New toy: the Voigtländer Nokton 50/1.5

Finally! A few days ago, I received a new lens for my M8 – a Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.5 Aspherical! The lens has been discontinued a while ago, so the only chance of acquring one is used, but it’s still a great lens and many hope that Cosinca will re-introduce it in M-mount (it’s an M39 screw mount lens that needs an adapter to be mounted on an M-mount camera.)

I had acquired the Nokton more than a month ago via the rangefinderforum classifieds, but it took until last weekend for it to arrive.  The Nokton 50/1.5 isn’t actually a beauty design-wise — in fact, it looks a bit … chubby. Also, it lacks a focusing tab, which I dislike. But apart from that, it’s a great piece of glass, very well made and delivers great results! (Some say it even surpasses the legendary Leica Summilux-M 50/1.4 – but I doubt that.)

I just received the M39->M adapter and the fitting 52mm UV/IR filter yesterday evening, so I didn’t have much time to shoot the lens yet, but I’ll post pictures as soon as I’ve got something worth sharing! :-) What I really like about the lens is the solid feel it has. It’s made completely from metal, and the focusing and aperture rings are very well damped. Feels rock solid! Sadly, even though it’s got an effective f/1.5 initial aperture, the M8 won’t regard this as a full-stop increment from f/2, but only as a half stop. I believe the problem is 1) that the Nokton vignettes considerably @ f/1.5, which means the actual amount of light that hits the sensor is a bit less than T1.5, and 2) that the M8 only offers 1/2-stop adjustments in shutter speed, and only full-stop adjustments in ISO speed — a thing they fixed with the M9 (which offers 1/3-stop adjustments in ISO speed). Thus, even if the light meter reads more than 1/2-stop increase in brightness @ f/1.5 as compared to f/2, the camera can only choose between increasing shutter speed by 1/2 or a full stop – and it reckons that increasing by a full stop would render the image too dark. And in fact, in my tests the f/1.5 images where as bright overall as the f/2 images, even though the difference in exposure was only 1/2 stop.

Another thing that makes me glad about having this lens is that now my rangefinder is spot on again! I had fiddled with it when I had the 35/1.4 Nokton which had front-focus before f/2 and back-focus after f/2, so I adjusted the rangefinder to be precise with that lens for close-focusing @ f/1.4. Then, when I got the 35/2 Biogon instead, focusing was of course off, so I re-adjusted the rangefinder to be precise with that lens for close-focusing @ f/2. This again led to the fact that it was off at infinity … Now when I got the Nokton, I again adjusted it for close-focusing @ f/1.5, and lo and behold – with my Mintola 28/2.8, which is a real M-mount lens, it is now spot on anywhere between 0.7m and infinity! The Nokton focuses a bit past infinity, which is probably due to the adapter, but focusing itself is again spot on even at f/1.5. I’m one happy guy now, and glad I didn’t send the camera in for calibration earlier! :-)

I now have a wonderfully versatile two-lens setup: one not-so-fast 37mm-equivalent lens for general shooting, and one fast 67mm-equivalent lens for portraits and available light photography. I might in future add a 90mm tele lens, a 15mm-ish wide-angle and eventually the 35/1.2 Nokton for “available darkness”, but not in the near future, as I believe my current lens setup is close-to-ideal for my purposes!

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