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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Harriett & Ashley

Harriett & Ashley – Stylised engagement session in Coventry using a 1950s Leica M2 film camera, a Fuji GS645 film camera and my digital Leica M9. Photo show the film wedding photography style I plan to offer for 2015. I use a range of 35mm film, medium format film and large format film cameras in addition to Leica digital.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/32681588@N03/14774898268

LeicaWeddingPhotographer

Vintage Engagement: Harriett & Ashley

http://www.MatthewOsbornePhotography.co.uk / www.MrLeica.com

Coventry Wedding Photographer – Location Shoot

Engagement Session, Coventry

As a Coventry wedding photographer that offers analogue film wedding photography and digital images, I like nothing bettter than engagement sessions. Here is another stylised engagement shoot in Coventry with models Harriett and Ashley. They are not a couple but work well together and it is then my job to then make it all look realistic.  All photos are 100% posed and directed by me yet they hopefully come across as natural.

For the e-session I used three cameras, two analogue film cameras, 1950s Leica M2 + 1980s Fuji GS645, and my digital Leica M9.  Colour photos are film and black and white ones are digital.  I love the look of film and I think the softer images and colours really suit wedding photography and engagements sessions.  The film photos below are in…

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The need for Two Leica M3s!

image

The need for Two Leica M3 Cameras

I originally bought my Leica M3 as a second Leica M film camera body to join my Leica M2.  I was blown away by the clear big and bright 0.91x magnification M3 viewfinder and now only really use the M2 for 35mm or wider focal lengths.  50mm has become my favourite focal length on the Leicas so the M3 is now my go to 35mm film camera.  My problem now is if the M3 is loaded with colour film and I want to shoot black and white film I have to use the M2. I think I will get a second M3 and then one will always be loaded with black and white film and one with colour.

Film Camera Wedding Photography

If I was photographing a wedding using film cameras I could load two Leica M3 bodies with Kodak Portra colour film and that way would not need to reload film in a mad rush at risk of missing a photo.  I would have the M2 loaded with black and white film such as Kodak Tri-X and then have everything covered. 

That’s the plan! 🙂

Leica M3 – The Ultimate Rangefinder!?

Leica M3 – The Ultimate Rangefinder!?

Matthew Osborne Photography

Fuji GF670 vs Leica M3

As a follower of this blog you will know I am a Leica M9 35mm digital rangefinder shooter.  I recently decided to search for a camera one step closer to ‘perfection’ in terms of rangefinder cameras so invested in a Fuji GF670 Pro medium format film rangefinder (6×6 / 6×7 format).  A folding camera with a medium format size sensor and a super sharp lens. It produces beautifully big 6×6 negatives with tonnes of detail when scanned.  It is portable and i can use it will off camera strobes with a leaf shutter sync speed of 1/500.  I thought it was pretty cool.

I then bought a 1950s Leica M3 35mm film rangefinder with a 0.91x viewfinder.  It looks near identical to my Leica M2 and for the most part all the benefits are the same for the M2 and the M3.  The biggest plus of the M3 is the viewfinder. I have a lot of cameras and it is without doubt my favourite on any camera.  Big clear and bright with easy to see 50mm framelines and nothing else cluttering the viewfinder.  I paired the M3 with a Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 lens with a E39 filter thread.

Film Photography Wedding – the M3 vs GF 670 Head-to-head!

This weekend I had a Leica wedding here in the UK and offered the couple the option of some film photography in addition to digital Leica M9 images.  They were interested and purchased the film photography wedding package option so I took the Fuji GF670 loaded with colour 120  Fuji Pro 400H film and then the Leica M3 loaded with black and white 35mm film, Kodak T-Max 100.  I didn’t let the three cameras (M9 + M3 + GF670) distract me from the wedding photography task so waited and brought them out for the wedding portrait images (plus a few bridal prep shots).  I then had to chose when to shoot colour and when B&W film, and when 6×6 format and when 6×4 format.  What I noticed straight away was the little Leica M3 fitted my hand like it was made to go there.  Using the M3 was intuitive and felt natural (possible because I have used the M9 so much!).  I was using natural light with the M3 but off camera speedlight for some of the GF670 shots.  It made me realise that sometimes you don’t need all the fancy lights, big lenses, and larger camera sensors, I just needed the little M3, the 50mm Cron and some available light.  It is fast and is kind of an extension from your arm / eyes.  No fuss, no electronics, just beautifully pure photography.  By keeping it simple the photos flowed, the wedding couple forgot the camera and the natural poses and relaxed smiles followed.

A ‘cute’ elegant vintage film camera is far less scary than a big DLSR with a 70-200mm lens stuck on the front.  The little M3 actually became a talking point and was a welcomed sight for a number of the wedding guests.

All the above applies to the Leica M2 if I used a 35mm lens with the 35mm viewfinder.  I have used the Leica M2 this year for various model shoots.

I wasn’t expecting the Leica M3 to have such an impact but it is letting me appreciate photography in the simplest form.  I can transfer this mentality into the rest of my photography such as using the M9 with one small lens.  It has also let me evaluate how I shoot and how I will approach future weddings when shooting film.

Despite my raving on I guess the prove will be in the resulting wedding images.  The colour film will be lab developed and the black and white film developed at home by me using the film developer Rodinal.  Once all developed and scanned I will share some samples and a follow up post.

Model photography sample images

  • GF670 6×6 medium format film

#FilmIsNotDead

FUJI GF670 Analogue Rangefinder

GF670 Kodak Moment

  • 35mm Leica film – Leica M2

Leica M2 Film Portrait

35mm B&W Film Portrait - Leica M2

Leica M2 Film - unedited

..Don’t get me wrong.  The Fuji GF670 can produce stunning negatives but you just don’t get the same flow you get with the Leica M3 when operating the camera.

Related Posts

Leica M3

Leica M2

Fuji GF670

Film OR Digital, Not Both!

Film OR Digital, Not Both!

Matthew Osborne Photography

I am a big fan of film photography, 35mm Leicas and various medium format film cameras.  I much prefer the results of film over digital, whether colour film or black and white.  What annoys me the most is I shoot very little film as a percentage of the total number of photos I shoot.  I often try to have a film camera with me when using my digital Leica M9.   The problem I find is two or three hours may pass, the model shoot has finished and I get so caught up in the moment with digital I forget to shoot any film.

On a recent trip abroad I was doing some street photography.

Day One

On the first day I took three cameras, the usual! Two film cameras (Leica M2 and Fuji GF670 Pro) and the digital Leica M9.  I also had four Leica M lenses with me to chose from.  As a result I wasted far to much time trying to decide what equipment to use and camera back with mostly digital photos.

Day Two

I only packed two film cameras plus the Sekonic light meter, leaving the Leica M9 at home.

(1) The 35mm Leica M2 film camera with 50mm Leica Summicron f2 lens attached (+ 1.4x viewfinder magnifier from my Leica M9)(to give me a similar view to the Leica M3) loaded with black and white Kodak T-Max 100 film.

(2) The medium format film Fuji GF670 folding camera loaded with colour 120 Kodak Portra film with the 6×6 format selected.  (the camera gives the option of 6×6 or 6×7 but I prefer square format).

I metered the light on arrival in the shadows and then put the light meter away for the rest of the day.  I knew I would be shooting mostly in the shadow of the buildings plus film tends to retain highlight detail more than digital.  I started with the Leica M2 shooting B&W, looking for rectangular composition and where the light played a big part of the image.  I then switched to my Fuji GF670 and instead started to look for strong colours in the frame and a square composition.  The Fuji GF 670 is much more modern vs. the M2 so has a light meter to help you get the correct exposure.  That said, film is so forgiving I do not worry too much if I am +1 /+2 or -1 / -2 over or under exposed by guessing the exposure using the Leica M2.

Results

By only having one lens on each camera and only film cameras I was 100% focused on each photo I was taking.  I didn’t have two cameras around my neck.  One in use in my hand and the other packed safely away in my Billingham bag so not to be a distraction.  I had an enjoyable walk with the cameras and came away much more satisfied that when I shot potentially similar images with the digital Leica M9 the day before.

Conclusion

I think the key to ‘success’ is if I want to shoot film then I must put the digital camera away and use one film camera at a time, not try to juggle one in each hand and have the Leica M9 around my neck.

Film Photography

After having recently bought the medium format film Fuji GF670 and now also the 35mm film Leica M3 I am more determined than ever to start shooting more film.  I find it just as easy as shooting digital and film is more forgiving in terms of latitude (if I can only list one advantage of film over digital!)

Five rolls of C41 film are due back from the lab imminently so I will get some new examples posted soon once scanned, including the first images from the Fuji GF670 that I am very excited to see!

Matt

Related Posts

MrLeica.com – BLOG

MrLeica.com – BLOG

(Matthew Osborne Photography)

A one stop blog for Leica M cameras and Leica M lenses ..plus an array of film cameras, films and film formats

Leica M cameras are my workhorse tools for all types of photography, both digital Leica cameras and Leica film cameras. I also shoot medium format and large format film and my appetite for analogue film photography is stronger than ever.  The majority of the blog content is either Leica M camera related or film photography.  I am a people photographer, models, fashion, lifestyle and wedding photography so most of my photography is portraits, experimenting with various cameras, lenses and films.  The digital Leica M Typ 240 camera is my current do everything digital M camera but my favourite Leica camera is the Leica M3 film camera.  I am also a huge fan of Hasselblad medium format film cameras and I use them a lot for client film photography shoots.

 

Mr Leica – About:

Hi, I started this blog page in March 2013 as my Flickr followers keep asking me to share some of my thoughts. To give you a brief background, my photography began in 2008 after getting a Panasonic Lumix TZ5 for Christmas.  Today I have a lot of cameras and offer Photography Tuition to those who often get paid for their work. Besides teaching, I shoot as a Wedding Photographer and Model Photographer.  I am 100% self taught so thought a blog would be a great way to share some of the things I have learnt so far.  At the end of 2012 I started to develop a passion for Film Photography and in the summer of 2013 I bought my first Leica camera.  I am now officially a Leica nut and use a digital Leica M240 and M8 plus Leica M3s, M2, M4-P and M6 film cameras for most of my photography.  This includes Leica wedding photography, Leica lifestyle photography and Leica fashion / model photography.  I also enjoy using medium format film cameras such as the amazing Hasselblad 501C 6×6 camera (my main medium format film camera), Fuji GF670, Rolleiflex SL66E, Mamiya RZ67 Pro2 to name a few and 4×5 large format film using a 1947 Pacemaker Speed Graphic and Sinar F2.  In 2014 I started to teach portrait photography and lighting in London running monthly group photography workshops. Currently I teach photography on 1-2-1 basis providing 1-2-1 photography tuition (normally with a model) on location, often in London if on location and in the UK, from my Coventry UK studio or overseas such as New York, Zurich and Amsterdam.

Blog Content:

Sample of only. Please use the search box if you can’t see something listed (ie. lenses)

Leica Cameras

Non-Leica Cameras (A-Z)

Film (A-Z)

Destination Leica Wedding Photographer

Leica Wedding Photographer offering desination Wedding Photography both in the UK and overseas. Natural documentary style wedding photography fused with stylised wedding portraits.  As a Leica photographer I like to work quietly as an observer in the background and photograph by available light where possible.  I use both digital and film Leica cameras but my passion is film photography.

Analogue Film Wedding Photographer UK

Film wedding photographer that still prefers film cameras in the digital era.  I use 35mm Leica film cameras, medium format Hasselblad cameras and large format film cameras.  If you appreciate film photography as much as I do then I would be delighted to cover your wedding.  You may have already booked a wedding photographer but like the idea of a few special images shot on film?  I would be happy to oblige!

Engagement Sessions

Engagement photography is very rewarding and I enjoy working with a couple to create natural yet stylised images using a aray of cameras to give you as set of unique looking images.  E-sessions are invaluable for giving couples experience in front of the cameras ahead of their wedding day and it gives us a chance to get to know each other too.

Large Format Portrait Photographer

Large format camera portrait session that gives one of a kind photos.  4×5 format sheet film images and instant Polaroid photos.  I fuse my model photography experience with my passion for film photography.

Leica Lifestyle Photographer

I have realised from how I direct my model shoots that I am in fact a lifestyle photographer.  Posing often everyday people in everyday situations to look very natural.  I have not yet branded myself as a lifestyle photographer but it may be a route I take in the future as this style comes very naturally to me and I find it easy to work closely with my clients to get the best from the images.  If you are looking for new and creative photos for your social media site, blog, website or business then do get in touch.

Model Photographer

Studio based model photographer in Coventry specialising in black and white female portraiture using both digital and film cameras.  I help new models build a model portfolio and regularly collaborate with model agencies and published models in the UK, Europe and the US.

UK Photography Workshops

I provide 1-2-1 photography tuition and lighting workshops from my Coventry studio and on location.  I will help you to understand light and your camera to enhance your photography. Through 2014 I was running London photography workshops teaching small groups of photographers how to work with a professional model on location.  Currently I focus on providing 1-2-1 tuition rather than teaching groups both here in the UK and overseas.

I hope you find the content as enjoyable to read as I find it is to document.

Matt