Voigtländer 35mm f/1.2 Nokton

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Last updated October 30, 2011

Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton Aspherical



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Important Specifications

Focal length 35 mm
M8 equivalent 47 mm
Aperture range 1.2 - 22 (1/2 steps)
Aperture blades 12
Focusing range 0.7 m – infinity
No. of elements/groups 10/7 (3 asph)
Angular field, diag./horiz./vert. 63// °
Filter M 52 x 0.75
Dimensions (with caps) ø 63 mm, length 78 mm
Weight 490 g
Produced 2003-2010

Introduction

A full review of the Voigtländer 35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens, including specifications, performance charts, overview, sharpness and vignetting tests as well as sample images and links for further research.

The Voigtländer 35mm f/1.2 Nokton is one of those "must have" lenses. It's got that "Noctilux mojo" going on with the slight vignetting wide open and the really gorgeous, smooth bokeh. A relatively large and heavy lens by rangefinder standards, it's not all that bad - especially if you're familiar with the SLR equivalents. Considering the image quality and characteristics of this lens it's also a very good deal and why it's such a hugely popular lens.

The downside is that due to availability of certain lens elements, Cosina/Voigtländer decided to discontinue the lens as of January 2011. This has driven used prices up from $750-800 or so up into the $1,000 range while people await the new version and live with limited availability. The only details at this time hint at a late summer 2011 time frame, with a slightly shorter lens and different optical formula. The big question is if it will retain the mojo it's famous for - or look more like the Voigtländer 50mm f/1.1 Nokton does when wide open.

For a limited time starting in July 2007, this lens was also produced in a chrome version. Unlike Leica (which uses different materials and processes between the two colors) the only difference here is the color - both painted. Nevertheless, the "chrome" version is stunning in appearance but otherwise identical. Only 300 such lenses were produced, making them rare indeed.

The Lens

The Nokton is a bit wide and long - just what you'd expect from a fast 35mm. Skinnier than the Voigtländer 1,1/50 Nokton but about as long. It's also somewhat heavy and does block the viewfinder a bit (less so with the optional LH-3 vented hood). There are two reasons you'd consider this lens over smaller, slower ones. You either need the low-light capabilities - or you like to flex that wide open look. If neither of these are a priority and you value higher image quality and a smaller package more, you would be well advised to consider the alternatives.

You can shoot in rather dark conditions or isolate your subject from the background quite easily with the Nokton and primarily why I got it. In fact, I like to use an 8x (3 stop) neutral density filter in daylight just to allow me to open up more. I have no qualms about using this lens wide open and even prefer it that way.

The filter size is a whopping 52mm, which is only shared by few other lenses. Quite popular in the SLR world, it's on the large side for the M system. So if you're shooting with an M8, plan to pick up another UV/IR filter. A good alternative to the pricey Leica filters would be the Heliopan 486 series. The supplied hood is a small, compact affair but it gets the job done and comes with a felt-lined slip-on metal cap. Yes, it's almost as easy to lose as it sounds - but very convenient and requires no fidgeting to remove/replace. It's also very robust. The optional LH-3 vented hood is a worthwhile option, especially if you shoot with an M8 as it's larger and deeper, as well as angled and vented for a better view through the finder. You'll also need to pick up a 52mm pinch-style cap as the hood does not come with one. A bit of a scavenger hunt here by the time it's all said and done.

Coding for Digital Ms

This lens is typically given the 6-bit code of the Leica Summilux 35mm f/1,4 ASPH (11874) - which works well on both the M8 and M9 bodies. The code for this is 011101 and can be either marked with a template and a Sharpie marker or machined into the flange and properly painted for a more permanent solution via a third-party. The 35mm focal length doesn't typically need to be coded for in-camera corrections, though you might want to consider it. It's still useful for the EXIF info and to differentiate between lenses if nothing else.

Other Thoughts

Unless you need the speed or you're after the wide open bokeh, you should probably consider other alternatives. One of the nicest aspects of the M system is its small size, and there are some amazing lenses out there in the 35mm focal length that are truly tiny. Granted, they are also slower. A great example is the Voigtländer 35mm f/2.5 Color Skopar. At about two stops slower than the Nokton, it would be difficult to imagine a smaller lens (though some do exist) - making for a very portable (and pocketable) shooter. If you're looking to have only one 35mm lens, neither of these may suit you. In the middle lie several worthy alternatives - both in size and speed. An excellent choice would be the Biogon T* 2/35 ZM. Lightweight, a bit large for its specifications but very sharp from wide open. A much more friendly "everyday lens." If you're partial to Leica lenses, the Summicron 35mm f/2 would make a great choice as well and it's smaller than the Biogon - but also double the price. Being such a popular focal length in the M system however, there are a lot of great 35mm lenses from which to choose out there.

Vignetting

Vignetting was tested using the M9 at ISO 160, firmware version 1.162:

Lens detection set to OFF

f/1.2

f/1.4

f/2.0

f/2.8

f/4.0

f/5.6
 
Lens coded as a Summilux 35mm f/1,4 ASPH (11874) and lens detection set to AUTO

f/1.2

f/1.4

f/2.0

f/2.8

f/4.0

f/5.6

Sharpness

This test is preliminary, and only tests the center performance - but it should give you an idea of what to expect. It was conducted by shooting a test target at MFD (1m) which represents a worst case scenaeio as non-macro lenses are generally optimized for infinity. Images were shot at the various apertures with an M9, mounted on a tripod. No alterations were done to the image except for auto level and they are 100% crops:

f/1.2 f/1.4 f/2 f/2.8 f/4
f/5.6 f/8 f/11 f/16  

Sample Images

Flickr Pool Images

Further Research

Sample images thread in forum

35mm f/1,2 Nokton   on Voigtländer website
Cosina Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.2 group on Flickr

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