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Original Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (Prominent 1951-1960)

  
 
sander9t
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Original Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (Prominent 1951-1960)


***I didn't get a hit when searching in the forum. If there is an existing post, please let me know and I can move these over.

First of all, a few words about the camera. I recently got a minty Voigtlander Prominent camera (1950s) with three lenses: Nokton 50/1.5, Skoparon 35/3.5, and Dynaron 100/4.5. What to say about them? A dream of the glorious days of chrome plated cameras and lenses! Made out of brass with a shiny chrome finish, this is absolutely the most beautiful camera I have ever touched. Cameras built in 1950s are considered the peak in terms of build quality. Nothing that came after compares. Some say the Prominent has a build quality that is even better than Leica M3 and Contax IIa and IIIa (which I don't have - if you do, please comment). I am going through my first roll with it. The sad truth is that despite the stunning build quality and attention to details, the camera was not designed for regular human beings to use: the soybean size viewfinder is placed somewhere in the center towards the right side and extremely hard to see through; I don’t know the magnification but it must be miserable (estimated to be below 0.5x); it is much heavier than its competitors; the focusing is not done on the lens but via the left knob on the top plate; you wind the film via the right knob and you have to wind a long way. In fact, the commercial failure of this camera contributed to the collapse of the Voigtlander company which was sold to its arch rival Zeiss Ikon in 1956. An interesting thing about the camera: it has an inner bayonet mount for the 50mm lenses (Nokton 50/1.5, Ultron 50/2, Skopar 50/3.5) and an outer bayonet mount for other lenses.

I will focus on the original Nokton lens in this post. When introduced in 1951, it was considered the sharpest 1.5 lens, easily beating competitors (Zeiss Sonnar 50/1.5 for Contax rangefinders, Leica Summarit 50/1.5, etc.), until 1961 when Leica brought the legendary Summilux 50/1.4 (Type 2) and Zeiss brought the Contarex Planar 55/1.4. In addition to the Prominent mount version I have here, Voigtlander also produced two additional versions: one for Leica Thread Mount (LTM) and the other for Contax rangefinder mount, with very limited quantity. The story goes like this: the original Nokton was so good that many Leica and Contax users wanted it badly and some even used a Summarit’s barrel to house Nokton's optics so that they can used them on Leica bodies; encouraged by the demand and the pride, Voigtlander thus made the Nokton available in competitors' mounts. Today, due to rarity, expect to pay $7K or more for a LTM version if you desire.

The Voigtlander brand went through a roller coaster ride, mostly downwards, after being sold to Zeiss Ikon in 1956. After Cosina bought the Voigtlander nameplate in 1999, it revived the Nokton branding with a modern aspherical 50/1.5 lens (first in Nikon SC rangefinder mount in 2003 and in Leica M-mount in 2013) which was said to based on the original Nokton. Interestingly, Cosina’s "reissue" only resembles the original Nokton in appearance while they have very different optical formulas. And what is more interesting is that the replica’s form is based on the LTM version of the original Nokton because the LTM version has built-in focus mechanism.

In order to adapt the original Prominent Nokton to mirrorless cameras, you need either a Prominent-LTM or Prominent-M adapter, and they tend to be pretty expensive. This is due to the fact that the lens has no focus mechanism (as mentioned before, the focus mechanism is inside the Prominent camera), so you need an adapter with a focus helicoid. I use a Prominent-LTM adapter plus a LTM-FujiX adapter to use it on my Fujifilm X-T3. Infinity focus is achieved by back focus a little bit, and thanks to the helicoid, now it can focus down to 0.4m instead of 1m originally designed - a nice little surprise for going through hoops. If you want to use it on a Leica M camera, make sure you get a Prominent-M adapter that allows rangefinder coupling.

Nokton 50/1.5 on Voigtlander Prominent (1950s) by Sander Li, on Flickr

Nokton 50/1.5 on Voigtlander Prominent (1950s) by Sander Li, on Flickr

Here is a photo of the Prominent + Skoparon setup, which clearly shows the use of outer bayonet.
Skoparon 35/3.5 on Voigtlander Prominent (1950s) by Sander Li, on Flickr

The Nokton on X-T3 via two adapters.
Voigtlander Nokton 50/1.5 Prominent on X-T3 by Sander Li, on Flickr

Edited on Sep 17, 2022 at 08:00 PM · View previous versions



Sep 17, 2022 at 06:12 PM
sander9t
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Original Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (Prominent 1951-1960)


Even though this lens was an amazing performer in the 1950s, by today's standard, it is soft and glowy wide open. It does sharpen up when stopped down: I would say that f/2 gets much cleaner (increased contrast & reduced glow) but doesn't offer too much improvement in resolution; looks very good at f/2.8; pretty amazing sharpness at f/5.6 through f/11, actually comparable to modern lenses. While it lacks in sharpness, it offers a lot of vintage characters that some of us love: nice glow especially in highlights, impressive focus falloff, and painterly bokeh. Here are some photos at close distances, all shot wide open.

FXT37527 by Sander Li, on Flickr

Hibiscus in Bubbles by Sander Li, on Flickr

FXT37753 by Sander Li, on Flickr

FXT37813 by Sander Li, on Flickr

FXT38201 by Sander Li, on Flickr

FXT38197 by Sander Li, on Flickr

Edited on Sep 22, 2022 at 09:10 PM · View previous versions



Sep 17, 2022 at 06:36 PM
sander9t
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Original Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (Prominent 1951-1960)


I wasn’t expecting much when I took the Nokton & X-T3 combo to the San Diego County Fair. There were tons of people, and while it wasn’t the warmest day the California sun was still kind of harsh. I was planning to just take some tourist snapshots here and there and figure out if I love the bokeh the lens produces under sunlight. The moment I put my eye to the viewfinder and turned the focus ring, I saw magic. The bokeh was exactly what I had been seeking for years - busy yet painterly, and all the other tourists were no longer distractions but became part of the Impressionist art that was brushed up rather casually. I also saw some best focus falloff I have ever seen, and there was a sense of depth even in the bokeh. The highlight handling is incredible too, as if the lens somehow softened the harsh sunlight. The subject had an organic look with the right amount of nice glow. Soft wideopen? Perhaps. Do I care? Certainly no!

FXT38068 by Sander Li, on Flickr

FXT38023 by Sander Li, on Flickr

FXT38058 by Sander Li, on Flickr

FXT38024 by Sander Li, on Flickr

FXT38016 by Sander Li, on Flickr



Sep 17, 2022 at 07:16 PM
sander9t
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Original Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (Prominent 1951-1960)


Some indoor shots. Of course, I shot wide open .

FXT37973 by Sander Li, on Flickr

FXT37853 by Sander Li, on Flickr

FXT38242 by Sander Li, on Flickr



Sep 17, 2022 at 07:22 PM
philip_pj
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Original Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (Prominent 1951-1960)


Thank you so much for this post.


Sep 17, 2022 at 07:35 PM
sander9t
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Original Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (Prominent 1951-1960)


I am glad that you like it!
philip_pj wrote:
Thank you so much for this post.





Sep 17, 2022 at 08:03 PM
Matt Kerby
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Original Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (Prominent 1951-1960)


Lovely examples, I know you say it's soft, I wouldn't care either, its very unique.


Sep 18, 2022 at 10:03 AM
Desmolicious
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Original Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (Prominent 1951-1960)


Nice photos! Have you checked the lenses for haze? After 70 years it would not be surprising. But perhaps you wouldn’t want it cleaned anyway!


Sep 18, 2022 at 10:40 AM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Original Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (Prominent 1951-1960)


Love the character and it does not look soft to me.
Actually it's reminiscent of the 50/1 Noctilux's look. Thanks for the samples!



Sep 18, 2022 at 11:08 AM
 


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sander9t
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Original Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (Prominent 1951-1960)


Matt Kerby wrote:
Lovely examples, I know you say it's soft, I wouldn't care either, its very unique.

Thank you. Yes, soft by today's standard for sure. I would say very much comparable to many fast vintage 50/1.4s, e.g., Super-Takumar, and a little softer than some of the best, e.g., Planar CY, Summilux pre-ASPH. Eventually, I go with the characters, especially because I prefer very busy bokeh.
---------------------------------------------

Desmolicious wrote:
Nice photos! Have you checked the lenses for haze? After 70 years it would not be surprising. But perhaps you wouldn’t want it cleaned anyway!


Thanks! I did check with flash - optics are pretty clean by vintage lens standard - no haze and not very dusty. The great stopped-down IQ convinces me that mine is among the best copies of this lens available now. Might have been serviced long time ago. Some oil on blades but aperture not sticky at all. I probably will have it CLA'ed again at some point.

---------------------------------------------

Fred Miranda wrote:
Love the character and it does not look soft to me.
Actually it's reminiscent of the 50/1 Noctilux's look. Thanks for the samples!


Thanks! I am glad that you like the character. Softness probably won't show up much at this resolution. Overall, it has sufficient contrast and the glow is not the worst. I wish I have a Noctilux to do a comparison !



Sep 18, 2022 at 11:54 AM
sander9t
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Original Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (Prominent 1951-1960)


A couple of good shots from 4th of July.

FXT38253 by Sander Li, on Flickr

FXT38379 by Sander Li, on Flickr



Sep 19, 2022 at 09:19 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Original Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (Prominent 1951-1960)


Are there adapters from Prominent to M?


Sep 21, 2022 at 03:02 PM
sander9t
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Original Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (Prominent 1951-1960)


Fred Miranda wrote:
Are there adapters from Prominent to M?


There are but getting harder to find. I ordered a Fotodiox one from Adorama when it was shown available and was notified a few days later that it was back ordered with no ETA. So I canceled it and bought a Prominent-LTM on Ebay instead because I don't have a M body and no need to worry about rangefinder coupling.




Sep 21, 2022 at 09:25 PM
Fred Miranda
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Original Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (Prominent 1951-1960)


sander9t wrote:
There are but getting harder to find. I ordered a Fotodiox one from Adorama when it was shown available and was notified a few days later that it was back ordered with no ETA. So I canceled it and bought a Prominent-LTM on Ebay instead because I don't have a M body and no need to worry about rangefinder coupling.


I see. An adapter with rangefinder coupling is needed for this lens when used on M bodies.
Thanks for the info.

Do you know if any Voigtlander 50mm lens share similar rendering? From your samples, newer releases like the CV 50/1.5 II Nokton, 50/1.2 Nokton and 50/1.5 Heliar do not.




Sep 21, 2022 at 10:01 PM
sander9t
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Original Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (Prominent 1951-1960)


Fred Miranda wrote:
I see. An adapter with rangefinder coupling is needed for this lens when used on M bodies.
Thanks for the info.

Do you know if any Voigtlander 50mm lens share similar rendering? From your samples, newer releases like the CV 50/1.5 II Nokton, 50/1.2 Nokton and 50/1.5 Heliar do not.



I don't think there is any CV lens that offers similar rendering, as most of them have aspherical elements. Heliar might be the closest due to the vintage optical design without aspherical but again its three-group optics are very different from Prominent Nokton's double Gaussian 7/6 in 2-1-1 | 2-1 design. If you are counting 40mm, Nokton Classic 40/1.4 has a kinda similar 7/6 in 1-1-1 | 1-2-1 design, but based on my observation, it still offers different rendering.

In the bokeh department, Prominent Nokton is on the very busy side of the spectrum. I had been searching for this type of bokeh for a couple of years until I got the Prominent. Before that, I almost got an Olympus 50/1.4 OM that probably has the busiest bokeh among mainstream fast 50mm vintages, and I stumbled upon Toby Marshall's mega comparison. From this you can see Prominent Nokton's bokeh is even busier than OM 50 and also swirly. This convinced me to get the Prominent and I couldn't be happier to learn not only bokeh is what I had wanted but it has a few attributes such as focus falloff and highlight handling that are surprisingly good. Recently I talked to a guy who has this lens and also some famous cine lenses like Dallmeyer Super-Six and his opinion goes like the Prominent is perhaps the closest thing among still photography lenses to a cine lens in rendering.



Sep 21, 2022 at 11:08 PM
sander9t
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Original Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (Prominent 1951-1960)


Beers & Cameras LA. These were wide open.

Beers & Cameras LA by Sander Li, on Flickr

Beers & Cameras LA by Sander Li, on Flickr

Beers & Cameras LA by Sander Li, on Flickr

Beers & Cameras LA by Sander Li, on Flickr



Sep 22, 2022 at 07:24 PM
sander9t
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Original Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 (Prominent 1951-1960)


These are f/2.8 I believe.

Beers & Cameras LA by Sander Li, on Flickr

Beers & Cameras LA by Sander Li, on Flickr



Sep 22, 2022 at 07:29 PM







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