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Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton X Lens Review

John Riley has been putting the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton X lens through its paces on the Fujifilm X-S10 to find out how it performs.


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Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton X

 

 

Voigtlander is one of the grand old names of German lens making, along with Zeiss and Rollei, and still exists today in its current incarnation of Cosina-owned Japanese manufacturer. This brings modern design and manufacturing techniques to meet with traditional style lens design and materials, resulting in a very interesting range of manual focus lenses. The Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton X is also a first of the range designed for Fuji X mount. Here we are using the 26MP Fujifilm X-S10 body to look in detail at the new lens and see if it has the potential to attract Fuji users, who already have a very fine range of AF and MF lenses available.

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Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton X Handling and Features

Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton X
 

First impression is of a very nicely made metal-bodied lens, but more than that, a very tiny lens that is much more akin to a small Leica rangefinder lens than even a small DSLR prime. It weighs in at just 196g. It definitely looks the part on the Fujifilm X-S10, balancing perfectly with the camera body.

There is a tiny metal screw-in lens hood and this offers a small amount of protection to the front element. The filter size is 46mm, again more typical of a small rangefinder style lens.

The aperture ring is at the front of the lens and has a nice ribbed grip, all around apart from the area where the aperture values are etched and filled with clear white paint. The click stops cannot be switched off. They are however beautifully engineered, at one-third of a stop intervals. The direction of travel is the same as Nikon and Pentax DSLRs.

The manual focus ring, and of course there is no AF with the Voigtlander lens range, operates smoothly and with a well-judged degree of firmness to the action. The direction of the focus ring is traditional Canon. Focus distances are marked in a very visible white for metres and a rather dull and much harder to see red for feet. Focusing is down to 0.30m, or 1 foot, exactly what we would expect from a classic 35mm lens. Behind the manual focus ring is a well-marked and useful depth of field scale.

Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton X
 

The metal lens mount is well-engineered and carries electronic contacts, so EXIF information can be shared with the camera body, providing it is one of the following, which are all compatible electronically: X-H1, X-T4, X-T3, X-T2, X-Pro3, X-S10, X-E4, X-T30

Optical construction is 8 elements in 6 groups. The diaphragm comprises a generous 12 blades, which suggests that bokeh could be very smooth.

So, in summary, we have a relatively tiny 35mm lens, designed specifically for the Fujifilm APS-C cameras. This is effectively equivalent to a 50mm standard lens on full-frame, certainly in terms of field of view. Add to that the bonus of a very fast, bright f/1.2 aperture and we have a very interesting proposition.

Manual focusing will not be for everyone, and at f/1.2 it can indeed be a bit tricky to find that exact point of focus. One technique is to focus at open aperture and then close down before shooting, counting off the click stops so that the required aperture can be set without taking the camera from the eye. If on a tripod, then the screen can be used and it is easier to be precise, but slower. In bright light and/or at smaller apertures it may be possible to focus at the taking aperture, but probably not with any accuracy when the light begins to fade.

Apart from the advantage in low light and as an aid to focusing, the widest apertures also have a function that depends upon the basic lens design. Some lenses are designed to be relatively soft wide open and these can be very useful for softer effects with portraiture. At some point, they will crisp up and deliver high levels of sharpness for those who need it. Some lenses aim to be razor-sharp even wide open and these can be a bit cruelly sharp for portraits to appeal to the model. With this lens, the widest apertures are softer and there is some potential there for more flattering portraits. Standard lenses no longer seem to be regarded as too close for flattering images, so this could fit in very nicely with current perceptions.

 


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