Dec 022011
 

Voigtlander Nokton 35 1.2 Aspherical II Lens review on the Leica M9

By Steve Huff

With the rising costs and seemingly impossible chance of seeing the “IN STOCK” notice on current Leica lenses, those of us who shoot with a Leica M camera are constantly on the lookout for used deals, bargains, and some of us with fatter wallets are even finding  ”UN-Bargains” with jacked up pricing on hard to find lenses. Many of us who are forever attached to our Leicas sometimes forget that we have options in the world of lenses that will mount onto our cameras. While Leica glass IS the best glass to shoot on your Leica M, there are lenses from Zeiss and Voigtlander (see all of my Leica reviews here) that cost much less than their Leica counterpart and can give really great results with our beloved M’s. For most of us mere mortals it can be hard to buy a $7-$8000 camera body followed by a $5000 lens.

Let me get this clear up front: I LOVE LEICA GLASS. Period. They set the standard for quality and that is indeed a fact. If you deny this fact you are simply in denial or obviously never used lenses like the 28 Summicron, 35 Summicron, 50 Summilux ASPH or even the 50 Noctilux ASPH. Leica M glass is expensive but it is the best in the world of 35mm photography and the size is just right as well. Small and solid. The best thing about Leica is their glass as that has always stood the test of time. The big problem these days is the lack of available lenses as well as the cost. That leaves many of us M shooters without lenses but as I already stated, we have options!

While I have not been a huge fan of some of the Voigtlander lenses I do applaud them for releasing some of their superb lenses like the 50 Nokton f 1.1, the classical rendering 35 1.4, and even the 15mm wide angle. Voigtlander has been releasing some very fine lenses lately and today I am going to write about and share my experience with one of the best lenses, if not THE best “M” mount lens that they make, the new 35mm Nokton f/1.2 ASPH Version II. Yes, 1.2!


The 1st version of this lens was loved and adored by many who owned it for it’s unique qualites and low light abilities. Images from the Nokton always had a sort of interesting creamy artistic feel and I shot with one for 2 weeks over two years ago with the intent on reviewing it. At the time I had only a Leica M8 and the copy of the Nokton I had was not focusing right so I never did review it. It was also very large and fat and seeing that I already had a Leica 35 Lux that I was in love with I was not really into the Nokton so much. The super fast 1.2 aperture did intrigue me, and I was seeing some great results form others who was using the lens but like I said, it was not focusing correctly so I never could get into it.

When I did get an in focus shot the rendering I saw was almost like a 50 Noctilux f/1 because of the crop factor of the M8, (but not quite) and at under $1000 it was a nice lens if you could not afford the Leica Summilux, and you got one that focused correctly.

So here we are in 2011, almost 2012, and Voigtlander reworked this lens as a version II because they said the old version was too hard to make. Hmmm. Does this mean version I is the more desirable lens? I was not so sure but I was attracted to Version II because it is a little smaller and thinner (though not by much really) and from what I have heard even sharper when shot wide open, which to me is important.

One of the key reasons Leica glass seems so magical is because it is so damn sharp at its maximum widest aperture. When you have your subject in such sharp focus with the background blurred out so smoothly it translates into a somewhat unique and, as some say, “magical” image.

With the previous Version I of this lens I could never get that look because it just did not have the ultimate sharpness wide open like a Leica 35 Summilux did at 1.4. So how is version II? Read on and I will share my real world experience with this lens from Voigtlander in words and photos, but this one will be kept short as there is only so much I can say in a real world lens review.

The Nokton wide open at f/1.2 – click image for larger. Focus was on his eye.

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The 35mm Focal Length – A Classic

A Leica M9 kit does not seem complete without a 35mm lens. There are so many great choices available in the 35mm world and my personal favorite has always been the Leica 35 Summilux. The newest FLE version of the lens is spectacular with a modern draw and amazing 3D separation and depth. It’s just about as perfect of a 35mm lens as you can get in my opinion and when I say “perfect”, I mean the qualities of the images from the lens are just about perfect. Sharp, great micro contrast, fantastic color, etc.  The only problem with that lens is that it will cost you $5000 and it is almost impossible to find. You may have a 6-12 months wait on the dealers waiting list to be able to have the privilege of laying down your $5000 for the Leica. Kind of insane really when you think about it. But it is not necessary to spend $5,000 on a Leica 35mm as there are a couple of other choices being made today new from Leica.

My other faces in the lineup are the Leica 35 Summicron and the Leica 35 Summarit lenses. All are GREAT choices really and the little Summarit has an amazing mix of modern and classic looks all at the same time but it is a slower lens with a f/2.5 aperture. It is nice and small though and this makes it a great travel lens for the M9.

I keep going back and forth as to what is my favorite focal length for shooting on the M9 and it alternates between 35 and 50. Sometimes I go for months shooting only a 35, then again a few months with a 50. Right now I am in a 35mm sort of mood. This focal length seems just about perfect to capture life. To add just that little bit more in the frame that would be left out with a 50mm. The 35mm focal length is a classic Leica M choice. Simple and effective. Pure and sometimes just what you need.

The Nokton at 1.2 or 1.4 

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The Version II Nokton 35 1.2

When Version II of this lens was announced and I heard it was smaller and slimmer than the previous version while being sharper I knew I had to try it. As time went on I kind of forgot about it because I was not reading  too much about it and I was so busy testing other cameras and lenses. Then one day while browsing B&H Photo for in stock M mount lenses I saw the Nokton listed as IN STOCK at $1399, about 1/3 the cost of the Leica 35 Summilux ASPH.  I added the lens to my cart and hit the purchase button. A few days later the lens arrived and just as I had imagined it was still pretty large. Heavy and large but built VERY well and the focus ring was extremely silky smooth. The aperture ring was nice and smooth with solid clicks, but never rough feeling like some cheaper lenses sometimes can be. In the build area, this lens scored an A from me.

When the lens arrived I mounted it to the M9-P and took it out with my son and best friend and then headed for the park. It was 4:30PM and a beautiful sunny day. I knew the sun would be going down soon so I set the aperture to 1.2 and shot with it wide open for many shots, and then stopped it down to f/1.4 and f/2 for a few others. I had no idea if the shots were sharp or not due to the lackluster M9 LCD but what I was seeing in the previews looked promising. The depth of field is very shallow at 1.2 on the M9 but of course I LIKED IT :)

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I found the lens to be a little weighty but not offensive. I had no issue carrying it around though I must admit, any of the Leicas would be smaller and lighter. Then again, they do not open up to f/1.2. The difference between 1.2 and 1.4 is so tiny though that I am not sure there is even a real noticeable difference. Still, it is nice to know it is there for when the light gets low or for shooting indoors, which was something I wanted to test out. It kind of gives you confidence in low light…”Hey, I can open up to f/1.2″!

From what I saw at the park, the lens performed really good. The bokeh is not bad at all in my opinion and actually I find it quite pleasing. When shooting this lens at wide apertures it gives a unique rendering with sharpness just about on par with the Leica 35 Lux ASPH (version I) along with the classic look of some of the older Leica 35′s.

At f/1.2 the lens is pretty sharp (for being f/1.2). This is a straight out of camera file from RAW. Click it for larger.

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Speaking of Sharpness

So how share is this lens? Can it come close to the performance of the Leica 35 Summilux ASPH? I have shot the Leica ASPH Version I extensively and can say that at f/1.4 and f/2 this lens is pretty damn close to the Summilux, possibly even a little sharper! The rendering is not quite the same though with the Nokton seemingly giving even shallower depth of field effects for some reason. The Nokton almost reminds me of the 1st Leica Noctilux f/1 in the way it renders the image when shot at wide apertures. It has an artistic way of drawing that makes people say “WOW, how did you do that”? In fact, I have gotten that many times from every day people who know nothing about photography. When I show them an image shot with a Noctilux or a fast lens they are amazed at the look of the photograph because they are so used to seeing flat and dull point and shoot images.

So this lens is very “Artistic” in the way it renders but at the same time sharpness seems to have improved from the older version. See the shots below to see the 100% crops and see for yourself.

You must click on the images to see the larger versions and true 100% crops

This 1st shot is from inside a mall at 1.2 The 100% crop shows that even at f/1.2 this lens can be sharp. F/1.2!!

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Again, I snapped this one in the mall but this time stopped the lens down to f/2. Just by looking at this I can tell that this lens has a really nice smooth rendering. I like it.

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Even at 1.4 it is plenty sharp. No complaints.

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I happened to focus on a fly at 1.4 and the focus was so dead on it captured the fly in motion. No focus issues with this lens that I found. Wide open or Stopped down.

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How Does the Nokton do in Low Light? It’s BOKEHLICIOUS!

This lens has the Nokton name for a reason. Much like the other Nocts in the lens world, this lens just seems to BEG to be shot in lower light. I still find the Leica M9 to be a superb low light camera when you have a good fast lens attached. Seeing that we all can’t afford a $10,500 Noctilux ASPH and seeing that this 35mm 1.2 reminds me in many ways of the original Leica Noctilux, I assumed this lens would do great when the lights got lower. It did not disappoint, and after seeing shots I snapped in this Christmas themed bar (The Coach House in Scottsdale, AZ) I knew right then and there that I wanted to keep this lens. I LOVE the way this lens renders out of focus areas and it reminds me even more of the f/1 Nocti after seeing these on my iMac 27″ screen. It’s a bit dreamy and surreal at times.

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Vigentting?

I took a test snap in my living room at f/1.4 and  then f/4 to see if there was any noticeable vignetting in real world images. Instead of shooting a white wall to see it, I just took a snapshot of my room and you can see some slight vignetting at 1.2 but none at f/4. The lens also sharpens up considerably at f/4 as you can see in the crops.

Click images for larger versions – the 1st one was taken at f/1.2, straight from camera (RAW) – Notice the CA on the light but even the $10,500 Noctilux does this. 

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Now at f/4

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and the crops to see the sharpness – camera was tripod mounted

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The Bottom Line Conclusion

This review is shorter than usual but I have no need to rant on and on about it because it is what it is. A super fast 35mm f/1.2 lens with an almost Leica like build, a Leica feel, and super results even at f/1.2 that only get better by f/2. The contrast is good at f1.2 and superb once you hit f/2, the color rendering is nice and the focusing is spot on at all apertures. This lens is really a creature of the night but also works well for everyday shooting and I would not hesitate to use it for just about anything my M9 can handle. I bet this would take amazing shots at a live concert :) I really like the way this lens renders light and color.

debbycolorvoigt

Ok, here it goes...The Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2 is the bargain of the century in the world of super fast 35mm lenses for Leica. At $1399 it is thousands less than Leicas own 35 Summilux ASPH FLE and while it may not have the crispness and overall perfection of that lens it does bring something unique to the table and that is its unique rendering and the 1.2 slightly larger aperture. The lens is indeed large and slightly heavy but nothing in comparison to a Leica 50 Noctilux ASPH. I do wish it came with a hood but Voigtlander is now charging an extra $109 for it. Boo. That is really my only negative on this otherwise outstanding lens. It’s a mix of modern and classic and would be wonderful for environmental portraits, kids, low light, or just about anything. The lens has a look of its own and I really really am enjoying the hell out of it and can’t wait to take it with me on my next  trip. This is an easy recommend for any Leica M9 shooter. I do not own an M8 anymore so I could not try it out on that camera but I am sure it would perform equally as well but be aware of the 1.33 crop which would make this somewhat close to a 50mm equivilant.

Compared to the prevoious older version Leica 35 Summilux ASPH, this lens is right up there with it in my opinion. Compared to the new FLE 35 Summilux, it is not as crisp, nor modern looking…it is not as “perfect”. The 35 Summilux ASPH FLE is the king of 35′s and it has insane micro contrast that just makes your subjects pop. My review for that lens is HERE. Still, that lens is $5000 and VERY hard to get and some may prefer a more modern/classic mix anyway, which is where this Voigtlander excels. Is the Leica worth $3700 more? No, not really but that depends on your tastes and your wallet, not mine.

Me, I have grown less picky as I get older so I am actually pretty thrilled with this 35 Nokton. It really does have it’s own brand of “mojo” that can create some very cool photos when in the right hands. HIGHLY recommended.

B&H Photo is where I bought mine and you can go get it HERE.

This lens is gorgeous on the Monochrom as well.

L1003855

PROS AND CONS

PROS: Great build and feel, focus ring is smooth as silk, aperture ring is silky smooth with solid clicks, no focus shift, sharp even wide open, medium contrast, great color rendering and out of focus areas render very nicely with no real headache inducing swirl or nastiness and by f/2 it is just about as good as any Leica 35, a bold statement I know. No noticeable distortion in real world images that I noticed.

CONS: Slightly heavy, no hood included, no case included.

I will leave you with a few more images from this lens on the Leica M9. Click on them to see the larger versions. Enjoy and feel free to discuss this lens below in the comments. What do you think? Would you buy it or would you stick with Leica?

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  96 Responses to “Voigtlander Nokton 35 1.2 Aspherical II Lens review on the Leica M9”

  1. Hi Steve
    I have version I and I love shooting with it on the M9.
    Really the major disadvantage is size and weight.
    As you rightly say Leica glass is Leica glass but….hell over 4000€ for the 35 lux it’s bloody expensive.
    Anyway my question was on coding: what do you recommend for version II and if it applies also to version I?
    Love your blog (you share more than just your impressions on gear and photography. You are kind enough to let your readers share a little bit of your life and experiences. That’s good. The net has enough gear geeks.)
    All the best and (I guess we close enough) a Merry Christmas
    António
    Lisbon, Portugal

  2. Great review and really nice lens. Would love to try this combination in real life.

  3. Been contemplating this lens myself and if I find a 35 Summicron then I will probably add this as a low light 35. Like you I wasn’t super thrilled with the Voigtlanders except the 50/ 1.5 Nokton I had which was great for lowlight B&W shots. This lense is really impressive though in how it brings the best things about the 35 Summilux ASPH lenses in one package (sharp rendering of the subject like the new one with smooth bokeh of the old one.)

  4. Typo Alert!
    Hi Steve, me again, but you noted the wrong crop factor for the M8 camera – It is 1.33x and not 1.5x. Therefore on an M8 a 35mm lens crops to a 45mm lens (give or take a tenth or two). Not to mention a perceivable real world increase in depth of field while shooting with a lens when compared to shooting with it on the M9.
    Yes I own an M8 and love it.
    Got it from Ken Hansen earlier this year.
    Excellent transaction, two thumbs up from me.
    Also: when buying anything from affiliates both my girlfriend and I use your links to support your site.
    Sincerely
    Richard in Michigan

  5. Steve, true that Leica glass is sharper the corners…maybe a hair better than Zeiss…I don’t know about the rest of you, artistically, there’s nothing much of importance happening in the far corners of my compositions anyway. Who but geeks and complete idiots pixel peep there? I know Bresson and Doisneau didn’t – why should we…for an extra $3-4 K?

    Arguably, I bet I could shoot the Zeiss 50 2.0 or 1.5, or the 35 2.0, shoot it wide open, say it was a Leica, and few, if any one could question it.

    I did shoot with a few copies of a Voightlander 15MM and a 50 (can’t remember the model), and was under whelmed be the over all “feel” or magic I got in my images…but the Zeiss 50 2.0…sweet.

    • The Planar (50/2) is a gem ! I love the colors and the general rendering of this lens. (mounted on my ex- GF1 and currently attached to my M9-P, you can check the photos on my Flickr gallery)

    • In the end there’s nothing wrong with many of mr. Kabayashi’s products, and yes most of the time 1/3 to sometimes 1/5th of a similar leitz lens.

      I had a 28/2.0 Ultron, looks good, not to big, performs very well, so why did I changed it for a 5 times more expensive Summicron 28/2.0?

      - Is it so much better, i guess not
      - Technical both are good enough

      I had a simular question with the Super-Elmar-M 18/3.8 vs the Zeiss 18/4.0 ZM…I end up with the Elmar.

      To be Honest, once you buy a 5400 euro M9, you want the Leica Lenses to, whatever they cost!

      Nothing to do with pixel peeping etc.. fact is that the Mechanical production process of Leitz is superior to every other Brand, they working with 0.01mm tolerance, where others do 0,02 tolerance, that’s not 0,01mm better but 100%
      Same with their Optics, it’s all about mechanical production, tolerance and qualification

      Voigtlander and Zeiss can do that, but that this 35/1.2 will end up also at 4000$+ price level.

      Look at Zeiss for Canon ZE, a 28/2.0 Distagon is a WOW les for a C5D and cost about 1150 euro’s….made by Cosina in Japan, excellent product.
      Now for the cinematographic world they build the CP.2 28/2.1 T lens, same optics, in GERMANY and this lens cost suddenly 3490 euro ! Why ?…well because of the mechanics needed for professional follow-focus, 300degree turn to sharpen etc…

      Final word, as I hoped for a long time, now Zeiss has stated not to produce a FF ZI (The film one made by Cosina) it would be a BING BANG if Cosina produce a FF R5A or so with the Brand name Epson or Voigtlander at a price level of 2000 euro.
      Than you can spend 2000 + 1200 for a Voigtalnder FF RF + 35/1.2 and challenge Leica from a different angle

      • “that’s not 0,01mm better but 100%”

        Really? Thanks for the chuckle…show us your pics that benefit from that “accuracy”. Then if Zeiss had tolerances of 0.005 (I think a 500% increase, not just .005), would you dump that Leica crap for the Zeiss? Just wonderin’…

        I love Leica but I think we got to keep it real…

        “amateurs worry about equipment,
        professionals worry about money,
        masters worry about light,
        I just make pictures…”

        - Vernon Trent

      • The lens you own made to the finest tolerances is likely to be in your smartphone not your camera.

  6. Wow. The Christmas lights are dreamy indeed and I love the shot of the VS poster with the woman’s silhouette in front. I’m shooting this lens’s little brother, the CV 35/1.4, on my GXR M mount now cause it was 1/2 the price of the f/1.2 and quite a bit smaller/lighter on the tidy Ricoh body. I’ve been pretty pleased with it especially how detailed it renders even wide open on the AA filter-less GXR M. But I have to say the bokeh from the M9/1.2 is spectacular in comparison. I really would love to see you shoot this Nokton1.2 at a concert!

  7. Some sample shots with NEX-7 maybe? I bet it would make kick-ass night shooting combo!

  8. Thanks for the great review Steve. I’ve shot with my new version of this lens on an M8 over the past 2 days, shots transitioning from outdoor to indoor and vice versa wide open and down to 5.6 It has very nice bokeh with holiday season lights up everywhere. Great results and not so bad on the wallet. Look forward to seeing some of your additional photos later.

  9. Nice Review.

    Seen quite a few really good photo galleries of that lens and it was on the short-list for a Non-Leica Lens. However I decided for the 35mm Cron (the 50mm will be the Lux whenever I get one). Apart from the fact that having an Leica M the Lens has to be a Leica there were two things which went against the Voigtländer: 1. Size and 2. its ugly ;)

    B

  10. I use v1 of this lens with an M8 and a NEX5. It’s nice to know there’s a new version of it out on the market, but there would need to be a marked improvement in handling – and at no cost to the v1 bokeh -for me to switch.

  11. Hello Steve,

    Always enjoy your photos. The variety and composition in this post gives us readers a clear explanation as to what your topic is and the message you deliver. Though it will be a long time before my budget can afford a Leica, I do enjoy reading all the wonderful techniques and tips.

    In regards to the Amazon link. I browse & shop their often, so I’m bookmarking your page to use your link from now on. I truly believe in supporting one another in today’s economy. Have a great day!

  12. Bought this lens last week while in NYC and some quick shooting so far with an M9 indicates I’m going to really like this lens as you do. I have a 35 Summarit which I love and I’ll keep both lenses, using the Nokton when I think I’ll want the aperture – either for lighting or effect, and won’t mind the size.

    Curious as to how you’re coding the lens on your M9? I used the menu to code as 35-Lux pre-ASPH as suggested by another well respected reviewer – photos look fine but there’s no six-bit code for those lenses to use for “marker coding”. Ran a quick test and decided to code the lens as a 35-Cron pre-ASPH. Will get to do a lot of shooting with the lens this weekend and will see how that turns out.

  13. Looks like a real contender for a bargain lens steve, thanks for sharing!

  14. I have the first version and love it. I havent used it much since I got a 35mm summilux asph in chrome. The size is the main issue. But it is a very handsome lens.

  15. the coach house… the dark lil’ jewel of oldtown. where badsheep go and grab a ‘refresher’ to start the day.

  16. so how does this compare witih the Zeiss 35 f2.0 I know it’s not fair to compare a 1.2 to a 2.0 but they compare pretty well in price.

  17. Most Voigtlander lenses are wonderful on film, lackluster on digital. Glad to see this will be great for both.

  18. I’ve been searching around the net on this lens for a couple of hours this morning, seems there is as much good written about the first version of the lens as the new one…….do I need this lens, probably not, will I buy it, inevitably I suspect I will as I’m firmly in the grip of gear addiction!

  19. I owned this lens for a short time. It is good value for money. But the weight, at just under 1/2 kg, makes it feel like you’re lugging a brick around after a day of shooting. Voigtlander should have made it an f1.4 lens and reduced the size & weight. I detected no difference in shutter speed most of the time when choosing between f1.2 vs f1.4.

    A big issue which you did not cover is the considerable field curvature with this lens. You need to stop it down to at least f8 if you want your image to be sharp across the frame.

    • They do make a 1.4 35 Nokton, much smaller, less than half the price. DIfferent signature. This 35 1.2 is not meant to have sharp corner to corner performance. That is not what it is all about. This lens is all about shooting it wide open or close to it and low light shooting but by f/4 it is pretty adman sharp throughout the frame. I was with it all day yesterday and had no problem with it on the M9, then again I am used to lugging the 50 Noct which is much larger and heavier! The old version of this lens is a little bigger than this one, fatter mostly. I’m digging this lens and finding it to be a worthy alternative to spending thousands more and it gives a totally different vibe than the Leica lux II, which as I said, IS the best 35mm lens created IMO :)

      • Oh yeah, the FLE is the best 35 mm lens IMHO, with the 35 ‘cron ASPH running a close second for different reasons (size, clinical look)

        • Ashwin if the Cron is so good, why is the Summicron 35/2 ASPH the most sold used lens in the Leica lineup? LOL, haha

          • Kristian,
            Maybe It is sold so much because Leica Folks frequently acquire some of the most virulent strains of Lens Acquisition Syndrome. However at the price points of almost everything leica related one or more lens(es) in their current stable have to go to fund acquiring that next great lens in their pursuit of perfection. I cite the entirety of SteveHuffPhoto.Com as exhibits 1 to 1000 in support of this thesis.
            R in Mi.

          • LOL….hahah….upgrade cycle and a bad case of GAS….

          • Because the 35mm Summicron ASPH is by far the most sold Leica lense ever. ;)

  20. Great review, Steve. The New Nokton seems to exhibit very much an extension of the design and visual drawing exhibited by the 1st f/1.2 Nokton, albeit with more macrocontrast. Bokeh for this lens is lovely, certainly more classical, and your images really do a great job showing how the lens deals with specular highlights and OOF: Classic Voigtlander look, in my eyes….this Nokton represents a pinnacle for Voigtlander, but for me, the size of the lens (and viewfinder blockage) could be seen as limiting factors. I toyed with the idea of getting one of these, but owning the FLE seems to obviate that need….

    That being said, for speed freaks or those who like a slightly more classic look, this could be the one. I have also seem beautiful, melt-away bokeh from images with less busy backgrounds, which to me, seems to be where the CV lens might outperform the current Summilux FLE…

    Great stuff!

  21. The first Voigtlander lens I bought was the 50 f1.5 Asph Nokton, and it set the standard. While the more recent lenses are good, they compromise on focus shift or other characteristics, and seem to have more optical variation sample-to-sample.
    Instead of going for the WOW factor of ultra-speed, I’d rather they would go for higher-quality, normal speed (1.4 to 2.0) lenses, considering the shortage of Leica-fit lenses.
    However, Cosina has that niche filled well with the Zeiss lenses, so I guess they don’t want to compete against themselves.

  22. Your review is right on, Steve. I own the first version of the VC 35/1.2, and use it on an M8. You must have had a misaligned copy of the first version lens. The differences between the first and second version are minor.

    The VC 35/1.2 has a lovely signature. Its drawing combines the best traits of both classic and modern aspheric lens design. It is sharp enough wide-open, but not scary clinically sharp like the Summilux ASPH can be. The transition between in-focus and out-of-focus areas is smooth, and the bokeh is usually pleasant.

    There is no appreciable focus shift when stopping down, which is important for digital M users, You can be confident that what you focus on will actually be in focus at f/2, f/2.8, and f/4 as well as wide-open. This is not the case on digital with the first version of the Summilux 35/1.4 ASPH, where you must compensate.

    The 35/1.2 has two drawbacks. The first is that it is big and heavy. This will bother some people and not others. The other is that there is some green/purple fringing at the edges of very bright objects, such as backlit tree branches or leaves in sunlight. You can see this in the bokeh circles in the color image of your son, friend, pigeons and peacocks. This doesn’t go away when you stop down. It’s a non-issue in black and white, of course, but may show up in strongly backlit color shots.

    A tip: When you open up from f/1.4 to f/1.2, the actual light increase you get is a tiny bit less than the half-stop the numbers would indicate. The M8 and M9 meter doesn’t seem to respond to the difference in very low light, so you get a brighter picture instead of a half stop gain in shutter speed. My solution is to set the exposure compensation 1/3 stop highter than I normally use when shooting wide-open.

    Luckily for me, I bought the 35 Summilux ASPH v.1 back before the digital Ms came out and Leica lens prices went insane. I also picked up the Nokton used several years ago. I use them both for different reasons, and I’m not selling either!

    –Peter

  23. FYI, looking at the f/1.2 to f/4 door handle shot….the f/1.2 image is not in focus.

  24. GOD I LOVE THIS LENS!!!!

    I am not kidding! I bought version 1 last year ($899 Cameraquest – a great buy) for my M8 and it has replaced my 35mm Summicron V4. The bokeh is amazing, it is reasonably sharp at f1.2, the colors are not overdone (not over saturated, but beautiful) and there is very little flare. Build quality is superb. This is a “best buy” for any M mount camera, period. I would dare to say a MUST BUY!

    I have used this lens in many situations that are challenging, including low light wedding receptions with great results at ISO 640 on my M8. I used to carry in my kit a 35mm Summicron, 28mm Elmarit, and 35mm Summicron. Now I use the 35mm Nokton f1.2, 50mm f1.0 Noctilux, and the 15mm Super Wide Heliar. As a Noctilux user, I can say the Nokton will make anyone who loves the Noctilux for what it is very happy.

    I especially love this lens for low light street photography. I used it for night shots at the Allentown Fair (Allentown PA) and the carnival culture portraits I came up with are AMAZING!!!! Almost a religious experience, I am not kidding! It blew me away!

    A side note: It is interesting how I migrated to Voigtlander lenses from Leica lenses. I owned the Noctilux before I bought the Nokton, and I loved the look and performance of the Noctilux so much, that I lost interest in my 35mm Summicron. The 35mm Nokton f1.2 brought me back to the 35mm focal length with a Noctilux like twist! I still use my 50mm Summicron (for a project of portraits of the men and women who worked at Bethlehem Steel, a project I have been working on since 1989, I like the contrasty sharp look of the Summicron for this subject) but for everything else, the Nokton, Noctilux, Heliar combo rules!

  25. Thanks to you Steve I just dropped 3k on my first rangefinder kit. I owned Nikon DSLRs before and whole plethora of lenses. I sold ALL OF THEM(I had two bodies, and load of pro lenses). Bought myself Leica M8 with upgraded LCD, and shutter. Leica Summarit 35mm, Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm, and Sony NEX 5n for random casual shooting.

    AND I do not regret any of it!!! I love my small portable cameras. I can use my M mount glass on both, and take them where ever I go. M8 in daylight and Nex 5N as they say “freaks come out at night :P”

  26. Stunning lens…The voigtlander 1.2 version 2 seem incredible. I wonder what will it be like on Ricoh. Steve, any chances you will try it on Ricoh?

  27. Looks damn good to me.

    I also go between liking 28/50 and 35.

    35 is about as wide as you can go and still do shots with a single subject in them as the main focus of the shot. 50 does this better. 28 is best for 3-4 elements – which makes for the best street photos.

    Changing lenses is a pain too. 35 is a good substitute for a 50. Not for a 28. One wouldn’t own a 28 and a 35……so what do I do?

    I own all of them. And use the 35 as it is my only AF lens (in 135 format) and then stick to 28/50 when I feel like being more serious when out and about as opposed to just having a camera with me.

    One thing that could make me get a M is the thought of the MATE lens….. seems almost a perfect concept?

    RF.

  28. I’ve never been fortunate enough to shoot with a Leica but it is on my wish list and looking at the results from this lens it looks stunning. I can see that making a great walk around combo! I was amazed by the sample shot at f1.2 of the Christmas wreath, very impressive and sharper than my 5DmkII and 50mm f1.4.

    • Mark, I can whole heartedly reccomend giving the M experience a ‘go’. The sheer operational difference between an SLR like your 5DII and a rangefinder with a good viewfinder is worth it alone, the intimacy possible by the way subjects feel less intimidated by rf’s versus slr’s -especially big black ones with L lenses- is worth it alone, and the sheer fun of shooting with a camera without an anti-aliasing filter is worth it all by itself. Add them up and it’s nearly a must to give M cameras a go, in my opinion.*
      Richard in Michigan
      *The exception being if one can afford and/or justify the funds neccessary to give an M a Go.

  29. Changing lenses is a bore..Shooting in Bath today I loved the 28 and 50..i wish I could do with just 35 but it just ‘aint good enough for either of the 28 /50 applications for me, too mediocre.

    • Yeah – 35 is a compromise lens. But it can be handy when used with something like the XA and Hexar AF. If talking changing lens then it is 28/50 most of the time. 28 for crowded areas and 80% of shots. 50 for when a single element is enough to carry a scene (very rare) – often the time is ample to put a 50 on.

      Having said that though – it also depends on formats. 2×3 is a weird format anyway and kind of limiting. On 4×3 a 35 sort of lens is easier to use. Indeed when shooting 645 a 60mm lens which is often approximated as a 35 on 135 works as well as a 28 does on 135. So aspect ratios too play a role.

  30. The 35m vs 50mm war is always at the back of my mind, I did all my early serious shooting on 50mm and so far it’s my favorite, it keeps me disciplined in choosing a subject and shooting it. Sometimes I feel 35mm is too impersonal, and I got fairly annoyed when the E-P1 came out with only a 35mm equivilent, X100 etc… But then Steve and others do good work with the 35mm, and lots of people like it, so maybe I should give it another try.

  31. How accurate did it focus and is there any focus shifting with this lens?
    I admit that the lens produces a very special look which I like a lot but then I dont know if I wanted that look allways in my images. For sure a great bargain and thens for the great review.Tom

  32. I think most most photographers would find ultra fast lenses to be more novelty or gimmick than useful. I have owned f1.2 and 1.4 lenses and rarely got a keeper shot wide open. Without a neutral density filter these lenses cannot be shot wide open in daylight. More importantly, the depth of field wide open is sooooo thin that the lens is not useful for anything close in. Even with auto focus, shots of a person’s face are hit and miss and when it hits the shot shows the tip of the nose or an eye in focus but everything else is blurry and looks odd if not freakish. There is a good example above in the shot of Steve’s friend. His left eye is in focus but the rest is blurry and the shot is not pleasing. So the only real benefit of a fast lens wide open is shooting something at a distance in low light. And even that is difficult with a manual focus lens because the lower the light the harder it is to see that critically small focus point unless you are shooting at infinity.

    One exception would be shooting natural light in a concert like Steve does when he travels with Seal. In that situation he is far enough back to manage the focus and gets a real advantage out of the extra speed of an f.95 lens. How often do you shoot in similar circumstances?

    For Leica, I have owed a 35mm Summicron and a 50mm Summilux. I have found the 35mm f2 fast enough for all but a very small number of shots. I eventually sold the 50mm because I enjoy the 35mm focal length more but also because I just didn’t find situations where the f1.4 made a difference, except in the price (and there the difference is huge).

    For Canon shooters, I tried the 85mm f1.2 and returned it for the 85mm f1.8, which is about one fourth the price, focuses faster and if anything is sharper.

    • “I think most most photographers would find ultra fast lenses to be more novelty or gimmick than useful.”

      Eh, hardly.. the 35mm f/1.4 lenses are very popular with photojournalists. Maybe not everything is in focus all the time, but to call those photos ‘not pleasing’ is highly subjective.

      • Well, “the need for speed” is not a factual necessity any more…if someone like the look of an image shot at 1.2, 1.0, or .95 is another thing.

        Most modern DSLR’s shoot 1600 or 3200 CLEAN…you can shoot at 2.8 in most lighting conditions interior or exterior…and film guys have newer and better films that can be virtually grain-less at 1600 (Kodak Portra 400 – 2 stops either way without image quality loss)…the need for a “fast lens” for exposure only is not so much in play any more.

  33. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for your review. I have the Ver1 of this lens I like everything about it except not quite sure about its “pancake bokeh”. It was interesting at the first time I got it, but when every of my photo got that I started to feel wrong. So I just wonder if the Ver2 still got that “signature” bokeh?

    Here are where they were seen in my picture:
    [img]http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6067/6116160332_0a44c1cfd0.jpg[/img]

    [img]http://farm7.staticflickr.com/6060/6308373547_5981a552d1.jpg[/img]

  34. Question… If someone is willing to offer you $6K for a Leica Summilux – current version, would you sell it and pick up the Voightlander…. Pocket the difference or buy more Zeiss glass perhaps?

    • SOLD!
      Drop the gavel, pay the man in American Please!
      I own four M lenses: two Voigtlanders, one Rokkor, and one Leica, none of which are worth 600 let alone 6K. Were I be able to sell a lens, any lens for 6 large it would be gone the instant the check cleared: no questions asked. I sacrificed replacing my worn out EOS 20D and stable of bad af lenses in order to get into M camera disneyland. As much as I love my M8 and rangefinder photography, dang things by definition aren’t SLRs and I would love to have some good SLR equipment alongside my M Outfit.
      Sincerely
      Richard in Michigan

  35. Hey Steve,

    I’m wondering about your post work. I love your black and white photos. How do you create them? Do you have any posts about your post work process?

  36. Renze,

    Point well taken regarding a photojournalist or anyone else that must get the best possible photo of a subject in many different light conditions. My comments relate to my style of shooting which is family, travel and landscape.

    But I think my broader point is still valid if you are not a photojournalist or sports photographer, or if you are not shooting performers at a concert. Steve’s photo of his friend illustrates very well how tight the focus is on a 1.2 lens. Most of the friend’s body is in the photo but only one eye is in focus and Steve had to point out where that was. It is such a small point that without a lot of enlargement the photo just appears to be out of focus — a bad shot. This is no knock on Steve — he did a great job of illustrating the point. With the focus point that critical I am impressed that he got anything in focus.

    A fast lens has two primary purposes — low light capture and selective focus to highlight some feature while throwing everything else into the bokeh. If you were taking the photo of Steve’s friend for real you would try to highlight what is interesting in the shot, which is his expression and the birds. You could get that part in focus wide open by backing up until the depth of field worked or by getting closer and stopping the lens down. If you try to shoot closer with a f1.2 lens wide open you would perhaps get the tips of the friend’s eyelashes in focus.

    Try shooting people inside at night. Typically you will be fairly close to the people — say 6 to 15 feet. The extra wide aperture doesn’t help because too much of a person’s face will be out of focus to work. You will need to shoot at f2 or higher to get the right focus regardless of the light unless you can back up some distance.

    I have owned both the Canon 85 f1.2 and 85 f1.8. I will wager that you can get more keepers taking photos of people at night with the f1.8 because it focuses faster and wide open the f1.8 is about at the fastest useful aperture for taking a shot of a person that does not take in the whole body. I found shots with the f1.2 were very hard to get because even with servo autofocus a kid, for example, would move too fast for the lens to keep up (the problem is that there is so much heavy glass the focus motor has to move — same problem reported with the 50mm 1.2). And when it did nail the focus the shot was freaky with only one small part of the face clear and the rest blurred out. Six feet away you need at least f2 to get a person’s nose and eyes in focus. The f1.8 is also sharper. Even wide open and extensively cropped the pores on a person’s nose are very clear.

    Manual focus magnifies these problems. Unless you are at some distance it is very difficult to get anything that moves in focus with a f1.2 or f1.4 lens. The slightest shift in position ruins the shot. Steve has shot the Leica lenses enough that he has apparently solved much of the problem. For us mere mortals, shooting a Leica f1.4 lens wide open short of infinity with moving objects almost ensures that most shots will be out of focus.

    So a fast lens is great wide open if you are shooting in low light at a distance (like a photojournalist) or doing some kind of special shot where extremely shallow depth of field is useful. Otherwise, an ultra fast lens is ultra expensive, large, heavy, and mostly of no use wide open. What’s not to like?

    • Valid Points All, George. Your first post was quite strong as well. The ‘syren song’ of fast aperture glass in general is that when someone nails a shot and gets that one killer keeper image from a shoot that image can, repeat can, be absolutely stunning. I have so far been able to remain deaf to their song and keep from crashing upon the rocks hiding on those shores.
      I don’t buy into all of your arguments, though. You hit manual focus for ‘magnifying’ the problems of focus placement in the scenarios you describe. The premise seems to infer a superiority of autofocus in those situations. I will grant af as possessing many splendid benefits – especially in the top tier cameras in the market place. The ‘great equalizer’ in my opinion is the razor thin depth of field fast and superfast glass bring into the equation. It is just as problematic for autofocus cameras as it is for manual focus cameras. On top of that AF brings in the ‘bonus’ challenge of how well the camera body and lens implement the info the af sensor is giving. There is a reason that lens testers make a definitive point to not use af during their lens tests regimes. AF implementation systems can’t be relied upon to put the plane of focus of the lens in the same place time after time after time no matter how unchanging subject and camera position are. In general the issue isn’t a big deal with a bit o’ depth of field to help out (f2.8ish?), but at f1.4, f1.2, f1, or f0.95, things start getting less and less repeatable.

      Richard

  37. Thanks for the review, Steve. I’d love to see some side by side comparison shots between the Leica 35 Lux or Cron and this Voigt 35/1.2.

  38. Great review Steve! I definitely will be adding this lens to my collection to use on my M8…just need to scratch together another $1300! Maybe it’s time to sell more of my Canon gear..

  39. Hey Steve,

    First of all, great site and great reviews. i noticed one strange thing with this lens but maybe it’s something I’m doing … when you focus it at close distance the rangefinder stops at around 0.65m but the focussing ring continues to 0.5m i.e. the viewfinder shows the minimum distance as further than the focus on the lens. Any ideas?

    Keep up the great work!

    Roger

  40. Ahh. My first non Leica lens. Wish I could think logically like that … Cheers Steve!

  41. Would love to see and hear your thoughts about this lens when put on a Nex 7… Similar I suppose to M8 comments… would just love to hear more..

    Thanks for you reviews Steve… love them, and love your photographs too.. thanks..

  42. [...] VC 35 1.2 v2 No more posts, samples, comments? Steve Huff: Voigtlander Nokton 35 1.2 Aspherical II Lens review on the Leica M9 | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS I would be very curious to see two shots at f/1.4, one with Nokton, one with Lux ASPH FLE. Not [...]

  43. I’ve been using the Mk2 lens on the M9 since early September and I agree with the concensus here. I have done a non technical review and a comparison of this lens with the Summicron asph on my blog with surprising results http://fotolebrocq.blogspot.com/

    Cheers, Tony

  44. Fantastic info. I have been looking for a 35mm 1.2 or 1.4 that is sharp wide open but doesn’t break the money bank. Alas, I have a canon 60d. Is it possible to mount adapt this lens to my camera. Pls at least point me in the right direction.

    • Ed, sorry to tell you that none of these Leica M mount lenses will fit any Dslr mount because of the flange distance it’s practically impossible to use.
      But look at the bright side you can still mount them on a mirroress camera like a NEX or pen camera or you can use it on a Leica M4 if you wanna shoot film!

  45. Thanks. I really appreciate your info. And guess what – after 2 weeks of reasearch and following forums and craigslist leads, I bought a noct-nikor 58mm 1.2 for $75 from a guy who really didnt know what he had. It’s literally just meant for shooting at 1.2. Quite possibly the best at it. Look up as titled above or as nikon 58mm 1.2. Look at the prices on ebay.

    • Wow man!!! Lucky you!!! Looking forward to check some sample pics from your noct!!!!

      • I’ve barely used it. I used it for video – for a scene on the set of and indie (independant) film set I’m on. I have it up on ebay now – item # 290659725345. Check it out just for kicks. If it doesnt sell for what I’m asking, I’ll keep it glady. Can i post a video clip on this site? I’ll give you the link to my Vimeo site after i post the clip.

  46. I recently bought this lens second hand, and after a few days with it, I really starting to like it.
    Here is some shots from the streets of Bergen, Norway:

    http://www.holmedalfoto.net/test-shots-with-the-voigtlander-nokton-35mm-f1-2/

    The focus is spot on, and I was a little bit worried that it had some front focus problems, but no.

    Today I will take the lens out on the streets again, and also do some outdoor concert shots.

    Cheers

  47. The 35/1.2 is a great lens that transforms the M9 and M8 into more versatile camera’s. I’ve done a little write-up here:
    http://lutaatwork.blogspot.com/2012/05/voigtlander-nokton-35-12-review.html

  48. Hey Steve,

    I have been looking at the Noctilux F1.0 and I decided it is too expensive for me, so now I am looking at the Voigtländer nokton 35mm F1.2 II and Nokton 50mm F1.1. I am waiting for my ordered 50mm Summilux asph but it takes forever. I need a lens (which comes closest in drawingstyle (out of focus rendering) to the Noctilux F1.0) for my Leica M7 to shoot portraiture. Which of the two Noktons shall I Choose? (keeping in mind the order of the 50 lux)

    Is the 35mm the obvious choice or is the 50mm nokton really better for portraiture? I would really appreciate your opinion.

    Love your site and blog btw!!

    Cheers,

    Pascal

  49. [...] Most current NEX lenses are not good enough for the NEX-7! ok.. so i'm reading reviews here: Voigtlander Nokton 35 1.2 Aspherical II Lens review on the Leica M9 | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS The Zeiss ZM 35 Biogon f/2 Lens review | STEVE HUFF PHOTOS also read these other reviews: 35mm [...]

  50. thanks for the great reviews Steve. I’m looking for a fast 35 M mount lens that is similar in drawing style to my 50/1.5 sonnar…some of the images I’ve seen from the Nokton 35/1.2 here seem like it might be as close as I can get…thoughts?

  51. I have the Sonnar and the 1.2 Mk2. The VC seems far more clinical than the soft feel (Not the focus but you know what I mean) of the Sonnar

  52. Hi Steve,
    I read Your pages over and over again. Great pages! Got me back to Leica and M.

    Just bought a M9 in mint condition to use my 2001 lenses on it.
    Today I received the Nokton 35 mm. I just have the trouble, that the focusring sometimes can be turned to 0,7meters and next Time to 1,5meters. I have to Take the Lens of Camera and back again to reach to 0,7meters again. There is a mechanical stop at 1,5 meters sometimes and next Time at 0,7 meters,
    Any suggestions??? Shell I send back the lens or keep it?
    Sharpness is great with my M9!

    Roland

    • To me that lens sounds faulty. I have no mechanical stop on mine except at 0.7. Be careful in case it is fouling on the shutter assembly!!

      • Hi Rich,

        I spoke to the dealer and to Voigtländer. Will send the lens back and get another one! The lens has to go to Japan to get fixed. Don´t want to wait 4-6weeks. So I get a new one.

  53. I’m pretty excited: just got one on an online auction, warranty last for another year. For 830 bucks!! Can’t wait to (hopefully) pick it up this Saturday in Zurich! ,-)

  54. Steve,
    I know that your review is almost 2 years old but I want to share my personal experience ….bad experience with this lens. I’ve tested two brand new Nokton 35mm 1.2 v II lenses on my M9P recently and both of them were worst than vesion I. There were horrible.
    1. Both with forward focus issue (first with 3cm and second 5-6cm on 1m – on distance about 7-10m it was ~1m ff!)
    2. Shapeness on 1.2 or 1.4 was…I can’t call it sharpeness. Here in Poland we call this kind of lenses as soap lenses. Apertures less than 2f are unusable for me.
    3. Zeiss Biogon 35 2.0 is much much sharper on f2 than CV Nokton on f2. With 150$ less I can get sharp, superb singature and half-size half-weight Biogon.

    All who want to buy Nokton 35mm 1.2 II – please take my advice – try it first then buy or not.

    • I 100% guarantee you that the problem is with your M9, NOT the lens. I have seen this at least 300 times where poeple blame the lenses. It is the RF in your camera that is off and it will not show with all lenses. I have shot with 6 different 35 1.2 II lenses, all sharp at 1.2. Shot them on the M8, M9, M, Sony A7 and A7r, no issues. The M cameras go out of whack after some time and need to be adjusted yearly. Many do not realize this and many refuse to believe it, but the Zeiss will do fine where the 1.2 may not. But it is the camera, not the lens as this lens rivals Leica 35 1.4 ASPH FLE.

      • I cannot argue with you because your experience beats mine thousand times or more :-) But…I’ve tested also Cron 35, Biogon 35, Lux 50 1.4 and Zeiss 50 1.5 in the same time. Do you think it’s camera problem when all those lenses were fine and there was only VC problem?
        If yes, then I’ll try calibration magic…

  55. “Vigentting?” ?!

    … Is it a new feature or caracteristic of this lens or perhaps a collapse of neurasthenic fingers on the keyboard plus a strabismus, digital stress inducted?

  56. I love these images! The image of the pigeon attacking his head is hilarious!

  57. Hi Steve. Does the shade stay on without the ugly looking tightening screw (better or worse compared to Zeiss ZM 35mm 2.0 and 50mm 2.0 lens shade)?

  58. I’ve just got the lens and paired it with Sony a7. Result? Superb!

    Thanks for your review :)

    • I’ve had it for a while and I am using it currently also on the a7. I love it a lot. Only the file the a7 produces are a bit big (got to wire my computer, my pics are on my NAS and I am connected via Wifi for the time being). I did just upload a couple of pics with the a7 and different lenses (picasaweb.org/dbaechli). The albums Baden (latest one) and L’Amour – Deesse are with the 35. By the way: I also love the 21mm 1.8 Ultron on the a7!! Hopefully I can also test the 12 and 15mm lenses. But that might happen only in January, when I am -hopefully- heading to Liwa Desert. Not sure about the vignetting/colour those wide angles will show.. B&W should be fine, I reckon.. – or I’ll just call it “style” ,-)

  59. I am thinking of this lens or the ZM 35mm F/2 on Sony’s A7. Could Steve please provide some of your opinion?

    Thank you !!

  60. The following link takes you to my short summary of the Sony a7 with different lenses mounted (FE 35mm & 55mm, Voigtländer 35mm 1.2 II, 21mm 1.8, 15mm 4.5 and 12mm 56).

    http://debartch.tumblr.com/post/72672846403/sony-a7-voigtlander-and-sony-zeiss-fe-lenses

  61. hi, Steve:
    follow your site very day, finally I received the Sony a7 and first lens Voigtlander 35 f1.2 II from B&H for two weeks now, but the four corner visible dark until stop down f5.6, is it normal or not for this com? please advice.
    thanks
    Steven

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