I’ve probably used the 35mm focal length more than any other lens since picking up a camera over 20 years ago. To me, it’s just a nice versatile focal length that excels in a lot of scenarios I find myself shooting in.
I’ve had the Voigtlander 35mm Nokton f/1.2 since the end of October and it hasn’t left either of my camera bodies for more than a brief period of time since. It’s a fun lens to have with me. I’ve been using it primarily on my Leica M4-2 as well as a couple Sony A7 series bodies. I even had a chance to shoot some stopped down longer exposures with it last week.
I should maybe touch on why I chose a Voigtlander 35mm Nokton f/1.2 in the first place. I actually wanted a 1979 Summicron 35mm f2 to match my recently purchased 1979 M4-2, but the prices these days for a good copy are just outrageous. I bought a 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1 just to have a lens to mount on the M4-2 until I could figure out what I wanted to do (the M4-2 was my first Leica). There was no way this was going to be my main lens on that body for any period of time. It’s fun to shoot, but has too many quirky optical qualities for me to use it in paid work.
I shot with the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 on a friend’s M2 I was borrowing and then had a chance to play with the Nokton 50mm 1.1 on a friend’s M6. I liked the images I was seeing and the form factor at the time didn’t seem outrageous (viewfinder blockage that everyone complains about). So, I hit the ol’ interwebs to do some research on M-mount 35mm lenses that Voigtlander made. I looked at the Nokton 1.4 classic, The Ultron 1.7 and the new Nokton 1.2.
After going waaaaaaay too far down the Voigtlander 35mm rabbit hole (YouTube, blogs, reviews and even Flickr), I decided on the Voigtlander 35mm Nokton f/1.2. That little extra speed over the others wasn’t the deciding factor, but it sure as hell didn’t hurt either. I shoot a significant amount on the Sony A7 series, so for me, the lens had to work well on both systems. I use both a manual M-FE adapter as well as the new Fotodiox Pro Pronto M-FE Autofocus adapter for use on the Sony bodies.
The only real complaint I have so far with Voigtlander 35mm Nokton f/1.2 is the size, which is funny considering I’ve replaced my Sony 35mm f/1.4 with this Nokton (wanted to have just one lens for both systems). The Nokton is compact by comparison, but still feels a little big on the M4-2, but less so on an A7 body where the Sony/Zeiss 35mm 1.4 felt huge. Even looking at it on the Leica body, it seems out of place. It almost looks more like a DSLR series lens in size, compared to its other 35mm rangefinder counterparts. I recently mounted it to the Leica CL that I’m using while my M4-2 is away for a CLA, and it’s almost comical how big it looks on that body.
It’s still a reasonable 52mm filter thread, so carrying an assortment of filters won’t take up an entire pocket in your bag, not to mention that most filters in that size are nicely priced compared to their 67mm and up big brothers.
I won’t go into sharpness, vignetting or resolving power in detail. There are other sites that do these tests to the limits. I will, however, tell you that it’s sharp enough and that it does in fact vignette. But, then again, I haven’t shot with anything under f/2 that doesn’t vignette. What I will do, is give you an idea of how it is to me in real world situations.
At this point I’ve used it as an everyday lens and I’ve used it on a couple commercial shoots. I really enjoy it. I like the look that the lens produces. I have found that the corners are a little soft if you have to shoot below f/2, but thankfully, I don’t find myself living in a realm where that is a problem very often with commercial work.
For personal work on both film and digital, it really doesn’t bother me. I’ve found the aperture ring on the Voigtlander 35mm Nokton f/1.2 to really click into place, so there’s no fumbling around to make sure that you’ve missed your desired f/stop. I also like how smooth the focus ring is… I miss the little scallop for faster focusing situations, but the contoured Voigtlander focus ring is still really nice to use.
I did have to get used to losing the eyeAF that I’ve grown to depend on a lot with my Sony setups, but it’s not a dealbreaker as the Fotodiox Pro Pronto adapter lets me use the “Phase Detect” AF in the Sony system.
Shooting wide open with the Voigtlander 35mm Nokton f/1.2 will really help in isolating the subject and the bokeh is fairly smooth as well. I had the lens on my M4-2 and was asked by another photographer why I would ever have a “non-Leica” lens on a Leica body… After all, the whole reason you buy a Leica is for their lenses, right? Nope, not me.
I actually like the process of shooting the rangefinders and actually quite like the aesthetics this lens produces at a fraction of the cost of a 35mm f/1.4 Leica lens. That cost savings sure pays for a hell of a lot of film. In this case, it actually paid for the Nokton 50mm f/1.2 as well. The review of that lens will follow after this one.
The Voigtlander 35mm Nokton f/1.2 has been an awesome addition to the kit. If you’re in the market and on a budget that doesn’t afford Leica, this is one of the fastest little 35mm around and it punches well above its weight class.