In this short article, I take a look at an interesting, very fast lens for M-Mount: the Voigtländer 50mm f/1.2 Nokton VM. As a very engaging M-Mount lens that isn’t made by Leica, it sort of complements the long-running M Files series by Jörg-Peter Rau.
Jörg-Peter has just published the nineteenth instalment in his series. It’s a project that is already an essential point of reference for all Leica and M-Mount users. Jörg-Peter has my greatest respect for his in-depth reports and descriptions of the various cameras and lenses belonging to the M-mount family but which, as he says, are “not Leica”.
This review piggybacks onto J-P’s seminal project and tells about my experiences of a very specific combination — using the Voigtländer Voigtländer 50mm f/1.2 Nokton on a digital Leica, the M10. It does not approach the depth of Jörg-Peter’s M Files articles, nor does it attempt to, but as a highly specific exercise, it serves to complement the larger picture.
The Voigtländer 50mm f/1.2 Nokton, here tested on a real Leica
As far as I can determine, the Voigtländer 50mm f/1.2 Nokton VM for the Leica M Mount was released in 2018. There have been relatively few reports and reviews about the lens (especially in German) since it was released some five years ago. And indeed, some of those reviewers did not use a Leica digital camera but based their experiences on the use of the lens mounted on other mirrorless cameras by means of an adapter.
I bought my used copy in the Spring of 2023. There was no external evidence of wear when I opened the box, and I am very happy with the purchase. The current recommended price is €1099 in Germany and just under £900 in the UK.
|Voigtländer 50mm f/1.2 Nokton|
|Construction||8 elements in 6 groups|
|Angle of view||47.5 deg.|
|Minimal focus distance||70mm|
|Thread for lens hood||Yes|
|Included accessories||Front and rear caps|
|Optional accessories||LH-10 lens hood (or older LH-8)|
For me, the Voigtländer 50mm f/1.2 Nokton represents a compelling alternative to the various 50mm Summilux lenses produced by Leica over the years. These are all a bit longer but much slimmer and weigh about the same.
Since I haven’t had the chance to play with the new Leica 50mm f/1.2 Noctilux-M, I am unable to make the obvious direct like-for-like comparison. Nor did I have a 50 mm Summilux to hand. However, I understand the Nokton is based on a design first introduced nearly 50 years ago in 1966, and I do not know to what extent things have changed since then.
For the purposes of this review, therefore, I have compared the Voigtländer 50mm f/1.2 Nokton to my Leica 50mm f/2 Summicron-M.
As described above, the design comprises eight elements in six groups. The case is made of metal. Unfortunately, Voigtländer does not supply a lens hood, so you have to purchase it separately if you want it. Or you use a different one.
All old manual Nikkor lenses have a filter thread of 52mm. With the HN-7 hood of the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, the Voigtländer looks even cooler, despite slightly impinging on the rangefinder view.
I wonder how you manage to get a sharp image of the lens and frame through the rangefinder. You can see above that it doesn’t work for me.
The positive thing about the Nokton is that the frames are displayed for 50mm.
Chromatic aberrations and vignetting
Hey, the starting aperture is a fast f/1.2. This allows for small colour deviations and, yes, some vignetting. In Lightroom, there is a profile for the lens that I apply to the images. I usually set the vignetting correction to 75%.
When stopped down, the colour deviations and vignetting disappear. I could not observe any large-scale colour shifts on the sides of the image to purple or green on the M10. Given the quality of the lenses that Voigtländer/Cosina have achieved, I would have been very surprised if I had.
Wide open, the Voigtländer 50mm f/1.2 Nokton VM softens a bit. With a close-up limit of 70mm, you sometimes miss the focus point, cough … And no, at f/1.2, it’s not razor-sharp in the extreme corners.
Stopped down to f/5.6, the Nokton is sharp right into the corners on the M10 and probably would perform just as well on the higher-resolution M11.
Subject separation and bokeh at a wide aperture is something that is par for the course with such a fast lens. In fact, you simply cannot imagine not being able to isolate a subject with an f/1.2 lens. It is certainly impossible with this Voigtländer 50mm f/1.2 Nokton.
In my opinion, the bokeh effect always depends a little on the background. Here I find the bokeh calm and the transitions smooth. Admittedly, this is always in the eye of the user or viewer, and your mileage may vary.
So far, I haven’t been able to generate significant flare, despite using the lens without the hood. This obviously requires more effort.
Hey, that’s a Voigtländer with 12 aperture blades. All of my Voigtländer lenses can capture spectacular sun stars, and this one is no different. You don’t even have to stop down further than f/8.
The above images all taken at f/8
Sharpness compared to the Summicron
Below is a bit of pixel-peeping. I’m not a big fan of the art, but I was very interested to check out the results from the Nokton. Unfortunately, the pictures here don’t convey it as perfectly as I would have liked. But, from my point of view, they show that you don’t have to accept a reduction in sharpness with the Voigtländer. For all images, I enlarged the middle of a significant target area in Lightroom to 100%.
Colour rendering on the M10
The colours of the Voigtländer 50mm f/1.2 Nokton are a little bit colder than those of the Summicron.
I used the “Landscape” profile from Lightroom for all images. Exposure compensation was set to Auto.
The M10 recognises the Summicron as such through the coding. For the Voigtländer, I had set the profile to 50mm f/1.4 11868. That should be the pre-aspheric Summilux.
Ultimately, this plays a rather subordinate role when photographing in RAW format.
Lightroom has a profile for the Voigtländer that eliminates vignetting and distortion. This was not used for the example images for the comparison to the Summicron. All other images are tagged with this profile.
Cesenatico at Night
I bought my used copy of the Voigtländer 50mm f/1.2 Nokton from MPB.com for under €700. The new price is €1,099, which is a quarter of what is required to buy a new Summilux. It’s definitely not four times worse. It’s just different.
On the Leica M10, you get a wonderfully functioning lens, which clearly pushes the limits of usable light backwards with the widest aperture of f/1.2. Approximately, I drew level with the Leica Q and its f/1.7 lens. Where the M10 used to disappear into the camera bag and the Q had to do the work, the M10 can now continue to do the work. It is logical, however, that the focal lengths cannot be compared.
At f/5.6, it is exceptionally sharp and draws with fine contrast.
For wide-open use, even during the day, the M10’s exposure time of 1/4000s is the limiting factor. I don’t feel like fumbling with ND filters.
It’s thicker than the Summicron and protrudes slightly into the 50mm frame of the rangefinder. Aesthetically, the black ‘Cron on the M10 looks more elegant than the Voigtländer 50mm f/1.2 Nokton.
There is no doubt that the Voigtländer lenses will never achieve the collector status of their Leica counterparts, nor do they have to. Voigländer users aren’t seeking showcase pieces. They look for everyday usability and performance at a price that won’t break the bank.
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