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Voigtlander Nokton 58/1.4 SL II

I’ve been shooting the Cosina Voigtlander Nokton 58/1.4, and recently made some careful A/B comparisons with the NOCT-Nikkor 58/1.2 for overall image quality. Let’s ignore the enormous price difference of $379 for a brand-new Voigtlander 58/1.4 versus the $2000 or so for a used NOCT-Nikkor. And the fact that the Voigtlander offering is also a modern “chipped” lens with 1/3 stop electronically-controlled aperture. Get Voigtlander Nokton 58/1.4 at B&H Photo.

The 58/1.4 offers vastly superior sharpness at wider apertures for conventional usage, trouncing the NOCT-Nikkor across the frame at wider apertures, though peak sharpness might be a bit lower exactly at the area of focus (not the plane of focus). Of course, the NOCT-Nikkor offers imaging characteristics that can only be described as bizarre by modern standards, and this is the reason it is often sought after, so in some ways this is an apples-to-oranges comparison; choose your “brush” for drawing the image. Still, they are both 58mm lenses and I suspect that most users will prefer the Voigtlander rendition over that of the NOCT-Nikkor unless their tastes in image rendition are quite odd (as mine often are). My choice (ignoring price) would be the Voigtlander offering for any “normal” photography, though I have yet to explore the bokeh characteristics of both lenses in a controlled way, which might alter that conclusion somewhat.

Nikon D3 + Voigtlander 58/1.4 Nokton @ f/1.4
(Capture NX2 used with vignetting and Shadow Adjustment)

As an aside, the Nikon D3’s ability to pull detail out of near-black shadow areas with minimal noise is extremely impressive; those shadow areas show R/G/B values in the 1-5 range before applying Vignetting adjustment and Shadow Adjustment in Capture NX 2. Get Capture NX2 at B&H Photo.

Actual pixels from above @ f/1.4

The Voigtlander 58/1.4 does have some peculiarities though, including strong field curvature, which makes it a very bad match for some subjects (or very good for others). The NOCT-Nikkor is even more peculiar in its image rendition, restricting sharpness to a small zone around the focus point, which no doubt contributes to the perceived bokeh that many seem to like.

I’d say the Voigtlander 58/1.4 is one of the best bargains available today in the manual focus lens category in that focal length range. More in the future on how it compares to the Zeiss ZF 50/1.4. See also my comments on the Voigtlander 40/2.

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