The Meyer Optik Gorlitz 50 f/0.95 Nocturnus II Lens Review. Speed & Bokeh for your Sony.

The Meyer Optik Gorlitz 50 f/0.95 Nocturnus II Lens Review. Speed & Bokeh for your Sony.

It never seems to end! Year after year, day after day it seems there are new products coming out, and many seem the same as what has come before. In the case of this Meyer Optik 50 0.95 Nocturnus II, many online have been saying this is a lens that is a copy, or clone, or is indeed the old Mitakon Speedmaster 50 0.95 that came out for Sony mount a year or two ago. I reviewed that lens HERE. 

Sony A9, Nocturnus at 0.95 and ISO 6400 – OOC JPEG

Spec wise. this new Meyer Optik 50 0.95 appears to be similar (bit not exactly) to that Mitakon. I contacted Meyer Optik to see if I could get an answer as to if this is the same lens as the Mitakon. The Answer from Meyer Optik was this:

“Absolutely not. I’ve seen those statements out there, as well. I’ve never used the Mitakon lens or seen it in person, but compare the specs — weight, number of aperture blades etc..

I do know where this rumor evolved. When the folks who revived Meyer-Optik were just starting up, they did have an agreement with Mitakon and KMZ where Meyer-Optik overhauled and upgraded their lenses. Those lenses, the lower-end Figmentums in our lineup, are being phased out.

I believe the Nocturnus II contains some glass from Mitakon (I need to confirm) but the mechanical structure, including the aperture blades, is designed, manufactured and assembled by hand by Meyer-Optik in our production facility in Hamburg, Germany. They are not made in China or Russia. Our suppliers are top notch of whom I’m sure you’re familiar: Uwe Weller, Novoflex, Otto Niemann and Schott.”

So that was the official answer from Meyer Optik. In the hand and in use it feels different from the Mitakon, and it does have different specs in regards to weight and aperture blades, just as Meyer Optik has stated to me. The Bokeh to me is slightly different even wide open when aperture blades do not come into play, but honestly at f/0.95 all lenses give a massive amount of BLUR in your backgrounds. The trick with a lens like this is that it must be sharp wide open to give a nice shallow DOF effect. Some out there hate shallow DOF and see it as a trick to make your images pop. Others love it and use it artistically in their images. Me, I love fast primes but always have so the Nocturnus II was very welcome here in my household. I love my A7rII, and I was hoping that at $3000, this lens would deliver sharp results wide open with smooth beautiful Bokeh. I was also hoping it would not have a funky color cast like some of the cheap 0.95 lenses from China.
The 50 Nocturnus II – Beautiful wide open on the Sony A9
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So does it deliver on that promise? Is it better than the Mitakon? Or is it really the same? Let’s dig in a little and see.
The 50 0.95 Nocturnus II wide open at 0.95 The focus was on her, and as you can see he is slightly out of focus due to the shallow DOF at 0.95. Shot on my Sony A7RII. 
Color…
B&W…
I posted the B&W conversion (Using Alien Skin Exposure 2) as many have been asking me to show a comparison like this. Some lenses convert to B&W better than some others, so there ya go, have at it and take a look. Please click on the images to see them larger because if you do not they may appear soft.
100% crop from the image above  – wide open 1/125 s – I could have bumped the ISO to get to 1/250 and it would have been sharper.
What I like about this shot above is the bokeh. Silky smooth and very “Noctilux” like. While I should have stopped down to 1.4 here, I wanted to test the lens wide open for a shot like this. But speaking of the Leica Noctilux, I have owned that $11,000 lens on more than one occasion (three) and was tempted to get it again when I had the Leica M10. Then I told myself that A: I have a Sony A7rII and B: There are a couple 0.95 50’s for that system that come in for much less than the Noctilux. As exotic and lust worthy as it is, that Leica Noctilux is not worth $8,000 more than a lens like this if you compare performance or even build. In fact this Meyer Optik Nocturnus II feels just as well made as the Leica IMO, and it is smaller, still full frame and weighs less. Is it as perfect at 0.95? No, it is not. Is the color performance as good as the Leica? No, it is not.  But it has less CA, is plenty sharp wide open and it even delivers smooth beautiful bokeh.
I feel the Leica uses more exotic and better glass but it should for $11,000. The Leica is known as the best 50 0.95 in the world, and it is. But for $8k less, this will get you 85%-90% there. Who can complain about that?
My good friend Carissa with the Nocturnus II at 0.95
I do these kind of shots below to show how sharp it can be wide open. Focused on the fan chains.. CLICK IT to see it larger!
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BELOW: 100% CROP – ISO 1600 – ZERO NOISE REDUCTION (off) – You can see slight CA here which is expected with a lens like this. I will say the CA is less from the lens than the $11k Leica. 
When it comes to fast 50’s for your Sony, if we just look at lenses already ready for the E mount, there are a few choices. First we have the full on Sony 50 1.4 premium lens. It’s Auto Focus, it’s large, it uses Zeiss glass and it’s stunning in IQ. In fact I think it is the equal (or better) of the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH. It’s just much bigger and heavier and has auto focus.
This Nocturnus II, to be clear is 100% manual focus. So if you want a fast 50mm AF lens for your Sony and you want the best there is in the native E mount, the new Sony 50 1.4 is the answer. See my review HERE of that lens, but it is gorgeous. 
Nocturnus wide open at f/0.95
Wide Open at 0.95
This lens, the Nocturnus II, is for a different kind of shooter than the Sony 50 1.4. In fact, for many who want a fast 0.95 lens, there is no 1.4 lens that will do. No 1.8 lens will do. There are plenty of 50’s to choose from for Sony from Zeiss like the 50 Loxia f/2, the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 which has many fans, the cheap 50 1.8 budget Sony that punches above its price class and even the Mitakon Speedmaster 50 0.95 that many treasure. For those that feel the need for speed, f/1.4 will not do.
The Nocturnus II on the Sony A9 – F 0.95
But speaking of the Mitakon Speedmaster,  this lens is so close to the Speedmaster IN SPECS (besides the aperture blades and weight) I just had to compare them. 
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MITAKON VS METER OPTIK
The aperture blades – more on the Meyer, less on the Mistaken. This should come into play when stopping down of course. 

PRICE – The Mitakon is $799. The Meyer is $2999. A difference of $2200. THAT IS HUGE. With specs being so close, I wanted to try both side by side because if these lenses give the same results, then the Nocturnus is in trouble.

LOOKS and BUILD – I much prefer the design and style of the Nocturnus. By a large margin. In use, it is solid as a brick yet smooth like silk when focusing or changing the aperture. It has a look like no other lens and to me, looks like a well made high end lens. It’s lighter than the Mitakon as well, by a smidge but nothing to get excited about. In reality, they FEEL about the same in weight. 

IN USE Again, the Nocturnus for me wins in use. It feels better in the hand, it is smoother to focus and it is lighter.
IMAGE QUALITY AND COLORThe color, contrast and sharpness from the Nocturnus beats the Mitakon slightly. The Mitakon is very good and at $749 it is a good buy. The Nocturnus though is giving me more of what I see from higher end lenses but oh so slightly. A little bit better color, slightly better sharpness wide open and slightly different bokeh that I prefer. No off color with the Nocturnus.
In this example you can see how close these two lenses are. The Mitakon is slightly softer here at f/2 but some may prefer that. Click them for larger to take a closer look.
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WINNER? TIE – Comes down to personal preference. 
 
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Here is a wide open shot  – my Bokeh test. Now, the aperture blade difference will not make any difference when wide open but yet I still see a SLIGHT difference in the Bokeh. The Nocturnus is slightly less busy in the trees, and smoother. Many may not even see it as you do have to click them and look closely. 
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WINNER: NOCTURNUS – Slightly Smoother Bokeh wide open.
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Now a stopped down shot at f/2.8. Let’s see if we can see a difference here…THESE ARE FULL SIZE FILES out of camera! Click them to see them full size and compare
WINNER – NOCTURNUS – Slightly sharper, no color cast..
So even at f/2.8 these lenses are seemingly very similar. To anyone thinking about why they anyone would buy the Meyer Optik, here is why:
1. It is built better, feels better, and has a striking design that some may prefer. Made in Germany.
2. It is slightly sharper wide open and even stopped down, bokeh is slightly smoother even wide open.
3. There is slightly better color performance from the Meyer. 
4. It seems the QC is better with the Meyer as well. So you are paying for better quality control and construction.
5. They are not the same lens. The Meyer may use some of the glass inside that the Mitakon uses but it does have more aperture blades, and is built to a higher standard. The Meyer is made in Germany, the Mitakon is not. So not the same lens. 
A few more shots from the Nocturnus, all wide open at 0.95 – Click for larger
When shopping for a lens like this, meaning a lens that has an f/0.95 aperture, most will usually shoot it at f/0.95 as that is the draw..the attraction..the reason we pay more for lenses like this. As a camera salesman once told me when I went to buy a Leica 50 Summilux ASPH, “Speed Costs”. For Sony we can use a few 50 0.95 lenses. The Canon Dream Lens (See that here on the Sony), The Leica Noctilux , The Mitakon Speedmaster or this Meyer Optik Nocturnus II. These lenses range in cost from $799 to $11,000 and deliver performance that is more similar than not. All but the old Canon Dream lens deliver images that are pretty close.  What I find amazing is that if I look back at my Noctilux images, I do not see a huge jump in performance from this Meyer Optik. I do see more refinement, more sharpness wide open and improved color in the Leica but it does come at a cost, and a HUGE one.
Nocturnus wide open..
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Back in the day when the Noctilux was new, it was about the only game in town unless you went vintage, and SOFT. Today manufacturers like Mitakon, SLR Magic and now Meyer Optik are releasing fast primes for the every day shooter. I welcome this, as sometimes these lenses are gems. In the case of the Meyer Optik, it is close to the Mitakon in performance and may be too close for some. Others will appreciate the build and feel of the Nocturnus, the style, the smoother focus action and the slightly better performance as well as the fact that it is made in Germany.
Me, I would have liked to have seen the Meyer come in for less, more like $2199 but I do understand when lenses are made in Germany, or Assembled in Germany, the cost will go up. At the end of the day, the consumer will dictate how well the Nocturnus II will do. If you like premium. and have the cash, go for the Nocturnus. If you want to save some cash, and can handle slightly softer performance, slightly busier bokeh and slightly different color, the Mitakon will do just fine. Notice I say slightly..I mean, you can see the differences here for yourself. They are slim.
More from the Nocturnus II wide open
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Stopped Down?
While most would buy a lens like this for the .95 aperture, as that is the main draw here, when stopped down even to f/1.4 the lens sharpens up quite a bit and I find the sweet spot to be around f/2 with max sharpness and still nice bokeh:
Wide open to f/4
Final Thoughts 
There is not much more I can say about this lens. It is beautiful. It is fast. It is manual focus. It is my fave focal length of 50mm. It is not too heavy, it balances great on the A7RII and it feels like a lens Leica would have made when it comes to build and feel. IT IS A GORGEOUS LENS! At $3000 it is not cheap but it is also not $11,000 like the Leica equivalent. If you want the best in a 50 0.95 there is no sub for a Leica Noctilux though. As I mentioned above, “Speed Costs” and when you step up to the exotic lenses like Leica, be prepared to pay, and pay big. For everyone else, this lens will be fantastic. I really fell for this lens the more I used it, and it will stay in my stable. If it were me, and I knew I was buying for the LONG TERM, I would go for the Meyer. If I thought I would sell later or use it sparingly, I would go Mitakon as the savings is very real and very large.
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You can order this lens from B&H Photo HERE or from Meyer directly HERE
I will leave you with a few more images with the Nocturnus II…
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9 thoughts on “The Meyer Optik Gorlitz 50 f/0.95 Nocturnus II Lens Review. Speed & Bokeh for your Sony.”

  1. I bought one and after one month they still not shipping,and dont answer email,do you have an idea that how long they need to process an order?

  2. How much are you playing with contrast/sharpness in post? I’m guessing you must be to some degree, because I’d be really stunned to see a lens delivering that much punch at .95 without some tinkering. I remember you saying the Mitakon required boosting contrast in post (as do some of my fast lenses, like Voigtlander’s Nokton 35 and 40). Same deal here?

  3. Hello Steve,

    Just wanted you to know in case you weren’t aware of it, but your emails arrive at my inbox as “WordPress.com”. BTW I do like your updated/upgraded blog, but you aren’t getting identified by the email that it is coming from you. Love your work and appreciate what you share with us. I read every one of your postings.

  4. I’d like to see the difference between the Canon FD or EF 85mm f/1.2 L and one of these 50mm f/.95 lenses. I have the FD 85mm f/1.2 and it’s very sharp and the bokeh seems to be better than what I see here.

    Anyone who has both a 50mm f/0.95 and the 85mm f/1.2?

    Bye,

    Dirk.

    1. Well, 50mm is quite different from an 85. I love my 50’s and rarely ever use an 85. SO to me that would be a useless comparison as I would not go to an 85 from my 50mm focal length, which is my #1 most used FL.

  5. Such a deeply dishonest statement from Meyer Optik. Seriously, how can anyone be ok with such deceitful sales language. Shame on them.

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