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

jr050680

33 thoughts on “Voigtländer Nokton 40mm f/1.4 review

  1. Totally wonderful results.

    I have not read up on how you focus with this camera and non fuji lenses. It is obviously manually, but is it well assisted?

  2. I, too, wonder about the focusing of this lens with the X-Pro1. I have tried a couple lenses with the camera and they have not been all that easy to focus quickly/accurately. How was the focusing experience?

  3. The Nokton is a famed name going way back in the history of photography. It is certainly much older than the Noctilux. Please do not tease about it with such disrespecting remarks.
    It may not mean much to those without proper knowledge of it, as it is now a mere trademark under the Cosina owned brand name VOIGTLÄNDER.

  4. S.Yu is very right about the Nokton name, please attempt to be respectful and read about something before you trash it, otherwise these reviews become no better than that joke Ken Rockwell.

    That being said, I don’t believe you have much of an understanding of thin-film interference (the optics of anti-reflection coating), to make a statement such as “which should give good dynamic contrast and richer shadows in black and white photography”. You also mention later that “the single coating really does improve the shadow details for your black and whites”, and this is just wrong in the context you are saying it.

    Before World War II, almost no lenses were being coating, and after the war, most lenses received only single coatings. Later multi-coatings began to develop, but they still remain expensive to this day as they are very sensitive and difficult to manufacture. What an anti-reflection coating does is to increase light transmission by law of conservation of energy by decreasing reflections. Every time light passes an air-to-glass boundary, a percentage of light transmitted is lost. Therefore coatings are found on not just the front but almost every if not all air-glass surfaces inside of the lens. If an objective that was not coating had a large amount of lenses, say 8, it had 16 air-glass surfaces and as a result could lose about 50% of light transmitted. Now because aperture/ diaphragm sizes are measured geometrically as f-stops (a ratio between the focal length and a number used in a geometrical progression to represent the doubling or halving of light upon changing from one number to another) and not based on transmission as t-stops like movie camera lenses are, a lens with no coating can be rated at f-2.8, and the same lens can be coated and still called an f2.8 lens, but the lens without the coating will, in an 8-element or so lens, lose about half the light entering it at ANY f-stop. Therefore, say our 40mm has 8 elements, and has NO coating. At f1.4, the lens would transmit light equivalent to an off camera metering of f-2. Of course through the lens metering would compensate, contrast loss from transmission loss degrades image quality severely. So then, a single coating improves transmission for an objective of multiple lenses to around 95%, as some light is still lost to reflection. Multiple-coatings benefit from reducing light lost by reflection even further by adding multiple layers for each wavelength of the visible spectrum, where a single coating covers only a part of the spectrum. More layers/more lenses coated = higher cost. The anti-reflection coating also has an effect on the color of the image, and therefore multi-coated lenses are preferred. A single-coated lens is more than fine for black and white photography, but it must be understood that there is no improvement to image quality over a multi-coated lens. Your misunderstanding comes from an increased exposure to compensate for a slightly less amount of light reaching the image plane. This gives a relatively higher degree of highlight value lost, which in turn causes you to overexpose the shadow values to bring the higher values back to a perceived normal, thus giving the appearance that the shadows are “richer”. While image contrast is reduced, highlights on digital cameras can be slightly easier to control, but this must not be mistaken as an increase in image quality.

    1. Please stop with the “disrespecting voigtlander ” thing. It’s ridiculous. I just spend 2000 words praising a lens and all you care about is that sentence? As to all the technical coating stuff, I was not aware of any of that. Thanks for teaching me 🙂 thanks for stopping by.
      Jonas

  5. I see what you mean by the ‘love’ or ‘hate’ glow! It has really grown on me and my next lens will be a Voigtlander. Great post and I love ALL the images. I’m sold 😉

  6. Wow some crazy people stopping in for a rant here 🙂 Great work Jonas, also wondering how much processing you did on the black and whites, or any hints as to how to do what you did there 🙂

  7. This is well after the fact but 2 words come to mind : analog , organic . These images are rendered in a bygone era fashion . The bw shots are very much like HQ film captures.

    thank you as i am wanting more than 35mm and less than 60 . i do not want to pay 1000 for a 56mm.

    thanks again ……..

  8. Alas, jim d, if you are thinking of the great Nokton and using a Fuji X camera, the Nokton 40mm must come out as about the equivalent of a 60mm on a 35mm camera system so it does not put you between 35mm and 60mm on the X cameras as you wish. Maybe you will just have to “settle” for a 60 field of view unless you find something else of quality with searching!

  9. “This lens has a bad reputation in certain places on the internet.” Ha ha, you must be referring to the nonsense that Ken Rockwell speils in order to feed his hungry family. Thank you for providing a useful, objective review that’s neither bitter or insulting to your readers, much more useful than the copy and paste, unhelpful nonsense put out by the aforementioned. I liked the balanced views and the numerous pictures, a real use review is so much more useful, and I have ordered one of these on the back of your review. Cheers!

  10. Are these SOOC pics or have you done post? In terms of contrast they look great? I also have an X-pro and only shoot legacy lenses – M42 -FX mostly and a lovely Tak 50mm f1.4 and occasionally the Helios m44 58mm f2.0.

    Currently looking for something wider 28mm to 18mm. Any recommendations?

  11. Thanks for the awesome review. About to purchase my first 35mm film camera and trying to figure out which lens to start out with which I can afford so this was very useful.

  12. Hi Jonas,

    I really liked your website. As difference with many experts you take very beautiful pics.
    I’m thinking to sell all my Nikon gear and change it for this Fuji XT-1.
    I’ve read the another article (https://jonasraskphotography.com/2015/10/21/xf35mm/) and after that I’m very confused about which camera lens to buy between this possibilities:

    – Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 XF R
    – Voigtlander 40mm 1.4 Nokton Classic

    I’d like to know your simple opinion. Which one would you choose? and why?

    Your comments will be very important for me.
    Thank you very much

    Felipe

    1. Hi Felipe. Thank you very much for your kind words!
      I would chose the XF35 f/1.4 – Its a much better lens around. The Voigtländer is more of a niche lens imo. But if you’re really into the whole manual focus, special look (as I am) then the Voight is a great buy!

  13. Hi Jonas.

    How much of the optical finder is blocked by the Nokton, and the lens hood, if any?

    Can you tell me a little bit about your experience regarding focusing this lens on X Pro 1?

    Thanks and regards,

    -wil

  14. Greetings Jonas,

    Thanks partly to your review, I bought this lens for my Minolta CLE. Considering that I just got this a week ago and have yet to see the results, is the SC version really not that great for color photography? Should one consider the multi coated version for general photography using the CLE, a Bessa R3A or my XE2 or my wife’s XT1 on occasion? Much thanks.

    J.

  15. Hi. Just got this lens for my “new” Leica CL. I have taken some shots on my Fuji XT10 and I really like the results. I think it works well om b&w. Plus it’s also great on colour if you like to create a light classic chrome image. Just wondered if you set any of the in camera adjustments available and if so which ones and what conclusions did you draw. Love you pictures BTW.

  16. So this review is from 2013, not many fuji lenses back then, so this lens might have been a good pick back then. But what about now, do you still use it Jonas?
    My xf56mm stay at home all the time, its too big to carry around and like when I can fit my camera into my jacket pocket, looking for something smaller. But a lot of none fuji lenses I have tried have missed something to the images and required heavy post processing, didnt look as good, so im a bit unsure about this one.

    1. Hey Kristoffer.

      Yeah, I actually still use it. It still has this amazing character, and unique rendering that I quite like. Nowhere near the perfect image quality of the modern Fujinons, but it has tons of character.

      /J

      1. Thanks! Are there other small lenses you can recommend? I can see you also have the even smaller Leica Summicron-c 40mm f/2, how does it compare to the voigtlander? Other lenses?
        Btw love your blog and your photos Jonas, keep it up 🙂

  17. Your article and pictures just got me to pull the trigger on one on ebay… excited to start shooting with it! Thank you for your review!

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