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Alternatives

As briefly mentioned in other sections, there is an abundance of 35mm lenses for Leica M mount. Among the most revered are Leica's Summilux 35/1.4 ASPH and Summicron 35/2 ASPH, both of which are considered by many to be the golden standard. Their older variants are worth exploring, and if clinical sharpness wide open is not your primary requirement, than you might be quite satisfied with the non aspherical variants. My personal favorite is Carl Zeiss Biogon 35/2, which I use most of the time as my standard 35mm kit lens. Zeiss also offers C Biogon 35/2.8, which should appeal to those who don't require fast aperture and prefer more compact form factor. Cosina offers a couple of 35mm primes as well, most notably Nokton 35/1.2 ASPH, the current speed king among 35mm lenses, as well as a compact and well-regarded Color Skopar 35/2.5. I own 35/1.2 ASPH Nokton and find it to be somewhat limited for every-day use, specifically in the critical f/1.2-f/2 range (for which I bought this lens). The main advantage of the ASPH Nokton over its f/1.4 version is the absence of focus shift, but otherwise, rendering and resolution of these two lenses are almost comparable. Finally, you might also want to consider a couple of 40mm lenses, most notably Leica's C Summicron 40/2 and its derived variant Minolta M Rokkot 40/2, both of which offer very good performance, but have a completely different rendering feel.

 

Recommendation

Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.4 is an interesting lens, one which I would probably not buy for myself, but one I would encourage everyone to consider. My reservation for owning this lens is due to its focus shift, which I find hard to get used to. (Note to the reader - online community seems to be split about the issue of focus shift with this lens. A number of posts in online forums suggest that some of the latest batches of this lens might not exibit as much or any focus shift. I cannot really confirm or reject these claims though, since I tried only one sample of this lens). While I own other lenses that exhibit focus shift, most notably Carl Zeiss C Sonnar 50/1.5 and Voigtlander Nokton 50/1.1, I consider them 'specialty' lenses and keep them because of the unique rendering capabilities which I find appealing. I am not convinced that Nokton 35/1.4 offers any uniqueness though, particularly when compared to the faster 35/1.2 ASPH version of this lens. But while my bet is elsewhere, I still think Nokton 35/1.4 can offer fairly good price/performance characteristics to the users - image resolution is decent (weaker wide open as with most fast lenses and pretty good once stopped down to f/2.8 or below), color handling is nice and the amount of artifacts such as CA and distortion is manageable. Nokton is said to simulate the older, 70s-80s, Leica designs, and as such was designed as medium contrast, lower resolution lens from the start. If you were happy with first generation 35mm Leicas, you should be reasonably happy with the Nokton as well, in my opinion. And the price is hard to beat here - there are no other sub $600 35/1.4 lenses out there.

 

Sample Images