The Micro Four Thirds system cuts down on size and bokeh. But, one way to make up for that smaller sensor is by pairing it with a wider lens. The Voigtlander 10.5mm f0.95 Nokton is one of those lenses. After all, it’s right in the name — f0.95. But, that ultra-wide aperture comes at a cost to the tune of $850 and no autofocus motor.
Thankfully, like many manual focus lenses, what the 10.5mm lacks in autofocus it makes up for in character. There’s streaky flare, rich golden tones, and creamy background bokeh, for starters. But, like any lens that’s full of character, some photographers are going to love it. Others? Not so much. So who is the Voigtlander 10.5mm f0.95 Nokton for?
Table of Contents
The Big Picture
The Voigtlander 10.5mm f0.95 Nokton offers a combination of an ultra-wide view and aperture that’s difficult to find for the Micro Four Thirds system. The 21mm equivalent view is seldom seen with this much creamy bokeh, at least not from a Micro Four Thirds body. And, with streaky flare and golden colors, there’s no shortage of character. The lens also does an excellent job minimizing the barrel distortion that’s typically associated with ultra-wides.
There’s no question that the Voigtlander 10.5mm for Micro Four Thirds delivers gobs of character, but it also has an unfortunate abundance of purple fringing. That’s going to dissuade photographers who want untouched JPEGs full of character. The lens also lacks electronic contacts with the camera, so focus peaking needs to be turned on and off manually on the camera body. And while there are few lenses with that f0.95 aperture, the $850 price reflects that.
- Streaky, fun lens flare
- Ultra-wide f0.95 aperture
- Rich colors
- Tons of character
- Minimal barrel distortion
- Sturdy, metal build
- No electronic contacts
- Thick purple banding
Micro Four Thirds’ crop factor also dims the maximum aperture, but doubling a f0.95 still creates a bright aperture. Besides this Voigtlander’s ultra-wide aperture, it also brings classical metal design and lots of character to Micro Four Thirds bodies.
The Voigtlander 10.5mm f0.95 is a beautiful, classically-styled metal lens. Its metal build and ultra-wide aperture create a heavier lens at 1.29 pounds. But, at about 3.24 inches long, it doesn’t take up an obnoxious amount of space in a camera bag. It’s wide enough to accept 72mm circular filters at the front.
Right next to the lens mount, the 10.5mm is etched with a depth of field scale, just behind a knurled manual focus ring. The large ring with a patterned texture is easy to find and turns smoothly.
The skinny aperture ring sits towards the front of the lens after the lens widens out a bit. The width and position make the two rings easy to differentiate. The aperture ring also clicks with each setting.
While 10.5mm is pretty wide, the front of the lens still accommodates circular filters. The lens does not, however, ship with a hood.
With a metal build, the Voigtlander 10.5mm f0.95 feels great in the hands. Mixed with the manual focus, it’s a pleasure to shoot with. The metal should add some longevity to it as well. This lens is more than five years old and the review sample I tested is a rental, yet there’s barely a scuff on it.
While it feels sturdy, the manufacturer doesn’t list the lens as weather-sealed. The metal build should last longer than its plastic counterparts. But, the lack of weather sealing can mean more sensor dust and require additional gear to handle the rain.
The Voigtlander 10.5mm f0.95 is manual focus only. While the wide focal length helps widen the depth of field a bit, the lens can be challenging to get in focus while wide open. Stepping down and using zone focusing will help when speed is important.
The lens lacks electronic contacts to the camera, which means the camera body doesn’t automatically initiate all the manual focus help tools like focus peaking and magnification. Customize a button to automatically turn focus peaking on and off. Still, at f0.95, you can breathe wrong and end up out of focus. It’s a challenge to focus wide open for sure, but very rewarding when hitting that sweet spot, or just embracing a bit of softness.
Ease of Use
Manual focus lenses tend to carry the stigma of being difficult to use. And sure, at f0.95, getting a perfectly sharp shot isn’t a walk in the park. But, manual focus lenses also force the photographer to slow down, which can introduce a few extra seconds for creative thinking.
Is the Voigtlander 10.5mm as easy to use as an autofocus lens? No. But, what it lacks in simplicity it can make up for in joy. Manual focusing a metal lens can be pretty fun.
To get the most out of this lens, photographers should have a general understanding of manual focusing techniques like zone focusing, or at least understand how to use focus peaking on a lens that doesn’t have electronic contacts. Knowing how to read a depth-of-field scale helps too.
I’ve reviewed several dozen lenses: more than 55 for The Phoblographer. And if I were to make one assumption about a lens based solely on the fact that it’s manual focus, it’s this: the lens isn’t going to be sterile. The Voigtlander 10.5mm f0.95 Nokton has beautiful flare, edges as soft as a teddy bear, and warm colors. But, there are also a few less welcome quirks too, like strong chromatic aberration.
Yes, this lens is pretty wide and yes, it’s a Micro Four Thirds. But, there’s still some bokeh to be had here. Up close, the backgrounds are soft enough that even a photographer probably wouldn’t guess it’s Micro Four Thirds. Even with subjects farther away, the background still melts away a bit.
Wide open, points of light create round bokeh, taking on more of a cat-eye shape at the edges. With the aperture stepped down a bit, the bokeh is no longer round. The lens has ten aperture blades, but those blades have straight edges. With the aperture stopped down a bit, you can count the blades as the bokeh takes on a decagon shape.
I shot with this lens during what is, for me, the least inspiring time of the year: the middle of winter when a warm spell melted all the snow and everything is a shade of brown. Yet, at times, the browns felt more gold. Underexposed, the lens produces rich colors. Overexposed, colors will have more pop.
I’m always looking for good flare when trying out new lenses, and the Voigtlander 10.5mm f0.95 doesn’t disappoint. Direct this lens towards the sun but block part of it with an object in the scene and, in return, you’ll get some lovely streaky flare. It’s often paired with ghosting spots, typically green or purple. With the aperture wide open, the sun is a soft bloom of light. Narrow the aperture a bit and points of light will quickly take on a starburst shape.
While there’s lots of good character, there are some unwelcome bits too. Edges around bright light sources such as the sun create thick, purple bands. The chromatic aberration coming from this lens is the worst I’ve seen in a while. The purple is so thick that it’s obvious even when the image isn’t viewed at 100 percent. Perhaps, because of this though, the software seems to find and remove the purple easily. In RAW files, the fringing took just a few seconds to remove. But, straight-from-the-camera JPEGs still have obvious purple fringing.
Surprisingly, however, barrel distortion is very minimal for such a wide lens. There’s some slight bending at the edges, but it’s minor and, in most real-world shots, difficult to notice.
At f0.95, anything that should be sharp needs to be at the center of the frame. Sharpness falls off quickly when shooting wide open. That helps to add a bit of character, yes, but it’s not the lens for you if you want sharpness through to the corners. Stopping down helps some, but even at f2 and f4, the edges are a bit soft.
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.
Who Should Buy It?
Buy the Voigtlander 10.5mm f0.95 Nokton if you want a wide angle that delivers creamy bokeh, streaky flare, and minimal barrel distortion. The lens has a lot of character wrapped up in a metal build that’s a joy to use.
If you’re bothered by chromatic aberration or shoot in JPEG only, the thick purple banding is likely reason enough to avoid this lens. Others won’t want to take the time to manually focus, or at least use the $850 cost to dislike the lack of an autofocus motor.
Lensrentals lists the following specifications for the Voigtlander 10.5mm f0.95 Nokton:
- Angle of View: 93º
- Aperture: f/0.95-16
- Autofocus: Manual Focus Only
- Brand: Voigtlander
- Diameter: 3.03”
- Dimensions Length: 3.24″
- Filter Size: 72.0mm (nonrotating front element)
- Filter Style: nonrotating front element
- Focal Length: 10.5-10.5
- Focusing System: Internal focusing, nonrotating, manual
- Groups/Elements: 10/13
- Hood Included: No
- Image Stabilization: No
- Item Type: Lens
- Lens Type: Wide Angle
- Low Dispersion Elements: 0
- Max Aperture: 0.95
- Maximum Magnification: .025x
- Minimum Aperture: 22.0
- Minimum Focusing Distance: 0.56feet
- Mount: Micro 4/3rds
- Weather Resistant: No
- Weight: 1.29 lbs.
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