This review is only possible with the kind loan of the Voigtlander 35mm ƒ1.5 Aspherical VM from Riceball Photography, the local Voigtlander authorised dealer.
35mm lenses for Leica M-mount have always been dime a dozen across Leica and third-party manufacturers, with some exemplary, some decent and some a dud however I have mentioned before there are a few brands that I look forward to and Voigtlander is one of them since my review of the Voigtlander 35mm ƒ2 Ultron .
Today we take a deeper look at the highly anticipated Voigtlander Nokton Vintage Line 35mm ƒ1.5 Aspherical Type I/II VM Lens, which I will refer to as the Voigtlander 35mm ƒ1.5 Aspherical for short.
The Voigtlander 35mm ƒ1.5 Aspherical VM at USD899 is an excellent proposition for M-mount users when comparing the cost and performance ratios for a Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH (USD5995 for 2022’s version) or the 35mm Summicron-M ASPH (USD3895).
It’s build is excellent and in line with Voigtlander’s high standards in recent years, with extremely smooth focusing & aperture rings that are well tensioned with a very useful focusing tab.
Optically I was very pleasantly surprised the lens is sharp wide open with very little distortion. In short, this compact lens is sharp wide open at F1.5 with a vintage drawing.
Vignetting is slight wide open and easily managed. Bokeh and color wise, the lens renders true to its vintage line and different from the Ultron series in that the Ultron series presented a cooler and more modern render. Voigtlander has a very attractive hit with this release and the Voigtlander 35mm ƒ1.5 Aspherical VM is a real competitor to Leica’s offerings.
The full name of the lens is the Voigtlander Nokton Vintage Line 35mm ƒ1.5 Aspherical Type I/II VM Lens.
One will see Type I and Type II in its designation and the difference is that Type I comes in an aluminium body in only matt black (188 grams) while Type II comes in a brass body with black paint and chrome options (284 grams). Optically both versions are the same though I assume there will be some differences in their handling.
- M mount
- Aperture: F2 to F16
- 9 elements in 6 groups, with two double sided Aspherical elements.
- 12-Bladed Aperture Diaphragm design
- Focus Distance: 0.5 meters to Infinity (below 0.7m one should be using the Visoflex or Live View)
- Ø53.0 X 36.0mm (Diameter X total length) at 39mm filter size. It is really compact.
- Available as Type I (Aluminium at 188 grams) or Type II (Brass at 284 grams) Black paint and Chrome.
- Works with Lens Hood LN-4N and LH-12 (both sold separately)
Handling, performance and samples
First off, the Voigtlander 35mm ƒ1.5 Aspherical is extremely well built with a brass body and the Type II I reviewed comes with a very assuring heft to it. Handle it and you know this is a lens that will last for a good amount of time measured in double digit years.
Markings are very legible, with red letterings for distance measurements in feet while white goes with meters.
The lens handles extremely well with a close to perfect amount of tension and smoothness in it’s focusing ring while the aperture ring ‘clicks’ assuringly, allowing one to literally make changes without having to look at the lens.
Build quality and design wise, there is hardly anything to fault unless one really works hard to nitpick.well, one gentleman did ask why is the front silver rimmed and not black throughout.
I am going to be direct and say that there is little point in building a fast lens which doesn’t perform well wide open and in this sense, the Voigtlander 35mm ƒ1.5 Aspherical exceeds my expectations, outputting images that are sharp with a good amount of contrast and pop even at ƒ1.5.
Handling the Voigtlander 35mm ƒ1.5 Aspherical was straightforward, with my fingers working the aperture tab naturally with a good amount of working distance between 0.5m and infinity. If I am going to be extremely fussy and intent on being picky, I do feel that Voigtlander could have added a hard stop at the end of the 0.7m mark so one knows to switch to live-view to make the shot.
Image output is excellent, sharp wide open with a vintage drawing and a warmer rendering comparing to the Ultron which was cooler and more modern.
F1.5 makes this a very interesting and versatile lens, providing much more creative room versus say, a F2 lens.
Not forgetting that the Voigtlander 35mm ƒ1.5 Aspherical has a maximum aperture of ƒ1.5, enabling photography with shallower depth of field, making this a versatile lens for portraits.
With the release of the Leica 35mm APO Summicron which close-focuses to 0.3m and the Leica 35mm Summilux ASPH (2022) going to 0.4m, it seems that the trend is set to continue.
And in this sense, the Voigtlander 35mm ƒ1.5 Aspherical goes to 0.5m, which in my opinion while not something one might use often, is definitely convenient to have.
One important point to note is the M rangefinder only focuses to 0.7m, anything closer requires live-view or the Visoflex.
For this, I am going to share two sets of samples, both shot at 0.7m and 0.5m respectively to provide an idea ‘how much closer’ this brings us to our subjects.
Top at 0.7m, bottom at 0.5m. Both wide open at ƒ1.5. The Voigtlander 35mm ƒ1.5 Aspherical passed the test of close focusing at wide open easily, giving a sharp result.
Top at 0.7m, bottom at 0.5m again. To say this is not useful is silly as even though not often, having the capability to go closer is definitely useful when needed. I can’t even count the number of times I had to stand up to grab a shot instead of doing it seated at the table due to long minimum focusing distances of M lenses in general.
The Voigtlander 35mm ƒ1.5 Aspherical VM was actually a lens that was delayed by Voigtlander themselves to present it in more cosmetic finishes and even so, I am very glad they did so as the black paint finishing is indeed beautiful.
M mount lenses achieving a good balance between performance and cost do exist.
I personally own the Leica 35 Summicron ASPH and had a FLE back then (which was stolen) and it is my most used lens, if not I would surely be purchasing the Voigtlander 35mm ƒ1.5 Aspherical VM. In my world-view, obviously there is no piece of optics that is perfect and and all rounded but in this case, the Voigtlander 35mm ƒ1.5 Aspherical VM comes very close and Voigtlander has indeed released a lens that I am sure many M users will be keen to add to their repertoire of lenses.
*not to even mention that the black paint version is beautiful and will go perfect with say, the M10-R Black paint or the MP Black Paint.
*For Singapore, Riceball Photography is the authorised dealer for Voigtlander. A reason I wasn’t able to test the chrome version of this lens is that all copies were already spoken for and I hope to be able to appreciate the chrome Type II version one day.
Thank you for reading.
- All product photos and samples here were photographed by me. I believe any reviewer with pride should produce their own product photos.
2. All images were shot with the Leica M10-P and the raw files edited in LR CC Classic to my preferences. Anyone using the M system should invest in working with the raw files.
3. This review is not sponsored, and I only had access to the lens for 1 day before returning it to Riceball Photography.
4. I do not do affiliate purchase links to keep myself neutral. I write as a passion and a hobby, and I appreciate that photography brands are kind enough to respect and work with me.
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