More from the X-Pro1 and Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 VM

The perfect, imperfect portrait lens.

As a follow up to my previous post on the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5, I have been using this lens on the X-Pro1 extensively over the past week and it will be replacing my Zeiss 2/50 Planar ZM for general portrait use. As I mentioned previously there are very few similarities between these two lenses other than focal length. The picture quality of the Voigtlander is simultaneously sharp and soft, lending a very pleasant and gentle quality to the images it produces whilst maintaining sharpness and definition in eyes where it is needed most.

I purchased this lens with the intention of improving my portraits, creating a picture style that was more unique in the same way that a painted portrait inherits characteristics of the artists personal style and preferences. I began to desire mechanical imperfections to colour my images in the same way that any number of physical or biological conditions can colour and affect an individual’s eye sight. I wanted the personality that comes with inaccuracy, distortion and softness.

In my recent portrait sessions I have been using the Voigtlander almost exclusively. The real beauty of this lens is in the character of image that it produces. It is unlike any modern mirrorless or DSLR lens and it has a style that matches perfectly with the nostalgic quality of VSCO Film packs. The lens is based on an original optical formula from the 1950s, updated with the modern M mount and with a more common 49mm filter thread (the old lens was 45mm). For more information on the lens refer to Stephen Gandy’s excellent CameraQuest page.

On a recent shoot with LJ I used this lens alone and the soft quality worked wonders, producing a very serene and painterly picture style.

LJ, X-Pro1 and Voigtlander 2/50 Nokton VMLJ, X-Pro1 and Voigtlander 2/50 Nokton VMLJ, X-Pro1 and Voigtlander 2/50 Nokton VM

Interestingly, the Heliopan Variable ND filter that I am using with this lens exhibits some very intense flare characteristics, and made for one interesting image once a fairly extreme contrast curve adjustment was applied.

LJ, X-Pro1 and Voigtlander 2/50 Nokton VMLJ, X-Pro1 and Voigtlander 2/50 Nokton VM

All images taken with the X-Pro1 and Voigtlander 50mm 1.5. Lighting from Elinchrom D-Lite RX One and 100cm Rotalux Deep Octa. Processed in Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5 with VSCO Film 04.

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3 comments

  1. Hi Adrian,
    As a x-pro user myself, I love seeing your work with the voigtlander. I tested it out briefly, but have yet to buy it as I keep wondering if I should wait for the 56 1.2 from Fuji before I decide. I only shot a few photos around near the store, but your photos show what it is capable much more . Do you find it ok to focus wide open using focus peaking , do you focus wide open then stop down if needed? Keen to here what works best while I consider getting it as well. Keep up the great work and look forward to seeing more pics.
    regards
    Andrew

    1. Hi Andrew,
      Thanks for writing. Actually the idea of the upcoming 56mm 1.2 is very enticing, and I have no doubt that it will be a fantastic portrait lens. But having used the Voigtlander for the past few weeks now I actually find that when switching back to the Fujinon 35mm 1.4, I just lose that incredible character and distinctive picture quality that the Voigtlander has. The 56mm will most likely be designed similarly to the 35mm, to give a sharp and modern look which would be technically excellent but it really comes down to personal taste and whether you like the Voigtlander picture style. That said I think that anybody (myself included) would be happy with either lens.
      With focus peaking, I almost always shoot wide open or at f/2 with a variable ND filter and my method is to use peaking on the rear LCD when focusing at a distance of 5 meters or more. For closer focusing I use magnification in the EVF. Having said that I am almost always shooting static subjects and scenes so this works perfectly and I love the feel of the dampened manual focus ring. I think when they release the proposed update to add colours to focus peaking it will become even easier to use in the EVF.

      More portrait pics from this lens are coming, they’re sitting on my hard drive waiting to be edited.

  2. Thanks Adrian for your feedback. I do love the feel of a proper manual focus lens as well compared to the fuji lens. I have recently picked up a variable nd for the 35 mm lens, and its more convenient than the fixed nd I was using during the day, and would be a must for the 50 or 56 too. I do more street and outdoor shooting , and I might be to slow with a manual lens to get shots . Look forward to seeing more of your portrait shots , will help with my decision as to which lens to get.

    Cheers
    Andrew

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