The Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95 Micro Four Thirds Lens is a bright, fast portrait-length lens that provides a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 85mm when used on Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras. This manual focus, manual exposure prime lens utilizes a Selective Aperture Control System, which renders the aperture control ring as stepless and de-clicked for silent and smooth performance. This is ideally-suited to video applications or for greater control over aperture selection while shooting.
The optical construction integrates one Super High Refractive element as well as one aspherical element to minimize chromatic aberrations and produce imagery with notable clarity and sharpness. Ten aperture blades form a nearly circular diaphragm in order to produce an aesthetic bokeh that is noticeable when using shallow depth of field and selective focus techniques and a minimum focusing distance of 9.1" supports working with close-up subject matter.
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Before I get into this, let me sum it all up for you: If you are into your Micro 4/3 camera, good with manual focus, and like doing available light/low light/night scene work, the Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f0.95 is a powerful piece of photographic equipment with extraordinary qualities. Frankly, I'd prefer NOT to review it and just let the lens be my little secret, but Voigtlander/Cosina did a great job in this case and the lens deserves its due credit. When I first got it and tried it out, I think I just said "Wow." I've been using the lens for more than four months now, and it does an awful lot of things right: excellent sharpness at really any aperture; all the contrast and shadow definition you could ask for; accurate color rendition; solid control of lateral color fringing, even at widest apertures; smooth rendition of out-of-focus areas of the image with a unique signature; very strong resistance to flare and ghosting; and very, very versatile near close-focusing capability. There's also a striking, true-to-life kind of quality to the photos you can shoot with this thing that reminds me of using my old Contax 35mm film gear and Zeiss glass... only better, if I'm being honest. On that note, I'd like to correct some serious misinformation being spread online about this lens and how it works. On Wikipedia and several online photo forums, I've seen it said that in 35mm film or "full frame" digital terms, this Voigtlander is equivalent to an 85mm f1.9 in all respects. No it is not. Yes, this Voigtlander has an angle of view and focal plane depth similar to that of an 85mm f1.9 lens in 35mm format (regarding focal plane depth, mathematically, a 50mm f1.4 lens wide open on a "full frame" digital camera will have the same depth of focal plane as a wide-open 100mm f2.8 or 200mm f5.6 lens would on that same camera). But make no mistake, the Voigtlander 42.5mm Nokton transmits light to the Micro 4/3 sensor fully according to its super-fast f0.95 max aperture -- wide open, that means about FOUR TIMES MORE light than an 85mm f1.9 would max out at. Period. That's an absolutely critical point to be clear on for a low-light photographer, since it determines the shutter speed you'll need at a given ISO and frequently makes the difference between a crisp, sharp photo and a blurred, useless one. Image stabilization helps a lot in reducing blur caused by camera shake, but if you can't shoot a fast enough shutter to stop the motion of your subject, kiss your photo goodbye because you ain't stopping it. Here's a quick test to illustrate what I'm talking about. I took a classic low-light shooter's setup, a Contax RTS III with a Carl Zeiss 85mm f1.4, loaded with and set at ISO 800 film as well as an Olympus E-M5 set at ISO 800 with the Voigtlander 42.5mm f0.95 Nokton on it. I set both cameras at aperture priority and spot metering with no +/- exposure adjustments and pointed them at the exact same point in a dimly lit room as I stood at exactly the same spot. With the lenses at f1.4, the Contax showed a shutter speed selected between 1/125 and 1/60 sec., while the Olympus correspondingly showed 1/100 sec. With the lenses at f2, the Contax showed a shutter speed selected between 1/60 and 1/30 sec., while the Olympus correspondingly showed a shutter speed of 1/50 sec. With the lenses at f2.8, the Contax showed a shutter speed selected between 1/30 and 1/15 sec., while the Olympus correspondingly showed a shutter speed of 1/25. Then, opening the Voigtlander all the way to f0.95, the Olympus showed a shutter speed of 1/200 sec. That means that, shooting this same photo, someone using a "full frame" digital camera at ISO 800 with a wide-open 85mm f1.9 lens would be dealing with a shutter speed of about 1/50 to 1/60 sec., while someone with a Micro 4/3 camera and the Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f0.95 wide open and at the same ISO and exposure settings would have a shutter speed of 1/200 sec. Seem like an important difference to you? That's all the difference in the world for an available light shooter. I shoot the Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f0.95 most often at f1.4. It's not that it isn't fully capable wide open, because it may actually be the best lens of any I've used in that regard, but everything just comes together so well at f1.4 and it can produce images that are crisp, lovely, and frankly, perfect for the kind of work I do. And stopping down a little also brings those 10 aperture blades into play, which adds extra character to its bokeh and can produce 10-pointed stars/points of light and so on. By all means, shoot it wide open if you like or need every last photon of light in a dim situation, but get it to f1.4 if you can and sparks will start flying. Stopped down farther, the 42.5mm is pretty much "slice yourself open and go for stitches" sharp. No kidding -- I've run tests pitting this lens aperture-for-aperture against some of the strongest competitors to it available, and the Voigtlander just smokes everything else. For daytime portraits, keep a good polarizer and an ND 4, 6, or 8x with you so you can shoot at the widest apertures -- by f2 or f2.8 or so, you might find yourself having to scrub out every single pore and tiny wrinkle on your subject's face if you're not careful. Focusing the 42.5mm is smooth and precise. And quick, too -- two short movements of the focusing ring with my fingers (a little more than an eighth of a turn in total) brings the lens from infinity to 1.5 feet, which is where most photos you shoot will be. The near-focus limit, which then requires another half-turn of the focusing to reach (180 degrees), works out to about two or three inches in front of the mounted lens hood. I have a few gripes. Especially at first and/or if you're not used to professional-level lenses, the Voigtlander 42.5mm Nokton will probably feel big and heavy, so be warned. It's substantial, particularly if you've got the hood on properly as you should. If you don't have something like an Olympus E-M1 (possibly with battery grip), E-M5 with its full battery grip, or maybe a Panasonic GH-3, my guess is the lens would feel nose-heavy on your camera. Using this Voigtlander almost feels like adapting my Contax Zeiss Distagon 1.4/35 for use on Micro 4/3 mount, and that's a pretty formidable lens. Also, the Voigtlander's included hood annoyed me quite a bit at first. It has an anchor ring that screws into the lens' front threads (or a 58mm filter if you have one installed), and then the hood clamps and tightens onto the anchor ring either facing forward for shooting or backwards for storage. I also have the Voigtlander 25mm F/0.95, and I've always kept that lens' hood on and just used the 67mm front cap that was included to keep on the end of the hood. I can grab my camera, pop off the cap and shoot; I rarely have time (and certainly don't have the tiniest desire) to screw around mounting a hood before I'm ready to shoot. The Voigtlander 42.5mm Nokton did not include a cap for the end of the hood, which is not a standard size (that is, it's a big nuisance). But I solved the headaches this was causing with an oddball but good quality 69mm clip-on lens cap I managed to find. It fits inside the metal hood perfectly and allows me to use it just like I do the 25mm Nokton; I think an equally weird/rare 71mm push-on cap would fit over the end of the hood, but I haven't tried that and can't say for sure. Anyway, I keep the 42.5mm's hood mounted forward and the weird 69mm cap on the end when not in use, even though the hood makes the lens appear much larger and adds significantly to its form factor. But the hood does maximize performance/flare resistance and you'd be a fool not to use it. And here's a strange observation I've had, by the way: the Voigtlander 42.5mm Nokton seems to be *just slightly* shorter than 42.5mm, which is perfectly fine by me and makes it that much more useful. Comparing it with various lenses around this focal length and shooting from the same point on a tripod, my best guess is that the Voigtlander is actually about a 41-41.5mm lens. At any rate, getting used to this Voigtlander is a cinch, because objects seen in the viewfinder are about identical to the size and proportion seen with the naked eye. That's part of the reason why 85mm lenses in 35mm film and "full frame" digital format (as well as those that provide an equivalent viewing angle such as this Voigtlander with a Micro 4/3 camera) have long been so popular. For the majority of users, it's probably a safe bet that a lens like the Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F/1.8 would be a more sensible, affordable, easier-to-use choice than this Voigtlander. But if you like manual focus and prefer the uniquely solid feel of a true metal-and-glass, no-motors-inside, focus-directly-by -helicoid not "drive-by-wire" lens and if you can handle a larger lens and/or are used to a professional setup... with all those caveats, I haven't seen anything as good as the Voigtlander 42.5mm F/0.95 Nokton in this focal length or equivalent before, period. For those who can master them, the trio of Voigtlander F/0.95 lenses alone is adding up to a compelling reason to go with the Micro 4/3 format, because these lenses paired with powerful new Micro 4/3 cameras will let you shoot like nothing else I've ever used. Other than sports and similar events where a long, very fast lens is often necessary, I would go to shoot almost any event with maybe the Voigtlander 42.5mm f0.95 on an E-M1 and the Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f0.95 on an E-M5 and feel very confident and well equipped indeed.