A little gem of a lens

I’ll admit… this was an impulse purchase.

In recent years I have pared down my collection of 50mm M-mount lenses to the bare essentials: the outstanding Summilux-M 50mm ASPH and the MS Optical Sonnetar 50mm. Both are superlative lenses. The Summilux being the best all rounder with a modern look and the Sonnetar producing a smooth classical rendering in a tiny package.

However, I had a hankering for something different; something like my long gone Zeiss C Sonnar 50mm f/1.5 lens. The C Sonnar was my first M-mount lens ever and was heavily used. I loved the ergonomics on the lens, but I eventually parted ways with it in favor of the Summilux. Coming back full circle, I again had the urge to repurchase the C Sonnar. Call it seller’s remorse.

My search for a clean used C Sonnar came up empty. None to be found. It was during this that I stumbled across the LTM version Nokton 50mm lens. This lens has been generally well regarded and it was about a third of the price of a new C Sonnar. Plus it was black paint! So I took the plunge and bought it (though I’m fairly certain I did so just because it was black paint).

Leica M6 TTL Millennium with Nokton 50mm f/1.5 LTM lens

Leica M6 TTL Millennium with Nokton 50mm f/1.5 LTM lens

Ergonomics

While there are many factors that go into purchasing a lens, one of the larger ones for me is the ergonomics of the lens. Since I don’t plan for my lenses to be shelf queens, how it handles during use is important to me. At one point I did own the newer M-mount version of the Nokton 50mm, but promptly returned it since that strangely recessed focus ring was so hard to use!

Thankfully, the LTM version of the Nokton has much better handling. On the size front, the Nokton is definitely larger than the other 50mm lenses I own or have owned, but it’s surprisingly light; the Summilux in comparison is quite heavy. The focus ring has a longer throw for accurate focusing and is knurled which I prefer since it is easy for me to find and grip.

Left: Summilux-M 50mm ASPH with hood extended Middle: Nokton 50mm f/1.5 LTM with filter and hood attached Right: Sonnetar 50mm f/1.1 with hood attached

Left: Summilux-M 50mm ASPH with hood extended
Middle: Nokton 50mm f/1.5 LTM with filter and hood attached
Right: Sonnetar 50mm f/1.1 with hood attached

The lens has a minimum focus distance of 0.9m, which I haven’t found to be too limiting in actual use. Though I really wish it could focus down to 0.7m like the Summilux. Rangefinder blockage with the hood is minimal. It’s never been a hinderance to me in the field. Without the hood there is no blockage at all.

Performance

So how does it perform in the field? Quite nicely honestly!

I was expecting it to be a blurry mess at f/1.5, but it’s pretty solid. At f/2, the lens very solid and the rendering is just right. The majority of the fashion shots I’ve taken were at f/1.5 and f/2. I really wanted to see what the bokeh was like and especially how it handles backlit subjects.

Leica M6 TTL, Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 LTM, Kentmere 100 film, 1+100 Rodinal @ 18 minutes Modeled by Lady Aurora

Leica M6 TTL, Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 LTM, Kentmere 100 film, 1+100 Rodinal @ 18 minutes
Modeled by Lady Aurora

Here’s another shot which illustrates the bokeh without the back lighting. As with a lot of other lenses, the bokeh towards the edges of the frame are no longer circular. It’s not necessarily a bad thing since it’s not very pronounced or attention grabbing. It is simply there.

Leica M6 TTL, Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 LTM, Kentmere 100 film, 1+100 Rodinal @ 18 minutes Modeled by Lady Aurora

Leica M6 TTL, Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 LTM, Kentmere 100 film, 1+100 Rodinal @ 18 minutes
Modeled by Lady Aurora

At smaller apertures such as f/4 and f/8 that the lens would be quite sharp like most other lenses at that range. Hyperfocal focusing works fine for street shooting.

Leica M6 TTL, Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 LTM, Fuji Neopan Acros 100 film, 1+100 Rodinal @ 18 minutes

Leica M6 TTL, Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 LTM, Fuji Neopan Acros 100 film, 1+100 Rodinal @ 18 minutes

On the subject of street shooting, it can be a bit slow with this lens due to the longer focus throw. This could a meaningful impact on the amount of keepers since there isn’t as much depth of field compared to a 35mm lens at similar apertures. But as with anything, patience will be rewarded.

Leica M6 TTL, Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 LTM, Shanghai 100 film, 1+100 Rodinal @ 18 minutes

Leica M6 TTL, Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 LTM, Shanghai 100 film, 1+100 Rodinal @ 18 minutes

Parting Thoughts

The Nokton is quite the performer for the price and it didn’t appear to have any visible idiosyncrasies such as focus shift. However, that should be taken with a grain of salt since I’ve only used this lens on film. While I’m sure the lens will perform just fine on a digital M camera in real world conditions, my ever present fear is focus shift due to the digital sensor being less forgiving.

If I could sum up this lens, I would say that I’m pleasantly surprised. It’s a solid performer at a reasonable price. After using this lens for months, I have no hesitation recommending it!

Thank you for reading!