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.
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.
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.