The Voigtlander 35 1.4 SC Nokton Classic SC on the Leica M 240

SAMSUNG CSC

The Voigtlander 35 1.4 SC Nokton Classic on the Leica M 240

If you are looking for a fast 35mm but do not have a few grand to spare for a Leica Summilux 35 1.4 then there is good news, and there is bad news.

The GOOD news:

You can get a brand new lens, with warranty that is a 35mm f/1.4 full frame lens for your Leica M and it works quite good on the M 240. All for $600. 

The BAD news:

It is nothing like the new 35 Summilux ASPH FLE as it is a CLASSIC style of lens, soft wide open, flares and is low contrast with heavy vignetting at 1.4. Also has barrel distortion and slight focus shift. Pretty much the opposite of the Leica.

More GOOD news:

For double the cost of the 35 1.4 SC you can buy Voigtlanders EXCELLENT 35 1.2 II ASPH lens which gives the $5000 Summilux a run for its money. 

Classic Bokeh but even at 1.4 it is sharp, though not bitingly sharp like the 35 Lux ASPH FLE. But should it be at 1/10th the cost?

maskman

So depending on what you want in a lens this could either be a dream or a nightmare 🙂 This is a NOKTON “Classic” and I have reviewed the Multi Coated (MC) version many years ago on the Leica M9. Back then I found distortion, a little bit of a dull rendering and I do remember enjoying it and loving the size. But a Summilux it is not.

It actually is not far off from the look of the old classic Summilux 1.4 but without as much “glow” wide open and a little softer wide open. The Voigtlander lenses always seem to have less Microcontrast than the Leica counterparts which IMO, gives off a duller look. But to most, this is not even noticeable. To me, it is because it is my job to notice these things. But even being in the same ballpark as the old classic 35 Summilux Pre ASPH is impressive.  Why is that? The old Summilux sells for $1800-$3000 depending on condition so at $629, this Voigtlander, no matter how you look at it, is a deal. A fast 35 1.4 lens for your Leica M for $629. For that kind of cash I am in no way expecting a masterpiece but I am expecting a decent lens that will give me a classic and nice/pleasing rendering.

Wide open I find the rendering to be very pleasing and I feel that the Single Coated is the version to get in this lens. I love the way it handles highlights. 

L1bwb

I can not stress this enough. DO NOT buy this lens if you want anything resembling a modern Leica 35 1.4 lens as you will not get that. But if you are someone who enjoys checking out older Leica M glass from the 50’s and 60’s and like that classic style, this could be a lens you LOVE because it give you some of that old classic flavor in a newly made, newly built lens with warranty.

So how does the lens do on the M 240? Pretty damn nice! Click any image in this review to make them larger and better!

L1000056

L1000067-2

L1000053

Lately I have been using the Sony RX1R for my 35mm needs but have always been interested in, or should I say “curious” about the Voigtlander SC (Single Coated) version of this lens. I actually am one who adores a classic rendering, a soft glow, and a little bit of flare. I mean, it is an OPTION for when you want something different. The last Leica M lens from Voigtlander that I reviewed was the wonderful 50 Nokton Classic. It is a new lens and it a very good lens, well worth the $900 it costs. Not far off from the pre-asph Summilux 50 1.4. In fact, it may be just about the same. That lens is a  beauty with its only real weakness being the barrel distortion. I guess you can not have perfection at these price points when it comes to Leica M glass. But check out the way the 35 1.4 SC renders a simple tissue box 🙂

voigt35

This 35 1.4 Single Coated Nokton classic performs just as it says in the title. CLASSIC. As you can see in the tissue box image above, it renders in a soft gentle non analytical way with soft colors. At the same time, it does have some pop. I snapped the quick shot below at ISO 3200 on the M as she made a face at me. The images do have some depth, and also check out the soft glowing flare from the left side which is light from a window in the kitchen. This is what the Single Coating will give you.

iso3200

I have read a few reviews of this lens online from those who own it and use it and others from those who just picked one up for review. Usually those who own it really like it and others hate it. This is a lens you must use for a while, get to know and then take advantage of its shortcomings. Learn how to shoot to exploit the qualities of the lens and you can walk away with some beautiful shots.

The Build of the Lens

SAMSUNG CSC

The lens is built very nice and it is also very SMALL. It feels much like an old classic 35mm lens and is on par size wise with the old Leica 35 1.4 Summilux pre-asph. The 35 Lux ASPH of today is large and long (in Leica standards) but the old one is a beautiful little gem size wise.

nokton

This little Voigtlander is superb in build and feel. Solid, nice aperture clicks and attractive as well. It feels a little more solid than the last Leica 35 Summarit 2.5 I owned, which sells for almost 4X the cost of this lens and is a stop slower at f/2.5. The Leica is sharper, gives better colors, has better micro contrast and Bokeh quality but it is an f/2.5 lens for almost $2000. This little Voigtlander renders in a totally different way and offers its own character but will not match the Leica for technical testing (shooting charts and MTF readings). Think of the Leica 35 Summarit 2.5 as being a more crisper and perfect lens and the Voigtlander has having more character.

But build wise, I have no complaints on this little guy. It is solid, just as solid in build as the nearly $2000 Leica 35 Summarit 2.5.

The Voigtlander 35 1.4 at 1.4 inside a restaraunt with my buddy Mike. 

L1000130

Bokeh Wide Open – click image to see sharpness on the focus pint (iPad Mini)

L1000035-2

At f2 indoors, .7 meter focus distance

debbyf2

Bokeh once again, wide open. You will either love it or hate it!

beam

Distortion and Focus Shift?

As I reported in the 35 1.4 MC lens review on the M9 many years ago, this lens does have some barrel distortion. To my eye and my memory this is also the weakness of the Leica 35 Summarit. Barrel Distortion. If you are shooting straight lines up close, you will see the distortion so yes, this lens has it. If you want a lens with much less or no real visible distortion go to a Leica 35 Summicron or Zeiss 35 f.2 Biogon or even the Zeiss 2.8.  The Voigtlander has some but in 95% of your photos you will never really notice it, unless you are a perfectionist of course. But what you WILL see if you shoot wide open is the heavy vignetting going on. When shot at 1.4 it is pretty extreme, when stopped down it is not so offending.

See below for a distortion and vignette sample. 

atwideopen35

at56vignette

Focus Shift?

It seems that every review I have read on this lens speaks of “focus shift”. I never noticed it much because I normally shoot these kinds of lenses wide open because that is where the character lies in rangefinder lenses. But I decided to do a focus shift test on the M 240. Results are below using the rangefinder  to focus each shot. If I use Live View then there would be zero focus shift as this happens when using the rangefinder. These were shot on the RF. So let us see how bad it really is and if it really exists. If you click the image below you will see the test image with 5 crops at different apertures. Camera was stable and on a table and did not move during the test. To my eyes, f/2 is the sharpest and there does seem to be a slight focus shift at 2.8 and f/4. Would you see this in real world shooting? Maybe, maybe not. Depends on your own personal tolerance for this sort of thing.

shifttest

Bottom Line Concluision on the Voigtlander 35 1.4 SC Lens

With all of this talk about SOFT, FLARE, DISTORTION and CLASSIC you may be scared off by this lens but do not let that scare you. In fact, this lens can still give you nice images on an M 240. You will get distortion, you will get vignetting and  the lens is not as sharp as the Leica counterparts. The contrast is lower and the flare is there, but this is why this lens is called CLASSIC and why it is SINGLE COATED. Some who shoot Leica pefer these characteristics in a lens to gove their photographs a vintage vibe. Me, I like it but do not love it. I feel it vignettes too heavily for my tastes when shot at 1.4, but I can still see using it as a cheap 35mm for my Leica. If I want better I have to step up to a larger Zeiss or more Expensive Leica 35 Summarit, Summicron or Summilux.

This lens and the $7000 Leica M 240 will NOT beat the $2800 Sony RX1 in anything but classic character 🙂

If you have $600 to burn on a 35mm and enjoy a classic look, you may just like this lens. 🙂

Where To Buy?

You can buy this little guy at Cameraquest.com or B&H Photo who also sells the lens.

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

PLEASE Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help! If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +

L1000115

L1000389

L1000398

L1000395

L1000378

Related Post

Share This!

32 thoughts on “The Voigtlander 35 1.4 SC Nokton Classic SC on the Leica M 240

  1. I have a question about the focus shift issue. It seems like you’re using a different definition of focus shift…one that’s to do with a problem relating to focusing using a rangefinder viewfinder.

    My understanding of focus-shift is it’s the phenomenon of a lens changing focus as it’s being stopped down without the focus ring being moved. It’s most noticeable when initially focused wide open, and where the actual shot is taken stopped-down (without re-focusing). It’s described really well by Lloyd Chambers here: http://diglloyd.com/articles/Focus/FocusShift.html

    Regarding your test, according to the “traditional” definition of focus shift, one wouldn’t refocus each time, because that would defeat the purpose of seeing how much out-of-focus a lens becomes on stopping down.

    Perhaps the other reviewers where using this definition rather than yours?

    So my question is: how bad is the focus shift of this lens under the “traditional” definition?

    1. The REAL definition of focus shift I am speaking of is in the rangefinder world, where this lens was reviewed (on an M). In the RF world, focus shift means the lens will front or back focus when your RF shows you are focused perfectly. Only some lenses will have this shift and it is part of th design, not a defect. The 50 Sonnar 1.5 Zeiss is the worst offender as it has serious shift when wide open. So focus shift in the Leica world is much different than focus shift in the DSLR world.

      1. Question is, do you think the focus shift is severe enough to cause problems in street conditions? I’m torn between this and the Skopar pancake II, to accompany my first M6. The Skopar has less shift and barrel distortion, at the cost of being very close to ‘too small to use easily’, and the smaller maximum aperture (Which I won’t use often, but which is a nice-to-have for low light conditions.)

  2. Thanks for the review,
    But is that for real, screens everywhere in that restaurant ? how can people eat in such horrible place ? Hopefully for their customers, the revolution will be televised before the coffee

  3. Just got a 2nd hander on eBay for £330 which is a bargain really. I own a Cron 35 Asph but wanted a little bit more speed and something to chick in the bag. It’s ok on the M. I find the aperture tabs quite annoying but I’m sure I’d get used to it. Compared to the Cron its a dirty little beast so if you can, drop the cash on a Leica. For paid work etc. otherwise just enjoy it for what it is. Go in with low expectations and you’ll be pleasantly surprised

  4. I’ve been using this lens for a couple of years now and I like it well enough. Personally, I usually use it as a walk-around lens when I want just the M9 and one lens. It’s has far too many issues to be used for landscape or architectural work, but is very nice for environmental portraits and such.

  5. Does this lens have the contact points that connect to those on the Leica body for exposure info, lens correction, etc.? If it is just a “disconnected” lens attached only physically to the body of the camera how do you adjust the lens opening and exposure time to get such great photos? Thank you.

  6. Wow! Thanks for this review Steve, I’m completely smitten by the way this lens renders the highlights in your images. I have a Fuji XE-1 with 35 1.4, but I find that lens a bit too ‘clinical’. I don’t think you’ve reviewed it but I see Voigtlander also make a 40mm 1.4 Nokton SC, which is £100 cheaper here in the UK. I’m thinking that might be a great addition to my kit with an X-mount adaptor. Thanks again; you always inspire me.

  7. Another nice real world review.

    Slightly off topic, but it is a Voigtlander lens.. any chance of ever reviewing that quirky 50mm 3.5 collapsible nickel plated number?

  8. I like to think photography is as much about art as it is about reproducing the scene your photographing.
    Horses for courses as they say. I wouldn’t discount the lens just because it is the “opposite” of a Leica. I would just celebrate its strengths.

    You can still win photographic awards with this lens. As a matter of fact I would go as far as saying you are more likely to win an award with this lens because it won’t give you a clinical reproduction of a scene. It will give you more of the emotion involved with the scene by being slightly out of focus, give you different colours (I am Australian, we spell the word with an “ou”) and have more vignetting to it that the 35 f1.4 fle Leica.

    As it is $600 you won’t feel you are risking a $7K lens doing something unusual with it.

    Thanks for the article.

  9. As someone who knows how you like lenses with characters, I suggest you to try Voiggtländer’s 35/1.7 ASPH. It’s been out of production for some time and might be hard to find but it’s worth giving shot.

  10. This lens is a beauty. Files from NEX-7 with the SC lens converted to B&W are the best B&W images I have produced. 1.4 – its fast. Lots of character and when the sun bounces off the subject at a particular angle, the results are just so cool. If you have a crop sensor camera, you have to try this lens! You will not get bored.

    Thanks for the review Steve.

  11. I’ve used the MC version on my M9 for a few years, primarily at f1.4 to 2 for a low light lens. I’ve also used a 1969 Summicron 35 (ver 2) since 1969, and the vignetting and sharpness of the Nokton at f1.4 is much like the old Summicron at f2, and at f2 my Nokton is better than the old Summicron.
    This is a lens that should be compared to the 60s & 70s Leica lenses, not the Leica lenses of today, which I find too large and complex. If you want a tiny, fast lens for Leica, this isn’t a bad choice.
    Yes, I notice the focus shift, as if used f4-5.6 you can often tell the items just behind the subject are sharper, but the subject still isn’t bad.

  12. Of course, you can minimize the vignetting by coding the lens or manually setting the camera to read it as the pre-asph lux. Or setting up a lens profile in LR, which can also correct for barrel distortion.

    I think your photos look terrific, by the way.

  13. Hi steeve,

    thank’s to test my favorite 35 mm with an M 240…I’m just still waiting the M in France

    i used it for a long time with the MC version but still in B&W..it doesn’t matter of course.

    I love this lens for 5 reasons:

    – First of all: smallest size (i put my M8 with Nokton under every jacket).
    – Smallest price (no fear to breack it)
    – Great Bokeh
    – The focus shift..( i cannot see it with my old view.) – i doesn’t made architecturals pics..barrel distorsion is not a problem for me.
    – I love vignetting

    I made thousands pics arround the small planet with his friend an Elmarit 28..(both on an M8).
    You can juge the production:
    http://www.theleicaphile.com

    1. Thanks for the info! This lens will perform much different on an M8 than full frame. On the M8 it will not vignette nearly as much due to the crop, so on FF be prepared for a different behavior. Still, for the money, hard to beat it.

  14. I find it surprising that you posted a review on this lens. I had just purchased it on eBay a couple days ago, along with an adapter, to slap onto my NEX-6. Pretty stoked to experiment with it. Can anyone help answer this question for me: Will vignetting be minimized due to the crop sensor?

  15. Didn’t think buddy Mike was the tattoo kinda guy. Guess the Yin Yang symbol says it all.
    Focus looks spot on and sharp enough at 1.4 as well.

  16. I have this lens, and I really enjoy the rendering. I find it works very well if you are going to use any of those VSCO LR Presets, or if you are going to edit to give a vintage look of any type.

    It’s fun, cool and super well built. Also on the NEX7, the combo is tiny and pockatable.

    1. Well, I hear there is minimal difference between them. I shot with both (though the MC on the M9) and what I see is a slightly lower contrast and slight flare/glow with the SC. But either will do. I like the character of the SC but some may like more contrast, so the MC will be the one to go for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.