Review: Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f/0.95 Micro Four Thirds Lens


Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f/0.95 Micro Four Thirds lens is one of the first third party lens made for the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) system. It's made by Cosina. It gave MFT users an option for of a normal focal length equivalent of 50mm. It was really well received and the first run sold out and people had to wait months for the next batch.

It is somewhat overshadowed when the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 lens came out months later.

Design and build

The build quality is excellent. It's made of metal and glass. All that makes it a rather heavy lens at 410g. It's heavy but with MFT cameras, the whole setup can still considered light.

GH2 with Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f/0.95 lens
The heavy weight means this lens is more suited for use on a camera with a good grip.


The filter thread is 52mm. It's an average size lens (middle of the picture above) that's slightly taller than the kit zoom lens.

The aperture and manual focus ring are well damp. The aperture ring does 1 full stop with 2 clicks.

This is a full manual lens. There's no electrical contact points at the back of the lens. There will be no EXIF data being passed to the camera, so you'll not have information such as the aperture being used.

At f/0.95, this is a fast and bright lens, good for low light photography. The other benefit of the f/0.95 aperture is the shallow depth of field (DOF) that can be used to blur out backgrounds. MFT with their smaller sensors required larger apertures to create shallow depth of field.

Focus

The lens is manual focus. You have to set the aperture manually and find the focus yourself. Using the manual focus assist mode on the camera gives a zoomed in view for checking sharpness.

The shooting style of a manual focus and AF lens is different. Using AF, when it's not set to multi-area AF mode, you have to select the focus point yourself. If you're using multi-area AF mode, then there's a chance that the camera may not focus on the right subject you want. With manual focus, you can always be sure you're focusing on the right subject because you're the one choosing the subject to focus.

In terms of speed, it depends on how good you are detecting focus on the LCD or EVF.

Image quality

The image quality is generally good but there are some issues with corner sharpness, edge softness during wide open and vignetting.

Sharpness

Below's is the reference photo. The focus point is on the group of windows on the left.


Here's the comparison between the corner and focus point from f/0.95 to f/8. Exposure is increased for the windows on the shadow side of the buildings.
Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f/0.95 lens sharpness test set 20120512
The corners are extremely soft at wide open. It improves when stopped down but the corner softness is always there throughout the aperture range.

The optimal sharpness of this lens is at f/2.8. From f/0.95 to 1.4, even focused subjects can be a bit soft. f/2 is quite good and f/2.8 is the best.

Parent Tourists at Little India
The image above was shot at f/1.4. I find it acceptable but when you view at 100%, the edge softness is there.

Dunlop Street
This was shot at f/2.8. Pretty sharp throughout except for corners.

Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 lens Vignetting Set 20120512
Vignetting is strong especially at f/0.95 and f/1.4. It's reasonably acceptable at f/2 and goes away at f/2.8.

Tiong Bahru Sketchwalk (9 Jul 2011)
The bokeh is wonderful. It gives portraits a very pleasing feel.

Chromatic aberration

Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f/0.95 chromatic aberration
At f/0.95, there's slight chromatic aberration. At this aperture, the attention grabber is not that but the edge softness.

Close focus

Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 close focus distance
The lens as a very impressive minimal focus distance of 17cm. Although it's not true macro, you can shoot small objects really big.

Conclusion and who this lens is for


This is one of the fastest and brightest lens for MFT. It's a lens made for low light shooting although not with the many downsides when shooting wide open.

Image quality is sort of a mixed bag. It's certainly good when you start shooting from f/1.4, but around that range of aperture, you have to deal with vignetting and some softness. Making it a f/0.95 lens is certainly a compromise between its speed and sharpness.

It's a specialty lens due to the manual focus because of the ability to control for depth of field during video mode.

This review is not complete without talking about its competitor the Panasonic Leica 25mm f/1.4 lens. The comparison is over at that review. In short, I probably won't recommend the Nokton unless you shoot a lot of video. Even if you shoot a lot of video, maybe the Panasonic Leica is still better unless you need the manual control over depth of field.

Being a manual focus lens has its advantages. You can focus as fast as your hands can go, and as accurately as your eyes can see. The latter point on focus accuracy is a huge benefit when you're shooting in low contrast situations, where most AF lens will tend to start focus hunting.

Overall, it's still a good lens for general purpose or street photography. With its fast aperture, you can use it at anytime of the day. If you need the absolute fastest lens, this is one.

At a glance
+ Excellent build quality
+ External aperture ring
+ Manual control of depth of field during video
+ Bright f/0.95 aperture good for low light shooting
+ Beautiful creamy bokeh
+ Good image quality
+ Comes with lens hood
- Heavy at 410g
- Rather big, stands at 7cm tall.
- Edge softness from f/0.95 to f/1.4
- Corner softness at all aperture
- Strong vignetting from f/0.95 to f/2
- Overall optimal performance is around f/2
- Pricey

Availability

Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f/0.95 Micro Four Thirds Lens is available at Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.de | Amazon.fr | Amazon.it | Amazon.es | Amazon.co.jp

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