Voigtländer Nokton 40mm f/1.4 review

Hello people. I know my blog has been a bit to the silent side as of late, but today I will review the…

Voigtländer Nokton Classic 40mm f/1.4 S.C. 

Phew! Thats a long name, so lets take a look at what it all means. The Nokton is Voigtländers way of saying that this lens will gather enough light to use at night (Nokton – Noctilux….original huh, Voigtländer?). Classic means that this lens will give you a classic rendering. This means soft and glowy wide open. The S.C. stands for “Single Coating” as opposed to the M.C. version which is multicoated. This should apparently result in lesser “out of camera” contrast, which in turn should give good dynamic contrast and richer shadows in black and white photography. In other words, this lens is made for black and white photography.

I have been using this lens for about 2 months, and it has not left my camera mount once in that period. It’s a perfect fit for the X-Pro1.

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This lens has a bad reputation in certain places on the internet. I really dont know why. But maybe its the fact that 40mm used on a Leica doesn’t fit the Rangefinder calibration. Maybe its the classic apearance it gives to images? Maybe it’s just because it doesn’t say “Leica” on it. All I know is that this lens is really fun to use, if you (like me) love manual focus street shooting.

The 40mm FOV Is just a tad tighter than Fujifilms own 35mm, which I actually like. On APS-C it will effectively function like a 60mm lens in full frame equivalents.

 

Build and feel

Ok, lets start with the build of the lens. It’s built to VERY high standards! This lens is a real solid piece of hardware. The quality of manufacturing is almost, if not just as good as the Leica lenses, and that says a lot. You really need to hold this in your hand, to fully understand how great its build quality is. It’s made from sold metal. The aperture ring is at the frontmost end of the lens, and the focus ring is at the back. It has (like it’s Leica cousins) a little “knob” on the focus ring for easy focusing. This works really well! The aperture ring is smooth and with just the right amount of “click”.

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There’s a classic vented style lens hood to be bought from Voigtländer, LH-6 which is built just as solidly. It gives decent flare protection, which is needed in the S.C. version.

So, how does it look on the X-Pro1? Let me say this. It’s the single greatest look my X-Pro1 has ever had. These two are MADE for each other. The adapter from Fujifilm is a great match in quality, and everything just looks right!

Because the “flange-back” distance is so similar between Leica M and Fuji X, the adapter is only half as thick as the usual old SLR adapters. Combined with the extremely compact size of the Voigtländer 40mm, it makes for a very compact system. Even more compact than using Fujifilms own 35mm or even the 18mm!!

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Image Quality

Looks are good for those one-night-stands, but if you want a lasting relationship you got to address the qualities within! So, what is the image quality like with this lens?

Well, this is where it gets quite interesting. Some people love this kind of classical rendering (people like me, which is why I have such a giant vintage lens collection), and some people detest it. What I mean by classic appearance is the glowy and low contrasty apearance to especially bright highlights. This gives your images a gloomy feel, which can look amazing if used right. If combined with some high contrast post processing, the result is downright gorgeous, since you get sharp pictures, but with a pleasant dropoff from white to black. It gives your images an organic look, quite like analog film, instead of harsh pixelated digitalised contrast.

Wide-open it is quite sharp, but glowy as stated above. Step it down to f/2.0 and the glow is actually gone. At f/5.6 it is REALLY sharp. If you want sharpness stick to Fujifilms own 35mm f/1.4, if you want classic images use the Voigtländer.

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Bokeh is like most other Voigtländer lenses very busy. It’s not über-creamy bokeh like the Minolta 58mm f/1.2, but it has a quality that somehow makes the out of focus areas look really cool. Bokeh fans will enjoy this cause of the special and different appearance. I know I do 🙂

The 10 aperture blades gives you great round specular highlights, even when stopping down, which is great.

The Single Coating really does improve the shadow details of your black and whites. I almost NEVER shoot color with this lens. It’s built for black and white, and it gives very nice results when using monochrome!

Pros and Cons

So instead of my ramblings, let me just list what I feel are the pros and cons with this lens.

Pros:

  • VERY compact
  • Extremely well-built – it’s the closest you’ll get to a Leica lens without selling your kidney, children and your house.
  • Looks great on the X-Pro-1. As if they were made for each other.
  • Great classic look to your images.
  • That S.C. moniker really does improve shadow detail in black and white images.

Cons:

  • Colors are a bit dull and flat sometimes.
  • To the haters it gives an annoying classic look to your images.
  • The 0,7 m focus distance can be very annoying at times when you’re in a confined space.

Samples

I really shot alot with this lens. So hence I have uploaded a lot of sample images. These are, as always, processed variously by me in LR 5. So this is NOT for OOC image quality pixel peeping. This is a representation of why I love to use this lens. Mostly black and white images, but I snuck some coloured images in there.

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Conclusion

So, with a picture of my lovely daughter enjoying some sweet raspberry pastry on the train yesterday, let the images be the judge. This lens is a fantastic lens. Well built, and it gives that amazing classic look. Make sure to use this lens as black and white image creator, since that is where it really shines. I really like this lens. And it will be staying on my camera for a while. (at least until my Lens Turbo X/MD-MC comes in, which means I will review a lot of my minolta lenses again).

 

Take care,

Jonas