I picked up a Nikkor 20mm F2.8 AFD about a year ago, weighing it against the Voigtlander 20mm F3.5 at the time. I went with the Nikkor only for the extra speed and autofocus, thinking I would get more performance out of it at night than I would with the 3.5 Voigtlander. I also figured my friends might want to use it from time to time and if it didn’t have autofocus, it would be challenging for them to use. I was quite wrong. Photography is an endless learning experience, you get started and there is no end. I found myself rarely pulling out the 20mm, and only on occassions where I felt autofocus would be required under the circumstances. I didn’t think too hard about it, the 20mm is a great lens, I just found myself leaving it behind more frequently than I had expected.
A bit later when I first arrived in Singapore, I decided to pick up a good tripod and start experimenting with long exposures, and thus the 20mm came out of the bag again. The 7 blade aperture produced decent starbursts from the street lights, but it wasn’t as exciting as those I would get from my 9 blade 50mm F1.2 or my 9 blade 85mm F1.4. This sounds frivolous, but that was the first point that got me to reconsider the Voigtlander, which has a 9 blade aperture.
I also wanted to cut down on the amount of crap I drag around while traveling. This year I traveled a lot, and that’s not going to change next year. The Voigtlander is a lot smaller and fairly more discreet than the Nikkor, and in my current camera bag it permits me to carry three lenses now rather than the 2 I would previously carry. Sounds like another rather petty reason to trade it in, no? By discreet, I mean no noisy AFD autofocus mechanism, manual focus all the way. Which is basically the only way I shoot anyway, manual.
So I’m back in Tokyo, went over to MAP Camera in Shinjuku and handed over my Nikkor in exchange for the Voigtlander and I’m never going back. The super smoother focal ring, the super compact size, the full metal build, and that tiny margin of improvement in performance did it for me. I thoroughly enjoyed taking it for a test drive last night, although I did have to push the ISO beyond 2500 to get what I wanted out of it. Great lens, happy now, kit once again complete.