It has always been very hard to guess what Voigtländer lens Cosina will come up with next. By the time many people started giving up the hope for a fast 28mm M-mount lens we got exactly that: the Voigtländer VM 28mm 1.5 Nokton. Is this the fast 28mm lens I know many of you have been desperately waiting for? Let’s find out!
Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.
Cosina has a long history of producing 28mm lenses from f/3.5 to f/1.9. It took them until early 2024 to release a faster one, this Voigtländer VM 28mm 1.5 Nokton. It comes in two versions, a lightweight aluminium one (Type I) and a heavier brass one (Type II). The latter also comes with a small focusing stick that can be used instead of the focus tab. The optics of both versions are exactly the same.
- Voigtlander VM 28mm 1.5 Nokton Type I
249g (matte black/silver), aluminium
- Voigtlander VM 28mm 1.5 Nokton Type II
330g (black/silver), brass, optional focusing stick
I received a Type I model in matte black for this review. It has the following specifications:
- Diameter: 54 mm
- Field of view: 74.5° (diagonally)
- Length: 46 mm
- Weight: 249g (Type I black)
- Filter Diameter: 43 mm
- Number of Aperture Blades: 12 (straight)
- Elements/Groups: 10/8
- Close Focusing Distance: 0.5 m
- Maximum Magnification: 1:14.4 (measured)
- Mount: Leica-M
The Voigtlander VM 28mm 1.5 Nokton was provided by Voigtländer GmbH, the German Voigtländer distributor, for reviewing purpose for a duration of 4 weeks.
Handling / Build Quality
This Voigtländer VM 28mm 1.5 Nokton is part of Cosina’s “Vintage” line. It should be noted it got the “Vintage” designation because of its look, not because the pictures you take with it will look like they have been taken with an old lens, if you are looking for that then “Classic” is the term you need to look for in the Voigtlander portfolio.
The lens looks and feels really solid, all the markings are engraved and filled with paint, the focus ring has perfect resistance and turns about 100° from the minimum focus distance of 0.5 m to infinity. Unlike many Laowa lenses and also the Thypoch Simera lenses this one sadly does not feature a click-stop at the 0.7 m mark.
The aperture ring has equidistant and very distinct half-stop click stops and feels very tightly assembled. It turns ~110° from f/1.5 to f/16.
The lens does show noticeable rangefinder blockage, but still less than all the other similarly fast 28mm M-mount lenses.
This Voigtländer VM 28mm 1.5 Nokton does not come with a hood included, instead Voigtlander offers a rather pricy vented hood option here which is called LH-6. This is something that leaves me puzzled, because not only the more expensive Voigtländer VM 21mm 1.4 Nokton comes with a hood included, but also the cheaper Voigtländer VM 28mm 2.8 Color-Skopar does. I hope to one day understand how it is being decided which Voigtländer lens includes a hood and which doesn’t.
There are no more than four different 28mm 1.4 lenses for M-mount available – that is if we ignore the difference between f/1.4 and f/1.5, which we should. If we look at the aluminium version (Type I) of this Voigtländer, it is the smallest and lightest of them all. The Thypoch Simera 28mm 1.4 and the Leica 28mm 1.4 Summilux-M feature a floating elements design though, which usually leads to a more complex and therefore bigger/heavier lens.
The lens can be mounted to Sony E-mount cameras via Leica-M to Sony-E adapters. You can also equip it with autofocus by using the Techart LM-EA9 AF adapter. The autofocus works very well in the central part, but not that well outside of it, as is the case for most lenses.
|f/4.0 – f/16
All the Voigtländer 28mm M-mount lenses show really high vignetting figures and this one is by no means an exception. The interesting thing is, that all three of the current ones (this one, the 28mm 2.0 MK II and the 28mm 2.8) show a very similar amount of around 3.5 EV at their maximum aperture. Seems to me, this might be the design target Cosina set for their 28mm M-mount lenses. This faster f/1.5 lens therefore has an edge at shared wider apertures over the slower Voigtländers, but stopped down they are all pretty much the same.
It is recommended to have a look at this article first to get an idea how this brightness graph works.
Very fast yet compact lenses usually show a significant amount of optical vignetting. Without going too much into technical details optical vignetting leads to the truncation of light circles towards the borders of the frame.
In the center of the frame almost every lens will render a perfect circle, but only lenses with very low optical vignetting will keep this shape in the corners.
So in the following comparison we move from the center (left) to the extreme corner (right) and see how the shape of the light circle changes.
Focus distance 0.5 m
Due to their compact size many of the fast Voigtländer lenses show very high optical vignetting. The almost one stop slower Voigtländer VM 28mm 2.0 Ultron MK II is probably the 28mm lens with the strongest optical vignetting I came across so far, so I didn’t have exactly high hopes for this 28mm 1.5 lens.
Good news are, this new 28mm 1.5 does not show as massive vignetting as the 28mm 2.0. The 7Artisans 28mm 1.4 shows less optical vignetting and the Thypoch Simera 28mm 1.4 the least of all the fast 28mm M-mount lenses. On the other hand the Thypoch and the 7Artisans also show noticeable onion structures, which is not the case for this Voigtländer 28mm 1.5.
Sony A7rII | Voigtländer VM 28mm 1.5 Nokton | 50% crops
With some lenses when stopping down the plane of optimal focus shifts to the back or the front. Here that is not the case, as I did not see any relevant focus shift – good news for rangefinder users.
We do see noticeable longitudinal CA here though – stronger than what we saw from the Voigtländer VM 50mm 1.5 Nokton MK II, because this 28mm is simply much sharper near its minimum focus distance.
infinity (24mp Leica M10, 42mp Sony A7rII)
Considering the Voigtlander VM 28mm 1.5 is such a small and compact lens it shows a surprisingly good performance. On the Leica M10 we see slight color aberrations at f/1.5, but the corners already look decent. The midframe looks great from f/2.8, the corners look best at f/5.6. The performance is similar to the Voigtländer VM 28mm 2.0 Ultron MK II at shared apertures, which is quite the achievement.
On the Sony A7rII with its thicker filter stack the performance in the midframe as well as in the corners is worse – as is to be expected. The midframe needs f/5.6 to look good here and even stopped down to f/11 the corners do not look as good as on the Leica camera at f/4.0. If you are using a Sony FE or Nikon Z camera and the performance in this category is important to you, better have a look at the Laowa 28mm 1.2 Argus, 7Artisans 28mm 1.4 FE+ or the Viltrox FE 28mm 1.8 AF, which all look great across frame from f/4.0.
portrait distance 0.9 m (24mp Leica M10 and Sony A7III)
For portraiture it isn’t so important how flat the field is, it is more interesting to see what the sharpness is like when focused at different parts of the frame to take field curvature out of the equation.
We will be looking at 100% crops from the 24mp Sony A7III and the Leica M10. Both cameras do not have an anti aliasing filter in front of the sensor.
Leica M10 <—> Sony A7III
Voigtländer VM 28mm 1.5 Nokton | f/1.5
For a 28mm 1.5 lens a good performance at this distance is very important to me, as this is where I usually find myself when taking environmental portraits and this is what lenses like this are ultimately made for.
In the center this 28mm shows an amazing performance, in the inner midframe a very good one, but in the outer midframe it starts to struggle a bit. Again the performance is very similar to the Voigtländer VM 28mm 2.0 Ultron MK II. The Thypoch Simera 28mm 1.4 is not as contrasty in the center and the inner midframe, but looks noticeably better in the outer midframe.
On a Sony camera with its thicker filter stack the performance is very similar in the center and inner midframe and slightly worse in the outer midframe.
close 0.50 m, 1:14.4 (42mp A7rII)
Sony A7rII | Voigtländer VM 28mm 1.5 Nokton | 100% crops from center
This Voigtländer VM 28mm 1.5 Nokton shows a surprisingly good performance at its minimum focus distance, especially when we compare its performance to the Thypoch Simera 28mm 1.4 with its floating elements design. Despite featuring a simpler unit focus design this Voigtländer corrects spherical aberration (glow) better, which leads to higher contrast and resolution. It does show stronger color aberrations though.
As always evaluating flare is a complex matter since you can get any lens to look bad if you push it hard enough and a slight change of scenario can affect results a lot.
That being said, most of the recent Voigtländer lenses have been showing a great performance in this category, e.g. the VM 50mm 1.2 Nokton, the VM 35mm 1.7 Ultron and also the slower VM 28mm 2.0 Ultron MK II as well as the VM 28mm 2.8 Color-Skopar. That being said, the VM 50mm 1.5 Nokton MK II was a bit of a disappointment I hope won’t repeat itself.
A bit of a negative surprise was that faint ring flare you can see in the picture above. It is still visible at f/2.0 and disappears at f/2.8. I wonder if that shiny front ring is the cause of this.
As said, a slight change of camera position can make a big difference, so here we have a look at the same scene with different camera positions, first at f/1.5:
Leica M10 | Voigtlander VM 28mm 1.5 Nokton | f/1.5
Here we see some small ghosts and parts of that faint ring flare again.
Leica M10 | Voigtlander VM 28mm 1.5 Nokton | f/11
Stopped down to f/11 the performance is typical for a modern Voigtländer lens, meaning very good. There is one very specific position that leads to a big veiling flare, but with the slightest reframing this is easily avoided. Apart from that there are only tiny ghosts visible that should usually not be a problem.
In very rare occasions I encountered some veiling flare, like in the following picture. This could be avoided by either stopping down or slightly reframing.
This is not the absolute best performance I came across in this category, but fact is the M-mount competitors, meaning the 7Artisans 28mm 1.4 and the Thypoch Simera 28mm 1.4, do not stand a chance in this category. And neither do the non M-mount lenses like the Sigma 28mm 1.4 Art, Nikon AF-D 28mm 1.4 and Laowa 28mm 1.2 Argus.
100% crops from extreme corner, focused on center, Leica M10
Also in this category the performance is similar to other fast and compact Voigtländer lenses, which means noticeable Coma between f/1.5 and f/2.0 and much less stopped down to f/2.8. To completely get rid of it you have to stop the lens down to f/4.0.
The Voigtlander VM 28mm 1.5 Nokton shows a small amount of barrel distortion. There is no lens profile available yet and for most applications it also won’t be needed.
This is the category where I was most interested in this lens’ performance. While the Voigtländer VM 28mm 2.0 Ultron Mk II (and also the VM 28mm 2.8 Color-Skopar) perform very well in most categories, I didn’t enjoy their bokeh rendering that much – except for very close distances – because of very high optical vignetting.
At close distances the lens draws a mostly smooth and undistracting bokeh that won’t take attention away from the subject – at least I think this is how it should be. The minimum focus distance of 0.5 m also allows for a very shallow depth of field here.
This is a fast, compact wide angle lens, so of course the bokeh is not as nice in the corners as in the center of the frame, but that is true for almost any lens anyway.
At mid distances you already need to watch out for some perspective distortion, but also here the lens is doing a good job.
Now these are the distances where I wasn’t super happy with the previous f/1.9 and f/2.0 Voigtländers. Good news are: optical vignetting is not as bad here, but especially at longer distances field curvature can still be an issue, leading to things in the corners being in focus even though they shouldn’t, as you can see from the following examples:
This effect is more pronounced when using the lens on a stock Sony or Nikon camera with their thicker filter stack.
If this is something that is important to you, it might be worth to have a closer look at the Thypoch Simera 28mm 1.4.
Because it was winter I took many of the samples in the Mercedes Museum and I did the same with the Sigma 28mm 1.4 Art. So I have many nearly exact side by side shots (Sigma on Sony A7III, Voigtländer on Leica M10). And this reminded me of the time I compared the Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art DG DN on Sony to the Voigtländer VM 35mm 1.2 Nokton III. Yes, these huge Sigma lenses offer better off center sharpness at wider apertures and also the bokeh towards the corners is smoother, but at what cost in terms of size and weight?
So considering how (Read more…)