To Voigtlander or not to?

melanieylang

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Hello m43 folks,

For a long time, while endlessly scrolling through galleries here, on Flickr and Instagram, I've been arrested by a certain look when it appears in photos, and most often if it's made on micro four thirds then it was taken with a modern Voigtlander Nokton lens.

I have my eye on a used 25mm f0.95 for under AUD$700 (under US$500). To some people, $700 isn't that much for a lens, but it is a lot to me, even knowing what a great price this is.

Currently in the general range I have P20/1.7, P25/1.7, P12-32 pancake, P14-140mkii. If I get the Voigtlander and love it, I'll probably sell the 12-32 and 25 (plus others to justify the expense).

Should I take the plunge?
 

pdk42

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Personally, I'd say no. I've had the 17.5/0.95 and although it has a certain look, it comes with its own problems:

- MF at wide open aperture is tricky. Be prepared for a good percentage of slightly blurred shots

- MF on m43 caneras isn't a great experience. Peeking on full scene view isn't precise enough for accurate focus and using magnified view is slow and cumbersome (I'm talking Olympus here)

- Big and heavy

- Somewhat soft wide open

- No Exif (strangely that bothers me)

- A lot of money for marginal differences

I suspect the look you're seeing is 80% due to narrow DOF. At the 25mm ish focal length, you can get close to the CV (Cosina Voigtlander) with one of these, all of which are native fit with AF:

- Oly 25/1.2
- Sigma 30/1.4
- Panasonic 25/1.4

The Oly is the best and can be found used for around the same money as the CV25. The Sigma is superb optically (apart from some purple fringing which is easily fixed in PP). I have one and can recommend it.

However, and OTOH, sometimes we need to try things ourselves and maybe you'll love it! If you buy a nice copy used, then you'll not lose money if you resell it.
 

fader

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Tough call. I own none of these, so I'm posting purely as a forum viewing junkie, tech nerd, and wishing-I-had-all-the-Voigtlanders perspective. Like you I absolutely love all of the Voigtlander photos I see, but it's really a kind of 1 trick pony.

- The 12-32 is the sharpest, cheapest, and smallest wide angle prime lens available in m43. I'd be hard pressed to sell it, especially if you're using a Panasonic body.

- The P25 1.7 will be sharper edge-to-edge than the Voigtlander and is a much better general use lens.

- Shooting style: I think the Voigt's ace card is when shooting simple compositions for feature isolation or a strong center subject with lots of color. This takes advantage of the lenses center sharpness and accentuates the dreamy fall-off in rendering the rest of the frame. The MFT charts I've seen seem to back this up. If trying to shoot landscape or architecture I feel like it's probably going to be a disappointment in flat shots.

After that, it comes down to your comfort level manual focusing. Just saw Paul's post as I was writing mine and would agree with MF being less than great on Olympus bodies. I'm cursed for eyesight and wear glasses for both near and far, so I rely on AF-S quite a lot. Uber fast AF was one of the draws to this system for me.

Nothing matches the focusing screens in my old Minoltas on digital so I've been very reluctant to use manual glass, even with the focus peaking. For this reason I haven't gone crazy with lots of cheap adapted lenses despite really missing my old Rokkors.

FWIW
 
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I tend to agree with @pdk42 and the points he mentioned.
Last year I briefly owned a Voigtländer Nokton 35mm 1.2. I found it hard to get keepers using my EM1 MK II, due in part to some of those points, plus my inexperience with manual lenses on M4/3 cameras.
I sold it after 2 months.

That said.... I just purchased 2 Carl Zeiss (28 and 35mm) lenses and had better luck with the Distagon 28mm on it’s first outing yesterday. Not so much with the CZ Jena Flektogon 35 mm a couple of days earlier.

I also own 4 or 5 other manual lenses, but they don’t get used often.
I do tend to love AF lenses. :)
 
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melanieylang

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Thanks for the replies, y'all been no help at all! Just kidding... I knew when I wrote it there was no easy answer, which is why I asked it.

For reference:
  • the 40-50mm equivalent is my favorite length; I've never enjoyed the 12-32, despite the love it gets here;
  • I loved my Canon FD 50mm f1.8 when I shot film, and now use it occasionally on m43 with a focal reducer - I like it, but find the length a bit odd to work with;
  • MF is a challenge, but I'm okay with it if not having to change focus quickly;
  • I've considered other lenses, such as PL25/1.4, Mitakon, 7Artisans, Sigma 30/1.4, even Lensbaby Sol 22/3.5, but when I look at Voigtlander Nokton photos it leaves them all wanting (in my eyes).
Bushboy is probably right, as there's only one way to find out!
 

speedy

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Well, I'm going to go against the general consensus, & say that MF is no problem at all on Panasonic cameras. Oddly enough,I find it way easier to shoot large aperture lenses wide open, than wide angle slower lenses with supposedly infinite DOF. I just set the focus peaking colour to blue, select low contrast edges in the settings, & twist that dial. I thought it was very very easy, intuitive & accurate. So much so that I've been eyeing off a few MF lenses also. My Siggy 56 has cured my wandering eye at the minute though :) Once you get real close to accurate focus, then you can just lean slightly forward or back, & watch the focus plane move past/in front of your subject.
I say go for it :)

Edit -I should add the disclaimer, that I've only tried MF on my GX8, & G9, which have 2 of the best EVF's in the digital camera arena. I can't comment on results using smaller EVF's, that may make a difference
 
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pdk42

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Thanks for the replies, y'all been no help at all! Just kidding... I knew when I wrote it there was no easy answer, which is why I asked it.

For reference:
  • the 40-50mm equivalent is my favorite length; I've never enjoyed the 12-32, despite the love it gets here;
  • I loved my Canon FD 50mm f1.8 when I shot film, and now use it occasionally on m43 with a focal reducer - I like it, but find the length a bit odd to work with;
  • MF is a challenge, but I'm okay with it if not having to change focus quickly;
  • I've considered other lenses, such as PL25/1.4, Mitakon, 7Artisans, Sigma 30/1.4, even Lensbaby Sol 22/3.5, but when I look at Voigtlander Nokton photos it leaves them all wanting (in my eyes).
Bushboy is probably right, as there's only one way to find out!
There's no substitute for personal experience so I think you'll just have to go and buy and find out for yourself! I do agree that the CV m43 lenses are very good optically and do have a certain quality to the images they produce. However, it's all very subtle and good composition and generally a good "eye" will beat whatever the lens adds. The CV lenses do generate great sun-stars though - significantly better than anything I've seen on m43. This is with the CV 17.5:


Dans la Forêt
by Paul Kaye, on Flickr

But nothing like this beast from the Sony 16-35 on the A7rii:


Bahá’í Temple, Chicago II
by Paul Kaye, on Flickr
 
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Joined
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1,197
Thanks for the replies, y'all been no help at all! Just kidding... I knew when I wrote it there was no easy answer, which is why I asked it.

For reference:
  • the 40-50mm equivalent is my favorite length; I've never enjoyed the 12-32, despite the love it gets here;
  • I loved my Canon FD 50mm f1.8 when I shot film, and now use it occasionally on m43 with a focal reducer - I like it, but find the length a bit odd to work with;
  • MF is a challenge, but I'm okay with it if not having to change focus quickly;
  • I've considered other lenses, such as PL25/1.4, Mitakon, 7Artisans, Sigma 30/1.4, even Lensbaby Sol 22/3.5, but when I look at Voigtlander Nokton photos it leaves them all wanting (in my eyes).
Bushboy is probably right, as there's only one way to find out!
I highly recommend the 7artisans 35mm f1.2. Mine is a fuji mount, but I believe they make it in m43 as well. The 70mm may be longer than you would prefer, otherwise it's excellent.
 

TheMenWhoDrawSheeps

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Jun 15, 2016
Messages
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Thanks for the replies, y'all been no help at all! Just kidding... I knew when I wrote it there was no easy answer, which is why I asked it.

For reference:
  • the 40-50mm equivalent is my favorite length; I've never enjoyed the 12-32, despite the love it gets here;
  • I loved my Canon FD 50mm f1.8 when I shot film, and now use it occasionally on m43 with a focal reducer - I like it, but find the length a bit odd to work with;
  • MF is a challenge, but I'm okay with it if not having to change focus quickly;
  • I've considered other lenses, such as PL25/1.4, Mitakon, 7Artisans, Sigma 30/1.4, even Lensbaby Sol 22/3.5, but when I look at Voigtlander Nokton photos it leaves them all wanting (in my eyes).
Bushboy is probably right, as there's only one way to find out!
go mitakon 25mm f0.95 - cheaper, smaller, almost as sharp.

if you have old nifty fifty f1.4 - try speed booster - 35mm f1 isn´t quite same as 25mm, still gives you good impression of what to expect in terms of handling, size, etc.

have tried the lens few times in a shop. didn´t find anything magical about it. actually once had to notify the shopkeeper, that 1 lens was clearly decentered.
 
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melanieylang

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I want to like the photos from the cheaper, smaller, lighter Mitakon, but for some reason they just don't have 'it', whatever it is - inevitably, I'm talking about the fall-off from focus to blur shot wide open; yes I've read the comparisons that show there isn't much difference, and yet...

In case you're wondering if I'm influenced by knowing what lens took which photo, I tested this out by searching on Flickr using search terms such as Olympus + 25mm, Lumix + 25mm - most of the shots I loved were taken with Voigtlander.

Recently I shot this series with GX7 and focally reduced Canon FD 50mm f1.8: Photowalk in an Australian Border Town: Get Patched! Leather Workshop - though the GX7 doesn't have the best EVF, it's the best I've used (about the same as my EM10mkii). The quality has been degraded somewhat from uploading.
 
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I've owned all of the Noktons (with the exception of the 10.5mm), so here are my thoughts:
  • If you really love shooting MF glass, they're hard to beat. The focus ring is so smooth and a joy to use.
  • They are GLOWY. Seriously, I was never pleased until stopping down to around f/1.4 (sometimes f/1.2 would work, other times not so much).
  • They have some heinous bokeh fringing both in front and behind the focal plane. It can be very, very distracting.
  • The bokeh can have a nervous look to it. Some people like this. I did not (the out of focus areas of an image should not be attracting the viewer's attention).
Honestly, if you really like 40-50mm FoV and want a lens with some character, get a PL25. It's a great lens with lots of character, is much smaller and lighter than the Nok, and is likely cheaper as well. Or, if you want the best 50mm FoV lens there is, get the Olympus PRO. I was blown away by how phenomenal that lens was. Super sharp at f/1.2, soft and creamy bokeh both fore and aft the focal plane. It (along with the other PRO primes) is fantastic.
 

Phocal

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I have the 42.5 and absolutely love it, has look that is different than anything from Olympus or Panasonic. It is slightly soft wide-open and can look a bit softer because of the very narrow DoF, but stopped down it's plenty sharp enough. I personally like the size and weight of the lens. The size makes it easy to use and the weight really helps to balance it (I typically use it on my EM1 with the grip attached. I find manual focus with it to be pretty easy, the ring on it is one of the smoothest I have ever used. I mostly use the lens for event and street photography (as well as at the climbing gym) and find manual focus perfect for this type of photography. I don't have to worry about moving a focus point around, which is very liberating. Just compose the photograph and focus until my subject pops into focus. The area in focus really does just pop out and makes it really easy. I don't use any of the aids like peaking or zooming in, just my eyes. I get a few that are slightly off focus, but when I nail focus it is so worth it. If it's a paid assignment I will typically stop it down to f1.2 or so just to make sure I get those critical one chance to capture images...……..otherwise I almost always shoot it wide-open. I do plan on getting the 17.5, not sure if I will get the 25 or not (feel like I don't need it having the other two and I am not a huge fan of the 50mm focal length).

my 2 copper pieces

Phocal
 
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I have the 42.5 and absolutely love it, has look that is different than anything from Olympus or Panasonic.

I do plan on getting the 17.5, not sure if I will get the 25 or not
The 42.5 was the best of the three IMO. The 17.5 is nice as well, but not as good optically as the 42.5 is at really wide apertures. Having said that, when shooting the 17.5 wide open or at f/1.2, you can get that FF look in terms of subject separation with a wide-angle lens.
 

walter_j

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I often find if I need to get a shot, I grab the 12-40. If it's for myself, I tend to grab the cv17.5, since I enjoy the process of mf. The results can be incredible - and perhaps even more satisfying since it was a mf shot.
 

Vorchek

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Hello m43 folks,

For a long time, while endlessly scrolling through galleries here, on Flickr and Instagram, I've been arrested by a certain look when it appears in photos, and most often if it's made on micro four thirds then it was taken with a modern Voigtlander Nokton lens.

I have my eye on a used 25mm f0.95 for under AUD$700 (under US$500). To some people, $700 isn't that much for a lens, but it is a lot to me, even knowing what a great price this is.

Currently in the general range I have P20/1.7, P25/1.7, P12-32 pancake, P14-140mkii. If I get the Voigtlander and love it, I'll probably sell the 12-32 and 25 (plus others to justify the expense).

Should I take the plunge?
I highly recommend taking the plunge. Once upon a time I noticed the same pattern in pictures you have. Combining that tantalizing lure with the desire for a super-fast lens convinced me, when I bought the EM5 II, to also purchase the Voigtlander 25. It is an incredible lens: not only great "normal" shots, but with its super-close focusing takes fascinating macro pics.
I enjoyed the 25 so much that I eventually acquired the Voigtlander 10.5, hesitating for a year due to the oddly disparate reviews. I regret waiting, because the 10.5 is now my favorite and most used lens, but the 25 is still a worthy contender. Both are first class.
In the interests of full disclosure: manual focusing holds no terrors for me--maybe I even prefer it--anyway, as often as not I just eyeball it through the viewfinder. Like another poster, I graduated from Minolta SR mount cameras, still have the lenses, still use them along with my Voigtlanders. On my EM5 focus magnification is set to a button, so when needed the whole operation takes two seconds.
Not being a pixel peeper, I can only tell you that I've never had any problem with sharpness, much less image quality. The pictures simply look good. It's amazing what you can do with night shots.
For me, the biggest issue has been price. I save for long periods before buying a fancy lens. If my experience is any guide, if you're willing to spend the money, then you should be pleased.
 

WT21

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Personally, I'd say no. I've had the 17.5/0.95 and although it has a certain look, it comes with its own problems:

- MF at wide open aperture is tricky. Be prepared for a good percentage of slightly blurred shots

- MF on m43 caneras isn't a great experience. Peeking on full scene view isn't precise enough for accurate focus and using magnified view is slow and cumbersome (I'm talking Olympus here)

- Big and heavy

- Somewhat soft wide open

- No Exif (strangely that bothers me)

- A lot of money for marginal differences

I suspect the look you're seeing is 80% due to narrow DOF. At the 25mm ish focal length, you can get close to the CV (Cosina Voigtlander) with one of these, all of which are native fit with AF:

- Oly 25/1.2
- Sigma 30/1.4
- Panasonic 25/1.4

The Oly is the best and can be found used for around the same money as the CV25. The Sigma is superb optically (apart from some purple fringing which is easily fixed in PP). I have one and can recommend it.

However, and OTOH, sometimes we need to try things ourselves and maybe you'll love it! If you buy a nice copy used, then you'll not lose money if you resell it.
I agree mostly with pdk. Heavy, softish wide open, expensive. It's been years since I used one, but I am pretty certain I remember stopping down to 1.4 to get results I liked, negating it's advantage over the PL25.

The PL25/1.4 can get you a lot of the way there with a much smaller price, and lighter weight. If you love MF, try the Takumar 50/1.4. Different focal length, but a lot of fun for a little price, also, it's similar in weight and MF feel to the CV25/0.95, so it could help you decide. Or rent the CV as another option.
 

melanieylang

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I agree mostly with pdk. Heavy, softish wide open, expensive. It's been years since I used one, but I am pretty certain I remember stopping down to 1.4 to get results I liked, negating it's advantage over the PL25.

The PL25/1.4 can get you a lot of the way there with a much smaller price, and lighter weight. If you love MF, try the Takumar 50/1.4. Different focal length, but a lot of fun for a little price, also, it's similar in weight and MF feel to the CV25/0.95, so it could help you decide. Or rent the CV as another option.
As a matter of fact (one I had forgotten), I did try a Takumar 50/1.4, but didn't like it enough to keep (at) it.

I am definitely drawn to the PL25's rendering, just not as much as the CV25's, and I want to focus manually without that digital feel - like everyone else here, I want an AF lens which can focus manually like 'in the olden days'! If I got the PL25, I'd still be wondering about the Voigtlander.
 

ac12

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One thing to keep in mind.
A manual focus lens is MANUAL focus ALL THE TIME.
You do not have the option of switching it to auto focus when you do not want the hassle of manually focusing the lens.
I can see that in a specialty lens that you do not use often, but not in a lens that you would use often.

A comment about AF manual focus.
I have not fond an AF lens that will focus manually as well as the GOOD lenses of the past.
I have two Olympus pro lenses, and the focus ring is a poor second to my old manual focus Nikon lenses from the 1970s and 80s.

BTW not all manual focus lenses are created/made equal. Depending on design, construction and age (grease dries out with age), some are better than others.
Dried grease may simply need to be cleaned and relubed.
 
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