Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 II MC Lens Review

Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 II MC Lens Review:

How I ended up reviewing the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 II MC is a funny story.  Well, maybe not a funny story but you get what I mean ;).  Keep in mind that it was around 1am but I was actually looking at some of my portraits, and was thinking it would be nice to change it up a bit.  I wanted something with a more classic bokeh, and so I starting googling.  I looked around, and came across some info on the first version of the Voigtlander 35mm f1.4.  The 35mm focal length is definitely not one of my favorite focal lengths but I love the overall look that this particular lens produced, and then I discovered a version two was recently released.  I guess I never paid attention but in fairness, so many things come out these days :).  So, I thought I’d see if I could get my hands on one to review, and to try out for myself.  I did get one on loan, and shot with it quite a bit.  Was I happy with the results?  Read on and find out!

Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 II MC Lens Build Quality:

Let’s start off talking about the build.  I think the Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 II’s build is truly impressive, especially when you factor in the price, which is $649.  If you’re buying this for your Leica, and are maybe worried that it won’t match well, don’t be; I tried it on my Leica SL and my M6 TTL Millennium.  It looks and feels great on both.  Like the Leica cameras, the lens is all metal, and feels very solid.  It weighs 189 g, which gives it a nice heft considering the tiny size of this lens.  But don’t mistaken my use of the word heft for heavy because it’s not, it just feels like a quality product.

↑ Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 II MC attached to my Leica M6 TTL Millennium.

Speaking of size, I just love the compact nature of this lens.  Look at the photos, it’s tiny!  The Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 II MC even uses a 43mm filter, which is quite small, if you think about it, for an f1.4 lens.  It reminds me a lot of the 35mm Summilux pre-ASPH.  This is how a 35mm lens should be like in my opinion.  To me, a 35mm lens is something that should be versatile.  The focal length is good for environmental portraits, travel, street, and landscape just to name a few.  For all of that, you want something that is small, and easy to carry around.  Voigtlander really got it right making this 35mm so compact.

↑ Here’s a top view of the M6 to give you a better idea of how compact this lens is when mounted on a camera.

Voigtlander also got the functions right as well.  The focus ring is buttery smooth with just the right amount of tension for feel, and precise focusing when you need it, especially since this is an f1.4 lens.  I love the fact that there’s the focus tab on the ring as well.  It really adds not only to the ergonomics but also that rangefinder feel.  As for the aperture ring, it clicks solidly into position as you rotate it.  Seriously speaking, this lens has simply been a joy to use.

You can also attach the Voigtlander LH-6 Lens Hood onto this lens but it’ll cost you an additional $69, since it is not included.  It would’ve been nice, if it was included; however, It’s not insanely priced, and I still highly recommend it.  It’s beautifully made, and in addition to protecting against flare, it’s a great way to protect the front element from bumps, especially if you do a lot of walking around a crowded city.  Appearance wise, it also looks really good, and I love how it attaches to the lens.  Instead of a clip on, which just sucks sometimes because those can pop off accidentally when you knock it or a screw on, which is inconvenient, the LH-6 is mounted in a bayonet style way.  So, not only is it easy to remove and attach quickly, it also stays in place.

↑ All the photos here were taken with the Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 II MC mounted on my Leica SL.

Lastly, the Voigtlander 35mm comes in two versions: an MC (multi-coated) and an SC (single coated).  The multi-coating gives you more of a natural rendering, and the single coating gives you a more classic one.  The one in this review is the multi-coated version.

Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 II MC Lens Image Quality:

Now let’s talk about the fun part: image quality.  If you’re looking for absolute tech spec sharpness and perfection, the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 II MC might not be the lens for you.  With that said, I still found the image quality on a technical aspect to be exceptional.  Sharpness at f1.4 is very good in the center with edges being a bit soft but this lens does sharpen quite nicely, once you stop it down.  Even at f2, sharpness improves in the center, and along with the edges.  By f8, nearly the entire frame is very sharp.  Again, it might not be as sharp as some of those “latest and greatest” reference lenses but you can definitely get great results, especially stopped down.  I don’t like images that are not sharp, and I’m very happy with the results from this lens, so that should say something.

↑ This was taken at f4.

↑ This was taken at f8 around Wall Street.

↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the photo above.  While not the focus point, look at the traffic signs that are behind the couple.  As you can see, the Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 is a very sharp lens when stopped down.

↑ Here’s another 100% crop of the photo above.  While not the focal point, you can read the paragraphs on that sign “Exploring Lower Manhattan”.

↑ This was taken at f8 at 2500 ISO.

Color rendering is also very nice, and so is contrast.  This lens does flare on occasion though, and there is a fair amount of vignetting at f1.4.  Stopping down to f4 helps you remove nearly all of it, and by f5.6, it’s all clear.

↑ Here’s another photo taken at f8.

↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the photo above.

↑ Here’s another 100% crop of the photo above.  As you can see, you can clearly read the letters on the manhole cover.

↑ This was taken at f1.4.

↑ This was taken somewhere in the Lower East Side.

Also, I should note that since this is the version two of the lens, the optical design has been refined to meet the demands of newer sensors in cameras.  Field curvature and astigmatism have also been significantly reduced for improved focusing accuracy and sharpness.  But Voigtlander made it clear that even with these improvements, the classic signature look that this lens renders has been retained, which leads me to what makes this lens truly great in my opinion.

↑ This was taken at f4.

↑ This was taken at f8.

↑ If I remember correctly, this was taken at f8.  Black and white conversion was done in Photoshop CC Camera Raw.

The Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 II MC isn’t about tech spec perfection; it’s about character, glow, and that classic rendering, which this lens does so well.  Honestly, I can go on, and on about this technical feature and that but at the end of the day, I just love the look that this lens produces, especially at f1.4.  It’s imperfect, which makes it perfect.  For example, things like vignetting are actually beneficial in a lens like this, if you ask me. They can add to the look that this lens renders.  The Voigtlander is also sharp enough by modern standards (especially when stopped down), so I do not feel like I’m really sacrificing anything just for that classic rendering.

↑ This is a picture of the Oculus.

↑ This was taken at f8.

↑ This was taken somewhere in Little Italy.

Speaking of that classic rendering, I just love the bokeh coming from this lens at f1.4.  Of course, not everyone might agree with me, since bokeh is subjective.  As they say, different strokes for different folks.  I showed some friends the pictures I took with the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 II MC, and some are downright in love with the bokeh while others are not.  For me, however, I just love those little bokeh balls created by this lens.  Photos with trees, leaves, and maybe a little sun in the background look so good, if you ask me.  I love the buttery smooth background, the sometimes swirly look, and as I said earlier, the fair amount of vignetting at f1.4 only seems to add to the look for me.  The only thing I regret was not shooting more at f1.4.  I probably should’ve added more shallow depth of field shots but I usually shoot 35mm lenses stopped down, and it’s hard to break the habit :).

↑ Here’s an example at f1.4.

↑ Here’s another at f1.4.

↑ This was taken at f1.4 as well.

↑ Here’s one more example at f1.4.

Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 II MC Lens Verdict:

Overall, I feel the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 II MC has a lot offer.  Its compact, fast, and well-made.  It’s easy to carry around and use, and it produces such a beautiful classic rendering.  Yet at the same time on a technical aspect, I still think it’s a decent lens by modern standards.  I was shooting this lens all over New York City, and not once did I feel like I was getting anything that was significantly inferior to anything that other modern lenses in its class would produce, especially when stopped down.  In my opinion, this is an extremely versatile lens not just because of the focal length but also because of the way that it renders.  At $649, it’s won’t break the bank either.

I realize a 35mm lens is quite popular, and so maybe many of you already have one.  However, even for people who have a 35mm, I wouldn’t think it was crazy to buy this one to add to the collection just to get a different look.  In my opinion, the Nokton 35mm f1.4 II MC can produce a unique enough look, especially at f1.4 where it’ll come in handy when you want to change things up.  Of course, if this is the only 35mm in the collection, that wouldn’t be bad either, since as I said, it’s still an exceptional overall lens that’ll produce great images.

I seriously enjoyed using the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 II MC, and for me to praise it this much means a lot because I generally don’t like the 35mm focal length.  But I particularly enjoyed using this one.  It’s a lens I regret having to send back.  It’s not one of those clinically perfect lenses but man, does it have soul.  If you’re in the market for a 35mm lens, and want something with downright character, I’d highly recommend this one.

Thanks for taking the time to read my review!  If you’re considering purchasing the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 II, and my review helped you decide, please help support this site by purchasing from any of the links in this review.  It will not cost you anything extra.  Thank you for your support!

Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 II MC at B&H Photo

Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 II SC at B&H Photo

Voigtlander LH-6 Lens Hood at B&H Photo

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