Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 Nokton Classic SC vs Leica 35mm Summicron f2 ASPH vs Voigtlander 35mm f2.5 Color Skopar

 

 

Those of you who have read my previous review on the 35mm Voigtlander f1.4 Nokton Classic SC vs 35mm Zeiss Biogon f2, you will know that the Zeiss was really a great lens. I sold it away due to the size. In fact I sold both the 35mm lenses and bought back the Voigtlander a few days later. I love smaller lenses because I usually put lenses in my pockets when I go out for a shoot. In this test, I have three small 35mm lenses, the 35mm Voigtlander f1.4 Nokton Classic SC, the formidable Leica 35mm Summicron F2 ASPH and the Voigtlander 35mm f2.5 Color Skopar. I wanted to test the Bokeh King but nobody was selling so I bought the latest version 35mm Summicron to this test. The Color Skopar is a very well received lens that gets good review in many forums. This copy of 35mm Voigtlander f1.4 Nokton Classic SC is even more sharper then my previous copy. So lets see how all these lenses perform. As usual, these are the elements that I will be looking into:

  • Distortion
  • Sharpness Center and Off Center
  • Colors Rendition
  • B&W Rendition
  • Out of Focus - Bokeh

I will be using a full frame Leica M9P for the test. Snapshot mode is set for black & white photos. Normal mode is set for color photos. There is no post production so that what you see is what they produced.

 

Distortion

Nokton Classic SC 35mm
Leica 35mm Summicron ASPH
35mm Color Skopar
 
In these images, you can see that the Voigtlander Nokton Classic SC 35mm f1.4 has the most obvious barrel distortion at the top. The Color Skopar 35mm F2.5 has lesser barrel disortion which is more acceptable. The Leica Summicron 35mm ASPH on the other hand, has got slight amount of pin cushion distortion which is also acceptable. Since I have tested the Zeiss ZM 35mm Biogon F2 before, I would say that the Zeiss has no visible distortion at all. Therefore the Zeiss is the lens for Interior and Architecture photography. The three lenses on top may need some photoshop adjustment for critical usage.

 

Sharpness

VC Nokton Classic SC 35mm
Leica 35mm Summicron ASPH
VC 35mm Color Skopar
 
This is the entire picture taken by each lens. You can only see the different from a 100% crop at the center. So lets see below:
 
 
The Leica 35mm Summicron ASPH is very impressive at F2. In fact the sharpness does not improve much as I stop down the aperture of the lens. The 35mm Zeiss Biogon may be as good as the Summicron at F2. Unfortunately I don't have it now to do a side by side test. The Voigtlander 35mm Classic SC F1.4 is not as sharp as the Leica at F2. But already very good. At F2.8 onwards, the differences become minimum. The Voigtlander 35mm Classic SC F1.4 is the least contrasty lens here at f1.4 to F2.8. At F8 they are all quite similar. The 35mm Color Skopar has the best value for money in terms of wide open aperture performances here. Lets see the same picture 100% crop towards the left side.
 

We can really see the differences at Left Off-Center Area. The color skopar performs poorly. It is so poor that I wonder if the lens got problem. One thing for sure is that my new copy of Voigtlander 35mm Classic SC F1.4 is clearly better then the old copy which I brought to Turkey recently. View my streets photography in Turkey here. This shows that the Quality Control may not be good enough in the Cosina factory. I cannot comment on the 35mm Color Skopar unless I get another copy to confirm this. The most impressive lens is still the Leica 35mm Summicron ASPH. However the Voigtlander 35mm Classic SC F1.4 didn't fall back much behind. At F4 and above, the Voigtlander 35mm Classic SC is challenging the leica 35mm Summicron lens.

I do not like to put my subject at the center when I am using a 35mm focal lens. In the next test, you will see I apply the rule of third. The focus point is the flower in pink color below.

 
Leica 35mm Summicron ASPH at F8
 
See the results below.
 
 
The Leica Summicron is still the best lens here with great details. The Voigtlander 35mm Classic SC F1.4 is not bad either. In fact the differences is not huge. The Nokton Classic is trying to challenge the Leica Summicron at all F stops. At f1.4, you can see the glow of the subject but it is a bit soft wide open. The Color Skopar fails to perform here again. It is sharp only at f8 and is horrible wide open. I noticed that the Color Skopar has much better performence Off-Center towards the right side. We cannot do flat copy work with the color skopar lens because of the inconsistency across the frame. Leica has neutral color here. Both Voigtlander lenses have got slight magenta cast. You can easily fix this in Photoshop. Ok we have seen enough of the sharpness on all these lenses. Now let us look at the bokeh.
 

Voigtlander Nokton Classic SC 35mm at F1.4 - Click to see bigger image

 

Voigtlander Nokton Classic SC 35mm at F1.8 - Click to see bigger image

 

 

Voigtlander Nokton Classic SC 35mm at F2 - Click to see bigger image

 

 

Leica 35mm Summicron at F2 - Click to see bigger image

 

 

Voigtlander Nokton Classic SC 35mm at F2.5 - Click to see bigger image

 

 

Leica 35mm Summicron at F2.5 - Click to see bigger image

 

 
Voigtlander 35mm Color Skopar at F2.5 - Click to see bigger image
 
In this bokeh test, the Voigtlander 35mm Nokton Classic SC F1.4 really shines at F2. However at F1.4 to F1.8, I find the bokeh a bit weird. At F1.4 and F1.8, they are supposed to be better then F2 onwards. But this is not the case. The bokeh only becomes very smooth at F2 and F2.5. The sweet spot is at F2. The bokeh is clearly smoother then the Leica 35mm Summicron ASPH at all F stops. The 35mm Color Skopar is the hardest in the bokeh department. This is expected since the 35mm Color skopar is not a fast lens. But this does not mean that the bokeh is not nice. It is just not as soft as the other two lenses.
 
 
Conclusion
 
If you have the intention to shot Architecture and Interior or Landscape, the Voigtlander 35mm Nokton Classic SC F1.4 may not be the ideal lens because of the distortion. Although the size of the lens is good and it feels good as well, at F1.4 to F1.8, it is a bit soft. But it is quite ok indoor or at night and it will glow. See sample below. At F2 onwards, this lens start to perform better. It is a very good streets photography lens. The Leica 35mm Summicron ASPH is a very nice lens to hold in your hand. It is the heaviest of the three lenses. The built quality is unchallenged. Not even the Zeiss 35mm Biogon F2 I used to own. The weight, the size with the lens hood is so perfectly design that it feels great on hand. But the price tag is like a piece of gold bar. If you want the best bokeh from a Leica 35mm lens, consider the 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE. A friend of mine confirmed this as he owns Leica 35mm Summicron ASPH, 35mm Summilux ASPH FLE and the Bokeh King. The Voigtlander 35mm Color Skopar F2.5 is the smallest and lightest lens here. The built quality is ok. Although it is small, it is bigger then the pan cake design. Performance is just average. It is the cheapest lens here to buy but I expect more from it. My biggest concern is that I am not confident to get the lens to be in focus if I apply the rule of third. I may have a faulty 35mm Color Skopar lens on hand. This I would leave it to those who own this little lens to confirm it.
 

Voigtlander Nokton Classic SC 35mm at F1.4
Click image to see bigger size