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Zeiss C Sonnar and Nokton II 50mm comparison


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Hello everyone,

 

I finally completed my comparison of the Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50mm 1.5 ZM and the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm 1.5 II VM.

You can read it here:

https://www.47-degree.com/focus-shift/nokton-50mm-1-5-ii-sonnar-50mm-1-5-comparison

I hope you enjoy it and find it useful!

I also published individual reviews of each lens plus the Nokton 1.2 and the Nokton 1.5 VM version 1:

https://www.47-degree.com/focus-shift/zeiss-c-sonnar-50mm-1-5-zm-review

https://www.47-degree.com/focus-shift/Voigtlander-Nokton-50mm-1.5-II-VM-review

https://www.47-degree.com/focus-shift/Voigtlander-Nokton-50mm-1-2-Aspherical-VM-review

https://www.47-degree.com/focus-shift/voigtlander-nokton-50mm-15-vm-aspherical-review

 

Next I will do the comparison between the Nokton 1.5 I vs II, then the Nokton 1.5 II vs Nokton 1.2.

I am still waiting for my Summilux ASPH and Summicron v5 to come back from repair...I will add those to the reviews as well when possible.

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Awesome review! 

"My preferences in photographic equipment are these: first of all, the camera and lens have to disappear in use" - well said!!

Drumroll, and your favourite 50 is...

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" if you speak to any 50mm zm fan they will harp on about its semi-divine qualities etc etc"

The op undermines his review with very obvious bias against the zeiss sonnar in my view.

I mean mocking the opinions of the sonnar "fans" is hardly helpful in a analytical review of two  50mm lenses .

Its a bit like animal farm,,,,,voigtlander good ,zeiis  bad,,voigtlander good ,zeiss bad and so on.

Could be that the review is spot on but showing a clear bias against the sonnar does not fit in with the fair minded scientific comparison for me at least.

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Posted (edited)

If one lens is better than another in terms of technical performance it only means that it's better for technical applications. Technical applications are a valid part of photography but it's not everything. I am sure there are people who find Sonnar suiting them for purposes of artistic expression. The review clearly dismisses those sentiments as Steve notices above.

Edited by arichter
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On 5/7/2021 at 2:45 AM, Danner said:

Wow! The Nokton really spanked the Sonnar.

Great comparo Harpomatic.  You are an asset to the community.  [beerclink]

Thanks Danner!

But my intention wasn’t to find a winner, just to compare them.

On 5/7/2021 at 7:55 AM, Ray Vonn said:

I'll always love the vintage rendering of the Sonnar.

Although I am a bit facetious in the article I do respect that. I just don’t get it...but that’s me, not the lens. 

 

On 5/7/2021 at 8:01 AM, cboy said:

Awesome review! 

"My preferences in photographic equipment are these: first of all, the camera and lens have to disappear in use" - well said!!

Drumroll, and your favourite 50 is...

Thanks! My favourite is the Nokton II: it really is my desert island lens, although it isn’t perfect by any means

 

17 hours ago, Alan Friedman said:

Great fun to read... thanks for taking the time and for sharing it here.

 

17 hours ago, RoySmith said:

Very well done and educational review. Thank-you. 👏

 

14 hours ago, Lee S said:

Fantastic, great review. I also have this lens and it’s a great all round performer.

Thank you guys, I rally hope it is informative!

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9 hours ago, steve 1959 said:

" if you speak to any 50mm zm fan they will harp on about its semi-divine qualities etc etc"

The op undermines his review with very obvious bias against the zeiss sonnar in my view.

I mean mocking the opinions of the sonnar "fans" is hardly helpful in a analytical review of two  50mm lenses .

Its a bit like animal farm,,,,,voigtlander good ,zeiis  bad,,voigtlander good ,zeiss bad and so on.

Could be that the review is spot on but showing a clear bias against the sonnar does not fit in with the fair minded scientific comparison for me at least.

Hi steve 1959, I’m sorry you don’t like my humour. But in this forum and the larger Leica community there is a very strong tendency to attribute magical qualities to specific lenses, most of the time based on their flaws or non quantifiable subjective properties of the image rendering.

The Zeiss C Sonnar is the only one outside of the Leica branded lenses I can think of that enjoys this status of magical rendering.

You might agree that this tendency lends itself to a little humour. But if you read the article I never dismiss the lens out of hand, I try to judge on as objective as possible standards and then give my opinion that is based on what I found comparing them based on objective optical qualities.

I certainly am not seeing the “animal farm” pattern, I see two lens designs 90 years apart and that technology advances. The Nokton is a technically better lens, and that is not an opinion. I do state clearly in the conclusions: if you want vintage and don’t mind taming the lens buy the Zeiss. I clearly say it’s not for me and explain why.

But alas, I can’t seek to please everyone.

Thanks for the comment though

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5 hours ago, astrostl said:

Narrative is narrative, but evidence is evidence. One can ignore the text and just use the examples to draw their own conclusion.

 

3 hours ago, arichter said:

If one lens is better than another in terms of technical performance it only means that it's better for technical applications. Technical applications are a valid part of photography but it's not everything. I am sure there are people who find Sonnar suiting them for purposes of artistic expression. The review clearly dismisses those sentiments as Steve notices above.

So does the narrative sound so incredibly biased? 

The Nokton is technically better, but not only for technical applications. It is for transparency in the image. If I reviewed the APO-Summicron er I would just prefer the transparency of that one, because it’s going to be even more “invisible” in colouring the image with its rendering.

Not just a few people find the Sonnar a great artistic tool for themselves, a lot do. But when you see some descriptions of how that lens rendering is so magic it makes me smile. That’s where a little humour comes from. But when you hear a statement like:

On 5/7/2021 at 7:55 AM, Ray Vonn said:

I'll always love the vintage rendering of the Sonnar.

Plain and simple. No argument there, nothing to make fun of. I just wish I could like it that much myself, it would have saved me a lot of grief in looking for my ideal lens! I really wanted to like the Sonnar. 

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7 hours ago, Harpomatic said:

So does the narrative sound so incredibly biased? 

I think the narrative makes it clear what you prefer and why, but I don't think the integrity of the examples or methodology has been compromised in any way. I also enjoy reading others' opinions as long as they are not presented as facts, and I think you do a good job of drawing that line too. And it's your site and your effort. I say keep on keeping on 🤷‍♂️

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Posted (edited)

It's a great review, and there's no need to apologize to anyone. Being candid without being over the top is an art form, and you seem to have walked a good balance.

When someone feels the lens they own was threatened by what was illustrated in a review, they often attack the test. But when the test is well done, such as in this case, the only thing left to criticize is the commentary.

Lenses are like children that we specifically chose, so seeing they might not be what we thought they were – well, it not only makes us want to defend the lens, but also ourselves for our choices.

Still I enjoy being around people that see the magic in things, even if it is not there :) 

Edited by hdmesa
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11 hours ago, Harpomatic said:

Hi steve 1959, I’m sorry you don’t like my humour. But in this forum and the larger Leica community there is a very strong tendency to attribute magical qualities to specific lenses, most of the time based on their flaws or non quantifiable subjective properties of the image rendering.

The Zeiss C Sonnar is the only one outside of the Leica branded lenses I can think of that enjoys this status of magical rendering.

You might agree that this tendency lends itself to a little humour. But if you read the article I never dismiss the lens out of hand, I try to judge on as objective as possible standards and then give my opinion that is based on what I found comparing them based on objective optical qualities.

I certainly am not seeing the “animal farm” pattern, I see two lens designs 90 years apart and that technology advances. The Nokton is a technically better lens, and that is not an opinion. I do state clearly in the conclusions: if you want vintage and don’t mind taming the lens buy the Zeiss. I clearly say it’s not for me and explain why.

But alas, I can’t seek to please everyone.

Thanks for the comment though

Good reply,

On reflection i did not think through my critical post and your reviews are incredibly detailed and make for good reading.

I do apologise for my previous post.   

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I think there’s a bit of confusion over the cross over between opinion and fact. We use what we use to get differing results and find what we use to be “better”. For example, I would always choose a 40 year old Tele Elmarit 90mm over a new Summarit 90mm. Whilst the latter is no doubt technically superior, it certainly isn’t better for me.

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Realistically, the Zeiss ZM 50mm Sonnar is intentionally designed to perform like the 1930s lens. It's a nostalgia trip.

I'm sure a 2021 Morgan Sportster "spanks" a 1935 Morgan Super Sports by most measures. But that is rather beside the point, if one likes 1930s three-wheelers.

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Flavio,
Great review, as always.
I happen to have both lenses and fully agree with the facts - they are undisputable: the Nokton is indeed the "better" lens from an optical perspective.
If I had to be stranded on a desert island, I would, however, pick the Zeiss. But this is just a personal bias towards vintage (and Sonnar) rendering.
And I enjoy working for my images, as much as I like lenses with optical flaws (aka "character") or, as Andy puts it, "nostalgia trips".
Although I also own a few of these, "transparent" lenses mostly make me yawn, so you and I come from opposite perspectives.
Yet, I thoroughly enjoy your reviews. They are balanced and honest.
Keep them coming.

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