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It is extremly hard to write a review of the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 II. Not because it has direct competitors like Zeiss Distagon ZM or Leica Summilux aspherical but it is currently the only M-mount lens I have now! You may say the it’s pointless, when a reference point is missing. Probably yes… but do the photographs you obtain are most important?
I wrote a short review of my beloved Leica M240-P here. You can find out that I started my journey with Leica Summilux 35mm pre-asph. which is a very specific lens. Immensive glow wide open with descent sharpnes and vintage look at f/2.0. As I am a huge fan of shooting on film, having this lens on digital gives a fraction or a bit of analog flavour and is super-tiny. Unfortunately my happiness didn’t last too long… I shot portraits at f/1.4-2.0 or streets at f/8. Very strict division, however for weddings I was using all apertures and noticed severe focus shift from f/2.2-5.6. It was unacceptable. I did a wedding with it and luckily I find out the focusing method to be spot on in the region of the shift. The pictures from this event were fantastic with THAT style! All in all I sold the summilux and went for the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 II.The Nokton is completly different lens. It’s big as for rangefinders’ standards and heavy. However, paired with M240 makes a well balanced couple. I don’t want to spend time describing how the lens is built and what internal construction we have. It’s a solid metal and glass combination, assembled together in high tolerances, however it is not as good as Leica (asph.) which I had an opportunity to try at Leica Store in Manchester. For the price point, it presents very good quality/price ratio.
I have three problems with this lens in terms of ergonomy.
- No focus tab. I think it is a must for rangefinders – it allows instant evaluation where the focus is by simply touching the knob. It would be perfect to have something at 1m. which will be perfectly in the middle of the stroke.
- Finder blockage – due to its size, the finder is significantly blocked. It is a bit annoying during composing an image. I use my right eye so can deal with it, however less distraction would be welcome.
- Aperture ring could click with more resistance.
I remember the very first picture I took with the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 II – it was my son couple weeks after birth. Micro-contrast is fantastic, joy of playing with ultra shallow DOF can’t be described. The lens has everything wedding and street photographer needs: nice bokeh, ideal sharpness/contrast ratio wide open and f/22 to do multilayer composition. It looses contrast under heavy sun and doesn’t flare that heavily. Whenever I take it, I have a desire to tell a story with pictures. From details and portratis with superb separation till documentary multi-layer scenes.
I love this lens for black and white pictures. However, it provides warm colours and charming look wide open. You need a bit of practise to catch the focus of moving object wide open which are not in the rangefinder patch zone.
Yes… weddings are fantastic in general and people know that we are documenting the event. That gives the best opportunity to show how the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 II shines. From shallow DOF to multilayer compositions at even f22! I can tell you that last weddings I did were in 95% with this lens only! Take a look at some random shots from the last one.
And now my favourite one. As I said before the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 II is not perfect tool for this kind of shooting but the general image it generates is phenomenal.