Jun 192013
 

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The Voigtlander 50 1.5 Aspherical VM Lens Review

Man oh man oh man! If you are someone who has been reading this website for the past few months then you know I have been doing refresh reviews on different Leica mount 50mm lenses from old to new to obscure gems from the 50′s. From the Zeiss Planar and Sonnar to the old classic Canon 50 1.8 LTM to the 50 Summicron and Summarit, 50 Summilux ASPH to the crazy Canon 50 0.95 and Canon 50 1.2! Yep,  I love me a good 50mm lens. Can you tell?

The Voigtlander 50 Nokton ASPH VM Lens on the M240 at 1.5

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and one in B&W wide open on the 240

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The 50mm focal length is a very popular choice and that is probably one reason why there are so many 50mm lenses that are in existence. There are so many good choices it is hard to pick just “one” but the good news is there is a stellar 50 for almost any budget or camera system.

For example, the Leica 50 Summicron is a legend..a classic. It has been in production for well over 50 years and even today is considered a gem, and to be honest, it is one of my top 3 lenses for the Leica M 240. It is sharp, contrasty and also has the most extreme 3D separation I have seen in a lens. It is not creamy or dreamy but instead sharp and classic all at the same time. The 50 Summicron is still made today and comes in at $2295 (or less), and honestly, it is all the lens you would ever need with a Leica rangefinder if you want to keep it simple.

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Many go for the 50 Lux ASPH for their Leica due to the cult status but the cron will always perform. No vignetting, no distortion, no focus shift, color that pops, super sharp and classic bokeh, all with fantastic build. The Lux ASPH is $3995, NOT cheap and it will have some CA in certain situations (purple fringing) but it is really the ultimate when it comes to a cost no object 50mm f/1.4 lens design.

Bokeh example at f/1.5

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Even at $2295, the cron is expensive for a 50 f/2 lens. The Zeiss Planar competes with the Leica Summicron head to head and comes in at around $900, and is well worth that cost. While it does not have the build of the cron, or the signature look, it does have its own look with bold Zeiss color that is warm and rich, good sharpness and 3D separation and no focus problems. Made in Japan, the Zeiss ZM line is beautiful and provides great performance for much less than the Leica counterparts.

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But as much as I love most of the  50′s that I have tested there is a new kid on the block from Voigtlander, the new classic inspired 50 1.5 ASPH in Leica M mount, or “VM mount” which is what Voigtlander calls their Leica mount line of lenses and guess what? It is yet another 50mm lens for Leica mount that I just had to test.

Wide Open Character of the 50 Nokton 1.5 ASPH

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Voigtlander have introduced this new lens after discontinuing the old Screw Mount version some time ago. That old lens was well reviewed and liked but it did have a flaw or two. Namely, it was not M mount and needed an adapter to mount to an M camera which is fine, but a full-out M mount would have been ideal.  It also had a minimum focus distance of 0.9 meters instead of the .7 of modern Leica glass. It also had wonky Bokeh at times but overall, for the price, it was a fantastic lens that many raved about as being equal to the Leica 50 Summilux pre-asph.

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With the new version, Voigtlander went back to the 1950′s for the design and created what I feel is one hell of a gorgeous lens in chrome and a pretty handsome one in black. When I saw the images of these lenses I knew I drooled a little and then knew I had to give it a shot, and if I loved it, keep one in chrome as that is a limited edition from Voigtlander and to my eyes and brain, the best looking of the two options.

The focus point is very sharp. Wide open there is only softness in the corners with the Nokton, which goes away by f/2

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Voigtlander has been on a roll lately. They now have the beautiful 35 1.2 II, the worlds fastest 35mm lens, and by that I mean Aperture speed. The 35 1.2 II is a VERY nice lens that renders in a beautiful way. It competes with the Leica 35 Lux but is even faster with a 1.2 vs 1.4 aperture though it is huge for a 35mm lens and does not have the micro contrast of the Leica lens, which is a true masterpiece but damn expensive at $4500. But the size, well, that can be a problem because for some shooters it is too large and bulky for every day use. Well, at least for me.

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I owned the 35 1.2 II and I grew tired of the size rather quickly but when I sold mine and then I missed the unique rendering the lens gave. In fact, I find that most Voigtlander glass gives a similar style of rendering, just as Leica glass and Zeiss glass does. This new 50 keeps that look but brings it up a notch with what I feel may be better color performance than older Voigtlander glass. Either way, Voigtlander has some jewels in their line and I wanted to know if this new 50 was indeed one of them. I suspected that it just might be, or at least I said “It better be” ! Lots of hype has surrounded this release.

Wide open

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When it comes to image quality and lenses, I usually I rate Leica as #1, Zeiss ZM as #2 and Voigtlander as #3. Leica is super crisp and has amazingly good micro contrast, the best you can get in a lens. I can spot a shot taken with a modern Leica M lens just due to the color, crispness and micro-contrast.

Zeiss is easy to spot as well because the ZM line, when used on a Leica body, will  give us that amazingly warm color and rich 3D presentation. Some think it goes over the top with that and many also think the build/durability of the Zeiss ZM line lacks a little. I can agree to that as well (the build does not match Leica).

Then we have Voigtlander…

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Voigtlander has been around a long time and the 1st lens I owned of theirs was the little 35mm f/2.5 pancake that I used on the Epson RD-1. I LOVED that lens and I have photos taken with that setup that rival my M8 and M9 shots for tonality and quality. I have reviewed quite a few Voigtlander lenses from the 50 1.1 Nokton to the 35 1.2 II low light monster to the 21 1.8 wide angle and I always really like the lenses but usually I do not LOVE them enough to plunk down my cash. I usually find something “missing”, which is a side effect of using the worlds best lenses..authentic modern Leica M lenses.

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But Voigtlander has some jewels as I have already stated. A lens like the 35 1.2II is one of those as is the little 35 f/2.5 and old Nokton 1.5.

So they have some good lenses and they also have some stellar lenses that rival Leica’s own German-made optics. The main differences is in the micro contrast when it comes to Voigtlander vs Leica. Other than that, Voigtlander glass is a HUGE bang for the buck for any Leica owner. Spent all of your cash on your Leica M body? Then go for a Voigtlander lens and know you have a capable and well made lens.

But this new 50 1.5…So I thought…“Hmmm, maybe this new Nokton is one of those Voigtlander Jewels”. I was excited to see.

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I fell in love with the style, the build, the chrome as well as the legend of the original 50 Nokton 1.5, which is  a lens I have never even used! So I was pretty excited and had high hopes with this lens. I placed a pre-order through Stephen Gandy at CameraQuest.com and I was able to be one of the 1st to get the lens in my hands just last week. Ever since it has been glued onto my M 240, which is the combo that has taken every shot you see in this review.

Voigtlander 50/1.5 Nokton Leica M mount Aspherical Specs

Leica M Mount – No adapter needed for your M

Close Focus .7 Meter – YES!

5 Groups, 6 elements

Filter size is 49mm

f/1.5 to f/16

Black or Chrome. The chrome is a brass lens. Nice.

Metal Lens Hood and metal lens cap (for the hood) included

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Now that I have spent some time with it I can state that I adore this lens! It is NOT perfect but that is quite OK with me as I do not need “perfection”, I enjoy a bit of character with my images :)

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Wide open this lens is sharp but vignettes slightly and has soft corners..but I LOVE that about the lens. Stop it down to f/2 and the slight vignette and soft corners are gone. So wide open you get a classical/modern rendering and stopped down we get sharpness and the Voigtlander smoothness. No harshness with this lens at all. Contrast is about in the middle, not too low and not too high.

If you hate vignetting when shooting wide open, then this lens is not for  you. The Leica 50 Lux ASPH does not Vignette BTW but will set you back $3200 more.

The only image in this review with extensive PP. Basically some contrast and shadow enhancement. M 240 and 50 Nokton at f/2.8 or f/4 – Not sure which one :)

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In fact, speaking of Leica lenses, this 50 Nokton reminds me of a certain Leica lens! That lens is one I had a few years ago in a special black paint edition..the 50 Summilux Pre-Asph latest version that focused to .7 meters. If I had to pick a lens that this new Nokton rendered the most like, it would be that Leica lens. That Leica lens happens to sell for $2500-$3000 when it goes up for sale so you can get much of that flavor for $899 with the Nokton. Pretty incredible.

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The Nokton also comes with a metal hood, unlike the Zeiss ZM line of lenses and the cheaper Summarit Leica line of lenses. That is a good thing. It also comes with an all metal front cap that fits over the hood. For $899 (black version) this is a lens any Leica M owner or mirrorless camera owner should seriously consider.

Wide open sharpness

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The Nitty Gritty…

Sharpness, Vignette, Distortion Test

I set up my trusty tripod and took a shot of my back wall. Since this is a lens review and I noticed some slight barrel distortion from the lens using it wide open and up close I decided to see just how bad it was.

You can see the distortion here (the post was not bent) – shot at 1.5 and up close. If I stopped the lens down or backed up, this would not be visible. 

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more…

As you can see below (and you can click them for larger versions) when using the lens wide open at f/1.5 you will get some vignetting and a little bit of barrel distortion. The distortion is only noticeable when up close and shooting wide open or close to it. The corners sharpen up at f/2 and more so at f/2.8. Wide open there is some softness to them.I was up close to the wall so the distortion is at its worst in the 1st shot.

See for yourself. The images below are labeled and range from f/1.5 to f/5.6

See the CA (purple fringing)  in the 1st two shots? Well that is not a problem with the lens, it is inherit in ALL fast lenses on Leica digital bodies. The 50 Lux has it, the 35 Lux has it and the Noctilux is the worst offender ever. It happens when shooting wide open fast glass against a harsh transition like the top of this fence. The high contrast from dark to light will do it every time. So this is not a Nokton issue, it would happen with every other fast lens on this camera or the M9. Leica does not correct in body for it like some other cameras do.

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Crazy Comparison: Fuji X-E1 and Zeiss Touit 32 1.8 vs M 240 and Nokton 50 1.5 ASPH

OK, since I have a Fuji X-E1 and Zeiss Touit 32 1.8 Lens here I figured “Why not, could be fun”. Since the Zeiss 32 1.8 is just about a 50mm equivalent and pretty close to the Nokton 50 1.5 I decided to see just how close this Fuji is to slaying the M240 and a lower end 50mm lens. So many Fuji owners tell me their X-Pro and X-E1 give better output than any Leica M and lens, so let us see how it goes.

I call it Crazy for two reasons. 1st: The Leica M and 50 Nokton is an $8000 set. The Fuji X-E1 and Zeiss is about an $1800 set. A difference of $6200. The Leica should win easily and by a large margin for that kind of cash, but we know it is not a $6200 difference. Those of us who shoot Leica do it for more than the IQ that it brings. We shoot it for the RF experience as well as shooting with a finely crafted tool. With that said, the Leica M is indeed more enjoyable to use and shoot, that is not even a question for me. But lets see the images! Remember, just for fun guys and girls :)

Set #1: The Leica M 240 with 50 at 1.5 vs the Fuji and Zeiss Touit at 1.8 – click them for larger and 100% crop

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EEK! To me this one is no contest. The Leica wins EASILY. The Leica/Nokton image is much more pleasing, the Bokeh more pleasing and the color more pleasing. It looks like a Leica image. The rendering, the pop, the detail. The Fuji looks like a Fuji shot. An APS-C sensor shot and the Bokeh from that Touit is quite nervous IMO.

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Set #2 – Same as above, Both wide open

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Ok, color differences extreme here. Also, you can see the vignette of the Nokton here. If you click on the images to see the real versions you will see teh silky smoothess of the Leica shot vs the sort of harsh rendering of the Fuji. BUT! The Fuji has no vignette, and has the accurate color. The Leica shot is more pleasing to my eye and has that glow. Fuji wins on the technical side but Leica on the pleasing side.

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Set #3 – B&W Portrait – wide open at 1.5

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Both cameras and lenses do great here. When you click on them and look at the real photos you will see the Leica signture. Smooth, some glow, big bad bokeh which shows the difference between APS-C and full frame. With APS-C we have to use shorter focal lengths for an “equivilant” of 50 which leads to MORE Depth of Field. You can see this in the shot above. Some parts of me prefer the rendering and the B&W conversion from the Leica, and others prefer the Fuji here. If you like the APS-C look, you will prefer the Fuji look. Both are nice.

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Set #4

The Swan

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This one is much closer but when clicking the images and looking at them in their larger size it is easy to pick the Leica/Nokton shot. It is just more pleasing to the eye..more “wow”. Not that this is a “wow” shot but it shows what a good lens can do to a scene, just as the shots above have shown. For me, another win for Leica/Nokton. Remember though, this Leica combo is much more expensive! When you view these larger you will see the flatter looking Fuji file vs the one from the M 240.

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Set #5

Goes to show that the color of the M 240 is just fine :) 

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This time it is closer. But the Fuji is missing the glow and magic of the Leica shot above it, and this is using the ‘cheaper” Voigtlander lens. The M shot has more life, a more 3 dimensional feel and again, less DOF.The Fuji file is flat here.

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So to me, this is no contest at all. Shooting both cameras side by side with a 50 on the Leica and a 50 Equiv on the Fuji was fun but the Leica was MUCH more enjoyable to use as it just has a way of inspiring you to shoot. It has a feel, a heft, a sound as well as a way that draws you into it. The Voigtlander 50 Nokton ASPH makes for a fine companion, even as a one lens kit. This little gem will be glued to my M for a while.

Full size sample

Below is a full size sample from the 50 at f/4 – just click it for full size download. Focus was on the boys face.

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I recommend this lens easily. 

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WHERE TO BUY!?!?

Buy it at Cameraquest in CHROME or BLACK - They offer FREE USPS Express Next Day ship and have a few chrome in stock RIGHT NOW with next shipment coming in July.

B&H Photo also sells it in Black or Chrome.

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My Bottom Line Conclusion on the 50 1.5 Nokton VM

When I 1st opened the box of this lens I smiled. When I saw that old school chrome on brass build I was very happy as I am a huge fan of classic glass as I feel you do not need to spend a fortune to have a lens that takes great photos. I think that sometimes we get caught up in buying the latest and greatest and I have been just as guilty of that as the next guy but in my older age (43) I feel that I am starting to see the pleasure of shooting a lens like this Voigtlander with my Leica M.

If I can not take a good picture with this lens, I can not take one with any other 50mm. Period. A Summilux or Noctilux will not make me an instant artist or make me see with magical eyes, but they will put their Leica mojo onto the images with their unique rendering or “draw”, which is exactly what this Voigtander Nokton will do as well, just in its own flavor that some will love and some will not.

With this Nokton classic you will get a smooth rendering about on par with the old Leica 50 Summilux Pre ASPH and in reality, it is just as sharp as the Lux ASPH wide open at the focus point. Smooth, sharp –  yet not clinical, some classical looking Bokeh and medium contrast. The corners are soft at 1.5 and there is some slight barrel distortion if shooting wide open up close. By f/2 this lens gets really sharp and by 2.8 it is as sharp as you could ever need.

The lens provides good color reproduction though it is different from Leica and Zeiss. It has its own “Voigtlander Style”. There will be some CA in high contrast situations when used wide open, but that goes for any Leica fast lens as well..Lux, Noctilux, etc.

At $899 for the black version, it is a steal of a deal. It is a small, compact 49mm filter thread FAST 50mm that is a great performer. Amazing images can be made with this lens, and while it does not offer the biting “perfection across the frame” of the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH, it is over $3000 less expensive, which is quite amazing. If I were buying this lens though, and I did,  I’d go with the Chrome Limited edition and it will go up in value so no need to worry about another lens in your collection to lose money on one day. Keep it for a few years and it will be an in demand item.

As for the Nokton vs the Zeiss Planar or Sonnar, two fast 50′s in the same price range, they offer totally different renderings as well as a different BUILD. The Voigtlander is built MUCH better than the Zeiss ZM line, at least the Chrome version is. Makes the ZM Planar feel like a toy and the Planar has had issues with the focus barrel loosening over time. Still, the Zeiss Planar is a super lens and comes in at $850 or so. The Sonnar is $1100 and has focus shift issues and a 1m min focus distance, but has a gorgeous rendering when you nail it. I would say the best bang for the buck would be the 50 Zeiss Planar ZM if an f/2 lens is good enough for what you need. If you want a more classic look with a tad faster performance and much nicer build and feel, the Nokton rocks it.

Am I disappointed in the Vignetting and distortion when used wide open? Slightly, but if the lens did not have these things it would be 99% of the 50 Lux ASPH. That would just be too good to be true :) You have to decide if these things are worth $3000 to you. If so, then spring $4000 for the Lux APSH and call it a day.

I love the Nokton 1.5 and I also ADORE my M 240. I still stick with my initial verdict, it is the best digital M to date, hands down no contest and while in a perfect world the M 240 would have a 50 Summilux ASPH glued  on to it, the Nokton is a nice workable alternative at  1/4 the price.

Steve

I will leave you with a few more shots from this gorgeous little lens! Enjoy!

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  89 Responses to “The Voigtlander 50 1.5 Aspherical VM Lens Review”

  1. Steve, I really love the way you exude enthusiasm and accuracy – both in your photos and your reviews. Thanks for this one, and i have a question: What about trying it on a NEX 6 or earlier (not 7) with an adapter and giving us some feedback? That would be much appreciated. John.

  2. Oh man! This sounds awesome, pretty good examples. Good deal for the pricetag! I really appreciate that Voigtlaender continues to release new products for M-Mount.
    http://insidetheframelines.blogspot.com/

  3. PS to my question. It comes partly because I have a sudden opportunity to buy a Ricoh GXR with A16 very cheap. Could always add the M module (only 12 MP, though versus Nex 16, and I already have a C3). Would that be a better way to go? Hope it is OK to ask and that the questions may be of interest to others stimulated by your review.

  4. Is it just me os does anyone else see some significant barrel distortion and significant purple fringing with this lens? The distortion seems pretty bad for a 50mm lens, and I see it not only in the photos of the brick wall, but also the regular subjects like the Bed and Breakfast sign, the building behind the Keep out sign, and even the carriage. The purple fringing is brutal wide open with the brick wall, and I see what looks like a blue vignette in the goat picture and around the out of focus arm in the bird photos.

    Sure it is much cheaper, but really no comparison to the 50mm summilux aspherical.

    • Bernd … your advise to anyone not being able to afford a New Lux Asph is to stop photography altogether or what is your point? Really dont get these kinds of comments.

      • The Nokton is a fantastic lens but as I said, not a 50 Lux ASPH as it is not perfect. It has soft corners wide open, vignettes wide open and has some distortion wide open up close but as you can see, is still capable of taking lovely photos. As I also said, if you cant take a good picture with this lens, you cant take one with a Leica lux either. $3200 less for the Nokton makes it a grand slam home run alternative. WHat Bernd forgot to mention is almost every Leica lens has some CA, some light (Summarit series) and some really bad (Noct). It’s a fast lens/digital sensor thing. Thanks for reading!

      • In the real world Bernd one does not take photos of cinder blocks and obsess over things that are meaningless.And as already stated it is an effect of ANY large aperture lens wide open including the Summilux. Look at the beautiful rendering of the lens, and do not photograph brick walls. For architecture, use f8 so you have more depth of focus and no CA.

    • Was thinking the same. Has the classic Voigtlander CA. The extra cost of the Lux 50 Asph goes a long was to virtually eliminate CA. It’s worth the extra cost if you need professional results.

      • The 50 Lux ASPH has CA at 1.4, so does the 35 Lux ASPH. All fast Leica lenses do but all show up in extreme situations where there are edges and light to dark – contrast. CA is everywhere in all fast lenses on digital M’s as they do not correct in camera for it like DSLR’s do.

    • There is slight barrel distortion. I stated this in the review and stated it is when you are close to your subject wide open. Also, it has no more CA than the Leica 50 Lux ASPH or 50 Noct ASPH, the Noct has much more actually. The Lux is about the same. In that situation, which is a torture test for CA at the edge of the wall, 97% of leneses will show it. It’s not a lens thing, it is a Digital thing. CA is a fact of life in some shots with any lens on the M9 or M and most digital.

      But Barrel Distortion is indeed there when shooting close up wide open, which is odd for a 50. The Leica 35 Summarit 2.5 has more but its a 35, not a 50. Still, you do not see it in the tomb shot, yet that was wide open. That is because I was farther back than the minimum focus distance. The Bordello sign was put up tyo show worst case distortion and when you will see it.

      But all was written.

      • Steve, you did write it in your review, agreed. And sorry but I was talking about the Tombstone bed and breakfast sign, not the actual tombstone. I did not mean to be harsh on a very affordable lens. And no, people who cannot afford a Leica 50mm summilux should not stop photography. I couldn’t afford Leica lenses for many years, and a lot of my colleagues do great work without them. What I will say is that CA with the 50mm lux aspherical is nowhere near as extreme in any circumstance as with this lens and that it is very expensive to manufacture a lens to the standards of some of the new Leica lenses. So dear Douzn Media, my comments are not directed at anyone who cannot afford the 50lux aspherical. What I am saying is that someone who already owns the 50lux aspherical (Steve?) really does not need this lens, and I am saying this with a friendly smile on my face as a fellow lens addict, not with serious criticism.

        • No worries at all but correction: The worst CA I have seen in any lens, ever has been from the $11,000 Leica Noctilux ASPH (see my review of that lens to see examples) and it was much worse than with the SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 T 0.95 that minimal CA. The 50 Lux ASPH also has it in those situations where you will get it – harsh contrasts from light to dark..tree branches against the sun, walls against the sun, metal fences, etc. The CA argument is not valid as it shows up in almost every Leica fast lens.

  5. All these minor issue are so easily fixed in LR if you know what you’re doing. Personally I have always been a fan of the Voigtlander lenses, the bang for the buck is untouchable.

  6. I thought I saw a lot of purple fringing too. It was distracting. No doubts about it. It seemed like every highlight was purple… However, the rendering is beautiful. The distortion does not bother me that much. It seems to only really be there wide open and at close to moderate distances.

    The portrait of your finance really indicates the DOF advantage of a FF camera. Her hair is glowing in the M shot with critical sharpness on the eye. Really like this lens.

    This lens would prob be AWESOME on film. Maybe getting rid of some of those purple highlights.

    The DOF difference is what sticks out here most of all. I don’t see a $6200 difference jumping off the screen in terms of resolution, and color is simply preference (PP can neutralize most differences), the M looks better but not worth that money. However, the Fuji files are definitely flatter which I think is just inherent to APS-C sensors.

    Makes me want to save for a full frame. Man I wish Leica’s were more affordable, but they got to protect that profit margin.

  7. This 50 comparison is becoming a classic fast! Thanks Steve! I really like Zeiss glass, despite the occasional CA and distortion.

  8. looks like a nice classical lens rendering

  9. Steve, thanks for this review. The images are quite lovely. I own a 50 Summilux ASPH (that is a bit out of alignment) but it would be nice to have a 50mm lens like this as well. I love the perfect style rendering that 50 Summilux ASPH offers, but I also love classic (imperfect) as well, it just has more character. Your review shows further evidence that classic style rendering does wonders for both the M Monochrom and the M 240.

  10. I just picked up this baby in Bangkok today and I’m in love. I agree it’s so similar to the Summilux pre-asph E46, and that’s such a great thing. It’s deisgn is gorgeous and having the chance to compare the chrome to the black, the black does feel cheap in comparison, but the legibility of the numerals is much better. The chrome is difficult to read but looks stunning, albeit, a bit too shiny IMHO. Thanks for the review Steve, well done.

  11. Steve, could you shoot the Nokton on the X-E1? Would be a fun exercise. :)

    • If I had an adapter I would. Do not own one as I never owned a Fuji X body. I will be bringing it all to Palouse so maybe someone there will have one. I will ask Ashwin if he still has his adapter. :)

      • I have the Fuji M Adapter… but I’m still disappointed that Voig 35 f/1.2 II does not work with it!!! it’s very close, but no. Supposedly the new 50mm will so I may have to place a order for it.

        • I have an X-E1 with the official Fuji M adapter and it works just fine with this new Voigt 50mm f/1.5 Aspherical

  12. Another thing, this comparison shows that, whatever they may tell you, there is no substitute for full frame (or a viewfinder).

  13. This lens has “slight barrel distortion”, in the 0.45% range, according to Pop Photo in the 2000 test. The then-current Summilux (Pre-ASPH) was also described as having “Slight barrel distortion”. The rare and expensive 50/1.2 Noctilux Asph is described as having “pronounced barrel distortion”. The Nokton prodded Leica into the 50/1.4 Aspheric.

    Also- Barrel distortion is easily corrected in Lightroom, knowing the amount of error makes it even easier. 0.45%.

    • Thanks for the info. I wonder if that figure is the same for this version as it seems to be different due to the filter size. I never did shoot the previous version though have always heard nothing but hood things about it.

  14. Very pleasant rendering but that highlight color fringing is an absolute deal breaker. Yes can be fixed in post but…

  15. Steve, thanks for the review. I really like what I see here – the Nokton has indeed ‘classical’ rendering character – in particular in the OOF areas, but still plenty sharp in focus even wide open. On the other had – probalby thanks to a bit slower speed, more harsh rendering and APSC the X-E1 with the Zeiss looks so much less interesting than the Nokton on M240. And this is not easy for me to admit as I am big fan of Zeiss lenses.

    The Nokton just could have had a little bit less CA wide open.

    Is there any chance for a comparison to other M mount 50mm lenses?

    • Well most 50 Leica M lenses have been reviewed here and are in the Leica Review section. 50 Cron, 50 Lux, 50 Noct (old and new) 50 Summarit (old one and new one), 50 Summitar and a slew of others from Zeiss and classic Canon lenses. All are different and all have their pros and cons. Even the old 50 1.8 LTM from Canon gave me great results for $300 but it had a different look to the others as well. I have seen CA with all of them though in the right circumstances. Some really bad, some not as bad. As for comparing them all with the same shot, I have no way to do so as i do not have all of those 50′s right now. Thanks for reading!

  16. Barrel distortion? Maybe in that one shot, the others do not show any barrel distortion but it is the plane of focus that is curved. Very noticeable, simply look at the ground! Unfortunately, this cannot be corrected in post. Still a lovely lens. But, why shoot wide open in so many shots that would have looked better closed down? Photography is not about DOF…

  17. I checked the front element of the 13-year old version- it is “about” 42mm in diameter. The 52mm filter was pretty much a standard for lens makers, worked out for me as I have a full set of Nikon color filters for the 10.5cm F2.5. Mr. K had plenty of room for a 49mm front filter without making the front element smaller. Also checked the 60 year old Nokton: it has a 37mm diameter front element. Now I need to test both lenses on the Monochrom… If anyone comes across the original 1950s 50/1.5 Nokton: the filter size is the same as a Polaroid 180. Which gives me a set of color filters for it too.

  18. I own the LTM version of the 50/1.5 Nokton (same optics as the new one), and it is a great workhorse lens. I used it with B&W film, and the only thing that bothered me a little was the tendency to render far out of focus highlights with a bright edge wide open. It’s a little sharper than the classic 50 Summilux in the center, and the Lux deals with flare a little better.

    Here are a few shots with the LTM Nokton on a Leica M8, wide open or nearly so:
    http://gallery.leica-users.org/v/pklein/VacouverLugNov2012/L1009484.jpg.html
    (continue forward through L1009504.jpg)

    –Peter

  19. I know the comparison is difficult but do you believe that even Leica M8 CCD, although not FF, wins on Fuji’ Aps-C how does Leica M?

  20. Steve, I’ve read all your 50mm lens reviews, but for some reason the photos with this lens on the M just look the “happiest”. Not sure how to explain but this lens gives a very joyous mood to the scenes.

    Love the review – lots of great pictures and good assessment.

  21. Wow some people really knocking this lens because of the field curvature and CA. In terms of field curvature, for those wishing to shoot this lens wide open, that is exactly what adds character to the lens. Many criticise (including myself) the Lux Asph as being ‘boring’ because it’s field curvature is low for such a lens and it’s rendering is super smooth. That’s what people want, perfection…..then they say they want imperfection to allow for some character in the bokeh…..then they criticise the lens for having that.

    This lens was never meant to be a Lux ASPH. It’s meant to be more like the pre-asph, which Steve has already documented, and it does a fine job at doing just that, even at 3x the price.

  22. Hello Steve what happens with the page ? 5 minutes ago it said off line page https://si0.twimg.com/profile_images/3380316623/27f590eefc440f49eb69c521e7f09c68.jpeg

  23. If only they made a 35 like that. The 1.2 is way too big and bulky (and not nearly as sexy)

  24. Steve, I don’t know if I’m imagining it, but this set of real world test photos look outstanding.

    I guess it could be the awesome lens, but I suspect maybe you’re putting a little extra into your time with the M?

  25. Hi Steve,

    Nice 1st observation.
    Today I was in Amsterdam to look at the 75mm Heliar f/1.8 Classic and to my surprise the delaer had both the chrome and black 50/1.5 !…
    I confirm your observation, well build, smooth focus and less than 600 !!! Euro’s

    And what strikes me most of all…it’s the design (50 looks)…so much different from anything else…
    so this might be a ‘you like it or you don’t’ !

    Well as you say….even 3000-4000$ leitz lenses are not PERFECT…
    Put this in perspective….and understand how well the performance is of Vougtlander OUTSTANDING.

    You mentioned 80/85% of the performance of the 50 cron or lux.
    and for most of us that is more than enough.
    However in Mechanical and Optical manufacturing …..the last 10-15% are the Hardest !.
    Till 85 the cost are pretty linear, but after that it’s almost exponential ! that’s why the Lux go up
    to 4000….tolerance, glass, production etcc

    So as you say if you can take a good picture with the Nokton you can do it with the Lux as well.
    The only thing you have to define…do I need the extra 10-15%
    If not it’s only your EGO and/or WALLET which keeps you away from a 7000$ body with a 800$ lens, instead of a 7000$ body with a 4000$ lens.

    Leica-only people will not even consider something else than Leitz.
    Personally I like the mixture of different brands and character.

    I know someone who has 9 ….yes 9 50mm each with there own character, some 50$ and 30years old, some over 2000$….the character he wants to project in his particular shot.

    As said I was there for a 75mm Heliar 1.8
    I am in the middle of a similar strugle as with the 50mm

    600euro 75mm f/1.8 Heliar vs 2900euro 75mm Sumicron APO or 1500Euro 75mm Summarit…

    I think same story…replace 50 with 75 in your observation and it will be pretty much the same.

    The real surprise would be a 2000-3000 Euro Full-frame M-body from Cosina with these Voigtlander lenses !

    Bessa R3D?….. Epson R-D2? ……..Zeiss Ikon ZI2 ……. Contax G3D?

  26. The 35/1.7 Ultron ASPH introduced with the 50/1.5 Asph Nokton is the one to look for. It outperformed the Nokton in the 2000 Pop Photo tests. The 35/1.7 is small, and was recently reviewed here on Steve’s site. It was available in Black paint and chrome. I hope Mr. K brings it back as well, and glad I have one.

  27. Good review and pics. Thought you would find the Nokton a pleasure to use. For sure it is not a Summilux, but then it doesn’t anywhere near the same. Some of the Voigtlanders repersent a real bargain, not just in price. Maybe I should have waited for this new model, but the truth is I am very happy with my older version (the adapter converting to an M mount being hardly worth mentioning). I truly believe most people will find either model more then satisfactory.

    Thanks again Steve for the review and the efforts you put in maintaining a truly entertaining site.

  28. This’ll soon be up for sale I guess.

    • Hmmm. You guessed wrong. I am fond of my 50′s and have 5 of them here now. Summicron, Planar, Sonnar, Canon and this Voigtlander. The ones I like and do not cost a fortune, stay. The ones that I like and cost a fortune have to go after review..after all, that is why I buy the in the 1st place, to review for this site. Then they have to go.

      The ones I love that cost a fortune..they stay. But 85% of what I buy for review (as in, things not sent to me for review that i spend my own money on) have to be sold to fund the next round of review purchases. I guess some of you think I am rich or loaded with cash and can somehow keep all of these things I review :) I wish!

      This lens is a great mate for the M 240 which is what I will use 80% of the time on it.

  29. Steve, I don’t understand why you and other people in the previous comments have put in relation barrel distortion and wide open aperture…lens distortion does depend on aperture, it won’t go away by stopping down, am I wrong?

  30. Thanks for the review!

    I have to admit I am very tempted to purchase this lens. The only thing stopping me is the fact that I already own 3 50mm M-Mount lenses and I’m not sure I really need another. Well…of course I don’t “need” it. I should say I don’t know if I want another. hahaha.

    Very cool images though. You are definitely making this a tough decision.

  31. Hi Steve,
    A few years ago Voigtlander prices on the CameraQuest website started going up dramatically. 30-60% to increase for in-production items (eg 35 f1.2 from $839 to $1250, 35mm f2.5 P2 from ~$289 to 409) and 100-200+% increase on discontinued ones (eg 28 f3.5 from $200 to $600). This was blamed largely on the powerful Yen against the USD which was around that time peaking at 100Y to 1.35USD. Currently the JPY has fallen to about 100Y = 1.05$.

    The LTM 50mm Nokton was introduced at less than $300. I’m alarmed this version is triple the price (899$ from CQ) and it’s differences are a new barrel, new mount and perhaps a change to the formula. What’s going on?

    Can we expect the prices of CV/ZM stuff to decrease?

    Thanks!

    • Are you saying they should sell this lens for $300? That would be insane and a stupid decision on their part as they would make no profit. All lenses have gone up every year in recent years. Sony, Leica, Voigtlander, Zeiss, etc. Why? The prices of the glass have gone way up for them so that means they have to raise the prices. That is a fact.

      But at $899, this lens is a STEAL and well worth the cost. At $4000, the Leica 50 Lux is..well..a Leica.

  32. The original list price of the 50/1.5 Asph Nokton was $839 in July 2000, the 35/1.7 Ultron Asph was also list price $839. “Street price” in 2000 was just under $500. So how many Leica prices have dropped in the past 13 years? I was very happy to pick up a used Ultron for $300 and a used 50/1.5 Nokton for $400. Great lenses.

  33. Surely the time is right for them to make a small digital camera body in the 2000€ range………How about a competition for camera designs to maybe give them a push,maybe demonstrate the level of interest.A people’s camera!!

  34. I think voigtlander has been very impressive these few years. They have improved their lenses line significantly and must be considered as one of the options when one is to buy rangefinder lenses. Cost of their lenses is also a huge plus.

    However I have not managed to try one out yet, but I am overly curious to see how it would suit my taste. From all the lenses of the 50mm I had, 50 LUX ASPH, 50 Cron, 50 Lux pre-asph, 50 noct F1, 50 nokton 1.1, and the 50 summarits and collapsible summicrons, the one I’m stuck with is the zeiss 50/1.5 sonnar. It’s just sings to me.

  35. hello Steve, would you say the bokeh of this lens is nice? I found it creamy in the goat shots but it can get very busy (lots bright dots) when there’s trees at the background (especially the shot of a blue-shirted man holding a bird). bit confused here.

    • I find the busy bokeh is a rendering style of Voigtlander. I think it’s great and works well as an opposite feel to the smoothness of a Leica lens. Almost like paint dabs.

  36. Why waste time in $ 8000 cameras? Those buyers don’t need the website “discovering them.”

  37. That chrome is far too shiny. Saw it in the flesh today, and it made me think of cheap bling, which it is not. I much prefer the more silky silver used by Leica for their “chrome” versions, or by Cosina for their ZM Zeiss line. This Nokton is “over the top” chrome. It is like a mirror. It will not match Leica M chrome bodies or the Fuji XE1. Maybe that is how the 50′s Voigtlanders were made (never seen a “real” Nokton), but it ain’t for me. The rest of the design is beautiful retro-chic. The black version is a bit drab but more tempting for me…

  38. I just compared my 1950s Voigtlander 50/1.5 Nokton with the Leitz Summar, Canon 50/1.5, Zeiss-Opton 50/1.5, and Nikkor 5cm F1.4. The base of the Summar- shiny chrome, aperture ring is satin. The Zeiss, anon, Nikkor 5cm F1.4- shiny like the Nokton. Most 1950s lenses in chrome were shiny, The Leica Summicron being he exception: it was more of a satin finish.

    Now for performance- the new Nokton retains the optics of the LTM version, and is a fantastic lens.

  39. Which one is better, 50mm f/1.1 or 50mm f/1.5 Asph?

  40. I use the 50/1.5 more than the 50/1.1, use the latter when I need the speed. Size, weight, ease-of-use. The 50/1.1 is all-spherical optics, and suffers from focus shift: but no more than a C-Sonnar 50/1.5 or classic Sonnar 5cm F1.5. The 50/1.1 is much sharper than the older Canon 50/0.95, and I could never see the need for converting either one of mine to M-Mount after getting the 50/1.1 Nokton.

    On the 50/1.1 Nokton: the lens was optimzied for Film cameras, as the maker does not sell digital. I used one layer of Copper tape on the RF cam of the lens to optimize it for the digital Leicas.

  41. I can’t wait to get mine. Ordered it from CameraQuest along with the 50mm 3.5 Heliar (!). I definitely have 50mm GAS! I’m looking forward to doing some side by side tests soon. I must admit, I’m not sure which aspect made me want to purchase more – the IQ of this lens (which seems to justify the purchase anyway), or the retro beauty and build aspect. Compared to the plastic-fantastics being made today, there is something heirloom about these newest-oldest lenses. A $1000 lens that will perform sweetly in 50 years is far less ‘expensive’ than a $400 lens that will wear out in 3 years, or belong to a mount that will be obsolete in 5 years.

    Love your “real world” reviews and enthusiasm.

  42. very nice piece of glass with loads of ambition… all for a very nice price! Thx for the review :)

  43. Steve, I have a question about the new Nokton 50 1.5. I am a big fun of the classic Voigtlander Nokton 50 1.5, especially when it is with the rare, beautiful metal hood. I wonder if this lens works with the 49mm hood?

  44. I’d love to see a comparison between this and the Summilux 50mm ASPH

    • Well, I have to say the Summilux is a little crisper at 1.4 (slight) – has a different Bokeh effect and no distortion at all that is visible. Is it worth $3k extra? To some, yes. To some, no. All depends on your budget. For $899-$1099 this lens is fantastic.

  45. Hi Steve !! Nice review as always.
    I am a big fan, following you from 2009.

    I Have a question ? Would you trade a Used 50 Cron for this lens ?? I am wondering…

    I would love to get an extra speed in 50mm but would I miss this increbible leica Lens ?
    Would I get the same results at F 2.0 in term of sharpness ?

    In term of Price, I can still sell my Leica 50 Cron, buy the Voigth and get extra money (for ND filter ?) :)

    I don’t know…

  46. I have a question if you would be so kind to guide. Will the Leica M E recognize the Voigtlander 50 1.5 Aspherical if you leave the auto lens detection on the Menu. I understand the new Leica lenses are the 6-bit coded lenses—these have a series of white and black dots on the inside of the mount that the camera can read to identify the focal length and maximum aperture. Does the Viogtlander have the 6 bit code detection and if it doesn’t how can the Leica M E detect the lens? Thanks.

  47. Steve…

    I’ve got the 50 ‘cron and shoot film and its a gem. Would this Nokton provide a “look” worth the cost? Love that retro design, though

    • If you have the cron, you will probably not want this as well unless you want that look it gives. It is different than the cron but not a major difference. Cron is sharper.

  48. What Leica lens code have you been using for the Voightlander Nokton 50/1.5?

  49. I agree with Steve — Cron IS sharper. This lens is… dreamy … with mute colors and low contrast. The bokeh is not bad, but it’s not great either: http://www.flickr.com/photos/newyorkit/9685959671/

  50. Steve
    Your thoughts using this lens on an M6 Classic for B&W images
    Thanks!

  51. what would you think about this voigtländer vs the classic Leica Summicron-M f/2? I’m about to sell my 5D2 along with my 35 1.2 and two other lenses to go one step forward of getting into the Leica world :)

  52. what about choosing between an 1980′s summicron f 2.0 versus voigtlander asph 1.5? my budget it’s up to 900 us dollars. thanks for this fantastic review!

  53. Steve, how does it compare to Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar? Thanks.

    • Totally different lens. The Zeiss focuses to 1 meter (not as close), and gives a very dreamy classic look wide open. The Nokton is more like a 50 Lux than the 50 Zeiss. Both are great and have character.

  54. Nice comparison as usual, Steve. I had the previous LTM version for a while before letting it go and it was good and sharp but I wasn’t the biggest fan of the bokeh. Some folks love it. Now I have the 50 Lux ASPH and Rigid Summicron. One question I had was where that amazing landscape located? Unreal!

  55. Steve, thanks for the great review (as always!). I recently had a chat with a person from Cosina here in Japan. The reason why they had to change the coating with the new VM version is because the new version uses lead-free ‘eco’ glass in order to meet RoHS compliance. They simply could not use the LTM version’s coating since it was tuned for the lead glass. Colours go wrong if you use the coating made for lead glass on lead-free glass, vice versa. It was necessity, rather than improvement. Most lens manufactures use this kind of change as a marketing talk – “new coating modified for modern cameras”. EU’s RoHS law made virtually all the lens manufacturers shift from their lead glass to lead-free ‘eco’ glass, and they all had to change the coating. Some Nikon lenses like Ai 50/1.4S use different coatings between the early version and the late version because they had to change the glass to lead-free, but the flare resistance did not change.

    • Sometimes when they say they’ve changed the coatings for modern cameras, or digital cameras, it means that they have coated the back surface of the last element to stop it from causing reflections on the sensor.

  56. “The Leica 50 Lux ASPH does not Vignette BTW but will set you back $3200 more.”
    Not true.
    The 50mm Summilux ASPH has significant vignetting at f/1.4 and is noticeable all the to f/2.8 and is only completely gone by f/5.6.

  57. Hi Steve,
    great review. I just got Nokton 50mm F1.5 today and very excited to try it! ;-)

    Thanks for advise.

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