Jul 142015

In praise of the Voigtlander Nokton 35 1.2

by Fahad

Last February, I went to Istanbul for a quick visit, of course along with my camera and lenses.

As soon as I arrived, and started taking few pictures, I noticed that my Summicron 50mm (the one i used in both previous articles) is out of focus on all distances, after a full day of testing, I was certain something is wrong.




Luckily, for that trip I had space to bring along the nokton 35mm 1.2, which I rarely use and was thinking about getting rid of it, the weight was the major disadvantage, and 35mm was just too wide for my taste.

So I had no other option but to use the nokton for now and buy another 50mm lens once the shops are open.

Well, that quick walk using the nokton changed my mind. now its my favorite lens. and I just appreciate the luxury of having f1.2, as for the weight, I just got used to it.




I found that the 35mm is more versatile for the streets than the 50mm, with the 35mm I can shoot few building then go back my normal photo subjects without changing the lens. only now I understand why most photographers prefer the 35mm range.





One last observation, the focus ring is smooth and you can feel so confident with this lens’ build quality.

attached are a few images.

my flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fahad85/

Fahad A

Dec 222014


Sixty Weddings with a Leica M 240

by Joeri van der Kloet

Hello to all of you! Thanks Steve for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with your readers again. I’ve posted a couple of times on shooting weddings with a rangefinder, but I thought it would be nice to give you an update.

I’m quite sure I’m a lucky person. 2014 was a crazy year and it’s not over yet. I just kept getting emails from people who were getting married and asking about availability. It was a very busy, yet immensely rewarding year. With an ever-increasing competition among (wedding) photographers this is something I don’t take for granted. I have found that staying true to the way I work does pay off. I don’t stage anything besides the group portraits and I shoot real moments only. Just snapshots of beautiful moments. Nothing more, nothing less. Sometimes my clients tell me it felt like I was just one of the guests, who happened to be there with a funny little camera. The M helps in this approach with its modest proportions, but behavior is just as important. I wear a suit if that’s the dress code, I mingle with the other guests and even my camera bag fits in. It may seem like just common sense, but you’ll be surprised how often this is forgotten.
Besides my documentary wedding work, the number of customers for my workshops are growing. Lots of rangefinder users are interested in the way I use my camera and they’re especially interested in my focussing training techniques. I really love this work, because I can help people to get more fun with their cameras.

In the last two years I’ve shot 60 weddings with my Leica M240 and although I already reviewed this camera here before, let me give you an update after many hours of shooting.
After having shot around seventy weddings with my M9s, a few years ago, I had gotten used to this camera. While I was on a four months journey around the world, I heard about the new M and I was quite excited, but also in doubt. A CMOS sensor? Liveview? Video? Seriously? Like most of you, the first pictures we saw that were taken with the new flagship were somewhat disappointing. Soon after that, the CCD vs CMOS discussion took off. And we’re still having this discussion today. Of course I also read about red skin tones, the lack of ‘crisp’, ‘pop’ and ‘3D’. However I also read that the M240 featured 2 extra stops in ISO sensitivity, a more silent shutter and a better responsiveness in general. For me, the increase in ISO sensitivity was enough to spend the 6300 Euros and start working with it.

The number one reason for me to work with the M240 instead of the M9 is ISO. I’ve really needed those two extra stops for low light circumstances. Even with a fast 35/1.2 I have used the highest ISO setting quite a few times. Of course the wedding receptions are the hardest moments to capture. As a rule of thumb I can freeze people who are dancing at 1/90th and at 1/60th, even though it will start to get slightly fuzzy, the look is very moody. People that are dancing slowly can be shot at 1/15th and still be sharp enough. By the way, sharpness is never my main concern. Emotion has top priority, then composition and only then sharpness. Flash is no option as far as I’m concerned, since I try to be as unobtrusive as possible. So for ISO only, I’d choose the M240.
Next is overall responsiveness. The M9 has a somewhat gritty shutter button, while the M240 has a clear two-step shutter button. The shutter itself is more silent and lacks the whining noise of the M9. Button wise, the M240 is more responsive, although I have heard people complaining about the start-up time. With my M, I have no problems with that and whenever I use my M9, it feels slower to respond on the buttons. Handling wise, I prefer the M9, simply because it significantly lighter. Don’t underestimate these 100 grams. You will notice the difference.

Much has been said about the M9 screen. Yes, it’s a joke, but it never troubled me. It was good enough to browse through the menu, check my histogram and check composition. If you’d want to check for sharpness, forget it. Though the M240 is not very good for checking for sharpness either (just compare it to the 5D3: now that works!) it’s a lot better than the M9.
But then the menus: I prefer the M9, simply because it’s more intuitive and easier to work with than the M240. Also, setting the ISO on the M9 triggers a clever menu: by clicking down you’ll increase one stop and by clicking to the right you increase your ISO with ⅓ of a stop.

Then there is the live view. First I thought I’d never use it on the M240. When I started using it, I discovered some benefits of this system. It always works, no matter how dark it is, whereas the EVF might get so dark that it’s almost too hard to focus. Live view also provides a way for very precise focussing. The drawback is that live view is very laggy. For me, during action it’s unusable, but for more static subjects it’s great. It’s also great for checking if your rangefinder is still calibrated properly. I do not use it a lot, but I wouldn’t want to miss it in a next M.

Battery life of the M240 is very good. With my two M9s I used to carry six batteries to a wedding. Now two is enough. So that compensates for the increase in weight of the camera itself. Sort of.

Issues then. The M9 has had quite a few and one more recent issue can be added to the camera: corrosion of the sensor. While the M240 has had its share of bad luck, it seems to be problem free at this moment.

The most important feature of a camera however, is its output and that’s what most people are talking about. It’s the CCD versus the CMOS. Yes, the files are different and everyone had to get used to these new files, myself included. Technically, the M240 files are superior: they have more dynamic range, less noise and they’re just more flexible. The issue with the skin tones has been fixed, though it never bothered me much. The M240 needs a little more punch than the M9 files: increasing the contrast a little is usually a good thing. For me, I’m really happy with the output the M240 delivers. Of course, you’ll have to shoot in raw, just like with the M9. Where the M9 really shines is base ISO. Those images, where light is good and focus is spot on are almost unbeatable. But as a pro I don’t shoot on base ISO that much. I don’t get to choose the light on a wedding and often it is dim, or very contrasty. So what do I want? Low noise high ISO and flexible files with a good dynamic range. And that’s what the M240 delivers. If you’re shooting in other circumstances and you don’t need to make any money with your camera, I can perfectly understand why you’d prefer the M9 over the M240. In fact, I still have my M9-P which I will keep as long as possible.

Maybe you don’t even need to make a choice between the M9 and M240. When I switched to the M-system, the M9 was the only full frame compact camera body in the world. Lots has changed. Sony has made the full frame compact system camera accessible for a much bigger group of people with the A7 series. I have seen many great reports about the A7 and A7s. Steve here rated his A7s as his number one camera! On the other hand: DSLRs have acquired features that make them more interesting for the documentary approach as well. The Canon 5D3 for instance, is just as silent as the M240 in its silent mode. Also, its AF-system is a lot better than the 5D2, which makes the 5D3 a pretty good smallish, silent camera for the documentary wedding pro. For me, I just like the way the M-system works with its simple lay out and its intuitive controls. I wouldn’t want to change that. Also, my M is my best marketing tool ever. Whether I like it or not, it sells.

So, in conclusion, can we finally say which camera is better? No, we can’t, because image quality should be one of the most important factors in deciding which camera to buy and this image quality can’t be described in numbers and sometimes not even in words. I just wanted to explain why I still prefer the M240 over the M9 after having read the renewed CCD vs CMOS discussion. Whatever camera you buy, get the one you can afford and just shoot with it. That’s what they’re meant for.

My wedding website: www.luta.nl
My workshop website: www.joerivanderkloet.com

and now, the photos!

1 Magical moment. The couple started dancing on our tiny boat on the Amsterdam canals. The sun came through and I just knew I had the best job in the world. With 28 Elmarit.


2 The dance. They just kept dancing on this wedding and everybody had such a good time. Very low light, but I think I nailed it on 3200 ISO on 1.2 at 1/125th with the terrific CV35/1.2.


3 Bride getting ready. I love to use whatever there is available for natural framing. With the small but very good 35 cron.


4 The car. This bride just loved the classic Porsche 911 the groom arranged for their wedding. And it even worked with the dress. Shot with the CV35/1.2.


5 Intimate moment during one of the speeches. I’m constantly looking for these moments. With the 50 cron, my workhorse.


6 Waiting for the groom. While the bride was peeking through the window, this dog jumped on a chair and started peeking as well. I couldn’t have been happier of course. CV35/1.2.


7 The vows. This was an intimate outdoor wedding and the couple had ordered birds made out of paper from Japan as a styling detail. I decided to shoot the vows through this curtain of birds. With the tiny 28 Elmarit.


8 Father and child having fun. Shot at 6400 ISO at 1.2 at 1/60th. Is it sharp? No, but it conveys the message. CV 35/1.2.


9 Bride and groom and umbrellas. It was a rainy day and the couple moved from the wedding venue to the next venue. I liked this scene and shot it quickly. With the 35 cron.


10 I noticed this little moment just after the ceremony between the bride and her daughter. Shot with the 50 cron.


11 The moment after the kiss. Couples relax after all the offical things are done and you can tell by just looking at their faces. WIth the 28 Elmarit.


12 Soap and sunshine. During the ceremony it was dark and rainy, but when the couple got out the weather had changed completely. They were hugging each other and I liked this scene with its warm colours and all the reflections on the bubbles. With the 28 Elmarit.


13 The laugh. While returning from a group shot, the groom (probably) told a joke and the bride laughed out loud. I like the flare and the soft light as well. With the 50 cron.


14 The cake. This lovely couple just had a terrific day and I love the little moment with this interaction between the newly weds. With the 50 cron.


15 The look. The groom was listening very carefully while the bride was secretly looking at her husband-to-be. I love, love this light and the way the 50 cron renders the scene.


16 Magic light. When the couple walked towards their car after the ceremony they literally stepped into a ray of light. Smooth, warm, just beautiful. And the 50 cron has no trouble in rendering this scene.


17 Boy and car. When the groom went for a cup of coffee, the kid sneeked in the car, an Audi R8, and pretended to drive the car. I could hear him imitating engine sounds. With the 35 cron.


18 Smooth. The CV 35/1.2 is not just a low light lens. It’s also suitable for getting this smooth look. I’m not sure who the bride was looking at, but I just like this shot.


19 Friends. Well, this one doesn’t need any explanation. Best friends captured with the 50 cron.


20 Getting ready. I like the expression of the bride and the soft light from the window. Shot with the 35 cron.


21 The kiss. An intimate wedding with only twenty guests. Being able to mingle with guests is even more important than at big weddings. With the 35 cron.


22 Almost ready. After many years of shooting I’m still surprised that my clients give me the opportunity to capture all these delicate moments. Here the bride, probably quite nervous and so beautiful in the last moments before she’ll meet her groom. With the CV 35/1.2


23 Light from above. This couple lived on a boat with windows in the ceiling. When the groom stepped on board, the bride heard him and looked up, trying to get a glimpse of him through the window. Shot with the 35 cron.


24 The quote. While we were heading out for a boat trip we came across this quote and I quickly focussed on it. The groom turned his head to read it and I took the shot. CV 35/1.2.


25 Kiss me honey. The bride reaching for a kiss in a train somewhere in Rotterdam. With 28 Elmarit.


26 The first look. It was very narrow and I didn’t have much space to shoot the couple during the first look. Luckily, there was a mirror. CV 35/1.2.


27 Father and bride. Long after the wedding, this bride told me that this picture made her father cry. I’m still honoured she took the effort to tell me that. Shot with 50 cron.


28 Kiss and dance. Working with a rangefinder in low light conditions can be hard, but also very rewarding. The couple loved this shot and so do I. CV 35/1.2.


Dec 172014

Quick User Report: Using the Voigtlander 40 1.4 on the Sony A7s

by Devin Jameson

Just wanted to post a few images recently made with the Sony a7s and Nokton 40mm 1.4 SC.



Sharp at the focus point, even wide open—IF you nail the focus

Sharpness picks up quickly when stopped down if you prefer a clinical look or are shooting landscapes (also vignetting goes away by f/2.8 or so)

Very compact size, even with the Voigtlander Close-Focus adapter

Character is very “interesting”

Great build quality with smooth focusing ring and aperture clicks

Randomness factor–you never know what you might get when shooting wide open!

0.7 meter minimum focus distance—closer to 0.3 meter with VM-E adapter



It’s not a Leica 50 Lux

Rather heavy vignetting

Bokeh is somewhat nervous (I’ve learned to love this)

Flare (I like the randomness of flare, so this isn’t a con for me)

I expect to see a 50mm focal length, so the transition to 40mm is a little tough, but should be fine in time

All in all, it’s a fun lens that lives on my a7s. Check out the sample images below—most were shot wide open.








Feb 192014


One Journey Two Cameras

by Jason Howe – See his Website HERE, his Flickr is HERE

I’ve not long been back from a trip which took myself and my family back to the UK via a few other places, this wasn’t a photography trip but I’ve included a few of my favourite images picked up along the way. The are more images along with a more extensive write-up on my blog here – The Reluctant Tourist.

I have no idea how much time I wasted thinking about what gear I should take on this trip, certainly it was too much time. In the end I tried to keep it simple and went with what I’m most comfortable with, the Leica M Monochrom. For lenses I went all Voigtlander – 21/1.835/1.2 and 50/1.5. I also had a cheap PROST adapter which was all I could get hold of initially.

My gear plans went out of the window when the Sony A7R arrived by courier just a couple of hours before departing for the airport, at that point I really had little choice but to take it as leaving it meant I’d not see it again for 2 months. Obviously any new camera monopolises your attention and it also means a bit of a learning curve, it certainly did with the MM and the Sony A7R was the same just for different reasons.

I had a rocky start with the A7R, whilst I immediately fell in love with the OOC JPG’s I found focusing accurately at wide apertures to be almost impossible without magnification. Yes my eyesight is fine…

Image 1 – Sony A7R – 35mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.2 Asph Mk II – OOC JPEG


Image 2 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph


Image 3 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph


Eventually, I started to get to grips with focusing the A7R utilising the magnifier but for me it’s a little clumsy and I still can’t achieve focus as fast or proficiently as I can with a rangefinder.

Image 4 – Leica M Monochrom – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph


Image 5 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.2 Asph Mk II


Touching on my original gear selection and with the benefit of hindsight it was totally flawed. I may prefer B&W but I still needed a colour option, fortunately the A7R filled this void. My biggest mistakes were in lens selection though, this was not a light bag!!! I allowed my curiosity to get the better of me and selected the recently acquired 35/1.2 over my v.1 Summicron. The 35/1.2 is optically superb but it’s huge and consequently heavy, in contrast the v.1 Summicron is tiny, light and optically superb. The 21/1.8 I just didn’t use, another weighty option. Instead I found myself wishing I’d taken the Summicron 90/2 on lots of occasions, a lens I’d been using quite frequently before I left. Now I didn’t carry all this everywhere, each day I’d select a camera and lens, on odd occasions I’d take two lenses but when you’re away for so long size and weight are big issues. The real winner was the Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Asph, I really do love everything about this lens.

Image 6 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph


Image 7 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph


Image 8 – Leica M Monochrom – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph


You’ll notice the next two images were taken with the Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA, having tried and failed to get my hands on this in NY I managed to get one in the UK. There were a couple of factors that drew me to the Sony A7R initially, one of those was having a FF camera with the ability to autofocus, there are certainly times when I’ve missed this and I’ve missed shots.

Image 9 – Sony A7R – Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA


Image 10 – Sony A7R – Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA


Image 11 – Leica M Monochrom – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph


Image 12 – Sony A7R – 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.5 Asph


I’m still very much committed to working things out with the Sony A7R, Indeed I’ve just added the Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA to the kit and I’ll be endeavouring to become more proficient with the camera on all levels. For now, well the Leica M Monochrom is still my favourite camera, you can get great B&W’s from other cameras but there is just that bit of something special in the files from the MM, to my eye at least.

Cheers, Jason.

Jun 152013


The new Voigtlander 50mm f/1.5 Nokton Arrives

So the long-awaited M mount newly (but classicly) re-designed 50mm f/1.5 Nokton arrived to my mailbox today from CameraQuest and I went for the super sexy looking limited edition chrome version at $1049. Voigtlander seems to have hit it out of the park with this one as it has the styling of the 1950’s classic Nokton 1.5 with the great performance of the previous Nokton that was made in Leica screw mount. That was a highly regarded lens but Voigtlander decided to remake it with a Leica M mount and I am glad they did. The lens ships with a black hood and a black metal cap but no lens cap for use without the hood. But yes, it comes with the metal hood and metal cap, no extra charge as with Zeiss ZM and Leica :)


Fresh out of the box!

It just arrived 30 minutes ago and I am about to head out the door for a weekend trip but I wanted to get a pic or two up with it and of it. I chose chrome as I have grown to appreciate the look of classic styled chrome lenses on a black body. Some hate it, and I used to as well, but these days I prefer it in some ways over a standard black on black look. The lens in chrome is gorgeous.

1st impressions out of the box? The Chrome version is beautiful in a classic sort of way. It has a knurled focusing ring, a smooth and solid aperture dial and feels nice and solid in the hand. Being Chrome and Brass, it is much like the lenses that were built-in the 50’s. I expect this is a lens that will last a long time. But how about the IQ and the character of the lens? I have only taken 15+ shots with it as of this writing and from what I can see it is a little bit of modern with a larger amount of classic. Not as perfected as a Leica Summilux ASPH but very sharp wide open at f/1.5 with an overall smooth presentation. I noticed some slight vignetting at 1.5 as well. The cool thing is that it focuses close to .7 meters just like the Leica Lux ASPH, unlike the old lenses of the 50’s that usually focus to 1 meter.


Again, only about 15 shots have been taken with this on my M 240  but I wanted to get this up before I head out the door so you guys can get a look at it :) This lens in black is $899 and chrome is $1049. The Leica 50 Summilux f/1.4 comes in at $3995. Both lenses are a fast 50mm and both are top notch in build. I prefer the design and style of this new Nokton and I am excited to use it this weekend to see what it can do. I did notice that from f/2 on it gets really sharp with crazy sharpness across the frame by f/4. Is the Leica worth the extra $3000+? Who knows, but I hope to find out when I do the full review of this lens.

When the lens came I instantly attached it to the M 240 and asked Debby if I could grab a quick comparison shot. I grabbed the M240/Nokton and then the Fuji X-E1 and Zeiss 32 1.8 Touit, which gives an almost 50mm equivalent . I had it on hand, so why not? Nokton was at 1.5, Fuji at 1.8. Quick images are below. You can click them for larger but what you will see if a more shallow Depth of Field from the Leica combo vs the Fuji. That is what you get from a crop sensor and equivalent focal length lens. I also see more 3d depth and glow from the Nokton shot over the X-E1, which to me looks a bit flat in comparison.



The new Voigtlander is a “so far so good” lens as I am only judging it on design and build/feel right now until I get to actually go out and use it. So far it seems like it may be a bargain in the fast M mount 50mm world. Other lenses in this range are the Zeiss 50 f/2 Planar ZM and the Zeiss Sonnar f/1.5 Sonnar which is a whole different lens character. I do not think it can equal or beat the Leica 50 Lux ASPH but for 1/4 the price I am feeling it can get close, and close enough for most.

Below are a couple of more quick snaps I shot within those 1st 8 frames with it around the house. All wide open at 1.5.

Full review soon!

I picke dup my Nokton from Camera Quest. They have pre-orders up for the Black and Chrome as their 1st shipment sold out 100% in black and there are actually a few Chrome lenses available and in stock there as I am writing this. You can pre-order the Black HERE or get the Chrome version HERE, for immediate ship. (until these last few sell out, then it is July 2013)









Jul 312012

The Voigtlander 50 1.1 Lens for Leica M – Don’t rule it out! By Jason Howe

It’s fair to say I have a “thing” for 50mm lenses…….when I recently landed an “Access all Areas” photographic opportunity at a horse racing event I found myself having to rely on the 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.1 as my main 50mm lens. This was primarily because I had sold my 50 Summarit and the 50 Summilux was still another week away from being delivered. Let me say at this point that whilst I’ve always been happy with the Voigtlander Nokton f/1.1 I’ve never fallen in love with it. So I had already made the decision to part with it once the 50 Lux arrived. To that end I knew this would probably be the last time I shot with it.
I have attached some images from the day, all taken with the Nokton f/1.1.  The lens performed so much better than I had hoped, indeed it outperformed anything I’d shot with it previously and I have to say it has made me stop and think, surely there is still a place for this lens in my kit? Especially given the cost of the lens and its resale value. I used this lens for the majority of the day, only occasionally switching to my 35 Cron f/2 Asph and 75 VC Heliar f/1.8.
All these images are shot on the Leica M9 with 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.1 either wide open or at f/1.4
I have mentioned before on HERE that I tried to follow a sensible route when purchasing my lenses, to quite literally start at the bottom and work up. I have tried the Voigtlander’s and even though I have ultimately gone on to purchase Leica glass I can say in all honesty that the 50mm Voigtlander Nokton f/1.1 is an excellent lens that deserves a fair chance, one I almost didn’t give it.
There’s much talk at the moment about fast 50’s, especially as the SLR Magic Hyperprime 50mm T0.95 will soon be readily available, I should add at this point that despite what I have seen recently from the CV Nokton f/1.1 I will still be getting the SLR Magic Hyperprime 50mm T0.95, it’s clearly very special and hopefully it will suit my shooting style.
Thanks and all the best, Jason
More of my images from this event and my photography in general can be seen on my website HERE.

Feb 042012

UPDATE: Lots of nonsense has been spread about this lens on the internet due to one person’s comments and one persons lens. I have never had ONE issues with this lens and I found it to be solid, well made, beautiful and to render even better than the $11k Leica Noctilux (for my tastes) all for less than half the cost. The claims that were made were uncalled for as Andrew from SLR Magic is one of the nicest guys I have met in recent years as well as one of the most helpful and generous. The SLR Magic Hyperprime is now shipping with full production versions of the lens in full production packaging. It comes with a great warranty and is a solid great performing lens. Again, my experience with it has been nothing but positive and in some cases amazing. I am not the type of guy who says “It’s only Leica for my M”  as there is tons of GREAT glass out there besides Leica. Whatever works I always say and this lens just “works”. 

Thanks again to Andrew for all he has done for everyone AND even releasing this lens which no one else had the balls to do.

The SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 LM T0.95 Lens Rolling Review…let’s get it started

With all of the hype and craziness this lens has been causing since the Los Angeles workshop I decided to start writing a rolling review for the SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 T0.95 LM lens. Basically this means I will be adding to this review, right here on this page instead of making posts every day about it. As I get new images and new thoughts I will add them here. Almost like a diary of my use with the lens over the next few months as I put it through its paces before its official release.

I am lucky to have one with me for the next few months (a black stealth edition no less) so I can test it, use it, abuse it and put it through its paces. One thing to note..this is a taste of what is to come of this lens. SLR Magic is still tweaking and improving on the lens and if I run into any issues they will fix them before going into production. They are already making a couple of improvements before shipping lenses out to the workshop attendees who agreed to be volunteers for lens testing as well. Yes, the lucky ones who were at the workshop had 1st crack :)

I already know that the image quality holds up extremely well to the $11,000 Leica Noctilux ASPH. In fact, I may prefer the rendering from this lens over the Leica, and that right there is saying a lot. Actually, now that I read that back, that is HUGE. My curiosities with the Hyperprime is to see if the build quality holds up. By the look and feel, it feels like a solid tank but you never know. Not everyone associates SLR Magic with high quality but it appears with this and their 12mm Hyperprime they have decided to go with quality, and I welcome it.

BTW, for reference you can see my Leica Noctilux ASPH review HERE that was done when the lens was first released.

If you did not see the posts I have already made about this SLR Magic lens you can see those HERE, HERE, HERE,  HERE and finally HERE.

A Brief History Of This Lens

Probably close to a year ago I heard from SLR Magic and they told me they were designing a new Leica M mount lens from the ground up. A 50mm f/0.95 lens for the Leica M mount. This was not going to be a copy of their old Hyperprime that they sell for the M4/3 mount and NEX mount. Those lenses are nice, but not “amazing” because they are soft and glowy when wide open. They are also smallish but at the same time very well built and made. Still, SLR Magic wanted to create something special that more Leica M shooters could afford. A lens much like the Leica Noctilux but at a more reasonable price.

After they mentioned their ideas they started sending me pictures of prototypes that looked great. The lens started out semi small (smaller than a Leica Noctilux ASPH) and beefy. But the images that they were happy with that they snapped with the M9 and their lens, I was not so happy with. I told them if they were going to do a lens like this, they needed to do it right. I mean, Leica users shoot with Leica for quality. We do not want to spend money on crappy or overly soft lenses. If a lens has a .95 aperture, then we want to be able to use it at that aperture! As it was at that time, the lens they were creating was really good, but it did not have any magic to it in the image quality dept. They built the lens and it was built like a tank. Solid, smooth and heavy. BUT the lens vignetted strongly and wide open it lacked sharpness and contrast. The color was a bit dull as well and I told them that I would not buy that lens for what they would have to charge for it.

They decided to go back to the drawing board, keeping me in the loop with samples, prototype images, etc. Then one day I received a couple of shots, that to me, looked pretty damn close to the $11,000 Leica. I asked them to send me a lens as soon as they could and a month or two later they did just that. When it arrived I immediately made a quick post on it as I found it very impressive. The build, the feel, the heft… it was all LEICA LIKE. It was performing scary close to the $11,000 Noctilux ASPH. Yes, the lens that has up to a year waiting list and is almost impossible to find used. If you do find one used the prices are usually jacked up to $13k. Crazy. $13,000 for a lens.

Once I saw the quality I immediately sent SLR Magic an e-mail telling them that this is a lens they should be extremely proud of. The only negatives I found with the lens was that it had some evident barrel distortion and that damn green ring on the front. I mean, the green ring looks pretty cool on my SLR Magic 12mm 1.6 for Micro 4/3 mount but on a lens of this caliber…well, it deserved a black ring! Other than that I found the lens to be pretty damn amazing even though it was one of only 6 in existence and basically still a prototype. The lens ring is even stamped with the word “concept”. With the LA Workshop approaching, Andrew from SLR Magic decided to join us and fly down with all 6 lenses. This way, you guys wouldn’t have to take my word for it but you could see what other shooters came away with who were able to shoot with the lens. If it was a bad lens, they would say so as most of these guys love their Leica lenses. I even told Andrew we could do a Noctilux/Hyperprime shootout and he welcomed it. Shows he has confidence in their design. I will in fact be doing that shootout soon so we can see just how much difference there is with sharpness, flare, bokeh, and build.

The Lens In Use  – from me and others

If you have been reading my blog posts on this lens then you know that the lens was a huge hit in Los Angeles. There were quite a few guys trying to give Andrew the cash for the lens because we all saw it the same way. The SLR Magic Hyperprime is a well built, well made, nicely engineered hunk of glass. It is not cheap and it is not a toy. In fact, it is quite the opposite of what most people thought it would be. The lens is not perfect due to the barrel distortion but it is pretty close to the Leica $11k monster. In some ways it is BETTER than the Leica, and in others it is a bit weaker.

The ways this lens is better is that it will be coming in at many thousands of dollars less than the Leica. I do not know a price but if I had to guess I would say it will run about $3500-$4000 (The price has now been announced at $4288.00 US). Others at the workshop were thinking it would be $5500. No one knows yet but if you are someone who is into the whole Noctilux ASPH lens look, then saving $7000 or so and picking this lens up would be a pretty sweet option because the Hyperprime can focus closer, is actually faster at f/0.92 and has the same great color and sharpness as the Noctilux. The areas that are weaker is that this lens has distortion (barrel) so shooting straight lines up close will reveal this. Then again, we do not buy a lens like this for architecture. It is also longer and a little but heavier though when holding both in each hand, they feel about the same. No dount about it, this is a specialty lens, and for speed and special effect freaks. Not everyone’s cup of tea. BUT for Bokeh lovers, this lens is the creamiest 50mm lens ever made for 35mm. Click the images below for larger and sharper views…

As I sat there last weekend at the workshop looking over shots with this lens as well as the Leica Noctilux I was thinking “WOW…pretty amazing that a small company such as SLR Magic were the ones to create something like this”. This lens is serious competition to the Leica, and I am not exaggerating. Here is a comment from Bill Fulcher who shot with the Hyperprime at my LA Workshop:

” Shot both and saw many images with both last weekend. The Hyper is at least as sharp at all apertures as the 0.95 Noct. The Noct has slightly better ergonomics for still shooters and is more compact. It is also backed by Leica. The Hyper has slightly better IQ, focuses closer, is much better for video and is a skosh faster. It will also be a lot less expensive. All around the pre-production Hyper impresses me as the superior lens. But I wouldn’t really argue the point if someone heavily values the areas where the Noct has the edge. Best, Bill”

So if you do not care about the name, and the slightly larger build you could save thousands of dollars by going with the HyperPrime. If the Leica name, backing and reputation is worth up to $7k then go for it. It’s all personal pref but as for performance, this lens is just about equal to the mighty Leica in regards to sharpness, and as for Bokeh it is even more creamy. Color is about the same as is the contrast.

Andrew told us that some of the lens elements come from Germany and other China. The lens is assembled in Hong Kong by hand and will NOT be able to be mass-produced due to the tight tolerances and calibration required. The 6 samples at the workshop had no issues focusing, which I found to be pretty amazing as I have had Noctilux’s that were all over the place. Not sure how they managed to pull off what Leica can never seem to do reliably. Then again, there were actually only 4 RF coupled versions there and they were each the 1st lenses made so I am sure special care went into them. I was told that each lens made will have that same special care in regards to build and calibration. I can say that Andrew was a fascinating and very passionate guy and he was truly excited about this product.

SLR Magic? Green Rings?

So who the hell is SLR Magic and why the hell are they called SLR Magic when they do not make ANY SLR products? I wondered the same thing so I asked Andrew when they started and how. SLR Magic are based in Hong Kong and started up 6 years ago making adapters for cameras and SLR lenses. They also started selling hand-made leather straps and other fun products. Soon they started the toy lenses that came in for great prices and provided fun results. They decided to start building lenses from the ground up and released a couple of NEX lenses and the fantastic 12mm 1.6 for Micro 4/3 that I LOVED. When they started telling me about this lens and showing me versions with green rings I asked for a black ring and suggested that for a Leica mount lens they may want to sell it with black instead of neon green. At the workshop mostly wanted black, but a couple liked  the green. After much thought Andrew decided on selling a “stealth” edition with some other goodies possibly to be included. Ahhhhh…much better :)


Who needs a lens Like this?

The easy answer? No one really NEEDS a lens like this. Just like no one NEEDS a Leica Noctilux ASPH. Lenses like this are purchased with the heart because they are special..they are unique..they can give a look like no other lens and it’s also super fast for this nights you want to shoot in the dark. I used the Leica Noctilux last year on tour with Seal and came away with some great stuff. I made his new album cover as well. All with the Noctilux. Lenses like this are very useful and can provide results that help separate you from the crowd but it is also very easy to get carried away with the shallow depth of field. Use it wisely and lenses like this can deliver magical results. Overuse it and it gets gimmicky. It is also NOT an everyday lens due to the weight and size, but for those times you want some magic injected into your photos a lens like this or the Leica will give it to you in mass quantities.

Some readers were commenting how this lens has no real use, but I disagree. It was a lens just like this Hyperprime (The Leica Noctilux ASPH) that gave me this shot and made me some much-needed money in 2011. These lenses do have their place and I enjoy having a super fast special effect lens on hand and in my stable.

QUICK comparison with the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH at 1.4

Below are two straight from camera shots. The 1st from the SLR Magic at T1.4 and the 2nd from the Leica 50 Lux ASPH at f/1.4 – Click each image for the full size 18PMP file. What do you think?

New Sample Images – Full size and crops – and shooting stopped down…

More updates! The images below are all out of camera (from RAW) images using the SLR Magic lens. The T stop is written on the image and you must click each image to see the full size file. Check out how sharp it is when stopped down! This lens is simply amazing and I am loving shooting with it. I took some personal shots and it was  the only lens I shot with while in Sedona AZ for the weekend.

The 1st shot is at T/2 which is more like f/1.8. Click image for the full size and check out the blue duster, which is where I focused. Wow. 

Below is a full size out of cam shot at T/4…click image to see the full size!

Another at T/4  – not full size but you can click for larger

Wide open at .7 meters…

At f/5.6 this lens is just as razor sharp as it is at any aperture – click image for large size with 100% crop embedded

Love the rendering wide open…

The price of this lens… $4,288.00 – It is NOT cheap!

SLR Magic has announced that this lens will come in at $4,288.00 US. Quite a hefty amount of cash outlay for a lens made by SLR Magic. But, they are not mass producing this lens, and each one will be hand assembled and calibrated for rangefinder use. For a Leica M mount that has the build, feel and IQ of the $11k Leica, the price of this lens is fair. BUT at this price point you have to start to think a little. Would you prefer a Leica 50 Summilux ASPH at $4k? It’s smaller..and a Leica. But, it is not f/0.92. Speed is expensive, just take a look at the Noctilux. IMO, this lens is better than the Noctilux F1, better than the Voigtlander 50 1.1 and just about equal to the Leica $11k Nocti. Just about but not quite. So at $4288 vs $11,000, one can now have an alternative to spending that huge sum of cash for a lens like this. Since this lens is hand made and assembled, SLR Magic can only produce 10 of these per month. So, I expect they will sell them all. I also expect they will fetch a good price used as well.

SLR Magic is giving a 3 year warranty with this lens and it will be available in September 2012, after Photokina. 

More samples…all wide open

Shooting this lens on a Sony NEX-5n – IN THE DARK!

When I held my Los Angeles workshop in January, Andrew from SLR Magic brought along 6 copies of this lens for all to try. We had 30+ attendees in all shooting and trying out the lens, well, most of them did. One guy, Judd Weiss had a Sony NEX-5n and was a newbie to photography. He told me the week before he learned what “Aperture” meant, lol. Great great guy though and he was able to take the SLR Magic lens, attached to his NEX-5n to a party on Saturday night to test it out. He told me that all of the photos below were shot in “near dark” conditions but the lens sucked in the light and made them appear brighter than it was. IN fact, I remember him being pretty excited by the fact that even though the room was dark, the images make it look like there was light.

He shot all of the images below wide open at T0.95 and still appears he needed faster shutter speeds, but here are a few examples from Judd in a situation where the large aperture made a difference.  When shooting in dark conditions such as this, no lens will give you razor sharp details because you are shooting in the dark at low shutter speeds and high ISO. But using a slow lens and no flash is impossible so sometimes you need the speed if this is the style you want to go after. You can visit Judd’s blog HERE.

ALL shots below were taken by Judd Weiss with his Sony NEX-5n and the SLR Magic Hyperprime WIDE OPEN, IN NEAR dark conditions!

The Barrel Distortion – How bad is it?

Many of you guys have been asking me to update this with some examples showing the barrel distortion I have been talking about. It has not really been noticeable in the images posted so far but it is there and it is EASILY seen when you shoot up close to straight lines. The closer you get to straight lines, the more pronounced the “barrel” effect will be. This is about the only area where the Leica Noctilux ASPH beats out the SLR Magic. The distortion is disapointing but out of 500 shots or so with this lens, I have noticed it maybe 6 times. It is fixable in Photoshop but even then it is not perfect. I never noticed ANY barrel distortion with the Leica Noctilux ASPH but the question is…can you deal with this fault if you are saving $7000?

This lens has a fantastic 3D effect and is sharp as a tac wide open but get up close to straight lines and you will see distortion. The middle of the image pops out while the sides get sucked in. If you do note shoot any lines, you will most likely never notice it. But it IS there.

A quick and dirty attempt to fix using photoshop during the RAW conversion – took about 2 seconds. 

So seeing that is is pretty much fixable, we have to ask ourselves what we shoot and what we would shoot with this lens. IT IS NOT a lens for architecture that is for sure. So far, this is the only negative I have found in comparison with the Leica 0.95.

UPDATE – February 19th 2012 – More images

Took this lens with me to a tattoo convention today but I was mainly shooting the Leica 75 Summilux. I did snap off a couple shots wide open though and MAN OH MAN, this lens performed flawlessly. I am convinced it is SHARPER wide open that the Noctilux ASPH! Again, no focus issues, no focus shift, it perfumes up close, mid distance and far distance. I continue to be more and more impressed with this lens. It seems to have the sharpness (or more of it) than the $11k Noctilux ASPH but with a bit more 3D pop and even better bokeh..oh and less CA. See the lamp below? The Nocti would have had purple fringing there :)

The 1st image below is wide open – focus on tattoo artist – THIS is one hell of a lens!  – Click the pic for larger – all other images below the 1st were also at T0.95!

UPDATE Feb 22nd 2012 – Some notes from SLR Magic on this lens to clear up some confusion

I heard from Andrew at SLR Magic today and he mentioned a few things about this lens that he wanted me to pass along. Here is what he said:

1) The CINE and LM version are different mechanically. The LM version is a mechanically different version in both mechanical design and materials for RF coupling compatibility. The only thing that is the same about the two is the optical design. Differences in materials, mechanical parts, and labor involved to calibrate the lens is the cause of the price difference. If used on a mirrorless camera with an adapter the two versions will look the same optically.

2) The lens is designed to be a professional cinema lens. What this means is that the lens does not have breathing, no focus shift, and calibrated in T stops. Breathing is when focusing will cause the angle of view to change while focusing. This is common for many lenses. Focus shift is when focal point is shifted as a lens is stopped down. This is very obvious when seen through video with the lens. T stop is the true stop of the lens so that when filmmakers switch between lenses there will be no jump in brightness. With a regular lens F stop is calculated and not measured so it will be different across lenses even from the same brand. Lastly is the stepless round aperture blades. This means you get to have everything else in between. Could help when using A mode and looking at the desired shutter speed. A bless for some and a nightmare for some.

The fact that it is a cinema lens does NOT mean it is a cheap video lens as many think. There are a lot of requirements to a good cinema lens. Lenses designed to Cinema specs can easily sell for 30-40K a piece!

What he said about focus shift and lens production…

3) Focus shift is not killing our production rate. Focus shift depends on optical design and we do not have issues with focus shift. The part where I mentioned we switch out for elements by dissembling and assembling the lens all over again is to make sure ALL copies of the T0.95 lens performs with superior optical quality (sharpness and centering). This limits our production rate for all lenses. We do not ship sub par T0.95 lenses so the answer is YES. The prototypes are hand picked. This hand picking process will also apply to every T0.95 lens that ships.


UPDATE: Feb 27th 2012 – The Leica Noctilux ASPH vs the SLR Magic LM on a Sony NEX-7

Ok guys, this was an image that someone took in SLR Magics shop in Hong Kong. A Sony NEX-7 was used and each lens was wide open – below are the full size images, out of camera, no PP, no tweaks, etc. Click the images for the full size 24MP files! What do YOU see? Notice one seems more zoomed in that the other? That is because the Noctilux is in reality a 52mm lens and the SLR Magic is a true 50.


UPDATE: The Sony NEX-7 with the Hyperprime 50 T0.95

I was out and about shooting the NEX-7 with an ALL NEW Leica to NEX adapter made by SLR Magic and was very happy with the results. Also, keep an eye here for news on this adapter because it is very unique. It is an adapter that you can twist and make the minimum focus distance of the M lenses disappear. You can focus super close now with your M lenses on the NEX system, so this is really cool. The adapter is not ready for sale just yet but seems to work very well. Check out the images below of the lens on the Sony NEX.

On the NEX-7 and super close focusing using this all new adapter. 


Look at the rich colors and depth…this is wide open with an ND filter. T0.95

Again, wide open…click any of these images for larger versions! – ISO 640

T0.95 at ISO 1600 on the nEX-7

Shooting this lens on the NEX-7 was super easy. The focus peaking allowed me to focus quickly and accurately, even when wide open. The one negative about this setup though is that the lens is so front heavy on the NEX body. It is almost borderline ridiculous but with this lens on the camera be sure and hold it by the lens, not the camera body. I plan on shooting this bad boy much more on the NEX-7 as I am really liking what I see. I mean, it’s almost up there with the M9 files except they are not full frame so we get a bit of a different look. If you missed my NEX-7 review, be sure and take a look here.


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Dec 202011


USER REPORT: The Sony NEX-5n and the Voigtlander Nokton 35 1.4

By Terence Jones – See his Flickr site HERE

The Voigtlander 35 Nokton 1.4 can be purchased at B&H Photo HERE

In this review I would like to talk about a very interesting camera-lens combination of a Sony Nex-5n with a Cosina Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f/1.4.

Disclaimer: In this review I will not provide yet another review of the lens or the camera separately – there are several excellent reviews out there:

Steve Huff’s review of the Nokton Classic

Steve Huff’s review of the Sony Nex 5n

DPReview’s review of the Sony Nex 5n


Initially I bought a Sony Nex-3 as a “walk-around” camera with a large sensor.

As I am prime lens whore who loves to shoot wide open and is totally addicted to bokeh, it was clear that the kit zoom was not an option. So I got the E 16mm F2.8 Pancake lens. On the Sony body with a crop factor of 1.5 the 16mm is roughly a 24mm equivalent. While this focal length might be nice for some architectural shots or landscapes/scenery it didn’t live up to what I would consider an every-day lens; in particular it is hard to get a nice bokeh (as expected from such a short focal length) and the lens is not suited for portraits or “tight” shots. Moreover, the optical quality of the lens did not really convince me. Therefore I needed a different solution. This is how I came across the Cosina Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f/1.4 – I actually read about it on Steve’s blog for the first time.

I wanted to have a combination that was good for carrying around almost every day and that would still provide me with superior image quality. In fact the Nex + Nokton I have almost always with me now (sometimes I also use my X100). It was supposed to provide me with a decent solution when I cannot carry around my other gear which is somewhat heavy. In particular I did not want to have a large or heavy lens that would nullify the size advantage of the Nex body. So I decided to go for the Nokton. I opted for the Voigtländer M to E adapter which is a bit pricy but I read about some problems with other adapters in terms of tight fit with the camera so I decided to go for the original. The sony nex body + nokton classic is still a pretty compact solution. Recently I upgraded the Nex-3 to a Nex-5n.

So what can this combination do for you?

What is quite unique about this combination is the way of how you shoot with it. I basically never raise the camera to the eye level and shot it much more like a Rollei. For this I tilt the display 90 degrees and have the camera at my waist. The new focus peaking feature allows me get fast and accurate focus although the lens is a manual lens. Basically, when focus peaking, the camera emphasizes those parts of the picture that are in focus by highlighting the edges – so no need for the focus assistant most of the times. Using the camera like this turns it into a great machine for street photography. As the Nokton lens is fully manual the whole process of shooting is much more involved and I feel that you end up with much better pictures. The whole process is a bit slower which improves e.g., composition. With this combo it is more about creating than just taking a picture. But once you hit the shutter button… boom… minimal to no shutter lag (<= 20ms) as the first curtain is electronic.

But there are also some downsides, however I feel they are minor. First of all you do not have a view finder. I have to admit that I did not miss the view finder yet but in case you do there is also an optional viewfinder for the 5n available. Moreover when shot wide open the lens is a bit soft, might produce flare when shot right into a light source, and exhibits purple fringe wide open (completely disappears when stopped down to f/2.8). I have to say that the fringe is not too bad and when shooting in B&W, what I do most of the time, it does not matter at all. One drawback that is really annoying me is that you do not have a standard hot-shoe or a hot-shoe adapter to be able to use, say, a pocket wizard.

One question that I was asked recently is whether you can use the combination in a semi-professional setting? The answer depends on the setting (surely) and whether you need off-camera flashes. The missing hot-shoe makes it hard to trigger off-camera flashes. For many other settings however, such as weddings for example, this combination works really great. It is small, it is fast, great low light performance, very quiet, and the pictures just look cool.

I have been using this combination for roughly a year now. So what’s my verdict? The overall package is pretty amazing. The image quality is very good and you have tons of creative freedom. A slightly challenging aspect in the past was the focusing, however with focus peaking of the 5n (and with firmware upgrade also for the Nex-3) this problem virtually disappeared. As the lens has a manual aperture the only “automatic” mode that you have is aperture priority. What works great for me for street photography is setting the aperture to f/8 if light permits. Then you can use zone focusing etc., and the depth of field is large enough. Keep in mind that the lens is attached to a APS-C sensor so that in terms of depth of field you roughly lose one stop, i.e., at f/8 you need to use the f/5.6 depth of field indicator. The lens seems to be sharpest at f/8 on the Nex body. A thing that was quite annoying with the Nex-3 and that has been fixed with the Nex-5n is that the camera tends to reduce the ISO as long as the shutter speed is above 1/30. For moving objects this can be too low. Also as the lens is a 52.5mm equivalent, camera shake can blur images. The Nex-5n addresses this with a minimal shutter speed of 1/60. I often also use shutter priority to set a minimal shutter speed and together with the manual aperture the Nex is forced to adjust the ISO for correct exposure. In low light situations or for portraits you can go up to f/2.8 and you will still have extreme sharpness and, for portraits, a shallow depth of field. When focus is critical, I try to avoid going beyond f/2.8 because the lens gets a bit softer (although not too much) and it is considerably harder to focus because of the extremely shallow depth of field – your subject moves a tat and it is out of focus. However, when needed or perfect sharpness is not critical and there is enough time for proper focussing, the f/1.4 provides you with two extra stops (over f/2.8) in extremely low light situations and together with the ISO3200 performance of the NEX-5n body, which is very good, you might be able to take a few good shots where others might fall short. Also I often shot at f/1.4 those days because I just love the round bokeh discs ;-) basically trading sharpness for bokeh.

I cannot say anything about the JPEG quality of the camera as I am shooting raw only. Together with software such as Aperture or Adobe Lightroom (my favorite) this provides you with superior control (white balance, sharpness, etc.) over the final image: you can do some more major adjustments if need be and otherwise you can define some standard presets for general purpose processing.

In a nutshell the nokton classic is a fully manual lens (manual focus / manual aperture) with a slightly classic look put on steroids on the Sony Nex body. Here is a brief summary/list of advantages and disadvantages.



* The camera + lens is small and quite lightweight – a huge advantage when travelling

* The lens is very fast: f/1.4 together with the large APS-C sensor (which are widely used in DSLRs) provides superior image quality with low noise in low light situations. The lens is 35mm which roughly is a 52.5mm equivalent. This is a good focal length for street photography and day to day use. It can be also used for portraits.

* The Nex provides a manual focus assistent which makes manual focussing a bit easier. Moreover the new focus peaking allows you to focus while looking at the LCD only. The part of the image that is in focus is indicated with blinking/flickering edges (in one of three colors). This is extremely convenient and accurate.

* The lens is a prime. I personally prefer this over zoom lenses as it provides a completely different feel. The lens is very sharp from f/2.8 on reaching its sweet spot at about f/8. The rendering of the combination is very nice: great colors, great contrast. Very often I shot the lens wide open because of the extreme shallow depth of field. While purple fringe might occur this is not problem when shooting Black-and-white.

* Shooting the combination is somewhat Rollei-like. You tilt the screen and have the camera at your waist and look from the top. Very cool for street photography as you can sneak shots you would usually not get.

* Extremely short shutter delay because the first curtain is electronic.



* The lens is a manual focus lens. Sometimes when you want to take a snap shot this can be a problem. Especially in the beginning I missed focus a lot. However I have to say that once gotten used to that you will take pictures more slowly leading to an overall different experience. However the focus peaking reduces these problems a lot and overall focusing speed is extremely high.

* The lens is a bit soft when shot wide open down to f/2.5

* The nex body is a bit too menu-driven for my personal taste. I would have wished for some type of quick access button as my 7D has to access essential functions. However with the latest firmware you can define a few custom buttons and that solves most of the problems by bringing essential controls at your fingertip.

* Lens flare when shooting into light and sometimes purple fringe.

Lens also has some optical distortions such as barrel distortion. This gives the images a more classical look. It depends on you whether you like this.

Here are a few shots so that you can see what the combination can do for you. Click on any image for a larger version.


Aug 252011

Shooting at Marthas Vineyard by Michael Potiker

I was able to spend a few weeks of August photographing the amazingly picturesque island of Martha’s Vineyard with my M9, and am very happy with the variety of images I captured there. I feel that as a long time SLR user, the M system isn’t necessarily as ideal for the traditional landscape type images due to the inherent inaccuracy of the bright-line system, but that this weakness is far made up for by the fact that I will actually carry this camera around, which gives me the ability to capture scenes I wouldn’t have before.

The size of the M9 and it’s ironically low key appearance) were some of the things that drove me towards the system, as well as my complete inability to discreetly photograph on the street with an SLR and a prime lens. I feel that while the M9 is really a phenomenal camera, a large part of the beauty of the system are the compact high quality optics. While a Nikon D3s may be a far superior camera for working in high ISO values, I feel that parents noticing photographs being taken of them and their children would react quite differently seeing a beast like the D3 pointed at them. I know this for a fact, as when I was working in Montreal & NYC the reactions to my M3 were quite a bit different than how people felt about me photographing them with my D7000 or F4s (with battery grip, no logos, and a 50mm 1.8).

The reason I truly love the M system is that it gives me the ability to focus in almost no light, and then capture my image without anyone noticing it is happening (all of the fair photos were shot at F1.1 at 2500ISO, it’s the only time I shoot .jpg as I like the high ISO b&w that comes out of the camera, and they have no noise reduction done). It’s the only camera I’ve used (and I’ve been through quite a few different camera bodies recently) that truly gets out of my way and becomes an extension of my personal vision when I use it. I attribute this to the bright and straight through viewfinder that allows me to see outside my actual frame, and the fact that the camera creates the impression of literally carving a picture out of the world in front of you using those amazing bright-lines.


All of these were taken with either the 35mm Biogon, a 50mm 1.1 Nokton, or a 15mm Voigtlander (just one is done with the 15 in this post).
Entire flickr set is here:
Again, my blog is:

Sep 082010

Making The Move…

Nikon DSLR To The Leica M9…My Experience.

By Scott Graham

Hi. My name is Scotty Graham, and I am a Cameraholic. I started sipping cameras when I was 10. My Grandmother gave me my first camera. It was, what she thought, a harmless camera, the Pentax K1000. My use of the Pentax lead to heavier use and more dangerous cameras. I used to hide a camera in my locker at school, and sneak out between classes to take photos. I have spent a life savings on cameras ever since. I never got help. My addiction kept growing, and led me into the heavy Nikons, and got worse when the digital age hit in the late nineties. Although I never robbed a 7-11 to buy the newest Nikon that came out or a new lens, I was tempted. After experimenting with every Nikon on the market, nothing could give me the high I wanted… nothing until the Leica M9.

STOP. Am I sick or am I like you? Do you have a similar story? Let me start over…

My name is Scotty Graham, and I am a High School Photography Teacher at the Jakarta International School. I also own Last Flight Out Photography, which leads photography tours in South East Asia.

I bought the M9 in Singapore two months ago. It came at a price. I had to sell ALL of my Nikon stuff. As you know, the Leica is not cheap, and for a teacher like me, it was a major investment! I wish I could afford both systems, but I had to make a choice, and that choice was the M9.

The decision to move to the M9 did not come easily. I was happy shooting with my Nikon. It was not always a good relationship, though. I travel a lot. Let me repeat, A LOT. I am an expat living in Jakarta, Indonesia and to escape the traffic in this city, I go everywhere I can when I can. The first thing I pack before a trip is my camera gear…and I bring everything. With my Nikons, that amounted to a great deal of stuff to lug around. Besides looking like a total camera geek on the streets, it was heavy. Sitting down in a restaurant to eat was never easy because I never knew where to put my camera gear. I would come back to the hotel after a day of shooting tired as hell and with a sore back from carrying my camera bag. I got to my breaking point, and often found myself leaving my Nikon in the hotel room because I didn’t want to carry it. A change was needed.

One day, a friend of mine sent me a link to a review of the Leica M9. It was Ken Rockwell’s site. I had heard of Leica before in my film days, but had never owned one. After reading Ken’s review, he had me intrigued. I scoured the Internet for more information, and of course, Steve Huff’s site fell into my lap. One night, I stayed up late reading EVERYTHING on Steve’s old site (this was before he started his new site). I then emailed him, and asked him, “Steve, do you have any regrets selling your Nikon D700 for the Leica M9?” He replied with an emphatic, “No regrets, Scotty”. The seed was set. I joined a couple of Leica forums, asked many questions, and got lots of answers. I read every review available on the M9. I watched Chris Weeks’ videos on street shooting with the M9. I read (present and past tense) Steve’s site daily. Finally, I came to a decision. I made the move.

I am sure there are other readers of this great blog that are in the same position as I was a few months ago…that is, a DSLR user thinking of trading-in for the Leica M9. All of the reviews I read came from long time Leica users already familiar with shooting a range finder. I wanted to know what a newbie to Leica and Range Finder cameras felt about shooting an RF camera and more specifically, the M9. I wanted to know how they felt about giving up their SLR for the RF. I was told countless times to not give up my DSLR. I was told, “Don’t give up your Nikon as the Leica is good for some things, but can’t do other things that you take for granted with your Nikon”. Again, keeping my DSLR gear was not an option for me. I am not rich, and the Leica is a rich man’s camera. I had to sacrifice my gear to shoot with a Leica.

Following in Steve’s footsteps, this article is my “real world” review of the M9 from the perspective of a long-time DSLR user, and someone new to Leica and the Range Finder camera. I want to thank Steve for letting me share this review with you.

Am I happy with the switch? Read on…


When I bought the M9 in Singapore, I didn’t have a lens. In fact, the camera sat in my bedroom for two weeks without a lens. You can imagine what that was like for an addict like me. I had limited funds left after plucking down almost 8 grand for the M9 (more expensive out here than at B&H). With a friend here in Jakarta (that I met in one of the Leica Forums), I made a trade for two lenses. I traded some Nikon equipment for his Voightlander 50mm f1.1 Nokton and his Leica 18mm Super Elmar. At this point, these are the only two lenses I own, and both ROCK!! In the future, I will buy more lenses…I have the disease, so it is inevitable…

I know this is a tough decision for most of you out there…what lenses to buy? Steve has written several articles on this site with recommendations, and I would read them…he gives great advice. In my case, what was in the trade was in the trade, I had little choice. I shoot lots of wide angle, so the 18mm worked out well for me. The 50mm ended up being a great all around lens, and I would take a 50mm over the 35mm for a “one lens” kit if I were forced to only have one lens. I found on my recent trip to Italy, these two lenses were enough…but sometimes, the 18mm was too wide, and the 50mm wasn’t long enough. In the future, I would like to add a 28mm and perhaps the 135mm (which Ashwin wrote a fantastic review of on this site) to give me four lenses to meet just about every focal length one would need on a trip. I want the 50mm Lux, but I’ll tell you the truth…the Voightlander is an EXCELLENT lens and FAST at f1.1. I have virtually no complaints with that lens. It is solidly built too. I accidentally dropped the lens when I was walking up some concrete steps (it fell out of my case that I had on my belt). To my horror, I watched it bounce down three steps until a guy behind me picked it up. Besides a couple of scratches and a broken UV filter, the lens still works perfectly. Unreal. One tough lens.


When I finally got my two lenses, I went in my back yard to shoot my daughters (that sounded bad…I meant “take photos” of my daughters). These are the very first shots taken with my new Leica M9.

Size of the M9

First off, the camera is heavier than I thought it would be. It is a beautiful piece of machinery solidly built. Nothing feels cheap on this camera. It fits in my hands so nicely and is a pleasure to hold. Having said that, it is not a light camera to carry around. It is not much smaller than my old Nikon D700, but the incredible Leica glass is tiny compared to the monster Nikon lenses. If you were to compare the Nikon 14-24mm to my 18mm Super Elmar, it would be like a little puppy sitting next to a Great Dane. This is where the weight is saved in carrying the Leica (the lenses), not really with the body (still smaller than most Pro DSLRs).


I had trouble with focusing at first. I still have trouble from time to time. I was so used to the rocket fast auto focus on my Nikon D3, it took some time to adjust to manually focusing the Leica. I am getting much faster with practice, but I am still not up to speed with it. My wife and kids get frustrated with me when taking their photo as I take much more time while they hold their smiles and poses. You won’t hear about this from long time Leica users, and it is something you need to be aware of when you switch over to the range finder…it takes practice to focus well. Sometimes (not often) I can’t see the virtual image in the focus zone to match with the real image…not sure what causes this, but it is frustrating when it happens. What I really like about the Leica, however, is that I have total control over the camera, and that is a good thing. I can’t think of how many times my Nikon got it wrong with focusing. I am in control of the Leica. If it is out of focus, I can only blame myself, and not the camera. Once you get those images lined up in the viewfinder, the photo is tack sharp where you want it to be. I am starting to prefer focusing the Leica to my auto focus on the Nikon, but it has taken LOTS of practice.


The viewfinder is beautiful… so bright and it is easy to see what is coming into your picture…the reason many PJ’s love the RF. The frame lines are clear. However, with the Voightlander 50mm, the frame lines were fairly accurate, but I realized after awhile that I was actually capturing slightly outside of the frame lines. Once I knew this, it was easy to compose. Composition is not a problem. It is not as accurate as a DSLR looking through the lens, but I have no problems composing. When I have the 18mm attached, I have to use a separate viewfinder. I first focus in the main viewfinder, and then look through the other viewfinder to compose. That was tricky at first. Sometimes I would forget I had the 18mm attached, and would frame in the 50mm frame lines, and then look at my monitor and be shocked to see a wide-angle image. Oops.

I now prefer the viewfinder of the M9 to that of my Nikon. It is really nice to keep one eye open and to see people move into the frame. It is also nice to not have that temporary blackout when the shutter is pushed. The viewfinder for my 18mm is extremely accurate. I thought it would take more practice to frame with the RF, but if you have been taking photos for a long time, composition comes naturally with the RF.

Image Quality

WOW! That is all I can say. The files are gorgeous from this camera. With over 18 million pixels, you end up with a file that is plenty big to print, and they take abuse from Photoshop and Lightroom adjustments so well. I thought the files from the D3, D700, D300 were good. The Leica files just feel better. I often look at my files in Lightroom, and think, “no adjustments needed here”…the native files are that good. I have a large format printer (the 44 inch EPSON 9880), and have made a couple of large prints (one print is 2 meters wide), and the prints are gorgeous!

The image quality is one of the main reasons I bought the M9, and I was not disappointed. Of course, the Leica glass plays a big part in the equation. I am not saying I didn’t get beautiful prints from my Nikon, and my Nikon glass, I did. However, the image quality from the M9, a camera a fraction the size of the D3 coupled with a 70-200mm lens, can’t be beat by anything out there today (in my opinion).

Here are two examples of photos (my wife, Tika) that are straight from the camera with no adjustments…nice, heh?

I made some very simple adjustments to the second photo in LR to the second image to produce this:

I really didn’t understand the “Leica Look” I kept hearing about, but now I get it. There really is a different look to the images that come out of the Leica. I still can’t explain it, but it is there.


A controversial topic, I know. Some people hate it, some love it… I am not here for that debate. I happen to like it (at times) when done properly. With my Nikon, it was easy to set up auto bracketing and fire away. How does the M9 work for HDR? Although the M9 is not nearly as fast as the Nikon (it only fires at 2 frames per second), it is very easy to set up auto bracketing, and the M9 will take up to 7 shots. What I liked about it was that once the auto bracketing is set, you just press the shutter button once, and the camera does the rest. I found myself hand holding many of my HDR shots that I would never be able to hand hold with the Nikon. Since there is no mirror in the Leica, I was able to hand hold the camera at slow shutter speeds up to an eighth of a second with no visible camera shake in the files. In all of the churches I visited in Italy, tripods were not allowed. I boosted the ISO to 1600, and hand held 5-shots with the last two shots at pretty darn slow shutter speeds. The resulting photos after blending in Photomatix and touched up in Photoshop are pretty darn good…I think better than what I could get with my Nikon. The M9 is a great HDR camera!

What I didn’t like about the Leica was that often I would forget to turn off the auto bracketing. Then, when I only wanted one exposure, the camera would suddenly take 5 exposures. I would have to wait for the camera to take the five exposures, then wait for the exposures to record onto the SD card, then turn off the auto bracketing and re-take the photo I was intending to take originally. Often, I missed the shot because of this. I have learned my lesson though, and not remember to turn the auto bracketing off.

Here are some HDR shots …all hand held.

Leica M9 for Street Shooting

I might hit a nerve with some here on this. The Leica is known as the King of Street Shooting. I agree and disagree… at least from my perspective. Yes, you can be less intrusive with the Leica, and it is not so scary looking as a massive DSLR with a long lens pointing at someone, and most people don’t take you as a professional carrying what they think is some old clunky camera…this is where I agree that the Leica is King of the Streets. I will admit that I am a mere plebe with the Leica. My focusing skills are not that good yet, and I don’t have a lens longer than a 50mm. I find it difficult to shoot people in the streets. Contrary to what most Leica shooters say, I get noticed by people with my Leica where I was seldom noticed with my Nikon…I was seldom noticed with my Nikon because I was usually a fair distance away with my large zoom lens. Zoom lenses are really handy for street shooting. With my Nikon, I could hide across the street and get a totally candid shot by zooming in without the person even knowing he/she was being photographed. Since I need to be close to the subject with a 50mm, it is more difficult to get a candid shot. The person/people I am trying to shoot are well aware I am taking their photo. One occasion while in Italy, I was trying to take a photo of an artist painting a portrait of a girl on the street (great textured background), and noticed him flipping me the bird as I was focusing… so much for a candid shot. On another occasion, I was trying to take a photo of a group of old men sitting on a bench talking and smoking cigars at dusk. I would have gotten the shot with my long lens and Nikon, but with the Leica, I had to move close to the men. They noticed me, and one of them waved me away. For street shooting, I miss my Nikon. Sorry. Don’t beat me up, Chris Weeks…I do have tremendous respect for good street shooters (like Chris), and have more respect now knowing how difficult it is to get good street shots. Having said this, I am getting more practice as I use the Leica more, and I have gotten a couple of decent street shots.

By the way, I agree with Steve Huff…Nik’s Silver Effex Pro absolutely rocks for black and white conversions. All my black n white photos are converted using Nik. The Leica also has a built-in black n white for jpgs only. I really like the vintage black n white, and it is one that is difficult to duplicate with Nik. I would use it more if the conversion could be made with the DNG files rather than the jpgs.

Battery, Base Plate, On/Off Switch, High ISO, and Monitor

I wanted to mention these things as they are mentioned in virtually every review I read on the M9. I disagree with many of the reviews I have read about the battery. It doesn’t last as long as my Nikon’s battery, but it has never been an issue with me. I bought an extra battery, so I always have a fully charged battery with me. The battery easily lasts a full day of shooting. I have yet to drain the battery , and often when in Italy, I was shooting from 5:00 am till late at night

Reviewers have also criticized Leica for having to remove the base plate to get to the battery and SD card. A non-issue for me…really, no problem.

The On/Off switch could be better. It is too easy to move, and can easily accidentally be switched on. Not a huge problem, but given the quality build of the camera, I am surprised Leica didn’t build a better on/off switch.

I have yet to shoot above ISO 1600, so the conceived high ISO problem with the M9 is not an issue with me. My Nikon D3 could go to ridiculous ISO levels with little noise. It really is THE camera for high ISO shooting. For my style of shooting, I rarely need an ISO above 1600. With my Nikon, I would occasionally use a high ISO for sports and for the rare stage performance I would shoot. I find the Leica to be the best travel camera available. Rarely during travel would a high ISO be needed. Having said that, I did experiment with high ISO, and the critics are correct, the Leica does not handle high ISO as well as the latest DSLR’s. However, it is not a deal breaker for me. After all, how often when you used film would you use the ridiculous ISO’s offered now by the DSLR’s…c’mon….get real.

Finally, the monitor… clearly the M9’s weakest link. To put it plainly, it sucks…especially for a seven (eight) thousand dollar camera. I like to use the monitor to check if I nailed the focus. All my photos look fuzzy in the monitor, and then when I would look at them in Lightroom after downloading, they were sharp. My brain has adjusted, however. I can now tell from the monitor which photos are sharp and which are out of focus. I also use the monitor to check for composition. For this purpose, the monitor is fine. I do miss my monitor on my Nikon. Again, not a deal broker. It sucks, but I absolutely love this camera, so I don’t let it bother me.


I am now an Ex-DSLR shooter. Other than my underwater camera, I no longer own a DSLR. Do I have any regrets? In short, NO REGRETS. I made the right decision for ME and for my style of shooting. There were times I missed having a zoom lens. In retrospect, however, I think of the shots I wanted with the zoom, and they were very few. I have learned to just not “see” those shots anymore. Instead, I concentrate on the shots I can get with the prime lens I am using. It does make me “see” differently. People told me my style would change when shooting with the Leica, and I agree to a point. You have heard this before…the Leica brings back the fun in photography. You have to think with every shot you take. You must think about your aperture, shutter speed, exposure, focus and composition. There is nothing automatic, and I like that. I am in control of my camera, not the other way around.

Chase Jarvis says, “The best camera is the one you have with you”. I take my Leica with me everywhere. Rarely am I without a camera. Not true with my Nikon…it was just too damn big to carry around with me. I am happiest with the Leica when I am packing for a trip, and when I am out walking around. I can’t tell you how nice it is to walk around with the camera around my neck with a small lens attached, and carrying one other lens in a small case on my belt. Gone are the days of lugging 20 pounds of camera equipment on my back. I bought a Gitzo 1541T tripod with a Really Right Stuff ball head that probably weighs less than my old ball head alone on my old tripod. The Leica is just a pleasure to walk around a city or hike up a mountain. It truly is the perfect travel camera, and is why I have no regrets, and don’t miss my Nikon.

My wife hates the Leica. She can’t use it, and that is somewhat a problem. It is not the type of camera you can hand to a stranger in the street and ask to take a group photo with you in it. I don’t have a single photo of myself from my last trip as Tika couldn’t use my Leica. Oh well. In the future, I guess I will just have to set the camera on a tripod, put on the timer, and jump into the shot.

Is the M9 right for you? Depends on what you shoot. If you are a wedding photographer, I would stick with the DSLR as your main camera, and carry the M9 as a second camera. You could shoot a wedding with a Leica, but it would be a challenge. The modern DSLR is clearly the most flexible tool out there for photography…if you rely on “getting the shot” for a living, the Leica is not your best choice of camera. If you shoot sports or you are a wildlife photographer, the Leica is not for you unless you want it as a second camera. If you don’t want to think, and let the camera do everything for you, the Leica is not for you. If you are a scientist or flower fanatic, and want extreme close-up shots of bees, frogs and spiders, stay away from the Leica. If you are a traveler, fine art photographer, photojournalist, landscape photographer, architectural photographer, street photographer (with practice) I would dump your heavy DSLR stuff now, and invest in a Leica…you won’t be disappointed nor will your clients. If you can afford it, keep your DSLR and have a Leica to complement your equipment. I am willing to bet, however, that after time, you will use the SLR less and less, and choose to grab the Leica instead.

My name is Scotty Graham. I am a recovering cameraholic. This may be my last camera until the M10…ha ha…once a cameraholic, always a cameraholic.

Thanks again to Steve and his website!! You da man, Steve!! (Thanks Scott! Awesome article/write up on the M9!! – Steve)

Scotty’s Photo Blog…www.scottygraham.blogspot.com

Scotty’s Website (badly needs updating)…www.scottygraham.com

Scotty’s Pbase Galleries…www.pbase.com/scottygraham


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Feb 042010

Voigtländer 50/1.5 Nokton Review by James Klotz

We all know the drill. You just dropped a big chunk of change on that shiny new M8 or M9, and then started looking at the prices for the Leica glass. You read Steve’s reviews, poured over the other review sites, poked around in the forums, and what happened? You found yourself with an angel sitting on one shoulder whispering “fiscal responsibility”, and the devil is on the other, screaming “YOU NEED THAT NOCTILUX”! What’s a guy/girl to do?

If price were no object, we’d all just head over to our favorite dealer, plunk down the well worn amex and load up on just about everything we could find that had a red dot on it. We all know Leica lenses are legendary. But the reality is, particularly in this economy, most of us can’t (if you are one of the lucky few that can, I hate you. Just kidding). So it’s my intention to offer some alternatives that even “real” photographers can afford.

As many of you may know, Zeiss makes a line of lenses for the Leica M mount and they are MUCH less expensive than their Leica counterparts. And from what I have experienced, they make some damn fine glass. But let’s face it, they still aren’t cheap. A 3 lens Ziess combo will still set you back almost $4,000. Don’t have a spare $4K sitting around? Enter Voigtländer.

The name Voigtländer has been around since 1756, and has been bought and sold more times than Cher has had plastic surgery. Sometime around 1982, the rights to the name were bought by the Japanese company Cosina. It’s often referred to as Cosina Voigtländer now. Currently they manufacture a line of film rangefinder cameras and lenses. The current lens lineup consists of the 12/5.6, 15/4.5, 21/4, 25/4, 28/3.5, 28/2, 35/1.2, 35/1.4, 35/2.5 C, 35/2.5 P1, 35/2.5 PII, 40/1.4, 50/2, 50/1.5, 50/1.1, 75/2.5, and 90/3.5. In this article, I’m going to discuss the 50/1.5 Nokton.

The Stats: The 50/1.5 Nokton is a rangefinder coupled lens with two aspherical surfaces. Weight with lens shade is 9 oz, and it’s available in silver or black. It has half click stops and ten aperture blades. Minimum aperture is f/16. Close focus distance is .9 meter or just under 3 feet. It uses a 52mm filter, and is not accessible for removal or mounting without 1st removing the screw on shade. It comes with the lens shade, front and back caps. If you require a larger shade, the LH-3 vented hood designed for the 35/1.2 will also fit this lens. It is not a perfect fit, but will work, from what I understand. I haven’t tried it.

Zen and the Art of Screw Mount Lenses

The Nokton is an LTM mount lens. LTM is a screw mount that was used by Leica, among others until the late 1950’s . This means we’ll need an adaptor to make it compatible with current M mount cameras. It may sound a little complicated, but it’s really not. Basically, it’s a ring that screws onto the lens and, once on, just forget it’s there and use it like any other M mount lens. There are several available adaptors, which can be had for as little as $75, although my favorite is made by John Milich (contact [email protected]) because it comes with “divots” that allow the lens to be permanently coded, should you so desire. Several have said that a 50mm and longer focal length on the digital M cameras don’t need to be coded, but we’ll look at that in a sec. I coded mine as a 50 pre-asph Summilux with some black and white Testers model paint and a toothpick. The adaptors are what select the frame lines in the viewer, so make sure you buy the proper adaptor for the focal length you are using. (The Voigtlander adapter is available here)

But is it Built for the Long Haul?

The lens is built fairly well. Compared to the plastic DSLR lenses, it’s actually quite robust. Is it a Leica? No. Compared to the 50 Summilux, it feel a little toyish. While the Summilux comes in at 1.39 lbs, the Nokton is only 9 oz. The Summiluxs’ aperture ring clicks into place with authority. The Noktons’ feels a little less precise. The relatively short throw focus ring is well damped, and does it’s job, but it’s not as good as the Leica. Is it a “lifetime” lens? I can’t answer that, but I will say that, in the three years I’ve owned it, it hasn’t given me a lick of trouble, and that includes a cross country trip strapped to the back of a motorcycle. The bottom line: Is it Leica quality? Absolutely not. Does it make great pictures and hold up to day to day usage? Yes, it does.

Some have complained that there is sample variation among the Voigtländer lenses. I have had good luck with mine, however I recommend purchasing them from a reliable dealer with a good return policy, should you have trouble.

To Code or Not to Code; That is the Question!

One of the great things about an M9 is that it has the ability to select various lens corrections via the menu, manually. Therefore we can easily test various in camera corrections before hand coding a lens permanently, should you so desire. I’m sure Leica has some very expensive test equipment that could be used for such a purpose, however, I simply look to the heavens. Literally. I simply point the camera at the sky, take a shot, change to the next setting, and take another, until I’ve been through the applicable focal length choices. Afterwards, I view them on a color corrected monitor and see which setting exhibits the least amount of vignetting and color cast. For instance, with the Nokton, I first set lens correction to off, then took a picture of the sky. Then I set it to “manual” and selected 50 f1 Noctulux, then the pre-ASPH Summilux, on and on until I had tried all the 50mm options. I’ll refrain from boring you with pictures of the sky, however, I did find it to be best when set to a 50 pre-asph Summilux. With the 50mm focal length, the differences are subtle, but why not make it as good as you can? I also like my lenses coded so I can have the info in the EXIF data, as I tend to change lenses often and like to know which lens I used after the fact. Some might not be a finicky as I am, and be perfectly happy shooting it without coding.

Three 50’s – The 50 Summicron (older version), 50 Summilux ASPH and the Nokton 1.5

The same three 50’s with hoods attached and extended

Warts and All…..

Is this a perfect lens? No. Is there such a thing? Probably not. For starters, with the lens hood mounted, it blocks a small portion of the viewfinder. Take the hood off and it blocks a little less. It bothered be for the first 20 frames, then I got used to it and it doesn’t bother me at all. I never take the lens hood off. Your mileage may vary.

As mentioned before, it’s very light for a lens of this size. Personally, I see this a benefit, however, it does lack that solid “Leica” feel. The markings are white, which reads very well on my black lens. My only complaint in this department is that the “feet” on the distance scale is red, not white, and the red is actually more of a washed out maroon, and is quite difficult to read. Forget it in low light. If you like to zone focus and you think in feet instead of meters, this may be an issue.

I noticed a very slight amount of barrel distortion, which was easily corrected in post, but unless you are shooting architecture, I doubt this will be an issue. That being said, I don’t see a fast 50mm lens on a rangefinder to be the setup one would typically use for architecture anyway.

If you plan to use it on the M8, you’ll need an IR/UV filter. The filter size is 52, which Leica does not make. I used it with the B+W 486 filter for 2 years on my M8 and it worked fine.

I find this lens to be prone to veiling flare to some degree, which is why I never remove the hood. I suppose the larger vented hood made for the 35/1.2 may help, but I never found the need. Personally, I’d rather be aware of how the lens reacts and shoot accordingly than to have a larger hood sticking into my viewfinder.

It’s fairly large by M standards, compared to my Canon 50 1.2L, it’s tiny.

Takin’ it to the Streets

I really have enjoyed using this lens. It’s tack sharp and has a wonderful bokeh. The look reminds me a little of the summicron, although possibly a little cooler in color rendition. The micro contrast is decent, but don’t expect a current ASPH Lux’. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the type of picture you want to make, and the look you prefer. I haven’t had any back or front focusing issues with it, which is good, because at 1.5, the depth of field is pretty darn thin.

Coded as a 50 pre-asph Summilux, there is a very slight amount of vignetting wide open, which you may or may not notice in real world shooting. Personally, I like it for most subjects, but again, it is so easy to remove in post, it’s not an issue for me. Stopping it down to 2.8 pretty much removes it.

It feels good on the camera and focuses easily. I’d consider it to be a medium contrast lens, which is helpful shooting in higher contrast situations, although I find myself bringing up the black levels slightly in post for a lot of shots. From my experience, it’s usually easier to bring up the blacks in post that to take a picture with too much contrast and try to lighten the shadows after the fact. Again, your mileage may vary.

A Tale of Two Bokeh’s

Just for fun, here is a shot of the same subject, taken with the 50 Nokton and a Leica 50 ASPH Summilux. To my eyes, the bokeh is creamer and smoother with the Leica lens. The Nokton is a little “jittery”. Not that either is good or bad, it’s just a preference I suppose. Also noteworthy is the warmer rendering of the Leica lens. They were both white balanced to the same settings – pretty drastic, huh? In terms of sharpness, the Leica wins, but the Nokton is no slouch. Keep in mind the $3200 difference in price between the two.

The 50 Nokton wide open…

The 50 Summilux wide open…

UPDATE FROM STEVE : Since there seemed to possibly be some confusion with the samples above concerning which camera took which shot, and many readers thinking that they appeared reversed (Lux labeled as Noct, etc) James has taken another set of comparison photos to show bokeh wide open. Here are the new samples and I must say, the Nokton looks pretty damn good for the cost of that lens!

Voigtlander Nokton at 1.5

Leica 50 Summilux wide open at 1.4


In my personal case, I bought into an M8 without any prior rangefinder experience. Now I’m on to the M9, which is my favorite camera. Having come from the world of large format and DSLR’s, I knew very little about rangefinder cameras. Voigtländer lenses gave me the opportunity to experience several different focal lengths and really get to know the system, despite my meager budget. I am slowly replacing the ones I really like with the Leica equivalents, but I now know which focal lengths I use most often, and which I prefer for the types of pictures I like to make.

For me, a lens is a tool. I don’t collect or fondle them. I use them as they were intended, on the front of my camera, out shooting. This lens has character in spades. It widens my tool kit. I know what type of picture it will take, and I use it when I want to make that type of picture. Is it perfect? No. But it does make some great pictures, has a wonderful, smooth bokeh, does pretty good in low light and helps me to realize my vision when I want to make the type of picture it produces. And when you consider a new one could be had for $399 in Black or $449 in Silver, it is a nice option to have.

The great thing about Voigtländer lenses is they are inexpensive, and most perform very well, optically speaking. The 50/1.5 Nokton is one of those lenses.


  • Can be had for $474, including M adaptor
  • Nice, smooth bokeh
  • Light weight
  • Sharp


  • Vignettes slightly until 2.8
  • Has slight barrel distortion
  • Distance markings (in feet) are hard to read
  • At 1.5, focusing can be a real challenge
  • Resale won’t be nearly as good as the Leica equivalent
  • It’s not a Leica

A Note About the Pictures

I use Photoshop, Capture One and Lightroom extensively. These tools are my darkroom. Therefore, if you see vignetting, grain, increased sharpness, selective contrast or any other “creative adjustment”, I probably put them in there. To each his/her own, but that’s how I do things. The image of the angel bird fountain is pretty much straight out of the camera, as are the bokeh test shots.

About James Klotz

James is a professional architectural photographer based in Atlanta, Ga. He also teaches architectural photography at Creative Circus. He has a passion for photography and is a self confessed lens junkie.

For more information about James, please see his website at www.jamesklotz.com

From Steve: Thanks James for this informative look at the Voigtlander 50 Nokton 1.5 lens. I have never been able to try this lens out so it is nice to see some first hand experience from a guy who loves his M9 just as much as I do! Thanks for the fine review and pics!


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Dec 022009


Voigtlander 35 1.4 Nokton MC classic Lens review: Another day, another lens review! This week it is the very classical Voigtlander 35 Nokton 1.4 MC lens for Leica M mount, but do not worry! This is a lens almost any M shooter can afford! Yes, it is true! For about $500 you can buy yourself a FAST 1.4 aperture 35mm for Leica M mount. Meaning, a 35mm lens that you can slap on your M8 or M9 (or M7, M6, MP..any M!) and have yourself a little low light lens that performs pretty damn good for the money. But how good? That IS the question! Continue reading »

Nov 242009



This is a title match between the classic Leica Noctilux 50 F1 lens vs the new kid on the block, the “budget” Voigtlander Nokton 50 1.1 lens as shot on a full frame Leica M9!

The Leica Noctilux has been around for many years and has even been replaced by the new $10,000 Noctilux F0.95, the worlds fastest camera lens in production today. MAN oh MAN is that a beautiful lens. One I will never own, but nevertheless it is gorgeous.

Before the new .95 version the Leica F1 version was known as the KING of NIGHT. A masterpiece and a lens that allowed users to create pieces of art. Its swirly creamy bokeh is legendary but some dislike it due to its cost, larger size, heavy weight and long focus throw. Continue reading »

Nov 162009


I love FAST 50’s!

Voigtlander 50 Nokton 1.1 Review – Out of all the lens reviews I have posted to date for the Leica M, none have created the amount of e-mails to my inbox as this Voigtlander 50 Nokton 1.1. Ever since mentioning on this blog that I received it, and was testing it on the M9 I have had no less than 40 e-mails asking me when this review would be posted. I guess there can be a few reasons for the excitement. First, this is a Leica M mount Voigtlander. It is not a screw mount and you do NOT need an adapter to use it with your Leica M. Oh, and its a F1.1 lens for about $1100! Continue reading »


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