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Subjective test: Nikkor 35, 105 AIS and Voigtlander 40 Ultron

Just for the fun of it, I did a test of my 3 prime lenses, shooting someold buildings out my apartment window on a clear day in Shanghai. The 3 suspects are:

  • Nikkor 35mm f1.4 AIS
  • Voigtlander 40mm f2 Ultron SL Aspherical
  • Nikkor 105mm f2.5 AIS

Nothing too scientific. A D2H mounts those lenses, and bolted down to a Kirk BH3 ballhead and a Manfrotto aluminium tripod and triggered via cabled release. All major aperture stops are tested. Half stops on the Voigtlander are avoided as far as possible since they are not registered on the EXIF. File format is RAW of course.

Nikkor 35mm f1.4: f1.4 has the hazy look to it. Worse off when the subject is in the distance, and a little less so nearer. But image is soft, and probably only useful when you REALLY need to use f1.4. Definitely not something I want to use when I can avoid. f2.0, the hazy look starts the clear up, and photo starts to get sharper, both for corner and center of image. Sharpness improves as you move to f2.8. f4.0, peak sharpness for center seems to start from here and remains up to f11. f5.6, peak sharpness for corner for my sample seems to be at f5.6 onwards. f16, sharpness starts to deteriorate compared to f11, both at center and corner.

Voigtlander 40mm f2 Ultron: Nothing much to report here, all apertures seems to return same sharpness, but f2.8 seems to be a little sharper than f2.0 but that's very very minor. Could even be of vibration from wind. Sharpness from center to edge is excellent. At f2 and 2.8 it seems to beat the 35mm f1.4, but at f4 nothing can touch the 35mm Nikkor, which seems to be in a class of its own. However contrast from this lens seems to be slightly better than the Nikkor. Could be because of the intermittent cloud cover, but I'll trust my eyes on this one.

Nikkor 105mm f2.5 AIS: f2.5: Sharpness in centre is quite good. Wanted to say the same amount of detail as the Ultron, but its not comparable due to very differing magnification. Still, very usable wide open. f2.8: A little improvement in the level of detail in the photo. Like going from very good to excellent. f4.0: Looks like the peak sharpness and level of detail in the photo at this aperture. Sharpness looks maintained up to f11. f16: Reduction in sharpness due to refraction can be seen at this aperture. Reduction continues to f22, which is a little worse off than f2.5. Somehow the corner and center seems to perform equally for this lens, unlike the 35mm.