Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95 Real World Review

nardoleo

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Great writeup. Definitely plan to get this lens one day.

Sent from my trusty Samsung Galaxy Note 2
 

mcentral

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Thanks a lot for doing this piece, it's very informative. I only recently got a 45 f1.8, so I'm in not hurry to get anything else in this range. But with the new Panasonic coming, the subject certainly in in the air, so this is timely information.
For me, what I see in these photos makes me ultimately a little mixed on the Voigtlander. I really love the character of the background in the photos where it is blurred right out in a creamy sort of way (eg. the one of the woman with the long brown hair that starts the Conclusion section, and the one below that of the woman in the striped shirt). But I'm less enthused about the character of the background of several of the others, like 4 and 5 and the one later on with the couple walking down the sidewalk with other people behind them. That degree of subject isolation, when coupled with the sort of swirly out of focus background, is just not for me. If that's the "character" of the lens speaking, I'll choose instead a boring but dutiful straight-A overachiever like the Oly 45 1.8. Spheres/orbs in the background do not interest me at all, so cat's eye or decagon doesn't matter since I don't want either! So it doesn't look like the sort of thing that suits me, though I do admire the build quality and speed.
 

spatulaboy

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I think I'll chime in on the usefulness of this lens for professional work. First of all, "professional work" is a very broad label. If one shoots mainly events and weddings, then perhaps an auto focus lens would be preferable. However, if someone does a lot of fashion and portrait work, using a manual lens is completely within reason for those uses. The pacing is much different and shooting conditions are definitely more within the photographer's control. With new focus aids like peaking and hi-res viewfinders, I don't think one should rule out manual lenses for serious photography.
 

orfeo

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Great images! Thanks for the in depth review.
I too think that the manual lenses have their places in this world. Ultra wide to wide angle lense with depth of field scale, and portrait lens... Autofocus is a luxury on those FOV
 

SNTP

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Such amazing images. Your lighting is impeccable and you've caught some great portraits. Thank you for doing this real world test. It is very much appreciated. Is it hard to catch focus without focus-peaking? I've always had trouble with manual focus on my e-m5 and it's one of the main reasons i've never picked up a voightlander. I love their lenses, but could never justify missing critical focus or "losing the shot"
After seeing your photos however I think that it's just something that needs practice. i'm sure you're very comfortable with the range and travel of the focus ring.
 

napilopez

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Such amazing images. Your lighting is impeccable and you've caught some great portraits. Thank you for doing this real world test. It is very much appreciated. Is it hard to catch focus without focus-peaking? I've always had trouble with manual focus on my e-m5 and it's one of the main reasons i've never picked up a voightlander. I love their lenses, but could never justify missing critical focus or "losing the shot"
After seeing your photos however I think that it's just something that needs practice. i'm sure you're very comfortable with the range and travel of the focus ring.

It really isn't hard with enough practice. I'm so comfortable with it, that I'm more afraid of losing the shot with the Olympus 45mm f1.8 than the Voigtlander. It really is subjective and a matter of practice. Not to toot my own horn, but I generally consider my MF to be pretty impeccable. The only scenario I really find myself wanting AF actually is probably when most people would least care about it: posed headshots. Olympus' nearest eye autofocus is just too darn useful, and at the super shallow DoF of close headshots, it's really easy to lose focus from the nearest eye. For the type of environmental portraiture or candid portraiture I tend to do, however, MF just feels a lot more natural than pumping focus and hoping the camera gets it right. Even on a DSLR with proper focus tracking, I rarely trust the camera to do it right, and it tends to focus on the body as opposed to the fac. YMMV =P

If I had something like an E-M1 with its large viewfinder, I'd really see little desire for AF at all. As for peaking; I generally have found it a bit more distracting than useful, but it varies from scenario to scenario.
 

val

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to me it doesn't look like your normal m43 photos.

definitely something different how it renders images in a good way
 

phl0wtography

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After seeing your photos however I think that it's just something that needs practice.
This. Like so many here, I "grew up" with film cameras (Kodak, Agfa, Olympus, Yashica) and a bunch of primes with different focal lengths. With a manual lens you CONSTANTLY adjust aperture and focus while walking to reflect your camera's setting to what you see. You survey your surroundings when you're after photos, and everywhere you look your fingers set up the lens according to your (mind's) eye. It takes less time than one might think, to be able to do so. That is, getting the lens focused blindly in the right ballpark, while raising the camera to your eye, and only applying a minor adjustment when you actually look through the viewfinder. Aperture blades click into place anyway so you can count in 1/3-stops (or 1/2-stops, depending on the lens). "Get to know your camera" is not an empty phrase. Use a camera, and only a few primes for some time, and you'll know the throw, and aperture opening of each lens pretty quickly by feel. Same with shutter speed on a body.

but could never justify missing critical focus or "losing the shot".
More often than not, especially with portraits and fast lenses, modern AF systems with too large focus boxes (think E-M5) won't focus on the iris but the lashes, thus missing critical focus. With a split screen or rangefinder's patch I had way fewer misses focusing manually than with AF.
 

ean10775

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I think I'll chime in on the usefulness of this lens for professional work. First of all, "professional work" is a very broad label. If one shoots mainly events and weddings, then perhaps an auto focus lens would be preferable. However, if someone does a lot of fashion and portrait work, using a manual lens is completely within reason for those uses. The pacing is much different and shooting conditions are definitely more within the photographer's control. With new focus aids like peaking and hi-res viewfinders, I don't think one should rule out manual lenses for serious photography.

I wasn't aware that MF lenses were ever ruled out for serious photography or 'professional work'. In fact I'd say its quite the opposite. Just look at the quality (and prices) of some of the Zeiss lenses for example. Zeiss isn't producing these lenses with the notion that their customers are parents that want to take photos of their kid's ballet recital. I do agree that MF lenses may work better in some areas of photography moreso than others as mentioned, but a lot of what limits the usefulness in those areas is going to be the skill of the photographer with the equipment rather than the equipment itself.
 

napilopez

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This. Like so many here, I "grew up" with film cameras (Kodak, Agfa, Olympus, Yashica) and a bunch of primes with different focal lengths. With a manual lens you CONSTANTLY adjust aperture and focus while walking to reflect your camera's setting to what you see. You survey your surroundings when you're after photos, and everywhere you look your fingers set up the lens according to your (mind's) eye. It takes less time than one might think, to be able to do so. That is, getting the lens focused blindly in the right ballpark, while raising the camera to your eye, and only applying a minor adjustment when you actually look through the viewfinder. Aperture blades click into place anyway so you can count in 1/3-stops (or 1/2-stops, depending on the lens). "Get to know your camera" is not an empty phrase. Use a camera, and only a few primes for some time, and you'll know the throw, and aperture opening of each lens pretty quickly by feel. Same with shutter speed on a body.


More often than not, especially with portraits and fast lenses, modern AF systems with too large focus boxes (think E-M5) won't focus on the iris but the lashes, thus missing critical focus. With a split screen or rangefinder's patch I had way fewer misses focusing manually than with AF.

Yep, precisely. MF generally takes a bit more concentration, but past a certain point it almost becomes muscle memory. That said, the feel of the lens in hugely important. MF is much less pleasant on lenses that don't have hard stops and feature that silly "focus acceleration" thing.

But if there's any bigger a driving point, why do you think cinematographers have professionals whose primary job is just focus pulling? Of course, film tends to use much narrower apertures in general, but for critical scenes, the focus puller can NOT mess up.

That said, am I the only one who wishes brands would release MF only versions of their AF lenses? Like, the same optics without all the AF gear. Though this obviously wouldn't work for in-lens stabilization, I can't see why it wouldn't work with olympus lenses and non stabilized panny ones, the primes in particular. Imagine how small the lenses would be! I'd love for a sort of "Retro" series where all the lenses were metal and MF only. I think they could even market these well if they had a good MF assist system like peaking or fuji's newfangled split prism thingy shown off, and the prices were slightly reduced.
 

Sahib7

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Thank you for that review!

I've got the CV 25 and the CV 17.5 and really love their special look and low light capabilities (paired with a OM-D EM5 and it's 5 axis image stabilization). Great for stills as well as video.
I might buy this lens eventually, too. So that I've got my personal M43 holy trinity.
 

Whtrbt7

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Awesome review. I just picked up this lens recently and noticed how close it was to my Canon 85LII in DOF but rendered more like an old Leica 50 cron. It's very comfortable with manual focus with its large focus throw. It's also a great portrait lens with lots of character. I have the 75/1.8 as well but I feel I get more connection with my subjects with the 42.5/0.95 just like the 85LII. Only issue with the 85LII is the size which scares a lot of people. The 42.5/0.95 is more comfortable and seems to be razor sharp at f/2. Overall, it made me purchase the 17.5/0.95.
 

RoadTraveler

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snip...
I actually spend a lot of time honing my MF skills. Sometimes I'll just be at home, focus on a random object, then work on quickly pulling focus to another object and then back again. What people often forget about MF is that unlike with AF(or at least to a larger extent), you can actually get better at it!

Well stated, and true with practicing many learned things. I'm not great at manual focusing, but 'okay' and it is surprising how easy it is to manually focus with these manual m4/3 lenses.
 

mpresley

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Thanks everyone! I'll be updating the review later with a few more samples at the end showing off the lens in different conditions and pointing which shots are unedited.



Thank you! One thing that really upsets me is when reviews don't show anything about what a lens will typically be used for. This lens is uncompromisingly a portrait lens, and behaves completely like one. The fact that it is sharpest specifically at torso or headshot portrait distances wide open is telling of the thought that went into its optical design.

I did indeed mention the field curvature in the review, and though it's definitely there, I've yet found it to be a problem. Pekka Potka I think unintentionally makes it sound worse than it actually is.


This was shot wide open. Granted, it's from a distance and the iso is at 2000 and pulled up in post (the scene was a LOT darker than it appears here), it maintains serviceable sharpness throughout everyone's faces.

I just received my copy of this lens - I've shot with the Nikon 55 AI and the 105 f/2.5 AIS on the EM5. I've now added the GX7 and am finding the focus peaking to really help. Thanks for your review, it was instrumental in pushing me over the edge :smile: I'm not finding the lens to be unwieldy on the GX7, though I think it would probably be better on the new OMD - just spent my allowance for that camera for the time being.
 

Fri13

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This. Like so many here, I "grew up" with film cameras (Kodak, Agfa, Olympus, Yashica) and a bunch of primes with different focal lengths. With a manual lens you CONSTANTLY adjust aperture and focus while walking to reflect your camera's setting to what you see. You survey your surroundings when you're after photos, and everywhere you look your fingers set up the lens according to your (mind's) eye. It takes less time than one might think, to be able to do so. That is, getting the lens focused blindly in the right ballpark, while raising the camera to your eye, and only applying a minor adjustment when you actually look through the viewfinder. Aperture blades click into place anyway so you can count in 1/3-stops (or 1/2-stops, depending on the lens). "Get to know your camera" is not an empty phrase. Use a camera, and only a few primes for some time, and you'll know the throw, and aperture opening of each lens pretty quickly by feel. Same with shutter speed on a body.

That is a reason why I Love even today Olympus OM-2 as it was perfect in that. So small and having aperture and shutter speed under left hand fingertips and you could just feel in dark what settings you had, no matter what lenses you used as all had same aperture ring positions. And then focus ring was just with the correct force and you could even get correct focus distance without looking lens or trough OVF.

It was so amazing how well a trained eye and hand could do focus between two different distances without mistakes and that being faster than pointing camera and half-pressing shutter today's fast autofocus cameras by a most shooters.
 
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