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.
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
The Voigtlander Nokton 35 1.2 II cream machine – smooth bokeh at 1.2. Click it for larger
On the Leica Monochrom – The Nikkor 36 1.8 wide open to see its unique character
and the Nokton
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)…