The Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.1 is a very special lens. It’s f1.1 aperture creates a unique depth of field for a 50mm and at the same time allows for images in low light. I bought it for the Leica M where it has been a good performer. On the Leica M8 the difference between f1.4 and f1.1 can mean shooting with 640 ISO instead of 1250 (a very important advantage given the bad ISO performance of this camera).
Shooting the Nokton wide open will also give you a chance to play with a razor thin depth of field and while at this aperture there is fringe and bokeh is harsh, the fact remains that it’s a great specialty lens. The 50mm Summilux ASPH is the way to go at this focal length but there’s a huge price difference of course.
With the Leica M8 even when using the 1.4x magnifier many of my shots were out of focus. The rangefinder is very difficult to get precise focus at f1.1 and there is also some focus shift which makes it hard to nail focus every time. But with a camera like the Sony NEX 5N with its live view and the wonderful peaking system it’s a whole different situation.
Shooting with the Nokton on the NEX 5N is a breeze. You get to see live the effects of depth of field, and with the peaking system you don’t need to use the manual focus zoom function, so you frame better and quicker. Add to that the fantastic high ISO performance of this camera and you have a superb combo for available light photography. The 75mm focal length (due to the crop factor) also gives you a great portrait lens.
The size of the Nokton is quite big so it looks awkward on the small NEX body but it handles quite well (after all al lenses except pancakes look big on the NEX !!).
In conclusion, the Nokton has become one of my favorite lenses for the NEX, a great performer with a unique f1.1 aperture for available light photography and many opportunities to experiment with depth of field.
All images on this post were shot wide open at f1.1 using the peaking system (the OLED viewfinder was very helpful when focusing, much better of course than the LCD screen).
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