton 40 has been a great source of inspiration for me… I look forward to seeing what you do with the M9.
I liked to use it very much, but after thr arrival of the 35/1.4 It’s past.
Together with the 35/1.2
I can’t say I’ve had any experience with the Nokton 35/1.4, but the 35/1.2 is a stunning lens. And, yes, find I use the 35/1.2 more than the Nokton 40/1.4, but the 40 still is superior for size and versatility! I’m just happy I can own both.
Nice write up, are you using the classic or SC version
Right at the end of the article, I mention that I’m using the multi-coated version.
I thought that the SC was the single coated version and the classic is the MC Multi coated.
I had a play with the SC version a few days ago and it seems to render quite nicely
You’re correct Will, I edited my response to reflect what I meant to say. Thanks.
I tried the SC version for a while too, and found that it does indeed render nicely but was more prone to flare than the MC version.
Thanks Peter, I think I might pick up a 40mm SC version and give it a shot
btw, I’d really liked to read a review from you on the CV 35 f1.2 and the Leica 50 Lux ASPH (if you still have those)
Enjoyed your review. Thank you for taking the time.
I am surprised that you don’t mention the soft/dreamlike quality, this lens characteristically renders wide open. Sometimes undesirable, but when used on the right subject, (ie-full frame portraits) striking and rather beautiful.
It presents as a soft glow, particularly when direct sunlight is part of the image.
In total agreement.
I received my CV 40mm MC today and had chance to take a few snap, tac sharp at f1.4 which suprised me and just crazy sharp at f4, out of focus rendering wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be and much better than the Leica 40mm Summicron-C.
many thanks for your review
Your observation re: bokeh may, in fact, be correct. There is a comparison on the web (if you Google it, you should find it) involving these two lenses and the Nokton 40/1.4 comes out on top. The results contradict much of the conventional wisdom on the ‘net but it’s the only objective comparison I’ve seen. Once again, congratulations.
Peter, an amazing collection of images! You are convincing me to consider giving this lens another go. I may have missed this in your prior comments, but did you get the SC or MC version? I figure that you got the MC due to your use of color, but I wanted to check.
Hope all’s well. Seems that you have parted with DPReview at the moment….it’s getting rarer for me to post there these days, but I miss the old friends 🙂
Hi Ashwin, it’s great to receive a message from you! I’m doing fine, thanks for asking.
You are correct, I have the MC version (I mention it in the last paragraph of the write-up above).
I’ve slowed down my posting at dpreview, and have instead focused on this site. I wish I had more contact with you, though. Hope all is well with you too…
Caved and picked up this lens…and only have you to “thank” for that…LOL…Anyways, selling my MATE to help fund some of these lower impact purchases, so I don’t feel the sting too badly. If I can come up with anything even vaguely close to what you do with this lens, Peter, I’ll be a happy guy…
I am picking it up mainly for a compact fast lens to pair with the 35 mm f/2.5 skopar and zeiss 50 mm C-sonnar, which will be used primarily on the Ricoh GXR M mount module…
Hey Ashwin, never saw this post until now. So you bought it… how are you finding it?
It is truly a marvelous lens. I also have the M-Rokkor 40mm f/2 … 40mm is one of my favorites! … and the two lenses have a subtle and delightful difference in their rendering qualities. I’ve used them both on the Ricoh GXR with M-mount camera unit (APS-C format) and on the Leica M4-2. They’re brilliant on both.
Thanks for the commment Godrey. I never had the pleasure of shooting the M-Rokker, but I agree the 40mm focal length is the sweet spot. How does the M-Rokker behave? Is it more “modern” (sharp, contrasty) in its rendering or “classic” (softer, less contrast)?
My M-Rokkor 40mm is the second generation delivered with the Minolta CLE. Optical design is identical to the Summicron-C and first M-Rokkor 40, but it has improved anti reflection coatings, and was manufactured entirely by Minolta. It’s very small and light, smaller and lighter than the Nokton by a noticeable amount.
The rendering qualities in OOF areas are “slightly” softer than the Nokton at f/2-2.8, after which they are so close it is hard to tell them apart. Sharp areas are rendered again “slightly” differently .. Both are very pleasing. The Nokton becomes a little more flarey as you open it up and bokeh at f/1.4 is a touch more modern/hard edged.
Really love both lenses. They are the most used lenses on either body!
Thanks to your review I am buying this lens next month. I have never seen anywhere a bokeh like that on any other prime lens [probably means only that I don’t know much about primes ;)]. I work as a nightclub photographer, but I wanted this lens to be kind of for my own personal, for family use. It got its own character, and I’m really fed up with opening Lightroom and alter any pictures (will there ever come time when we just stop using photoshop and just leave these as they are?). This one is not perfect, no butter looking bokeh, no crisp details at 1.4, but I just love it and this one will be mine. 🙂
I like what you do and good luck to you.
Hello Pawel Congratulations on your decision! I don’t think we’ll ever stop needing to post process digital images to realize the potential of the files. In actuality, I enjoy the creative control. The Nokton 40/1.4 should serve you well, and it definitely has its own character. As I write in my article, the bokeh can be incredibly beautiful, but sometimes can be harsh… it’s always interesting though. Congratulations again on your decision and thanks for your nice comments!
I keep coming back to this…..I have predictable, dependable lenses but I also like glass that can give you something unexpected. It’s a good thing its small, I may have to sneak it in………all the best Jason
🙂 Well… it won’t deplete your funds to give it a try, so… give it a try! I hope you can sneak it in… thanks Jason.
It won’t be the first piece of gear I’ve done that with……….I’ve been reading up on this lens today, I see what you write and the images you’ve produced and that is all the convincing I need, although Ken Rockwell does’t have a good word to say about it.
Great review and outstanding photographs…thank you!
I would appreciate your comments (and those of your readers). I have recently purchased a Leica CL body, and am looking to buy a 40mm lens to go with it. I can purchase the Voigtländer Nokton 40/1.4 at B&H for around $530 or find a Leica 40mm Summicron-C 40/2.0 on-line (ebay, KEH, etc.) in very good condition for $700 – $1,000.
I will be using the lens primarily for travel photography and am more concerned with image quality than brand name. What do you recommend?
I have and use both these lenses (I have the 2nd generation M-Rokkor 40/2, identical in design and performance to the Summicron-C but with multi coating). They are both fantastic lenses with very similar performance across the board from f/2 on down. The Nokton’s additional stop of performance is occasionally handy, the difference in bokeh at wide open is occasionally subtle and occasionally striking depending on the scene. You can’t go wrong with either!
The Summicron-C/M-Rokkor is smaller and lighter is that is important to you.
I have both because I have multiple M-mount bodies and this is my favorite focal length. I’d also like the rare Pentax-L 43mm f/1.9 Limited if I can find one.
Thanks for the kind comments.
Godfrey has done an excellent job summarizing the issues. I will say, from a shooter’s perspective, that having an f/1.4 maximum aperture is very useful in many situations, so my *personal* preference would be for the Nokton 40/1.4. But, as Godfrey also writes, you really can’t go wrong with either lens!
I guess you already made your choice by now, anyways, I own both the Nokton and the M-Rokkor and I have to say the Nokton on the small and light CL body is way unbalanced…the M-Rokkor is way more balanced.
It’s funny. I have both lenses also, and find I use the Nokton 40 on the smaller, lighter Ricoh GXR and the M-Rokkor 40 on the M9 most of the time. Both balance well!!
Thanks to you (!!) I am on the cusp of buying this lens… size, cost, 1.4, balance between 35 and 50. I was taken aback however by Ken Rockwell’s scathing criticism of the lens. He favours the Summicron C – 40/2. I don’t want to draw you into public crossfire but need a nudge to produce the plastic… You have my email address.
Did you opt for the hood and filter?
I believe some of your pictures are set in High Park… True? Went to the restaurant this morning for the $2.99 breakfast… A good deal.
I’m aware of that review of this lens. Suffice it to day, I shake my head when I read it. To be fair, I believe each photographer draws different conclusions based on his/her priorities.
For me, the photos speak louder than the words. And I really like this lens, for all of the reasons I cite in my write-up.
To answer your other questions… I haven’t shot any of the photos in High Park – maybe I should head down there some day?… And I *did* opt for the hood, because it helps the almost non-functional lens cap stay on this lens :).
Thanks for your questions!
First, I must apologize for not signing the previous post.
Do you have to do anything to this lens to prep it (code it) for the M9?
I don’t code for it at all, either mechanically on the lens or manually in the M9 menu. At f/1.4, there’s a noticeable vignette, but I actually appreciate that for my portraits.
You and the readers may enjoy this related discussion:
Tell me, is it a good practice to go in tight on the subject (to the 50 lines) and believe that the 40 will provide a “sensible” / “pleasing” border?
To put it another way, did you ever say to yourself, “I wish I was using a Bessa that will give me the 40 lines”?
No, never. I actually like the fact that I’m framing with the 50 lines and ending up with a slightly larger image… for all the reasons I mention in my article.
By the way, thanks for the link above – it’s a great read. And, I really do believe the 40mm focal length is my absolute favourite for the type of photography I do.
Hi, learning quite a lot from reading all the comments. Sorry to hijack the thread like this but I’m thinking of picking up a Voigtlander 40/1.4 for my newly acquired Leica CL, and I came across this Voigtlander Nokton VM 40 1.4 in a 2nd-hand store. I am wondering if the “VM” does any difference? Will it fit my Leica CL?
I think the “VM” designation simply means “Voigtländer M-bayonet mount.” It should work fine on the CL.
If you own the CL already, it’s easy enough to just carry the camera body down to the 2nd-Hand Store and try it out.
Hello Peter. I have a Leica M9P. What setting of a lens would you set the 40 1.4 ? Thanks for your review Mark.
Thanks Mark. I usually don’t code the 40/1.4 for anything, but if I were to chose, I’d pick the 35/1.4 (pre-asph).
Hi Peter, thanks for the nice words, good to read and also of course to peruse some of the nice images. I’m new to Leica, owning an M8. I’ve not had the scratch to shovel out the thousands on expensive, even, second hand Leica lenses thus far. I’ve tried fungus infested haze ridden Leica lenses from the 50’s and now am sampling some, ahem, ‘new-ish’, Jupiter lenses. I’ve been reading about the Voigtlanderand Zeiss lenses as perhaps a stepping stone, or, perhaps a semi-equivalent. The value seems great and I thought to myself the 40mm with the 1.33 crop on the M8 is pretty much a 50mm so why not do some research on this… Anyway, your post is encouraging, even if a few years old. Cheers
I am leaning toward the multi coated version since I shoot color. But I was just wondering how bad the loss of detail (due to the higher contrast) when it is used to shoot B & W?
Also if you have BW pictures shot by the SC compared to MC ?
Hi Peter, Thanks for this treasure trove of pictures & your thoughts. After selling my M43rds stuff and buying a Sony RX100iii (Which has been fantastic, due to no arms left with small children), I’m missing a ‘hobby’ camera for me a my ‘own’ time. Ordered this lens to put on a M9 (when I find one) as I really like the awkward Bokeh, makes it interesting & the 40mm is a great do it all length, reminds me of the GF1 & the 20mm, which returned me in earnest to photography.
You seem to of re-found your Mojo, which has been nice to see. Still, I still think your M9 stuff was some of the greatest pics I’ve ever seen. Keep up the good work! Regards Jon
Love your reviews and blog in general! It would be awesome if you had full size images that we can pixel peep as well. I personally like to see images at full size to gauge IQ. But thats just me. Keep up the great work!
I own this lens and pair this with a M8. It is sharp, although the color is not as nice as your process.
A big bargain. Before this I actually used the CV 35 F2.5 (screwmount) which is limiting given M8’s low ISO. The apparent sharpness was lower.
You’ve hit the nail on the head here, when you stated “… it’s the subtle “flaws” that lead to images with a different look — a different vibe — as compared to the “perfect” Leica equivalents…”.
That is, each artists pencil draws differently, revealing its inherent characteristics …
Hey, why did you changed your mind about the lens?
Hi – I am looking for a small carry anywhere alternative to my larger 50 and 35 on Leica digital and was hoping to find the solution here. intriguingly you have ‘pulled’ the article – like the others above and I would love to understand why (and to read the original to be honest). If you have a moment do please let us know. Directly perhaps if you do not wish to publish to a wider audience? All the best, des