Tiny lens with a large aperture
Voigtländer 35mm f1.4 is a really small and relatively affordable lens for Leica. It is one of the most affordable M-mount lens options out there. Used copy on the second hand market costs only around 400€ which isn’t too shabby. A completely new one costs about 600€ or less. I’m usually broke as fuck so I’m definitely grateful for a product like this.
Before this I shot Leica Summaron 35mm f2.8 from 1960, which was also a beautiful lens. Sometimes I regret letting it go, but having a Nokton eases the pain. They have much similarities in terms of styling and ergonomics, plus the Nokton is two stops faster.
Perfect every day carry
A small lens like this makes an excellent every day carry. It doesn’t stick out much from the camera body. If you’re planning to carry the camera on your person all day long, a small rangefinder combo like this will travel along on your neck comfortably. Lens hood naturally increases the size, but even with that on, it remains a compact and lightweight carry.
Talking about bang for the buck
As you’d imagine, an equivalent Leica lens would cost an arm and a leg. Come to think of it, a really fast 35mm lens from any system tends to be really expensive, which makes this little thing a bargain! There seems to be no obvious trade-offs. You’d think that it would have to somehow compromise either size or image quality, but honest to GOD — the Nokton is high quality even wide open and it is unbelievably compact and extremely well made. I can’t think of anything bad to say. Why this lens is so affordable, remains a mystery.
Overview (not review)
I’m always hesitant to call articles like these “reviews”, because that’s when people expect to see distortion charts and image magnifications of slightly blurry corners when shot wide open. That’s why I’d call this article more of an overview or just a reportage with my personal experience.
So far I’ve been a one happy camper and from a real world perspective, the image quality has been very satisfying even wide open, even though, that was far a way from my primary reason for wanting it. Needles to say, the lens is very sharp and it produces pleasing, high image quality, no matter which f-stop you’re shooting it with.
I’ve always argued that f2.8 would be plenty fast for most needs, and I stand behind it. I would’ve settled for a 35mm f2.8 any day, but the Nokton just happens be two stops faster, which is basically just a huge bonus.
Build quality and ergonomics
There isn’t much to say about the build quality. it is extremely well made. All metal construction with very high quality feel.
Ergonomics are good enough for a tiny lens like this. Any small lens will require finger dexterity and Nokton 35mm isn’t an exception. The lens doesn’t feature a focusing ring, but a classical rangefinder style focusing tab. Using the optional lens hood will leave less room for focusing, but you will hardly notice it while shooting. Removing the lens hood clears out tons of space for comfy focusing.
I’ve shot film with this lens on my Leica M6, which is a really good body. Of course, I can’t resist shooting wide open so bear in mind that it is a rather challenging aperture for nailing the focus. Luckily a semi-wide focal length increases the depth of field and it’s much easier to focus than a equivalent 50mm for example. Ironically, my focusing attempts has been more successful on film, because Leica just has so well refined focusing system. A good rangefinder will make all the difference when shooting wide open fast lenses like these. The rangefinder always just snaps into focus without squinting or second guessing.
I’ve been struggling to focus correctly on my digital camera much more. I have an adapter for my Fujifilm X-E2, which is an ok camera, but it has been designed for auto-focus lenses. The EVF and focus peaking pales to the optical rangefinder system of an analog Leica. That’s why you’ll see that my digital sample images are a bit mushy. That’s not the lens’ fault, but the user’s. This is something to bear in mind. A fast lens isn’t always a walk in the park. You’ll need a good camera body to mount in onto, and even then, a non-existent depth of field may require some extra concentration.
You may remember that I recently got my hands on the Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f1.5 too. I have a fresh new overview of it too, if you care to take a look.
You may also be interested in my article called Voigtländer love.