Voigtländer 50mm f/1.1
Voigtländer 50mm f/1.1 (58mm filters, 15.3 oz./434g, about $1,000). enlarge. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially these directly to it at Adorama, or at Amazon, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep reviewing these specialized lenses when you get yours through these links, thanks! Ken.
The Voigtländer 50mm f/1.1 lens for LEICA is poor. It's very soft and has poor bokeh at the larger apertures — as judged by LEICA standards. Many of Voigtländer's lenses for LEICA are excellent, but not this one. You'd be better off saving your money for a used LEICA SUMMILUX 50mm f/1.4, or buying the far superior and less expensive Zeiss 50mm f/2 ZM.
This f/1.1 len is a gimmick. Sure, it goes to f/1.1 if you really need it, but you're losing a lot on every other performance front. Its optics are hellaciously soft and blurry at f/1.1 — gauged by LEICA standards, and stopped down, it's softer than other lenses at the same apertures. I wouldn't buy one of these; this lens is a buy-once toy for the idle.
Don't shoot this on a LEICA. If you're merely shooting it on micro 4/3, a Voigtländer camera, or if you are not expecting genuine LEICA image quality, you'll be much more pleased with it than I am, since I'm holding it to SUMMICRON standards, which it clearly does not meet.
It's a swell lens for idle shooting, but although it looks like a NOCTILUX on the outside, unlike other Voigtlander lenses, this NOKTON's optics just don't compare to a real NOCTILUX.
The Voigtländer 50mm f/1.1 is very well made. It feels great in-hand.
Voigtländer 50/1.1. enlarge.
7 conventional spherical elements in 6 groups.
Single-coated in blue and amber.
Front, Voigtländer 50mm f/1.1 at f/5.6. enlarge.
10 straight blades.
Stops down to f/16.
Close Focus top
1 meter (3.3 feet).
Voigtländer specifies 57.2mm long by 69.6mm diameter.
15.325 oz. (434.5g), measured.
A screw-in metal hood is included.
It weighs 0.523 oz. (14.8g).
Scope of Delivery top
You get the lens, caps, hood and a folded sheet of instructions.
Made in top
The Voigtländer 50mm f/1.1 is much softer than other 50mm lenses at the larger apertures.
This lens might be useful if the bokeh was beautiful wide-open, but it's ugly. Oh well.
Bokeh, the character of out of focus backgrounds, not simply how far out of focus they are, is poor at larger apertures, and becomes neutral at moderate apertures. This is the last thing we want in a lens like this; oh well!
Here are crops from the center of 100% LEICA M9 images, focused on a reference phase lattice at 3 meters (10 feet) with synthetic reference vegetation at 15 meters (50 feet). Printed full-image at this size, these would be about 52 x 35 " (130 x 90cm) prints, at least as seen on most 100 DPI computer monitors:
The Voigtländer 50mm f/1.1 is loaded with coma at the largest apertures.
If you want to see coma, just shoot at the larger apertures, and look in the corners of the images made by this lens. Coma is what makes everything so blurry, and what adds weird tails onto bright points of light.
The calibration is right-on: the meter in my M9 tracks each full-stop perfectly throughout the entire range, except of course for the largest aperture.
The Voigtländer 50mm f/1.1 has only slight barrel distortion.
Use these coefficients to correct it in Photoshop's lens distortion filter for critical use — but if you were critical, you wouldn't be using this Voigtländer lens.
© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.
Voigtländer 50mm f/1.1. enlarge.
Ergonomics are wonderful, if you don't mind half your viewfinder blocked.
Focus is silky-smooth, has no play, and slides with a firm fingertip.
The aperture ring flicks with a fingertip. It has a detents at third stops, and the full stops aren't more deeply detented, so if you count clicks as I do, it can become confusing if you shoot LEICA lenses at the same time.
Falloff is minor on a LEICA M9, except of course wide-open.
I've made this more obvious by shooting a gray field and presenting these against a gray background:
Any standard or thick rotating 58mm filter works great, with no vignetting. 58mm is generous.
Finder blockage is severe. You lose most of the bottom right of your finder image. Here's the view through a LEICA M9:
As seen through a LEICA M9 finder, hood attached.
Focus is smooth and silky. It's easy to move with a firm fingertip, and geared just right.
Focus, at least on the M9 with which I tried this lens, is good enough. It's not always dead-on, but so what: this lens is never sharp enough at f/1.1 to show the focus error anyway.
There no color fringes anywhere, laterally.
There is probably some spherochromatism, but that's different.
Rear, Voigtländer 50mm f/1.1. enlarge.
This Voigtländer is very well made. It's a pity the optics aren't good.
Filter threads and hood mount: Black anodized aluminum.
Barrels, aperture and focus rings: Black anodized aluminum.
Focus helicoids: Seem like brass.
Mount: Chromed brass.
Markings: Engraved and filled with paint.
Red index dot: Plastic.
The more you know about photography, the more you know that lens sharpness doesn't matter.
That's good, because this Voigtländer lens is soft and blurry at the large apertures for which you'd buy it in the first place.
As tested on a LEICA M9 at infinity
f/1.1: Everything is soft and dreamy from ample spherical aberration. The corners are blurry from coma.
f/1.4: About as bad as at f/1.1.
f/2: Much better than at f/1.4, but that's not saying much. The corners are still loaded with coma (blur). The LEICA SUMMICRON-M 50mm f/2 is a lot sharper at f/2 than is this Voigtländer at f/2.
f/2.8: Corners much improved, but the farthest corners are still blurry.
f/4: Corners improved, but still far from perfect. Geeze, other 50mm lenses are already operating at optimum sharpness by f/4.
With its straight 10-bladed diaphragm, the Voigtlander 50/1.1 ought to make 10-pointed sunstars on brilliant points of light.
* Actual measured.
See my even more detailed comparison chart in my LEICA SUMMILUX-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH review.
This Voigtländer 50mm f/1.1 is a bad time. Optically, it is inferior to every other 50mm lens for LEICA, and it's so big that you can't see through much of your viewfinder.
If you must have an f/1.1 lens, go ahead and get one, but the LEICA NOCTILUX-M 50mm f/1 is far superior optically. In this case, Voigtländer merely is showing us that maybe LEICA isn't ripping us off with what they charge for LEICA lenses.
If you find the time I take to research all this helpful, my biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially these directly to it at Adorama, or at Amazon, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep reviewing these specialized lenses when you get yours through these links, thanks! Ken.
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