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Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4
M-Mount NOKTON Classic (2008-)
© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

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Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 NOKTON Classic

Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 NOKTON Classic (43mm filters, 7.0 oz./198g, about $629). enlarge. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially these directly to it at Adorama or at eBay (see How to Win at eBay) when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep reviewing these specialized lenses when you get yours through these links, thanks! Ken.

October 2011   Voigtländer Reviews   LEICA   LEICA Lenses   All Reviews

See also:

LEICA SUMMILUX 35mm f/1.4 (1960-1995)

All LEICA 35mm SUMMILUX reviews.

LEICA 35mm SUMMICRON reviews.

All LEICA 35mm lens reviews.

All LEICA lens Reviews.

 

Optics:

Takes great pictures, but not for pixel counters

Ergonomics: #ergo
Usefulness:
Availability:
Overall:

 

Introduction         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

Ritz Camera

I use Adorama, Amazon, eBay, Ritz, B&H, Calumet, J&R and ScanCafe. I can't vouch for ads below.

This Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 lens to fit LEICA M cameras is an inexpensive lens with which one can take great photos on a LEICA camera.

It is small, light, and handles very well. It is a fun lens with which to shoot.

Sadly, it is poor optically as gauged by LEICA standards. Don't waste your time with this on a LEICA M9-P, you deserve a good lens if you can afford a perishable camera like the M9.

As compared directly with any LEICA lens made in the past 50 years, the random sample of this lens that I borrowed is less sharp at large apertures and much more distorted. Bokeh is poor at f/1.4 and neutral otherwise.

This Voigtländer lens is significantly softer at large apertures than LEICA's first SUMMILUX 35mm f/1.4 (1960-1995), which is LEICA's softest modern 35mm lens. This Voigtländer lens in no shape, manner or form comparable optically with the newest LEICA SUMMILUX-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH (floating elements).

Not only are these Voigtländer optics sub-par by LEICA's standards even 50 years ago, this filter thread is a queer 43 x 0.75mm, demanding you buy and carry a second set, as no other LEICA lens uses these filters. (LEICA's 50mm SUMMMILUX of 1959-1991 used a 43 x 0.5mm filter thread).

This is a lens for the poor man, who always pays twice. It is not a replacement for a LEICA lens. Yes, you could use this lens for a lifetime of making great photos, but in reality, most people who buy these are dithering hobbyists who spend more time on internet "forums" than actually taking pictures and only wind up buying what they really want a few years later, when the real LEICA lenses will cost even more than they do today.

I'd be all excited if this len's technical performance was good, but it's soft in the periphery (somewhat soft even at moderate apertures), and has barrel distortion completely unacceptable for rangefinder lens.

For people photography and random shots made in the middle of a street, sure, it's great, but for my sort of careful landscape and nature photography that demands performance, this lens is a loser.

Sadly for outsiders, LEICA lenses always go up in value, and even LEICA's most hated 35mm lens, the 6-element 35mm SUMMICRON of 1969-1979 that used to sell used for a few hundred dollars, now sells for double what this lens sell for. I was going to suggest this superior SUMMICRON as a replacement, but it's still more expensive. Personally, I'd prefer shooting with a 1950's LEICA SUMMARON instead, as they are also sharper and have no distortion, but are slower.

SUMMARONs are over 50 years old today, so for most people on a budget, I'd suggest the Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 ZM instead, which costs not much more, and has far superior optics as good as LEICA's fantastic LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH.

Again, if you want to take indiscriminate "street" photos, any lens or a disposable camera will do, but if you shoot LEICA or demand the best, you demand a better lens than this.

I was really hoping this lens would work well. Maybe I got a bad sample, but hey, if I did, you might, too. Voigtländer makes some great lenses, but this isn't one of them.

 

Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 NOKTON Classic.

Voigtländer 35/1.4. enlarge.

 

Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

 

Optics        top

8 conventional spherical elements in 6 groups.

Multi-coated.

Also comes in a less common but otherwise identical "S. C." single-coated version.

 

Diaphragm       top

Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 NOKTON Classic.

Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 at f/5.6. enlarge.

10 straight blades.

Stops down to f/16.

Half-stop clicks.

Straight sides at all apertures.

 

Close Focus       top

0.7 meters (2.3 feet).

 

Angle of View       top

63º

 

Caps        top

Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 NOKTON Classic.

Capped Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4.

Voigtländer includes a plastic rear M cap (complete with LEICA's three classic nubs for removing and attaching screw-mount adapters to M cameras), and a plastic 43mm pinch-type front cap.

 

Size        top

Voigtländer specifies 28.5mm (1.1") long by 55mm (2.2") diameter.

 

Weight        top

6.990 oz. (198.1g), measured.

Voigtländer specifies 7 oz. (200g).

 

Hood        top

Optional $70 LH-6 bayonet metal hood.

 

Made in        top

Japan.

 

Introduced        top

January, 2008.

 

Scope of Delivery        top

You get the lens with caps in a plastic bag inside two white foam pieces, with a folded sheet of instructions outside.

 

Box, Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4

Box.

 

Performance         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

Overall   Bokeh   Color   Diaphragm Calibration   Distortion

Ergonomics   Falloff   Filters   Finder Blockage   

Focus    Lateral Color Fringes   Materials & Construction    

Sharpness   Spherochromatism   Sunstars

 

Overall     performance   top

This Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 is significantly less sharp in the periphery than the LEICA SUMMILUX 35mm f/1.4 (1960-1995), which is LEICA's softest modern 35mm lens. It also has too much distortion for a rangefinder lens.

This Voigtländer lens has great mechanics, ergonomics and focuses well, but sadly that isn't enough to save it.

 

Bokeh       performance     top

Bokeh, the character of out of focus backgrounds, not simply how far out of focus they are, is poor at f/1.4, and neutral at f/2 and smaller.

Here are crops from the center of 100% 18 MP LEICA M9 images, focused on a reference phase lattice at 3 meters (10 feet) with synthetic reference vegetation at 15 meters (50 feet). Printed full-image at this size, these would be about 52 x 35 " (1.5 x 1 meter) prints, at least as seen on most 100 DPI computer monitors:

 

Here's a full-frame sample, focused on the mirror. Note also the obvious barrel distortion:

Mirror, TOmoyama Sushi 11 OCt 2011

Rocky in the Bokeh Mirror at f/1.4. bigger.

 

Color Rendition        performance     top

Color rendition seems identical to the LEICA SUMMICRON 35mm f/2 (1970) and LEICA SUMMILUX 35mm f/1.4 (1981) to which I compared it directly.

 

Diaphragm Calibration     performance   top

The calibration is right-on: the meter in my M9 tracks each half-stop click perfectly throughout the entire range, except at f/1.4 as expected.

 

Distortion     performance   top

Wall

Wall, f/2.8. full-resolution.

The Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 has visible barrel distortion, more than any other LEICA lens. It is not acceptable for a rangefinder lens; it has as much distortion as many SLR zooms!

Use this coefficient in Photoshop's lens distortion filter to correct for it:

Distance
Coefficient
10' (3m)
+2.0

© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

You'll never see this in random street shots with fuzzy backgrounds, but you will see it if you need all your straight lines to remain straight.

 

Ergonomics     performance   top

Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 NOKTON Classic.

Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4. enlarge.

Ergonomics are excellent.

Focus is silky-smooth and has no play. It feels exactly like my LEICA lenses, and is actually smoother and less stiff than the extraordinary new LEICA SUMMILUX-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH Floating Element, which needs a second helicoid for the second floating aspheric group (FAG).

The Voigtländer's focus tab is solid metal, not just plastic like modern LEICA lenses.

The aperture ring has detents and a grip that feels just like LEICA's SUMMICRON 35mm f/1.4 (1960-1995), and thankfully this Voigtländer lens' focus and aperture rings, tabs and levers all go in the same direction as LEICA's.

The red numbers are almost invisible. I shoot my product shots with boosted saturation that makes these red numbers much easier to read here than they actually are.

 

Falloff (darker corners)     performance   top

Falloff is visible at f/1.4 and f/2, and gone otherwise.

It's probably best without using a profile on an M9 (actually, it's best to use a good lens, not this, on an M9). With the 11869/11870/11860 profile for LEICA's original 35mm f/1.4 the corners get too light. Corners are supposed to be darker; it looks weird if they are all as bright as the middle.

I've made this more obvious by shooting a gray field and presenting these against a gray background:

 

Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 falloff on full-frame M9 at infinity.

No lens profile:

f/1.4
f/2
f/2.8
f/4

© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

mit 11869/11870/11860 profile:

f/1.4
f/2
f/2.8
f/4

© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Filters, use with     performance   top

Voigtländer uses a non-standard 43 x 0.75mm filter thread.

Nothing from LEICA matches this.

43mm filters were popular with Nikon Rangefinder Cameras of the 1950s, and the LEICA SUMMILUX 50mm f/1.4 used a 43mm filter from 1959-1991, however these were all fine-pitch 0.5mm threaded filters.

You'll have to carry another set of 43 x 0.75mm (the modern 43mm filter thread pitch ) filters just for this lens.

 

Finder Blockage     performance   top

There is no finder blockage a infinity, and is just a little bit at 0.7 meters.

This is a small lens, and has less blockage than the newest big LEICA SUMMILUX-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH (floating element).

 

Focus     performance   top

Focus feels great, and feels exactly like my LEICA lenses. The only way to feel any difference is the smaller metal focus tab instead of LEICA's fatter plastic tabs.

Focus accuracy will vary with time, temperature, and with every individual sample of lens and every individual sample of camera. Your experience will vary.

Focus accuracy of this lens sample, at least on the sample of LEICA M9 with which I tried this lens, is perfect, yay! Everything was in perfect focus, even at f/1.4.

Samples will vary.

 

Lateral Color Fringes     performance   top

The Voigtländer 35/1.4 has no lateral color fringes, yay!

 

Materials and Construction     performance   top

Rear, Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4

Rear, Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4. enlarge.

This Voigtländer is very well made; just as well made as the Zeiss lenses made in the same factory and as well made mechanically as LEICA's lenses.

Honestly, it feels just as good as LEICA lenses even if I don't prefer the styling. I'll bet that in 30 years, these Japanese lenses will have less internal fog and still have viable lubrication, while LEICA lenses will need internal cleaning and relubrication.

 

Hood bayonet

Chromed metal.

 

Filter threads

Chromed metal.

 

Barrels, aperture and focus rings

Black anodized aluminum.

 

Focus helicoids

Brass.

 

Mount

Chromed brass.

 

Markings

Engraved and filled with paint.

 

Serial Number and "Made in Japan"

Engraved on bottom lens and left in black.

 

Red index dot

Plastic ball.

 

Sharpness     performance   top

The more you know about photography, the more you know that lens sharpness doesn't matter.

That's good, because looked at closely, this lens isn't very sharp.

Stopped-down to f/5.6 or smaller it's OK, but at f/4 and larger apertures it's soft in various regions if you're looking closely. This is where it picks up the "classic" in its name: performance mimics that of very old non-LEICA lenses in terms of sloppy sharpness.

The softest region is the band of about 15-18mm radius from the center, which is typical for double-Gauss derivative designs.

I've got plenty more examples, but here's the same wall shot. Looking at full-resolution, notice the weird rings of varying softness. That's what this lens does at f/2.8. It's worse at f/2 and f/1.4, and progressively better at smaller apertures. Here's the catch: at f/2.8, 50-year old LEICA lenses are so much sharper.

Wall

Wall, f/2.8. full-resolution.

You certainly can crank out great, sharp photos with an unsharp lens like this, but I'd never buy one of these for a LEICA camera.

 

Spherochromatism     performance   top

There is almost no spherochromatism.

Spherochromatism, incorrectly called "color bokeh" by laymen, is when out-of-focus background highlights take on slight green color fringes, and out-of-focus foreground highlights take on slight magenta fringes. This is rarely visible with this lens at f/1.4.

 

Sunstars     performance   top

With its straight 10-bladed diaphragm, the Voigtländer 35/1.4 should make perfect 10-pointed sunstars on brilliant points of light.

 

Recommendations         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Recommendations

This Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 is a poor lens lens if you worry about technical performance. It's unsharp by LEICA standards and loaded with barrel distortion.

It handles very well and is small and light. If you stop it down to f/5.6 or smaller and/or don't need the best sharpness or worry about distortion, you can make lifetime of great images with it.

If you want a super-sharp lens for less money than LEICA, the Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 ZM has optics as good as LEICA's fantastic LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH. I'd get one of those long before I bought one of these Voigtländers.

If you've found my whining and research here helpful, this free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially these directly to it at Adorama or at eBay (see How to Win at eBay) when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep reviewing these specialized lenses when you get yours through these links, thanks! Ken.

 

More Information

Voigtländer, Japan.

Voigtländer, Japan (PDF).

 

Help me help you         top

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Thanks for reading!

 

 

Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

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