Q and A: Voigtländer Nokton 40/1.4 vs. 35/1.2?

I received this via email this week and — because this is a question I’m often asked — I thought I would feature this as a Q&A post:

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I’ve become a regular follower of your blog and I really love it! Respect to the fact that you manage to post a good and interesting photo each day. I try do to the same and sometimes it is hard to do so.

I’ve a question however. I work with a M8 and M9 and do weddings and other documentary work, sometimes portraits, lots of editiorial work. Since I left my 5D2 at home, life began to be fun again (I mean photographically). However, sometimes I miss my 12.500 iso and 50/1.2 lens (which wasn’t sharp at all wide open btw).
I’m thinking of buying a low-light lens to use in case the light is really bad. My fastest lenses are the 35 and 50 summicron and I’m thinking about the 35/1.2 and the 40/1.4. The 50 is too quirky I think.
The difference between the two is ‘only’ a half stop, but the difference between 1/45th and 1/60th can be crucial. On the other hand, I won’t take the 35 as a daily to go lens in my bag, while the 40 will fit in very easily. The price difference is also quit big, but not that big a deal. It’s still cheap in Leica-terms.
It wouldn’t be a problem to take the 35 to important shoots as an ‘in-case’ lense, but would that half stop make the difference?

Could you give me any advice in which of these two to choose?  I hope I don’t bother you too much with this these questions.

kind regards,

Joeri

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Hi Joeri,

Thanks for the nice note!

The Voigtländer 35/1.2 (either Version 1 or 2) is the technically better lens with a desirable mix of both modern sharpness and classic rendering.  It does not focus shift, so it won’t frustrate your focusing attempts.  And it’s maximum f/1.2 aperture, as compared to other 35 lenses with a maximum aperture of f/1.4, does make a difference — not so much with respect to the extra light collected, but more in the ability to isolate subjects and create a nice “3D” effect (see an example image here).  If you don’t mind the size, it’s an all-around “better” lens than the Nokton 40/1.4.

The Nokton 40/1.4 on the other hand, is just so darn small and versatile, behaving in many ways like both a 35 and a 50 lens, but it’s the technically “inferior” lens:  not as sharp wide open, flares more, has been known to focus shift.

In the end, both lenses are capable of producing great images, so it really depends on what you value most – small size and versatility (40/1.4), or technical excellence (35/1.2).

It seems from your question that you already know the pros and cons of each lens, so it’s really up to personal preference.

Hope that helps, and thanks again for the nice note!

[If you are looking for more detailed information on both these lenses, please see my previous user reports:  Voigtländer Nokton 40mm f/1.4 and Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f/1.2]

—Peter.

6 thoughts on “Q and A: Voigtländer Nokton 40/1.4 vs. 35/1.2?

  1. Jason Howe says:

    Hi Peter

    I’ve enquired about both of these lenses in the past week, unfortunately or fortunately depending on how you look at it they are both out of stock in New Zealand….I guess this gives me more time to reflect.

    I currently have the 35mm Summicron f/2 ASPH which I will sell when my new 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE f/1.4 arrives, but I’m still drawn to both of these lenses. I guess my question would be, if one can afford the lenses, is there still a role for them in my kit, or do I put the cash in the M10 fund…….

    I’d welcome your thoughts.

    Kind Regards

    Jason

    • Prosophos says:

      Hi Jason,

      All of these optics offer something desirable.

      However, I’ve found that the 35/1.4 ASPH FLE has replaced my other 35mm lenses. That’s not to say that the Voigtländer 35/1.2 wouldn’t bring something else to the photographic table, so to speak – it definitely renders differently and, in many ways, more gently and pleasantly – but I prefer to simplify my working lenses to only a few.

      I still use my Nokton 40/1.4 though, because the 40mm field of view is very versatile, and the lens is small and inexpensive (although, I’ve noticed the price creeping up).

      • Jason Howe says:

        Hi Peter

        Obviously your speaking a great deal of common sense, it’s logical to simplify and rationalise, but despite what I read I have an urge to try these lenses for myself, to compare and judge with my own images. I will most definately get the 40/1.4 and then wait for the 35 Lux…..thanks for the valued opinion. Cheers Jason

  2. Trevor says:

    I have been tempted by the 35/1.2 but am put off by the size–same for as with the 50/1.1. How would you say it handles on the M body?

    • Prosophos says:

      Well, it’s smaller than the Noctilux and 75mm Summilux lenses, but it’s large enough that you are ALWAYS aware that it’s hanging off your camera. I’ve always carried it with my hand supporting it, even when I’m wearing a neck strap, as it tends to “pull” the camera forward and downward. Make no mistake, when you’re mounting this lens, you’re choosing it for its image quality, not convenience.

  3. bwbears says:

    I have the CV 40/1.4 too and it is one fine lens, although it is not known for sharpness, I like its compactness and its rendering, even its harsh bokeh can help make creative photos sometimes. I see wonderful photos taken with the CV 40/1.4 on your blog and I like them very much.

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