Cosina released in 2019 the Voigtlander 75 mm f/1.5 Nokton aspherical lens as addition to its Voigtlander's vintage line. Cosina has really stepped up the game with their more budget-friendly but high quality M-lens line providing suitable alternatives to much more expensive Leica counterparts. Obviously one lens won't mimic exactly the same look as the other, but for the most part a less expensive Voigtlander lens will do its job just fine for all what is needed. I am using several Voigtlander M lenses on my Leica M rangefinder cameras since many years to complement my Leica lenses, and I have been always been happy with them. Since I only had one suitable tele M lens suitable to be used both on digital and film - my Leica 90/2.8 Elmarit version I lens - I was curious to test this new Voigtlander 75 mm Nokton lens to fill the focal length bracket between 50 and 90 mm. I read and watched a couple of YouTube video reviews showcasing this lens, and in May 2021 I purchased this lens in new condition from Camera Quest for $900. The lens is available in both black and silver versions for the same price. In the past I had some trouble with the black paint on other Voigtlander lenses because it tends to come off quite easily at focus rings and focus tabs. This was one reason why I decided to go with the silver version here to avoid the black paint issue. Second reason is that the silver version complemented well to my Leica M3 and the anthracite look of my M-E 240.
What's in the Box:
The lens comes in a quite typical Voigtlander lens box with styrofoam padding. Inside are both the lens and the lens hood separately in plastic bags. As usual, Voigtlander does not provide a lens pouch for the lens which would have been a nice-to-have here regarding the value of this fast lens. A very crude lens information card is supplied in the lens box lacking any kind of specific technical details of the lens built. No warranty card was included. But at least Cosina finally included the lens hood in the package which was always a complaint in the past with other CV lenses that the hood was sold separately for quite an expensive amount, or that the hood was fixed on the lens which limited usage of filters to the exact filter diameter of the lens.
First, some technical specs of the lens: the lens weights only about 350 grams, has 7 lens elements in 6 lens groups including one aspherical lens element. It has 12 aperture blades to allow for smooth circular and oval bokeh circles.
The lens built is excellent and fits to the style of other well built Voigtlander lenses: all metal with clear and precise distance and aperture scales. The scales are in black on my silver lens version and very easy to read. The distance metering scale is very accurate to focus between 0.7 and 5 meters. Between 5 meters and infinity the focus turn is very short, so here you need to be careful to turn just the right amount for getting the focus wide open correctly. No focus tab is supplied with this lens which is not needed either in my opinion since the focus ring is wide enough itself. The aperture ring does half-stop clicks between f/1.5 and f/16. The distance between each aperture stop is equal throughout the aperture range which I prefer to have.
The lens hood with black paint inside has no thread itself but is placed instead with lock screw onto a black plastic-coated metal ring. This ring is screwed into the lens filter thread. Unfortunately this black lens hood attachment ring does not fit well to the rest of the silver lens design - I wish it would just be a silver metal ring fitting the rest of the silver lens design. With the black lens version, this is no issue at all obviously. Any kind of standard 58 mm filter can be placed inside this hood ring before the hood is attached. If no hood is needed, the filter can be directly placed into the lens thread instead of the hood ring. The black plastic Voigtlander lens cap sits either directly on the lens, on any attached filter, or on the hood ring. The dual lens cap clamps make the cap sit well on either of them.
With the attached lens hood, the rangefinder camera's viewfinder blockage is about 15% in the lower right corner of the 75 mm frame lines with about 0.7x viewfinder magnification. When the lens is attached to the Leica M3 with 50, 90, and 135 mm frame lines available, only the 50 mm frame lines are shown. Best is to manually move the M3's frame line level to 90 mm to compose then in between the visible 50 and 90 mm frame lines to estimate 75 mm focal length.
Leica M-E 240 with silver version of the Voigtlander 75/1.5 Nokton lens. The engraved black scales accentuate well on the silver built.
The removable black hood ring with 58 mm filter thread does not fit well to the silver lens design. It will be fully hidden when the silver lens hood is attached though. The original lens box is shown in the background.
Leica M3 with silver version of the Voigtlander 75/1.5 Nokton lens attached. Compare the look of the lens without black hood ring in the former image!
This lens uses two kind of ways to focus: Between 0.7 and 5 meters focusing is very precise with the focus ring which is ideal for portraits. With 0.68x to 0.72x rangefinder patch magnification, focusing wide open at f/1.5 can be challenging. You might need to take a few shots with slight change in focus to have one with best focus, or you use LiveView or external EVF with magnification tool to adjust the focus. Alternatively, the Leica 1.4x viewfinder magnifier will help for rangefinder focusing for sure here. Between 5 meters and infinity the lens focus turn is very short and might be difficult to allow precise focus in this distance range.
For minimum focus distance (MFD) at 0.7 meters, the lens can be a bit tricky: the focus actually turns a bit closer than 0.7 meters which will lead to misfocus with the rangefinder which is limited to 0.7 meters (like the M 240 for example - it is only 1 meter with the Leica M3!). I always need to remind myself to set the distance scale first to exactly 0.7 meters for close-up shots and then adjust my distance to the subject accordingly to focus with the rangefinder. This is common with Voigtlander lenses, some I have go even further down in focus distance like my CV 35/1.2 II which has a MFD of 0.5 meters. It's a no-brainer when the focus is taken with EVF or LiveView because the limitation to 0.7 meters doesn't play a role here.
When taking some photos at MFD of 0.7 meters, the lower left corner of the rangefinder focus window shows a bright silver reflection in my M-E 240 camera which derives from reflected sun on the silver lens hood. It is like a reverse viewfinder corner blockage just this time within the focus patch window. I am still able to focus but the silver corner patch blockage is something I didn't observe before. By removing the lens hood, this blockage disappeared (therefore I was able to exclude any camera issue). Also the issue isn't seen at longer focus distance above 0.7 meters. Not sure if the same occurs with the black lens hood.
I did not see any focus shift when the lens is stopped down.
Photos taken with Leica M-E 240 and Voigtlander 75/1.5 Nokton lens wide open at f/1.5. For the first five photos a 3-stop ND filter was used to accomplish f/1.5 at available shutter speeds. Focus was done with the 0.68x rangefinder.
Bokeh, Bokeh and Image Quality:
Main reason to get such fast short tele lens is to shoot wide(r) open to achieve beautiful out-of-focus blur this lens is known to deliver. I can only confirm this property from my experience sop far - I love the smooth bokeh available between f/1.5 and f/2.8. The bokeh circles tend to be more oval towards the borders and corners of the frame leading sometimes to a smooth circular bokeh pattern in the background. This circular bokeh is by far not as obvious as in my vintage Leica 50/2 Summitar lens, but it definitely adds to the vintage look achievable with this 75/1.5 lens. Image quality is superb - this lens combines well modern sharp lens properties with good micro contrast and vintage looking depth-of field. I did not observe much of chromatic aberrations wide open which is likely mostly avoided due to the aspherical lens element. The lens doesn't seem to flare much with the hood attached - shooting against the sun wide open can cause some purple flares. There is some slight corner vignetting at f/1.5 which I actually like for many of my wide open compositions. Stopping down the lens a bit will reduce the vignetting significantly.
At f/8.0, the Voigtlander 75/1.5 Nokton lens astonishes with excellent sharpness throughout the frame without any vignetting in the corners of the frame. Color rendition is typical for Voigtlander lenses providing a warmer look and rendering. The lens achieves excellent sharpness beginning at f/2.8. Wider open, the lens has more classic rendering qualities compromising between modern sharpness look and vintage rendering.
Photos taken with Leica M-E 240 and Voigtlander 75/1.5 Nokton lens at f/2.0 (top) and f/2.8 (bottom). Painterly bokeh with beautiful depth of field transition even when stopped down a bit.
Sunset photos taken with Leica M-E 240 and Voigtlander 75/1.5 Nokton lens at f/8.0
Lens Competitors closest in Price:
No longer made, the Leica 75/2.4 Summarit lens is a suitable competitor to this Voigtlander lens (the f/2.5 version is not as good in performance as the newer f/2.4 version which is also represented by the prices they are going for). About $1500 more expensive in the current used market, the f/2.4 Summarit lens has supposed to have more micro contrast wide open making it feel more like a f/2.0 lens.
Also the Leica 75/1.4 classic Summilux lens no longer in production comes very close in performance to the Voigtlander 75/1.5 lens. But it costs at least about 4x as much.
The 7Artisans 75/1.25 lens is the cheapest alternative in the bundle but does not achieve the optical image qualities of the CV 75/1.5 lens. Other test reviews state it is less well corrected optically and less sharp; also it is much bigger and heavier. Its bokeh wide open might be a good alternative though.
Below my summary with pros and cons which I experienced with this lens so far. Overall a great value for the price and likely one of the best Voigtlander M Nokton lenses available.
+ Very well balanced lens when mounted on camera
+ Sharp wide open in the center with correct focus applied
+ Amazing and smooth bokeh
+ Bokeh circles can in specific situations lead to some vintage-like circular background rendering
+ Smooth focus ring which allows precise focusing between 0.7 and 5 meters.
+ Excellent built
+ Combines modern lens characteristics with vintage lens properties
+ Comes with removable hood in vintage look
+ Available in two color versions (black and silver) for the same price tag
- Thin lens rim to attach and detach the lens on and from the camera (you can easily turn the focus ring instead!)
- Too thin red line to mount lens on camera (better visible red dot on the lens mount side would have been better)
- Very short focus turn for distances between 5 meters and infinity making it hard to focus correctly in this range
- Weird lens hood reflection in lower left corner of rangefinder patch in sunlight at MFD with silver lens hood
- Lens allows a bit shorter than 0.7 meters MFD which can easily lead to misfocus with rangefinder focusing when not keeping the lens exactly at the 0.7 meter distance scale set point.
- No lens pouch supplied and no details on the lens info card about lens built or specifics.
- Black lens hood ring does not fit well optically to the rest of the silver lens design