I’ve recently fell in love with Voigtländer lenses and I thought I’d briefly share my feelings about couple of them. Last summer I traded my previous Leica M mount lens (Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 ZM T*) to the Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f1.5 ASPH Classic, and it has proven to be such a positive experience, that I decided to look into the other Voigtländer models as well.
Because these things tend to cost some serious money, I’ve been settling, thus far, on owning just one lens at a time. Yesterday my ultimate fantasy became true though, because I was able to acquire the Voigtländer 35mm f1.4 Nokton Classic as well, thus expanding my Leica M mount lens collection to two! I didn’t exactly have the money to go around buying expensive lenses, but I instead gave up basically all my old gear, that had been collecting dust, and traded them for the Voigtländer.
Choosing only one system
I’ve now practically given up on all other camera systems other than Leica M. You know when you pick up a hobby and all of a sudden, your drawer starts to pile up with new purchases? My first and second year of film shooting, I was trying out different camera systems and the gear started to pile up. I even got some cameras and lenses from friends and relatives, which certainly didn’t help my hoarding problem (even though it was nice otherwise). Before I knew it, I had a fleet of random gear from multiple different systems. It started to bug me, because I hate owning a bunch of stuff that I don’t use.
Last year I decided to start selling (and trading) the stuff that I wasn’t actually using anymore. Initially I was planning to keep just few old favourites but last week I decided to let go even the rest, in order to get the 35mm Voigtländer.
I had been eyeballing the 35mm Nokton at kamerastore.com. I offered my old gear to them and they were willing to make the trade. I simply couldn’t be happier — even though I literally now own just one film camera. Seriously, I didn’t know it was even possible. Most of us film photographers are total gear homos. Don’t believe me? Just see how many serious film photographers you can find, who owns just one camera.
Choosing between 35mm and 50mm
The decision between 35mm and 50mm has always been a real struggle for me. I’ve also been quite caught up in the idea of having just one camera and one lens… it never occurred to me owning two lenses would be a possibility. Close enough, right?
In a way I feel like I’ve shot myself in the leg by choosing one of the most expensive camera systems out there. That limits my ability to acquire new lenses considerably. So thank GOD Voigtländers exist! This 35mm was 450€ used, which is quite possibly one of cheapest (serious) Leica M mount lenses out there. After a bit of research, I discovered it to be quite highly regarded and a much loved item. I’ve always though I’d live my life to the bitter end with just one M mount lens at a time. It still feels somewhat surreal to actually have both focal lengths at my disposal, because I would’ve thought it to cost me an arm and a leg. Voigtländers are not as cheap, of course, as buying old Canon FD lenses, but they’re still a fraction of the price, compared to most Leica’s own lenses.
So far I can say that my old Nokton 50mm f1.5 has been really, really good lens and probably one of the nicest 50mm’s I’ve ever used. It’s made so unbelievably well that one could just play around with it all day. All the clicks etc. are so satisfying. Most importantly, I love the image rendering. Like I mentioned, I previously shot with Zeiss Planar 50mm f2, which wasn’t nearly as nice, even though it’s a bit more expensive. The image quality was of course top notch, but Voigtländer has more soul and character. In comparison, the Zeiss was a bit more engineery and sterile, in my opinion.
This new 35mm f1.4 caused me to jump up and down when I unboxed it. The fit and finish is just that nice. It is such a sweet lens! The impression was extremely positive and further inspection didn’t let me down either. I never knew a man could feel this way about a lens. So far I’ve shot only few frames with it (bear in mind that I just got it), but after a while, I’ll definitely write a quick review with a more in-depth look.
Take lens reviews with a grain of salt
When buying new gear, we all of course check out some online reviews. Voigtländer 35mm f1.4 Nokton Classic doesn’t get high praises from everyone. For example Ken Rockwell’s review doesn’t exactly give such a good impression of the lens’ optical qualities. On the other hand Matt Day’s review is very laid back and less critical. I usually take both of these guy’s words pretty seriously. But what I really like to do, is to see some actual sample photos myself, that is easy to do with a simple Flickr search. People tend to complain about vignetting or wide-open softness, but when seeing real world examples, at least I, don’t usually detect these so called issues. I’d be very surprised if I’m going to find out the optical qualities to turn out as deal breakers with this lens.
Edit: I’m pleased to say that I have now actuals reviews… or should I say overviews, of both of these lenses.