Review of the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 on Sony NEX-5n - Part 4 "Real world" use

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

Using the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 Nokton II yesterday confirmed to me what the tests showed. This is a very sharp lens. It also showed just how good the bokeh is, and how well it renders out of focus areas at any aperture.

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

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

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

Its not often that you get lenses these days that have a real "character" but this is one of those. Its a small thing, and many wouldn't notice or care, but I find the way this lens renders images, very attractive. Like all good lenses the precise point of focus is obvious, and again like a good lens the transition from this to the out of focus areas is very smooth.

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

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

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

Voigtlander have come up with a little gem here. When you take into account the fact that its a very fast lens, and that it works very well at wide apertures, add in that its very sharp indeed when stopped down and the fact that it has great build quality and it does seem to me that this is probably the "best" lens I have ever bought. 

True, a £1000 lens should be good, and it would be surprising if it wasn't. However in terms of very fast 35mm lenses, its actually quite reasonable. Leica make a 35mm f/1.4 and its £3,400. There's a Zeiss for £1400. Nikon and Canon & Sony all make one around the £1200 mark. So factor in the extra 1/2 stop and you have a bargain!!

A fast lens wouldn't really be that useful to me if it didn't perform well at the apertures I use normally. As I indicated from the test results yesterday, from f/5.6 to f/11 its at its best. This was great to see, as far as I'm concerned, because these are the apertures I use the most. 

Yesterday I found myself trying wider apertures than I normally use, just to see what it was like, and admittedly because I was having fun using them. But when I got down to some serious stuff and started using the lens in a way that I would "normally" I was very impressed indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel peeping these files is a real pleasure, and I could go on about the 3-D effect, depth of colour, film like rendition etc. but that sounds pretentious so I won't!

However what I will say, is that using this lens on the NEX-5n, has convinced me that I made the right decision to sell my Leica M9. No, the files are not quite as sharp, but they are VERY close. However, the files are cleaner then the M9 in that they have less moire and less luminance noise. I do continually bang on about how good the 5n is, and this post isn't going to be any different. Steve Huff and Michael Reichmann have both talked about how well the NEX-5n works with m-mount lenses and I would certainly add my voice of support to that. 

I've written before about the value of buying these expensive manual lenses, specifically to use on cameras like m/3 and the NEX system. When that choice involved a m4/3 sensor with a 12MP sensor, I came to the conclusion that they would be useful to fill in gaps and provide wide aperture fast lenses where none existed, but the benefits in terms of overall image quality weren't that great. This opinion changed somewhat with the arrival of the Panasonic 16MP sensor, when a difference could be clearly seen. However to a certain extent that has changed with the arrival of the 12mm and 45mm lenses from Olympus and the 25mm f/1.4 from Panasonic. However, though I think that the Sony NEX e-mount lenses are underated, I still haven't seen a great lens from Sony as yet. There are good reports about the Zeiss 24mm and the Sony 50mm, but both are as yet unavailable.

So there are still gaps needing to be filled for NEX cameras, and I certainly think that lenses like the Voigtlander can fill those gaps. However its important to stress that to see a significant difference, I believe that you have to make sure that when using an m-mount lens it is a very good one. Much as I like my Voigtlander 28mm f/2, I do realise that its not the sharpest m-mount lens ever made, and consequently when I tested it against the Sony kit zoom, it wasn't that much better. However the 35mm f/1.2 is somewhat different. There is a real observable advantage using this lens as compared to any Sony lens, either e-mount or a-mount, on the NEX-5n. In Part 1 of this review I wrote "(the lens is) really going to show just what the 5n sensor is capable of" From just limited use I'm finding that its capable of a lot. Yesterdays images were certainly the sharpest I've got from the camera, and they were a pleasure to look at. And its not just a confirmed pixel-peepers difference.

So there is a case, I think, for considering top of the range m-mount lenses to get the best out of cameras like the NEX-5n. But again I must stress, only if its going to be important to you. If you use the 5n as a "serious" camera and are planning to do some "serious" work with it, in a situation where you are looking to get the best image quality you can, then lenses like the 35mm Nokton will help with that. However, I know that I'm not going to use it all the time, and there are occasions when the zooms and other lenses I have are a much better option. But certainly in any low-light situation or when I need the ultimate quality I can get from the NEX-5n then this Voigtlander is going to be my go-to lens.