Fuji X-Pro 1 and the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 by Jim Gamblin

maintitle

Fuji X-Pro 1 and the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5

by Jim Gamblin

(From Steve: The brand new redesigned Nokton 1.5 in M mount will be released in 2-4 weeks, check it out)

Hello again! This review or rather my impressions of the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 has been a long time in the making. The reason for this, is that in truth I am not yet done. Thus there will be a second part to this review, in the form of comparisons with two other 50mm lenses.

JGP_6124

First just this lens. I am not going to go into the history of Voigtlander. Just to say that the Voigtlander lenses are made today in Japan at Cosina. The same place many of the Zeiss lenses are made.

The Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 is currently the only Fuji lens that I have. It is optically a wonderful lens and for the most part a joy to use. However I needed something longer in focal length. My original choice was going to be the Fujinon 60mm f/2.4. However after trying it in a store I was put off by the terrible AF. Not only slow, but would not lock on once in roughly 20 tries.

On my Nikon D3 my most used lens is the 85mm AF-D f/1.4. So I thought I would try a 50mm, which would give me a 75mm equivalent AOV, close to the D3 ~ 85mm combo. First I put my Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 AI-S lens to work. But that lens is front heavy and puts the camera out of balance. At this point I had decided that I should investigate getting M mount style lenses in lieu of the larger SLR lenses.

The first M mount lens that I had acquired was the Voigtlander 75mm f/2.5 Color~Heliar and have been very happy with it. Great for portraits with it’s lower contrast. But for two people or in cramped quarters it became a little to long on the X-P 1 (equivalent 112mm). Thus I went back to the idea of a fast 50mm M mount lens.

image3gamb

With a Leica Summilux ASPH being completely out of the question, I began my research. Which is where I found this review on Steve Huff’s site: http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2010/02/04/voigtlander-nokton-50-1-5-lens-review-by-james-klotz/. Very impressive. Also Sean Reid had many good things about the lens.

Unfortunately this lens has been out of production for a while. (***note a new version of the Nokton f/1.5, is to be released this summer 2013). The current 50mm Nokton is a massive (in size) f/1.1 and has not been as well received. Like many others, I am on a size reduction program, thus this lens did not interest me. Carl Zeiss makes two fifty M mounts. The Sonnar f/1.5 and the Planar f/2. Both small and highly regarded and were both appealing to me. After reading many reviews on all three, I kept going back to the two reviews on the Nokton and decided that was the lens for me. Missed two on ebay as “auctions”, but then found another on ebay as a “Buy Now” from an antique store in Australia. Being a little nervous about buying a photographic lens from an antique dealer, I finally sucked it up and took a chance. Despite my early misgivings, it would appear that I was lucky and got a good copy. Apparently news on the internet is that Cosina Voigtlander lenses suffer from quality control and not all lenses are created equal.

This version like my Color~Heliar is the older LTM screw mount. So an adapter is needed first to convert it to the M mount. These cost about €50. It is a simple ring that just screws on to the lens mount and barely makes any difference in size, weight or appearance. Mine is made by Voigtlander and is specially made for the 50 and 75mm lenses.

image4gamblin

The lens is similar in look and construction to the Color~Heliar 75mm. And it just looks right on the X-Pro 1. All metal with DOF markings (though these marking more apply to a 35mm size frame). It has a nice heft to it without being too heavy about 250 grams roughly half a pound. Front thread is 52mm. Half stop clicks after f/2. The clicks don’t feel really precise, but definitely not sloppy either. Close focus is a bit much at .90 meter. The focus ring has a nice feel to it and goes from close to infinity in half a turn. I am a fan of the knurled focus ring. Another item I am a fan of is the lens cap. It has a velvety lining and slips over the lens shade and sits there very snug. Speaking of the lens shade, one must remove it to put on or take off a filter. Not a big hassle, but something worth noting.

Over all I am quite pleased with this lens, especially considering the cost. In the second part of this review will be comparisons with two other fifties, nothing exotic just close in price range. So until then I will skip the inevitable bokeh speak.

image5gamblin

image6gamblin

image7gamblin

image8gamblin

When using the Nokton with the X-Pro 1, it of course must be focused in EVF mode. Having mostly used SLR’s for the better part of my career, I am not used to zone focusing. So in using this lens with the XP1, it is a slower more deliberate action. Focus peaking would of course help tremendously and like many I keep hoping to see it appear on whatever upcoming firmware. Also irritating is that Fuji files do not have the aperture setting in the EXIF of third-party lenses. However I have not experienced any problems in focusing and much of the time I do not need to use the magnifier. Have not missed focus on that many shots, except of course trying to capture fast action.

As noted earlier close focus is a distant .90 meter, which is a little disappointing. However back when Nikon use to be more considerate to their customers, they made a large selection of their lenses with a 52mm front thread and as it so happens the Nokton also has a 52mm front thread. Low and behold I found an unused set of Vivitar close-up filters tucked away in an old filter case of mine. I remember buying these before I got the 55mm f/3.5 macro lens. Using them will give the photographer a limited focus range. i.e. a #1 ~ 50cm to 110cm (19.5 to 43 inches), a #2 ~ 40cm to 60cm (16 to 23.5 inches) and a #4 ~ 24cm to 36cm (9.5 to 14 inches). Here are a couple of examples. Dark day today even at less than a meter form a large window, so I had to use ISO 2500 at f/5.6.

The #4 from 28cm (11 inches)

image9gamblin

The #2 from 52cm (20.5 inches)

image10gamb

The #1 from 65 cm ( 25.6 inches)

image11gamb

The Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 mounted on the Fuji X-Pro1 

image12gamb

For comparison the Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5. This lens would be better for more serious macro work and also has the benefit of full range. But then again the Nikkor cannot give you f/1.5.

The #2 at f/1.5

DSCF3099#2f1.5

For the time being I plan to keep this lens. If however the newly announced Fujinon 56mm is at least as sharp and has AF as fast as the Fuji 35mm, then maybe the Nokton will be replaced. We shall wait and see. One thing I know for certain is, the more I use the XP1 the more I love it, regardless of what lens.

The different moods created by this lens. Thank you for stopping by.

image13gamb

image14gamb

image16

image17

image19

image20

32 Comments

  1. thumbs up . . . check / soft release . . . check / classic glass . . . check / luigi case . . . check / vintage range finder styled camera . . . check / . . . . i’m sure winogrand and the crew would be much impressed . . . .

  2. I do have and use – alongside with the Leica M9 – this wonderful Fuji camerra. Today one question only: where I could get the leather case your camera is wrapped in?

  3. The EVF in the XP1 is not as good for manual focus as the XE-1.
    Also the diopter screw in for the XP1 doesn’t work for long sighted people so well.
    I need it for the EVF but now for the OVF.

    I had both but chose to sell the XP1 since the XE-1 only has EVF so no problem.
    It also has a built in adjustable diopter.

    I use Leica glass with a Fuji M adapter and my favorite to date is the Summicron 28 F/2.

    ET

    • Hi Evilted, from what I have read that seems to be the case. However I have not tried an XE-1 and am happy enough with the XP-1. Though I wish it was a little more rugged.

      • They are both excellent cameras – they got me out of Canon DSLRs and into Leica…
        My new M 240, 35mm Summilux F/1.4 FLE and 50mm Summilux F/1.4 ASPH arrive later today 🙂
        I’ll be trying all these lenses on the Fuji also and doing some comparisons with the M.

  4. Hi again everyone and thanks for your comments.

    Rolf- The focusing is done in the EVF not the OVF. However you can frame in OVF and thengo to the magnifier, which is in EVF. It is easy to focus, easier MF then in the current DSLR’s in fact. Would be great if Fuji could add some sort of “in-focus” confirmation in OVF though.

    Kalika- Yes it is one of Luigi’s Leicatime cases.

    Rich-I added a Fuji made diopter to my XP1 and all is good. I believe B&H has them for $15. In low light my D3 hunts a lot and will not lock-in at times. It isn’t just the Fuji. For me the XP1 is fine the way it is, if it can be improved all the better, thanks for writing.

    Gregoriev-Thanks, but Steve does alright himself, nothing for him to learn.

    DTB-Agree with all you say.

    Levent-Thank you. I will be doing a follow-up comparing the Nokton to a Nikkor 50mm f1.2 and a Zeiss planar

    • Thanks for the reply, Jim. DTB’s comments also have given me pause to reconsider. I do love my D2H bodies as very seldom do I have a problem with its AF capabilities just because I have had them for 10 years and intuitively know what makes them work. Maybe I should rent an XP1 and try it out before just waiting for the XP1S/2 to be announced.

      • The Contax G series was one of the reasons for me getting a n XP1. I still have mine and use the 90mm Sonnar alot. Bit of a hassle to focus, as one has to use the adapter. But lovely rendering. Not a bad idea to rent if you can. Living here in the Netherlands, I find I can rent Nikon and Canon stuff only.

  5. Cool write up and photos, thanks for posting it!

    I too was influenced by James Klotz’s review of the 50mm Nokton f/1.5 LTM (on Steve’s site) and purchased a used one, last summer in New York at Adorama. Since then, it’s been my favorite fast fifty on the Ricoh GXR camera. Mine is a very early version, which was made when the black paint was not very strong and therefore my heavy use has caused it to brass quite bit. Truth be told, it doesn’t really bother me, because I am more concerned with how the lens transmits light that how it looks on the camera. And the 50mm Nokton is a great lens for a bargain price!

    As far as fast manual focus 50mm SLR lenses on APS-C mirrorless cameras is concerned, I can highly recommend the Canon FD 50mm f/1.2 lens, provided you are using the small and lightweight Novoflex adaptor, otherwise it can be a bit bulky on a mirrorless body.

    Another fast fifty that I’ve been recently using is the radioactive thorium coated Super-Takumar 50mm f/1.4 in the old M42 Pentax Screw Mount. It’s an extremely high quality lens which typically sells for about $80 without the adaptor.

  6. Good article , but should you want something different from Cosina , and less expensive than a Leica bottle , try the MS-Optical Sonnetar 50mm 1.1 there is one in the Leica Shop Vienna, and on ebay , I found the Leica Shop guys great, here it is http://www.leicashop.com/vintage_en/leica/leica-m-lenses/m-lenses-various-makers.html for lens results try here http://www.flickr.com/photos/77437968@N00/sets/72157633745038127/ and wide open at 1.1 ( I think it was wide open but I had imbibed several glasses by then ) here http://www.flickr.com/photos/77437968@N00/8858286667/ I like this lens its really light.

  7. Nice review, Jim, and nice range of images to back up your conclusions. Gives me some food for thought if/when I go to the next step with Fuji. As Leica will always be beyond my price point, the X-Pro series is where I am hoping to go. I was tempted with the X-Pro1 but was put off with the lack of in-camera adjustable VF diopter along with concerns over contrast detect AF. I purchased the X100S which is very quickly winning me over from my Nikons. If Fuji adds the upgrades of the X100S (phase detect with contrast detect AF, focus peaking/digital split image MF), then my Nikons are probably gone in favor of the X-Pro1S/2 and interchangeable lenses.

    • I was thinking the same as you, but decided I could not wait any longer. So, I bought the X-Pro 1 with the 35mm and 60mm, and I use my Canon 10-22mm for ultrawide-angle shots, and I am blown away with how good it is. I don’t think will ever use my DSLR again, as the X-Pro 1 is a joy to use and the image quality and sharpness are far better than that of my DSLR. Despite all of the complaints online about its AF, I have had no problems with it. After using the camera for about a week and a half now, shooting in all sorts of lighting conditions, and even taking several panning shots, I am glad I went with my gut feeling and ignored the complainers online. Just like in skateboarding and golf, there are a lot of people in photography that blame their mistakes and failures on their gear, when instead they should look no further than themselves. While I can’t speak for anyone else, the X-Pro 1 is the best camera for me at the moment. There is no other camera out right now that I would rather shoot with. If they introduce a firmware update with focus peaking and minimum shutter speed in auto ISO, the camera would be near perfect. To be honest, even though I was hoping for an X-Pro 2 this summer, when they introduce it next year, it would have to be a significant improvement for me to even consider it, as the X-Pro 1 is already a great camera.

      • Thanks for the input, DTB. One question, did you add a diopter correction lens to your viewfinder? That is one of the things that put me off on the XP1. How do you put the moniker of “Pro” on a camera and leave off things that are already on other cameras in the lineup? And, to be honest, I was also a little concerned about the contrast detect AF system of the XP1. I once owned a Contax G2 that used that system and, at the time, did not realize what I needed to do to make it function correctly. I sold it but continued to research the system and now wish I had the camera back. The optics were fantastic! I will have to do more looking at the XP1 and maybe pick one up (especially when the price drops happens when Fuji releases its successor).

        • hi Rich,

          No, I didn’t add one. I have never needed to use one. However, if someone doesn’t have great eyesight, I guess that is an important feature. I agree, Fuji omitted some important features, including minimum shutter speed settings in auto ISO. Hopefully they introduce that in a near-future firmware update.

          Unfortunately, the X-Pro 2 will not likely be introduced until sometime next year, so you may have to wait a while for some great deals. I am definitely very satisfied with the camera, and will likely never use my DSLR again. if u get one, I hope you enjoy shooting with it.

  8. Luigi’s Leicatime case? Nice results with Nokton. I sold my Fujinon 60 mm yesterday: it was really terrible!

  9. Hi,

    Thanks for the comments and thanks again to Steve for allowing me to place this review here. The case, yes many have asked about it. It is hand made in Italy by http://www.leicatime.com. Really wonderful cases and they are nice ot work with, most anything you want. Also for you M users he also makes case for them. Maybe Steve will do a video review on them someday. What you don’t see (or smell) is how nice they smell. In a previous post I wrote a little about them with some close-up shots http://gambofoto.blogspot.nl/2012/08/the-fuji-x-pro-1-and-nikkor-lenses-part_28.html

  10. Fotos look absolutely perfect to me. Now, being a Leica man, owning Leicas 3,4/21 mm + 1,4/35mm + 2,0/75mm the question arises, whether it could make sense to acquire a Fuji as a second body. Is focussing as precise and (relatively) easy as with a Leica OVF??? Your opinion other blog Readers opinion please. Thanks so much. Rolf

    • Same here, not yet tried it on my X-Pro 1 as I’ve been having so much fun with the Fujinon lenses.

      Thanks to the Reid review the Nokton 50mm f/1.5 has easily been my best Leica M mount lens purchase by a looooong way. Time to remove it from the M6 and try it on the Fuji!

    • The same combo here, Voigtlander Nokton 50 1.5 and M6, Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 to compliment. Can’t decide what adapter to get for X-Pro1 though. If I should go for Kipon or spend more cash on Fuji’s M adapter. Any feedback/suggestion would be appreciated.

      Thank you for your report Jim. If I remember correctly you have written few articles about 3rd party lenses on your blog – haven’t been there in a long time, time for a visit 🙂

      • I plunged for the Kipon hexx and it’s just fine. IMHO the Fuji is way overpriced and it’s not as though it really provides anything of use over other adapters for the extra money you have to shell out.

      • Hexx, I went ahead and got the Fuji M mount adapter, just because. Cidereye is right it really doesn’t do much more, however because it has cpu’s, I thought maybe a future firmware update might do something. The Kipon adapter I got for my Nikkor lenses, has gotten a loose overtime, not the Fuji though, if that helps.

        • Thank you Jim, I too have Kipon for my AF-D 60mm f/2.8 Micro and don’t have any problems with it.

Leave a Reply to hexx Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.