This Noktor 50 0.95 lens review diary should be read from the bottom up. The conclusion is up top, early thoughts and samples at the bottom so if this is your first visit to this review diary, start there!
For another review of this lens which is a little more positive and geared towards video use, you can check out Phillip Bloom
Entry #11 – March 08th 2010 – 6:27 PM –
The lens is being sent back to Noktor in the morning and I am done shooting with it. During my time with the lens I went from liking the lens, to hating the lens, to somewhat liking the lens. I mean, it’s an OK lens but I have to be 100% honest here.
I have to say that you can buy another 50mm lens that will perform better in almost every way for an extra $300 or so. I am talking about the Voigtlander 50 Nokton 1.1. It is a sharper lens, has better color, better contrast and is almost as fast with a 1.1 aperture. But, that lens is for Leica M mount and you will need an adapter to use it, so more expense. It’s also a fatter (larger) lens. But if 0.95 is what you want then the Noktor may be the lens you are looking for.
The NOKTOR 50 left me feeling a bit cold. Yes, it’s a superfast 0.95 aperture lens but it is really hit or miss when using it at that aperture. From its softness and low contrast to it being very hard to focus accurately when wide open I am not sure sure that it is worth the hassle. The fact is, this lens is sort of like what a Leica Noctilux F0.95 would vomit out if it were sick. It’s technically not a very good lens and many will consider it unusable until it is stopped down to F2, and at that aperture you have other choices in a 50mm lens for your m4/3 camera.
Does it allow M4/3 users to shoot in low light? Yep. Can it give good results doing so? Sometimes, but those results are very soft, and the color is very weak. The best way I can describe the color this lens puts out is that it is “dirty”. That is the term I use when a lens gives me blah color. I rarely see it these days in modern lenses but the Noktor obviously does not use any kind of exotic glass. Hell, my 1943 Leica Summitar beats the pants off of the Noktor for color and bokeh, but it’s an F2 lens so it is not quite the speed demon.
You may have seen some not so nice comments in this review/post by those who say this lens is garbage and that there are better and less expensive alternatives. Let me say that A: The lens is not garbage and it does have its uses but B: It is probably a bit pricey for what it gives you in performance and C: There is no other lens like this available new with warranty for M4/3, so maybe it is priced right. It all depends on your needs and expectations.
It may sound like I am being VERY hard on the lens but in all honesty I do like it for certain applications. For example, I think some of the wedding test shots came out nice and the bokeh in those shots is not bad at all, and in B&W they look “pleasant”. Someone here said the lens is a “Jeckyl & Hyde” and I agree. Sometimes I hate it, sometimes I like it and 1 time out of 20 times I really like it. It does seem to do best in low light situations, and this my friends is what the lens is all about. It’s the 0.95 speed that potential buyers want and those shooters do not want 1.1 or 1.4. They want 0.95.
So, who would want this lens? Someone who wants the fastest lens they can buy new for their M4/3 camera and does not mind softness wide open, busy bokeh in certain scenarios, low contrast, and dull color out of the camera. If you want .95 then this is the only game in town for a new lens and with all of my complaining, keep in mind I am kind of spoiled by Leica glass. For what it is, the Noktor can (maybe) satisfy those night owls who want to go nocturnal with their M4/3 camera. Just do not expect perfection or Leica Noctilux performance because it’s not there. Yes, I was excited about the lens the first day and even considered buying one but after using it for the past week or so I decided NOT to buy one. It’s not for me, but I know some of you out there will enjoy it.
Bottom Line: The Noktor Hyperprime 50 f/0.95 does indeed do what the company advertises. It’s a super fast lens that will let you shoot at night with your M4/3 camera. They even tell you that you will get a dreamy and unique look. This is 100% fact. Noktor never tells you that the lens is sharp, or contrasty, or puts out a bright, colorful image. The lens delivers on what they claim and if the samples I have provided look good to you then you will probably be happy with the lens. Just be ready for some softness and missed focus. Also, the files will need some contrast and color boost in your favorite editing software to look their best. The main negatives? The bokeh, the softness, the contrast when wide open. The main positives? Build, from F2 down it is sharp, snappy and looks great.
You can read more at NOKTOR.COM. It appears they closed the ordering and now have an email list for stock notification. My guess is they took as many orders as they can handle for now because the BUZZ WAS HIGH with this lens. The day I posted my first look there were 40,000 visitors to this site. That’s 3X more than a normal day :)
Anyway, thanks for coming along with me on this Noktor test! It was fun and I enjoyed shooting with it while I had it. Some of you will love this lens, some will hate it but at least you know what to expect :)
Entry #10 – March 07th 2010 – 10:50PM -
One more wide open with contrast and color tweaked in Aperture 3. I kind of like the look of this one…
Entry #9 – March 07th 2010 – 10:09 AM –
I decided yesterday to do some “REAL” real world testing of this lens so I brought my E-P2/Noktor combo with me to a wedding where I shot a few images. These have been converted to B&W to fit with the others I shot w/the M9. Most were wide open because I wanted to see what this lens could do in this area for something like this. I was not the main wedding shooter so I had no problem experimenting. But when looking at these think of them as “Noktor Test Shots” not “Wedding Images” :)
So when actually shooting in challenging light the Noktor, while soft at 0.95 did come through and allowed me to shoot in low light where other lenses would have given up. Also, by F2 the lens is very sharp so I look at this lens as an F2 lens with the capabilities to go faster IF NEEDED. Once you go wider than F2 you suffer some imperfections that may or may not be a big deal to you.
My wrap up to this review will be up tomorrow!
Entry #8 – March 06th 2010 – 8:42 AM –
I have had quite a few e-mails asking for this so here it goes. Below you will see an image shot at 0.95 followed by a 100% crop at every aperture. These were all shot on a tripod, self timer mode and focus was critically set using the magnified LCD on the back of the camera.
The Noktor is soft wide open and at 1.4 but then starts to sharpen up as it hits F2. The lens is at its sharpest from F5.6-F8. But at this aperture, the Kit zoom would be just as sharp if not sharper. The question you have to ask yourself is why you would want this lens. If it is for the 0.95 aperture, which is why most people are interested in this lens, then be aware the lens will be soft when wide open. The lens loses contrast, color and sharpness at .95-1.4. This may be the look you are after though :)
Entry #7 – March 05th 2010 – 12:06 PM –
Grabbed some quick shots this morning during the soft golden light hour. Lens did better in this light. So far I have had issues with the lens in bright light, at all apertures. In low light, the lens did good. In soft light like this the lens seems to do best. I also think a lens like this would do even better on a camera with a larger sensor and more dynamic range. But, the samples below look pretty good. They can be clicked on for a larger view. I am hoping to have a sharpness test up later with crops from each aperture so we can see how sharp the lens gets as it is stopped down.
All at F0.95 – straight from camera images. Minimum focus ditance on all three.
Entry #6 – March 04th 2010 – 9:34 PM –
Been shooting more tonight and became frustrated with this lens again. For some reason I was getting bad blown highlights even when trying to shoot a silly coke can under a table lamp. Not sure if this was the lens or the sensor so I tried it with the 20 1.7 as well. First the Noktor…
ISO 200, 1/125s. f0.95
and now the 20 1.7…
So it appears to be a sensor thing. The 20 1.7 gave me the same color and the same blown area though not as bad, but I was at 1.7 on the 20. Notice how smooth the 20 1.7 bokeh is :) These are right out of camera images BTW…
One thing I noticed today is that the out of camera Noktor files could really use some PP to liven them up. So here are a couple of shots that I did some processing to in CS4. I think they look much better than the samples from earlier which were right from camera samples…
Here is one I did not post earlier but it has had some PP..color boost, levels, contrast, dodge and vignette. Click for larger. This was wide open at 0.95.
Here is one I did post earlier and the out of camera image was a little bland, a little dull and a little boring. I livened this one up with some levels, contrast, color and some burning as well.
I will have this review wrapped up by the weekend for sure. Just have to do a few more tests and then post my final word. Check back soon :)
Entry #5 – March 04th 2010 – 12:53 PM -
Well, well, well! Finally. This update was planned for earlier but something just did not feel right. I felt like I needed more shooting time with this lens before I made any final judgements on it. My wife had the day off and we had some sunshine and nice weather so we took a drive to an old abandoned factory that I have been to before. This building will really test any camera or lens because the deeper you go in the darker it gets. I had the chance to shoot with diffused light, direct light, and almost no light. So the shots I took yesterday were scrapped because I had some that were out of focus (not sure if it was me or the lens here) and the light was not really that great. I really wanted one more crack with this lens before I gave up on it.
Yes, I was about to give up on this lens. Why? Well, in most shooting situations and light this lens will have virtually no contrast when shot wide open. It also flares quite easily, and sharpness, well, it is just not a really sharp lens. I am the first to say that sharpness is not everything but the lens seemed like it was extra soft and the color was on the dull side. If the lighting is diffused and soft you can get some sharp results and by pumping up the contrast in photoshop you can come away with an attractive photo. It all just seemed like too much work but then again, there was still something drawing me to this lens. I think it may be the fact that it is a 0.95 aperture AND for micro 4/3. This is a lens that the m4/3 crowd needs and it does have its own character though with really ugly bokeh at times. Other times though, the Bokeh can be pleasant.
I am glad I took out the lens today because these are the best results I have gotten with it so far and also show what it can do in low light, wide open, and even a little stopped down. I also brought along my M9 with a 35 Summilux and while the M9 files are flat out GORGEOUS, the NOKTOR images have a totally different look and feel. Here are the images with many available in FULL size. These are straight from the E-P2. RAW conversion was in ACR 5.6 and this is the best I could do with this lens after 3 days, and I was taking my time to critically focus with the EVF and magnification ON.
First my wife at f0.95, ISO 200 – CLICK FOR FULL SIZE JPEG
SO here, the lens looks like it would make for a really nice portrait lens. It’s soft, it has some glow and in this scenario, the bokeh is not bad at all. Here is another wide open…again, click for full size JPEG
Now HERE is what impressed me. Stopeed down to 1.4 the lens gave me some contrast and some detail…click for full size JPEG
will provide samples at f2-F11 tomorrow!
The best way I can describe the performance of this lens is that it is like comparing HDTV to the old Analog TV’s. Don’t buy the Noktor for detail as it doesn’t really have any (WHEN WIDE OPEN). I have to be honest though, the company does not claim this lens has amazing resolution. Instead they talk about its low light abilities, so what about that? THIS IS indeed what an 0.95 aperture is made for. The only issue I have with this is that the M4/3 sensors are not really ideal for lowlight or high ISO. But, let’s go deeper into the factory and into Noct territory…
I bumped up the E-P2 to ISO 640 and set the lens to f 0.95 as this room was pretty dark. There was one streak of light coming in but this was 0.95, 1/30s and ISO 640…
Now this I like. I really think that this is where this lens shines. Low light, wide open. Using it in bright light is what seemed to bring in the flare, the duller color and the unpleasant bokeh. Here is another at ISO 640, 1/60s, 0.95 – click this one for a larger look
So in this dark room the lens did indeed suck in the light when it was set at 0.95. If you were in the room you would have seen how dark it actually was. So the lens did do as advertised and I feel it would make for a useful lens in any low light scenario. Here is one that surprised me with its sharpness and color wide open. I did add contrast in CS4 for this one…click it for the full size JPEG…
and a couple more low light shots wide open…
So after reviewing these samples in low light I was impressed. The fact that I had a $750 lens in my hand that opened up to a 0.95 aperture was a big deal. Again, this lens is not up to the Noctilux level of excellence but remember, you could buy almost 15 Noktors for the price of one Noctilux 0.95 :) For those with a m4/3 camera this lens is a welcome addition to the lens lineup.
Now, with that said let me go over some things so far that I like/dislike with the lens, so far:
LIKES SO FAR:
- Build is solid.
- Aperture ring is nice, smooth and “clickless” but can be locked down easily
- The speed of course. The 0.95 Aperture allows you to take your m4/3 to places you have not taken it before (unless you already have one of these kinds of lenses)
- In certain lighting like evening, diffused or warm the lens can give great results.
- It has its own unique character. Different from the Noctilux, Nokton, etc. Some may like it, some may not. When the bokeh is not so ugly, I like it :)
- Focuses closer than M lenses.
DISLIKES SO FAR:
- Green ring on the front is a little gaudy.
- Wide open, the lens is very soft, has low contrast, and in bright light seems to blow the highlights out if you are in bright light.
- Color is not very good out of the camera. It’s dull but can be pumped up in post.
Remember, this is an ongoing review and I was going to end it today but I may continue for a few days as I found new motivation today with the factory images. No, this camera and lens will not get me the results that my M9 will but I am reviewing this for you guys, the ones who are really interested in this lens and shoot Micro 4/3. So what I am going to do is keep the lens for a little while longer and you guys can let me know what kind of tests you want to see. Remember, I can not always do side by sides with other lenses as I do not own a ton of lenses. Many ask about the Voigtlander Nokton 1.1 compared to this. All I can tell you is that yes, I have shot the Nokton 1.1 and it is sharper, has more contrast, more punchy color and the bokeh is smoother. It renders like a modern lens. The Noktor renders like an old lens with all of their faults. Many enjoy this and it can give you imteresting results. Again, this lens has a place for those who want to get creative :)
I may be able to update later today with more so keep an eye out here. I am hoping to shoot in some evening light with the lens today.
Yes, I went from hot to cold to very warm with this lens over the past 3 days so more real world use is in order. I also want to do some tripod stuff to eliminate any focus error. Stay tuned…
OH YEA! Some of you have requested some more examples from the M9 in the same situations…Here is one from the M9 and 35 Lux ASPH at 1.4…
Entry #4 – March 04th 2010, 8:26AM -
Stay tuned for more in a couple of hours. I will have some full size samples and some commentary about this lens which will actually wrap up this review. I have been shooting with it non stop (in good and bad light) and already reached a conclusion about it. Update soon….
Entry #3 – March 03rd 2010, 2:04PM –
Ok guys, one more update on this lens for today and then tomorrow I will have more. Here are two more shots I just grabbed and the 2nd one surprised me a bit. The dead ladybug was shot wide open using the LCD of the E-P2 (with the magnification of course) and focus was dead on.
1st, more bokeh…the same lights in the background, just farther away…
click images for larger view
Entry #2 – March 03rd 2010, 11:52AM –
It’s NOKTOR MANIA! Just some quick test shots on a tripod to show bokeh. These images are only to show the bokeh qualities of this lens from wide open through F8. They are not to judge sharpness. I will have full size samples this week for sharpness testing. I also included a shot from the same spot with the Panny 20 1.7 as well as a couple of Leica lenses on the M9, just for fun :) If I am posting too much, let me know. I’ll slow down :)
BTW, this lens seems to at times have nice bokeh and other times have horrendous bokeh. Shooting with any trees in the background when wide open will result in some pretty distracting eye numbing effects. The shots below are better than the ones I shot yesterday in regards to Bokeh but as someone already stated in one of the comments, this lens appears to be a Jeckyll & Hyde in regards to Bokeh (out of focus rendering). Tomorrow I will have more real images as well as some 100% shots to judge how sharp it is at all apertures.
Friday I plan on getting some portraits in nice light and to see if I can avoid the harsh bokeh effects, so more real world stuff coming.
Entry #1 – March 03rd 2010, 8:22 AM – Entries may be added 1-3X per day, or once a day depending on what I can do for that day. So check back to this page for updates over the next 1-2 weeks.
The Noktor 50 f/0.95 Hyperprime Lens Review Diary, Updated DAILY – OK guys! I have decided to do a “Review Diary” on this Noktor 50 because A: I want to try something new, B: This gives all of you something new to look at every day, and C: It will probably end up having more samples than my usual reviews due to daily shooting :) Oh yea, and also due to the mass amounts of e-mail asking me for more, more, more!
As most of you know I received this lens on Tuesday March 2nd 2010 and started shooting with it immediately. Over the next week or two I will be shooting images, posting medium samples, posting some full size samples, and yes, even posting some video shot with the lens on the Olympus E-P2. Why the Olympus E-P2? Well, because it is the only Micro 4/3 camera I have here and also the EVF is good enough for critical manual focus.
First of all, here is what I know about Noktor, the new USA based company that is responsible for releasing this ultra fast prime lens for the Micro 4/3 mount.
- They are called NOKTOR. Seems like a play on the famous “Noctilux” name from Leica. Noct of course, meaning Nocturnal. Their official website is HERE.
- They popped up put of the blue with their twitter account a few weeks back and announced this lens. No website at that time, just the twitter page.
- On March 1st 2010 Noktor released their official website announcing an April 15th ship date of the 50 f/0.95 lens
- A sample was shipped to me for review. Now I can share my experience with all of you!
Now, some have e-mailed me asking me if I know these guys. No, I do not. My only communication with them has been through a couple of e-mails. They are also not paying me one cent to advertise or write a review. They just let me use the lens for a little while.
Enter the The Senko 50 f/0.95
It appears to me that this lens is a direct copy of the Senko 50mm f/0.95 C-mount CCTV lens. Either that or it is actually that lens. There is a green band on the front of the Noktor lens which could in fact be covering any names or info.
The Senko lens can be found online as a C-Mount lens but it sells for over $800. Sure, you could buy it and then buy an adapter but Noktor is selling this lens, or a direct copy of it for $750 with a 2 year warranty. So I am not 100% sure as to what the deal is with the lens just yet (as in, where it comes from) but it looks exactly like, and its specs are exactly like, the Senko. The only differences are the green band and the NOKTOR engraved text on the lens. In any case the lens looks and feels nice. I may have preferred the big “NOKTOR” to be smaller and placed at the rear of the lens though :)
For those who are not aware, or have stumbled on to this page and are just now hearing about this lens, the Noktor 50 f/0.95 is a super fast prime lens for the micro 4/3 mount. Basically, a lens you can shoot in low light AND obtain creative shallow depth of field effects with. It is MANUAL focus and you will choose your Aperture on the lens barrel, not in the camera. Shooting in Aperture Priority mode (A mode) on your camera will allow you to concentrate on focus and let the camera take care of the exposure.
I have shot this lens a little bit more this morning as I was curious how it would do when stopped down a bit, say to F4. I basically stepped out of my back door and shot this bird feeder. The first shot is wide open at f/0.95 and the second is at F4. You can see that by F4 the bokeh cleans up a bit and the lens gets rather sharp. These were converted from RAW and have only had slight contrast adjust from with the RAW converter.
The Noktor at F/0.95 – wide open. See the glow? It’s also a bit soft when at 0.95 but seriously, you can not expect Leica performance in a $750 lens on a M 4/3 camera. IMO, for the money, this is pretty good for F 0.95. Here, the bokeh is not as crazy as when you have trees in the background :) You can click the image for a 2000 pixel wide version.
and now the same scene at F4. The lens gets pretty sharp by F4 and the bokeh gets a bit smoother.
If you are reading this I am sure you have seen my other two “first look” posts. I have found some interesting comments within those posts. A couple of guys have said that you can buy this lens for $20. Ok, if I can by THIS lens, or the Senko version, meaning the 50 0.95, let me know where because I will buy 20 of them. Everything I have seen about THIS lens is that it sells for $800+ in the C-Mount. I have seen others say that Noktor is taking a $250 lens, putting an M4/3 mount on it and selling it for $750. I can say a few things about that but again, where can I buy this lens for $250? Is this for a NEW lens?
Noktor is a business. A goal of any business is to make money. Even if they pay $250 for this lens they have to install the m4/3 mount, have the NOKTOR name embedded on each lens, pay for packaging, and also pay for all of the other costs associated with running their business. They also include a 2 year warranty. I am assuming they want to grow their business not go out of business.
More on the price…as I have stated above, $750 is not really a bad price for what you get here. If you want an f0.95 lens for your m4/3 camera WITH an m4/3 mount and you want this lens to be new with a warranty then there is no other option. I found this lens (senko version) online for over $800 in C mount new so $750 is right in the ballpark of where it should be and I expect they will sell quite a few.
My Impressions So Far…
OK, my impressions so far? This lens is a bit soft wide open, and focusing at this wide of an aperture can be a challenge. The depth of field is RAZOR thin. The contrast is low, but fixable in your RAW conversion or in your image editing software if you need more. The lens also has a dreamy glow when wide open and I am expecting to get MUCH nicer color as soon as I have some sunshine! C’mon SUN! As for the bokeh…ummm, well…sometimes it seems nice and other times it seems ugly. I will be doing some Bokeh tests showing bokeh at all apertures. I am setting up a “Bokeh Test Scene” so that should be posted in the next few days.
The lens build is nice, solid, and it focuses smooth. The aperture ring does not click but it can be locked down at your aperture of choice. I feel this is the most creative lens for the m4/3 mount to date. This is NOT a lens to buy if you want crisp, sharp and smooth. It is a lens to consider if you like that soft glow, lower contrast, crazy bokeh and need a fast lens for low light :) Basically, this is a great lens for “creative” uses.
Is it comparable to the legendary Leica Noctilux F1? No. Is it comparable to the Leica Noctilux F 0.95 Double NO. Those lenses are brilliant and I love the old classic Noctilux. Its rendering is like nothing else out there really and this Noktor is not a challenger to those lenses. With that said, this could be the new “Poor Mans Noctilux” as it will get you the speed but at the expense of busy bokeh and some softness wide open. Yes, M4/3 is shaping up to be a nice little system for those who like fast lenses.
Check back every day over the next week or so for more. I will add to THIS page, so bookmark it. Updates will be AT THE TOP of the page. Who knows, if the sun shines today I may add more this evening :) Thanks for reading!
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