Testing the Noktor 50 f/0.95 for the Sony E Mount with the new NEX-C3
Hello to all! It’s been a LONG LONG day for me but I am back in my office and doing what I love to do most, and that is to sit here at my desk while in my big comfy chair and tell you guys about my experiences when shooting with new gear :)
The 24 Hour Adventure
Yesterday afternoon my buddy Mike and I took a drive to Las Vegas, which is about a 4-5 hour drive from Phoenix. I brought along a very light kit consisting only of the Olympus E-P3 and 12mm lens and the brand new Sony NEX-C3 camera. I decided last minute to drive to Vegas just so I could have a change of scenery to test out the Noktor Sony “E” mount 50mm f/0.95 Hyperprime, which is basically the same lens (though now made in a new factory with better fit and finish) as the Micro 4/3 version I reviewed over a year ago. Seeing new things can inspire and I needed it after spending day in and day out in the hot blazing sun and brown desert that is PHOENIX. Yep, this was gonna be a quick 24 hour trip but I was excited.
Another Noktor Hyperprime?
Some of you probably remember that I was the 1st in the world to review the Noktor 50mm Hyperprime for Micro 4/3. I was also the first to say I didn’t care for it. It was OK for what it was, but it was very soft, very low contrast, and the colors were not so hot. I did manage to get some decent shots at a wedding with it attached to an Olympus E-P2 but at the end of the day, the lens just was not for me. Shortly after that review Noktor seems to have disapeared and then later resurfaced when SLR Magic bought them out.
SLR Magic made a few tweaks to the lens design and started manufacture of the lens in a totally different factory, and then they released it for the Sony E mount. Yep, a 50mm f/0.95 lens for the Sony NEX mount cameras, which will give you a 75MM equivalent, unlike the 100mm equivalent on Micro 4/3.
Many out there argue that this lens (well, not THIS specific version) can be bought on ebay (but without the “E” or M4/3″ mount) for less than the $1000 or so Noktor charges for it. Well, the lens as it is now is pretty slick looking and does indeed come complete with the mount of your choice, a box, metal screw in lens cap, etc. None of this means SQUAT if the lens sucks though, so my curiosity was aroused.
After asking SLR Magic about this lens they shipped out the Sony version to me so I could give it away to one lucky reader in my SLR Magic/NEX contest. That was pretty cool of them to just donate the lens for me to give away. Since I had the lens here, I decided to take it out and see if it performed better on the NEX with it’s larger sensor than it did on the E-P2 and to see if the color and contrast was any better (it was pretty bad when I reviewed the 1st version of this lens on Micro 4/3)
I will make this quick as this is really just a quick look at the lens. I only shot with it for one night so all I am qualified to talk about is my quick experience with the lens.
FIT AND FINISH
The lens feel and looks GREAT. It’s metal, it’s very solid, and it’s built very well. This lens is actually a lens designed for cinema so the aperture ring does not click. Instead it is just free and smooth and you can lock it down with a twist of a metal knob. I left it wide open all night at f/0.95. I have NO COMPLAINTS on the build or look/feel. The build of the Hyperprime gets a B+ in my book and a lens like the Leica Noctilux gets an A+, which is a TANK. So a B+ is actually quite good for a $1000 f/0.95 lens.
I will not lie or sugar coat it. As with the Micro 4/3 version, this lens is a CHALLENGE to use. I shot it all night in the Fremont street area of Las Vegas and it was tough to get sharp images. Why? Well, this lens is NOT really that sharp when wide open. It CAN be a teeny bit sharp if you nail the focus, or if you stop it down to 1.4 but using focus peaking, shooting quick, and shooting wide open was a HUGE challenge. I love challenges though so what did I think after a few hours of use? Well, I do indeed like it better on the NEX than I did on Micro 4/3 but it is still a challenge to use due to the shallow DOF.
I ONLY used the focus peaking feature of the NEX-C3 when shooting this lens. Basically, when you manually focus there are bright red areas on the screen that pop up on the in focus areas of the image. Never once did I stop and magnify the back LCD. Shooting in this manner with the Noktor and NEX was a breeze and I want to give Sony huge props for implementing this peaking feature. It works very well. BUT as I already stated the Noktor lens itself IS INDEED a somewhat soft lens when shot wide open. I mean, it is a f/0.95 50mm for around $1000 so we can not expect miracles.
The lens felt good on the NEX-C3 but the camera is just a bit too small for my tastes when using lenses like this. The grip is semi useless and everything is just too cramped. IN use, I MUCH prefer shooting the Olympus E-P3 as it is a little larger, has better controls, and feels great in my hands. The C3 was just too small for me to really get into it with the Noktor and if I were buying a NEX today, I would go with a NEX-5 over the C3, no contest. It has a better grip, feels more solid and because of this, it feels better in my hand. I can say that with the 16mm kit lens, the NEX-C3 felt good but still a little small. Maybe I am just so used to the larger grip on the NEX-5?
Ok, how about the images? I did say this was a “quick look” so let’s get to what is important, the RESULTS!
You can click on any image for a larger view and to see the pictures how they should be seen. Also please note, every image in this review was shot as a JPEG. Photoshop/Lightroom does not process NEX-C3 RAW files yet. Some of the JPEGs had minor enhancements – Levels, contrast, color saturation, etc.
Shot wide open and from a distance using the Focus Peaking of the NEX-C3 – The Noktor gives you the dreamy creamy look. Color does seem pretty good, and better than what I got on the M4/3 version over a year ago.
You can get good results if you concentrate. Again, the colors are saturated and bold here. Wide open, click for larger.
These girls were taking photos of themselves with all of the cool lights behind them.
The Bokeh? What do YOU think?
I did NOT focus on the letters here but instead on the cable/wire in front of them. Again, wide open and you can see the look you can expect from this lens on the NEX cameras.
Shot very quickly as I walked by and was lucky to nail it. Again, click image for larger view!
A walk by shot. I raised the camera, aimed, quickly focused and when the NEX told me I had focus I fired away!
Another quick raise and shoot!
What a combo, spongebob and chucky.
More Bokeh testing….Vegas is so colorful!
In the mirror :)
and stopped down to 1.4..it sharpens up quite a bit when you stop it down a little
Click the image below for a straight from camera JPEG and 100% crop shot at 0.95, wide open.
So what is the verdict on the Noktor Hyperprime f/0.95 E mount? YOU be the judge!
Ok, some of you may have not even read what I wrote above about how I disliked the Micro 4/3 version of this lens. Well, as you can see from the images above, the lens does seem to do better in most areas when using the larger image sensor of the NEX. The color is better and the contrast is better. Period. STILL, this lens is a challenge to use. MANY shots that I took WERE soft and out of focus so I did not always nail it. I thought I did when shooting but when I looked back there were many that were just a bit off. So yes, this lens can be a challenge if you are shooting street, wide open at night! Hell, ANY fast lens is a challenge at night! This IS f/0.95!
Also, NOKTOR IS a site sponsor (see their ad to the right) and they did send me this lens to give away as part of my contest BUT this does not mean I am going to tell you that this lens is superb. I am just telling you MY THOUGHTS after one night of use. That’s it. The build is great, the feel is great, it’s a fast 0.95 aperture lens BUT it IS SOFT wide open. It IS a challenge to shoot on the NEX and always get good results. It DOES have a dreamy creamy look, and you will either like it or you will not. YOU CAN buy a Voigtlander 50 1.1 and adapter and shoot it on the NEX but it will run you a little bit more money and it will be bigger. It will also be sharper and more correct. So it is up to you as to what you are looking for.
I guess it will come down to if you like the look of the Noktor or not. Personal preference. I mean, a Leica M9 and 50 Noctilux 0.95 will set you back $18,000. The NEX-C3 and Hyperprime will set you back well under $2000. A savings of $16,000. That is A BIG DEAL. Will you get Leica performance from this combo? NO. It MAY get you somewhat close to the look and feel of the old Leica F/1 Nocti but not quite. This combo is pretty cool though. Even with its quirks and challenges, it is indeed looking better on the NEX system that it did on Micro 4/3. Only you can decide if it is something that floats your boat! YOU be the judge!
Remember, every image in this review was shot as a JPEG as Photoshop/Lightroom does not process NEX-C3 RAW files yet. So, what you see here is not representative of the NEX-C3 and Noktor RAW performance.
Also, do not forget to enter the contest so you can WIN THIS EXACT lens! Click here to read about it and enter!
A Few Words on the Sony NEX-C3…nice but nothing groundbreaking
As you guys know, I have been a fan of the Sony NEX-5 since its release and have written many articles on it. The review, shooting it with Leica glass, comparisons, etc. The NEX-5 was never a perfect camera but the one thing it had going for it was its large APS-C sensor, nice construction, great grip, and swivel LCD. The weak link in the NEX cameras have always been the Sony lenses. Simply put, they kind of suck for any kind of critical shooting and they fail to please most “enthusiasts”. This is why many who shoot the NEX cameras use adapters and slap on Leica glass. BUT in the past this has been slow, cumbersome, and tricky because you would have to magnify the LCD, compose, focus, then shrink the LCD and take your shot. I was never a fan of this so I always shot it with the Sony branded 16mm.
Recently Sony updated the firmware to give filters similar to Olympus’s own Art Filters as well as “Focus Peaking”. THIS is the winning feature as we can now shoot with fast 3rd party lenses and get focus MUCH quicker! No need to magnify the screen. Many of the test shots above were taken VERY quickly. I would raise the camera and quickly focus until I saw the bright red lines showing me what was in focus. BOOM! Thats it. Even with a fast 0.95 lens it was easy and do-able.
The NEX-C3 is the latest camera from Sony in the NEX lineup. It replaces the NEX-3 and what we get is now an even smaller body, a two tone black and silver trim that is very slick looking and the C3 also gets a new sensor with 2 more megapixels (went from 14 to 16). The C3 has the new “BIONZ” image processing (who thinks of these names?, lol). Everything else, in all reality is the same as the NEX-3. So new smaller and slicker body style, new sensor, and new processing. Sony also separated the SD card from the battery compartment and it now has its own little space and door. I do like this improvement. Sony kept the same menu system and it is exactly the same as the NEX-3 and 5 with the new firmware.
I really do not see why anyone would choose a C3 over the NEX-5 right now, especially when they are about the same price, $599. I do see the NEX-5 has been discontinued as the new C5 is on the way, and then the NEX-7 which is still in the rumor phase but very likely.
The C3 is a very sweet and cool looking camera with the Sony 16mm mounted but IMO it is almost too tiny, especially if you are going to mount glass like this Noktor Hyperprime. Personally, I can’t wait for the NEX-7 as if this camera pans out as we are thinking, it is going to be a 100% winner. The NEX-C3 is sort of just here and there. Not really much of an improvement over the 3 and hard for me to get excited about. If you are looking into the NEX system, and never bought a NEX camera then I could recommend the C3 or the 5. To see the specs of the NEX-C3 and read more about it, OR TO BUY IT then click HERE.
If you are wondering if the C3 is worth upgrading to from the NEX-3 then I would say not really. The new firmware will work just fine on your current NEX and give you the new features like Focus Peaking and the picture effects. Save your case. But if you want a new NEX then the C3 is worth considering if you want to get in to it for the least amount of money. B&H Photo usually has it in stock HERE. The NEX -C3 can indeed give you some stellar IQ with the right lenses. I’m getting fantastic results with the SLR Magic 28.28 (review coming soon).
Click image for larger – NEX-C3 with SLR Magic 28 2.8 – Out of camera JPEG!
PERSONALLY, I am still LOVING this Olympus E-P3 and can not recommend it more highly with the 12mm f/2 lens. It is just a joy to use and LIGHTNING fast (faster AF than the NEX). I shot with it a ton in Vegas and will post some shots later but here is one comparison I did with the E-P3 and 12mm at f/5.6 and the NEX-C3 and the 16mm 924) at f/5.6. You can click each image below to download the full size out of camera JPEGS from each camera. The NEX gives more megapixels and a different color signature but the Oly file is great as well, and the camera is soooo much fun to use. Love it! BUT, the Oly combo is about $1100 MORE expensive than the C3 combo and the C3 gives you a smoother IQ due to the larger sensor. Once again, it all depends on what you are looking for in a camera.
SONY NEX-C3 – CLICK IMAGE FOR FULL SIZE OOC JPEG – 16mm (24) – f/5.6
OLYMPUS E-P3 – CLICK IMAGE FOR FULL SIZE OOC JPEG – 12mm (24) – f/5.6
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