Category Archives: Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f/1.2

My wife, the “cover girl”.

I found out from Getty Images today that another of my images was licensed, this time for a French book:

Getty lexercice-de-la-medecine-700

For all of us obsessing about Leica lenses, it is worth noting this image was taken with a Voigtländer.

—Peter.

 

Alex’s wedding, revisited (Cinematic).

I was recently reviewing the images from Alex’s wedding, and I realized just how much I like this one.  It’s composed in a special way, and it seems to capture the genuine joy she felt and radiated out to her guests.

As often happens when an image speaks to me, I started viewing it as a frame from the continuous film of life, so I decided to re-crop it and give it the cinematic treatment.

One special frame from a special day in your life, Alex.

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Voigtländer Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2.

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.

In powder blue.

Here comes the cold
Break out the winter clothes
And find a love to call your own

You, enter you
Your cheeks a shade of pink
And the rest of you in powder blue…

– John Mayer, St. Patrick’s Day.

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Voigtländer Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2.

G – Happy 4th.

Time flies.

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↑Leica M9 and Konica Hexanon 60mm @ f/1.2.

And of course, later:

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M2 and Voigtländer Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2.

R – A portrait.

This photo was chosen as a Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.

(please click on the image to view)

Leica M9 and Voigtländer Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2.

“First we’d climb a tree…”

“First we’d climb a tree and maybe then we’d talk
Or sit silently and listen to our thoughts.

—Tragically Hip, Ahead By A Century.

This photo was chosen as a Leica Fotografie International (LFI) Master Shot.

(please click on the image to view)

Leica M9 and Voigtländer Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2.

The Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f/1.2 aspherical Version I (short review).

(Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive analysis, but one user’s experience.)

I had been looking for, ruminating about, and scratching my head over the Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f/1.2 for almost a year.  And, for various reasons, I never jumped at getting one.

Well then of course it was discontinued.  Cosina Voigtländer was planning to build a new version [Edit: available as of late August 2011], which was to be somewhat more compact in size. But I learned a while ago that there are always trade-offs in lens design, and what finally convinced me to get the newly-old version was Cosina’s statement as to why it was being discontinued: that it was too difficult to procure the glass and too expensive/difficult for them to manufacture anymore.

Hmmm….well that certainly piqued my interest.

Having finally decided to get one, it was unfortunately out of stock in all the usual places I frequented.

However, one night back in February of 2010, I saw a new Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f/1.2 (Version I) on sale on one of the large USA retailer websites.  I didn’t make the same mistake of hesitating.

Subsequently, my friendly UPS delivery man arrived late one evening with the 35/1.2 in hand. And of course – being insane – I headed outside into a freezing Canadian winter and took my first shot with it @ f/1.2.

Here is a sample image from that first night:

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Voigtländer Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2.

What I learned, almost immediately, was that this lens was going to change the way I photograph.  The lens could be trusted in extremely low light situations and could produce a delicate bokeh that rivals its Leica counterparts.

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Voigtländer Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2.

Counterparts, what counterparts?  Of course, there is no other 35mm rangefinder lens in production that can shoot at an aperture of f/1.2!  Yes, the Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.2 actually gives you a half stop more light than the next fastest 35mm rangefinder lenses out there.

Truthfully though, I find that the practical benefits of a half stop light advantage are not that pronounced.  If I’m shooting in a dark environment where f/1.4 is not enough, then chances are that f/1.2 will not be enough either… but, it sometimes helps!

However, putting aside low-light considerations, there is another tangible benefit to shooting at f/1.2:  subject isolation.

Subject isolation with a 35mm lens?  Not possible, you say.

Well, it is at f/1.2.

Is it better than what you get when shooting with another 35mm lens at f/1.4?  I think so, or at least I’ve convinced myself of it.  See for yourself:

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Voigtländer Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2.

What are the other benefits to the Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f/1.2?

It displays no focus shift!  Check

It’s an M-mount lens that near focuses to the M rangefinder limit of 0.7 m.  Check and check.

It has very little distortion, and even at its widest aperture, there is very little vignetting.  It is also built very solidly and the focus ring is well weighted for focus precision.  Check, check, and check.

And it’s got a bit of an “old school” look and feel to it (both the lens and the images it produces!) that I appreciate very much.  This point cannot be emphasized enough as it’s the reason I own this lens vs. any other fast 35mm lens – I just like how the Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.2 draws.  Period.

And finally – the part that totally shocked me:  it’s sharp at f/1.2.  No kidding, this thing is just razor sharp at its widest aperture, à la Leica.  This is one of the reasons you buy Leica glass at 5 times the cost, but the Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.2 gives you wide open sharpness that would satisfy the most discerning lens aficionado:

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Voigtländer Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2.

Don’t believe me?  The focus in on the near eye.

Here is the 100% crop (remember this is at f/1.2):

(please click on the image to view)

The Leica 35mm Summilux asphericals (I and II)  may be sharper wide open, but not by much.  In practical use, your own ability to focus correctly will have more impact on the final image.

So, why was I so resistant to getting this lens in the first place?  In other words, what are the negatives?

It’s the size and weight that put me off this lens for so long. I kept reading about it.  The internet kept warning me about it.

In the end, I guess I was so prepared to be overwhelmed by the size that I was pleasantly surprised when I finally got my hands on one.  It actually handles and balances very well on the M9 and, although the size causes partial viewfinder blockage, it is manageable.

By way of comparison, here’s how it stacks up against the current version of Leica’s Noctilux and Voigtländer’s own smaller offering, the Voigtländer Nokton 40/1.4:

Voigtländer 35/1.2:

  • Length = 3.1” (78mm)
  • Maximum Diameter = 2.5″ (63mm)
  • Weight = 1.1 lb (490 g)

Leica 50/0.95:

  • Length = 3.0″ (75mm)
  • Maximum Diameter = 2.9″ (73mm)
  • Weight = 1.54 lbs (700g)

Voigtländer 40/1.4:

  • Length = 1.2″ (30mm)
  • Maximum Diameter = 2.2″ (55mm)
  • Weight = 0.39 lbs (175g)

Fast glass with minimal optical compromises will always be heavy…

Other negatives?  Well, similar to my previous Voigtländer Nokton 40/1.4 discussion, the Nokton 35/1.2 lacks the biting microcontrast of its Leica counterparts and exhibits purple fringing wide open at high contrast edges.  Note, even the incredible Leica 0.95 Noctilux struggles with these, albeit at f/0.95!  At other apertures, the Nokton 35/1.2 is a stellar performer, in line with Leica’s finest.

In summary then, the Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f/1.2 aspherical (Version I) is a stellar optic with the following attributes:

  • Maximum aperture f/1.2 (equaled by no other M-mount 35mm lens).
  • At f/1.2, can achieve subject isolation (unique for a 35mm lens).
  • Incredibly sharp, even at f/1.2.
  • As compared to other fast lenses, there is relatively little vignetting at wide apertures.
  • There is no focus shift.
  • Provides soft and delicate bokeh.
  • Near-focuses to 0.7 meters.
  • Built solidly and operates with fine precision.
  • Comes in standard M-mount.
  • Relatively Inexpensive.

On the downside:

  • Large and heavy for an M lens, but there are larger and heavier ones out there (Leica 75/1.4, Leica 50/0.95).
  • Causes partial viewfinder blockage.
  • Less than class-leading microcontrast and resistance to purple fringing – but almost as good as Leica’s finest.

If the Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.2 was manufactured by Leica, I’m sure it would be priced many-fold higher.  Given its actual price (if you can find one), it represents a relative bargain.

And finally, since a picture is worth (at least) a thousand words, I’ll end this discussion by posting several more images taken with this lens:

(please click on any of the images below to view)

All of the above images were taken with the Leica M9 and the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2.

If you would like to see more of my images created with the Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f/1.2, please see here.

_____________________________

 

—Peter.

R – A portait 1 and 2 and 3.

R – as rendered with three different lenses, environments, and styles of processing.

(please click on any image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 50mm Summicron @ f/2.

↑Leica M9 and Konica Hexanon 60mm @ f/1.2.

↑Leica M9 and Voigtlander Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2.

Strong diagonals.

If you examine my photos, you’ll notice a dominant diagonal line running through many of them.  I’ve sort of learned to make images this way automatically, after years of photographing.

Why is a strong diagonal important? 

I don’t know the academic answer but I know the simple one:  in many cases, photos look better with it than without it.

A strong diagonal connects a photo from the top to the bottom and, in doing so, serves to visually point (much like an arrow) the viewer’s eye from one end to the other and, at the same time, ties the image together.  It also serves to “fill” the frame.  Finally, it acts as a balance or scale where you can divide the remaining visual elements equally between the two halves on either side of the line.  These last two points are, in actuality, addressing and solving problems related to composition.

But enough talk –  let’s look at some images.

The 3 images below feature simple structures that form an easily identifiable strong diagonal element:

(please click on any of the images below)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summilux @ f/1.4.

↑Leica M9 and Voigtländer Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2.

↑Leica M9 and Leica 28mm Summicron @ f/2.

In this next image the subject is the beach and the strong diagonal is its shoreline:

(please click on the image below)

↑Leica M9 and Zeiss ZM 21mm @ f/2.8.

In each of the above photos, I could have composed differently, but the result would be less pleasing to the eye.  How strong is the effect?

Well, take a look at this shot:

(please click on the image below)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

I had originally taken this photo as a portrait with the subject placed a little off to the side (one of the “rules” of taking portraits is to not centre the person, but that’s another discussion).  However, the strong diagonal of the field line kept interfering with my original composition and crop, and the eye kept falling short of the corner of the frame – the look was simply inharmonious.  When I cropped the photo so that the white line was allowed to span the image from one corner to the other, the composition became more pleasing, even though I was now violating one of the rules of portraiture.

Such is the strength of the dominant diagonal that our brains are actually willing to give up reality in favour of a more pleasing composition .  Here’s an example:

(please click on the image below)

↑Leica MP and Leica 35mm Summicron @ f/4.

We all know that a tower doesn’t jut out of the earth sideways like the CN Tower appears to be doing above, but the photo is made more pleasing to the eye because of it.  On a side note, the chosen composition also emphasizes the sheer height of this structure because it somewhat disorients us, and gives us a sense of what it must feel like to stand at the base of the tower.

Here is another example:

(please click on the image below)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 35mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

Once again, the image elements (the buildings) have been tilted so that the window washer platform forms a strong diagonal.  The tilting here is also successful because of the sense of vertigo it adds to the image which, by the way, is named Vertigo.

Finally, here is what I would consider a very successful use of a diagonal:

(please click on the image below)

↑Nikon D3 and Nikon 24mm AF-D @ f/2.8.

In the image above, the diagonal is the barrier separating the (Niagara) Falls from the girl.  What’s more, this division has resulted in a harmonious composition in that the Falls and the face are equally prominent on either side, and the image is therefore “balanced”.  Finally, on an artistic note, the strands of the girl’s hair over her face mirror the linear strands of water behind her, which is immensely pleasing to the eye.  I cannot pretend to have planned it this way, but my choice of composition resulted in a happy accident.

I hope the above discussion on strong diagonals was helpful.

Alex’s Wedding.

I wasn’t the official photographer – just a guest.

But I couldn’t help taking a few photos.

(please click on any image)

↑Leica M9 and Voigtländer Nokton 35mm @ f/1.2.

Ferraro Restaurant.

Ferraro’s is a popular local Italian restaurant.  Featured here is their famous wood burning pizza oven.

 

(please click on photo to see it larger)

Leica M9 and Voigtlander 35mm Nokton @ f/1.2.