Friday, December 11, 2015

Field Test: Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 II M-Mount Lens

The Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 II M-Mount lens is a fast, manual focus lens. When used with the VM-E close-focus adapter, and with a camera such as the Sony A7s, the lens can produce some stunning images at low light levels.

Note that without the close-focus adapter, the lens is limited to a 50cm minimum focus distance. With the close-focus adapter, the minimum focus distance is extended to 27.7cm. This difference is massive, and the close focusing with the adapter makes for a much more versatile lens. In my opinion, this lens is not worth using without the inclusion of the VM-E close focus adapter if supported by the camera body.

I was recently in Bali, and used this lens exclusively for the duration of the trip. I was very happy with many of the pictures, however the lens did have some quirks.

The dream-like rendering of the lens sits in strong contrast with the almost sterile output of some of the native FE lenses (the brilliant Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Lens comes to mind). I was expecting the bokeh to be more "swirly", judging some photos by others; however, I was pleasantly surprised in this regard.

The lens does not feel too large or too heavy on the A7s; in my opinion, it balances nicely. However, it is heavier than many native FE lenses.

The lens seems a little soft at times. This appears to be a trade-off against the beautiful way the colours and transition from in-focus to out-of-focus areas are rendered.

- Dream-like rendering and beautiful bokeh
- Excellent subject isolation
- Great for low-light photography
- Manual focusing feels very smooth
- Solid construction
- Perfect for close and mid-range shots

- A little soft at times
- VM-E adapter takes some getting used to, as there are essentially two focus rings
- Not so good for long-range and landscape shots
- Obvious vignetting
- Some chromatic aberration
- Only worth it if shooting extensively at f1.2; not so worth it if extensively shooting at f2 and below