Voigtländer Nokton D35mm f/1.2 review: the lens Nikon should have made

Pairing Voigtländer's gorgeous lens with a Nikon Z fc is like stepping back into the 1980s

Voigtlander D 35mm f1.2 Nokton lens in the hand on a Nikon Z fc
(Image: © Future | Tim Coleman)

TechRadar Verdict

If you own a Nikon Z fc, or are thinking about buying one, then you need to consider the Voigtländer Nokton D35mm f/1.2 lens; it and the Z fc are a heavenly match. Voigtländer has paid particular attention to past design details, from the notched focus and aperture rings, to colorful aperture markings. Where Nikon has failed to deliver a true retro lens for its old-school Z-mount cameras, Voigtländer has succeeded – this is the real retro deal in today's mirrorless camera tech. However, with that comes handling challenges – this is a fully manual lens, and to an extent brings character over technical quality. However, if you're into retro then it's a price fully worth paying.


  • +

    The most exquisite old-school design

  • +

    Includes an aperture ring

  • +

    Fits perfectly with the Nikon Z fc


  • -

    Manual focus only

  • -

    Focus breathing

  • -

    Soft detail at f/1.2 and f/1.4

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Voigtländer Nokton D35mm f/1.2: two-minute review

I've bemoaned the fact that Nikon's gorgeous new retro cameras, the Zf and Z fc, lack any lenses that equally pack the old-school appeal. However, it turns out that you won't need to make do with modern-style mirrorless lenses, or resort to adapting Nikon's old SLR lenses with old-school quality, because there's another name in today's retro game: Voigtländer. 

I first saw the old-time German lens maker's Voigtländer D35mm f/1.2 Nokton lens at the CP+ expo in Yokohama, Japan. It was mounted on a Nikon Z fc and the pairing offered up a true blast from the past.

Voigtländer Nokton D35mm f/1.2 specs

Type: Prime
Sensor: APS-C
Focal length: 35mm (around 53mm APS-C)
Max aperture: f/1.2
Minimum focus: 11.8in / 30cm
Filter size: 46mm
Dimensions: 2.6 x 1.6in / 65.8 x 41.0mm
Weight: 8.1oz / 230g

Made in Japan, the lens might look like it's from the 1980's, but it is in fact a Z-mount lens for today's latest Nikon mirrorless cameras, and is around two years old now.

The super-brief amount of time spent with the retro stunner at CP+ left me wanting more, and I just had to get my hands on it again for a much longer play. Thanks to the good folks at Flaghead Photographic, that became a reality and now I've completed this long-term review. 

Voigtländer's lens has won over both me, and my camera enthusiast father who first introduced me to Nikon SLR cameras back when I was a teen. Mounted to a Nikon Z fc, the gear has taken us back to simpler times, all while offering Nikon's superb mirrorless tech for 2024. If you already own a Z fc or are considering one, then Voigtländer's lens should be your next lens to go with it.

Voigtländer Nokton D 35mm f/1.2: Design

  • Made in Japan
  • Meaningful attention to retro details
  • Manual focus only

The Voigtländer Nokton D 35mm f/1.2 is an APS-C lens with approximate 53mm full-frame equivalent focal length. It's also available for Fujifilm X-mount and Sony E-mount, with each version being considerately designed to match each brand's style. For me, the Nikon Z-mount version is easily the pick of the bunch.  

It's a manual focus-only lens decked with a ridged focus ring, focus distance markings, plus an aperture ring with colorful aperture markings. The focus ring has a smooth rotation, while the aperture ring is clicked. All of these details are crucial; they're faithful recreations of Nikon's old-school design.

If you're already fond of Nikon's SLR lenses from decades past, then it will be love at first sight, love at first hold and love at first use. This is the real retro deal, with the design touches alone enough to elevate Voigtländer's lens to the top of Z fc owners' wish list.

Speaking of the Nikon Z fc, it has shutter speed and ISO exposure dials (see above); but, currently, not a single Nikon Z-mount mirrorless lens has an aperture ring. With the Voigtländer lens you now get aperture control, meaning the manual exposure triangle of ISO, shutter speed and aperture is complete. 

Build quality is solid. The lens mount is made of metal, although it isn't rubber-sealed nor weather-resistant. However, you're afforded the modern convenience of electronic contacts, meaning all metadata is logged in your files for easy reference, including camera settings such as aperture, plus the date created. 

You're primarily buying the Voigtländer Nokton D 35mm f/1.2 because of how it looks and feels, rather than its ease of use – it's a manual focus lens, after all – and, honestly, that will be enough for most people. But what of the images it can produce? 

Voigtländer Nokton D 35mm f/1.2: Performance

  • True sharpness kicks in at f/2 to f/8
  • Characterful bokeh 
  • Manual focusing can be challenging when depth of field is shallow

Technically, you can use the Voigtländer Nokton D 35mm f/1.2 lens with a full-frame camera such as the Z f, but because it's an APS-C lens, you won't be making the most of the lens' image circle; the camera will automatically crop 1.5x because of vignetting, creating a field of view that's approximate to an 80mm lens.

With an APS-C camera, you have an every-day lens that's especially good for portrait photography, provided you get the hang of manual focus, which is pretty tough at such shallow depths of field. Without Nikon's subject detection autofocus at your disposal, you won't get as many critically sharp photos, no matter how long you hone focus nor how still your subject.

There's 12 aperture blades to create a smooth and rounded bokeh, especially when wide open at f/1.2. I've included various sample images that illustrate bokeh, sharpness and distortions, turning all in-camera lens corrections off (although there's no real reason to do that). The images below are taken in sequence at f/1.2, f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4 and f/5.6. 

Bokeh is cats-eye in shape in the corners; I don't mind that over the sought-after circular bokeh. And in some images the out-of-focus backgrounds have a surreal quality to them – for instance, the photo of the goat with the ground behind it in the general gallery below.

The f/1.2 maximum aperture is faster than any one of Nikon's lenses in this sensor format, giving you excellent low light and shallow depth of field potential. However, to begin seeing the lens' technical quality, you'll need to stop the aperture down to around f/2 for sharper detail and better control over lens distortions such as vignetting.

You're then in a quandry – for many users, the draw for the lens' images will be the fast f/1.2 aperture, where you can get dreamy bokeh, provided your subject in focus is close enough. I've included an out-of-focus shot to show what the bokeh could look like, but the other shot in focus is more realistic based on portraits you're likely to take.

Bang for buck, I'd say that image quality is good – and the primary reason for knocking a mark off the lens' score, while its undisputed design scores top marks.

There are technically better lenses available, but none can compare to the feeling you get with the Voigtländer. It has certain characteristics that you come to know and grow to love.

If you own a Nikon Z fc because you fell for its charm, then the Voigtländer Nokton D35mm f/1.2 should be the next lens on your shopping list, even if it's a fraction on the pricey side. 

Voigtländer Nokton D35mm f/1.2: sample images

Should you buy the Voigtländer Nokton D35mm f/1.2?

Buy it if...

You want an analog experience in today's digital

The Voigtländer Nokton D35mm f/1.2 is as close as you can get to a decades-old SLR lens, but in today's Nikon Z-mount.

You want full manual control

It's a manual focus lens, plus it features an aperture ring, unlike any of Nikon's own Z-mount lenses. Paired with a Z fc, you have complete manual exposure and autofocus control through dedicated dials and rings.

You like shallow depth of field

An f/1.2 aperture even in APS-C format can create super shallow depth of field, ideal for portraits. 

Don't buy it if...

You want to make use of Nikon's autofocus

The Nikon Z fc has decent subject detection autofocus that ensures sharp focus where it matters most – on your subject's eyes. You miss out on that feature with this manual focus lens.  

You want a versatile lens

Although its 53mm equivalent focal length is good for every-day photography, this prime lens cannot zoom in or out. 

You want the "best" image quality

I'd describe the Voigtländer's lens' image quality as characterful over being technically excellent. Image quality is still decent, but I've seen better from true modern lenses; and video users should note there's focus breathing. 

How I tested the Voigtländer Nokton D35mm f/1.2

  • Regular use for over a month
  • All kinds of photos, including portraits
  • Used mainly in fair weather, plus day and night

I've had the Voigtländer Nokton D35mm f/1.2 and Nikon Z fc on long-term loan for this review. The gear has accompanied me on many days out, during walks, documenting family life, capturing portraits – in essence, a walk around lens. 

I've taken the same photos at all aperture settings to check lens sharpness and distortion, and paid much attention to the experience around portrait photography. The lens isn't weather-sealed and so, in general, I've guarded it well – although it has experienced light rain on the odd occasion.

  • First reviewed May 2024
Timothy Coleman
Cameras editor

Tim is the Cameras editor at TechRadar. He has enjoyed more than 15 years in the photo video industry with most of those in the world of tech journalism. During his time as Deputy Technical Editor with Amateur Photographer, as a freelancer and consequently editor at Tech Radar, Tim has developed a deeply technical knowledge and practical experience with cameras, educating others through news, reviews and features. He’s also worked in video production for Studio 44 with clients including Canon, and volunteers his spare time to consult a non-profit, diverse stories team based in Nairobi. Tim is curious, a keen creative, avid footballer and runner, and moderate flat white drinker who has lived in Kenya and believes we have much to enjoy and learn from each other.