Aug 282013
 

titleform

The Voigtlander 42.5 f/0.95  Micro 4/3 Lens Review

By Steve Huff

Thanks to Camera Quest for sending me this lens one day before it was even released so I could review it. 

Ahhhh, super fast 0.95 aperture glass. You gotta love them even if they are built like a tank and heavier than you really want to go with a mirrorless system that is supposed to be all about high quality in a compact package. Yep, Voigtlander has done it again completing a trio of uber fast 0.95 aperture lenses with this new 42.5mm f/0.95 lens. It is large. It is heavy. It is beautiful. Lenses with a fast aperture of f/0.95 used to be unheard of until Leica designed and released their masterpiece Noctilux f/0.95 a few years ago. Ever since there have been a slew of fast f/0.95 and faster lenses released by other manufacturers showing that yes, it can be done and yes, it can be done for less. They may not be 100% of a Leica lens but they are at least 80%, and that right there is a great feat of engineering by these companies.

Voigtlander is one of these who boldly went for it after seeing there was a market for ultra fast glass, especially in the Micro 4/3 format. With the depth of field of a Micro 4/3 sensor being greater than what we get on a full frame sensor, one way to combat that is by using ultra fast aperture lenses. This way, if you like that smooth and creamy “background blown out of focus” look, or “Subject Isolation”, then this lens, and a few others can easily give it to you while still giving you superb quality all the way around.

But today I am speaking of the 42.5mm f/0.95 Micro 4/3 lens from Voigtlander and this lens is not for the faint hearted due to the size, weight and $999 price tag that comes with it.

When I say it is large and heavy, I mean it is large and heavy in comparison to normal Micro 4/3 prime lenses. Lenses like the Olympus 12mm f/2 or 45 1.8. Lenses like the Panasonic 20 1.7II or the 25 1.4 .Yes Ladies and Gentleman, Voigtlander lenses are built-in the style of good old-fashioned Leica Rangefinder lenses. In my book, this is a good thing. No, a GREAT thing. Why? Well, this means you will have a serious thrill when you open that box and see the quality of the build, the feel of the focus ring and solid click of the aperture dial. It is like you went back in time to the 1950’s..a time when lens construction was top-notch. Quality all the way.

DSC_0886

So as a warning to anyone who is thinking of this lens, or the 17.5 f/0.95 or the 25 f/0.95..just know you are getting a seriously built lens for your money :)

DSC_0863

The Image Quality

With that out-of-the-way, how is the image quality of this lens? Many would think at f/0.95, which is wide open, that the lens may be soft at such a wide open aperture. All I know is that my 1st tests with the lens on an Olympus E-P5 shooting at f/0.95 yielded incredibly sharp results at my focus point.

Speaking of focusing, the E-P5 with the focus peaking and VF-4 made it EASY to focus this beast of a lens and speaking of beasts…my 1st test shots were of the local cows :) All wide open at 0.95. Keep in mind I shoot every day, 5-6 days a week reviewing cameras. So to me, finding a bunch of cows who posed for me was exciting..different. Lol. Moooooooo!

YOU MUST click them to see the larger size and to see how sharp this lens can be at the widest aperture. Quite amazing for Micro 4/3.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you noticed any noise or grain in the images above it is because I ran them through a VSCO Agfa Scala filter, which added some fine grain. AGFA Scala is a B&W slide film. Even so, if you click on the image above you will see how sharp this lens is when used with the E-P5. Not far off from the LOOK I GET with the Leica M 240 with a Voigtlander 50 1.5 Nokton even though that is a full frame camera.

The reality is that the cameras made for enthusiasts today are quite exceptional and offer amazing IQ possibilities depending on the lens used. We have DSLR’s, we have small mirrorless solutions like Micro 4/3, we have amazing cameras like the Sony RX1 and many other options (many reviews can be found on these in my “Mirrorless Central” section). It can boggle the brain if you sit and try to figure out what to buy and why to buy and when to buy. Ten years ago the pickings were slim if you wanted amazing quality and when you found it, you had to pay dearly for it. Today, a camera like the $999 Olympus E-P5 performs better than a camera I paid $10,000 for with a couple of lenses back in 2003, the Canon 1Ds (1st version). A camera that was considered a “Holy Grail” by so many back then..yet today..the $999 Olympus E-P5 beats it when used with lenses like these from Voigtlander. The little Olympus beats it in high ISO, speed, and of course, weight. Makes me wonder what we will have in 10 more years. Will it all be phones with high tec cameras and artificial depth of field? Will it be cameras like the Lytro? No one knows but I think some brands will die out and there will still be some around supplying the latest and greatest to the enthusiasts and pros.

Cameras like the Nikon D800E, RX1R, Canon 5D series..are all exceptional when it comes to image quality. They compete head to head with mid scale medium format backs so where do we go from here? Only time will tell but today in August of 2013 what we have to choose from is pretty damn nice.

Wide open, f/0.95 – click it for larger. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Walking the Line

As for today..for now..and for right here and right now I am sitting here looking at snapshots I took with this $999 lens and $999 camera body. A $2000 combo and I have to say it is walking a line that used to be reserved for megabuck systems.

The image below was e-mailed to 8 people I know well who are enthusiasts like you and me. The version I emailed had the EXIF stripped and I asked my camera buddies..“what camera took this snapshot? Take a guess”.

Walking the Line – 42.5 at 0.95 – E-P5

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

6 of the 8 said “Leica M 240″.  One said “Leica M9″ and one said “OM-D and 45 1.8″

SIX thought I took this image, this basic snapshot of a stray cat walking across a fence with a $7000 Leica body. In the past, even as early as 2009 there was a clearer line between such cameras..today the line is getting rubbed out a bit. Kind of crazy when you think about it because I could spend $4500 on an E-P5 (or new GX7) along with these three amazing super speed Voigtlander lenses:

The 17.5 f/0.95 – This will give you a 35mm equivalent field of view, the preference of many street shooters. The lens is built to a high standard, well above most lenses made for Micro 4/3 or any system besides Leica M. It is heavy, but even at 0.95 it is pretty sharp. Great bokeh, a great look and feel and above all works fantastic on the newer bodies with focus peaking. Just beware of the weight as this will make your Micro 4/3 system larger and heavier. The Olympus 17 1.8 is good but will not give you the same look as this lens so all depends on what you like. I have samples with this lens in my OM-D E-M5 Review.

25 f/0.95 – A classic 50mm field of view. While it will not give you the same depth of field as a 50mm 0.95 on full frame, it will give you the DOF of a 25mm f/0.95 lens because that is exactly what it is. Most importantly you will get that light sucking ability that only a fast 0.95 lens can give you. This one is smaller than the 17.5 and feels pretty nice on the OM-D series or E-P series. Easy to focus with the new VF-4. This is probably my fave of the three due to the 50mm focal length, which is where I am most comfortable. Again, samples can be seen in my original OM-D E-M5 review. 

42.5 f/0.95 – This is the lens that every image on this page was shot with and it will give you the classic 85mm focal length and even more shallow DOF because this is close to a 50mm lens so you will get closer to a 50mm 0.95 Bokeh effect (can anyone say Noctilux)? Beautiful build and feel and for $999, it is a great buy if you like shooting at 85mm/90mm. But it is especially for  those who like BOKEH..and lots of it.

So if you buy or own a Micro 4/3 camera and want lenses that will give your images this effect..in other words,  results that give a “Leica Like” vibe (though it will be a CLASSIC Leica Vibe),  then this is as close as you can get on Micro 4/3.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Of course I know that just by saying you can get close to the “look and feel” of a Leica M 240 using an E-P5 and these Voigtlander lenses I will probably suffer an attack or two by hardcore Leica users who will mistake what I said for something else. I did not say this was better than any Leica setup with Leica glass. I said you can get close to the look and feel (though some will say equal it and others will say beat it) of a Leica M 240 and certain lenses. :) In fact, these Voigtlander lenses perform much like older classic Leica lenses and is one reason they work so well for B&W.

The Lens comes complete with metal lens hood

DSC_0884

In fact, in the past year alone I have test and used just about EVERY major camera that has been released. The Sony’s, the Fuji’s, the Samsung’s, the Nikon’s, the Ricoh, the Pentax’s, etc. I am in a position to where I get to try it all, and the cool thing is I  tell the truth even when it upsets some readers. I just tell it how it is..MY own experience. I compare cameras and know what I like and what I do not. Contrary to what some believe, no manufacturer “pays me off” to say anything. Camera makers pay no one-off in the blogging/review world because if they did it could hurt them. I pride myself on always telling MY OWN TRUE FEELINGS. That is all. Take it or leave it :)

What I can say is that the newest crop of Micro 4/3 cameras and lenses have been extraordinary. Superb. As good as most will ever need for everything but super fast focus tracking (which some of us need, and some us will never use). So depending on your needs, this system is rocking in 2013. When you add these lenses it takes it up a notch.

Trio

Let us see what happens when we have a Micro 4/3 image, a Leica M 240 image and a Fuji X-E1 and Zeiss image. This is NOT in any way, shape or form anything scientific. In fact, these images were taken on different days, months apart. Same subject. What I want to show here is not sharpness, not detail, not much of anything besides depth of field and color and “pleasing to the eye” results. Of the three, which one suits YOUR tastes the most when it comes to how this scene was rendered? Of course the Olympus has a 2X crop sensor, the Leica is full frame and the Fuji is APS-C, so 1.5 crop.

The Voigtlander 42.5 f/0.95 – wide open.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

-

The Leica M 240 – 50 Voigtlander Nokton at 1.5

vendingleica

-

The Fuji X-E1 with Zeiss Touit 32 1.8 – wide open

vendingfuji

Now of course we have the difference of focal length. With the E-P5 we have the Bokeh of a 42.5mm lens at 0.95 but the field of view of an 85mm lens. With the Leica we have the Bokeh of a 50mm 1.5 lens as it is full frame and what you see is what you get. With the Fuji and Zeiss, we have the Bokeh of a 32mm 1.8 lens and the field of view of around 50mm. To my eyes the most pleasing result was with the Leica and Olympus. I love the Leica as it gives me that 50mm FOV I love. If I had the Voigtlander 25 0.95 it would have been a better comparison but you can not fault that Voigtlander. Smooth, rich and creamy all the way with great out of focus background. The Fuji and Zeiss have a pretty busy background and it really shows what a 0.95 aperture can do for you (with the 2X crop of the E-P5). Yep, Micro 4/3 is no longer crippled by that crop factor.

Subject Separation, 3 Dimensional, Bokeh, Background Blur, Depth of Field…

It’s all about subject separation. Something many Micro 4/3 naysayers used to say was not possible but it is indeed possible with these Voigtlander lenses (and many others) and I am very happy that these options are here for those of us who love these little powerhouse cameras.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There is a downside though. While you can get a nice 3D feel and subject separation with these lenses on a Micro 4/3body, as I stated earlier they are HEAVY and LARGE. Over time they can get cumbersome and remember, these lenses are manual focus only. No blazing auto focus here :)

If you want small, light and fast AF I highly suggest other lenses like the Panasonic 25 1.4 or the Olympus 45 1.8 or 75 1.8. All fantastic pieces of glass that will give you sharp results and the conveniences of the system. So not everyone will enjoy a lens like this 42.5 0.95.

So who will like this lens? Who will not?

If you come from a Leica background you will love this lens. If you enjoy finely crafted lenses, you will adore this lens. If you love that 0.95 look and want it for your Micro 4/3 system..you will  love this lens and appreciate it. If  you are “old school” you may enjoy this lens. If you like ultra modern crisp renderings with huge depth of field, you will NOT like this lens. If you hate heavy and large, you will NOT like this lens. If you hate manual focus, you will NOT like this lens. If you expect a lens like this to be $300, you are not meant for this lens :)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day this lens is a firecracker. Extreme build, heavy weight and able to suck in enough light to your sensor while giving you that 3D feel that many of us crave. It’s sharp wide open and sharp throughout the aperture range. It is a lens that will deliver a different look and if it is what you seek, you will not be disappointed with this lovely lens.

That is about all I can say. These days when I review a lens it is tough because most lenses today are superb. That is why I talk mostly about the character and talk about comparisons with gear that is sometimes much more costly. The truth is that we have never had such a choice and selection in cameras and lenses. I am talking QUALITY choices. The upside is that it seems to be gaining more and more steam, so I expect much more to come.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Where to Buy the Voigtlander 42.5 f/0.95

Since CameraQuest sent this out to me before it was even released so I could review it, at no cost to me AND they are the main USA distributor for Voigtlander I would say GO CHECK THEM OUT and if you want this lens, show them some love. Stephen Gandy runs it and he ships FAST. YHe has full stock of this lens and the other Nokton lenses for Micro 4/3.

You can see or buy all of the Micro 4/3 choices HERE. 

Specs of the 42.5:

  • f/.095 to f16 aperture range
  • 11 lens elements in 8 optical groups
  • 10 aperture blades
  • Filter size 58mm
  • Close focus .23 meter
  • Size: length 74.6mm, diameter 64.3mm
  • Lens hood included with lens

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

PLEASE Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help! If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +

Dec 292012
 

bothtt

Gorgeous new SLR Magic Hyperprime 35mm T0.95 and 35 T1.4 arrives for testing!

The “Noctlux” for your APS-C Mirrorless

The 35 T 0.95 Hyperprime ASP-H M mount Lens

So..you want a super fast, super sharp, super built, super bokeh 50mm equivalent cream machine for your Sony NEX, Fuji X or EOS-M camera? How about a 70mm equivalent for your Micro 4/3?  Want one for each system without having to buy three different lenses? I know I do..and such a lens has just arrived to the Huff Household. Yep,  UPS arrived yesterday with a huge box from SLR Magic and what the box held were two lenses I have been excited to review for a few weeks now. One of them is the premium 35mm APS-H Hyperprime (their premium quality line of lenses)  and I have to say that it is a BEAUTY.

It’s large, hefty, built like a solid brick and is a damn nice T0.95 lens, which in F stop land means about f/0.92! This is the 50mm equivalent 0.95 lens for APS-C mirrorless camera shooters! Almost Like having a Noctilux for your Fuji X or NEX, speed wise anyway :)

t0.95onnex

hyperprimonnex

This is an all manual lens designed for ALL of the popular mirrorless systems. You can shoot this one lens  on the NEX system, Fuji X system, EOS-M or Micro 4/3 system. How so you ask? Well, when ordering you just choose which system you want to use it with but the beauty of it all is that if you own 2 or 3 or all of these systems you only need ONE lens and it will be compatible with all of your cameras using an adapter.

This lens is actually an M mount design but not to be used on an M camera. Instead SLR Magic made it in the M mount because so many adapters are made for this mount. So this one lens can be used on almost any mirrorless system with an adapter. This was a great move IMO. For example, if I have a Fuji X camera and an OM-D and a NEX-6 or 7, this one lens can be shot on all of them. Awesome.

One thing I found while doing test shots is that even with focus peaking set to on with the NEX-6 this lens is a beast to focus correctly when shooting wide open. It has a massively razor thin level of DOF at T0.95 so your focus has to be pinpoint precise or else the images will be slightly soft at the focus point if you miss.

A quick OOC JPEG at T 0.95 and the Sony NEX-6  – remember this is wide open at T0.95 

095atbar

The particular lens that was sent to me was shipped with the Sony E Mount adapter so I will be testing it on the NEX-6 (see 1st three OOC JPEGS above) and then later the Fuji X system as soon as I get an adapter for it. It appears the Fuji adapter will not work correctly but there are some that will and SLR Magic will be shipping them with their own Fuji adapter that will work just fine.

Out of the box, this lens looks pretty bad ass but I can not speak enough about how large it is. IT IS LARGE. So if you are hoping for something small this is not your lens. If you want super quality Bokeh and image quality it just might be your lens. The packaging is solid this time around with the lens and adapter encased in solid foam so there is no chance of shipping damage (unless the UPS guys decide to play soccer with it). I am excited to review this one.

A couple of B&W JPEGS with the NEX-6 wide open at T0.95

debbybw

debby feet

This 35mm T0.95 APS-H Hyperprime  lens will be selling for $1349 starting in February 2013 from SLR Magic and that is a decent price considering their 50 T0.95 for M mount was nearing the $5k mark (this was mainly due to the RF coupling and it being a full frame lens). In the same price range as this lens is the Voigtlander 35 1.4 in M mount. Many use that lens as their fast 35 on their mirrorless systems and love it but from what I have seen, this lens just may surpasses that one in Image Quality and Bokeh when used on mirrorless cameras. The only negative is that you can use the Voigtlander on an M camera as it is a full frame lens. Again, This SLR Magic is NOT full frame so while it has an M mount, it is not compatible with M cameras.

The soon to be released SLR Magic 35 T0.95 HYPERPRIME premium lens. (all product shots with Sony RX1)

35t0.95inbox

35t95side

35t95front

For those of you who have seen my review on the previous SLR Magic hyper prime, the 50 T0.95 for Leica M mount you may remember that I loved it and declared it to be just about equal to the Leica Noctilux f0.95 in image quality (in real world use) and I preferred the Bokeh of the SLR Magic. The construction of the Leica Noctilux is better (as is the resale value) but for all out IQ the HyperPrime was amazing. I never had one issue with it on my Leica M9-P or the Monochrom. It was large and heavy but it packed some serious glass. Unfortunately, as far as I know this lens is no longer shipping in the USA (the 50 T0.95) so if you managed to snag one, you have a rare lens in your collection :)

This new 35 T/0.95 seems to have rock solid construction and design, is much less expensive with maybe even better build quality and is a T0.95 35mm which will be like a T0.95 50mm on APS-C mirror-less cameras. Finally a fast and exotic 50mm for your APS-C. BUT, can it deliver the goods? I am not sure yet as I just got it so I will be shooting it in Vegas next week to give it a workout.

I will not know anything until I thoroughly use it but from the looks and feel it is impressive. This lens will come in at $1349 and will be available from SLR Magic starting February 2013. They are also offering $100 off for early buyers so keep an eye out here for info.

-

The SLR Magic 35 T1.4 for APS-C

onthex-e1

SLR Magic also sent me their new 35 T1.4 lens to test out on the Fuji X-E1 and this lens is coming in at only $349. It is a budget lens but it certainly does not look or feel like one. This lens is also available for all other mirrorless systems but will come in whatever mount you order it in. The one that I was sent is for Fuji X and for a $349 lens this is one hell of a well built lens. Metal construction with the weight of a Leica 50 Summilux ASPH. This is no cheap toy lens in the construction department and the packaging is just as nice as the Hyperprime lens.

Andrew from SLR Magic told me they have tweaked their packaging and it shows.

This lens is not up to par with the T0.95 Hyperprime in the IQ department but it is not designed to be. This $349 lens is built for Bokeh it seems as it delivers a rich and creamy out of focus rendering with bit of softness to the images when shot at 1.4 wide open. The lens seems to sharpen up by 2.8 but even wide open will give you a soft etheral look.

35t1.4front

What is nice about this lens is the build and the fact that you can order it NOW in any mount you want. This is what SLR Magic told me about the availability of this lens:

“The 35mm T1.4 is available now. We have it for X mount, E mount, EF-M mount, and mFT mount. It is not up on our website or eBay yet but people can already order by emailing us at [email protected] to get it before it is up on our website. We have already sold a bunch for the mFT version”.

So you can order  this lens now if you desire and what is even better is that if you bought one of their older 35 1.7 toy lenses you can trade it in for a $90 credit towards this new lens (which is a much nicer lens than the toy lens in build and IQ). Also, if you order by Feb 2013 you can take $70 off of the price:

“We have two programs

A) Owners of the SLR Magic 35mm f/1.7 can ship their lens back to Hong Kong for trade-in at $90 value to upgrade.

B) If bought by Feb 2012 from us we have a $70 promotional rebate program.”

So if you buy this lens by Feb 2013 it will come in at only $279. Great buy for any mirrorless camera system if you want great Bokeh and a unique quality. This lens is not a pin sharp lens when used at 1.4 or f/2. It sharpens up by F2.8. I will be reviewing this lens as well with the Fuji X-E1 so stay tuned!

A couple of OOC JPEGS to show Bokeh Quality and expected sharpness at 1.4

“Best Beer in the world Part 2″

351.4bar

-

“Goodbyes”

351.4air

 Remember that this is an all manual lens so you will have to manually focus and manually set Aperture on the lens barrel. Much like using a Leica M lens on your mirrorless camera. Both of these new lenses also have clickless aperture rings as they are “Cine” lenses which happen to be great for videos as well.

So if you want to order this 35 T 1.4 lens for your system you can e-mail SLR Magic for details at [email protected]. My full reviews will be coming soon on both of these.

 

HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

PLEASE Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site (and the cost these days to keep it going is pretty damn high), so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at Amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :) More info is here on how you can help even if you are NOT in the USA as I have Amazon links to GermanyUnited Kingdom and Canada as well!

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter, my facebook fan page and now GOOGLE +!

Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader!

May 192010
 

Here is another fine article by Ashwin Rao and this time he is writing about his thoughts on the lens that had me drawing up plans to rob a bank just to fund one for myself (just kidding of course). The Leica Noctilux f/0.95 is a masterpiece but it’s not for everyone, and is one of those specialty “dream” lenses for most. So thank’s Ashwin for this great read.

Revisiting the Noctilux 50 mm f/0.95 asph

By Ashwin Rao

Hi, fellow Steve Huff readers! It’s Ashwin, back after a rather long hiatus, to bring you my perspective on Leica’s most specialized and extravagent lens, the nearly $11,000 Leica Noctilucx 50 mm f/0.95 asph. Steve got to play with this lens for a trip to New York a few months back, and what he came back with were some truly magnificent shots. Prior to reading his article, to be honest, I had no interest in owning this lens. After all, I already owned the Leica Noctilux 50 mm f/1.0 at that point, and many, myself included, have waxed poetic about the unique rendering of this lens. I couldn’t see myself justifying spending $11K of my hard-earned money for a lens that I might not use all that much, one that is big and bulky (weighing in at well over a pound) and could be challenging to use wide open. Furthermore, my experience with the Noctilux f/1, which I used rarely (for uber-low-light work), suggested that my proclivities might lie with smaller lenses.

The months passed, and I nearly forgot about the lens until I began to observe the work of a few forum buddies including Kurt Kamka, who’s written for Steve before, and a few other close friends in the photographic world. I began to hear stories of individuals who were giving up their entire lens kits to get just this one lens. I began to wonder….should I do the same?

I struggled with the decision over a couple of months, and ultimately decided that you only live once. Now was as opportune a time as any to get the lens. I rationalized that most of my photography lies between focal lengths of 35 mm and 90 mm, where Leica rangefinders truly shine. I also rationalized my kit down to a set of lenses with similar signatures. One of the issues that I have come to recognize is that Leica lenses afford so many different looks. There’s the war era look of the early Summars, Sumnmitars, and Summarex lenses. There’s the classic look, as demonstrated by the Summilux 50 mm pre-asph,A summilux 35 pre-asph, Noctilux f/1, and Summilux 75 mm f/1.4, which some might even call the Mandler-look.

I decided that I was most often shooting and most comfortable with the modern Leica look, as best represented by lenses such as the 50 mm Summilux Asph, 35 mm Summicron Asph, and 75 mm and 90 mm APO-Summicrons. Adding a new Noctilux f/0.95, from what I saw from others in possession of the lens, would complement this setup with a more modern signature.

So off went my beloved (but infrequently used) Noctilux f/1, Summilux 75 mm f/1.4, and WATE. Having raised enough cash from the sale of these lenses and a few miscellaneous but less costly sales, I contacted Ken Hansen, and 2 days later, the Noctilux 50 mm f/0.95 was in my hands!

Initial Impressions

Just like Steve, the first thing that I marveled upon, after rapidly opening the wonderfully packaged lens, is how well it is built. The new Noctilux is a BEAST, but it’s very well built. It is a dense, compact, bundle of glass and metal, and it lets you know it. It’s focusing ring rotates smoothly, and aperture ring has positive clicks but moves effortlessly. The first think I did was mount the Noctilux upon my M9, and surprise, surprise, it balanced extraordinarily well on that camera! I mounted it next upon my Leica MP, and voila, it seemed to balance equally, if not even better, on that camera.

So in summary, despite its size and weight, te Noctilux 50 mm f/0.95 seems to fit like a glove on Leica M bodies. I was thrilled! After slapping on a B+W 60 mm UV MRC filter on the camera to protect that wonderful glass, off I trudged to my first photo stroll with the lens.

Keep in mind that I live in Seattle, and the days start to get long come April. As I headed off into a sunlit evening at 6 pm for my first photo shoot with the lens, I realized that there was plently of daylight left, and the Noctilux let me know it. I found myself trying to figured out how best to shoot wide open. I stepped this ISO down to “Pull 80” and turned the M9’s shutter speed all the way down to 1/4000, and I was still finding that evening light could overexpose my images. As a result, I picked up a lovely B+W 8x ND filter to match the Noctilux (thanks to Kurt Kamka for that advise as well). This ND filter provided me enough light blockage to use the Noctilux in daylight, at a native ISO of 160, wide open, baby! The only issue I have seen at all with using the ND filter is some vignetting, which can be removed simply in light room or Nik software in post-processing….or it can be left there.

Over the past 3 weeks, I have ported the Noctilux everywhere, on hikes into the Cascade Mountains, while wading through city fairs, into darkly lit bars and smoky jazz clubs, and into the light of day, with ND filter on, of course…

Let me just say, I am in love! I am using this lens FAR more than I used my previous Noctilux. It is so useful. Whereas the old Noctilux has its signature, the Noctilux f/0.95 has a unique signature which is more modern and more true to the image in front of you. In some ways, it can be described as a Summilux 50 mm f/1.4 asph on steroids. It’s that good, that sharp, and that well corrected in most cases…The old Noctilux has a beautiful rendering, but what I found is people commenting that the shots that I took with the old Noctilux f/1 were Noctilux shots, not MY shots…hmmm…let me clarify.

To me, the old Noctilux has such a distinct look that it can superimpose its own rendering & signature upon your work. Any Leica guru in the room can pick out a Noct f/1 shot from across the room. For those looking for this signature, they have found a match made in heaven. For me, I discovered that I’d rather have my images look less derived, less “Noct”ish, so to speak. In other words, I wanted to own a lens with fast glass that would expand the bounds of my own creative vision without overlaying a dramatic character trait upon that style. The new Noctilux f/0.95 allows you this flexibility. As a result, I find that it pairs MUCH better with my current kit, which includes a couple APO-Crons, the 50 Summilux Asph, 35 Summilux Asph, and 135 mm Tele-Elmar. All of these lenses maintain that Leica charm, albeit with increased micro-contrast, slightly less “glow” (less aberrations and blooming = less glow). The IQ that I have seen from the M9 and 50 Noctilux f/0.95 rivals medium format film images, to my eye, but of course, this is VERY subjective, and I’ll allow each to make their own decision on that.

The Noctilux f/0.95 is a remarkably sharp lens, even when stopped down all of the way. It holds is performance to its closest focusing distance, which sadly remains at 1 meter. Bokeh, as one would expect, is lovely, more modern, and somewhat more geometric than the old Noctilux. An interesting characteristic that I have noted is that the bokeh seems more blurred at the center of an image (at f/0.95) than at the image periphery. TO me, this tends to create images with a more 3D rendering when the Noctilux f/0.95 is used with the M9. I am not sure if this character is due to the microlenses used by the M9’s sensor, as I have yet to develop the rolls of film that I have shot with the MP/Noct f/0.95 combo.

Finally, the Noctilux f/0.95 holds up very well when stopped down. I find that it matches the performance of the 50 mm Summilux asph in most regards from f/2.8 onwards.

Negatives

As you may see, I am smitten with the new Noctilux f/0.95. I had better be, given what I just spent, right? Hahaha.

But there are some drawbacks, for those who may be considering its purchase:

Purple fringing: I have seen this in several of my shots where there’s a very contrasty background with abrupt changes between shadow and highlight (i.e. thing tree branches against a bright sky). This does not seem to happen in every case of such useage, but it is noticeable often enough. I am not knowledgeable enough to know whether this is an inherent issue with the lens’ design or rather how the lens and M9’s sensor interact. TO me, this is not a big issue, as purple fringing can easily be removed in post-processing in most cases.

Size: It’s a big sucker. I have found this to be a non-issue for me, as I have truly enjoyed shooting the lenses and have not developed any hand or arm fatigue when using the lens on the M9 or MP. But for some, size may matter, and I suggest that you try it out prior to spending a lot of cash on this lens

Bokeh. It’s lovely….most of the time….there are times, though, when I have come across some geometric bokeh on the M9…I suspect that this has to do with the use of aspherical elements in the lens. The current Noct does not render as smoothly as its f/1 sibling. Further, bokeh seems to be a bit harsher at the edges, with less blurring, than at the center of the image. I’d give it an 4/5 on my bokeh rating scale.

F0.95 is not for the faint of heart. Focal plane thickness is miniscule at that f-stop, so be wary and be prepared for a bit of trial and error with handling focus.

Positives

Dang, if I have a negative section, I gotta list some positives:

Image quality: Honestly, the Noctilux is possibly the sharpest lens that I own. It gives the Summilux 50 mm f/1.4 asph a run for its money. I know that some people hate that term, “sharpness”, but this lens has got it. For you pixel peepers out there, there won’t be any mushiness to your images, even at f/0.95.

Focal length: 50 mm is exceptionally useful for most uses. For those who don’t mind the size of the Noctilux, this easily could be your one lens solution for the Leica M system.

3D look: Hard to explain, but there’s something in the way this lens renders transitions between focus and out-of-focus elements that really causes the parts that are in focus (hopefully, your principal subjects) to POP!

Color rendition: This lens is very well color-corrected for color photography

Build: Best built lens by Leica…and that’s saying a lot.

Aperture: f/0.95, people. It doesn’t get better than that!

The Bottom Line

I love this lens. I was lucky Ididn’t have to give up my whole kit to get it, but I did give up a lot. But I feel like I gained a lot in return. Would I buy it all over again, knowing what I now know? Yup! Whereas the lenses that I sold to get this lens were all specialty items for my brand of photography, the Noctilux f/0.95 sits happily in the middle of my kit and will be frequently used. My only remaining question is whether I will keep my 50 Summilux asph….

Thanks for reading. For those of you interested in keeping track of my ongoing journey with the Noctilux 50 mm f/095 asph, please follow the following link on flickr, which I’ll be keeping up to date:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashwinrao1/sets/72157624075806922/

You can also check out my blog at:

http://photos-ash.blogspot.com

HELP SUPPORT THIS SITE TO KEEP IT GOING AND GROWING!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H Photo, Adorama orAMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you!

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or facebook! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader! Thanks so much for visiting my site!

Dec 092009
 

title1nyc

The Leica Noctilux 0.95 Review: Disclaimer and Thanks: I am truly excited to write about this Noctilux. The original F1 version is one of my favorite lenses EVER, for any camera system. When I had the opportunity to review the new Leica 0.95 Noctilux, on my Leica M9 no less, I was ECSTATIC! So I just wanted to say Thank You to Leica for letting me try it out. This review is a bit longer than my others because when I am excited about a certain camera or lens, I tend to include a ton of images (and there are MANY in this review), as well as write until my brain hurts. So without further ado, here is the Leica Noctilux .95 review…

“face in the crowd” – Noctilux 0.95 at 0.95

fcvrowd

Man, I am BEAT! Over the past 48 hours, I have had very little sleep and have walked about 8 miles. For me, that is quite a bit of walking, as I am no marathon man. I also gained 1/4 inch on my biceps! Why, you ask? Well, it is because I have been walking throughout New York City with the Leica M9 and the big ol’ Leica Noctilux 0.95 lens attached! Yes, this is a BIG lens. It is a HEAVY lens. It is a very expensive lens. But it also happens to be one of the most beautifully built and nicest feeling lenses I have ever touched.

When this lens was announced by Leica, I had a range of emotions. First, I was like “YES!!!, this is amazing..F0.95″ and then I said ,”Shit! No way I could EVER afford to lay out $10,000 on a lens.” After that sticker shock, I put it out of my head. I tried to ignore it. Then, one day I was talking with Seal (singer/songwriter/photographer), who said he had the Noctilux .95 and it was GORGEOUS. As a matter of fact, he also sent me some samples that he snapped from his hotel room. They were just test shots of some lamps, but I could tell from those that at F0.95 it appeared this new Noctilux had the character of a 50 Summilux ASPH rather than the old Noctilux. Very sharp, with very smooth bokeh. To see that post at the old site, click here to open it in a new window. Keep in mind, it is one of my very early posts, on the old site, and on a very slow server.

THE NOCTILUX F0.95 LENS ARRIVES – MY FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Anyway, let me rewind to about a week ago. UPS dropped off a huge box from Leica and inside was a loaner Noctilux 0.95 lens. They wanted me to try it out and see what I thought of it. They also knew I was a HUGE, HUGE fan of the classic Noctilux and recently purchased a used one from Ken Hansen. So for me, this new version had HUGE shoes to fill. I also knew that I had a challenge ahead of me because in my reviews I like to provide plenty of real world photos to show you how the lens will behave in the real world. I do not rely on test charts or newspaper text (though in this review I do a couple of side-by- sides). I get out there and shoot my ass off and evaluate the lens or camera by how it performed during real use.

What was really cool is that I just so happened to be taking a New York trip and the lens arrived just before I had  to leave. PERFECT! While most photographers say that this lens is not  a street shooting lens, I LOVE challenges and wanted to see if I could come away with some cool shots of the hustle and bustle of NYC while shooting a Noctilux WIDE OPEN at .95. Day and Night.

But, before my wife and I left for the Big Apple,  I took some images of the new Noctilux next to the old classic F1 version to show you the size and weight, side-by-side with the old one. Oh, and in case some of you reading this are not aware, this lens is an all MANUAL lens. Manual focus, manual aperture, etc.

OLD AND NEW – CLASSIC F1 ON THE LEFT, NEW 0.95 ON THE RIGHT

sidesideoldnew1

WITH HOODS EXTENDED

sidebysidehoodups

As you can see, the new version is not only taller, it is wider. It is also quite a bit heavier. Take a look at the scale shot. This is something I now do with all lens reviews so you can see the weight of the lens, as there have been times I wanted to know how heavy a lens is. These guys are some heavy lenses for a Leica M mount lens. Usually they are TINY, but these guys are monsters in comparison. The new Noctilux is almost 5 oz. more than the old version. Doesn’t sound like much, but in use, it is. The new one feels much more solid and heavy on the camera. It is the most dense and solid lens I have ever shot with. It makes the Zeiss 50 Planar look like a cheap plastic toy.

scalenocts

TOP VIEW: LEFT – old noct - RIGHT – new noct

sidebysidetop

Also, something I do with every review these days is my YOUTUBE video review. This is a short overview of the lens and shows you what it looks like, feels like, and has some of my 1st impressions upon holding the lens in my hand. I will also show you how silky smooth the new version’s aperture ring is.

So as far as build, quality, and feel, the new Noctilux ASPH is AMAZING and beats the old one in all areas of build. When I switch to the old F1 version after shooting the 0.95 version for a while, the old one feels LIGHT and SMALL on the camera. In use, this new Noctilux is a beast of a lens. It’s very front-heavy and pulls the camera down if its strapped to your body. After hours of use, it can get heavy and I am not so sure an M9 and Noctilux .95 is any lighter than say a Nikon D700 and 50 1.4. I shot this lens for 6 hours straight while in NYC, side-by-side with the old Noctilux. I wanted to see if the “character” of the new lens stayed true to the old F1 version, which many own for its unique capabilities.

SOME OF MY NOCTILUX HISTORY

Leica released the first Noctilux F1 lens in 1976 and it has now been through 5 versions, including the new one. The early versions of the lens had a screw-in hood and the 4th version, the one I own, is the 4th version with the pop-up, built-in hood and it is 6-bit coded. The optical formula of the F1 version has stayed the same throughout its life cycle, though some think its coatings have been improved in the later versions. Most of the F1 Noctilux lenses were made in Canada, including mine. The new 0.95 version is made in Germany and now has ASPHERICAL elements. Before the launch of the new version, Leica packaged up the last 100 F1 versions and put them in a humidor and sold them off with white gloves…all for a cool $15,000. These days, used F1 versions go for anywhere from $4400 to $7000, depending on version, condition, and whether or not it is 6-bit coded.

The old F1 Noct is a unique and much “lusted after” lens, but many who have owned the F1 version of the lens have sold it due to its size, weight, and long focus throw. To many, the Noctilux is a “specialty” lens. To others, they shoot it everyday and make it a part of their style. Me, I feel the Noct could easily be used as an everyday lens (though it’s more of a challenge at times), but the classic version does vignette on the M9 from F1-F4 and it is slow to focus. Still, at F5.6, it is as sharp as any 50 I have shot with.

I bought my first Noctilux f1 in 2003 for $2995 NEW from B&H PHOTO. I ended up selling it to fund a 50 Lux ASPH, as the size and focus throw of the Noct started to bug me. Then, right after I sold it, I regretted doing so. For years I kicked myself in the ass for letting that lens go, especially now that I see them for $6995. A few weeks ago, Leica dealer Ken Hansen told me he had a mint used one for a great price, so I sold my 50 Lux Pre ASPH and 35 cron to fund it. That was either a HUGE mistake or a genius decision. It could be a mistake because I may get sick of the weight of the Noctilux and end up selling it again. It could be genius as I got a killer deal on it and I can probably sell it later for more than I paid. Only time will tell, but for now I am loving the lens.

SOME SIDE BY SIDES – OLD vs NEW NOCTILUX…

I told you guys that this would be a long review, but let’s get to the meat and potatoes of it all. You now know that the 0.95 lens is bigger,  heavier, and faster than the old version. BUT, how does it compare side-by-side? The big thing for me with the 0.95 was to see if it retained any of that special Noctilux character. The swirly bokeh and soft glow wide open is something that I enjoy with the F1 Noctilux, so let’s see some samples…

Below is an image I shot of my Christmas tree with the 0.95 Noctilux at 0.95. This is wide open, baby… and it shows. Look at the way it renders. Amazing! I focused on the santa and shot each image with the camera on a tripod.

noct.95wo1400

and a 100% crop:

95croptree

Now the F1 version, shot at F1:

noctf1wo1400

Well, look at that! Magic to my eyes. To me, both versions look very special, but to be honest the 0.95 version has more shine, more brilliance, is sharper, and has less vignetting. Here is a 100% crop from the F1 shots focus point, the santa head:

f1croptree

It is immediately apparent that the new version at 0.95 is sharper than the old one at F1. YES, this F1 shot is IN FOCUS and is the way the old lens renders. It has a softness about it at F1. Some like this, some hate it. The new lens is also a corrected lens. It is a more “perfect” lens, much like the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH. In many ways it reminds me of a larger, heavier, faster 50 1.4 ASPH. Here are two more crops from the two images above to show you more of how each lens works away from the center:

NOCT95CROPTREE3

NOCTF1CROPTREE3

Again, the new Noctilux is sharper and more contrasty. So, that is that. In all honesty, I feel the new lens is  a marvel of engineering. How Leica made a freaking 0.95 lens as sharp as their 50 Summilux ASPH (at the focus point)  at 1.4 tells me they are masters of glass design. Wow.

LET THERE BE LIGHT..and BOKEH!

Another reason some people fall in love with the classic Noctilux is for the way it renders out of focus background light points. Some lenses render these in a nasty, ugly way, but the Noctilux is known for its beauty and style with big oval blobs of light. I wanted to test this for myself, so I set up a tripod on my sleeping cat (who used to be a stray BTW, look at her now). It was dark in the house, so I plugged in some Christmas lights behind the cat to see how each lens would render these wide open.

LEICA NOCTILUX 0.95 AT 0.95 ON THE M9

monroef95newsmall

LEICA NOCTILUX CLASSIC F1 AT F1 ON THE M9

monroef1classicsmall

You can click on the images above for larger versions. What do you see and which do you prefer? I see that the new version renders the lights in an even more pleasing “rounder” way. I also see more shallow depth of field due to the huge 0.95 aperture, as well as a bit more contrast. One thing for sure is that BOTH lenses are beautiful. At this point (which was my 1st night with the lens),  I was thinking. “Hmmm. Yea, this new $10k monster is the best built and fastest lens I have ever laid my hands on, but is it worth the $10,000 cost”? Seeing that the Leica Noctilux 0.95 is THE FASTEST LENS IN PRODUCTION TODAY FOR THE 35MM FORMAT, I guess you can say it is. It is a niche item, a specialty lens to some shooters. This is a lens you would buy for its unique look and amazing speed, BUT it also serves well as an all-purpose 50 if its all you have. While I will never buy it at $10k, many will and many have.

So here I am, almost 2000 words into this review and I have yet to post my real world photos with this lens. I told you this could be a long one :) I wanted to show those simple test shots above because it clearly demonstrates the advantage of the 0.95 version over the old one. It is sharper, has more contrast, is faster, and built to a higher standard. I also noticed during my time with it that the color is also MUCH better. My old Nocti has a yellow cast to the images and this new one is warmer, richer, and more correct. I am not going to post more side-by-sides, as I need the space for the photos, but take my word, the new lens renders VERY MUCH like the Leica Summilux 50 ASPH, which is considered the best 50mm lens in the world (well, until now). What does that mean? It means PERFECTION in sharpness, contrast, color, and brilliance, but with the ability to shoot in the dark with its 0.95 aperture.

But many of you want to know if it retains that special magic of the F1 Noctilux. When wide open at 0.95, it does indeed have some of that magical quality of the F1 version. Let’s be honest here. If you buy this lens, you are buying it for the 0.95 aperture, and this lens is simply AMAZING when shot wide open, if you like that sharp, but still somewhat dreamy and creamy look.

SOME REAL WORLD SAMPLES WITH THE NEW 0.95 NOCTILUX

When I went to New York to test this lens, I told my wife I wanted to shoot it wide open 98% of the time. Again, if I wanted an F2 lens, I would buy a Summilux or Summicron. This lens will set you back $10,000 mainly for its speed…that magical 0.95 aperture. Who would buy this to shoot it at F2, F4, or F8? NOT ME. While it can shoot at those apertures without breaking a sweat, this lens (just like the classic version), begs to be shot wide open. Past 0.95, it behaves almost EXACTLY like a 50 Summilux ASPH, maybe even with better color and contrast. Yes, this lens is just about perfect in regards to image quality.

So now that I have shown some test shots and crops, I want to show you some REAL images. What this lens is made for. REAL photography! While many reviewers stick to the scientific testing methods, I STRONGLY feel a lens should be reviewed by actually USING it for what it is made to be used for! Also, leica made this lens for us to have a 0.95 aperture, and this is how I intended to shoot it!

Here are some shots and ALL are wide open. I did shoot a few at F1.4 and F2 during the day, as my M9 is limited to 1/4000th of a second. Some have been converted to B&W with Silver Efex Pro, but as far as the images, they are all straight from the RAW converter, Adobe Camera Raw. No further Post processing was done to these. Just contrast, WB, and exposure from within Camera Raw. Any “effects” you see are due to the lens and that glorious 0.95 aperture. So what you see, is what you get.

One of the first shots in NYC. Shot wide open at 0.95 and converted to B&W with Silver Efex Pro

*swmcBW

While the focus throw is long with the new Noctilux, it seems faster than the old version. Focusing seemed smoother as well. As a matter of fact, EVERYTHING on the new version in regards to “in use action” was better. Right after the above image, I told my wife to stand on the steps. I took one while she smiled but liked this one better. She did not know I snapped this one, and these type of images are always better IMO :) This one was shot at 1.4.

*minasub

This was the start of our day on the streets of NYC and it was in the 30’s. I realized this would also be a good test of how well the lens acts in cold weather for extended periods of time. While it was not bitter cold, I did notice my classic F1 noct started to get stiff with its focus. The new 0.95 stayed smooth and silky all day long.

One more from later in the day at a different location, but this time at F2.8

Noctilux F0.95 at 2.8 on the M9

swlook1

As we walked the streets, I realized that it is pretty challenging to shoot at F0.95, with a long focus throw lens while my subjects were in motion. But, it was not impossible, just challenging.

COMING/GOING – M9 – LEICA NOCTILUX F0.95 AT 0.95

cominggoing

I was shocked at how I nailed the image above with focus wide open. I was starting to have fun with this and realized it was possible to get some great street shots with a Noct! I did see some purple fringing/CA in the shot above. Can you see it? It’s in the mans hair. This happens with almost ANY fast lens on a digital camera in super high contrast situations. I have seen it in Nikon, Canon, and high-end Leica glass. Its more of a “digital” thing and is not something I worry about. I can say that this is the only shot out of 300 that showed this effect.

As we walked by the many bakeries and delis, I saw this couple hugging, kissing, smiling, and looking like they were madly in love. I stepped up and shot this image of them. They looked at me after I snapped and smiled. Such a nice reaction, as I was worried they may get angry. See, I am not that experienced with street shooting. I have done a bit in Chicago, but only once or twice. Back then, I used a wide angle, but this time it was the Noct. A lens that people told me would not work for street, especially wide open. So I had everything working against me. Limited street experience and shooting with a F 0.95 lens, wide open plus being worried I would get a bad reaction. But, all went very well.

TRUE LOVE – M9 – LEICA NOCTILUX 0.95 at 0.95 – CONVERTED TO B&W WITH SILVER EFEX PRO

rmnc

Many will say YEA, it’s easy to stop, compose, and focus, but keep in mind the image above was NOT posed. They had no idea I was taking an image until after I took it. I used the Noct wide open and as the day progressed, I was getting much quicker, but my focus was not always spot on due to me trying to be fast. Here is one I shot while walking. I did not even stop. I saw this man lighting his cigarette, lifted the cam, did a quick and dirty focus, and shot. He never even noticed me. This is what is so cool about the M cameras. Once you get the hang of focusing, you can just lift, focus, and shoot…and you can do it very quickly. Try getting this same image with a DSLR and F2.8 lens. It won’t happen as it will never look like this.

“lighting up” – 0.95 Noctilux at F0.95

moss

I was a little off with the focus in this one, but its still a good shot IMO. I was trying to capture the hustle and bustle of the streets and the people in the city. While most tourists were snapping the Empire State Building or the lights of Times Square with their big Nikons or Canons, I blended in with my M and even with this Noctilux. Nobody really noticed me. Here are a few more from NYC with this combo. ALL WIDE OPEN AT 0.95!

“steps” – 0.95

heelcane

“charmin man” – 0.95 – ISO 640

charmnin

“traffic man” – 0.95

ssecross

“spare change”? – 0.95

swtlktr

“evil eye” – 0.95 – cropped

srdwn

I was having a blast in NYC with my wife and the M9/Noct combo. I also switched the new version and old version out throughout the days and will post some of my F1 shots later in this review. But while shooting with the 0.95, I had no issues with focus AT ALL. The lens was easy and smooth to change focus, though a few times the aperture did change as the dial is so smooth it moved over due to me shooting with gloves. Maybe it could have a little more friction, but it feels so nice as it is. Just be careful using it with gloves!

SOME BEAUTIFUL BOKEH

One thing the Noctilux has plenty of is BOKEH. That beautiful background blur that some lenses get so right while others get so WRONG. I have seen some lenses with absolute NASTY background blur  (the old version nikon 50 1.4 comes to mind) when wide open. The Noctilux has the most gorgeous out of focus rendering I have ever seen. EVER. PERIOD. END OF STORY. As the hours passed in NYC, I was starting to think of ways to fund this lens. I knew there was just NO WAY possible to do this, so I considered punching myself in the eye and calling Leica to tell them I was robbed! Ha ha, just kidding.

The only other lens I have ever used that had some magic like this is the Canon 85LII 1.2. That is a must have lens for any Canon shooter, but it’s even bigger and heavier than the Noctilux 0.95 and is not as good (though it is 1/5th the price). Yes, I have shot with it extensively and it is my favorite Canon lens, especially on the 5DII. But, this Noctilux is simply PERFECTION in lens design.

Seriously though, this lens was proving itself to me and I saw what a masterpiece it really is. The limitation to what it can do was ME. Put this lens in better hands and it will be even more impressive. When I would switch to the F1 version I would notice the softer look, more vignetting, and different color. Still, I have a soft spot for the old one and its more classical approach. But either lens will pump out the special and magical BOKEH. Here are some delicious, bokehlicious images…all at 0.95

ISO 160

timsq

boygrldt

So yes, the new Noctilux retains the magical Bokeh of the original, but it presents the images in a “cleaner” way. They are sharper and crisper and they also have much less vignetting. For comparison, here is one from the classic F1 noct…

Noctilux F1 at F1

salv2

Ahhh, these warm my heart. The classic renders in a “rounder” and gentler way. It is not as brilliant or perfect and some will say a that it is a little duller. The colors are also more muted, but hey, I am not complaining. I love the classic Noct for all of its imperfections, as well as its beauty and charm. It is a legend and today sells used for pretty big money. I have seen a new-old-stock Noctilux F1 sell recently  for $7000. The new one can be had for $10k. So the question to those that are thinking of buying this lens for the first time is wether they want the softer, less contrasty vignetting F1 version, or the new 0.95 that is pretty much perfect.

The new one would set you back $3-$4k more than a new old stock or used F1. It all comes down to what you need and want, but again, the 50 Noctilux 0.95 can be used as an everyday lens, though it is HEAVY on the M9. It’s perfect at all apertures and it does not seem to flare as easily as the old one. The color, contrast, and sharpness is about as good as it gets and wide open, it performs better than I ever dreamed. Man, maybe I can sell my car? Ha ha..

Mina in Central Park – 0.95 – the lighting was VERY flat but the lens did great

minacp3

BUT, one thing to be careful with is DEPTH OF FIELD! At its closest distance of 3.3 feet, and when shooting at F 0.95 you have to be aware of the depth of field! It is so thin, you will easily get some OOF results. Here is an image I shot with the Noctilux 0.95 wide open. The guy in the middle was leaning back a bit so his head is out of focus. I should have set the camera to F2 and a higher ISO so this image was lost due to my mistake. Be careful at 0.95!

Depth of field is very thin at 0.95! Watch your focus!

WORKINGIT

This would have been a GREAT shot if it was at F2 or if the middle guy was more forward.

UPDATE 2011 – I was able to shoot this lens on tour with Seal for 4 weeks and it gave me some of the most gorgeous images I have ever taken…

On Tour With Seal with the M9 and Noctilux ASPH…the images speak for themselves.



MY BOTTOM LINE CONCLUSION

If I were a rich man, I would own both. I would buy the 0.95 for its build, feel, faster focus, and amazing color and brilliance. I would also buy the F1 version for its more dreamlike feel and softer glow. Both are superb lenses and seeing that I can not afford the new one, I am more than happy with the old Nocti. If I were semi-rich, I would just buy the new version or possibly a 50 Lux ASPH and older Noct. But the new version… It’s all I could ever want in a 50mm lens. The ultimate 50 and one I could keep until the end of my days. If I were a middle class kind of guy, I would buy the old one (and I did), as it’s also a great, very unique lens. Damn, I love both and honestly do not think I could give my “new” old Noct up for a new one. :)

UPDATE: I now own the new Noctilux ASPH 0.95 and will NEVER give it up. It is the most magical lens I have ever owned and after shooting it extensively can say that it is a massive improvement over the old Noctilux. Think of it as a Summilux ASPH 50 on Steroids. Better color, better bokeh, and more magic.

There are some drawbacks though, so here is my pro and con list for the 0.95 Noctilux:

PROS:

  • It is probably the best built lens I have ever held in my hands
  • It is the fastest aperture lens made today for the 35mm format
  • It is an improvement over the legendary F1 version and now has Aspherical glass.
  • It is amazingly sharp, even wide open. After 1.4, it behaves much like a 50 Summilux ASPH, maybe even with better color/contrast
  • It seems easier and faster to focus over the old F1 version
  • Its image quality is simply AMAZING
  • Its BOKEH is GORGEOUS!

CONS:

  • It’s big and heavy and in that regard, kind of makes the M feel as heavy as a DSLR
  • It’s expensive. At $10,000 and soon to be raised even higher in 2010, it is not a lens for everyone (Now $10,495 as of 2011)
  • It is not as easy or as fast to focus as the 50 Lux ASPH
  • Its closest focusing distance is 3.3 feet. This is the main “bummer” with the old and new Noctilux.
  • It does lose some of the dreamy qualities of the F1 version, but to some this is a PLUS

To me, this lens will always be a “dream lens.” If there was ever a perfect lens to me, it would be this F0.95 Noctilux. It is highly improved over the old version, but it does in fact lose some of the “character” of that lens (really, the imperfections of the F1 version have been fixed). It is perfect in almost every way when it comes to image quality. I have no complaints in that regard. It may just be the best 50mm lens in the world, on any system. PERIOD. If you have the funds and are in the market for a super-fast 50 for your M, this is your lens. Just be aware of the weight and size before you buy. With that said, I find it hard to believe that ANYONE wanting a fast lens with shallow depth of field effects would be unhappy with the performance of this lens. To me, it is one reason to own an M9.

If you are interested in this lens, you can go to B&H Photo as they usually have it in stock. As of this writing, they are “accepting orders” which means you order now, and they ship it within a week or two. B&H only accepts orders when they know they have stock coming in. Ken Hansen also sells it and I believe he has 2 or 3 in stock right now. Just tell him I sent you if you e-mail him about pricing or availability. I also saw a couple of original Noctilux F1 at Amazon for sale, NEW IN BOX if that one floats your boat. Of course they also sell the new 0.95 version at Amazon as well.

On a side note, while in NYC, me and the wife toured B&H Photo and we were AMAZED at not only the size of the store, but also at all of the high-end merchandise they have on display. They have a huge, professional and customer oriented operation and it was a pleasure to take the tour. After buying from them for 14 years or so, I finally got to see their “superstore” and it is indeed pretty super. Makes me even more thrilled to have them as a sponsor of this site.

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links!

If you enjoyed this review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or facebook! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at the upper right of any page and be notified of when new reviews are posted! With that, I will leave you with a MANY more images from this amazing lens, as well as a few from the F1 version near the bottom.

THIS FIRST GROUP ARE ALL FROM THE 0.95 NOCTILUX WIDE OPEN, UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED

 

As I walked by this scene I lifted the camera as I walked and guessed focus. It turned out this person was homeless and the woman on the left was about to help out while the woman on the right was passing by.

hmls

This image is one I really like, though I am not exactly sure why.

PROF4

My wife Mina in Central Park at f4. See, I did get one shot at F4!

minacp1

This guy was selling “Obama Condoms” and the guy on the left was scolding him about something. I could not hear what they were saying but did manage to grab a few shots. Here is one of them. Wide open at night in Times Square.

obamacond

I spotted this guy texting and when I grabbed this shot he was eyeballing a woman walking by. If I had a wider lens I could have gotten the woman in the frame as well.

slkk

salarmy4

STRETTWO

sttnyc

tsnews

and now, a few with the classic F1 during my NYC trip, all at f1:

Inside of Macy’s and looking down one of the old wooden escalators at F1

cellar

cppr

paperman

In the image below you can clearly see the vignetting of the F1 version, but I do not have any issues with it and in fact like it.

grst

HELP SUPPORT THIS SITE TO KEEP IT GOING AND GROWING!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you!

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or facebook! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader!  Thanks so much for visiting my site!


Dec 072009
 

Man, it has been a HECTIC 24 hours. I have been on the move NON STOP and am now sitting in a hotel room in New York City writing this post. I flew out to NYC with my wife this morning very EARLY to see the sights, tour B&H Photo, and get some images with the Noctilux F.95 in the dark. I have to see we had a blast at B&H. That store is HUUUUUGGGEEEE! It took 2-3 hours just to tour the store. Amazing.

As many of you know, I will be putting up a review for the Leica Noctilux F.95 soon but I wanted to throw up a shot or two I took tonight as a teaser for the review. Then I will post two from the classic noctilux. I will be shooting more tomorrow and should have quite a few images built up by the time I write the review. BTW, street shooting with a F.95 or F1 MF lens wide open is insanely hard. I shot about 100 images and had so many OOF shots due to my focus errors. About 15 or so were great so not so high of a keeper rate, but then again, shooting street at night (which is where I had the most OOF) at ISO 2000 and F.95 is asking for trouble! Anyway, on to some images….

Two teasers with the new F.95 Noct…both wide open at .95…

*swmcBW

This next one was out of focus as the Noct is a tough lens for street shooting. Still, I like the image. Continue reading »

Dec 042009
 

THIS IS JUST A QUICK -N-DIRTY FIRST IMPRESSION POST – A FULL BIG REVIEW WILL BE COMING SOON!! I will also have comparisons with the old Noctilux, so look out for that, SOON!

UPS just arrived and delivered the Leica Noctilux F0.95 50mm lens! All I can say is WOW, the build on this thing is amazing. It is larger than the old F1 Noct but the Aperture ring is sooooo smooth and silky. So much nicer in use. Also, it is easier to focus. It only arrived MINUTES ago so I only snapped a few shots around the house. From my first look It has the feel of the 50 Lux ASPH 1.4 more than the classic noct. I did ONE quick hand held comparison between the two just to see if I could see any huge difference. This is a $10,000 lens after all! Continue reading »

© 2009-2014 STEVE HUFF PHOTOS All Rights Reserved
21