My Godson Henry. Leica M-Monochrome (CCD/M9 version), 50/f1.1 Nokton lens.

Very early on after trading around for a digital Leica M body, I found a great deal on the Voigtlander M Nokton 50/f1.1. It’s big, heavy, the focus isn’t very smooth and it’s not built very well… But it’s fast at f1.1! And at less than a grand, it’s much cheaper than anything anyone else offers at that speed.

However during my time with this lens I noticed a few things, it’s soft at nearly every stop, and there’s hard bright purple fringing (see below) at the edges in almost every light. On the Leica M-Monochrome (see above) the Nokton has a very interesting draw to it at f1.1, but on the M 240… I was less than pleased when working with the Nokton. I’ve had good luck with examining color, sharpness, fine detail etc on the Fuji sensors, so I grabbed my Fuji X-Pro 2 and an M adaptor. I did a quick side by side to see what happens when the Nokton is compared directly to the Leica Summilux at f1.4. Stopping down the Nokton to f1.4 should somewhat (perhaps slightly depending on the glass/coatings etc) increase the sharpness.

Fair warning, this is not meant to be the most scientific of tests, just a JPEG file test to see what major flaws the Nokton may have, or what major differences there may be between the highest end Voigtlander 50mm and the standard Leica 50m Summilux. These are both the current model, sold and made by each brand today. If you ordered brand new copies of each, these are the versions you would get.

Below are two 100% crops of a tree branch. There are no bright colors, weird tones or lighting to promote a negative response in the Voigtlander. It’s bright evening light, at ISO 800.

Note: There is a crop factor of 1.5x on the Fuji’s APSC sensor, but that’s not really a concern here since we’re just looking at some details and clarity in JPEG files.

Above: The Nokton 50/f1.1 stopped down to f1.4 (200% crop)
Above: Leica 50/f1.4 Summilux at f 1.4 (200% crop)

As you can see here in the above two cropped images, the chromatic aberration (purple fringing around the edges) visible in the above image taken with the Nokton is… Well awful. I get better results out of my 500mm bargain bin telescope lens than this! And you’ll notice there is no such CA/fringing in the photo taken with the Leica Summilux. Below are the same two images, cropped at 100%.

The Nokton (100% crop), notice the thick purple fringing on the above image from the Nokton. And no such fringing on the photo taken with the Leica Summilux.
And the Summilux (100% crop)

As you can see the CA is apparent even without a 200% crop. In fact, against the somewhat wild bokah the Nokton produces at f1.4, the CA stands out rather clearly. You’ll also notice, if you look closely, that the focus field of the Nokton is also much more narrow than that of the Summilux.

Here are the same two images presented without any crop…

The Nokton without crop
The Summilux without crop

These two images without any crop, reveal to even a untrained eye both obvious CA and a notably softer image produced by the Nokton.

Let’s look at two more images of both lens side by side and compare clarity and sharpness…

The Nokton. Note the focus drops off outward from the center.
The Summilux.

You can see in these two above images of… this yellow flower… that the focus plane of the Leica is also much more even, where the Nokton seems to really only be in focus in the center. The focus from the Leica extends from edge to edge very evenly. There’s also a tone/color difference between the two lenses. Now how we see color may differ, but I can say that the colors in the Leica image are much more true to what I saw with my own eyes.

We can see in these above images that the Nokton is noticeably less sharp at f1.4 than the Summilux and that shouldn’t be a surprise for the price gap. The Leica 50/1.4 Summilux retails around $3800, the Voigtlander 50/1.1 Nokton at just under $900. But even though the Voigtlander is much cheaper, I was very disappointed with the sharpness. There’s also that very pesky and very noticeable purple fringing to consider with the Nokton, which was an issue at any stop.

You can also see a large change in sharpness between the images. I would have thought the Voigtlander was much sharper than it is, I knew there would be a gap in quality between these two, but honestly I didn’t think it would be such a large gap. And the sharpness is soft even when stopped down. This again, was a disappointment.

And finally here’s a pair of images to compare bokeh between the two…

The Summilux at f1.4
The Nokton at f1.4

So is there a $2900 difference? That’s for you to decide, but there is a huge gap in image quality as can be seen in these few images. The question I asked myself during this test was: is the small but significant speed difference between the lenses adding value through special use to justify the many issues with the Voigtlander?

More later! A full review of the Voigtlander 50mm f1.1 Nokton is in the works. This will include in the field use, rather than just a sharpness and color test! FP

Shooting Note: All images were shot in JPEG on the X-Pro 2 with no retouches or adjusts of any kind, except for the top BW image of my Godson Henry, which was shot on the M-Monochrome. 

Author: JefPrice

Former this & that. Exploring & Photographing since I was 11. Founder of FieldPhotographer.org

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