Aug 212012
 

The Noctilux 0.95 Unplugged

By Kristian Dowling

From Steve: This is a great piece with amazing photographs to show it off. Kristian is a talented photographer who I have been in contact with for quite a while through e-mail and I am pleased to publish this because in my opinion, these are some of the most beautiful photographs to come from ANY Hollywood photographer and really showcases what this lens can do ;) – Thanks Christian!

Many know the Noctilux 0.95 as a luxury lens, mostly suited to people with deep pockets, especially since lack of supply has pushed used prices beyond new prices. For me, it is a daily tool, which I used almost exclusively wide open at 0.95. Working in Hollywood, I have access to many great photographic opportunities with some great artists and talent. Having the right tools is essential, but I have to admit, I do not ‘need’ this lens. While it’s a tool, it’s one that is also quite extravagant and not easily justifiable because it isn’t essential to my work to shoot at f/0.95, and it doesn’t make me any more money compared to using a f/1.4 lens.

Quality

I won’t get too much into the build quality as Steve and others have already summed it all up nicely. Let me just say that build quality of materials, precision engineering and assembly don’t get any better than this. In terms of image quality, this would have to be the highest performing and most consistent ultra-fast lens ever produced. Consistency from wide open at f/0.95 is amazing and maintained throughout the aperture range until diffraction kicks in from f/16.

At 0.95, the image is very sharp, honestly very close to the amazing Summilux 50/1.4 ASPH at f/1.4. Using the lens wide open allows amazing isolation and fast drop off of focus to blur. So much so, that it’s almost too much, too fast at times.

One other quality to note is how well it controls flare and internal reflections. It’s amazing how well contrast, sharpness, and color are maintained when a strong light source is either inside or just outside of the frame. Make sure to remove any filters though if you want to totally avoid any signs of flare or reflections. In some of my examples you will see how the filter has caused a reflection that I actually like.

In use, and focusing accurately

While the Noctilux is large and heavy for an M lens, it handles extremely well. It’s focus ring is smoother than the f/1 and it’s focus throw is the perfect length. Not too short and not too long, making focus fast and easy to get right, especially for such a fast lens.

Despite being front heavy and large, it does balance quite well on the M9 and will intrude into the frame lines creating a blockage of your view. The key to accurate focus with this lens, especially in low light is to turn the focus ring past the focus point, then bring it back into alignment. I also focus bracket very important images, allowing me a choice of shots with slightly differing focus. This entails taking 2-5 shots of the scene while slightly adjusting focus for each frame, both in-front and behind the focus point.

See this video I made

 

Character and Signature of the lens drawing and bokeh at 0.95

This lens while being the upgrade from the f/1 version is not exactly what I’d describe as an upgrade. It’s more like a side step. I believe there’s room for both of these lenses in the marketplace but unfortunately, Leica discontinued it. While the f/1 version is known for it’s dreamy, swirly bokeh with a very distinctive signature, the 0.95 does not display these characteristics. Shooting at 0.95 doesn’t give the ‘appearance’ of a more obvious isolation as people would think, and this is because it’s a very, very well corrected lens. It’s aberrations are mainly obvious towards the corners, while the f/1’s aberrations are what made it famous.

Put simply, the 0.95 draws just like it’s smaller brother, the Summilux 501/1.4 ASPH. Both are highly corrected and produce bokeh that is very clean and corrected, representing the out of focus areas clearly and with little distortion of objects, lines and shapes. This is very important for my kind of work, because the environment in my backgrounds is usually important to my pictures and completes the story I’m telling. In contrast, the dreamy look of the f/1 version would distort the reality of my pictures, which can be great for generic portraits where the background is irrelevant to the subject or story.

I’ve been able to use the 0.95 for my work mainly because it is sharp enough at 0.95 and the M9’s sensor makes good use of the light entering that large aperture opening. Unless my clients wanted a soft dreamy look, the f/1 is not sharp enough at f/1 for most commercial uses, especially for today’s standards.

Need for speed or character?

Photographers buy these kinds of lenses for different reasons. Some for speed, and some for character. Most will say both. For me, it was about speed. If I wanted character, I’d buy the f/1 or the Zeiss C-Sonnar 50/1.5. Alongside my Leica, I also use the Nikon D3/D3s/D4 and lately the D800E, which all offer low light ISO qualities that easily surpass the M9’s sensor.

Therefor, when using the M9 in low light, the ‘need for speed’ becomes very apparent and there’s my justification for the 0.95 aperture. Hopefully, the M10 will improve enough that using this lens at 0.95 isn’t as important anymore. I say this because as digital camera ISO quality increases, I see thing differently to the general market.

Most people like high quality ISO so that they can use faster shutter speeds while shooting wide open. Whereas, I see the ability to stop down more, gaining extra depth of field and increasing the overall sharpness of the picture. I’m not afraid to bump up the ISO because I’d rather have a grainy sharp picture, than a smooth soft one due to camera shake and/or subject movement.

Issues with using the Noctilux

Some may see the size and weight and issue, but considering what this lens does, it really isn’t so large, and compares closely in size to most SLR 50/1.4 lenses.

All super-fast lens designs have compromises in the pursuit of perfection and the Noctilux 0.95 is not exempt. The biggest issue with the Noctilux is it’s purple fringing problem when shooting wide open against strong light sources, especially with bright backgrounds. While it’s an issue at times, I wouldn’t call it a ‘fault’ of the lens, as it’s not designed to be used in such conditions. Luckily, the new CA removal tool in Photoshop CS6, can completely remove just about any CA and purple fringing in its RAW conversion software – it’s quite amazing actually.

One issue I have with this lens is not due to it’s own fault or the fault of it’s designers. It’s about the mindset of the photographer when using this lens. Shooting at 0.95 can be very tricky and while it’s nice to isolate subjects, the urge to shoot wide open is very strong and may not always be the most appropriate aperture to use – but you do, because it’s right there in your face > 0.95!

I see way too many shots ruined by photographers because they’re in this ‘wide open’ mindset. The background in pictures is very important to telling the story in the picture and 0.95 may not always be the best decision when using this lens. I pretty much only used this lens at 0.95 because that’s what I bought it for, but there are some pictures I took where I wish I stopped down. Taking good photographs with this or any lens should be about choosing the most ‘appropriate’ aperture, and not the one you paid $11,000 for. Let me ask you this…..how many of the world’s best historical pictures were taken with backgrounds blurred beyond recognition?

Why you should and should not buy it

The Noctilux is a lens that is commonly bought and sold, sometimes 2-3 times by the same photographer. That is because it’s a huge expense and large size that many photographers find difficult to justify, especially in regards to keeping this lens over a long period of time. Once sold, the photographer often misses it and lusts after it once more.

I highly recommend the Noctilux to those who feel they ‘need’ the speed and know that they will use this lens on a regular basis for all kinds of work, shot wide open and stopped down. I cannot recommend this lens to those wanting to collect or use this lens for effect only. The effect of this lens is minimal in my opinion and if you’re interested because of the f/1’s rendering, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

The Noctilux 0.95 represents Leica’s ability to create an almost perfect high-speed lens. It’s rendering is spot on and out of focus is very clean with little to no signature – meaning it draws very accurately, even when out of focus. So for professional photographers or those after authentic and accurate representation in their photographs, this is the very best high-speed lens available, in any format.

Kristian Dowling

www.kristiandowling.com

  100 Responses to “The Leica Noctilux 0.95 Unplugged by Kristian Dowling”

  1. Amazing captures as always, Kristian. You make any gear that you use shine, and these shots are no exception. Keep up the great work!

  2. can’t agree more.. this is one amazing lens.. but it’s too much for me (my wallet..hehehee)
    an f/1.4 (or even f/2) is sometimes too luxurious for my street purpose..but well, what can go wrong if you have the Noctilux??
    btw, Kristian here has shown a really good example on how he knows on what he did.. they’re really beautiful artworks..and make the noctilux worth every penny
    keep on sharing guys. thanks :)

  3. Great images!
    The best sets of shots from Noctilux 0.95 that I have ever seen…
    Just one question, I noticed on the 2nd picture, quite some heavy vignetting at the corners. Is this intentional?

    • To be honest I’m really not sure. i processed that picture some time ago. I know the light was fading, so it may be natural, but it does look like a little processing was done as this lens’s vignetting wide open isn’t usually so obvious.

  4. Simply beautiful photos. The graveyard one is super classy, and the one below it too. I would love to have this lens but I’m having enough difficulty justifying a 50 Summilux ASPH. Maybe one day…

    Do you have a blog or flickr? I would like to see more of your work in the future?

  5. Wow! I too, love the graveyard shot — and every, single, one of the others! Clearly a very talented and creative photographer. Man, I sure wish I could do that! Each one stirs my emotions, seriously, perhaps my favorite work I have viewed on Steve’s site.

  6. Thanks for sharing Kristian. You’ve created some stunning images that really depict the capabilities of this lens in real life, not test shots.

    The price for entry for any of the latest 2.0 or faster Leica glass is a challenge. Fortunately, if one really needs the speed for a job one can rent the glass!

    • yes the price makes this lens prohibitive for many photographers, but as much as I love this lens, I don’t think it’s the best lens. Why? Because the best lens is always the one you take your best pictures with, and for me, it’s not this lens…..but there sure is something nice about knowing you can shoot at 0.95 if you need to ;-)

  7. Very well written and insightful article, thank you very much!

    It’s an exceptional lens, perfect for what it is for, but CREAM ALONE DOESN’T MAKE A PHOTOGRAPH!

    I’ll continue exploiting the possibilities of my 300€ 40mm C-Summicron and 100€ 90mm C-Elmar, because the shots I get can be just as good as with a 10000€ Noctilux :)

    • I agree 100%. I said below that I’d like to believe that these pictures could stand tall regardless of the lens chosen. I never rely on a lens to do any work for me. I choose a lens based on character but then concentrate 100% on creating the image I want. Thats the beauty of keeping gear simple.

    • Fully agree Thomas and I have no idea why someone will dump 10000 USD on a lens . My Olympus 45 mm 1.8 is equally capable .
      Cheers

  8. “The background in pictures is very important to telling the story in the picture”

    Sometimes, (I might argue usually) its actually of no importance whatsoever, it may even be detrimental to the subject

    There doesn’t have to be a ‘story’ provided, through ambiguity, that can be at the discretion of the viewer, not the photographer

    • Thats very true Tony, but when I say this I am thinking like a typical documentary/street photographer, even though what i’m showing here are mainly portraits. I believe what makes these pictures successful is not the look of the bokeh, but the background in relation to the subject. I would like to believe that I could have shot these with a cheaper Jupiter lens and still maintain the qualities within these pictures.

  9. Thanks for all the comments so far guys. FYI, all of these pictures I selected to show were shot wide open at 0.95. I have quite a few more if Steve would like to post them. I’m also happy to answer any of your questions and thank Steve for publishing this work on his great site.

  10. Beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing your art and experience.

  11. Great article and some great shots on your site. I particularly like the Marilyn lookalike on Hollywood Blvd with the sun shining between her arm, great choice of exposure.

  12. The EXIF data for the last two shots indicates that they were actually taken with a Summicron-M 35mm f/2.

    • Hmm, not possible, haven’t used one of those in many years. In my experience, EXIF on Leica M bodies cannot be trusted and this is a classic example.

      • I also noticed that the EXIF shows that they were taken at f/1.4. Also not possible to do with an f/2.0 lens. LOL

        You’d think that an expensive camera like the M9 would get little details like that right.

        • Do any of you know that the EXIF data on a Leica M9 is only going to reliably show the lens used if put there by the coding on the lens, or by manually putting it in the camera? Also the aperture is manual on a Leica so the camera has no clue what aperture was used.

          • The Noctilux is a 6-bit lens, which means it tells the camera what lens it is and what aperture it’s set at. Obviously, the M9 doesn’t always record the information correctly.

            As to whether you could set the EXIF manually in the camera, I suspect that you can’t. But you could always do it in post.

            • obviously you don’t own a Leica M9 or M8.

              The aperture is manual and is in no way connected mechanically or electronically to the camera body. The body has no way of knowing what aperture is being used.

              You can select the lens being used either by automatic using the 6-bit coding, or manually by specifically telling the camera what lens is being used. I could mount a noctilux and tell the camera I was using an 18mm lens. The camera body would “think” it was connected to an 18mm lens. EXIF would show 18mm.

    • EXIF data also shows the aperture used is F1.

  13. Lovely images Kristian, and I appreciate your comment about how shooting at 0.95 can be a trap. In talking with other Leica Noctilux owners I find that far too many do not understand how radical the difference is in the depth of field at 1 meter vs. 5 meters when shooting wide open (2cm vs. 60cm or 0.8″ vs. 24″). Using ones feet has always been an important tool for the Leica rangefinder photographer when composing images, but when shooting fast glass wide open it’s an equally important tool (along with the aperture ring) for setting the depth of field.

  14. Beautifully written and amazing examples of truly great images with this superb lens.

    Just on the focus of the Nocti : I also use the “old” rangefinder technique of fine focusing by rocking the body ever slightly forwards or backwards to achieve that delicate accuracy after the “basic focus” has been achieved – the technique can be used with any lens, but specially useful with this lens. I also agree that important shots should, if the subject and time allow, be given the “Bracket Focus” you mention – just as some days “are better than others” , so my eyes can sometimes play tricks on me. But generally speaking that Nocti 0.95 is spot on focus and not as difficult as some think to nail accurately – it seems to just literally “snap” into focus quite beautifully most times.

    Thank You for sharing your experiences.

    Good Shooting
    Jorge

    • Hi Jorge, yes that technique is also one I use occasionally, but the reason I try to avoid it is because i find that by doing that, especially in low light, I tend to be less steady when going from a slight movement to taking the shot. Therefor it results in some camera shake because I’m adding an extra movement to the shooting process – but at the end of the day if you’re used to doing it this way, I’m sure there’d be no issues.

  15. Very good photos! I especially like the sexy beautiful series with horses and model! The title photo is extremely well executed!

    If I however may air a tiny bit of critic, although surely the author of this article is head and shoulder above me from a photographical standpoint, it is about the second photo with the two girls.

    I find it personally very disturbing with the unsharp hedge in front, especially on the left side where the very defined small zone of sharpness look very unnatural.

    In fact my eyes get drawn more to the sharp part of the left edge than the children. And then I start looking at the bright white spot in the background and the white house.

    If it was me I would have cut off a big part of the left side and a smaller part on the right to make it a balanced, nice photo of the children.

    It is of course much easier to say how something could have been done after than at the point of taking the photo. But if I had the possibility to retake the photo I think I either would have choosen a smaller aperature, like 2-4, or in fact taken several photos with different aperatures to later choose the one that looks best, or if I for artistic reasons, like in the photo, wanted only one girl sharp would use a short fast tele (like APO-Summicron 90, or in my case (although I have the old pre Apo Summicron 90) propably a 85/1.4 lens for my Nikon SLR to create a cropped version of the photo straight in the camera.

    So although I think the photo as presented has a partial flaw (which can be cured with cropping to make a really beutiful portrait!) it is very interesting as an illustration of the difficulties that can arise when a very narrow field of focus is used, and question which aperture is the best choice.

    I hope you don’t mind I try to give you some intelligent feedback. And I am well aware you and others may not agree with me. I just find it more interesting to discuss what makes or breaks a photography rather than judge a photo bad or great without saying why.

    • Thank you very much for the feedback. I really appreciate it, because that picture is a prime example of 2 things in my article.

      1. The very sharp drop-off of the focus, and
      2. The mistake of using the wrong aperture for the job

      Technically, by traditional photography technique, i should have both girls’ faces in focus, using an aperture of f/2-f/2.8 at that distance would probably have done it, but like I said, i was in the mindset of shooting for isolation and bokeh, and thus neglecting the key importance of the picture.

      Thank you for pointing that out. I always love receiving feedback on my work. it’s the only way to grow

  16. WOW, astonishing shots both here and on your site. Best use of negative space I have seen in years. If you print I feel pretty sure your costs of black ink far out weighs the cost of the Nocti !!!

  17. OMG! I can not believe Kristian Dowling is on Stevehuffphoto.com! If I could choose just one photographer in the world to learn from, I would choose Kristian. I have been following his website for years and sometimes when I come home from work, and I’m all tired and worn out, I go to kristiandowling.com just to escape my everyday life. His work is so technically perfect, my jaw drops when I look at his photos. Even so, it is Kristian’s soul that moves me. This is a far rarer feat. Everyone knows you can look at a photography in National Geographic and find technically perfect photography but, for me, it is frozen. In contrast, with Kristian’s work, it is like stepping into liquid. Be it photos of Lady Gaga or transsexuals in Thailand, I am moved to tears by the beauty and depth of his work. His work forces my heart open.

    • Thanks David, I’m not so sure I deserve such comments but I’ll take them with much appreciation. I continue to grow as a photographer and moving away from LA, you soon start to see more of two things.

      1. Street and documentary, which is my deepest passion
      and
      2. More portrait and some fashion and beauty work.

      I’m also doing workshops around asia and Australia, as well as doing talks sponsored by Nikon.

      Mostly right now though I’m concentrating on my coaching and workshops, so my body of work is slowing down and I’m feeling it’s time to take back my passion as an ‘amatuer’ photographer ;-)

      • Kristian, nothing you ever do will be “amateur”. If you ever come to NYC, I would do anything to take classes with you. In the meantime, I will be more than pleased to learn what I can by looking at your stunning work.

  18. I recently bought an old Canon RF 50mm f.95 (converted to Leica M Mount) its also awesome and a fraction of the price.

  19. nice post!!!! keep it going!

  20. “..At 0.95, the image is very sharp, honestly very close to the amazing Summilux 50/1.4 ASPH at f/1.4. Using the lens wide open allows amazing isolation and fast drop off of focus to blur. So much so, that it’s almost too much, too fast at times..”

    Exactly. And my experience has been that f0.95 is just too wide: at average portrait distances (5-ish feet ..that’s average for me) the head, from nose to back-of-the-head, isn’t quite all in focus, whereas with f1.4 it is. So at 0.95 the head starts to -b-l-e-n-d- into the background, whereas at 1.4 the head separates nicely from the background.

    The 0.95 is big, heavy, and just doesn’t give enough ‘separation’ from the background for me.

    Irrespective of the price, the 1.4 is slightly contrastier – and so appears sharper – wide open. It usually separates the foreground from the background more noticeably.

    Even with the price of the 0.95 in my hand, I wouldn’t buy one: the 1.4 is a better overall performer – for me – and it’s smaller, lighter, more sure to get correct focus (once it’s been properly matched to the body) and is the perfect performer ..it’s the 0.95, but better!

    (..But each to their own – feel free to disagree with me..)

    • I agree. The 1.4 is much easier to handle, which is something that I place of very high value when in the field, especially when I need to carry it around all day (considering you don’t have the heavy chrome version).

      if the M10 edges closer to the D800/D4 ISO quality, there is less need for using such a wide aperture….but it’s always nice to have.

    • ..And here’s Kristian’s reply to Av8R further down this page (comment number 31):

      “A luxury item it is indeed. I’m still yet to meet a photographer who’s career has depended on such a lens. To be fair, I no longer own this lens, as I could no longer justify owning it.”

      It’s interesting to try a 50mm 0.95, and to see what it does ..but it’s just NOT one of those things that one simply cannot live without.

      Whereas the 50 1.4… (just kidding..)

      I think Kristian’s pics would have looked this good, even shot with Voigtländers. It’s the photographer, not just the lens..

  21. ” Consistency from wide open at f/0.95 is amazing and maintained throughout the aperture range until diffraction kicks in from f/16.”

    I also use this lens a lot at f/11. Because the glass Leica uses in Noctilux is of such high quality that diffraction is never a problem and it gives wonderful 3D like images.
    Here is a sample (taken with Nex7, so effectively focal length is 75mm)
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/72049239@N05/7025920665/in/photostream/lightbox

    • I’m pretty sure the visibility of diffraction is primarily dependend on the pixel pitch of the sensor, not the quality of the lens. On most MFT and APS-C systems the sweet spot is usually around f/8, from f/11 on down diffraction starts to become visible. I don’t think the Noctilux makes any difference there.

      • I wish it was the case and I would gladly put the money on the camera with the best sensor, but pixel pitch of Nex7 is similar to 36Mp FF sensor and has sufficient resolution to show the diffraction. I definitely lose quality in micro detail due to diffraction before the pixel pitch comes into play. Diffraction is an optical property of the lens. My two other Leica lenses don’t deliver the same level of micro contrast at f/11 like the Noctlux can. Apparently, Leica waits a year after casting the glass before using it for producing lenses of Noctilux to achieve the best optical performance.

        • Regardless of the quality of the lens the M9 is diffraction limited to around f10, beyond this point any lens will lost contrast and sharpness due to the circle of confusion being larger than the image sensor pixel.

        • Stopped down, The two previous Noctilux designs do not deliver the level sharpness that 0.95 design provides.

  22. Awesome pictures and very informative…one of the best posts here ever!

  23. Very nice, razor-thin DOF- lovely!

  24. I love those pics. Simply love them! Especially the 3D effect, taken from a somewhat greater distance, like the girl at the graveyard, has my special appreciation. One needs a really fast lens for this. This is a very intriguing picture to me. It really sticks…
    Great work, Kristian! This is pure joy. Love Steve for making this possible.

  25. I totally agree with your point that not many great pictures have a background blurred beyond recognition. That’s precisely why I love this lens the most when it’s focussed at a medium distance, like in the graveyard picture.

  26. reminds me of what I like about my Nokton, It can pretty much pull off the same job at 1/10th the price and half the weight. The Noctilux is for those who have the masses of extra money for that extra little bit.

    • This is the kind of talk I love to hear, seriously. As much as I love exotic gear, what I love more is photography, and especially seeing photographers make incredible use of whatever gear they have.

      To be honest I’ve seen better work coming from photographers using simple cheap gear that I ever do coming from photographers using expensive gear.

  27. Hi Kristian!

    Congrats on those really exceptional examples showing what is possible with a good gear in the hands of someone who knows how to master it.

  28. amazing pictures! and welcome back to frozen Melbourne :)

    P.S. any workshops coming soon?

  29. Kristian,

    Beautiful work. I’ve owned a Noctilux for about 6 months now. Definitely can be a challenging lens to shoot with but is gratifying when you get the shot.

    I’m really interested in seeing it used in low light with the Leica M Monochrom.

    Gage

  30. Love the images. I have the .95, Summilux and Summicron.. can’t say I disagree with your comments.
    I still can’t bring myself to sell any of them. The Noctilux does give me a little more wow factor in certain situations.. but I would never say it ‘s worth the money.. truly a luxury item.

    • A luxury item it is indeed. I’m still yet to meet a photographer who’s career has depended on such a lens. To be fair, I no longer own this lens, as I could no longer justify owning it.

  31. Hi Kristian,

    great pictures but even more interesting is your opinion about the blurred background!

    Doing the maximum blurr because you can destroys the photos more often than improves it. I agree with you that the subject in relation with the backgound is the most important thing.

    I am not in the Leica leaque, neither financially nor artistically (although I could go for a M system within a years of savings). When I bought the 18-105 vr for my Nikon D 5 100 (is this already blasphemy ?) I found out that I can isolate the subject from the background while leaving a slightly blurred backgound so the eye gets nearly the illusion of a 3 D effect, a thing that does not happen when the background is blurred beyond recognition!

    I would compare this with painters who can get 3 dimensions on a 2 dimensional canvas.

    The side effect of this “taste” that I have is that I can go with relatively cheap gear (the lense cost me just 350 $, probably the price of a lens hood with Leica).

    Different from the people who use expensive gear and shoot photos that might have been state of the art 50 years ago (nowadays an iphone can do this) you have an eye for composition, light and the right bukkeh.

    Just went onto your web page and got the confirmation for what I wrote above: the camera is your artistic tool, your are not slave of your gear.

    You are also versatile, just compare the “beauty” photos with the Muay Thai ones, total different style. I am very used to the Muay Thai thing as I have been living in Thailnd for the last 17 years. I never saw this topic captured as good as you did!

    Best regards
    Heiner

    • Thank you Heiner. I have two very distinct styles, and no style I’m known for. This is because to make a living I’ve had to adopt different style to match my client’s needs. I also get bored of doing something one way and find that learning new ways of doing things in one area leads to improvements in other areas of my photography.

      The Muay Thai story was shot in a day and a half and every time I got back to Bangkok, I think of going back for a week to do it properly. I’m very happy to hear it meets your approval and thank you for the kind comments and appreciation.

  32. Amazing photos and a very impressive body of work Kristian, thanks for sharing! I found my inspiration to get an M9 + Summicron 35mm right here on Steve’s site, and the camera has been my muse ever since.

    I’m curious though, with the amazing photo assignments and famous subjects you’ve photographed in Hollywood … why did you leave?

    • Great question Glen. My family was not enjoying living in the LA lifestyle. I ended up leaving my career as it was really peaking so it’s a very fare question, but a sacrifice I made and I’m proud of it. I still have my toes in the industry but now focusing more on coaching what I know through workshops and seminars.

      Thanks Glen

      • Kristian, while I know this article is a little old now, I just finally read it and have been re-inspired not only by your work, but also your attitude towards photography, life and its intersection. This particular comment really resonated with me because that is one of the hardest things to do, sacrifice one’s own “advancement” for their family’s well-being and happiness.

        Obviously, you are going to excel at whatever you do because of your great talent and positive view on life, so leaving Hollywood while your career there was peaking will only take you down another road where new “advancements” will be enjoyed. I can tell you’re a great teacher from what I’ve read on this page and your comments so there is no doubt you will become very successful in your new coaching endeavors.

        I would love to find my way to one of your workshops one day (I live in the Bay Area, CA) so please keep us all posted on your workshops as it travels the globe. I don’t currently see a section on your site with this type of info but will definitely book mark it in the hopes that one day it will be up there!

        Cheers.
        Daniel

  33. Hi Kristian,
    Your photos are sublime.
    One observation though on the pic at the Jewish cemetry. Not sure about scantily dressed women useing tombstones as a backdrop.Although I am not offended by the photo, cemeteries are sanctified land for all societies including for the Jewish people. In fact when women visit a Jewish cemetery as I am sure with all cemeteries they should be modestly dressed out of respect for the departed.
    Once again as a reasonably religious Jew I take no offence at your photo simply an observation.
    Phil

    • Thanks for your comments Phil. I understand where you’re coming from and it was something at the back of my mind when shooting, though I’d have to disagree on the way she is dressed. ‘Scantily dressed’ is a little harsh way to describe my subject. Her dress isn’t short and she’s not posing in a sexy manner or interacting with the tombstones in a disrespectful way. I was careful to not be insulting in the way I went about this shoot, but of course its all a matter of personal opinion and perception. All I can say is that it was not my intention to be disrespectful and I was very careful to not be offensive in the way in which I constructed these pictures.

      The woman with the horse is an actress and those were ‘not’ taken at the cemetery.

      • I don’t find this upsetting – she’s dressed well and there are some good layers of counterpose in that photo.

      • Hi Kristian,
        Thanks for your reply and points well taken .Perhaps the word “scantily” was a tad harsh but its relative to how I percieve men and women should be dressed when visiting cemeteries.
        My comment should in no way be taken as an objection to the photo, as stated, simply an observation.

        The photos of the woman with the horse are astonishing and I admire how you have contrasted the strength of the animal against delicacy and vulnerability of the model.
        Will be visiting your site often for inspiration.
        Take care
        Phil
        Johannesburg

  34. Kristian, one of the best articles I have seen on Steve’s site. Excellent, straight forward review of the lens, and superb photos to accompany. You have a new fan out here in Indonesia!!

    Cheers,

    Scotty

    • Hey Scotty, I love Indonesia and I’m there in East Java every year. End of this year I hope to visit the Tengger community at Bromo and also visit Borobudur for the first time.

      I’m also doing workshops in Bali and Jakarta in Late January. Terima Kasih

  35. Beautiful images

  36. superb

  37. Why’s the girl posing seductively with a horse?

    The picture I like the best is the girl in front of the house.

    • The girl with the horse is posing with her horse, because she was giving it away cause she could no longer keep it. The seductive part just fell into place when it rained and it all just happened.

  38. Awsome shots, still love them each time i see them. And one of the most down to earth realistic and neutral opinion piece about this lens i have read.

  39. Breathtaking images; sharing this to as many people as I can.

  40. Childrens’ opinions are marvellous

    Fresh

    Kristian if u ever want totally honest not blowing smoke up your ass (verging on sycophantic) opinions of photos you took
    you only need show it to children.

    Best of wishes to you

  41. Super shots – so beautiful. Wish I was constantly around similar subject matter! :)

    Here are some comparison graveyard shots with the 1.4 wide open:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ekhall/5086090773/in/photostream/lightbox/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ekhall/6863818655/in/photostream/lightbox/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ekhall/6863818345/in/photostream/lightbox/

  42. “Let me ask you this…..how many of the world’s best historical pictures were taken with backgrounds blurred beyond recognition?” ohh man… it just changed my opinion completely.

  43. Just awesome pic …..thanks for sharing.

  44. A lovely exploration of wonderful images with equally intriguing and helpful commentary. Very helpful to hear your explanation that aperture is a choice and that far too often, current trend is to simply focus on bokeh or wide open apertures. Thank you for sharing your craft and insights. And of course, the images are a joy to behold.

    • Thanks Randy. I simply call it ‘shooting for bokeh vs content’. For lens testing, shooting at wide open aperturres tells us a lot, but we need to remember to stop testing our gear so much and start testing our abilities to achieve great photography – and this doesn’t start, nor end at shooting wide open ;-)

      All the best mate

  45. Lovely shots, enjoyed them all.

    Re. “how many of the world’s best historical pictures were taken with backgrounds blurred beyond recognition?”

    Indeed. Although I shoot a lot at f/0.95, there are times when it is important to not completely obliterate the background into a wash of colors. An OOF background serves an important purpose, and that is to provide a context to the subject. So I have always regarded as f/0.95 as an option, but not a mandate.

    It is also for the same reason that a lot of times, I like the “rough” bokeh from a Summicron. It’s not as buttery smooth as f/1.4 or f/0.95, but it provides a backdrop.

    The Noctilux at f/2 is quite different from a 50/2 or 75/2 or 90/2 at f/2. It is not as “sharp” or “rough”. It is different. It is worth deploying and enjoying!

    Roy Prasad

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