If the specs in the title haven’t gotten your attention, I don’t know what will. The Voigtlander 25mm f/0.95 (no typo) is a manual focus lens made for the Micro Four Thirds System.
I imagine that by now most M 4/3 owners have experienced shooting with manual lenses and I’m sure video professionals do it every day. It used to be a Leica thing, but with the growing popularity of the format, manual lenses are back in business and now more than ever they work brilliantly with digital sensors.
With that said, this superb piece of optical engineering is made like they used to make’em in the old days. It’s an all metal and glass construction that weighs 410g without the lens hood. The optical design consists of 11 elements divided into 8 groups. The aperture has 10 blades and the filter size is a standard 52mm.
The main selling point of this lens is obviously the aperture. It’s something camera geeks used to dream of before it came out. Panasonic and Olympus users have a lot to be thankful for, including the ability to use a lens like this. Getting down to business, at wide open aperture this lens can be pretty hard to focus. The bokeh gives the images a fairytale look and the difference between what’s in focus and what’s not is huge. It kind of gives things a 3D look. Add to that the fact that this lens can focus at 0.17 meters and you get a truly impressive perspective.
Now for the downside of owning an f/0.95 lens. It’s not particularly sharp when wide open and that can be a bit of a downer. Unlike a Leica lens that costs three or four times more, this one isn’t optimized to have the same sharpness at all aperture values.
If you stop it down though, things get a massive improvement. Take it all the way down to f/2.8 and you will get an unbelievably sharp image with very little difference between the center and the edges.
The contrast and color are beautiful and although it looks and feels like a vintage lens, the fact that it was designed to be mounted on M 4/3 cameras is obvious. It feels like an old lens but it performs like a “digital” one.
Who is it for? I can tell you straight away it’s a very poor option for street and fast action photography. Even with practice, this still is a manual focusing lens and that means the entire process will be significantly slowed down. It’s a fabulous lens for lowlight photography, but I’m guessing you got that from the title. It does very well with portraits although you have to keep in mind that at if you focus on the eyes at f/0.95 the nose of your subject will be blurred completely. I suggest using it wide open only when the situation dictates and to not with very close subjects.
Overall I’m not sure it deserves the “poor man’s Leica Noctilux” label, although it definitely looks and feels like one. It’s a solid performer, especially on the latest Olympus and Panasonic bodies. I recommend testing it before you make the decision because I believe it’s one of those items you either immediately fall in love with or hate it for the rest of your life.
I loved using it for stills and video, but that’s me and you shouldn’t take my word for it. Give it a try though, it might grow on you.