Full disclaimer – I hated shooting digital cameras and had always preferred using my film cameras. I just something about how my vintage glass render images, especially portraits. The out of focus areas, the skin tones, the fact that images don’t come out so completely sharp, these are all reasons I normally stray away from picking up my digital cameras. However, the Voigtlander 58mm 1.4 AIS has successfully got me to reconsider my approach.
I’ve used a lot of ~50mm lenses throughout my time as a photographer. Canon’s 50mm 1.2, Sony’s 55mm 1.8, Nikon’s 50mm 1.4G, and about 16 others in between. However, none of my previous options has given me the results that I’ve gotten with lens. The lens is magic. On one particular day of shooting, I shot my Nikon Z6 with the 58mm in tandem with my Pentax 67II with the 105mm F2.4. I would shoot one subject with the Pentax and then immediately with the Z6. After getting my scans back and then editing my digital images to match the colors to film, the difference was hardly noticeable.
I never truly believed in lens “character”, until now. I firmly believed that the focal distance and the max aperture dictated lens performance. The worst of it all is that I never wanted to like this lens as much as I do. I purchased the 58mm alongside the 50mm 1.8 native lens for the Z6. I thought that I would only keep the 50mm 1.8 and get rid of the Voigtlander as the 50mm has all the things I like about a digital shooting: lightening quick autofocus, stabilization, shallow DOF, etc. However, it was lacking the one thing the Voigtlander has going for itself, magical rendering. I am not a pixel peeper by any stretch, so how sharp a lens is wide open has no bearing on what I consider to be a quality lens. That said, the Voigtlander is soft wide open, but not in a way that detracts. I much prefer softness to clinical, overpowering sharpness featured in many of today’s glass.
If you shoot people and you have a Nikon, get this lens. However, because this is a completely manual lens, don’t expect this to be the only 50mm you carry. I expect to switch over to the 50mm 1.8 when a lot of action is happening due to its autofocus prowess. Outside of that, I expect the Voigtlander to be glued to my camera for years to come.