Review originally posted November 2010
The AMAZING Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f0.95 m4/3 lens.
HANDLING AND USABILITY.
Firstly I should say that having a m4/3 mount hasn't improved the exif data situation. There is still no recognition of the lens and aperture and shutter speed aren't recorded. In that respect it performs just like any other manual lens with an adapter.
Being a fast lens with a (very) wide aperture the lens is larger and heavier than a "normal" standard lens. It does however feel very comfortable to work with. Personally I'm used to using M-Mount and other non-native lenses on m4/3, which are often bulkier, but if you are not you may find it feels somewhat heavier than you're used to. Its obviously much bigger than the 20mm f1.7 pancake, which is the nearest native m4/3 equivalent, but it balances nicely on all the micro four cameras, with the possible exception of the GF1, on which its a bit disproportionate.
There's an included hood, but personally I'm not sure how much I would use it. Its somewhat large and obtrusive. However its a nice addition if you need it and it comes with its own cap so that you don't need to remove the hood if you don't want to.
It is exceptionally well made and completely different from the somewhat fragile feel of many of the m4/3 lenses. Its solid metal and feels very robust and sturdy. The aperture and focusing rings are close to perfect. Just the right combination of solidity and smoothness.
It sits very nicely on the GH1 and the camera / lens combination handles very much like a small DSLR. Its a personal choice but I don't like a camera and lens to be too light. Sometimes I find m4/3 cameras and lenses can feel somewhat insubstantial. I appreciate the lightness but I do like a solid feel to my cameras and lenses. If you're looking for a pocketable solution, this isn't it. I'm afraid you'll have to treat it like a real camera and either use a camera bag or a strap.
The combined weight of GH1 + lens is slightly over 800g, which is around the weight of a Canon 7D body only, so its not a particularly light outfit. I've no problem with this but it may be to others.
I was concerned that I may have problems focusing at f/0.95 but these fears proved unfounded. On the GH1 its really easy, with the magnification aid the lens snaps into focus. Even in low light, because of the speed of the wide aperture the EVF produces a nice clean image. My shot of the car from yesterdays post was taken in near darkness & I was able to focus quite easily. Its even possible to focus up to f8 without having to go wider, focus and then stop down again.
This lens focuses to just over 6" or 17 CM. This is INCREDIBLY useful. Having used M-Mount lenses with their closest focusing of .5 metre and even .9 metre in some cases this is a revelation. It enables a semi-macro type of photography. Mike Kobal in his excellent review at:- http://www.mikekobal.com/blog/?p=869 says the magnification is 1:3.9 which is excellent for a lens of this type.
Incredible. There's no other word for it. At f0.95 it is simply wonderful.
The lens is lovely and sharp at the point of focus and beautifully smooth everywhere else.
I'll deal with this in more depth after using it for "real world" test but initial impressions are very positive.
Wide open its very good, and I've detected very little CA and fringing, but I haven't shot that much with it. On what I've seen so far I would have no problem whatsoever using it wide open. I only briefly tried it at f5.6 and f8 due to the appalling weather I was working in, but these were VERY impressive. One photographer who has been using it for a few days described the f8 performance as "stunning". I wouldn't disagree with him.
I'm running this over three days because I believe that this is a really important development in m4/3 terms. The first non-Olympus/Panasonic native m4/3 lens by a respected lens manufacturer is a significant event and it seems that Voigtlander have produced an absolute gem straight off. I spent yesterday afternoon enduring heavy rain, wind and cold just to use this lens. After my first initial test shots I just couldn't put it down.
By any criteria this is an incredibly fast lens. I've never personally used anything this fast. It's not cheap, but a Leica 50mm f/0.95 is around £7000. At that price don't expect any comparisons between that and the Nokton, unless some kind soul or company would like to lend me one for a few days!
It opens up all sorts of possibilities for the m4/3 system for use in low light, as well as being a top quality lens in its own right. I really couldn't find anything to fault it on but I'll reserve final judgement until I've used it more.
CA and fringing is present, but its much better than on many lenses I have. Its very rare to find a lens that doesn't do this. With winter approaching I always dread this, as bare branches against the sky are always a problem with the blue or purple borders that appear. I have various methods of reducing it, though I've never found a totally successful solution. However the Nokton is pretty good in this respect.
OTHER REVIEWS AND SAMPLES
FINAL WORDS AND ASSESSMENT
This is a unique lens. Personally I love it and will use it a lot. As well as its main selling point, the fast 0.95 aperture it is an excellent sharp lens in its own right. If you are happy to work with manual focus I have no hesitation in recommending it. However, if you are considering buying it I would advise you to be sure that you can work with it. I don't have a problem with the cons below, apart from the price!, but others may feel differently.
Close focus to .17 metre
Sharp crisp results
No need for adapters
CA and fringing wide open
No electronic connection with body - so incomplete exif data
There is an album of test shots originally on flckr here on Google+
N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) below.