Fun Comparison: Olympus OM-D with Leica Noctilux and Nikon 50/1.2 AIS
by Brad Husick
Now that I am learning to use my new OM-D and enjoying the process, I thought it would be fun to mount some super-fast 50mm lenses and see the results. The two lenses I own in this category are the legendary Leica 50mm f/0.95 ASPH Noctilux ($12,500) and the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIS ($695). Both are manual focus lenses. The Nikon has been produced for decades and uses no aspheric glass elements so Nikon has been able to keep the price low for this amazing lens. The Leica 0.95 may represent the state of the art in fast lens design and costs more than most used cars, and about the same number of (nominal) dollars that my parents’ first home cost in the 1950′s.
I think both lenses are capable of some amazing photos. The Noctilux is magical at the widest aperture and quickly sharpens as you stop down. I think its performance is equal to the Leica 50mm f/1.4 ASPH Summilux from f/1.4 to f/16. The Noctilux weighs in at 28 ounces while the Nikon weighs half that amount.
Both lenses were shot at their widest aperture, so this is intended to show what each is capable of producing, rather than a direct comparison of their performance at a given f-stop. I like to shoot these lenses wide open, so that’s the test I performed. I have no doubt that the Noctilux will outperform the Nikon at any given aperture, but you don’t need an advanced degree to guess that. You can buy the Nikon and give one to each of your seventeen best friends for the cost of the Leica.
All the photos were shot in RAW then opened and saved in Lightroom. No adjustments were made except for resizing.
Enjoy the images, and thank you to Starbucks for allowing me to shoot when Seattle is giving us typical June weather (rain!)
click these for the full size crops at 800 pixels wide (shown here at 680)
Quick Comparison: SLR Magic 50 T0.95 vs Voigtlander 50 f/1.1 on the Leica M9
So today I received in the mail, courtesy of LensRentals.com (they rent almost ALL Leica glass and cameras), a Voigtlander 50 f/1.1 Nokton. My main goal was to test it out and compare it to the premo offering from SLR Magic, their king of the hill 50 LM T0.95 Lens. Many of you have e-mailed me asking me why this new SLR Magic lens is so expensive and “why wouldn’t someone just buy the Voigtlander 1.1 which comes in at $1100″? So I was curious to see myself how the lenses would stack up. In the coming weeks I will be doing a side by side comparison with the Leica Noctilux ASPH as well. Should be fun :)
I knew even before I received the Voigtlander that the build quality would easily go to the SLR MAGIC because I reviewed the Voigtlander a while ago HERE and it was a very lightweight somewhat hollow feeling lens compared to the Leica Noctilux F/1 I compared it against at the time.
The SLR Magic 50 T0.95 LM Hyperprime
Voigtlander 50 f/1.1 Nokton on M9
IN THE HAND
The SLR Magic…
In the hand the SLR Magic feels every bit as solid as the Leica $11,000 50 Noctilux ASPH. Period. I’ve been using this lens for weeks now and have not had one issue. The build is solid, the slide out hood is nice and overall the lens has a feeling of quality. BUT this is a $4300 lens and the Voigtlander is $1100. BIG difference so I would expect the build quality to be superior, and it certainly is. It is also now the fastest 35mm lens made today, taking that title from Leica (SLR Magic is an f/0.92) so with its Leica like build AND performance AND three-year warranty, the cost seems to be about right if not a tad high (though I wish it could have been $3500). BTW, this has a click less aperture ring which I did not care for at 1st but have since found it to be pretty nice. It’s smooth and solid at the same time and have had no issues with it going out of the desired spot. For video, this is a blessing as you can change aperture without clicks. Focusing is super smooth on my copy of the lens.
The Voigtlander Nokton
The Nokton is also nice, and you have to remember that the price is a tad over $3000 LESS than the SLR Magic lens so the build seems cheaper as the lens is much lighter. I also think the SLR Magic uses higher quality glass. When shooting with the Nokton though, it is easier to focus due to the knurled focusing ring though the feeling of the focus is rougher than the SLR Magic. I mentioned to SLR Magic I would have preferred a knurled ring but maybe they wanted their lens to look more like the Leica. Who knows. The Nokton is lighter so is easier to carry on the camera and the lens also has a more vintage look/design. So which you prefer is up to you.
My winner for build and feel – SLR Magic Hyperprime LM T0.95 (but Voigtlander is lighter)
The SLR Magic…
The SLR Magic 50 T0.95 LM lens has BEAUTIFUL bokeh. I mean, it meets or exceeds the Leica 50 Noctilux ASPH in this department, at least that is my opinion after extensively shooting both. The out of focus renderings are buttery smooth with no business or headache inducing harshness. You can see many examples of this in my rolling review but below is a sample shot today in my yard to test this and below that will be a sample from the Voigtlander. The sample below was shot at t/1.1-ish – click it to make it bigger.
The Voigtlander Nokton…
The Nokton 1.1 is a fast and much less expensive alternative to Leica lenses but it’s string point is NOT the bokeh quality. The Bokeh from this lens is a bit harsh when compared to premium Leica lenses and to many, this is a reason to NOT go for this lens. Then again, others are perfectly happy with it. As mentioned, it is much less expensive than a Leica counterpart. :)
My winner in the bokeh dept – SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 LM T0.95
SHARPNESS WIDE OPEN or CLOSE TO IT
The SLR Magic…
The SLR Magic lens is SHARP, even wide open at T0.95 it is as sharp if not sharper than the Leica $11k beast. Due to the sharpness, super micro contrast and smooth Bokeh, this lens has the capability to pump out a nice 3D effect as well. Below is a shot at T0.95, wide open for this lens.
The Voigtlander Nokton…
The Nokton is a bit softer wide open at its widest aperture of f/1.1 but the rendering is also a bit flatter than the SLR Magic lens and with its busier bokeh it doesn’t have that same “wow” effect that the SLR Magic lens has. Still, it seems to perform great for the price of the lens. These days $1100 is cheap for a Leica mount lens :)
My winner for sharpness wide open – SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 LM T0.95
SHARPNESS STOPPED DOWN
The SLR Magic…
I will let the pictures do the talking but it is obvious who is sharper. Not sure if the Voigtlander was suffering from focus shift or if it is just not pin sharp. All shots were tripod mounted.
You must click each image to see a larger version and true 100% crop!
The Voigtlander Nokton…
My winner for sharpness stopped down – SLR Magic Hyperprime 50 LM T0.95
I know from using it that the SLR Magic has some barrel distortion so I was curious to see how the Voigtlander stacked up here. It appears the Voigtlander has less from this sample. You can see this distortion when you shoot straight lines. This was shot on a tripod with both lenses and both lenses were set to 1.1. Distance was about 1m. Click images for larger views and true 100% crops.
The SLR Magic…
The Voigtlander Nokton…
My winner for distortion – Voigtlander Nokton 50 f/1.1 – It has less than the SLR Magic.
Voigtlander Nokton f/1.1 – $1049
Winner – Voigtlander Nokton 50 1.1
The SLR Magic focuses down to .7 meters, the same as a Leica 50 Summilux ASPH. The Voigtlander only focuses to 1m, like the Leica Noctilux so the advantage is clearly with the SLR Magic. Below is an example image shot at the closest focus distance of each lens.
My winner for close focus – SLR Magic because it focuses closer.
Botton Line Conclusion and the winner – The SLR Magic 50 LM T0.95
Well I have no doubts, the SLR Magic lens is indeed the better lens here, and I prefer it by quite a bit. From it’s 3D rendering, buttery smooth bokeh, tank like build, .7 meter close focus, and smooth easy to focus operation it is easily the better lens when compared to the Voigtalnder Nokton. It is also sharper than the Voigtlander Nokton wide open AND stopped down and distortion wise, the Nokton edges out the pricier Hyperprime but even so, SLR Magic does a bit better in the corners when it comes to sharpness. So the big question comes down to money. Do you want to spend $3000 more for the SLR Magic? That is in no way cheap but the lens is one that should last a lifetime and it is in fact comparable to the Leica Noctilux ASPH in its rendering, detail and even color. It is now the world’s fastest lens for 35mm in production and speed always costs big bucks, especially when it is associated with quality.
The Voigtlander Nokton is a good lens if you don’t mind somewhat busy bokeh at times, less sharpness wide open (which hinders the 3D effect a bit), lighter construction (which can be a blessing) and farther minimum focus distance. After using both it would be hard for me to go back to the Nokton after using the SLR magic simply due to it just doesn’t have that same MOJO, and I am a fan of super MOJO :)
The SLR Magic lens will be available September 2012
When I do the Leica Noctilux ASPH head to head it will have many more samples and tests including tests for CA, a portrait test, and more extensive sharpness and distortion tests. Cant wait!
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The workshop attendees shoot the SLR Magic 50 LM T0.95 Hyperprime on the M9 and NEX-5n
Since I am now back home at my desk I can go over more images that were shot at the workshop using the new SLR Magic lens. These were shot by me and a few others at the workshop, credits will be before the photos…enjoy! Oh, and just for fun I threw in a shot taken with the 50 Noctilux ASPH. Which one is it? Check out the two from Jay Bartlett below and see the difference. ALL shots below are wide open and the title shot above of Max was taken by Ashwin Rao with the 85 Zeiss Sonnar on his M9.
First, A few more snaps of the gang from me.
Stephen, the resident male model of the workshop shot at 0.95 – click image for larger and sharper view
Below: Andrew from SLR Magic talking with Max on Sunday during our Lunch at El Cholo
…and speaking of Max Klimov, he shot some GORGEOUS shots with the Hyperprime – look at the rendering of the model shots
and one of his street shots as well…
Jay Bartlett took these at 0.95 - but one is from the Noctilux ASPH – one from the SLR Magic! Which is which? I can tell…can you?
BELOW: Ashwin Rao snapped this amazing shot while we ate dinner at the Yardhouse on Saturday night. It was DARK!
BELOW: Dave Grady tried his hand with the Hyperprime on the M9 - The 2nd shot has some CA (which the Noct ASPH has as well)
BELOW: Judd Weiss tried the Hyperprime on his NEX-5n
BELOW: Our awesome host, Todd Hatakeyama shot the next couple with the Hyperprime and his M9
I will be shooting with the lens for a few weeks/months and will be posting a full review down the road with many images, full size and comparisons with other lenses. I plan on flying down to Seattle to hang with Ashwin and do a thorough shoot out between this one and the Leica Noctilux ASPH. We may be able to even throw in the Voigtlander Nokton 1.1 in the mix as well. Should be a blast. Also look for a post this week with a wrap up on the LA Workshop including everyones fave images from the weekend. As for the SLR Magic hyperprime, it is a special lens and I am eagerly awaiting pricing info. When I find out, I will post the news here.
FAST FACTS and why this lens is pretty exciting:
The SLR Magic 50 LM (Leica Mount) T0.95 Lens has 12 Lens Elements, 12 aperture blades and focuses to .7 meters (also the equivalent of an f/0.92 aperture at T0.95)
The Voigtlander 50 f/1.1 Nokton has 7 Lens Elements, 10 aperture blades and focuses to 1 meter
The Leica Noctilux ASPH has 8 elements, 9 aperture blades and focuses to 1 meter