15 August 2009

Never a dull moment with the Nokton

I like the ubiquitous 50mm lens, once produced in prolific numbers and the starter lens that was usually bundled with the camera body until the onset of the zoom lens. Perhaps because it is supposed to be close to what we see in terms of field of view for 35mm film cameras or perhaps because it is so common, the versatility of the standard lens is undisputed.

I've had the pleasure to own several 50mm lenses including the FA 50mm f/1.4 and the A series lenses in f/1.4, f/1.7 and f/2, not counting several 50mm macro lenses, but as I already had the FA 43mm Limited, I was looking for something with a fast maximum aperture to straddle between it and the FA 77mm Limited.

The answer was the Voigtlander Nokton 58mm f/1.4 SLII. I already knew about it for quite some time, being a Cosina re-make on the renowned Topcor 58mm but I didn't really thought too much of it until recently. I had just installed a split image rangefinder focusing screen (the Nikon K3 screen) that makes manual focusing a breeze and seeing some recent stunning images taken with the lens got me to belatedly sit up and take notice.

Even though one could get an autofocus Pentax FA 50mm f/1.4 or the manual focus A 50mm f/1.4 cheaper, there is something to be said for the build quality and optical performance that makes the Voigtlander Nokton a special lens. What one gets is a big hunk of metal and glass, with a generously solid metal lens hood thrown in. Value doesn’t necessarily mean a low price: it means you’re getting a lot for what you’re paying. The Nokton may not appeal to those who want AF from their lenses but for the photographer who wants full manual focusing and takes a more deliberate approach, this lens fits the bill well.

As to how it delivers image wise, I'm thoroughly impressed with it more and more all the time. There is little chromatic aberration wide open and I'm pleased with the smooth bokeh from the 9 aperture blades. The slightly longer focal length over the standard 50mm does give a little better background separation and slightly flatter perspective when shooting portraits. The colour rendering and contrast is very good as is the overall sharpness. In all it has met my requirements perfectly and a lens I heartily recommend.