Review of the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 on Sony NEX-5n - Part 2 Design & Build Quality

Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton
Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton

I've decided to do quite a thorough review of this lens because I haven't seen very much on it at all. However it should be borne in mind that I don't own a Leica anymore, so exactly how useful this will be for Leica users, for whom its primarily intended, I cannot say.

Having said that, since more people own Sony NEX and m4/3 cameras, and since there isn't a native lens of this type, nor ever likely to be one, hopefully it will be useful to users of those cameras.

First off, its important to mention the price. This is not a cheap lens. Mine cost me just over £1000. So its never going to be a mass market lens. It is for those who need a very fast lens, and need to squeeze out every bit of available light. 

Those who know Voigtlander lenses will also realise that there is a cheaper (less than half the price) 35mm f/1.4 available. This lens is also much smaller. However I should get one thing out of the way at the start. The 35mm f/1.2 is a significantly better lens wide open. Its only half a stop faster, but its some way sharper that the f/1.4. The smaller lens turns in a great perfomance when stopped down. I had one and liked it very much, however at f1.4 its not the sharpest. The f/1.2 also has a nicer bokeh as far as I'm concerned.

So to start, I'm including a few examples of what you can expect from this lens wide open.

All of the images below taken on a Sony NEX-5n at f/1.2

Above taken from the Robert White website -
Since I've used this from their site, I will put in a quick plug for them. This is where I
bought my lens, and indeed its where I buy a lot of my m-mount lenses. There aren't
many places in the UK that sell Voigtlander and Zeiss, and Robert White are always
extremely helpful and knowledgeable.

The lens is an update of the 35mm f/1.2 Nokton, and its very similar. The new lens is slightly lighter, but its still heavy for an m-mount lens. Voigtlander seem to be following the Leica pattern here, with heavier larger lenses being the order of the day. The recent 25mm f/0.95 m4/3 and 75mm f/1.8 m-mount and 50mm f/1.1 lenses are all of this type.

Sony NEX-5n Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton

Mounted on my NEX-5n the 35mm f/1.2 was very manageable, but I must admit I mounted it onto my Olympus E-P3 and it was a heavy combination.

Again in common with the lenses I mentioned above, its beautifully made, as indeed it should be for a lens costing over £1000. The focusing barrel is very Zeiss like in that it has a slight "resistance". I've noticed this on Zeiss lenses. Since Voigtlander and Zeiss share the same manufacturing plant its not surprising that they should feel similar. I'm presuming its something to do with projected long term use. Its a little unusual however and you do have to get used it.

The lens hood is one I've had around for a while, and the filter thread is 52mm. The lens focuses relatively closely for an m-mount lens. Just under 0.5 metre. M-mount lenses don't focus particularly closely, because of the problems this creates with the Leica rangefinder system for which they are designed, so its typical in this respect.

The lens feels very solid on the NEX-5 and with its focus peaking indicator its very easy and quick to focus. I really do think that this system on the newer NEX cameras is the best system ever devised for manually focusing lenses. Its nice that such a modern camera is able to provide this facility for these very "old school" lenses.

So, to sum up, its well made and works beautifully but its heavy, chunky and expensive. As I think you can see from the samples, its pretty special wide open. It is a specialist lens however, and though it also produces wonderful results stopped down, its not going to be for everyone. 

I've always loved these super fast primes and I did love the results from my 25mm f/0.95 on my m4/3 cameras. However it was quite difficult to use and I felt it was making my eye problems worse. However with the NEX-5n I have no such difficulties. Its supposed to be sunny this weekend so I'm looking forward to going out with it to see what it can do.

More later.