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Mar 03

Review: Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic (E-Mount)

Conclusion

Pros

  • Extremely compact lens for the focal length and aperture
  • Super solid all-metal construction
  • Absolutely fantastic feeling focus and aperture rings
  • Reasonably sharp wide open across most of the frame at most focus distances
  • Very good sharpness across almost the entire frame stopped down
  • Lovely color and contrast
  • Good performance against flare
  • Beautiful sunstars
  • Lens aberrations and unique bokeh create a classic look
  • Reasonably priced for such a fast wide-angle

Cons

  • Heavy spherical aberration, especially at close focus distances
  • Very soft at wide apertures when focused between 0.3 and 0.5m
  • Extreme corners always retain some softness at any aperture
  • Pronounced vignetting that never truly goes away
  • Minor longitudinal CA
  • Some purple fringing at high contrast edges at wide apertures
  • Heavy coma at wide apertures
  • Focus shift upon stopping down requires focusing at working aperture
  • Barrel distortion at closer focus distances
  • Bokeh that is quite busy wide open, and never is super creamy

As you can see from my pros and cons list above, this is not a perfect lens, but it’s also not a bad lens, and many of the cons actually figure into one of the pros – and that is the creation of that glowy classic look at f/1.4, with bokeh that you’ll either love or hate.  It’s a lens that I can’t universally recommend, as many will find its negatives to be major dealbreakers.  Yet, I do think that most people should really give it a look, as many do love that classic look at f/1.4. It’s also extremely solidly constructed, has wonderful manual focus feel, is downright tiny for a 35mm f/1.4 (and frankly it’s small for any lens), and doesn’t really break the bank at a retail price of $799.

Only you can determine whether you like the way this lens draws, or if you hate it.  But for my use, I really like the look I can get from this lens.  Wide open it gives a very unique look, and stopped down it provides lovely tonality and good sharpness over the entire frame, save for the extreme corners.  Sharpness is pretty good at f/1.4, but does have a little softness due to spherical aberration, and stopping down is a must when focused near the lens’ minimum focus distance.

If you do want a more modern rendering lens, be prepared to both spend more and carry around a larger lens.  One of the nice alternatives is Voigtländer’s own 40mm f/1.2, which is $300 more expensive, about twice the length and twice the weight, but is still fairly compact for such a lens, and while it’s a slightly longer focal length, from samples I’ve seen it’s also much better corrected and is a more modern optic.  Otherwise, you’re stuck with the giant 35mm f/1.4 lenses, or the also less than perfect, but also quite pricey (and slower) Loxia 35mm f/2. In fact, the Loxia and the Voigtländer share a fair bit in how they draw, with nervous bokeh wide open.  The Loxia is a touch sharper, a little bigger and a lot more expensive at $1,299, and its relationship to price was why I didn’t really feel it was worth a purchase when I reviewed that lens.  However, the Voigtländer’s $500 lower price and full stop faster aperture make it a lot easier to overlook flaws and embrace the drawing style.

Personally, I really like the lens, and have added it to my bag.  I’ve really enjoyed shooting with it. If you like the look, it’s well worth a purchase. If you want a more modern rendering lens, then look elsewhere.

Image Samples

Click on an image to enlarge.

Columbus Before Dawn (3 image stitch) - Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/11

Columbus Before Dawn (3 image stitch) – Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/11, 20s, ISO 100

Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/2,

Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/2, 1/200s, ISO 250

Begin 16 - Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/1.7,

Begin 16 – Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/1.7, 1/8000s, ISO 100

Statehouse Arches - Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/5.6,

Statehouse Arches – Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/5.6, 1/12s, ISO 1600

Skateboarding in Columbus - Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/11,

Skateboarding in Columbus – Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/13, 1/125s, ISO 100

Lollipop - Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/1.7, 1/60s, ISO 640

Lollipop – Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/1.7, 1/60s, ISO 640

Path to the City - Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/11

Path to the City – Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/11, 20s, ISO 100

Wet Floor - Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/1.4,

Wet Floor – Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/1.4, 1/320s, ISO 1600

Sculpture above the LeVeque Tower - Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/16

Sculpture above the LeVeque Tower – Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/1.4, 1/5000s, ISO 100

iPad - Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/1.4,

iPad – Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/1.4, 1/100s, ISO 800

Columbus Before Dawn - Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/11, 20s, ISO 100

Columbus Before Dawn – Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/11, 20s, ISO 100

Shadows on the Pier - Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/2,

Shadows on the Pier – Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/2, 1/2000s, ISO 100

Statehouse Statue - Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/2.8,

Statehouse Statue – Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/2.8, 1/125s, ISO 200

Between the Railing - Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/2.8,

Between the Railing – Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/2, 1/40s, ISO 800

Sunlit Seeds - Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @

Sunlit Seeds – Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/4

Scioto Mile - Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/2,

Scioto Mile – Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/2, 1/3200s, ISO 100

Senate - Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/8

Senate – Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/8, 1/5s, ISO 400

Watching - Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/1.4,

Watching – Sony A7 II with Voigtländer 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic @ f/1.4, 1/80s, ISO 400

If you enjoyed this review, please check out my other reviews in the Review Index.

About the author

Jordan Steele

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Admiring Light; Photographer; Electrical Engineer and Dad

6 comments

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  1. Njomaah

    Thank you very much I like the rendering of this lens I found it similar to my Voigtlander nokton 40mm f/1.4 M that I like a lot, do you have any experience with the Nokton 40mm f/1.4 M and if yes did you find any similarities between both. Thanks again

    1. Jordan Steele

      I had the 40/1.4 M for about two years, around 7 years ago, but at the time I was using it on m4/3, so I have no real thoughts on it from a FF comparison. However, it too had a similar handling of bokeh, but perhaps even a bit more wild at f/1.4. Similar spherical aberration as well, though the M mount lenses only focused to 0.7m, so I had no experience with closer focus.

  2. Sahib7

    Are you planning to test the Voigtlander 40mm f1.2 too?

    1. Jordan Steele

      I do eventually plan on reviewing it. By all accounts, it’s a really good lens, so I’d love to give it a whirl.

  3. Sam Taylor

    Great review and beautiful images as always.

  4. Jonathan

    Wow, those shots stopped down a little really reveal an annoying bokeh, complete with busy corners. The people shots wide open look great, and I’d say that’d be the only reason to consider this lens. The shots of buildings with objects in close focus in the foreground are also revealing. The out-of-focus buildings behind almost look cartoonish. This definitely would not be a lens I would use. Thanks for the very informative review!

  1. Voigtlander 1.4/35 FE review by Admiringlight: "not a perfect lens, but it’s also not a bad lens" - sonyalpharumors sonyalpharumors

    […] Quality is average at best but there is no other f/1.4 E-mount lens that is as compact as this. Admiringlight seems to  like this lens despite it’s optical […]

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