The new Voigtländer Nokton 75mm is an interesting lens, offering competition for the Leica Summilux or, even, the extremely expensive f/1.25 Noctilux. At least, that is, in headline specification.
I have been able to play with the Voigtländer for a couple of week and I’ve tried it on all my Leica digitals, namely the M9P, M10P and SL (using the Leica adapter). I turned off the lens detection in general because the lens is uncoded and, yes, I have no suitable alternative from the Leica list entered manually.
To get straight to the point: I’ve been pretty immersed in this lens for the past week. I’m fairly familiar with the Voigtländer brand since I use relatively many of them in my work in addition to Leica glass. You could say I am a big fan. But this seventy five is a real highlight, I think.
Image quality and handling
In a nutshell, in my opinion, this lens is quite up to Leica standards. I have rearely had such a well-crafted and sweet-handling lens as this seventy-five. It offers exceptional frame quality down to the finest detail. The control rings are smooth and unwanted play is completely absent. There’s no wobble. The focus is smooth and soft, the aperture ring snaps to the detents smartly (in half stops down to f/16).
The weight of the lens with its full-metal body (I guess on aluminum with stainless steel bayonet) is just right. On the one hand it is solid and exudes quality; on the other it is relatively light (350g) for a long prime with such a fast aperture. Not a jot of plastic tarnishes the overall picture, even hood which is all metal. Incidentally, it attached by means of a threaded ring which is first screwed into the filter socket and then fixed by means of knurled screw. It can also be reversed for transport.
All markings, including the company logo of the Geli??, are engraved and in-filled with colour; nothing is simply printed.
Voigtänder describes this lens lens as a “super compact” and this indeed the case when considering the focal length and speed. It is just 63mm long and has a filter thread of 58mm.
A big plus is the minimum focus distance of only 70cm, the same as almost all shorter Leica primes. As with the 75mm Leica Summilux, this results in the highest possible magnification in conjunction with the focal length on an M camera in conjunction with the rangefinder.
Also very nice is that the entire distance range of 70cm to infinity is traversed with only a quarter turn of the silky soft distance focus. This makes it possible to focus very quickly and accurately — an important factor in this high-power lens. Of course, this does require some practice in order to be perfectly positioned at the focal point when the shutter is open.
Optics and picture performance
I would call this 75mm Nokton a real all-rounder: In general, this a characterful lens with perfect portrait and cropping properties, with very nice bokeh and good core sharpness It is a crisp short telephoto which is also very well suited to landscape or architectural applications.
The vignetting is noticeable but moderate when the aperture is wide open. It disappears almost entirely after closing the aperture a couple of stops. Slight pincushion distortion is evident at the edges of the frame, but I would still call the lens “quite suitable for architecture”. Chromatic aberration (magenta fringing) is also evident, but is easy to eliminate in post processing, and disappears with just one degree of fade.
The general sharpness is very good, even into the corners. In the case of wide open aperture, in addition to the rather good core acuity in detail, a slight halo effect in detail is noticeable. This means that a weak light fringe forms around the sharp object edge in the event of strong light contrasts. However, this is only the case with very strong contrasts and I really like this effect very much. It provides a welcome touch of character and a certain softness in portraits, because it is visible only at high magnification. In this respect, to my eyes, a strong Noctilux character. If the Nokton is stopped down by one or two notches, the halo effect gradually disappears. At f/2.8 to f/4, the lens is sharp into the corners.
The bokeh is, as already indicated, very beautiful and soft, with only minimal corners in the blur circles at medium apertures, since the aperture with its twelve blades is quite circular over the entire range.
I could find no noticeable focus shift in my work — at least not one that would be relevant to my practice. Technically this may not be the case on a test bench, but I want to emphasizse again and again that I am taking a subjective view of the capabilities of this lens as I find it in use. In any case, I had few problems with the rangefinder in pinpointing sharpness. And with the electronic viewfinder of the SL, of course, this isn’t relevant.
The accompanying images illustrate how the lens performs on an M10 and SL, then a series with my old M9-P as a “model” on the beach, to represent the bokeh at different apertures and, finally, various shots “from life” with the different cameras.