Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Voigtländer Nokton 25mm F0.95

Not too long ago, during a "teh tarik" session with the fellow PEN Lovers, I have had a chance to have a very quick try on the much sought after Voigtländer Nokton 25mm f0.95 lens. Koon Yik, the founder of the PEN Lovers group (click to find out more about the group), have the 25mm F0.95 lens, hence I grabbed it from him and mounted the beautiful lens on my Olympus PEN E-PL1. My goodness..... the bokeh... at F0.95 wide open, was unspeakably wicked.

All images were taken with Nokton 25mm F0.95 on Olympus PEN E-PL1 (except for first and last image)

The lens actually looks very small in hand, the size and weight was just right for a PEN sized camera.



First and foremost, allow me to make myself clear that I do not exactly support manual lenses. I know I know, the mirrorless system, particularly Olympus Micro 4/3 and the Sony NEX line have opened up the unique abilities to use the older legacy and manual lenses. I admit there are some really impressive manual lenses out there, with even newer options from SLR Magic and Samyang, but hey, I am an engineer, thus I am a very practical person. I prioritize functionability and usability, hence the autofocusing is a must have for all the lenses I intend to use on my photography system. However, do not get me wrong, though I do not support manual focusing, it does not mean I cannot, and do not use manual focus. There are specific situations that autofocusing may fail you, and at those times, the proficiency of using manual focusing override will save your life. I have been using manual focus for most of my macro insect photography, and have no issue executing it for my shooting needs. Lets not go too far into the autofocus vs manual focus debate, it has been lasting for decades and I don't think anyone will be able to find a full stop for it.

Now, onto the Voigtländer Nokton 25mm f0.95 lens, which I have used on my E-PL1. Focusing ring was smooth, but a little tight, due to the lens being rather new and rarely used. I had no problem finding focus at all, under the mixed dim fluorescent lighting of a local mamak shop. I only used the live view on the LCD display, and i do not have an Electronic viewfinder (I do not intend to get one). I used the 7x magnification preview to assist my manual focusing, which worked like a charm. Do take note that my subjects were not exactly staying very still, but at the same time, they were not moving too fast either. Yes, the lousy screen on the E-PL1 was good enough for me to have high enough success hit rates for my manual focusing, so there was no issue of using the lens to begin with.

The BOKEH...... look at how Koon Yik's hair blurred away behind the camera, simply irresistable !! He was holding a Panasonic G3 with the famous 20mm F1.7.

Another good demonstration of the creamy bokeh. The dude at the back was less than a meter away from the glass, yet he was blurred into oblivion.

On the whole the image still appears reasonably sharp, not tack sharp like the 45mm F1.8 or the 50mm f2 macro, but to me it is good enough for general use.

I do like the overall look and feel of the image output. It looks less digital in some sense, but maybe it was just me imagining things.

The bokeh, oh heaven !!! I have never laid my eyes on such beautiful bokeh in my life before, using Olympus 4/3 or micro 4/3 system all this time. The depth of field was so thin, the zone of focus was very narrow, extra care needs to be taken when the lens was used wide open. I acknowledge the fact that it was not exactly necessary to shoot at fully open F0.95 all the time, but seriously admit it, you buy the F0.95 lens because you want to use it at F0.95 !! I have also read about complains of the image output being rather soft with lots of chromatic aberration, especially at the corners of the lens. The reports were true, and I can evidently see the softness all across the frame at F0.95, but hey, the delicious bokeh trumps everything else. If you want tack sharp images, get the Olympus 45mm F1.8. You can’t expect one lens to do everything for you. I am not so concerned about the softness, and I find no reason why others should be. The details captured were reasonable, and still looked very presentable.

This image was taken with the kit lens 14-42mm, not the Nokton. I was being cheeky, focusing the lens through the electronic viewfinder of the Panasonic G3. Fun thing to do !!

I shall not comment further because I only used the lens for no more than 15 minutes. I apologize for the lack of beautiful images (which I would usually do my best to capture and present here), but it was just a dinner and drinks with friends, not a shooting session. I will only give elaborate user experience review if I have the lens for at least a half day full out walkabout session. Do I like the lens? I love the bokeh, non-arguable. Will I buy it? No, I don’t think so, and my answer is simple, “no autofocus”. If autofocus was included, I think this lens would definitely sit very high on my “to-buy” list of photography equipments.

So, do you crave the wonderful F0.95 super wide aperture opening?

9 comments:

  1. Dear Robin,
    I agree with you concerning regarding the lack of autofocus as an essential option especialy in doing street or documentary photography. For myself I consider the focal lenght of 25mm is less useful than we think mainly because it is to narrow angle of view for an ambiant or contextual photography or too wide for a telephoto view of the subject.
    But the large opening of the lens let us thinking about the possibilities of making others focal lenses in the wide angle zone with the same type of opening.
    Lastly, you should give a try to an electronic viewfinder with your camera (I use myself the VF-2 over an E-P3) it help greatly the handling of the camera at slower shutter speed and when using a long telephoto. I have found that combination to be comparable with the one I have experimented with my antique Leica If camera combined with the 5cm optical viewfinder. In fact the electronic viewfinder give you a real "photoreporter" advantage in my very humble opinion.
    Thank you again for your nice and informative review and for your illustrative pictures.
    Daniel M from Montreal, CDN

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  2. Hello Daniel M,
    Thanks so much for the kind words. but.. oh dear, that was not a review, and the photos were so casual and there was nothing special in it !!
    I agree with you the 25mm is not providing the "sweetspot" of usefulness when it comes to street/documentary type of photography. Its neither here nor there, not wide enough and not long enough.
    I agree with you wholeheartedly the usefulness of the VF3/2. In fact, I recommended my friends to buy it. However, I do not shoot with my PEN very often, my main camera is still the Olympus E-5 and E-520. You have to admit the price of the EVF is NOT cheap !!!
    When I do have some spare cash stashed somewhere, I might consider getting the VF3. Or, when the PEN becomes my primary camera, then priorities would have been different.

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  3. Hi Robin,
    Yes I have understand that you just have time to do a short try on the lens. But as usual your comment were very interesting.
    And yes I can fully understand that you prefer to work with your nice E-5 and E-520. The optical reflex option are still the best camera system available for almost every types of photography such as macro and animal photography which areas you do a beautiful job.
    And lastly I also understand the high cost of the Olympus viewfinder models (Eh Olympus, you should do something here..) can differ a decision buying.
    But I have fallen in love with the M4/3 format and the Olympus Pen system. So it is my biggest bias!
    Thank you again for sharing your passion.
    Daniel M from Montreal, CDN

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  4. Hello again Daniel,
    I think everyone has been screaming on how expensive the VF is, even the new VF-3 is not exactly budget friendly.
    I too, have fallen deeply in love with the PEN. In time, as the micro 4/3 system grow, I shall convert to it fully. It is growing very fast already, and in fact, I am quite happy with the E-P3 which I have reviewed.
    Nonetheless, for my paid assignment shoots, I need the stamina (longer battery life), the better handling, and the ruggedness of the overall camera + lens setup.
    For now, DSLR it is, but hey, lets leave the door open for tomorrow. Things will get more and more interesting.

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  5. A long time ago I once borrowed a Canon EOS 50/1.0 lens, and I loved the photos that thing took. Some people said this lens was not very good. Whatever, the photos seemed to have a dream like glow about them. Never did buy the lens. It cost a mint, and weighed a ton. I've ordered one of these Voigtlanders though in the hope I can recapture that look. From what I'm seeing, I think it may.

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  6. Of course! My spouse and i ultimately identified this kind of website! I've been surfing for this purpose write-up pertaining to way too long!!

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  7. Hello Robin,

    Just a quick comment. I own a Nokton and I don't just use it wide open. Sure, I do it a lot and enjoy it, but I've come to realise that the lens actually has more than just that F0.95.

    And Yes, I live in Stockholm, Sweden, we have 3-4 hours of daylight at this time of the year so low light performance matters to me, that's why I bought the Nokton.

    But apart from that:
    It's a very sharp lens. Stop it down to F2.8 (even F2,0 will do) and it's actually sharper than the Olympus 45mm/1.8.
    The shortest focusing distance is 17 cm. Combined with the sharpness of the lens it means light macro photography is possible. I tried the MCON-P01 macro converter on my kit zoom and it could not do anything the Nokton couldn't.

    In fact the Nokton is probably the lens I use most, partly because shooting at 25 mm fels so natural, but also because it's such a great low light lens and it's so versatile.

    Feel free to check the photos I took at the new year fireworks (I have never photographed fireworks before so I had to try). I took the first three with the 40-150 kit zoom (the third is a 100 % crop of the second) and the rest with the Nokton, at F8 to F16.
    Rasmus from Stockholm

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  8. Oops, I forgot the link to the pictures
    Rasmus

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  9. Hey Robin I would really appreciate your advice on whether I should get this lens or the PL 25mm 1.4. I currently have the Oly 45mm 1.7 and Panny 1.7. I think the PL 1.4 would not be different enough from the two lenses I already have...whereas the Nokton, while softer can produce some really creative pictures.

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