My Expression | Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95

How fast can you go?

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/2.0 | ISO 800 | 1/400s

The essential question that is most likely to be asked among prime lens enthusiasts, including me. As for myself, I have experienced using optics ranging from the ‘common’ fast of f/1.4 and to an extent of f/1.2 which quite recently I acquired from the OM lenses catalogue which I managed to collect them myself and attached to my digital cameras via an adapter. At first, f/1.2 seems fast enough for some, but believe me, there is a faster lens out there :grin:.

Awkwardly, only from a compact system camera or better known as the ‘mirrorless’ system, I managed to find a lens that is ultra fast. Only two of the lineup with an impressive speed of f/0.95, in their glorious native mount of Micro Four Thirds are available to date. The older brother in this family tree which bears the same brand and maker, but with a focal length of 25mm – not quite my favorite focal length per se. And so, now, I gladly introduce to you my preferable choice of the two and; please welcome the Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95 for Micro Four Thirds (which is equivalent with 35mm in standard format).

This Voigt is a fully manual lens, no electronic attachment is connected from the lens to the body. Meaning that, no autofocus, no information of what aperture and such is being stored into your camera and many other less attractive features which can be found in this lens (in fact I have to prepare a log just to record the aperture used for this whole entry). Yes, many less attractive features in a fast lens and thus, this is simply NOT a lens for everyone. Not a lens for the faint-hearted. Not a lens for patience-less person. But definitely a treasure among manual focus lenses enthusiasts and collectors.

When I first got a hold of this lens, my impression was “Wow, this is a heavy lens..!” Having that thought, I still continue to attach the 500g plus optics to my OM-D E-M5 body, and believe me, the setup looked awkward. Only when the battery grip was attached, the overall appearance looked better and more well balanced. Somehow, the essence of Micro Four Thirds’ philosophy of being a small, compact and lightweight camera system seems null and void with this lens attached onto any MFT body. Period.

Image credit to SuzailanJai

OM-D E-M5 + M.ZD 45mm f/1.8
f/1.8 | ISO 3200 | 1/60s | SuzailanJai

Nevertheless, the overall built is robust. A top-notch. The focusing ring is smooth, the aperture ring clicks well, the sensation one gets from holding the lens is arousal. This lens is definitely a no slouch at all. It also has a control mechanism at the aperture ring that allows seamless transition of aperture control which is meant for movie recording purpose (I personally do not awe at this feature as I am not a movie-type person). A brilliant idea but unfortunately not a loveable feature for me.

For some, manual focusing is an out-of-this-world experience in today’s era of splendid autofocus. But trust me, once you get used with it, you’ll ditch autofocus totally when shooting in the dark. As for me, I have no trouble focusing manually even by using the EVF. The intensity of the light and the overall brightness of the image which is going to be taken seen via the lens accordingly to the selected aperture opening will be reflected clearly through the viewfinder. Some tweaking can be done onto the programmable buttons on my camera so that I can zoom in for a so-called ‘focus peaking’ (how I wish that the next Olympus camera will have this feature) to ensure exact focus is in control.

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/2.0 | ISO 800 | 1/2000s

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/2.0 | ISO 800 | 1/200s

As I mentioned before, this lens is not for everybody. The image produced appears rather odd to me – initially… Even until today. At the largest aperture, vignetting is inevitable. All four corners showed significant darker hue. And in fact, sometimes, the color produced is not consistent, especially under artificial lights. I got some greenish-bluish hue under the fluorescent light at the largest aperture, even when the white balance is set manually. Strangely, under the same setting and light conditions, the color changes completely into something unexplainable just by stopping down the aperture a bit. Deep inside, I did think of having a flaw unit in my hand but perhaps this is the character of this lens itself. But in a natural light setting, the colors are vibrant, first class. I just love the skin tone. It looks so natural. It is fantastic. And it is worth to mention that this lens is actually a beast in the dark. One of the best lens that I have ever used while shooting in a dim light condition (and thus, this explains why most of the sample images in this post were taken during the night time).

Marked corners vignetting at widest aperture

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/0.95 | ISO 200 | 1/4000s

Another example of vignetting at widest aperture

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/0.95 | ISO 200 | 1/1600s

The funny color cast visible sometimes (I have no explanation on this)

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/0.95 | ISO 800 | 1/800s

And sometimes it is gone

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/2.0 | ISO 800 | 1/1000s

Impressive light flare at the widest opening

OMD E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/0.95 | ISO 800 | 1/20s

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/0.95 | ISO 800 | 1/30s

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/0.95 | ISO 800 | 1/100s

At the largest aperture, we can see clearly that corner sharpness is severely compromised. Stopping down a little bit will yield a much more pleasant result. And in fact, at f/4.0, I managed to get a decent overall sharpness. But I never try anything beyond f/5.6 though so I can’t comment on the image quality from my personal view. This set of ‘Law Books’ image samples below showed what I meant, with the first image was taken at f/0.95 followed with an image taken at aperture f/2.0 and finally at aperture f/4.0. The differences are evident.

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/0.95 | ISO 800 | 1/800s

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/2.0 | ISO 800 | 1/250s

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/4.0 | ISO 800 | 1/80s

Another example of the lens sharpness at a wider aperture

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/2.8 | ISO 800 | 1/25s

The defocused area or ‘Bokeh’ depends on ones’ preferences. I found it is okay (I’m not an avid fan of ‘Bokehlicious’ thingy to begin with). Not so beautiful, but not a despicable one either. But if one is shooting with the multiple lights source as a background, it will give the pleasing rounded bokeh produced from its largest aperture at f/0.95 although eliptical shapes do appear at certain angle. But for me personally, the bokeh is much more pleasing if one uses a smaller aperture – f/2.0 and onwards.

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/0.95 | ISO 800 | 1/500s

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/2.0 | ISO 800 | 1/500s

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/2.8 | ISO 800 | 1/500s

Another peculiar and interesting feature of this rare gem is the ability to focus at a very decent close distance for a non macro lens. To be able to focus as close as about 15cm, it can actually reproduce a magnification image of about 1:4 ratio. For me, this is another plausible chances and new perspective to be explored and thus creating (not merely taking) a splendid image. By using this lens, one has the means of creativity and he only need an unlimited imaginations to actually manipulate the Voigt. And honestly, I love this lens for its capability of close focusing.

Pseudo-macro

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/0.95 | ISO 200 | 1/640s

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/0.95 | ISO 200 | 1/800s

So, to put it in a simpler way, I love this lens. The focal length of 35mm equivalent is my favorite. It is a versatile lens, a day-to-day lens for various of purposes and styles of shooting. To add, I love manual lenses and thus I have to love this lens (hahaha). I love it to an extent where I purposely bought an ND8 filter to be attached to it just to use it wide open in a bright sunny day. I love it to an extent where I purposely left it mounted on my OM-D E-M5 for about 2 weeks direct – without changing to any other lenses I have. But this lens is not without any flaws. There are several things that make me may get upset with it, which includes the ridiculous weight for an MFT lens and the issue of color reproduction consistency which I found sometimes a bit too awkward. The sharpness is still below par with most of my OM lenses but it is still acceptable – at least to my preferences. The price tag also denotes that this lens is really not for everyone. Quite costly but worth every penny you pay for it.

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/2.0 | ISO 200 | 1/640s

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/0.95 | ISO 800 | 1/40s

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/0.95 | ISO 800 | 1/125s

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/2.0 | ISO 200 | 1/400s

Otherwise if you have some extra cash and a love for manual focusing, give this baby a try. You won’t regret a bit. To conclude, as to my own scale, I give the Voigt an overall of 4/5 rating. I really appreciate feedbacks from all readers.

OM-D E-M5 + Voigtländer Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95
f/2.0 | ISO 800 | 1/100s

Until then, happy shooting..!!

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About Capin

A medical doctor by profession A photographer by passion A writer when succumb to depression A manga & anime freak in most ocassion A weirdo by definition

11 comments

  1. Pingback: Zuikoholics - Page 4 - Micro Four Thirds User Forum

  2. Giles Hugo

    Hi, very interesting. I was considering the Vg Nokton 17.5 f0.95 for my OM-D, EP-2, GH2 set-up. However, I spotted a mint 2nd-hand Nokton 25mm 0.95, for just over half list price. Bought it immediately and am delighted. Close focus is amazing, as you say. Manual everything takes me back to my Leica days. Love these lenses — speed!

    • Thanks Giles for the feedback. I haven’t had the chance to test the 25mm Nokton as for now, but I’m sure you are enjoying it as much as I enjoy using this 17.5mm Nokton. Yep, have to agree with you, this is a speedy beast 🙂

  3. Pingback: A new review on Voigtlander Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95 - Micro Four Thirds Camera Blog

  4. Thanks for an interesting review. I’ve both 17.5 mm & 25 mm Norton. Love it so much…I’ve stopped using other lenses. However I do agree with you about the strange colour cast…very strange, sometimes its there, sometimes its not. Still searching for real reasons and solutions to the colour cast.

    • Thanks for dropping by. Lucky you to have both lenses. Reading your comment somehow made me feel a bit relieved regarding the color cast. Really I don’t know how to explain that. But nevertheless, this lens is majestic. Thanks again for the feedback.

  5. Hi, thanks for the review. I´m an electrical engineer by profession and a photographer by passion. I also write an pencil draw a little bit, yes you are right, when I´m a tad depressed. Yesterday I got this lens. I ordered it from USA two month ago and a friend that came for a visit brought it to me yesterday. From my one day experience, I just love the lens so much. It has so many possibilities of experimenting with it. As you, I’m very happy with the close range focus. I also have the Oly 12mm f2.0, the 45mm f1.8 and the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f1.4. The 45 and the 25 look sharper, but you know, not always sharper is better, in fact, there are so many boring sharp shots around. With the OMD I can do sharper large prints than those I do from B&W negatives taken with my Hasselblad, but very few look better.

    Thanks again and best regards.

    • Thanks Marcelo. Great to hear another ‘love story’ for this lens. No doubt the Zuikos are sharper but there is something electric that makes me keep using this lens again and again. Do enjoy yours as I enjoy mine.

  6. Nice review Capin, I have the 17.5 on my OMD, it has been permanently attached for months now, my other M43 lenses are gathering dust, it’s that good. I use the new focus peaking workaround, and it’s great with this lens. I don’t really notice strange colour casts, perhaps it is the white balance changing on you? I wonder if chose a non auto white balance would help? I like to use VIVID colour setting with this lens, I think it’s suited and doesn’t overly saturate the image. I have a variable ND which is great for wide open day time shots, it’s also not a bad lens with a 720nm IR filter. OK cheers.

  7. Anthony

    The color cast under the condition of the photos above may actually be due to the fluorescent lighting. Fluorescent lights do not emit constant color temperature but actually cycle over a range of frequencies. Since the lens used is a fast one, the color temperature may actually vary from shot to shot. If the exposure time is long enough, the color will average out to about the same color frequency.

  8. Hi, I’m not a Photographer but I use the 25mm Voigtländer for video. I really want to buy this 17.5mm because I also like the 25mm a lot! Here’s a videoclip I shot with the Panasonic AG-AF101 with the Voigtländer 25mm, almost everything at f/0.95: https://vimeo.com/63384471

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