A while back, I dropped my Leica M6 TTL on concrete. The camera was fine but it’s full weight came square down onto the Voigtlander 50mm 1.5 Nokton ASPH that had been my go-to 50mm for years. The focus ring became very tight from the impact. Because I’d had this lens rebuilt once before and find its performance stellar but construction a bit on the lame side, I debated having it repaired or buying the new Nokton 50. For the cost and sake of being a good custodian of my gear, I opted for repair.
Lev at BPES tackled the Nokton. He wasn’t able to get the focus ring perfectly smooth again though. It still has a little bit of inconsistency to its damping. But it’s certainly useable again and he only charged $30. I may just have to spring for that new Nokton 50 as this lens no longer feels ready for something hard and fast like a wedding or concert. But I hate to let this one go as I’ve brassed it nicely over the years and taken some of my favorite images with it.
Many report that this lens is too large. And compared to a Leitz Summilux, it is. However, let’s be honest, the Voigtlander 50/1.5 Nokton outperforms the pre-ASPH Leitz 50/1.4 Summilux’s. I know, I know, I’m comparing an aspherical modern lens to older pre-asphericals. But price-wise, this is a practical comparison. The problem is the construction. I’ve had bad luck with dropping this lens, or rather, I’ve had bad luck with children dropping or causing me to drop this lens. So this isn’t ideal. But I betcha that the ‘Lux wouldn’t have fell apart.
Anyway, before using it for anything serious, I burned a test roll to be sure focus is still good even if it’s not as smooth in action as it once was. All images came from about half a roll of Tri-X rated at 400 ISO and processed, as usual, in Kodak HC110b, scanned on an Epson V500 and edited gently with Photoshop.
Results were great, as expected!
I figured these string lights would make for a good test of focusing at full aperture and close distance both to produce the beautiful, glassy bokeh for which the Nokton’s known as well as to be sure that focus calibration is still accurate.
Same here with wide open shooting, testing critical focus and enjoying that delicious bokeh! This is a 1900’s General Electric Whiz with brass blades. Did you know that the cages on electric fans were originally installed to protect, not peoples’ fingers, but those costly brass blades? Crazy.
Here we are stopped down considerably, probably at f8. This lens performs consistently, with the same sharp but smooth profile through its whole aperture range. What a fun scene. And the Nokton renders each detail clearly, corner to corner.
Some front bokeh and still consistent. I thought this was a great little scene too. The broken banister on frame left makes perfect leading lines to direct the eye to the mangled old bicycle, crouching in the corner.
I believe I was stopped down just a little bit here. The contrast on those rusty fan blades is just magnificent. The Nokton makes very clean separation of in and out of focus areas and renders tones very accurately. This is a 1940’s Robbins and Myers steel blade fan. R&M fans are known to be very silent and reliable.
All of the above images were taken on my way to work at The Old Lucketts Store in Virginia, where I often drop by to test lenses, cameras or discovery wonderful little treasures.
So the initial verdict for the tired and abused, old, early 2000’s, Nokton is good. I think I’ll hang onto it for slower stream of consciousness shooting like this but I should probably start saving for a new copy!
Thanks for reading!