Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.2 (version 1) review

The Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH by Voigtländer is to my knowledge the fastest 35mm lens available for full frame cameras. Well, it’s Leica M mount, so it won’t really fit your average Canon or Nikon camera. But with the growing lot of mirror less cameras, there are a lot of possible uses for this lens via an adapter. This is of course the case for me, since I use the Fuji X-series cameras.

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Version 1 of the lens was in production up until 2009-2010 whereafter it was replaced by the mkII version in 2011. The reasons for this are largely unknown, but Cosina-Voigtländer has stated that production was too costly due to its design. It has an aspherical element like most modern day lenses.

I found this lens in the classifieds attached to a Konica Hexar RF, and I got it for a bargain. My win really, since these version 1 is increasingly hard to find. The differences as far as I can read on various places on the internet is a tad less contrast wide open in version 1, and there is a minute size difference.

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The lens is rather big for a manual focus lens, it weighs 490g (1.1lb) and it is 78mm (3.1″) long. This is nothing in the DSLR world, but in Rangefinder/mirrorless terms, it is rather big. However it doesn’t feel out of place on my X-Pro1.

I’ve used this lens extensively all weekend, and I put it through a lot of different shooting scenarios, and this thing is one hell of a performer! The 35mm turns into an 50mm FOV on my X-Pro1 APS-C size sensor, and this focal length is by far my favourite . I know this is not nearly enough hands-on time to do a thorough review, but look at this writeup more like a first impressions/ user report. But one thing is for sure. I’m VERY impressed with this lens. VERY!

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IMPORTANT! IMPORTANT!

This lens will NOT work with your Fujifilm M-mount adapter! It protrudes into the space where Fuji placed the electronics in their adapter. I have 2 fuji adapters, so I took out the electronics in one of them, and then it fits. I’m told that the Fotodiox adapter works with this lens 🙂

 

Build

This is my second lens from Voigtländer. The first being the Nokton Classic 40mm f/1.4 S.C. which I reviewed here. Both of these lenses oozes quality build. The 35mm is built very solidly. All metal construction. Perfect click to the Aperture ring, and the focus ring is smooth, well damped and entirely issue free. The paint job is great, and the markings are etched. This is pure quality! My copy didn’t come with the original lens hood, so I use a typical vented hood with a 52mm thread. Works great.

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Image Quality

This lens really surprised the hell out of me. I was expecting a lot of softness wide open, but what I got was sharpness that was even present at f/1.2! This is not the case with the Nokton Classic 40mm f/1.4, so the size/design of the 35mm is definitely MUCH better in this regard. The contrast is ok, but not great. The colour files directly from RAW can look a bit flat and lacks a little bit of the micro contrast that you see in newer lenses (especially Fujifilms own XF 35mm f/1.4 lens) as well as the Leica lenses. This is actually pretty great for b&w shooters, since it seems to preserve shadow detail better.

Sharpness is good at f/1.2 and gets REALLY sharp by f/2.8. Maximum sharpness is around f/5.6-8

Original image
Original image @f/1.2

 

100% crop @f/2.8
100% crop @f/2.8
100% crop @f/1.2
100% crop @f/1.2

It has some chromatic aberration wide open, but it goes away by f/1.8. Nothing major at all.

Object isolation with this lens is so cool. On my X-Pro1 is acts like a 50mm f/1.8 lens in full frame FOV and DOF eq. but with the light gathering capability of f/1.2. You can actually get that “full frame” thin DOF look with this lens. Just look at the samples with the Zeiss Ikon in the grass, and my daughter holding out some flowers and rocks. They were taken at approx. 2m distance from the focus point.

Bokeh is just how I like it. Not überly smooth. And it has some bright outlines to the specular highlights. It also has a little bit of a “swirly bokeh effect”. Not as pronounced as the Helios 44m4 58mm though. I love that bokeh has some characteristics, since I find it a beautiful part of the image. It should not attract all the attention but it should be visible and noticed. The bokeh from this lens does just that. I simply love it!

Samples

As always my samples have been processed in various ways. Lately I’ve been very fond of VSCO Film pack 04 which contains all the old Fujifilms (astia, provia, fortia, velvia). I can now shoot RAW, and get the Fujifilm look anyway. I urge you to check out vsco.co

The images are all taken with my X-Pro1 using the “de-electrified” fujifilm M-mount adapter. I used VSCO 04 for colour as well as my own presets for black and white.

Ze(iss) Ikon - @f/1.2
Ze(iss) Ikon – @f/1.2

Stics and moonstones - @f/1.2
Stics and moonstones – @f/1.2

Potassium Bromide - @f/1.2
Potassium Bromide – @f/1.2

Hillside - @f/1.2
Hillside – @f/1.2

Eating/Thinking - @f/1.2
Eating/Thinking – @f/1.2

Time's up - @f/1.2
Time’s up – @f/1.2

We walk - @f/1.2
We walk – @f/1.2

Barber's lunch  - @f/1.2
Barber’s lunch – @f/1.2

The King - @f/1.2
The King – @f/1.2

SPOT - @f/1.2
SPOT – @f/1.2

Bokeh - @f/1.2
Bokeh – @f/1.2

Triangulate - @f/1.2
Triangulate – @f/1.2

Out! - @f/1.2
Out! – @f/1.2

Yellow - @f/1.2
Yellow – @f/1.2

Over and out - @f/1.2
Over and out – @f/1.2

Sliding - @f/1.2
Sliding – @f/1.2

Swung - @f/1.2
Swung – @f/1.2

Shallow - @f/1.2
Shallow – @f/1.2

Home - @f/1.2
Home – @f/1.2

Sit down - @f/1.2
Sit down – @f/1.2

Sun - @f/22
Sun – @f/22

Free - @f/5.6 There was a speck on my sensor. Not in the lens.
Free – @f/5.6 There was a speck on my sensor. Not in the lens.

Alone - @f/1.2
Alone – @f/1.2

Growing - @f/1.2
Growing – @f/1.2

Books - @f/1.2
Books – @f/1.2

Hanging - @f/2.8
Hanging – @f/2.8

 

Conclusion

This lens is FANTASTIC. The bokeh quality is full of character, the lens is sharp wide open, and it’s built like a tank. Voigtlander really made a great lens with the Nokton 35mm f/1.2 and its a perfect companion for your mirrorless Fujifilm camera