Review: Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E Classic

Introduction

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII with Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E Classic

The Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E “classic” was announced alongside the Voigtlander 40mm 1.2 Nokton E and after a slight delay just hit the shelves (02/18). The “classic” designation relates to the heritage of this lens as its symmetrical optical design is very similar to the older M-mount 35mm 1.4. What can we expect from Voigtlander’s first classic E-mount lens?

Sample Images

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4
voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4
voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4

Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.

Disclosure

The Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E Classic was kindly provided free of charge by Voigtländer Germany (Ringfoto) for reviewing purpose for a duration of 4 weeks.

Version History

In E-mount Voigtlander has released only the 40mm 1.2 Nokton E in this focal length range so far. In M-mount Voigtlander released the closely related but not identical 1.4/35 some time ago. It comes in two variants: single- and and multi coated.

Specifications

The Voigtlander 1.4/35 FE has the following specifications:

    • Diameter: 67 mm
    • Field of view: 63° (diagonally)
    • Length:  39.6 mm
    • Weight: 262g
    • Filter Diameter: 58 mm
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 10 (straight)
    • Elements/Groups: 8/6
    • Close Focusing Distance: 0.3 m
    • Maximum Magnification: 1:6.3
    • Mount: Sony-E

You may also have a look at Voigtlander’s official page.

New this lens costs as much as $799/749€. You can find it at B&H, on amazon.com/amazon.de and also on ebay.com/ebay.de (affiliate links).

Handling / Build Quality

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E Classic

So far none of the Voigtlander E-mount lenses disappointed in this category and this holds true for the new 35mm 1.4 classic as well. The focus ring has perfect resistance and travels ~120° from the minimum focus distance (0.3m) to infinity.

The aperture ring has 1/3 stop click stops again which I think is a bit too much. I prefer 1/2 or even full stops. It travels about 110° from f/1.4 to f/16.

All markings are painted and engraved and there is a small metal screw in type hood in the package as well.

While the Voigtlander 5.6/10, 5.6/12, 4.5/15 and 1.2/40 offer a de-click function for the aperture the 1.4/35 doesn’t, just like the 2/65.

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E Classic and Voigtlander 35mm 1.7 VM Ultron with Leica-M to Sony-E adapter

Vignetting / Colorcast

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting

As this lens features a symmetrical optical design I was expecting rather high vignetting figures. And wide open there is very strong vignetting of roughly 3.4 EV (it equalizes the previous record holder the Leica 35mm 1.4 FLE), stopped down to f/2.0 vignetting improves to still rather strong 2.6 EV, at f/2.8 it is 1.9 EV and at f/8.0 still 1.2 EV. This is not an unusual performance for a lens like this; the small diameter certainly takes its toll here.

Luckily there is no color cast on A7rII and A7s, unlike with some other fast 35mm lenses.

Sharpness

infinity

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting

Because the lens shows a slight focus shift I refocused every time I changed the aperture value. Wide open the lens is rather soft with quite some glow at these distances. The center improves quite a lot already at f/2.0 and reaches peak performance at f/4.0.
The midframe is another story, there is an area which is hit quite badly by field curvature and focus shifts differently compared to the center and corners.
The corners are mostly affected by astigmatism and coma not field curvature, so unlike many rangefinder lenses focusing for the corners will not really give better results here and only stopping down helps.
If you want best across frame performance best stick to f/11.

Compared to: Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 Ultron + 5m PCX Filter

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting

The Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 Ultron is a modern design which makes use of an aspherical lens element. If you after across frame sharpness get this lens and a 5m PCX filter (see this article) to get rid of the field curvature introduced by the Sony filterstack. Volume and weight of the lens are similar and the performance is really impressive.

 

close (0.30m)


100% crops from center, A7rII

At minimum focus distance there is some “glow” (spherical aberration) wide open and at f/2.0. The image sharpens up at f/2.8 and gets really good at f/4.0.
There is noticeable focus shift (see section further below) and I refocused for every shot here.

Flare resistance

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/8.0

Flare resistance stopped down is really good. There is almost no loss of contrast and the colors still look great. In terms of ghosts I only managed to create one small purple blob.
Between f/1.4 and f/1.7 you can encounter results like the one below quite often though, with huge ghosts all over the frame.
Using the hood does not really help in these situations, but stopping down (already to f/2.0) does.

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.7

The hood is not necessary with the sun inside the frame stopped down (where perfromance is really good) and it does not help with the the huge red flares between f/1.4 and f/1.7. So you can leave it in the box and enjoy walking around with a smaller lens.

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E Classic with supplied lens hood

Coma

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4

This is one of the worst performances I have ever seen. So far none of the small 35mm lens I have used were really good in this regard, but this is probably the worst. If you are into astrophotography and looking for a 35mm lens to use wide open stay far away from this one.
As a comparison I included a shot from the same scene taken with the Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 + 5m PCX filter. Wide open at f/1.7 the coma performance is comparable to the Nokton at f/4.0 and the sharpness to the Nokton at f/8.0.


100% crops from extreme corner, A7rII

Distortion

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4

Distortion is pretty high for a 35mm lens. There is distinct barrel distortion which can be pretty obvious. Until the profile for this lens is available you can use the one for the M-mount version in Lightroom which is doing a good job.

Bokeh

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4

There is a classic in the name and it is there for a reason. If you are looking for smooth and creamy bokeh this lens is not for you.
The bokeh is very nervous in general and light discs are not evenly lit. When comparing it to the four other 35mm lenses in my 35mm comparison it is closest to the Loxia in terms of rendering.
Some people claim it improves on stopping down, I don’t really see that.

Of course some people like this rendering, the Jupiter-3 50mm 1.5 which is very similar has lots of fans as well, and in the end this is a matter of personal taste and you have to decide whether you want creamy or nervous. If you like nervous this might be just the lens for you.

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4
voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4

Another comparison to the Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 Ultron + 5m PCX filter. In this scene stopping down to f/2.8 helps to make the Nokton bokeh a little less nervous.

Sunstars

Beautiful 10-pointed sunstars as we are used to see from the Voigtlander lenses.


100% crops from midframe, A7rII

Chromatic aberration

lateral

There is an embedded profile which corrects for lateral CA which cannot be easily disabled and does a very good job. I still checked by taking a few shots without electronic contact between camera and lens and could still barely find any lateral CA, which seems to be typical for almost perfectly symmetrical designs.

longitudinal

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E Classic | f/1.4 | 50% crop, minimum focus distance

There is a bit green behind and magenta in front of the focal plane visible but at the minimum focus distance the problem is somewhat masked by spherical aberration when shooting with wider apertures. But when focusing at something a bit farther away in high contrast scenes like the one below the problem can be easily visible:

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4 | 100% crop

When you stop down to f/4.0 the color fringing is mostly gone.

Focus shift


50% crops, A7rII

When stopping down the plane of optimal focus shifts to the back, so you have to focus a bit closer for best performance. I recommend focusing at working aperture with this lens to get best results.

Alternatives

Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0:
This lens is also based on an older rangefinder design. Bokeh is also not that smooth (still smoother and quite good in close up scenarios at least) and corner as well as coma performance at f/2.0 to f/2.8 isn’t great either. Still, almost no distortion and a really great landscape and architecture lens at f/8.0.
If you are looking for a compact 35mm lens with mainly stopped down shooting in mind I think this is the better choice, get a used one as new they are a bit too expensive.

Voigtlander Ultron 1.7/35:
A very good performer for a decent price. By giving up half a stop of speed you get a modern lens which is a great performer and offers the smoothest bokeh of all small 35mm lenses. If you want to make the best of it on your Sony camera get an Optosigma 5m PCX filter.

Voigtlander Nokton 1.2/40 E:
This is the modern interpretation of very fast yet still decently compact wide angle lens. While it isn’t a perfect lens I think it is optically better in every regard.

Zeiss ZM 35mm 1.4 T* Distagon:
This is Zeiss’ most recent rangefinder lens and while there is so much to like it also suffers from midzone dip on the Sony cameras.

Sony/Zeiss FE 35mm 2.8 ZA:
If you are looking for a compact 35mm lens this might be worth a look. While 2 stops slower it is less than half the weight, you don’t have to stop down to f/11 for decent across frame sharpness and you get AF.

Sony Zeiss Distagon 1.4/35 ZA T* FE/Samyang 35mm 1.4 AF:
I still haven’t laid my hands on one of these yet. They are heavy and huge, so If you are looking at this lens you are probably not interested in these.

Older manual 35 mm lenses:
There are simply too much options here to cover them all but in case you can get by with a slower and bigger lens you may start taking a look at our Canon FD 35 mm comparison.

Conclusion

good

  • center sharpness (f/2.0 and smaller)
  • flare resistance (f/2.0 and smaller)
  • contrast
  • sunstars
  • correction of lateral CA
  • build quality
  • size/weight
average

  • correction of longitudinal CA
  • price
not good

  • corner sharpness
  • flare resistance (f/1.4 to f/1.7)
  • distortion
  • vignetting
  • coma correction (until f/4.0)
  • bokeh (subjective)

With the “classic” in the name and based on what I have seen from the M-mount version my expectations were rather low. As it seems so far for good reasons: this lens is in noy way comparable to modern designs like the Zeiss ZM 35mm 1.4 or the Voigtlander Ultron 35mm 1.7. Sharpness wide open is anything but great, corners never reach the quality of most other primes and many aberrations like Coma or Astigmatism and even distortion are not well corrected.

This lens is really for people who like the rendering with the nervous bokeh and also the glow wide open, but still want to enjoy some modern features like Exif data and decent coatings or do not want to get into adapting legacy lenses.

If that is not you there are probably better lenses for you that I listed in the Alternatives section, especially the Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 Ultron + 5m PCX filter which is a bit longer but also thinner and only marginally heavier.

New this lens costs as much as $799/749€. You can find it at B&H, on amazon.com/amazon.de and also on ebay.com/ebay.de (affiliate links).

Sample Images

voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4
voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4
voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4
voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4
voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/2.0
voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4
voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4
voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4
voigtlander 35mm 1.4 nokton e classic review sony e-mount emount sharpness bokeh rendering vignetting
Sony A7rII | Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E classic | f/1.4

Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.

Further Reading

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My name is Bastian and for many years I have been mostly shooting Nikon DSLRs. As of today I have made my transition from Nikon to Sony and I am mainly using small but capable manual lenses. My passion is landscape photography but I also like to delve into other subjects from time to time.

28 thoughts on “Review: Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton E Classic”

  1. Thanks so much for this Bastian.

    I queried the only Swedish retailer to list it (as a future product) yet whether they’d import from Nippon or wait for the euro release and they’d wait.

    This lens seemed so promising, I could have lived with a rather soft look at f/1,4 and sharp corner to corner at f/8 for a small super nicely built mf lens; can however not live with that bokeh. I dislike clinical stf-bokeh and too nervous and this is a class of nervous that does not appeal one bit.

    1. Original M-mount Voigtlanders 35/1.4 and 40/1.4 also have terrible bokeh, even worse coma and overall are garbage lenses. Performance of this lens should not be surprising.

      1. Am not familiar with those and wasn’t sure what the marketing speech about “optimized optical design” would mean. ” You can enjoy soft delicate descriptions reminiscent of classic lenses with stable image quality.” seemed to promise at least okay bokeh, if not astro performance.

    1. I like very much my 40 1.4 on the Sony A7 , It has beautiful colours and contrast. It is sharp enough and even in the corners if you stopped down.

    1. Given that you are using a tripod anyway, the size and weight of the Sigma Art should not be a problem. It’s quite usable for astro even wide open – good sharpness and very little coma. Costs about the same as the Voigtländer.

    1. If you like the look of this kind of old school symmetrical wide, then at least this one has great flare and contrast control. Real classic lenses tend not to: including the smc takumar (though it was great in this regard for its era)

  2. Thanks for the review.
    Today i wanted to drive to my seller and look for one, but your review was faster. Thats sad.
    I want only a little mf prime in for travel. Apparently there is nothing comparable in this size.

  3. There seems to be a reason why all the latest 35/1.4 wonder lenses from Zeiss, Canon, Sony, Nikon and Sigma are the size they are. OK, the 35/1.7 Ultron and ZM 35/1.4 leave some hope for a more compact manual focus FE option. Perhaps Voigtlander felt the 35/1.7 would be positioned too similarly to the new 40/1.2? Hence this lens in the opposite direction?

    IMO it’s totally unrealistic to expect anything technically amazing from this optical design. That said, from other online samples I’ve seen of it at f/8, it’s better than I expected. Only the extreme corners are noticeably soft. Where it seems to suffer against modern designs, once stopped down a bit, is a general lack of micro contrast. IMO, it lives up to what I consider the ‘classical’ Voigtlander look from years prior to their latest and greatest.

    FWIW, I generally like its overall rendering in the images I’ve seen so far, when viewing a given image in its entirety, rather than zooming in to pixel level. To me it’s ‘interesting’ and a bit of eye-candy for certain types of scenes where perfectly smooth Gaussian blur would otherwise be rather generic.

  4. Probably the 35 with the worst rendering character I have ever seen.

    Instead, the CV 35/1.2 is awesome, and wide open you get a Noctiluxish rendering.

  5. Thanks for this review. I’ve been using the Voigtländer Nokton 35mm MC classic (bought in 2014) for several years now. It’s high built standard, very compact, not that heavy and makes the Sony A 7 / A 6000 pocket-friendly. That’s why I bought it. An enthusiasm for this lens has not set with me.
    The new edition 2018 with the suffix “E” seems to be identical to the structure (8-Lens). The update seems to refer to the minimum focusing distance (0.3m instead of 1m) the Exif data transmission and the E-Mount compatability. By the way, I recognize on the test recordings exactly the old ME Classic with its weaknesses again (incl. Focus shift while stopping down, CA’s and bokeh). This former lens has not been tested by you. But if you do, I ‘d guess with exactly the same results.

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