Voigtländer 40mm f1.2 Nokton Aspherical: An In Depth Review

Introduction

40mm. One of my favourite focal lengths. Long ago the Voigtländer 2/40mm Ultron was glued to my Canon. Even longer ago, the Zuiko 2/40 was a favourite on my Olmpus OM film gear. The 40mm equivalent 20mm Lumix was my favourite lens on the M43 gear I used to use for travel and hiking. So naturally a native 40mm full frame lens for E mount has me very excited.
That slightly wider than standard lens look (close to the theoretical ‘normal’ focal length of 43mm) gives a lovely, natural perspective that leaves the photographer, rather than the angle of view, in charge of the image. But of course the cost of the slightly wider angle of view is less potential for bokeh; the nice, isolating, out-of-focus blur that people prize in people photography. That’s why the speed on this lens is potentially so great. Perhaps f1.2 sounds extreme, but the actual blur potential is about the same as f1.4 on a 50mm lens. So in order to keep up with a 50mm lens in terms of blur, you really do want a bit of extra speed on moderate wides. 40mm is a great length for portraits which place people in a context: but you don’t want that context to dominate, so being able to see the context but have it nicely blurred is a fantastic combination. But what price do we pay for that? Is the IQ on this surprisingly small and fast lens good enough? Thanks to Mainline Photographics  who are the Cosina Voigtländer distributors in Australia, for the loan of a review copy.

A Few Samples

 

Most of the samples in this review are viewable in high resolution at my SmugMug site

Specifications

Max. Diameter 70.1 mm
Length 59.3 mm
Filter Thread 58 mm
Weight Nominal 420 g  (weighed 416g without hood or caps)
Max. Magnification 1:6.2
Close Focusing Distance from the sensor 0.35 m
Number of aperture blades 10
Elements/ Groups 8/6, two double sided aspheres.

The lens is available now in Japan and Australia (in Australia from Mainline Photographics).

Buy it from  from our affiliate link at  B&H Photo Video or our link to eBay.

Buying through our links costs you no more, and makes a small contribution to running this blog.

Handling

The overall size is extraordinary for such a fast lens. You can see from the on-cmaera image that it is a nice match for the body, and the comparison photo below shows it considerably shorter than the classic Zuiko 1.2/50 (itself by far the smallest classic f1.2 lens).  The slightly slower Sony Zeiss 1.4/35 towers over it, and the considerably slower Loxia 2/35 is a little less fat, but roughly the same length. This size factor is a very serious advantage for the lens: it means it’s not a special purpose ‘bokeh’ lens to be brought out when you want especially thin DOF, but something you can use as a genuine standard lens, your go-to walk around lens.

The handling is gorgeous, if handling can be gorgeous. The focus ring is buttery smooth and responsive. It balances beautifully on the camera, being remarkably small and light for its size. There is a declicking ring should you wish to turn the aperture clicks off for video usage (like all the other E-mount Voigtländer lenses except the 65mm). The hood is small enough to leave on permanently, and if you do, the lens cap fits easily inside the hood.

Infinity Resolution and Infinity Field Curvature

I start with an aperture series of a scene at infinity, with the lens focussed at the centre of the frame. Here is a complete frame to give a sense of where the 1:1 crops are taken from.

The following set of crops show good but not outstanding results in the corners stopped down. The lens is however capable of excellent corner resolution, but it has some field curvature which needs to be accounted for, and yo have to take focus shift into consideration. I will show some crops illustrating this behaviour after the initial standard set of crops.

Focussed on Centre: At infinity, it is sharp centrally from wide open, though at f/1.2 there is a lot of violet fringing from axial colour. This has cleaned up by f/2, where the image is almost as sharp (very sharp) as it is going to get. When focussed on the centre, however mid frame, however, is a bit unsharp at infinity wide open, and still a little soft at f/2, cleaning up at f /2.8 and is excellent from f/4. The corners, as we might expect,  are very soft at f/1.2, pick up at f/2.8 and continue sharpening up until being usable for landscape at f/5.6 and fairly good by f/8. This is of course not quite the kind of performance we have seen from the Apo-Lanthar, but nor should we expect it from a lens of this speed and dimension.
Overall the central and mid frame is outstanding stopped down a little, and the extreme corners are still decent. However the next set set of corps shows that excellent corner resolution is possible.

Comparison of Corners, Focussed on Centre and Corners

As you can see, the difference is quite significant.

The corners are best somewhere very close to the infinity hard stop. The centre is best backed a little off the hard stop. The exact positions may vary from copy to copy with the calibration of the focus ring, but in general the corners are at best focus a little behind the centre.

Focussing for the corners produces actually quite good results across the frame except for the centre. Focussing one the mid field will give excellent results over the whole field.

Here are some centre crops, which show that focussing on the corners gives a strong blur wide open in the centre, but this is almost gone by f8 as DOF gets deeper.

It is notable that the corner focus setting gives a better centre stopped down, than centre focus gives a good corner. So stopped down, corner focus gives a better overall result. However at wider apertures, it seems that centre focus is better overall.

A compromise focussing position will give you the best balance of sharpness across the frame. The next section will test whether there is such a compromise position.

Best overall focus position for f8 and infinity

Now for a final piece of field curvature information: some crops of the corner and centre at f8 (where the curvature is already somewhat suppressed by DOF) focussed on the corner, outer midfield and centre. It shows that the midfield is a good compromise position.

Not only is the midfield best when we focus on the outer midfield (obviously, which is why there is no crop) but while the corner is not quite as good as when focussed on the corner, it’s very good indeed when we focus on the outer midfield. The centre as well is, while not quite as good as the centre, also very good when we focus on the outer midfield. So the lens, with careful focussing, can produce very sharp results across the frame. These effects are visible at 100%, but are much less visible at 50%. So there is no need to panic. Especially if you have a 24MP sensor, where you probably don’t need to worry too much about where you focus at infinity.

On my copy you can focus for excellent overall results at infinity by going to the hard stop, where you will get best corner results, and backing off the smallest amount possible, which will make the centre excellent without affecting the corners too much.

Focus Shift

These crops were shot at taking aperture.

When processing the close focus samples later, I found that there is significant focus shift: stopped down images are noticeably sharper focussed at taking aperture than wide open

Fred Miranda, over at FM forums has found the same at infinity: it’s well worth reading his finding and seeing his crops, and I don’t see the need to repeat it here.

The take home message is that this is a lens which needs ideally to be focussed at taking aperture. That’s a bit of a nuisance sometimes (as focussing wide open is easier, especially in low light). But it’s not that surprising or upsetting for a lens of this speed. Focussing at around f2.8 will actually get you most of the advantage of focussing at taking aperture if you are stopped down, and in dimmer light may well be the best option.

Portrait Resolution (Or: Where Can I Put my Eye?)

A lens with these specification is surely in part an environmental portrait lens: otherwise the fastest apertures would be of little use, and certainly not worth the cost and weight.

So how good a portrait can you take? I decided to take a series of portrait shots at f/1.2 and f/2.0 – likely the key environmental portrait apertures for this lens. In each of them the eye is progressively further off axis. Starting with the centre, moving to off centre to the centre side of the rule of thirds corner, then to the midfield just beyond the rule of thirds corner, and finally the extreme corner. The extreme corner would of course only contain the eye of your subject in a very inventive composition!

First an image to show you the overall subject magnification (cropped a little horizontally, but showing the full vertical image field of view)

Centrally f/1.2 is fine, and off centre it’s pretty good too. I can imagine using the outer midfield as well. At f/2 the eye is excellent all the way to the outer midfield. A bit of sharpening improves this considerably. For those interested, f/1.7 is pretty close to f/2 in quality, f/1.4 not much better than f/1.2.

Note: it looks as though the off centre f2 eye is a little less sharp than the outer midfield f2 eye. But this is a slight focussing error: looking more closely we can see that the iris has more detail in the off centre image at the expense of the lower eyelashes (which probably dominate the overall sense of sharpness) so it is focused a mm or so behind where the focus lies in the outer midfield image. So in reality it is a bit better than outer midfield, and really very good.

Bokeh

Assessing bokeh is one of the most difficult things in a review. Some people give you crops of bokeh balls and elements of the OOF structure, but this in my view does not always give you a good idea of what the overall image is like. You can give aperture series, as I will here. But of course the look will vary a lot depending on the structures in the background, and on the distance from sensor to subject, and subject to background.

The first series I offer has the subject—these rather large flowers—just under a metre away from the sensor, so it is the distance of a fairly close moderate-wide portrait. The rather messy kitchen behind is something of a torture test, and I’m very surprised how little structure and outlining there is, even at f1.2

Here’s another series; this time a bit closer: around half a metre, getting close to MFD. The background is about 2.5 metres from the large structure to the left, and infinity at the top of the frame.

The character of bokeh balls are both important in their own right, as as a guide to how the overall bokeh may appear.

I have here two aperture series; one with balls to the edge of frame, another with the balls central.

Central Balls

Edge Balls

So what do we learn from these two series? Mainly good things. First, although there are traces of onion rings, on the whole the balls are relatively free of onion ring artefacts for a lens with four aspherical surfaces (two elements). Not as good as the fancy smooth asphericals in a GM lens, but far from the worst I’ve seen. The crops above are not the very worst case scenario, but in fact they are more extreme than anything I’ve encountered in real world shooting. Second, the cats eye effect is largely gone by f2, and is not too bad for a lens of this speed wide open. As you stop down you can see the decagonal shape of the aperture, even from f2, but that is the price you pay for the straight blades that give you nice sunstars. I don’t find this very distracting.

Bokeh at 3m

The closer you are to your subject, with many lenses, the smoother the bokeh. A real torture test is at around 3 metres: far enough away to be problematic, close enough for bokeh to still be a relevant criterion. I devised an absolute torture test: the wooden frame around this outlook into a garden is at 3 metres. The plants in the garden are at varying distances, starting at just a few cm behind the frame, to many metres to infinity. There is a riot of stems, foliage and flowers. You couldn’t hope for worse!

Overall I’m impressed. There are pronounced chromatic issues at wide apertures which you might want to correct. You can also see the reddy brown bush at bottom right some outlining and nervousness. This bush is just behind the focus plane and in he transition zone. It may also be subject to astigmatism (which I will test for separately). So unsurprisingly the worse case is subject at 2-4 metres, transition zone just behind subject. But many lenses produce *horrible* busyness in this kind of scene.

Here’s another example of a similar scenario. Again the lens is focussed at 3 metres. The branches in the top left corner are 3-4 metres behind the plane of focus, in the area where astigmatism would affect them. The result is not too bad; relatively little nervousness. FC is not too bad here either: in the worse case because the corners come into focus fractionally behind the centre, the blur on the corners may be reduced if the corner detail is behind the central subject. Possibly this is slightly visible here, but it seems that the only danger case is when the background is just behind the subject plane.

Flare and Sunstars

Here’s the first aperture series from f4 to f11 of sunstars, positioned to make flare as bad as it can be in these conditions:

The sun here is almost entirely in the open, in the middle of the day which is the worst case for veiling flare and artefacts with sunstars. I moved the sun around to get the worst possible result. The only really noticeable artefact is the magenta tint to the right  of the stars, and possible the “ghost” rays in the f11 image. There is a bit of light colour blobbing happening at wider apertures. You can also see some colour effects in ghost rays, and in the sample below, that I’m guessing are sensor reflections. They are not common on the A7rII but as on any digital camera they can happen. This is very impressive performance, better I think  than the Loxia 35 or Loxia 50.

At closer focussing ranges, veiling flare becomes more of an issue with the sun in the frame (there also seems to be some sensor reflection here)

But sometimes, even stopped down, you get no artefacts and only very limited veiling just around the sun: (this image has a horizontal crop but is full vertical height: there were no artefacts in the cropped areas)

 

Chromatic Aberrations

Wide open the violet haze of axial chromatic aberration is very noticeable, but it cleans up one stop down (these are 1:1 crops)

Spherochromatism is another colour issue that the very best super-corrected lenses minimise. You see it two ways; a tendency for certain kinds of highlights to have a green outline, and to be filled in slightly magenta, or in areas of detail in the transitions zone to have a general green and magenta muddiness. The exceptional cleanness of the bokeh in for example the Apo-Lanthar 65 is down to perfectly white highlights lacking spherochromatism.

This lens, as you could have gathered from the specs alone, is not entirely lacking spherochromatism. Having said that I have used much slower highly regarded lenses which are worse in this regard than the Nokton. I’m actually fairly impressed, given the specs.

Here is an example: first the overall scene, in which we will concentrate  on the OOF door handle at top right:

The context tells this is not a massive problem at the whole image level. And now the handle:

Finally here is a classic backlit water test (crop a bit closer than half life size: roughly equivalent to 1:1 on a 24MP sensor – this gives the most information in the pixel boundaries of the blog).

There is strong axial CA and spherochromatism at f1.2; not much improvement at f1.6, notable improvement by f2 and good but not perfect at f2.8.

Coma

I was about to test coma, when Fred Miranda did an excellent test over at his forums. It’s well worth clicking on the link and checking out his findings: they are very clear and I don’t think there is a need to replicate them here.

Spoiler: significant coma wide open, improving at f 1.7; and superb by f2.8.

Vignetting

Vignetting is fairly severe wide open as you might expect and requires the LR vignetting slider to removed all to the right to fix it (though aesthetically you would rarely want to completely remove it). It becomes practically fine by mid apertures.

Here’s the vignetting in as close to whole stops from f1.2 as the aperture ring permits.

Close Focus performance

In the centre at MFD the Voigtlander is not great but usable wide open, and becomes good by f2.8 (and improves a little more afterwards). I attach crops below.

In the corners performance is much worse, partly due to field curvature. If you focus for the corners it becomes good (about like the f2 crop below) by f4. If you don’t focus for the corners, it’s never really crisp.

I almost hesitated to write the above: someone will take is a black mark against the lens in an irrational way. But you are not going to use this lens to take pictures of very small pieces of planar artwork! That’s what scanners are for, or slightly longer lenses in galleries perhaps. What matters at MFD is likely central details surrounded by bokeh. And the lens performs reasonably well, albeit at low contrast, in this respect.

The three crops are f 1.2 (hazy but usably sharp – sharpening and contrast boost really help here). F2 (good) and f2.8 (very good).

Now I add two corner crops at MFD; both at f5.6. They show that there is enough FC at this distance to make a big difference if you refocus. Not that this matters often in the real world…

 

Alternatives

This is a slightly difficult section to write, as what counts as an alternative depends on what interests you about this lens in the first place. Are you looking for a 40mm? A fast 40mm? A fast normal, regardless of exact FL? A compact fast normal? I’ll divide this discussion up in that way. As always, I will discuss only lenses that I or the team know well enough, or have really good information about. So readers are bound to have favourites that we don’t mention just because we don’t have reliable information (just an example – there are a bunch of Leica lenses in this category). I also won’t mention lenses that I don’t think are sensible alternatives.

Fast 40mm lenses.

There’s only one other; the M mount CV 1.4/40. It’s much worse on Sony in every way except size. If you want a fast 40 the Nokton 1.2/40 is it.

Slower 40mm lenses

There’s an adapted AF option in the form of the Canon 2.8/40 STM. Its a very good little lens. Build is a bit plasticky. But optically it’s probably in the same class at shared apertures from f4. But it’s much much slower. If you want 40 but don’t need speed (it’s about 2.5 stops slower) and have a Canon adapter, you could do much worse. You can get this for very little money

There are no other AF options I know of. But there are a range of MF options, starting with Voigtländer’s own 2/40 Ultron. That’s a nice little lens. No sharper than the Canon, but lovely build and has f2 which is quite usable in the centre. You could buy this one for around $300 to $400 used via our affiliate link on eBay

Also there’s the Olympus OM 2/40. Unfortunately it’s collector priced these days. Sharp stopped down, a bit funky at f2. Also can be had for about $500 vial our affiliate link on eBay

Basically if money is not an issue, the current lens is the one to get against these alternatives. Otherwise the Canon and an adapter.

Fast Normals 35-50

This expends your search hugely. First AF lenses. The Zony 1.4/35, if you find a good copy, is great at the wider end. Sharper than the CV at wider apertures but of course much larger and 50% heavier. It’s also slower both in terms of f-stop, and even more in terms of blur potential. The Zony 1.4/50 is also optically a better lens, but again much bigger and more expensive: and not 40mm.

Outside AF you can get adapt so many lenses that there’s little point trying to do a survey. I guess all I need to say is that you can get much   better performance only at the price of size (Milvus 35, Milvus 50, Otus 50, Sigma Art 50 — though the bokeh of the last is not always to my taste).

Compact Fast Normals

Considering this category made me realise what a good job Cosina have done here. This is likely the best compact fast normal. I don’t think the famous Leica 35 FLE is any better, and is hugely more expensive. You might consider there Voigtländer 1.5/50, but it has considerably more field curvature due to the optical stack thickness it’s optimised for.

A very good overall compromise might be the CV 1.7/35 Ultron, used with a correction filter (see here). It’s compact, sharp, and fairly fast though at f.17 might not really count as Officially Fast! The other obvious alternatives are principally classic fast fifties. They are cheaper (some of them not affected by collector price bloat) and can be great to use (Olympus 1.2/50, various Canons spring to mind). But they are not better; and the Voigtländer has much better contrast.

Conclusion

For a long time now, I have been saying to anyone who would listen that the photo industry has become obsessed with small increments of resolution and correction, resulting in large and overpriced lenses. Instead, I have thought, we would be better off with some smaller slower lenses of high quality, and some balanced fast lenses: fast enough for some great bokeh, with some trade-offs to shrink their size and weight from Otus proportions.

Well this lens is exactly that delicious balancing act. We have a super fast 40mm which is capable of good (better than classic f1.2)  results in the centre wide open, and capable of critically sharp results stopped down. The trade-off is a bit of lateral colour, axial colour, field curvature and focus shift.

That’s what we should expect for a 420g  f1.2 lens. And all those issues can be dealt with. LaCA is easily fixed with a checkbox in your RAW converter. The axial colour is largely gone by f2, which is impressive, and can be mitigated at wider apertures with the sliders in Lightroom (or C1). The field curvature can be dealt with by focussing at the outer midfield. The focus shift by focussing at taking aperture.

Of course some folk were hoping for a lens like the Apo Lanthar 2/65, only 1.5 stops faster and half the size and weight! That was never going to happen. What we have here is a lens that performs better than the super fast classic lenses by quite a margin. It’s no Otus, nor even APO Lanthar, but it’s faster and smaller then either of them.

And with a little care it can produce glorious results. The sensible compromises in this lens mean that you have to pay attention when focussing. But do this and you get sharp, contrasty images largely unaffected by backlight and with great sunstars at medium apertures, and bokeh which is good to glorious.

So do I recommend it? Absolutely. If what you are looking for is a compact all in one lens that gives a wide-normal field of view, is very fast and has generally nice bokeh, as well as giving excellent landscape results if used with care, it’s not only entirely recommendable, it’s also pretty much the only game in town. You have to pay attention when using it, but it’s the kind of versatile, sensible lens that many of us have been hoping for for a long time. It may not be the best performer there is any one category, but if you want them all, it may be the best overall balance of compactness, speed, and IQ there is.

So it’s very tempting for someone looking for thin DOF in a moderate wide-standard lens. In some ways it’s like a classic compact super fast fast lens. But it’s both a bit sharper, a bit less abberated, and has much more contrasty look than any of those classic lenses. And none of then is a 40mm.  I love it: it has one of the most interesting sets of trade-offs I’ve seen in a while.  I have to send my review copy back, but I’m counting the pennies to buy my own copy. Simply put it does things that no other lens I have does. If you want it, you can buy it from  from our affiliate link at  B&H Photo Video or our link to  eBay.

Further Reading

Some Final Samples

The following two tabs change content below.

David Braddon-Mitchell

David Braddon-Mitchell is a keen landscape and environmental portrait photographer. In the last decade of film he was a darkroom practitioner and worked with Olympus OM SLRs and various medium format cameras. He switched to Canon DSLRs when digital imaging improved, and made a move to Sony bodies as soon as the A7 series was born. He enjoys using a mixture of legacy manual lenses, modern manual lenses, and E mount AF lenses.

106 thoughts on “Voigtländer 40mm f1.2 Nokton Aspherical: An In Depth Review”

  1. Looks good. Maybe not perfect as the FE 55mm 1.8 but good enough. Can’t wait to see the rest of the review.

    By the way, there is a small spelling mistake in the second paragraph:
    “but you don’t WHAT that context to dominate”
    should be
    “but you don’t WANT that context to dominate”

    1. Focal length divided by aperture = blur potential
      40/1.2 = 33.3
      50/1.4 = 35.7

      Also: lenses with the same value here can replace each other by cropping or taking a panoramic shot (google “Brenizer” for further reference)

      1. Yep Bastian gives the correct formula.
        Roughly speaking (there is some simplification here) it’s the absolute aperture that determines blur potential.
        The absolute aperture is literally just the diameter of the max aperture.
        The F-Stop, often called the aperture, is not the absolute aperture: rather it’s a ratio of the focal length and the absolute aperture, and determines how much light gets through (because the longer the lens, the larger the absolute aperture you need to get the same amount of light)

        1. …aperure as seen from the front of the lens (i.e. entrance pupil), not the physical size of the aperture. Just to clarify.

      2. A slight crop makes the 40/1.2 equivalent to 50/1.5 which I find to be somewhat interesting considering that there is CV 50/1.5 😉

        Too bad the lens doesn’t seem to suit astro photography at all 🙁

        1. True, though the non-specular bokeh of this lens reminds me a bit of a different 1.5/50 – the c-Sonnar. And the cv is sharper than the c-Sonnar, so I suspect would still be more than competitive after the crop.

      3. This is not quite correct. Background blur, for near backgrounds is proportional to the “EQuivalent relative aperture”, which is 1 / (crop factor * f#). For far backgrounds it is proportional to “effective aperture” which is aperture / f#. Full frame has crop factor of 1.0. So a 40mm f1.2 has blur proportional factors of .83 (near) to 33.3(far) while a 50mm f1.4 has .71(near) to 35.7(far). So the 40mm f1.2 has slightly more blur for near backgrounds and slightly less blur for far backgrounds, which I would consider roughly equal. You can see this result at:
        http://asklens.com/howmuchblur/#compare-1x-40mm-f1.2-and-1x-50mm-f1.4-on-a-0.9m-wide-subject

        1. yes, correct of course, but again as I said in the original text I was simplifying slightly. The differences between near and far of course matter more with longer lenses.

      4. Hi there.

        What does the value stands for? Percent of the picture? Or is it just a value to compare (the higher the bokelicious the picture)?

        For example: 50/0.95 = 52,6; 85/1.4 = 60,7

        So these figures are only comparable through a unified crop range – because you can’t compare a 55/1.8 FE with an 56/1.2 XF (Fuji Crop), right? How do you manage to adress this crop factor?

        55/1.8 = 30.6
        56/1.2 = 46,7 / 1.5 = 31,1

        Which would mean that the background blur from the 56/1.2 (crop) is comparable to that of the 55/1.8 FE?

        Confused… 😉

    2. f.1.2 will be very good at 35mm and a bit better at 40mm, and certainly better at 50mm and 85mm, if the amount of bokeh is the onley of importance. But the focal length itself is in many cases more crucial, especially in more difficult environments such as indoors. In addition, the smallest focus distance , is generally decreasing with shorter focal lengths, so I think 35mm f1.2 and 40mm f1.2 are very nice combinations of light emitting and focal length indoors.

      1. That’s *exactly* my take on this.
        35-40mm is the focal length that *most benefits* from being very fast.
        Longer lenses have enough blur intrinsically, that you don’t really need faster than f2 (though it can be nice)
        Shorter lenses aren’t often used for images where blur is important.
        But the 35-40 lengths where you often do environmental portraits where you want to have some sense of the environment, but blur it enough to avoid distraction, really need the extra speed to overcome the intrinsically high DOF from moderately wide focal lengths.

  2. So far it looks very nice. Great contrast and bokeh smoothness. I wonder how it will behave at night and probably daytime portraits with sun in the background and maybe bushes or something else that will create harsh bokeh. Obviously it is not for landscape 🙂

  3. 40mm is probably a good focal length inside, when shooting family and friends. I use Voigtländer Nokton 35mm f1.2 Aspherical iii Leica m with Techart pro Leica m adapter to gain autofocus. I love that lens. I have now bought Sony Fe 35mm f1.4 to compare with, but for now the 35 1.2 is my favourite lens inside.

      1. Nick, I had the VM 35/1.2 II and it was one of my favourites…until I bought the FE 35/1.4. The Sony is much sharper, has minimal colour aberration and purple fringing, focuses fast with silent AF with great focus by wire implementation and also allows eye AF. It also focuses closer without having to fiddle with the close focus adapter in the case of the VM. It is also lighter than the 35/1.2 + CF adapter. Also I am not convinced about the VM build quality – i had the rear lens group come loose in the 35/1.2 and rattle around. It was fixed but seemed softer afterwards. I also had another copy of the 35/1.2 which was badly decentered. Similarly, the front housing came loose on my VM 50/1.1 and required service. This is with minimal use and very good care of equipment. Comparatively, i have had no issue with 7 sony lenses. I also may have been lucky but my FE 35 is sharp and well centered and required no exchanges. The only downside of the FE 35 to the 35/1.2 is the length, otherwise it is the better lens in my option. Especially now since prices are becoming similar.

          1. A little sharper centrally wide open, but also less uniform than a good copy of the FE. But the bokeh on the Sigma is not nearly as nice as the FE (though of course that’s a matter of taste)

      2. +1 – I’m interested to hear all feedback on this setup!

        I’m about to buy an A7ii with a Techart Pro and the Voigtländer Nokton Aspherical II 35mm f1.2. Are you happy with this combo? The guys at Steve Huff say I should get the 40mm but I really like the character and FOV of the 35mm. Thanks for your feedback!

        http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2017/11/10/one-camera-one-lens-a-sony-a9-with-a-voigtlander-40mm-f1-2-by-chad-wadsworth/#comment-462302

  4. So great to see this review. You’re probably the first English site doing this. I came across a review on a Chinese site but the nighttime backlit bokeh wasn’t that good, at least in those pictures.
    I also noticed that this lens has less aperture blades than the m mount version, that might make a difference too.
    Either way, I’m going to buy this or the m mount lens for my a7ii.

    1. Thanks Mahesh!
      Actually there is no M mount version.
      EDIT: the previous version said that the 1.2/35 like all CV M mounts has 10 blades, but you are quite right, it has 12. 12 straight would be better: still give quite defined 12 point stars, but the aperture closer to circular…

      1. Hi sorry if I wasn’t clear. I meant the nokton 35/1.2 ii lens in M mount. That has 12 aperture blades whereas this e mount 40/1.2 has 10.

        1. Indeed! I learned something from you: I thought all CV M mount lenses had 10 blades. But, no, you are quite right about the 35/ii

          1. I know, I checked twice before replying to you as I thought I must have got it wrong! 🙂
            Thanks again for all these pictures and this review. Look forward to more portraits and images with backlit bokeh. I mostly take environmental portraits of family so really interested in those.

  5. Thank you posting this review, and I am looking forward to the next parts. A few years ago I stupidly passed up a chance to get a used CV35 F1.2 at a great price, and when this lens was announced, I started think of it as a chance to make up for that mistake.

    1. Oh wow hard choice! It would depend on what other lenses I already had, and what I wanted to do.
      Neither the 50 or 35 Loxia will give you the lovely wide aperture rendering of this lens, whose bokeh is about equivalent to about a 1.4/50.
      So if I were looking for a thin depth of field normal-wide I’d choose this for sure.
      But if I wanted a stopped down landscape lens, I’d go for whichever of the Loxias was my preferred FL for landscape.
      If I wanted a portrait lens, it’d be between this and the Loxia (or a longer one) depending on the kind of portraiture.
      If I could have only one lens, and it had to be one of these three, I’d probably get the CV as the most versatile (pending more work on it)

  6. Thank you very much for your evaluation
    I am very interested in VOIGTLÄNDER 40mm f1.2
    But for f1.2 and f1.4 bokeh did not see the difference, can you test it again?

    thank

    1. That’s because f1.2 is not massively different to f1.4.
      In the blog-sized images here the main difference you can see is vignetting.
      But there is a clear bokeh difference viewing the image at sizes equivalent to an A2 print.
      In case you are worried, the f-numbers in the footers of the images come direct from EXIF, so there’s no danger they are mislabelled.

  7. Looks like there are quite a lot of aberrations – for this performance the lens is way overpriced! for $500-$600 it would be more convincing. Unless minimizing size is critical, i think a higher performing and more practical lens would be a native sony FE option like the 35/1.4 or 55/1.8. The cost, weight and blur potential would be similar, but optical quality and usability much higher. The new Voigtlander prices are ridiculous.

    1. The 35/1.4 is quite a bit heavier, bigger and also even more expensive, in addition to the differences between a 35/1.4 and 40/1.2. The 55/1.8 again boasts quite a different focal length.

      All three are great options, just chose what suits you best. For me the 40/1.2 is definitely the best all around lens out of these three and is here to stay. For you, maybe not – that’s ok. 😉

    2. I don’t think anyone is going to make a mainstream decently sharp f1.2 lens for under a thousand dollars ever again..

      The 1.4/35 is a bit better corrected, but it’s much bigger, heavier and more expensive: and cropped to 40mm it’s about an f1.6 equivalent, which is noticeably less than f1.2 (and the CV performs very well at f1.6 too, with chromatic issues as clean or cleaner than the FE)

      1. I think under $1k for a simple design like the 40/1.2 should easily be achieved. Sigma is producing much more complex lenses for less (most of the Art prime series is under $1k). Similarly with Samyang and the range of Chinese manual lens manufacturers e.g. Mitakon 50/0.95. The 40/1.2 should cost max $600-700 for this kind of performance. Yes the VM is a niche lens that does not benefit as much from economies of scale like Sigma, but also their lens would be simpler to manufacture.

        Also from the review above, I think the FE 35/1.4 would not be just a bit better but much better corrected. Sure it weighs 200grams more and is more expensive at RRP, but can be had for close to the VM price at street prices. The 55/1.8 gives the same blur potential as the 40/1.2 but is much better optically, with comparable cost and weight. I don’t think the 40/1.2 is a convincing option at the RRP unless you believe the 40mm focal length is not negotiable

        1. Please apply for a job at the Cosina company. They could learn so much from you they did terribly wrong up to now …

          Although we know you love the FE 35/1.4, perhaps we can now focus on characteristics and experiences with the CV 40/1.2 again, thanks.

          1. I’m sorry Robert I didn’t’ realise you did not allow any criticism of your lenses of interest to be posted here on Phillip’s site. Your advice about my career options is much more useful in this discussion then some technical comments.

          2. @ Qvinto (can’t reply directly to your comment):

            Of course criticism is “allowed” and helpful in judging a lens. I just don’t see the point of repeating yourself in what you see an appropriate price and alternative without even having used the CV 40/1.2 yourself. I guess stuff like that is better suited for some endless discussions in some online forum …

        2. I won’t argue about what counts as a “bit” better; but one thing to bear in mind wiht the FE 1.4/35 and similar AF lenses is that designs like this 1.2/40 would be almost impossible to make with effective autofocus: all the elements are large, and in any case the overall lens is designed to unit focus. It adds considerably complexity and size to design a lens where there is a very small light group that can be moved for focus, which is what is needed for decent AF. So not all the extra size, weight and complexity of the 1.4/35 goes towards IQ.

        3. If it is not for you than that’s fine. We heard from you the first time. Move on! I have the FE 35/1.4 and although it is great it never comes with me out and about. Just to big. The 55/1.8 again great, but alittle to long as a walk around sometimes. This lens will fit a lot of peoples needs as a versatile walk around lens. Which means more use. Which translates to better value. I would say the price is right. To each there own. What the characteristics of the lens and versatility suddenly are better at 600-700?

  8. I realy look forward to buy this lens. I currently use a Voigtländer nokton 40mm 1.4, wich has terrible vignetting and is very soft at 1.4 (still one of my favorite lenses). I am loooking forward to a much sharper alternetive, with even more bokeh 😀

    Since this lens does have a chip with lens data, does the ca get corrected in camera when shooting Jpeg ?

    1. Yes, there is lateral CA correction when shooting JPEG (and RAW too if you use lightroom or C1, both of which auto correct according to the information the camera sends them).

      If you like the Nokton 1.4, then this lens really is for you! It’s sharper and better in ever respect, and a bit faster too, and if anything the bokeh is better controlled as well as being a bit more of it. And while it’s a bit bigger than the 1.4, even with adapter, it’s still impressively small. Enjoy!

        1. In the case of RAW (and probably JPEG too but I haven’t checked) the CA correction CANNOT be turned off in LR or C1, but the vignetting correction CAN be turned off.

          This is because an auto-profile that is in the metadata of the file is applied. This is not the same as the profile that Adobe itself creates for lenses, and which can be applied or not at will.

          If you use a “dumb” Raw converter that doesn’t act on this metadata you can bypass the auto-profile (RPP for instance). But LaCA correction is harmless and pretty lossless, so why would you bother?

          It’s good that vignetting correction can be turned off though, and in my view you always should. It raises the noise in the corners, and if you want vignetting correction, better to do it yourself (reversibly) in post to the exact degree you want.

  9. Don’t mean to rain on the celebrated Voigtlander brand parade, but I’m not impressed, especially based on its price tag. This lens deserved more development to get past an average performance. Making an f1.2 lens is no small task. Settling as even an f2 model, it would still need better bokeh, much better corners and just a wider range of usable apertures.

    1. There is a use case from which I can see you may not want this lens; but I don’t think more development would likely have helped. It’s a pretty compelling set of compromises between size, speed and performance. I doubt if any one of those could be improved without impacting on one of the others significantly (unless perhaps for much more money). And the bokeh is really surprisingly impressive: I expected much more funk.

  10. Hi, was just wondering how this compares to the 50f1.5 Voigtlander? I am expecting the Bokeh to be slightly similar given that the 40 mm is wider but any other improvement in terms of the optics?

    1. I still have and use the 50mm 1.5.
      It is also plagued by severe field curvature issues because it wasn’t designed for the Sony E-mount filterstack.
      I think the 40mm 1.2 has somewhat softer bokeh, but I say this without having compared both side by side.

  11. It would be nice to see how much field curvature there is on other A7-bodies as the optical stacks on the sensors vary somewhat from model to model.

        1. That lensrentals article does not give any evidence that there is a difference between the different a7 series cameras or the a9.

          I don’t have a good source which disproves your claim but as Bastian mentioned this would affect the performance of native lenses and I think I would have heard about it.

    1. The real thickness might vary, but to my knowledge the “optical thickness” is the same.
      It also better should be, because otherwise lenses like Loxia 21mm 2.8 or Sony 12-24mm would show significantly different results on different bodys. Which they don’t.

  12. Thanks for a comprehensive review.I got this lens yesterday (Sun)
    and would like to bring up a couple of points.The functionality of
    the lens is brilliant; focussing instantly brings up magnified view
    and tapping the shutter release brings back full view, no need to mess with buttons or joy sticks! I’m afraid I have to part company with you on the question of field curvature.Yes the extreme corners are soft but the imaging on the rest of the frame (with my copy) is flat as a pancake. I’m very happy with my lens.

    1. I’m not sure whether you are disagreeing with my results, or not.
      The effect of the FC is that the optimal focussing position for the corners is a little different from the position from the centre, as you can see from the crops. What that means is that corners are *not* soft when they are focussed for! That is not the claim that the lens has a massively bulbous focus surface. This is a flat-field lens with a little FC…

      That is of course constant with being able to get sharp results across most of the frame focussing on the centre.

      1. Naturally! There would be no way a lens maker could implement that unless it were there in the body to be turned on! People vary in how useful they find it. Personally, I find it useless. I like to choose my area and then press and assigned button for magnification.

  13. I am starting to see the Samyang 35 1.2 as an alternative to this Voightlander 40 1.2. It is a lot cheaper, almost covers the sensor on full frame. Corners are maybe even better, sharpness is not bad at all… it is also small and lightweight. When I crop the problematic corners on a landscape shot with the samyang it will be something like 40-43mm maybe…
    Here are some samples from my review of it:
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/simbon4o/albums/72157682052435930

    1. Interesting alternative. Costs less, but is even slightly bigger and you have to crop each picture unless you accept very dark edges. Also nice rendering though.

  14. Great review Thanks a lot for your work!
    It is an very interesting lens.
    As alternative i can recommend the Voigtländer Ultron 40mm F2 SLII with Nikon mount, wonderful on A7 Body´s, very good corner performance, very sharp from F2.

  15. Another great, comprehensive review! How would you compare this with the Zeiss 35/1.4 ZM adapted to the Sony A7RII? The Zeiss is great with the Techart Pro adapter with some flexibility with AF. However, I’m thinking of selling that in favor of this native mount lens as I prefer native mount, and to me 40 is close enough to 35 as a FL.

    1. My hunch would be if you prefer 40 get 40; if you prefer 35 stay where you are.

      The wide open bokeh in many circumstances on the 40 is wonderful though, so if that’s the kind of image you take a lot of, that might well lean towards the CV. I think (but I can’t guarantee since I haven’t done direct comparisons) that the wide open (or indeed f1.4) resolution of the Zeiss is higher.

  16. Thank you, David, for your great work and deep review.

    I have another comparison question for you. How about this vs the OM 50 1.2 that you reviewed so well here? Obvious differences would be flare (CV none vs OM easy to flare). OM less field curvature? Both lenses pretty weak corners until stopping down. OM rather unpredictable bokeh wide open. I’ve been rather lusting after the OM 50 1.2 since your review, but this CV I don’t think is going to nudge the CV 35 1.7 out of my bag. I like both modern Voigtlander lenses and old OM (I’ve had both in my bag in the last days) but for different reasons.

    1. You’ve pretty much nailed it.
      The CV has great corners if you focus for them, and pretty good ones if you focus in the outer midfield.

      I didn’t specifically test the OM for field curvature; it’s possible that it too would have better corners if they were focussed for.

      The cv has somewhat better resolution at wide apertures (except perhaps at MFD where the OM might be ahead.

      The flare difference is massive.

      My guess is that the Ultron 35 is sharper at the equivalent wider apertures, but it’s always hard to know for sure without direct comparisons, rather than looking at distinct reviews. I think Fred Miranda is planning to compare the 40 directly with the Ultron on his forum site..

  17. Looks good to me. I agree with you that some of the commenters are being a bit unrealistic about its performance. You aren’t going to design a small, fast and perfectly corrected lens for a reasonable price, compromises will always have to be made.

    The 65mm F2 macro would pair well with this lens.

  18. Do you have any experience with the Mitakon 35mm .95. I have been looking for a fast, small lens. Curious how the Mitakon which has good reviews might compare. Would be using that on an a6500 or if I purchased this lens it would be on an A7rii. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    1. I haven’t used the Mitakon 0.95/35 but as far as I understand it only covers the APS image circle/ So it’s a full frame 1.4/50 equivalent for thereabouts.
      If it were me I’d just get a full frame 1.4/50 and be done with it unless I was independently committed to APS for size or cost reasons.
      The thing about the CV 40 is that there is nothing else with this combination of FL and speed. On APS would need something like a 27mm f0.8; and that aint gonna happen, and certainly not with comparable quality.

      1. Thanks for reply. Yes the Mitakon is just for crop. The attractive part about it is the small fast form factor, which is really the setup I am looking for a walk around manual focus lens. The 1.4 50 is way to large for me as a general walk around lens. That size and speed of the CV 40 was attractive. Even though different sensor sizes the Mitakon appears it might give me the same look based on reviews in a smaller cheaper form factor. That is why I was wondering if Phillip had any experience with the Mitakon to shed some light on the comparison between the two.

      2. Your optimism over this Voigtlander is getting harder to believe. Looking at your own photos, this lens does not provide acceptable full frame optical performance until stopped down, not uncommon for many lenses of this speed. These misgivings are not compromises – they are optical results which an informed shooter would consider with any choice.

        While I appreciate your enthusiasm, a more direct comparison to other f1.2 lenses of any focal length would be needed to genuinely recommend it. Just trying to keep it real…

        1. Of course it doesn’t provide good results across the field until stopped down. As the crops show, and as I said!
          If you want this speed and and you want it sharp across the field at wider apertures you will need a much larger lens.
          But for many purposes some of us find the bokeh at wide aperture very attractive and the central subject sharpness acceptable.

        2. Why do you keep coming back to this review if you don’t like the lens? Just to troll on something you have not even used yourself? Let’s keep it real 🙂 I have had this lens for alittle over 8 days. Very happy with it. It is sharp enough at 1.2 & 1.4 in the center where it needs to be to blow everything out around it. Very addicting and fun to use actually. Do not get the same feeling or look from the 35 1.4 Fe. Which I had. That lens was just to big and heavy. Great for a studio maybe but that is it. This lens is a great walk around lens. F2 on gets razor sharp. Much better than the Loxia 35mm in my opinion, which I thought was the worst (for a Zeiss) in that series. Which is why it hasn’t come off the A7rii since I got it. It will probably be even better to use on the A7riii which has the better EVF. Can’t wait. Sometimes you have to use a lens to appreciate everything it has to offer. This is one of those lenses. My everyday grab and go small bag now has the 40mm F1.2 and the Laowa 15mm F2. Great pairing if you like Manual Focus lenses of course:)

  19. Thank you for all the hard work you have done here David! I know how tedious it is to prepare images in a way making it possible for readers to understand.
    I have now started to look for a S/H A7RMkII so I canm get a camera for the lens…!

    1. Thanks Jonas; it’s great that the work has helped and really great to hear that from someone who understands just how much work is involved it doing this well..

  20. Hi David !
    Congrats for the outstanding work.
    This is probably the most comprehensive and usefull review of any lense I have seen on the net.
    Cheers and thanks to all the team contributing to this unique blog !

  21. Very nice review. Thka a lot!
    But if i see the bokeh sample im sad that they didnt made a 2.0 lens with half tha size since the bokeh differences are not soooo big.

  22. Well you can see the difference, and personally I think it’s worth the extra size and weight for the blur. But I can also understand that some might prefer an f2 pancake..

  23. Surprised you haven’t included the Konica Hexanon 40mm f/1.8 in your list of alternatives. It’s a great piece of glass, very sharp, beautiful colours, small and light.

    1. Yes I’ve heard good things about it, but we don’t include things by reputation alone: they need to be things that we have used or reviewed ourselves, or where trusted people whose work we know well have tested it. Obviously there’s lots of other great stuff out there, some of which have great reputations. But we have been let down by great reputations many times, so while a great reputations is some evidence that something is good, we are trying to provide *extra* evidence, over and above that. Having said that, the Hexanon (especially for it’s price) is something one of us should review….

  24. Trying to figure out where this guy would fit in my bag. I’m quite happy with the new 35mm 1.7 but would like the exif data and really…that’s about it. The beefier knurled focusing ring looks nice and I had the 17.5 for M43 but the funky 35’s focusing ring isn’t bad either. Hmm, how much is that exif data worth it to me? Can’t say but I will say for anyone still considering the 35mm 1.7 over this. I never did the pcx filter mod and oddly enough it hasn’t been an issue. It’s surprising good wide open as well. I tend to shoot people with it mid or slightly off center frame. At f8 it’s all good anyway if you need the corners to get inline. Man, so many good lenses released this year.

  25. I get the VM mount version on Friday, to say I’m excited is an understatement! With no internal floating elements I should be able to get well focused images at f1.2 with the my autofocus adapter.

  26. Hi,
    David, or anyone else who might know, do you think that a PCX front filter or the Kolari UT mod would fix the field curvature and astigmatism prombelms on the CV 40 1.2? Similar to how it does on the CV 35 1.7.

    1. My guess is the Kolari mod would make it worse – I think but am not sure this lens is optimized for the thicker Sony sensor stack. I also doubt that a front filter would help, unless perhaps an aspherical one, because of the shape of the curve.

  27. Focus-throw issue..

    Great review, Thank You for Your excellent site, all Your work !

    I’d like to report my own observation about this (great)
    Voightlander 40mm f1.2, a fact I find absolutely extremely “strange” I don’t remember having read any concern or criticism about anywhere :
    Don’t You think the focus-throw is ridiculously, unpardonably short (particularly for such a fast lens) just there where it matters most (-to me -but excellent from minimum distance up to around 1m) : namely from 1m to 5m it’s about 2cm only !
    So; a portrait at distance between 1.3m and 2m (huge70cm play !) translates into.. guess how much turn on this lens (remember you try to focus on one eye with aperture 1.2, 1.4, 1.7, 2..) ? : 5mm !!!
    Ok.. to lets say Your friendly model stays still within a 10cm zone within that distance-range.. you get it ? Do You ? lol :
    It’s than down to not even a matter of a 1mm rotation on Your lens and You are already off and supposed to focus back, but not past..
    At that point its not anymore a question of having a good eye and trained reactivity, but luck on top of it. Let’s focus by moving the camera ? lol.
    (So there is still good reasons for an Eye-AF compatible G-Master 40mm f1.2)
    I like this lens a lot though, just like the 65mm that unfortunately (also totally unpardonably to me -especially for filming witch I do not) lacks the excellent stop-less aperture-ring option I permanently leave on “smooth” on the 40mm.

  28. Thank you David for this review. I was thinking of buying a VM 40 1.2. But after reading your review, I have bought myself an EF 40mm STM and I am absolutely pleased with it. 40mm is something that I have missed in 30 Years of photography. I don’t like 35mm much. I think it’s a rather boring wide-angle. 40mm is different, it has no wide-angle characteristics any more, but it’s still a bit wide. It’s the standard lens, that I have missed all those years. The EF 40mm is perfect at 2.8 on my A7r. I like the vignetting very much . It’s very smooth and in the sky it looks a bit like a polarizer.

    1. Glad you like it! If you don’t need or want the fast apertures, and you don’t mind adapter use, it’s an excellent choice! I had it back in Canon days and in early A7r days, and took great images. I almost wish I still had it, but I can’t really justify two 40mm lenses (well, 3, as I have the old 42mm lens from the Oly 35SP rangefinder refitted to E mount too!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *