Size Matters – Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4

Size Matters – Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 MC

Matthew Osborne Photography

As my photography ‘matures’ different things become important to me.  In the earlier years bigger was best.  I remember getting my first big lens, the Nikkor 80-200  f2.8 AF, and suddenly I felt like a ‘Pro’ when at family weddings as all ‘Pros’ have big cameras and big lenses don’t they?!  I then up’d my game and got myself a Nikkor 200mm f2 AI-s prime lens.  Now that is a proper lens and it makes you look more like the paparazzi than a wedding photographer.

All that was a few years back.  Now I use Leica M cameras (+ medium format / large format film) and the opposite mentality applies.  Smaller and more compact is best (for me).  I have touched on this before but I am finding I am turning into more and more of a purest, with regards to my Leica M film cameras especially.  I only want to use 50mm lenses on the Leica M3 (with it’s 50mm viewfinder) and I only ‘want’ to use 35mm lenses on the Leica M2 (with 35mm viewfinder).  That is all well and good but the chosen lens needs to meet my requirements too.  There is no point me having a small camera if I then hang a big lens on the front to imbalance it.  Similarly, there is no point me putting a tiny lens on the camera if it cannot produces images that I ‘demand’.  Therefore I need to find a happy medium / middle ground that ticks most of my boxes.

50mm (Leica M3) – My preferred lens is the 50mm Leica Summicron f2 v5 lens as it is  smaller than the Summilux ASPH.  I do use the Summilux if I need to work in low light and with colour film that I cannot push as easily. Black and white film is easier as I just develop as I need.

35mm (Leica M2) – I didn’t have a 35mm lens that I was 100% happy with.

35mm lens I have are:

  • Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii lens which is very capable (and to me very usable shot wide open for paying clients) BUT all that comes at a cost. It is big and heavy.  I think of it as my 35mm Noctilux with some slight similarities in certain conditions.
  • Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5 Pii is perhaps my smallest lens but with an f2.5 widest aperture is not bright enough for many of my available light photoshoots.
  • Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5 – low contrast slow ‘fun’ lens. Not for serious work but great for personal work

New 35mm I considered:

  • Older Leica Summilux 35mm f1.4 Pre-ASPH
  • Older Leica Summicron 35mm f2 Pre-ASPH
  • Newer Leica Summilux 35mm f1.4 ASPH
  • Newer Leica Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH
  • Zeiss ZM Biogon 35mm f2 T
  • Zeiss ZM Distagon 35mm f1.4 T
  • Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 SC
  • Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 MC

I spent a fair bit of time reviewing images from the Leica lenses and Voigtlander lenses.  I was happy size wise with all the Leicas and the Noktons.  They are all tiny lenses and all built to a similar high standard.  I ruled the Zeiss ZM lenses out immediately due to their bigger size.  I already have sharp 35mm lenses if size is no issue.  I am not normally a pixel peeper but I read a few reviews of the Leicas vs the Voigtlanders and yes the new Leica lenses are sharper but I bet 99% of the population could not tell images from these lenses apart once they had received basic editing.  The little Voigtlander ‘Classic’ as it is called is not perfect by any means.  I know as I have a Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm f1.4 already that I got on my Voigtlander Bessa R3A (that has 40mm framelines).  Going back to the purest thing briefly, I could easily use the 40/1.4 on the M2 and I have done but I am not satisfied to guess between 35mm or 50mm framelines for the 40mm crop.  I can’t compose precisely on film if I am guessing the crop / composition.

Nokton 35mm f1.4v2

The Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 MC is not perfect as it is less sharp wide open vs new Leica lenses (in tests done by others), has heavier vignetting at wider apertures, gives soft focus corners to images wide open, has distortion so a straight line becomes slightly curved in a photo, has ‘harsh’ bokeh with highlight edges to the circles, lacks the flare resistance of modern Leica lenses, and often has some focus shift issues (f2-f4 approx).  On the upside, the colours are better (more saturated) than the cooler colours of Leica glass, I like the harsh bokeh, I like vignetting, I like soft corners for portraits, I don’t mind a glow from slight flare and I plan to use it at f1.4 so am not worried about shift.  Better still you can buy a new Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 for about half the price of an old Leica 35mm lens and about 4 times cheaper than a new 35mm Leica Summicron ASPH /Summilux ASPH.  I was tempted to buy Leica but the older lenses are at least as soft as the Nokton wide open (it seems) and the Nokton has character rather than being clinical like the new Leica lenses (like my 50mm Summilux ASPH).  To me the Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 is like a mini Noctilux in that it is the imperfections and low light ability that attract me most of all.  I have had some great results with the 40mm Nokton so that helped my decision to buy a 35mm Nokton.

I bought the MC (multi-coated) version rather than the SC (single coated) as it has slightly less flare and more contrast.  People often say SC is best for black and white film and MC for colour film.  As I develop my own B&W film I control the contrast when I develop the film so I can easily develop film to be less constrasty if I need to retain more shadow detail.  On the whole it is better for me to have high contrast and more apparent sharpness in camera from the lens so I chose the MC.  The Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 MC will now spend it’s days on my Leica M2 for my ultimate travel companion and to pair with the Leica M3 + 50mm setup.

What triggered this purchase?

I was shooting in London yesterday and had my Leica M3, Leica M2 and Leica M9 cameras.  I had the 40mm Nokton on the M2 and it fit like a glove.  With the leather hand strap it was the perfect street photographer camera. Very minimal and HCB like!  I then decided to take the Summilux off the Leica M3 to ‘borrow’ it on the M2 as I knew it was sharper.  The size of the Summilux just ruined the whole feel of the camera and experience in general.  I got home and thought to myself, I need a low light 35mm lens that is as small as the 40mm Nokton.  I like the size of the 50mm Summicron but sometimes have to use the ‘Lux if low light.

I have also recently being tempted by 28mm lenses such as the Leica 28mm Summicron f2 or Leica Elmarit 28mm f2.8. I am most tempted buy the Elmarit for the M9 due to it’s compactness as the Leica M9 has 28mm framelines and I can adjust the ISO if need more light.  That would be perfect for a compact digital travel camera setup but for my usual work, portraits and low light weddings I needed a faster lens and not quite as wide. 50mm is still my go to focal length for portraits but 35mm is good for environmental portraits, wedding photography, street photography and when working in tighter spaces.

Here are a few sample images using the Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm f1.4 to give an idea of what images may look like

Leica M9 B&W Portrait

Leica M9 Fashion

Voigtlander Bessa R3A Portrait

Ukraine

Leica, Ukraine

Leica M2 + Nokton 40mm + B&W Film

Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4

CV Nokton 40mm f1.4 Bokeh

Leica Portrait

Leica M9 Fashion

..As you may imagine I am not too concerned that the 35mm Nokton is not sharp enough or has a list of other failings.  It’s 40mm sibling seems to do OK 🙂

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Editorial Fashion – Kodak Portra + Leica M3 (2)

Editorial Fashion – Kodak Portra + Leica M3 …(Gina – Session 2)

Editorial Fashion – Kodak Portra Film + Leica M3

Model – Gina Underhill

Photographer – Matthew Osborne Photography (“Mr Leica”)

November 2014

Editorial fashion photography spread using a 1950s Leica M3 camera, 35mm colour film and minimal post processing. Below are photos from a recent shoot with Coventry model Gina who joined me in London as part of a portrait photography workshop. I was demonstrating how easy it can be to get a nice photo with minimal equipment and just daylight. One camera, one lens. We had an amazing day with a great location, a beautiful model and even some brief winter sunshine!

Here are photos taken when Gina arrived to London ahead of the orange dress shoot (first  post).  Hair still pinned up from transit but I said leave it like that as a bit different.  I chose the hat.  Gina was less keen!  I was also using my Rolleiflex SL66E 6×6 medium format film camera loaded with 120 Fuji Pro 400H so will share those soon.

More info –

Camera – 1950s Leica M3 Rangefinder film camera
Lens – Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 @ f1.4
Film – 35mm Kodak Portra 160 colour film
Development – C41 processed lab developed and scan
Lighting – Daylight only
Location – Street close to Victoria Station, London
Stylist / Hair / Make-Up – Gina / Matt

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Editorial Fashion – Kodak Portra + Leica M3

Editorial Fashion – Kodak Portra Film + Leica M3

Model – Gina Underhill

Photographer – Matthew Osborne Photography (“Mr Leica”)

November 2014

Editorial fashion photography spread using a 1950s Leica M3 camera, 35mm colour film and minimal post processing.  Below are photos from a recent shoot with Coventry model Gina who joined me in London as part of a portrait photography workshop.   I was demonstrating how easy it can be to get a nice photo with minimal equipment and just daylight.  One camera, one lens.  We had an amazing day with a great location, a beautiful model and even some brief winter sunshine!

More info –

  • Camera  – 1950s Leica M3 Rangefinder film camera
  • Lens – Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 @ f1.4
  • Film – 35mm Kodak Portra 160 colour film
  • Development – C41 processed lab developed and scan
  • Lighting – Daylight only
  • Location – Victoria, London
  • Stylist / Hair / Make-Up – Gina / Matt

 

Leica M3 + Lux 50 ASPH + Portra  Leica M3 + Lux 50 ASPH + PortraLeica M3 + Lux 50 ASPH + PortraLeica M3 + Lux 50 ASPH + PortraLeica M3 + Lux 50 ASPH + PortraLeica M3 + Lux 50 ASPH + PortraLeica M3 + Lux 50 ASPH + PortraLeica M3 + Lux 50 ASPH + Portra Leica M3 + Lux 50 ASPH + Portra  Leica M3 + Lux 50 ASPH + Portra    Leica M3 + Lux 50 ASPH + PortraLeica M3 + Lux 50 ASPH + PortraLeica M3 + Lux 50 ASPH + Portra  Leica M3 + Lux 50 ASPH + Portra

Hope you like them!  I plan to do similar spreads going forward showcasing different films, cameras, lenses and models.

http://www.MatthewOsbornePhotography.co.uk

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Lumix G3 + Leica Lenses!

Lumix G3 + Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4

Here is the first test shot with the new-to-me Panasonic Lumix G3.

To recap on my expectations, I currently use a Leica M9 35mm digital rangefinder and a full frame Nikon D800 DSLR (plus many film cameras of various formats). I started out my photography with a Lumix G1 and I enjoyed it especially for macro photography. Four years later and I now enjoy portrait photography, specialising in model / fashion photography and wedding photography. I wanted a small backup camera for my Leica lenses. I saw the price of a used Lumix G3 so thought would have a gamble and picked one up on eBay. Worst case I can just sell it again. The cost of the camera was less than some of the accessories for the Leica M9 so it put things in perspective.

My challenge to myself and for a bit of fun is to try my various Leica m mount lenses and some M42 lenses on the Lumix G3 and see how close I can get the results to the more expensive cameras. I only plan to use the G3 with manual lenses.

Above is the first test shot using the Lumix G3 + Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4. Said to be one of the best lenses ever made for any camera format.

The Lumix G3 is known to not be great in low light (like the Leica M9) but here is a test shot at ISO 640 handheld 1/20 at f1.4.

The Lumix G3 in camera JPEG ‘Monochrome’ setting is sepia rather than true B&W so I desaturated the photo in PS Elements 6. My copy of LR3 cannot read the Lumix RAW files so JPEGs only for now until I get an updated version.

Interestingly the wider angle lenses (Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 and 28mm f2 Ultron so far) do not focus up close on the M4/3 – Leica M adapter. I believe this is true for lenses <50mm but will check in due course. b

Here I focused as close as I could focus with the Lux 50/1.4 with the lenses reading 0.7M. I nice shallow DOF for a M4/3 camera!

Not a bad result for the little Lumix G3 at ISO 640. The true test will be at ISO 160 (the lowest ISO on the Lumix G3).

MatthewOsbornePhotography.co.uk – Leica Photographer

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Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4

Leica Lux ASPH 50/1.4 ..and compared to Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5

Here are a few examples with my most expensive Leica M mount lens, the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 (‘Lux’). I bought a used Lux on eBay really to see if all the Leica hype was justified. To be honest I had no real emotion or excitement in buying the lens or even holding it when it arrived. It had to impress me first with its capabilities. I have other nice lenses such as the Nikkor 50mm f1.2 AI-s on the Nikon D800 and the Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f2 and Zeiss ZM Sonnar C 50mm f1.5 for the Leica M9. The Lux had to beat these at its high price tag to secure a price in my Leica camera bag. I am almost pro non-Leica glass as like anyone I like to back the underdog. I use Russian lenses such as the Jupiter 3 50/1.5 (Soviet clone of the 1930s design Zeiss Sonnar) and Voigtlander glass such as the great value for money CV Nokton 40mm f1.4.

Can the Leica Summilux really be that good?

I took 3 lenses to London for some model test shoot street photography. I tried to rotate the lens I was using through the day however there are no real side by side comparison shots as I still had the fashion shoots to do. The 3 lenses selected were the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4, the Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5 and for wider shots the Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii.

Results!

Once I got back I selected some of my favourites from the thumbnails images to post. I did not check the EXIF data until afterwards. Of the 17 photos taken so far 10 of those were with the Leica Lux ASPH, 4 with the ZM Sonnar and 3 with the CV Nokton 35/1.2. I think I was hoping the Zeiss ZM Sonnar would win but no, it seem the LUX ASPH 50mm is as good as the rave reviews make out.

Leica Summilux ASPH vs Zeiss ZM Sonnar – why is the Lux good?

1) The Summilux will focus slightly closer than 0.7M whereas the minimum focus distance of the Zeiss ZM Sonnar is 0.9M. This gives a more shallow DOF and nice bokeh.

2) Edge to edge sharpness across the image

3) Very sharp at infinity

4) No focus shift issues so can be used at ease at any aperture and can be relied upon.

5) Leica lenses hold their value.

6) Built in hood.

Leica Summilux ASPH vs Zeiss ZM Sonnar – why is the Sonnar better?

1) The ZM Sonnar is 2.5x cheaper yet produces just as good a Lux photo at 0.9M when shot wide open. I found it very difficult to tell what lens I had used for most of the photos.

2) The Zeiss ZM Sonnar is smaller and lighter and does not block the bottom right hand corner of the viewfinder.

3) Zeiss ZM lenses give photos a sharp constrasty look with a 3D pop subject-background separation and nice rendering from the softer corners of the image.

Thoughts so far..

I need to conduct some more scientific tests with side-by-side examples but at the moment I am very happy with the results from both the ZM Sonnar and Leica Summilux ASPH 50. Both lenses are very capable but as I like shallow depth of field images the Leica is winning at the moment. The Lux bokeh reminds me of the bokeh from the Nikkor 50mm f1.2 AI-s where is can appear to swirl behind the subject and change shape at the image corners. The Nikkor 200mm f2 AI-s also produces this bokeh look.

Leica Wedding Photography

I feel I could rely on the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 lens for Leica wedding photography on my Leica M9. I would not need to worry about focus shift found on the Zeiss ZM Sonnar.  For documentary style wedding photography edge to edge sharpness shot wide open is great as the subjects are often not in the centre of the photo.  The fast f1.4 aperture makes the Lux great for low light photography when shooting by available light such as during a wedding ceremony.  The Zeiss ZM Planar 50/2 has similiar sharpness wide open however in low light f2 is often not bright enough for UK Leica weddings and the CV Nokton 40mm f1.4 lens is not as sharp wide open.

Example images with the Leica Summilux ASPH 50/1.4 on the Leica M9

Environmental Portraits – Models Angelique and Valentine

After Hours

Leica Summilux ASPH Bokeh

Summilux ASPH 50

Summilux ASPH 50/1.4

Other examples

Leica Summilux ASPH

Leica Summilux ASPH 50 is sharp!

London

Leica Street Photography

Clothes Show 2013

Clothes Show Live

MatthewOsbornePhotography.co.uk – Leica Wedding Photographer

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Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii

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Nikkor 50mm f1.2 AI-s

Leica Lenses Are Coming!

Leica Lenses

Leica Lenses Are Coming!

After buying my Leica M9 roughly 3 months ago I have so far used all non-Leica lenses for my portraiture, model / fashion photography and Leica wedding photography. I have also learnt a great deal from reading about the various lenses available for the Leica M mount. I started by buying Voigtlander lenses and then some Zeiss lenses also. My current line up is:

Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 Super Wide Heliar
Voigtlander 21mm f4 Color Skopar
Voigtlander 35mm f1.2 Nokton ASPH ii
Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 Nokton Classic
Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f2
Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5

I avoided Leica glass initially as it is well known that lens prices start at over £1k. But, when reviewing the cost of my non-Leica lenses I noticed I am getting close to or exceeding that bench mark already. So, I then started to review Leica lenses. Many Leica lenses have had the same basic design for years and different versions have been released with updates over time. As a generalisation, the older lenses still have the amazing Leica glass and build quality but without the latest modern lens coatings. The end result of which is the older lenses give a lower contrast apparent less sharp look verses the latest lens releases. The more I read the more I wanted to join in with the Leica shooters using Leica glass. What surprised me the most is how cheap some of the older Leica lenses can be bought for second hand. Better still, Leica lenses are known to hold their value so any purchases I did make would be as much an investment as something to get enjoyment from.

As a result of all that reading I got myself on eBay this week to see if there were any potential bargains to be found. My first purchase was a very cheap 1960s Leica Elmar 135mm f4 lens. Ken Rockwell for any readers that know him, absolutely raves about this lens so after seeing some example photos using the Elmar 135/4 I purchased one.

elmar

I then spent many many hours looking at 50mm lenses. As you may have read in one of my recent posts I just bought the Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5. (I will post an update with more Sonnar example photos soon). Although it is a great lens with lots of character it is not practical to use the Sonnar on my M9 for Leica weddings. My copy of the Sonnar is optimised at f1.5 so it is sharp shot wide open but if I stop down to say f2-5.6 (perhaps to shoot in very bright light) it will not focus accurately due to the well known Sonnar focus shift. Using the ZM Sonnar for weddings when using a single Leica body (plus Nikon D800 as backup) would be crazy so I looked at Leica 50mm lenses. The latest Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 is said to be one of the sharpest 50mm lenses but when I reviewed many many sample photos I was not really ‘feeling’ it.

(What makes me laugh/ confused is Leica cameras and lenses are known to be some of the best in the world yet if you ever spent 10 minutes reviewing some Leica camera photos, say on Flickr, I would say at least half are out of focus or very soft. It’s crazy! I know a photo does not need to be sharp to be good but it still amazes me at the masses of ‘low’ quality photos posted by Leica camera owners)(IMO)(By this I am only talking about photos that are not it focus. Nothing to do with composition, subject, colour or any other photo characteristic).

So, the well regarded ‘Lux’ currently doesn’t seem to impress me so I continued my research. That brought me to the Leica ‘Cron’ or Summicron. A small, compact 50mm f2 lens with sharpness at f2 said to be the same as the ‘Lux’ at f2. Ken Rockwell has done a great review comparing the 5 pre-APO Summicron variants. Thanks Ken! I liked the results of the Summicron version 3 looking at examples but then spotted a low price auction for the latest pre-APO Summicron with the built in hood. I placed a last minute bid and I am now the proud owner of my first modern Leica lens – Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 (made in 2003). There are lots of opinions on the internet but many people regard the Cron as their favourite 50mm lens due to the sharpness, small size and smooth focusing ring.

cron

You may note that I already own a Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f2 and in comparison reviews the results of the Planar vs. Summicron are almost impossible to tell apart. My ZM Planar is crazy sharp wide open (almost too harsh for some female portraits) and I am expecting the Cron to be slightly less sharp and less contrasty. I can then decide my favourite lens and whether or not to keep both or sell one.

Here is one of my favouite ZM Planar photos. Shot in Ukraine with model Yuliya

Leica M9 6x6

So, after 3 months of non-Leica lens photos the Leica lenses are coming! Examples using the Leica Elmar 135mm f4 and Leica Summicron 50mm f2 to follow.

If you think Leica lenses are too expenses have a look on eBay.. you might get a nice surprise 😉

www.MatthewOsbornePhotography.co.ukLeica Wedding Photographer

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Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5

Samyang 85mm f1.4 – Stopped Down

I tend to shoot the Samyang 85mm f1.4 lens wide open at f1.4 as it is sharp enough to use for paying clients. It is also much sharper than my Nikkor 85/1.4D that I found I had to use at f2.

In this photo of Polish model Nella I had the Samyang 85/1.4 stopped down at f4 and it is crazy sharp yet still creates a nice shallow DOF. Great lens and one of my favourites on the Nikon D800.

I increased the sharpness and contrast of my D800 B&W JPEG in PP but the eye detail is as shot. A credit to the very reasonably priced manual focus Korean lens.

MatthewOsbornePhotography.co.uk