5 frames with...

5 Frames with a Voigtlander Nokton Aspherical 40mm f/1.2 – By John Scott

June 25, 2019

Disaster. Catastrophe. Destruction. Not the typical opening you would imagine for a 5 frames with story. But that’s where this story goes… But like all good fairy tales there is a happy ending.  

Rewind to the start of June. I was shooting exclusively with my Leica M240 + Voigtlander 40mm f1.2 combo in Perth, Western Australia. Perth was consistently perfect. Every afternoon – without fail – delivered amazing sunsets over the Indian Ocean. I shot landscapes, street scenes, low light scenarios and a plethora of random shots around Scarborough beach and Fremantle. 

My trusted Leica M240 and 40mm delivered amazing shots in a small package that I could take anywhere and everywhere without being weighed down. The small form factor combined with super sharp optics (wide open) meant that I could shoot in almost any lighting situation without having to worry about pushing the ISO beyond my comfort zone. 

A few facts about the 40mm f1.2. 

The 40mm is a solid but not overly heavy aluminium lens at 315g, with an aperture range of f/1.2 to f/22. 

55º angle of view, M-mount, with a minimum focus distance of 1.6’ (50cm). 

The 40mm has 10 diaphragm blades (to render dreamy, creamy backgrounds wide open) combined with a 53mm filter thread. 

What’s not to love about a spec list like that? Well for some it’s the focal length. Most photographers have a 35mm and a 50mm lens in their kit, so adding a lens like the 40mm arsenal is a little odd. But what I have come to love about this lens (other than the amazing rendering of the image) is the simplification of my kit. I personally prefer to shoot 28mm and 75mm so 40mm sits just right in my kit for me. I can more-or-less cover both my 35mm and 50mm focal lengths in one lens. So other than the other benefits mentioned, it’s the reduction of gear that makes me happy. 

Morning bokeh @ f1.2

Sunset @ F8

But it can’t all be good news right? The only downside I would say to this lens is frame lines. Shooting on a Leica M240 brings up the 50mm frame lines. Now this isn’t a deal breaker for me because you simply need to get used to framing with 50mm in new but know that you have a little extra room to play with in the final composed image. Alternatively you could also see Hamish’s handy “Activating the 35mm frame lines” hack here. There are a range of methods ranging from barbaric to less-barbaric. 

Love locks @ F2

So what’s this disaster I hear you ask? Well, having arrived back in Singapore with a bunch of amazing photos and all luggage in tow, disaster befell my beloved M240. I had finished cleaning my gear, packed all lenses and camera bodies in my two dry cabinets, closed the door but forgot to lock the door. This is when disaster struck. One morning I woke to the sound of a large, heavy thud. Upon walking to my dry cabinet my eyes grew large as the cabinet door was wide open. My M240 had gone to camera heaven. The cause, my very cute and wide eyed 2 year old. An accident of course.  

The toddler @ F2.8

But on positive note, the end of my M240 was the beginning of my Leica M10, so I am definitely a a happy camper now. I have the awesome M10 paired up with the amazing Voigtlander 40mm f1.2! So the opening photo of the 40mm is on a Leica M10 – my replacement for my trusted M240.

40mm F1.2 – Morning light

I’ll be shooting more and more with lens and the M10 over the coming months so if you would like to see more then follow my instagram channels: hotshotstudio01 and johnnypixel

Thanks for reading!

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  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    June 25, 2019 at 3:06 pm

    Hey John,
    Nice write up. I’m a fan of the 40mm length – I use the lightweight m-Rokkors w/my (film) CL and my M-bodies. I too like the ‘in-between’ character of the lens. Like Goldilocks & porridge: not too wide, not to normal, just right!
    I’m not big on gear testing, but I set-up my M2 (my M2 had had M4 framelines installed at some point in it’s long life by an unknown user) & M4-P on a tripod, and shot a scene with easily identified lines. with the 40, a borrowed 50mm & 35mm lens. The 35mm shot & the 40mm shot were ever so slightly different; but not enough to have an aha! moment. Since I’m sorta a ‘center composition’ type of photographer, no big deal.
    I bought the 40 f/1.2, but I didn’t enjoy the success you have had. In terms of weight & size I just couldn’t get used to it. I returned it under a 30 day warranty to B&H.
    Are those sunset really like that? Beautiful. But, my favorite shot is the interior shot with the young children. Nice subtle colors and tones. You state you’re a craftsman and it shows through your images. Well done.
    One last thing…the sound of a falling camera is like nothing else in the world. My wife & I had returned from a trip to Italy and were unpacking. My CL slipped out of my grip and crashed to the floor. Ten days all over Italy and not a bump! I had it repaired.

    • Reply
      June 28, 2019 at 11:53 pm

      Hi Dan, thanks for taking the time to write.
      First things first, thank you for the compliments!
      I hear you on the frame lines. I actually got into rangefinders later in life (took me a while to save up the pennies for the Leica) so framing my shots took a little getting used to. Especially when I was used to slr pentaprisms. But the frame liens aside, I like the 40mm range because it completes my set (12mm, 28mm, 40mm, 85mm). The 40mm range is also so close to 35mm that I often reach for 40mm.
      Bummer to hear you didn’t have such a good experience – onto the next focal length 🙂
      Ps. Not sure what was more devastating the sound of the camera dropping or the sound of my high pitched screech of terror!

  • Reply
    June 25, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    Best of luck to you. I have a 3yr old (three-nager). Enjoy it while it lasts. 2 was bad, 3…good luck!

  • Reply
    June 25, 2019 at 8:03 pm

    Nice pics! I’ve so far only used my 40 1.2 on my M7.
    What was the extent of the damage to the M240 to have killed it? They should be tougher than a 2 year old!

    • Reply
      June 28, 2019 at 11:52 pm

      Thanks for the compliment!
      Lol yes the M is a tough beast. But alas it was a bad drop (from a height)

  • Reply
    T.N. Tzeo
    August 30, 2020 at 5:40 am

    I have pretty much the same setup as you. If I opt for automatic lens detection, my Leica M10 selects Elmarit 14mm or something like this, that shows up in the exif data of the photographs.

    Manually choosing Summilux 35mm F1.4 is actually closer to the Voigtlander 40mm F1.2.

    Do you have a workaround?

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