When given a choice, I will always choose manual focus lenses. I learned photography with a Hasselblad 501cm, an analog camera that provided more opportunities to bond with photography because I had to do everything. Sure, autofocus is excellent and convenient, but it offers less satisfaction. The Voigtlander Nokton 21mm f1.4 lens for Sony E Mount provides a great compromise.
The 21mm Voigtlander lens is great for landscape, cityscape, portrait, interior, wedding, street photography, and photojournalism. It has an approximate full-frame equivalent of a 32mm f2 lens when photographing with a Sony a6600. Does the convenience of this all-around lens justify the $999 price tag? We think so. The aspherical lens swiftly achieves focus while simultaneously retaining the joy of manual photography. Keep reading to see why.
The Big Picture
The Voigtlander Nokton 21mm f1.4 aspherical lens is an ideal focal length for various applications. It fits comfortably in your hands and is lightweight enough to photograph all day. Voigtlander’s Nokton is an ideal choice for both full-frame and crop sensor Sony cameras. The lens has loads of character and creates images with plenty of sharpness, vibrance, and contrast. The photographs require minimal editing, if any. Imperfections are scarce and easily corrected.
Photographers familiar with manual focus lenses will find the Voigtlander 21mm f1.4 a breeze to work with. Even those who are less versed with all things manual will find it easy to operate. As well, Sony’s magnification is very user-friendly.
There is very little to complain about with this lens. It is not fully weather-sealed or dustproof. However, it holds up very well in dusty winds and a little moisture. I would not recommend taking it with you when adverse weather conditions are forecast.
Pros and Cons
- Lightweight and comfortable
- Loads of lens character
- Gorgeous colors with ample contrast
- Beautiful bokeh
- Fast manual focus
- No weather-resistance
- Easy to miss focus when very close to the subject at f1.4
Voigtlander’s 21mm f1.4 for Sony E isn’t groundbreaking or innovative. The lens strikes a harmonious balance by minimizing imperfections without sacrificing character. It is easy to see why people enjoy this lens.
The Voigtlander 21mm Nokton measure 3.1″ and weighs just over a pound. It fits comfortably in the palm of your hand.
The design of this lens follows a tried and true blueprint. A depth of field scale is closest to the lens mount. Next to it is the focusing ring. I like how Voigtlander mixes texture and shape here. At the end of the lens is a click-style aperture ring.
This is what it looks like from the side.
It accommodates a 62 mm-sized filter.
Voigtlander lenses are renowned for their metal design, and the Nokton 21mm is no different. It looks and feels solid. There’s no weather-sealing in this lens and it’s not dustproof, but it handled well in dusty Montana winds and light rain. So, while sensor dust wasn’t an issue in that scenario, I wouldn’t take it into adverse weather conditions.
The Voigtlander 21mm Nokton f1.4 is a manual focus lens. Achieving manual focus is easy for photographers of all levels. Most seasoned pros will be able to see when every image is in focus. Utilize magnification and focus peaking for even swifter focus.
Ease Of Use
The Voigtlander 21mm f1.4 lens is a joy to use. The classic blueprint combined with varying textures and shapes easily becomes an extension of self. Aperture and focal adjustments become second nature. This lens will feel familiar if you have shot with Leica or Fujifilm.
Photographers of all levels will like using this lens. Well-versed photographers will have no problem identifying when the image is sharp without magnification or focus peaking. I opted to use magnification when my subject was far away. I didn’t have a need for focus peaking, but I have found focus peaking beneficial when getting acquainted with a new lens or when my eyes get tired.
Voigtlander created an ideal balance with this 21mm f1.4 lens for E Mount. Imperfections and distortions are minimal and easily corrected in post if you find them bothersome. The lens is sharp and can create bountiful bokeh when you want it. Images are vibrant with adequate contrast and require minimal editing.
The Voigtlander Nokton 21mm lens produces proficient bokeh when you want it. Maximize your background separation with minimal focusing distance to reach its full potential. The bokeh can be as smooth as butter, melting away from the subject. It can also be reminiscent of Monet’s paintings in a flower garden.
This lens produces gorgeous pink and yellow jewel tones with perfect greens. It is so nice not to have to reduce the saturation of the greens in post-production. The Voigtlander accurately reproduces the gold and pastel hues of summer sunsets. It also creates natural skin tones.
The Voigtlander 21mm f1.4 lens has a lot of character and minimal imperfections. Photograph under f4 if you are a fan of natural vignetting. There is a bit of highlight fringing and minor angle distortion. Imperfections are easily corrected in post-production. It has 12 aperture blades which create stunning sun stars. You will notice that capturing lens flare with this lens is challenging.
Overall, Voigtlander’s 21mm f1.4 Lens for Sony E is very sharp with plenty of detail. Only the corners and edges of the frame are soft with a wide open aperture. Stopping down extends the sharpness throughout the edges of the frame when the focus is at infinity.
Who Should Buy The Voigtlander Nokton 21mm F1.4 Lens?
The Voigtlander Nokton 21mm f1.4 lens is a primary workhorse for Sony E Mount users. It is an ideal focal length for travel, documentary, wedding, portrait, commercial, and street photography. This lens is meant to be on your camera most of the time. I would buy this lens if I owned a Sony E-Mount camera. It was enjoyable to photograph it with Sony’s a1 and a6600.
The main drawback of this lens is that it is not fully weather-sealed or dustproof. That limits its use when the weather is anything but ideal. Other than that, any imperfections are quickly and easily corrected in post-production.
Pros far outweigh the cons with this lens. Achieving manual focus is swift and easy. It is the perfect storytelling lens to take with you everywhere and document life. Photographers of all levels will enjoy it. It is available for $999 at Adorama. You can also rent it from Lensrentals if you want to try it before you buy it.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
All tech specs are from the Lensrental listing.
- Angle of View: 90.8°
- Aperture Blades: 12
- Aspherical Elements: 2
- Autofocus: Manual Focus Only
- Brand: Voigtlander
- Compatibility: Crop and Full Frame
- Diameter: 2.8″
- Filter Size: 62.0mm
- Focal Length: 21.0-21.0
- Groups/Elements: 11/13
- Hood Included: Yes
- Image Stabilization: No
- Item Type: Lens
- Length: 3.1″
- Lens Type: Wide Angle
- Max Aperture: 1.4
- Mfr. Model Number: BA352A
- Minimum Aperture: 16.0
- Minimum Focusing Distance: 0.8feet
- Mount: Sony E
- Partial-Dispersion Elements: 3
- Weight: 1.23 lbs.