Lenses in the field part 1: Out in nature with the Voigtländer 40mm F1.2

I bought the Voigtlander 40mm F1.2 in May 2018 and ever since it has been my most used lens. I took nearly 50% of my 3 star rated pictures in 2019 with it, shot two weddings with it and took it with me on all my holidays.

In this new series we will offer you a less technical and more have a look at lenses we like a lot in some more specific scenarios.

You can find all the images shown here in 4k at flickr where you can enjoy them with their high quality viewer.

Hohes Venn in winter
autumn forest close to home

Preseli mountains, Wales

Why to take the Voigtländer 1.2/40 into nature

Beyond the perfect handling which makes shooting very enjoyable I want to talk about a number of aspects which make the Voigtlander 1.2/40 a constant piece of my kit.

Size and Weight

Even on more difficult hikes the Voigtlander 1.2/40 is light enough to bring it with me. But also on the more common everyday hike the small size is very welcome.

French Alps
A long and wet walk in Wales
Segla, Senja

40mm

The focal length defines the relationship between foreground and background and I find 40mm is wide enough to emphasize the foreground a little bit while not including an diffcult to control amount of background.

Hohes Venn
Senja, Norway
Foggy Coast Path, Wales

 

f/1.2 with good bokeh

Nature is often very complex. While I try to come up with compositions which bring the complex elements of an image into a harmonic coexistence that  often can’t be achieved so blurring much of the background can make images simpler and less complex which often makes for better images. The Voigtlander 1.2/40 offers very smooth bokeh at closer distances which can be a big help.

Spring Forest
Puffin on Skomer Island, Wales

Harz Mountains

Flare Resistance

The Voigtländer 1.2/40 does not have perfect flare resistance, in some images you see quite a bit of veiling flare but I would certainly rate it above average and my often backlit subjects benefit from this.

Sheep in my favorite valley
Senja, Norway around midnight

Sunstars

Sunstars are certainly a matter of taste but for me they often add that extra little bit to an image.

A meadow close to home
Forest close to home
Senja, Norway

Limitations

Nervous corners at longer distances

While the Voigtlander 1.2/40 has smooth bokeh in most scenarios the bokeh can become nervous if you focus at longer distances and have complex backgrounds. In such scenarios the corners show pretty nervous bokeh. Since I often move in forests this is at times annoying. This issue is shared by almost any alternative though, only the Sigma 1.2/35 does have smooth bokeh also in the corners.

Weather resistance

Most lenses in the Voigtlander’s price class nowadays offer some degree of weather resistance. The Voigtlander doesn’t. Since more adverse weather often makes for good picture I would like to be more carefree when using it in bad weather.

Conclusion

As David described so well in his review the Voigtlander 1.2/40 follows a very reasonable design approach: It is well enough corrected that aberrations seldom spoil an image instead of being technically perfect as so many other modern lenses are. This allows it to be both very fast and compact. At the same time handling is excellent and coating technology is state of the art. In this balance lies much of the Voigtlander‘s appeal to me.

In this article I only showed nature images but I am as happy with it as a lens for people photography and have shot two weddings with it.

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I have two hobbies: Photography and photographic gear. Both are related only to a small degree.

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47 thoughts on “Lenses in the field part 1: Out in nature with the Voigtländer 40mm F1.2”

  1. Hi Philip,

    Would it be a good idea to use M mount 40mm f1. 2 on Sony instead of the E mount version? I guess 40mm may do OK? Cheers

    1. SteveHuff did a comparison between E and M mount and I liked the way the M mount rendered the corners better (more vignetting but it didn’t seem to have the rough corner bokeh the E has).

    2. Hi Timothy,
      I have the M mount version on a A7rii, giving great results.
      No major problems in the corners here.
      Very happy with this one😊

    3. I’m using the M mount version on an a7iii and I’m in love with it. Haven’t Had a chance to compare it to the E mount but I don’t miss the extra functionality and I appreciate the smaller form factor.

    4. I use M 40 1.2 on Techart Pro Adapter on A9 and A7R3. Works really good. Had the E-Mount version before and could not find dramatic differences in image quality. Now I can use it with autofocus.

      1. Curious to hear more on your experiences with that adapter, how well does it do AF ? Do you retain all capabilities of the AF system ? Is it worth going with the E mount version if my primary reason for looking into this lens is because of manual focus ?

  2. some people might say 40mm combines the best of the two most common/versatile focal lengths, i.e. 50 and 35mm.

    On the new high megapixel cameras i think cropping images has become increadibly useful/practical, so going for wider primes seems to make more sense than before, e.g. cropping a 1.4/24 to 2/35 FOV.

    In that regard, do you find yourself cropping 40mm to get a tighter composition or do you rather wish it was a little wider?

          1. I hope for this too, but I am maybe a little less optimistic than Phillip sounds. At 24mm there is a huge advantage to mirrorless designs over DSLR ones; basically it’s in principle possible to have them get smaller in proportion to their focal length, whereas DSLR lenses can’t because of the need to design to clear the mirror box. Roughly speaking, a 35mm 1.4 with similar design criteria to the 24mm 1.4 wold be 50% longer and quite a bit larger. So not as big as the Sigma 1.2, but at least as big as the existing Sony Zeiss 1.4; and quite likely a bit bigger if it matches the performance of the 24GM.

          2. Well we also have the CV 1.7/35 which shows that you can make a very small high performance 35mm. But I see your argument. It will be interesting to se CaNikon‘s 1.4/35.

  3. first of all, great pictures!

    40mm 1.2 is quite tempting, but the 50mm 1.2 is capable of a more dreamy bokeh.
    which one would u choose if u start from scratch?

  4. Very nice images. Seems I’ve mostly read how people didn’t take to this lens for one reason or the other and as I mostly see splendid photos from it I have a bit of a hard time fathoming why.

    May have a look at this lens if I ever tire of the version 1 35/2,5 that I bought for a Canon 7 but keep attached to my A7rii. Corners, what corners..but sunstars 🙂

    1. My thoughts exactly, I’m pondering on this lens for my A7R2 but wondering going if going 35 or 50… I’ve just rented the 15mm f4.5 that will arrive tomorrow after extensive reading on that lens but this 40 does intrigue me….

  5. Nice shots, Hohes Venn is close to where I live and where I do a lot of geological studie (Einstein Telescope project, deep subsurface gravitational wave detector )

  6. I’ve bought the Konica Hexanon 40mm a while ago because the “odd” focal length and the pancake form factor appealed to me – and I’ve also found I really like shooting at 40mm. It feels like the best of two worlds.

  7. Preference between 35-50 would be personal, I guess. My dad always used 50 F1.4(Nikkor Ai-s I presume) for family photos, so I found myself natural for 50s. The perspective is very familiar to me, literaly. I had used Olympus 25 F1.8 on M43, Sony 55 F1.8 on FE before. But now I’m very happy with Voigtlaender 50 F1.2.

    I have first tried the Nokton lineup with 17.5 F0.95, and I immediately fell in love with it. Undercorrected aberrations are not praiseworthy, but the super fast aperture and its superb handling was kind of a shock for me. Shortly after I moved to E mount, the 40 1.2 came out and the 50 1.2 followed after some time. Bastian’s review convinced me to use it and I never regret buying it.

    The 50 1.2 is very well balanced in my opinion. I have tried Mitakon 50 F0.95 III and Samyang 50 F1.2, but none of them are not light and small enough to carry around easily. The Mitakon also has smooth bokeh, but its spherical aberration is too high for nailing foucus. The samyang is quite well corrected, but it has rather busy bokeh.

    I don’t know if Cosina would continue the Nokton lineup, but I hope they keep their design criteria.

    1. so you ditched the 1.8/55 ZA for the CV 1.2/50. Would you mind sharing what differences you noticed most besides the obvious (better MF, more subject separation).

      1. https://1drv.ms/u/s!ApChBCAABuR-idxq92UL5tuNbyfoTA
        I’ve made quick infinity sharpness comparison after buying the 50 1.2. The 50 1.2 is on par with 55 1.8 or somewhat better in the center, worse in the midframe, and much worse on the edge.
        At the closest distance(around 1:10), the 55 1.8 would crush the 50 F1.2 because it has floating elements and the spherical aberration of 50 1.2 is severely undercorrected at that distance. Neither of them are free from the axial chromatic aberration. The 50 1.2 is worse at wide open and 55 1.8 is worse at common aperture value.
        Bokeh(quality, not quantity) is quite subjective matter to evaluate, but I definitely prefer the bokeh of the 50 1.2 over the 55 1.8. It is the main reason why I switched to the 50 1.2.
        All in all, both lenses serve their purpose very well: the nifty fifty. The 55 1.8 is light, fast focusing, produces usable across the frame sharpness at every aperture, at every magnification. The 50 1.2 has more contrast, better bokeh, and better sunstars. The choice is yours, but both are not wrong.
        Sometime I wonder how Samyang 45 1.8 would perform against the Zony 55 1.8.

  8. Thanks, this was just the article to make me keep my CV40. The 40mm focal length is something special alright. I’m now wondering whether I should keep or part with my CV50f1.2, which in my opinion has smoother rendering, but its 50mm. I already got the SMC Takumar 1.4/50 for dreamy creamy Portraits and the Sony Zeiss 1.4/50 for absolute sharpness. But I just can’t give up the CV50f1.2 …And now I’m definitely keeping the CV40 😀

      1. Sometimes I imagine some kind of rental shop that pawns lenses for loaning lenses. The pawned lenses could be loaned for other GAS patients. Of course I know it can’t be sustained for various reasons, but I really want that 😉

  9. Hi Phillip,
    I like this style of review, great shots, as always. How on earth did you get so close to the puffin on the cliffs ?
    The lens is tempting. However, I use the Voigt LM-mount Nokton asph. 35 1.2 for a few years now and doubt whether the 5 mm focus distance would justify spending on the 40. You have not reviewed the 35 Nokton so far, internet reviews are a bit split. I am very happy with the Nokton. The “non-E-mount-wide-angle-lens-on-thick-filter-stack” problems do not trouble me with the 35 Nokton on A7II. Any thoughts ?

  10. Now that Voigtländer released the mark 3 of the Nokton 35mm F1.2 will we see a review of this improved all time classic prime? I hope so. 🙂

  11. Hallo Philipp. Toller Beitrag danke. Was hältst du von dem Voigtländer 35mm 1.2 2.Version oder die 3.Version? Hast du die auch schon mal auf der Kamera ,der Sony, gehabt? Mit freundlichen Grüßen.

  12. Hallo Philipp. Ich meinte natürlich was du von dem Voigtländer 35mm 1.2 II version bzw dritte Version hältst? Danke. Mit freundlichen Grüßen.

    1. Das 1.2/35 II sieht solide aus aber das Bokeh scheint mir nicht gut genug, dass ich tatsächlichv ersucht gewesen wäre es mal zu nutzen. Vom neuen 1.2/35 habe ich mir noch keine Bilder angeguckt.

  13. Hello Phillip,

    Thanks for the great review. Between the Voigtlander 40mm f1.2 and the Voigtlander 35mm 1.7 Ultron which one would be your pick as an overall better lens? Please let me know

  14. Hey Phillip,

    Greetings from West Texas…Awesome pics man….. Your guys site is my go to site for great information….

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