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Let's talk gear: Manual Control

It has been a long wait since the last Let’s Talk Gear edition post. A more excruciating wait in the way I left the last post on a cliff-hanger. Nevertheless, it is back and being rebooted – and with no better piece of gear to reboot it with. This bit of gear has gone on to be my most used lens and arguable my favourite lens. It is none other than the Voigtlander 40mm F1.2 Nokton VM.

This is the lens that is essentially glued on to my camera – my primary lens for street and travel, and the lens I use just for the fun of it. I thoroughly enjoy taking photographs with this lens. It harkens back to the Fujinon 35mm F2 lens, which was my then favourite, in that it is a similar focal length and form factor; but this lens took everything I loved about that lens and took it to the next level.

But first, let us rewind back a moment and understand what events came about that pushed me to purchase this legendary lens in the first place. I am subscriber to Ken Wheeler (aka the Angry Photographer) on YouTube. It is no secret he is a very divisive figure in the photography community, but be that as it may, his knowledge and experience feel trustworthy. Put plainly, he just knows his stuff.

Now it was the Spring of 2018 when Ken first published his review of the Voigtlander 40mm F1.2 Nokton on his YouTube channel. His review and breakdown of the lens was captivating, I just had to know more about this lens. From that point, I was down the rabbit hole. Researching more about this lens, taking in more reviews, and viewing sample photographs taken with the lens. At that point, I was saturated with a wealth of knowledge regarding the lens, I was sold. I was taken back by the fidelity and character that I got when viewing the samples.

This lens simply had to be a part of my collection and it was not long after, when I was already looking for local stores that stocked this bit of gear at a reasonable price. Supply was few and far between, with quite the variance in pricing. After some time, oohing and aahing, I settled on a specialist photography store by the name of Robert White. This store had the lens at a reasonable price and had what appeared to be a solid after sales support system.

Once the order was complete, it was just a matter of time before that lens would have a new home. The excitement levels were off the charts for this particular purchase. I would be delving into a level of photography I did not give much thought about – a manual focus lens. An opportunity to really take in a scene and capture meaningful images through that process but to also learn the skills to do this quickly and effectively.

After the order had been delivered, I knew just how excited I was to get into it when I did not even photograph the box. I simply wanted to dive in and fuse it to my camera. I wanted to put the lens through its paces. Having said that though, after mounting the lens to the camera, I was just taken aback at how beautiful a combination this lens was with the Fujifilm X-T2. The combination of the black finish with red and silver accents was a sight to behold.

I know, not the greatest of images I have captured. It was an impulse shot to show what the combination looked like for my records while it was relatively new and free from fingerprints. Again, I just wanted to play with the new toy.

And my oh my was it a breath of fresh air. The feel of the metallic build, the resistance of the manual focus ring, the very apparent clicks of the aperture ring. This product just felt magical. The fidelity and character of what I was seeing through the viewfinder was very evident. The clarity was above and beyond what I had experienced from my other lenses in the collection.

This would be even more evident looking back and having the most iconic of my images taken with this lens. My personal favourites and, in my opinion, my best photographs.

Simply magical.

But that magic does come at a cost, and not just of the monetary kind. It certainly requires a lot of finesse to nail the focus, especially at the wider apertures. The focus peaking of the Fujifilm X system goes a long way in aiding the capture of photos at the wide spectrum of aperture settings, but it is nevertheless an ongoing challenge. This is amplified in situations where the window to capture the moment is not particularly long. Before you realise and dial in the focus, the opportunity just might be gone. This is the nature of the beast, a double-edged sword.

On the other hand, when you do get the shot, it gives you an even bigger sense of achievement. To have taken the time to dial in the focus and the settings (bearing in mind I mostly use full-manual mode) and still capture the moment nigh on perfectly; there are not many feelings in photography I enjoy more.

The Voigtlander 40mm F1.2 Nokton is without question, an absolute gem. In terms of image fidelity, character, usage experience and value; it is a product proposition that is extremely hard to beat. More evident in the fact this lens has gone up in retail value from when I had originally purchased it. Products have come and gone from my possession, but I have an incredibly good feeling this one is here to stay.

Thank you once again for joining me on another chapter of Let’s Talk Gear. If you have any thoughts or questions, please sound off in the comments.

The Voigtlander 40mm is a staple of my collection, but that did not stop the gear junkie urges from creeping in. Stay tuned to find out the direction I took in the next chapter in this developing series.


For more information about the lens, please visit this link to the Voigtlander product page.


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