Is the premium you pay for Leica gear really worth what you get? For me, yes. But let me explain that you will not get 100% better image quality over your other gear. In the end, a much lower priced camera will also get you the same composition and essence in your photograph. Think of the camera as a tool for your artistic vision, you can be creative and the tool is a way to manipulate your lines.
I have been reviewing Leica, Carl Zeiss, Canon, Nikon, Sigma and Voigtlander lenses for years and passing my findings to the online community. So, let me start now with this comparison:
The lenses I will be reviewing here can be purchased at amazon with the links below:
- Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M Aspherical Manual Focus Lens (11892)
- Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.1 Leica M Mount Lens – Black
- 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1 M Mount Lens – Silver
The Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.1 is bigger, feels solid and looks nice mounted on the camera. I find the Nokton and 7artisans are easier to focus than my Summilux, this is because the bigger barrel makes it easier to turn. The aperture ring is nice and solid and the focusing barrel smooth like any nice manual lens. The 7artisans is almost the same but has no clicks on the aperture ring, as a photographer I prefer the click stops.
Here are some images that compare side by side of two of the lenses.
One of the things you will notice (besides sharpness, contrast and color) is the type of blurred backgrounds you get from the Summilux. They are softer and more natural vs the bokeh found on the Nokton which seems to render harsher outer lines.
Here, at the same aperture. We can see some differences. Click on the images to enlarge. If you close the aperture on both lenses, they start to look more similar but even at f/8 the Summilux will always have the advantage on color, contrast, definition, aberrations, flare and background blur.
Besides these lenses, you have other alternatives like the Canon 1.2 LTM or the Nokton Aspherical f/1.5 (amazon link: http://amzn.to/2G8MQvo ) which has more similar bokeh like the Summilux. There are many more 50mm lenses you can use on your Leica like the Summicron, Zeiss Sonnar http://amzn.to/2tuMSuJ and even Contax adapted but I find these the most common in my area. There is also a newer contender in the market, the 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1 which I have also reviewed here and let me say it gives you a dreamy look wide open. If you want the ultimate 50, look at the Noctilux 50mm f/0.95.
Some people like to shoot with the Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 http://amzn.to/2tuMSuJ but I dislike the focus shift that happens at different apertures, although its plus side is that the lens is smaller and doesn’t weight as much as the Summilux. The newer Summicron 50mm is great, nice balance and great sharpness, its truly a lens I also adore. Just be careful with other lenses that may experience focus shift (focus distance is changed when aperture is changed) if planning on getting an all-around lens.
If you need a low light lens where you must shoot ISO 3200 + f/1.1 + 1/60sec. (example just by the light from a television at 3 meters and no additional light) then I would definitely recommend this Voigtlander Nokton f/1.1 or the 7Artisans 50mm f/1.1 but if you are after the Leica look of sharp focus and smooth bokeh, save your pennies and get a new aspherical Summilux lens from Leica. In the meantime, you can make great images with almost any lens and camera, but if you ask me, I will always prefer a rangefinder experience.
I touched some basic info about the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 and I should also write a full article on it. It’s a vintage looking lens that has a special rendering and is also in my Leica kit. The way it looks when mounted on a Leica M body has no equal.
To see a short review on YouTube with almost the same content as here, check it out:
Also keep in mind, not all lenses need to be used at their maximum aperture, it sure has a magical feel when doing so but there are times when you need f/8 like in the photo below.
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