Old vs New – Wide open: Nikkor 35 1.8 LTM vs Voigtlander Nokton 35 1.2 II

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Old vs New – Wide open: Nikkor 35 1.8 LTM vs Voigtlander Nokton 35 1.2 II

Many of you have seen my post on the classic Nikkor 35 1.8 LTM rangefinder lens as used on the Leica Monochrom but what about in color? I was able to get a hold of a Leica M-E for a few days and decided to give the old Nikkor a spin with a color camera. WOW. What a surprise. Even without any coding it is doing very well on the M-E. This old 1950’s lens can really deliver in B&W and in Color and the best part is that it is TINY. Wide open, when focused correctly, it is sharp as can be but the out of focus rendering is very unique. Some will say it is busy, some will say it is odd but some will also say it is quite beautiful. I really enjoy the way this classic lens renders but when you can find one, it is not cheap. They usually sell for anywhere between $1500-$2000 depending on condition and if it comes with caps or a hood. My copy was $1600 without any caps or hood but was in EX condition. Overall the glass and lens looks new though the focus is a bit stiff with mine. Either way, this lens has achieved “legendary” status as a B&W lens.

BUT! I also feel it is worthy of its praise when shooting color. For some reason not many people have shot this lens on color film or on digital and I am not sure why because it is beautiful.

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This lens is indeed small but is not perfect. It has a long 1m minimum focus distance which is a limitation when shooting 35mm. So I was still not sure that this lens was a keeper for me as of this morning. Expensive, old, 1m min focus, busy bokeh..not so sure. Mainly due to the cost.

With those thoughts in my head rolling around it just so happened that today in the mail I received a Nokton 35 1.2 II from Stephen Gandy at Cameraquest. This lens is also considered a quite special lens in the rangefinder world. Fast, sharp, well made, and smooth creamy bokeh, It really can not be faulted. It has a super close 0.5 meter minimum focus distance and is sharp even wide open at f/1.2. The DOF is very thin and in many ways is like having a 35mm Noctilux. At $1399 it is quite the deal on the RF world for a new lens. I believe cameraquest has them in stock with free USPS Express next day shipping. I reviewed the Nokton well over a year ago on the M9 and loved it but always wanted to give it a spin on the Monochrom.

Seeing that I had the Nikkor 35 and the Nokton 35 I figured..“why not give them a quick wide open character shoot out”. I wanted to keep it simple and keep them both wide open to see the different looks each lens is capable of. Both of these lenses have a signature look, but this look is only achieved wide open. I asked my lovely girlfriend to take a walk to the park with me for a quick test.

See the results below and let me know which one YOU like. The old 1950’s classic or the new modern Nokton? The Nokton is cheaper by about $400-500, has a faster aperture at 1.2 and focuses quite a bit closer. It is also much larger. The Nikkor is tiny, is very rare and hard to find in LTM mount and has a look that is different from the Nokton. Which is better? I love both.

The old classic Nikkor Rangefinder Lens, the 35 1.8 (3.5cm 1.8) LTM mount with adapter. Click it for larger. Leica M-E. f/1.8

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The Voigtlander Nokton 35 1.2 II cream machine – smooth bokeh at 1.2. Click it for larger

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On the Leica Monochrom – The Nikkor 36 1.8 wide open to see its unique character

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and the Nokton

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So which lens character do you prefer? I am in love with both and the Nokton would rule the night with its 1.2 aperture and unique look while the Nikkor would rule when size and that classic feel would fit in. The Nikkor also has less contrast while the Nokton is more contrasty for sure. Either way, there is no shortage of amazing lenses out there to choose from. A few more below (a mix of both lenses)…

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18 Comments

  1. Great shots and good explanation. It helps decide which one, or both to buy. BTW, the model is gorgeous, what eyes, I could spend years looking at those eyes, like looking at the bottom of a lake trying to find out what is at the bottom.

  2. Well, you’ve now nearly sold me on the new Sony A7/r to pair it with the Voigtlander Nokton 1.2 II. I love the way this lens renders based on your shots. I suspect it’s going to be gorgeous on the A7 or A7r.

    • Fwiw, I rented the A7r and then decided that I liked the A7 with the Zeiss 55 a bit better (the improvement in AF on the A7 was noticeable). But I also got the Voigltander Nokton 35/1.2 II because of this post . . . love it.

  3. I’ve been watching for a wider super bokeh lens for a long time. The V Nokton looks like IT from these.

    Any chance of a larger set, with a few more full size files (and a few with NO development what so ever, IE OOC)? I’d love some more examples before jumping to any conclusions.

    I agree with others here. Loads of bokeh and nice small size from the Nikor, but way to busy for me (same reason I sold my Leica 50mm f/2 Cron).

    Thanks, Steve. this was a great comparison.

  4. There is something special about those old lenses and their “busy” backgrounds that I find add interest to the photo compared to modern clinically perfect lenses. But the Nikkor is overpriced for what it is, if the Nikkor was 1.4 and had a closer mfd it would have been the winner, but for what they are, I would buy the Nokton. I am a bit tired of obliterating the background, especially not needed for a 35mm, which I consider environmental portraits lenses. Besides, the 75mm, 85mm and 135mms already do this in aces.

  5. prefer the nikkor shots for portraits…the nokton appears clinical, almost harsh…prefer the nokton for everything else especially if you’re looking for contrast…

  6. You’ve just convinced me to cancel my Nokton sale. I’m a 50mm kind of guy a used the Nokton as a Summilux equivalent on my M8. Put it on sale as I moved to an M9 but I will keep it a little longer.

  7. The Nokton 35/1.2 is the clear winner here in my book. I find its rendering more focused and interesting. It isolated the subject more and blurred away the less important nice.

  8. The Cosina/Voigtlander Ultron 35/1.7 is the modern match-up to the Nikkor 3.5cm F1.8. It runs about the same price as the more common 3.5cm F2.5 in LTM, and less than the Canon 35/2 in LTM. After getting the Ultron, I sold off the Canon. I’ll have to try a “shoot-out” between the Nikkor and Ultron. The Ultron is Aspheric, and hard to beat for the size and cost.

  9. Very nice comparison Steve, I have the CV Nokton 35/1.2 V2 and I put up with the weight and size very well on my M9. It’s my low cost alternative to a 35 Lux which is just as big even if its better and more valuable. This lens and a Zeiss 50/2 Planar serve as my budget glass for the M9. I do prefer your results with the Nokton over the Nikkor, but the Nikkor would make a nice lightweight alternative.Thanks Steve

  10. Have the Nokton 35/1.2 v2 but never had the Nikkor. I hardly use the Nikon cause the weight, but if you want bokeh, I would choose the Nokton. Further I have all the types 35mm summicrons, and when biking I take the type IV because of its weight, for sharpness I prefer the asph. In the past I had the Voigtländer 1.4 but it lacked sharpness (like the pre-asph summilux) compared to the summicrons. So I’m still in favor of one of the summicrons (actually I like all types, type 1 especially for b&w).

  11. A comparison with the retro-style Voigtlander 35/1.4 SC would be interesting, as it’s also small, but much cheaper than the Nikkor.

    I have the 35/1.2, but don’t use it that often – it’s very heavy, and quite long, so unbalances M bodies. The hood is very hard to find too, and overpriced.

  12. Oh dear small and neat as the Nikkor is the bokeh is far too fussy for my taste! The Nokton however has a beautiful bokeh, well worth considering. Thanks for the comparison. By the way does your girlfriend ever get fed up being photographed!

  13. Nokton for me. The only thing the Nikkor is better is size. Everything else, I like the Nokton better. Also, I feel the Nokton is more special with a f1.2 aperture while still sharp wide open!

  14. Thanks for the comparison Steve. Size wise I like the Nikkor :-), rendering I prefer the Nokton, particulalry from a bokeh perspective.

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