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Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II Lens Review

Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews this bright prime lens from Voigtlander, the Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II for Nikon cameras.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4 Nokton SL II
Price : £400
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Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Voigtlander Nokton 58mm F1 4 SL II N (4)

This manual focus standard lens is available to fit Nikon SLR cameras. The lens is manual focus, but sports electronic contacts to fully support all metering modes and aperture control from the camera. The lens costs around £400, which a fair chunk cheaper than Nikon's own AF-S 58mm f/1.4G lens, which costs a whopping £1450!

Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II Handling and Features

Voigtlander Nokton 58mm F1 4 SL II N (2)

The build and design of this lens harks back to a bygone age, where lenses were typically made of brass and designed to last a lifetime. This lens feels very solidly built, thanks to the all-metal construction and the scalloped metal focusing ring, finished in black. Even though the lens feels as though it has a fair bit of weight to it, it only weighs 320g and makes a perfect companion for the Nikon D600 body used for testing.

The focusing ring is silky smooth and has just the right amount of resistance, which makes it a pleasure to apply fine adjustments. Closest focus for this lens is 45cm, which is fairly typical for a lens of this focal length. The lens doesn't focus internally, extending by around a centimetre at its closest focus. Distances are embossed into the focus ring, and there is a hyperfocal scale, although only values for f/8 and f/16 are marked on the lens barrel. Electronic contacts to support metering and aperture control functions of the camera are provided. Nikon users will have to ensure that the lens is set to f/22, which is marked orange on the aperture ring for the lens to work properly on modern cameras. Unfortunately, there is no system provided for locking the aperture at this setting.

Voigtlander Nokton 58mm F1 4 SL II N (5)

The lens accepts 58mm filters, and the filter ring does not rotate during focusing, which is great for use with graduated and polarising filters. No lens hood is supplied as standard with this lens.
Voigtlander Nokton 58mm F1 4 SL II N (7)

Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II Performance

Sharpness in the centre of the frame already approaches excellent levels at f/1.4, although performance towards the edges of the frame falls way behind, only producing fair levels of clarity. Stopping down improves performance across the frame, with sharpness peaking between f/4 and f/5.6 in the centre of the frame. Stopping down to between f/5.6 and f/11 results in outstanding sharpness across the frame.

MTF
MTF

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D600 using Imatest.


Chromatic aberrations are well controlled, with fringing only just exceeding half a pixel width towards the edges of the frame between f/1.4 and f/2. This low level of fringing will be very difficult to spot, even in images with areas of high contrast towards the edges of the frame. 

CA
CA

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D600 using Imatest.


Falloff of illumination towards the corners is very pronounced, as you may expect from a lens with a fast maximum aperture like this optic. The corners are 2.56 stops darker than the centre of the frame at maximum aperture and illumination is visually uniform across the frame when stopped down to f/5.6 or beyond.

Imatest detected 1.16% barrel distortion, which is an extremely low level of distortion, which will be difficult to spot, unless you specifically go looking for it. If absolutely straight lines are paramount, you'll be glad to know that the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, which should make applying corrections in image editing software straightforward.

Contrast is good, even when shooting into the light at maximum aperture. No hood is supplied as standard with this lens but a Voigtlander metal screw-in type hood can be obtained for around £40.

Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II Sample Photos

Value For Money

The Nikon version of this lens costs around £400 from RobertWhite, which seems like a bargain when compared to Nikon's AF-S 58mm f/1.4G lens, which costs around £1450, even though this Voigtlander optic lacks autofocus. When compared to Nikon's standard 50mm f/1.4 lens, which costs around £280 the price seems less exceptional.

Canon camera owners will naturally compare this lens to the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, with silent ultrasonic autofocus for around £235.

Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II Verdict

Those who hanker after photographic equipment from a bygone age, where everything was hewn from solid brass and would outlast your grandchildren, will really appreciate the solid metal construction and silky smooth manual focus action provided by this lens.

Conversely, those simply after a high quality optic to take pictures with, will appreciate the high levels of sharpness delivered from maximum aperture, and the electronic coupling with the camera's meter, even if the lens lacks autofocus. As a result, this lens should win over many fans.


 
  The Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II delivers excellent sharpness in the centre of the frame with silky smooth manual focus

 

Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II Pros

Excellent sharpness in the centre at maximum aperture
Outstanding sharpness across the frame when stopped down
Very good build quality
Smooth manual focus action
Low CA and distortion

Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II Cons

Falloff
Not supplied with a hood or case

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  


Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SL II Specifications

General
Lens Mounts
  • Nikon AI-S
Lens
Focal Length58mm
Angle of View40
Max Aperturef/1.4
Min Aperturef/16
Filter Size58mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo
Focusing
Min Focus45cm
StabilisedNo
Construction
Blades9
Elements7
Groups6
Box Contents
Box ContentsFront and rear lens caps
Dimensions
Weight320g
Height47.5mm

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Comments


14 Jun 2014 8:23PM
This is a cream machine. Its bokeh at 1.4 is simply gorgeous. I've owned and loved this lens for about three years now and its a treasure to use.

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