Apr 222014
 

Holy 50mm! The Mitakon 50 f/0.95 Speedmaster for E-Mount Arrives.

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What you see above is serial# 000001 of the brand new Mitakon Speedmaster 50 f/0.95 FULL FRAME lens for Sony E Mount. Yes, the A7 now has a 50 f/0.95 and from a few shots I have seen circulating online this lens looks AMAZING. Holding it, I can tell you that the quality is flat-out amazing. Leica quality in feel. Size wise, it is not so bad and much smaller than say a Leica Noctilux f/0.95. This lens will sell for $799 and start shipping end of May but I will be doing a FULL review on this bad boy on an A7 over the next few weeks. But imagine this on the new A7s! Wowzers. This lens and an A7s could indeed be a dream team of the night.

There is a funny story about how I managed to get this lens. I remember reading about it a while ago and seeing some images from it. A few days ago I received a random e-mail from someone I did not know and never heard of. He asked me if I wanted to review a 50 0.95 lens he designed for Sony NEX. I asked him where his website was, if it was full frame and where it can be ordered. He wrote back saying it was full frame but with no other real info. I had no idea it was this lens! Pretty cool that I get to review serial# 000001. Sweet.

The packaging is stellar and the lens arrives in a very nice case, the nicest I have ever seen any lens ship in.

case

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The lens itself feels so solid and it is constructed in a very high quality. Smooth dials, a click less aperture ring and a metal screw in lens cap.

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I will start reviewing and using this lens at the end of the week once I am done with another camera I am wrapping up a review for ;) But I am excited about this one because I have a very good feeling about it. I will also test it on the new A7s whenever that camera surfaces! Stay tuned…

Dec 292013
 

A Noctilux is for Life, not just for Christmas!

By John Tuckey

Hi All, Season’s Greetings!

Some of you may know me from previous posts, for those who don’t, my passion has always been black and white – particularly the timeless quality that it can impart. Black and white allows an element of ‘anywhen’ into an image which with just a couple of props can suddenly be your own personal time machine.

Anyway, I finally gave in to the ultimate in lens lust and bought a Noctilux f1 for christmas. I’ve been blown away, so I wanted to share a few of the first images with you.

Steve’s written extensively about this lens, and frequently uses the word ‘magic’ – he’s right!

There are those who say it’s too big and heavy – but to be honest it’s only 120grams heavier than my silver chrome summilux ASPH. Yes it blocks a chunk of the viewfinder – which doesn’t bother me in landscape – but really freaked me at first in portrait, the models head was completely obscured – yikes! Yeah thats a pain, but it’s not so scary once you remember there’s no reason why you can’t hold the camera the other way round so the lower corner is blocked rsther than the upper ;-)

Viewfinder aside, what’s the picture like – does it deliver the magic that so many others have raved about so much? I’ve gone through most of the 50′s: the 50′Cron, the Lux ASPH, the Sonnar C, the Nokton 1.1 and the 1.5 – will this really be worth all that money on top of say the Lux ASPH and Sonnar?

You can judge for yourself below, here’s two sets of three from my first shoot with the Nocti on an M9 yesterday. The Shots with the shirt are f4, ISO 80, Shutter 1/180 with Elinchrom flash at 4 stops firing through cardboard flags. The vintage styled portraits are done using the same flash heads just as modelling lights (not firing) while switching the lens down to f1, 1/60 and letting the M9 sort it’s ISO out which turned out to be 800.

The last one just shot into the 500px ‘popular’ section within 15minutes, and got placed in the LFI’s M9 mastershots gallery overnight – which tells me there’s plenty of magic in here to go around.

This is one Noctilux that will be for life, not just for Christmas!

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All the best

John Tuckey

http://www.jrtvintage.co.uk

http://www.facebook.com/jrtvintage

http://500px.jrtvintage.co.uk

Oct 012013
 

titlejimmaine

Two months with my Leica Noctilux f/0.95

by Jim Main

Hello again Steve,

A few weeks ago I sent you and email explaining the story of my slightly off the wall buying experience of my beautiful black and glass gem otherwise known as the Leica Noctilux f0.95.

Well I’ll start off by saying that despite the risk everything paid off and the lens and seller are both 100% genuine and the lens is now on a Passport under my name, phew! So I did get a genuine £6.5K ‘bargain’ :)

Anyway onto what I’ve been doing with it. First up I’ll say that, if anything, I find it easier to hold and use than the 50 Lux it replaced. Focussing is generally a snap and I use the RF 95% of the time rather than the EVF. I’ve included one ‘action’ shot taken with it, admittedly not wide open, but it was still one a series which came out sharp. If you do buy one of these then a decent ND is a must if you want to use the lens to its best open potential in most daylight conditions. I keep a UV protection filter on the front and I’ve noticed a bit of vignetting when I stick the ND on top of that but it doesn’t bother me too much as it usually suits the image and saves me adding one in LR or PS.

Nighttime performance is amazing, no flash on an M, who cares, this thing sucks in light and with the better high ISO performance of the M the only thing I would need flash for is fill in rather than overall illumination.

You can read all the reviews and see lots of sample shots, but it’s not until you take your own ones that you really discover the beautiful smooth creamy effect that this lens can bring to even the most mundane of subjects, I’ve never experienced it with any other bit of kit I’ve owned over the years, and that includes a lot of fast Nikon lenses. I know that the copious bokeh isn’t to everyone’s taste but I don’t think I’ll ever get bored with it.

As you can tell I kinda love this lens and it’s been with me recently to Spain and Florida as well as just down the road.

Do I recommend this lens, you betcha, have a garage sale and clear out anything you can to save up for one of these and I doubt you’ll regret the purchase.

I’ve attached eight shots for you and I really couldn’t decide which ones to send. There’s a few of my favs that I’ve kept for the time being as I’m going to enter them in my local club competition and they have rules about images not being seen before but hopefully you won’t be disappointed by these.

Thanks

Jim

M240 J Main-IMG_0190

M240 J Main-L1001384-Edit

M240 J Main-L1001513-Edit

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M240 J Main-IMG_0189

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Jun 172013
 

My new Noctilux Story by Jim Main

Hi Steve,

I’ve been a reader of your excellent site for a few months now and between yourself and Thorsten Overgaard you have ‘forced me’ to the position where I just HAD to go and buy a Nocti 0.95.

I’ve been looking for a second-hand one for ages and keep missing them as they sell so quickly. Well this weekend I finally succeeded and as it was a bit more complex than walking into a shop I thought you might like the story as an example of how far us mad photographic types will go to blow a few thousand $ or £’s!!

The brief story was I came home quite late on Friday night and had a quick look on eBay to see if there was any interesting lenses on there. I spotted this new listing for a 2 week old Nocti, the story given that a girlfriend had bought it for her boyfriend but he didn’t like it (we all want a GF like that!) I stuck it on my ‘watch list’ and went to bed. When I checked in the morning and it had been taken off, I thought damn it but sent a message to the seller. To cut a long story short we ended up talking on the phone and I took the gamble that they were genuine after they sent me photos of the lens, receipts etc. I stay in S.West Scotland so I drove to Carlisle and jumped on the train to London then jumped on a tube to the Wimbledon area where the guy told me to wait for him driving by in a black Audi. At this point I’m thinking do I really want to jump in someone’s car that I don’t know! Anyway the car came past and he was with his GF so they parked up and we went to a cafe. I tried the lens and everything was above-board. She had paid the new UK price of £8k for the lens the week before in Selfridges. I got the lens and two B+W Pro1 ND filters (0.9 +1. for £6.5K, I reckon that was a relative bargain (if you can ever say £6500 for a lens is a bargain!!) He told me he’s quite a novice photographer and has an M9 but he couldn’t get used to focussing the lens and preferred the Lux 50 that he also has. It was like a scene from a film when I sat with my ipad doing an online bank transfer to him, you know the ones where the criminal is watching the progress bar tick along with the money

I then jumped back on the Tube and caught the 6:30 back to Carlisle and was in the house by 10:15, 700 mile round trip in 10 hours and a big hole in my bank account!

I’ve attached a few pics of my first shots with the lens, the face on shot in the cafe was my first ever with a Nocti and I was sold straight away (he’s the guy I bought it from). So far I’m finding it easier to focus than my Lux (not sure what to do with that now). All these pics are OOC Mono jpegs focussed using the RF. I snapped a few of my son in a field this evening on the way home from his swimming lesson. I’m blown away with the creamy look to these although for some reason a couple are showing vignetting and others aren’t?? I cropped one in the filed to straighten the horizon.

Keep up the excellent work.

Jim

Nocti Test-L1000754

Nocti Test-L1000725

Nocti Test-L1000771

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Apr 042013
 

Two new videos…Leica M 50′s and an M 240 Video with the Noctilux

Just realized I have not posted these here though they have been on my youtube channel for a week or two. The 1st one is an overview of three mega Leica lenses. The 50 cron APO, the 50 Lux ASPH and the 50 Noctilux ASPH. The 2nd video is a short little video I shot with the 50 Noctilux ASPH to show the rolling shutter effect that is very noticeable when shooting 50mm. It was taken with the Noctilux wide open and with the M 240 in B&W mode.

Enjoy!

Mar 242013
 

Updates on the Leica M. AWB, Noctilux 0.95 & Black & White

Updates on the Leica M. AWB, Noctilux 0.95 & Black & WhiteThis 1st image was intentionally processed to be more contrasty and grittier over out of camera M files. I am well aware of the highlights and it was done intentionally. Gives it more of an M9 flavor. :)

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I know, I said I was taking the weekend off but I had some extra time after finishing up shooting for my X100s review that will be posted tomorrow and I am sitting here in my Mothers house wide awake late at night, so why not :) My Fuji X100s review ended up at 5300 words or so and goes over the camera and updates that were made to it along with my thoughts on shooting it for the past 10 days straight. So look for that tomorrow!

Today I have one more follow-up on the Leica M 240..the camera so many love to hate!

Since posting my Leica M review I have been getting input from those of you who own the M (not too many of us out there yet), those who are thinking of getting one (many asking about B&W capabilities), and those who feel it is just ridiculous to buy a camera for this kind of cash and claim the Fuji X100s is a better camera. Yes, I have heard from all of you with your thoughts, opinions, and requests and I will address all of those concerns in this post.

This post is for those of you who have been on the fence between the Monochrom and new M when it comes to B&W and for those of you who have asking me for Noctilux samples. I decided to write about both in one post to kill two birds with one stone. I am also going to go over a couple of issues that I touched upon in my review but did not go into great detail with (that review is already over 15k words)!

Here is a nice lower contrast look for B&W. This is what you get out of the camera.

L1001541

Since getting my M I have used it every single day. I have been shooting it side by side with the X100s and the Sony RX1. To me, it doesn’t get much better than the M and RX1 combo and have decided to use the RX1 as my 35mm lens. For my M I will go 28, 50 and 75 but my main focal length right now is 50mm, no question. I seem to go back and forth between 35 and 50 but lately have been really digging the 50mm. It is a “classic” focal length though any focal length can be used for amazing imagery.

I feel the 50 is just the right balance and good for 85% of my shooting. I recently decided to take the 50 Noctilux out for a spin on the new M and since I was visiting family in Illinois my nephew happily volunteered to be my model for the day. What better combo to have then a Leica M and 50 Noctilux ASPH? I mean, this setup alone costs $18k!

INSANITY when you think about it but there is nothing out there that will give you the look of that 50 Noctilux. Not the Canon 50L, 85L, or any Nikon that I have ever shot with. So it may very well be “worth it” in the things it brings to the table for some and if you want this specific look, nothing else will really do it. To be fair, other lenses have their own unique looks as well like the ones I just mentioned from Canon, Nikon, etc. The Noctilux is one expensive piece of glass but if your wallet is fat and you want that look, it is there for you to buy, and I know Leica sells loads of these as I *personally* know 7 people who own this lens. It is also a lens you can actually call “an investment”. The original f/1 version sold new for $3500 6-7 years back, now it sells for $7k used.

BAM!

No, that is not a dust bob on the sensor, it is a smudge on the wall :) Noct wide open.

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The 50 Noctilux is nice but keep in mind that it is heavy, it is uber expensive, and it is not really a lens one thinks of as an everyday lens. It can be (see my article here on this idea shot with the M9) though depending on your wants, needs and wallet but I see the lens as something you may use for certain occasions or circumstances. It has a very unique look and shooting the Noct at 1.4 will not look like the Lux at 1.4. The Noct character sticks through f/4 or so but it is made to be shot wide open or close to it. In comparison to the Lux, it is a totally different lens and I know a few who own both. If one has the funds, for example, if I had a million or two in the bank I would own every Leica lens :)

ISO 1600 on the M with the Noctilux doing what it does best at 0.95

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So as you can see just by the samples I have posted so far (click them for better and larger views) the Noctilux quality shines on the new M, no question at all. These have not had any PP, just simple and quick LR B&W conversions which leads me to the B&W capabilities of this new M. With the Monochrom available at $7995 using the M9 body and technology it would seem that the best “deal” would be the M. It is $1000 less and can shoot color as well as B&W and has all of the new enhancements in speed, menus, etc. But what if you want superb B&W to rival the MM as well as color? Can the M do this?

But is the B&W that far off from the Monochrom?

This post is not a comparison of the two cameras but rather just showing you what the new M can do with basic out of camera images with a one button conversion in Lightroom. It will be up to you to decide if this is good enough for your own B&W needs, as we all have different needs.

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After shooting the M extensively now day in and day out I can say that the camera can do a very nice B&W and better than what the M9 did with B&W due to the increased DR and ISO capabilities. As for the Monochrom vs M, I can tell you the Mono is sharper out of camera and does better at high ISO because the M at 6400 will show banding and odd noise if you shoot in the dark. Is it usable? Sometimes, depending on if you expose properly or not but my max is staying at 3200. The Monochrom also has a different rendering of the tones.

The Monochrom can at times look like Medium Format so it is the ultimate tool for B&W though this comes at a price. The M does not really give that same look or tonality so if B&W is your thing, the MM is the camera for you. Yes, those Monochrom files can be gorgeous…but that also comes at a price of $7995, very very steep. I can tell you though that there is nothing quite like the Mono files. So silky, detailed and beautiful.

The question is: Is the M good enough for B&W to get by without having to pay $7995 for a dedicated B&W camera? Only you can answer that for you because your needs are different from everyone else.

The Mono with 35 Lux – amazingly beautiful output – click it to see it correctly

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Win a Monochrom

BTW, for those who can shoot and are lusting for a MM, the contest site I-SHOT-IT.COM has their Leica Monochrom premium contest and it ends in 11 days. Not only will the winner get a Monochrom but there is a cash prize as well and that is currently up to $8,770.00, yes almost $9,000. A Mono and $8770? That is INSANE! Whoever wins that contest is going to be one happy camper. If you want to enter it you can see the details here. They also have loads of other contest going on as well.

Some issues I found with the new M

ISO 6400 Banding

In my M review I mentioned that your files may show banding at ISO 6400, and yes this is true if you underexpose and try to bring out the details. Below is a sample of a B&W at ISO 6400. You can click it for a larger view to see the noise and banding. I have seen better than this and worse than this at 6400, depending on the situation. But it is there and therefore, I recommend sticking to 3200 if at all possible. You can get banding free 6400 results but you have to really expose correctly. Still, it seems that in 2013 Leica could have d0ne better than this at 6400 because the RX1 does not show banding at 25,600. Still, 96% of us shoot at 3200 or lower. In fact, I do not know of anyone who ever shoots at 6400, so again, up to you if this is an issue for you.

Now the M at 6400 – click it for larger

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If you shoot between ISO 200 and 3200 you will be just fine with the M in color or B&W, and for me the B&W is fantastic coming out of the M even though it is not quite up to the Monochrom standards. If you are not a B&W addict or just occasionaly shoot B&W, the M will be fine and to me is better than the M9 for B&W without question. I love those MM files but I also love my color so for me the M makes more sense. But If I were going out to do a dedicated B&W project, it would be with the MM.

With over 1,000 images under my belt with the M so far I am confident in its abilities and what it brings to the table for M shooters. It is quite different from the M9 in almost every way so if you are upgrading to one, be prepared for a few days of getting used to the new files. It took me a little while to figure it all out.

The AWB issue – super warm

Be prepared for very warm color out of the camera. I am guessing there will be yet another firmware update or lightroom update in April to deal with it. I could be wrong but that is my feeling because skin tones can show a little too much red/magenta and it is something that I have noticed as I shot more portraits.I get the same thing with Fuji files but with the M9 we did not have this issue.

The skin tones are just way too red coming from the camera and need to be toned down some during the conversion. This happens in some situations but not all as I have some portraits without this red issue. It seems to happen with daylight, even worse with direct light coming in through a window as in my sample below.

Below is an image straight from camera using AWB and standard color mode. Below that is an image I have already corrected to the best of my ability (WB adjust in LR 4.4 is all it took) and I think it looks good but still not 100% right, a little blue but better than the original unless you like bold reds and color. Maybe Leica was trying to tune the AWB to be like Fuji? In any case I am confident this will be fixed with an update soon because others are noticing the same thing. The image below..the blue shirt is spot on, background colors look great but the skintone and hair has a little too much red. There is a slight orange cast over the image as well. Something I also mentioned in the review.

Direct OOC

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Some adjustments in LR4 with WB – just cooling it down a little

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and a B&W conversion using Alien Skin Exposure 

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My prediction: Leica will have a FW or some kind of update in April. Just a guess. I have no inside info.

As for the stability of the camera, I have had no technical issues whatsoever. None, zip, zero. No freeze ups, no SD card issues (and I have used many) and no lag problems. This is good because the M8 and M9 had a few of these quirks. The M seems  to be rock solid.

RX1 vs M

As for IQ, in comparison to the Sony RX1 it is no better or worse. You can not get the Noctilux look on the RX1 of course but that Zeiss 35 is special in its own right. The RX1 is a sweet camera, and as I said in my review, there is a reason it was launched at $2799. Because it gives Leica/Zeiss quality in a small well made package at 1/3 the cost. If you want a small 35mm only camera, the RX1 is the best in this category and beats the X100s without question.

X100s vs M

Finally, for those who have been asking me about the X100s, no it is not better than the M in any way, shape, or form and that is a fact no matter what anyone else will tell you. Well, that is a lie. The X100s is superior to the M and RX1 when it comes to high ISO. The X100s is the high ISO champ, no doubt. But that is where the comparisons end.

The M files are much richer, hardier,  have more depth while  the X100s files are more digital and flat when you compare them side by side. It can be very sharp but IMO it has lost some of the soul of the old X100 output. The X100s body is in no way equal in build to the M and the lens can not match any Leica lens, period.

The Noct at f/4 – High contrast? No problem and no blown  hi lights 

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Leica M and 35 Cron – lower contrast – this works as well

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But this is to be expected. The M is $7k for a body and $3k for a 35mm f/2. The Fuji is $1299. For it to even be in the same ballpark to be compared says alot. The Fuji is fantastic, but it will not give you the Leica look, feel, usability or any of that. It will give you the best Fuji shooting experience to date but more on that in my review tomorrow :)

The Leica M is already stirring up loads of controversy due to its price tag. Same thing the M8 did as well as the M9. It’s Leica, we all know their pricing and we all know they are not for everyone. It is what it is but many shoot Leica for the glass. Lenses like the Noctilux and Summilux line. Lenses that are legendary (and actually go up in value instead of down over the years). I feel that the M offers nothing special over the RX1, D800, etc in image quality but it is the usability of the camera, size and the lenses that put it up there for me . It lets the lens character shine through as they should, with a full frame high quality sensor .

Just hope Leica ships more soon to those who are waiting!

Steve

PS – Yes, the M is still my favorite cam ever. Used to be the M9 and that has dropped to my 3rd fave ever behind the RX1. :) I’ve had more fun shooting in the past two weeks than I have in a long time and after 3+ years with the M9 the M has been a little bit of a challenge due to it being so different but once you settle in with it, the camera is what you expect it to be, an M. I am sure Leica will have FW tweaks soon as well just as they did with the M9.

Mar 222013
 

Taking the weekend off to shoot! X100s review on Monday!

Hey guys! Just wanted to post to let everyone know I am taking the weekend off from the site to concentrate on shooting and finishing up my X100s review. I still want to take the X100s out tomorrow to do a portrait session and will then wrap up the review which will be posted on Monday at some point.

Also been shooting with the new Leica M and 50 Noctilux ASPH and the character is still there no question…I took the image below at 0.95 using an ND filter and then converted to B&W using the Lightroom 4.4 “B&W Look #3″ filter and  then took out the grain. Lovely results but damn! How can anyone afford this setup? I know there are many who can and this lens will not really lose value if you hold on to it. It is one special lens that I loved from day one of shooting it.

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So hope you are all enjoying your weekend and come back Monday for the real lowdown on the hot Fuji X100s. Been working on it nonstop all week. Thanks to all for coming by and I appreciate each and every one of you who read my site!

Steve

Jan 072013
 

titlekristian

CLASH OF THE TITANS

The Ultimate Leica M Super Fast 50/60mm standard lens battle

by Kristian Dowling – His website is HERE

While Greek mythology brought us the Titans, it was the Germans who applied the Titan qualities to their cars and cameras. Like any good battle, the Japanese also made their presence known with their own version of Samurai. Fast lenses are like fast cars, and when considering both, they share the same kinds of adjectives like ‘exotic, alluring, superlative, amazing, glamorous, extraordinary, unique and unusual’. Both fast cars and fast lenses have an appeal for their ability to give its operator more speed, control and power. To photographers wanting to express their vision through shallow depth of field, the ultra fast lens is a valuable tool, as it enables you to narrow the vision to the exact precise focus position within a frame. But there is much more than subject isolation to think about when analyzing a fast lens. Different lenses exhibit different and unique characters in the way they draw both the focused and defocused areas, and there is no better way to explore this area than by comparing the world’s top Titans.

For the Leica M Rangefinder, the top competitors include lenses from Leica, Konica, Canon, Nikon, Zunow, Fuji, Voigtlander and many more. These fast lenses are large and heavy compared to their slower f/1.4-f/2.8 counterparts, so not exactly great all round lenses, as their qualities are focused around shooting at maximum aperture. They are also very expensive and often the buyer/user may have misconceptions about their perceived performance. Manufacturing a lens that performs consistently throughout all its apertures is the general goal of lens designers, and the faster the lens, the more challenges there are. Therefore there are a few compromises that need to be made. Fast lenses are often not so well corrected for field curvature and/or distortion. Field curvature in this case is an attribute often enjoyed by fast lens users as it can accentuate the effect of the out of focus areas (bokeh), as most notable in the Noctilux 50/1, which is often referred to as the ‘dream lens’, for it’s dream-like, swirly bokeh signature. Often, one caveat of this is that shooting off-center subjects can lead to focus difficulty, especially with a rangefinder where you need to focus in the center, then recompose. I am sure many photographers who have used these kinds of lenses on a rangefinder will tend to agree with such experiences, often resulting in miss-focused and spoiled shots.

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I was fortunate enough to have access to the top players in this field in Chiang Mai, Thailand, so decided to put them to the test.

 

Therefore in this article I will focus my attention to three main factors:

• Bokeh – the way the out of focus areas look and feel.

• Sharpness and contrast around the focus point.

• Signature/Character – the way the lens renders/draws.

• Color – shifting from warm to cold depending on the lens design, coatings used and age of lens.

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Here are the top 5 most sought after lenses for the M System being tested.

Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 (Hermes edition used for test)

 DSC_1652

• Released in 2008 for regular production

• Current street price US$10,450 (regular black version)

• This is the largest lens in the group with excellent handling and the best build quality. Has a built in hood and is quite easy to focus.

• This lens was manufactured with modern lens design so I expect the sharpness and contrast to be excellent wide open with neutral bokeh. From my own experience owning this lens, it is extremely well corrected for such a fast lens and doesn’t exhibit many flaws except for purple fringing wide open against bright light sources.

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Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/1.2

DSC_1650

• Released in 1976 with production limited to only 1700 units

• Current street price US$20,000+

• Leica’s first Noctilux is quite small in size, closer to the Summilux than the Noctilux f/1.

• I have yet to use this lens and as Leica’s first Noctilux, I expect contrast to be low and sharpness average, but possibly better than the f/1 Noct as f/1.2 lenses are easier to produce. I’m really not sure what to expect from the bokeh – possibly a little messy.

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Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/1

DSC_1649

• Released 1976-2008 for regular production with several cosmetic changes during this time

• Current street price US$5,000+

• Quiet a large lens, slightly smaller than the Noct 0.95 but bigger than it’s older 1.2 brother, with average handling and slightly difficult focus.

• Known for it’s dreamy bokeh and slightly soft rendering I’ve always felt this lens is a one trick pony and best used with subjects centered due to the large amount of field curvature.

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Konica Hexanon 60m f/1.2 Original DesignDSC_1653

• Released 1956 for limited production with numbers unknown, but very rare

• Current street price US$13,000+

• A small lens for it’s design with nice handling and very smooth aperture transition. It’s a screw mount lens so requires a screw to M mount adapter, preferably with 50mm lens frame selection.

• I have never used this lens before but due to it’s age I expect very low contrast wide open. I have no idea about it’s potential for sharpness.

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Konica Hexanon 60m f/1.2 Updated Design

DSC_1651

• Released 1998 with production limited to only 800 units

• Current street price US$12,000+

• Small in size, similar to the Noctilux 50/1.2, the Hexanon

• Like it’s older brother, it’s a screw mount lens so requires a screw to M mount adapter, preferably with 50mm lens frame selection.

• Unlike it’s older brother it was designed with modern lens design, optimized for excellent sharpness and contrast at wide apertures. This lens was made famous by street photographer Yanick Delafoge http://www.yanidel.net. I always say “pictures sell lenses” and Yanick’s amazing street pictures from his travels around the world have single handedly raised the value of this lens from $3k to $7k+ in a matter of a few years. According to Yanick, this lens is the sharpest standard lens at f/1.4, and from my own experience owning this lens, I would be confident agreeing with him.

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Testing parameters:

• Camera used in test is the Leica M9 and (some) M Monochrom, all shot in manual exposure for consistency. Exposure will be adjusted to lighting changes.

• No tripod used as this is a field test, not an MTF or resolution test

• 3 hour time frame with model and lenses available for testing

• All exposures were recorded on paper with filename/lens used

• All images were shot wide open at maximum aperture of each lens, ranging from f/0.95 to f/1.2.

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Testing restrictions:

• Testing was done outside in the field so lighting changes in strength and color temperature will occur.

• No testing for CA/purple fringing on color digital sensors.

• No comparison of the lenses at the same apertures, which all would share at f/1.2 and up. Comparisons are for wide open to establish their ‘individual’ maximum abilities and characteristics.

• Such lenses are favoured for their abilities in low light as they allow both a lower ISO and/or higher shutter speeds, but I will not be testing for this.

• No testing these lenses for flare/internal reflections against strong light sources such as the sun. It is fair to assume that the newer the lens, the better the coatings and thus, better performance in such situations.

• No testing for distortion. I expect all lenses to exhibit average to poor distortion control and high field curvature as most fast lenses are designed this way due to the compromises needed in fast lens design.

• Lenses may suffer from slight sample variation, and therefore may not be 100% representative of the lens in general.

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Individual Results – click images for full size files

Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95

50_0.95-9071288

I really like this lens. Its size is large but handles very well and focus is super smooth. It has a sliding built in hood that rotates and locks in, just like it’s smaller brother, the Summilux 50/1.4 ASPH.

I used it on production sets in Hollywood, and enjoyed this lens for it’s ability to represent a scene faithfully, meaning that it has minimal aberrations and field curvature, especially for having such a large f/0.95 maximum aperture. Out of focus elements are represented clearly and without much distortion. This is a very well corrected lens and is my recommendation for those needing a super fast lens for professional client work. Those looking to use this lens for ‘bokeh effect’ should look at other lenses that produce results with less perfection, such as the painterly Hexanon 60/1.2 V2.

Colors were noticeably warmer from this lens and sharpness wide open was exemplary. Contrast was also very high for the 0.95 aperture, matching its sharpness nicely. I would say that at f/0.95, it almost matches the Summilux 50/1.4 ASPH at f/1.4.

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Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/1.2

50_1.2-9071287

I really like this lens’s size to performance ratio. It’s the smallest lens in the group and renders in a neutral way, leaning slightly towards the newer f/1 version with a hint of ‘dream-like’ rendering.

Being the most expensive lens in this group, I had quite high expectations and hope for sharpness, so I was a little disappointed when I saw softness wide open, and felt the rendering to be a slightly softer character than both the Noct f/1 and the slower Summilux f/1.4. To best describe it’s drawing, I would say it’s a cross between the Noct f/1 and the f/0.95 with a soft rendering. For the money, I would have liked to see a little more character from this lens.

Colors were a little on the warm side which is not a bad thing. Contrast was quite high for such an old lens, which does help raise the perception of sharpness, when the reality is that it’s a little soft wide open at f/1.2.

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Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/1

50_1-9071290

I’ve had a lot of experience with this lens before and have bought and sold it a few times due to it being more of a ‘one-trick-pony’. By that I mean it isn’t so great when stopped down so it’s only really good for shooting wide open to create that ‘dream-like’ effect that has made this lens so famous. I am referring more to the way its bokeh is rendered than actual ‘glow’ as seen from older vintage lenses like the Hexanon 60/1.2 V1.

Due to it’s high field curvature and lack of correction for aberrations, the out of focus areas are very smooth, giving a rounded circular effect, especially noticeable when framing subjects in the center of the frame with a symmetrical background. The focus point isn’t what I’d call sharp, but more so ‘sharp-enough’, and a good step forward from the older and softer Noctilux f/1.2 version.

Focus isn’t as smooth as the Noctilux f/0.95 and the focus throw feels longer in use so I found handling to be a little slow. It’s also quite large and heavy but is also quite modern in the way it draws. It has neutral color balance and has medium contrast wide open, which works well for the way it renders bokeh. Overall, it was a nice improvement from the f/1.2 model it replaced.

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Konica Hexanon 60m f/1.2 Original Design

60_1.2_V1-9071284

I was super excited to try this lens. I’ve only ever seen two for sale and this is one of them, acquired by Bellamy from Japan Camera Hunter http://japancamerahunter.com. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this lens except for low contrast because I’ve never seen samples from it before, even on film. What surprised me most was the size of this lens. It’s very small and built very well, as you’d expect from Konica.

Out of all the lenses, this is my favorite, due to it’s unique glow qualities, but with excellent sharpness underneath the glow. Contrast is very low, which makes it fantastic on a camera like the M Monochrom, but not as great on the M9. It takes a bit of adjusting to processing these pictures to a modern state of contrast, especially in color. With the lower contrast comes more shadow detail, which was very welcomed when using this on the M Monochrom.

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Konica Hexanon 60m f/1.2 Updated Design

60_1.2_V2-9071283

Out of all these lenses, I would have to rate this lens as the most sought after lens in the M line for users wanting a unique lens that delivers outstanding performance. I have also owned this lens before and it has been the best overall standard lens I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning and using. It’s handling is fantastic. While not being a small lens, it fits well in the hand and focuses very smoothly. It’s also noticeably lighter than the Noct f/1 and f/0.95 lenses.

Sharpness and contrast is medium to high and works beautifully with the way it renders out of focus areas. Just for reference, this lens sharpens up considerably at f/1.4. What I like most about this lens is the way it renders the bokeh. It’s smooth, but with a painterly quality of smaller circles that have more edge definition than those of the Noct variety. Compared to the V1, the V2 is a very different lens. It’s more modern design makes it a great all round lens in any situation. I love the way it draws using natural colors, compared to the extra warm Noct 0.95. They just seem to look more natural to my eyes.

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Comparisons

Hexanon 60/1.2 V1 vs V2

V1

60_1.2_v1-9071163

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V2

60_1.2_v2-9071166

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ALL compared

60 V1

60_1.2_V1-9071330

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60 V2

60_1.2_V2-9071327

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Leica 50 f/0.95

50_0.95-9071331

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50 f/1

50_1-9071325

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50 f/1.2

50_1.2-9071328

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100% Crop Comparison

60_1.2_V1-9071297

cropsharpcompare-

Leica Monochrome Comparison of ALL

I was fortunate to be able to shoot some of the Padaung Long Long Neck Karen people as they were visiting the Manadarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi hotel for the New Years celebrations. They have never left their village before and it was such a privilege to meet and photography them.

 

Noctilux 50 0.95

50_0.95-1002400

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Noctilux 50 f/1

50_1-1002392

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Noctilux 50 f/1.2

50_1.2-1002396

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Hexanon 60 1.2 V1

60_1.2_V1-1002386

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Hexanon 60 1.2 V2

60_1.2_V2-1002389

 

Conclusion and thoughts about the lenses and applications

Let me be blunt. It is impossible to pic a winner in this clash of the titans. While there is no doubt that the Noctilux 0.95 is the Zeus of this bunch, there is so much more to a lens than just technical perfection. The Hexanon lenses pack a punch that’s well above their weight grade, albeit in different ways, and the Noct f/1 and f/1.2 are truly unique lenses that have their own strengths and abilities that will be very compelling to photographers.

The best way to summarize the their rankings is with the table below.

 tabletitan

In application, these lenses are very difficult to focus, especially for newcomers to rangefinders. With such shallow depth of field, the plane of focus is so narrow that recomposing can cause major issues for maintaining focus until the point of exposure. I would advise that photographers use the focus bracketing technique where you take 3-5 exposures, each at a slightly different focus distance. This can be achieved by either shifting focus ever so slightly in front and behind the focus point, or shifting the camera forwards and backwards, again, every so slightly.

The more important the shot, the more exposures you should take. In general, you should aim to keep your focus point more front-focused than back-focused. Most recomposed shots by Leica photographers suffer from back-focus, so try to move slightly backwards after recomposing and your hit rate will increase. Also, front-focused images tend to look better than back-focused ones, in my opinion.

As a photography coach I always stress one important factor to my students – The photographer should be very mindful of one important factor when using these ultra fast lenses…..a blurred background does not necessarily make the photo a better picture! It’s very easy to get carried away, focusing on the bokeh attributes of a picture, when in fact, the background may be of high importance to the subject and may require some depth of field to establish the relationship between subject/background. Take history’s best pictures for example. I can’t think of many that were shot with such shallow depth of field. The background is a very important element to a photographer and should be taken seriously when creating pictures.

I see the use of fast aperture lenses in a similar way that I view using fisheye lenses. Shooting fast lenses at their maximum aperture is a novelty technique that should be used carefully, and not too often, unless for portraiture use where the background is not so relevant to the subject. I’d rather increase my hit rate of focus by stopping down a little to counter any potential focus issues, than missing focus all together and ruining the shot. Fast lenses also have apertures that extend to around f/16 for a reason (wink). So I recommend shooting wide open all you like, but for important pictures, also take a frame or two stopped down 1-2 stops.

Lastly lets not forget that when a photographer has the opportunity and privilege to herald one of these incredible lenses, it is still his responsibility to make the picture great, using all the usual photographic techniques to create the best picture possible. No lens in the world, no matter how sharp, how amazing the bokeh, will not make a great photo – that my friends if the responsibility of the photographer!

Testing equipment provided by Khun Suchet www.suwanmonkol.com

Models: Tukta from Chiang Mai, and a member of the Karen people, Padaung tribe, Burma.

Location: courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand. www.mandarinoriental.com/chiangmai

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.

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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

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“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.

 

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Nov 022012
 

Leica Noctilux f/0.95 in stock! 50 Lux ASPH in stock! 

Just an announcement for those of you looking for these lenses! The 50 Noctilux is now in stock at B&H Photo HERE. They go quickly so if you have been waiting, it is there right now!

Also, The Pro Shop for Photographers has the Leica 50 Summilux ASPH in stock in BLACK or SILVER! Best to call them at  561.253.2606 if you want one. 

 

PSAs I have done for 3+ years I post when hot lenses and cameras are in stock, with links..as a service to you. Sometimes I will get a small credit for this which is what keeps this site alive as I cant run it and pay for it on my charm alone :) Both B&H and Pro Shop are sponsors of this site and I recommend them highly along with Ken Hansen ([email protected]), Dale Photo and PopFlash.  

Sep 272012
 

Year long wait list no more..Leica Noctilux in stock at B&H Photo & Ken Hansen

UPDATE: B&H Sold Out

What was once a year-long wait list for this lens has now dwindled as last week popflash.com had them in stock and this morning B&H Photo has some in stock and Ken Hansen does as well. You can check out the B&H Photo page for it HERE and if you want to contact Ken you can email him at [email protected]. Earlier this week when I posted about three lenses available at popflash (including the ever hard to find 35 lux FLE) they all sold within minutes so I know there are many of you out there looking for these lenses. My review on the Noctilux can be seen HERE. To really see what it can do check out THIS article or check out these photos.

Aug 212012
 

The Noctilux 0.95 Unplugged

By Kristian Dowling

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

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

Quality

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

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

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

In use, and focusing accurately

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

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

See this video I made

 

Character and Signature of the lens drawing and bokeh at 0.95

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

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

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

Need for speed or character?

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

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

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

Issues with using the Noctilux

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

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

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

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

Why you should and should not buy it

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

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

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

Kristian Dowling

www.kristiandowling.com

Aug 202012
 

MY THREE LEICA KINGS by Tuananh Nguyen

A shout out to Mr. Steve Huff for setting us up with the sweetest and most bitchin’ photography site to date! I also have to thank all of you folks that have written some of the most entertaining, knowledgeable, and opinionated “inspirations” that have not only inspired my photography, but I am sure also to the growing members on this site. Although I understand the need for numerous reviews on newer products, I’ve always enjoyed reading articles on the “classics”, if not just as much, but maybe event a tad more. So on this note, I wanted to share my knowledge on three of Leica’s classical lenses, or what I would call as “my three kings”.

After my initiation into the Leica clan many years ago, I’ve had a chance to use some of the best optics in the world in both the pre- and post-digital age. I started out this love affair with my beloved Leica M2 and 50mm Summicron Dual Range, which I believe is as perfect as a camera can be. Its classic lines, dependability, and “glowing” images matched my style of photography and it also gave validation for my abandonment of the SLR idea. I’ve since owned both the M8 and M9, which I feel are the epitome of the digital rangefinder. The M9’s pixel count, full-frame CCD image characteristics, and classical build were all that I would ever dream in a camera (even in light of the advent of the M10 release).

Over the years, I’ve had countless opportunities to lend and own a long list of Leica lenses. But after a lot of “soul searching” I’ve concluded that there are three lenses that I found to have earned the title of “My Three Kings”: 50mm Noctilux-M (f/1.0 attached hood), 35mm Summicron-M (Type IV), and 90mm Summicron (Generation II, red numbering). Below, I will briefly summarize why I believe that these lenses are my favorite, but I will also include drawbacks when it is necessary.

 

Leica 90mm Summicron (Generation II)

After trying out a diverse group of Leica-M 75mm, 85mm, 90mm, and 135mm lenses, I’ve concluded that the 90mm Summicron was the best for me. Although the lens is much larger than the later editions, especially with the built in tripod mount, and odd filter size, I felt that it gave the most character out of all of these longer focal length lenses. As a portrait lens, the 90mm Summicron is soft and gives a nice glowing rendition, which is even more pronounced in the B&W images that it produces. Although not the sharpest lens in the Leica lineage, its excellent DOF/”bokeh” is silky smooth and excellent as a pure portraiture lens.

 

Leica 35mm Summicron-M (Type IV)

In the 1990’s, Leica lenses were expensive but not to the extent as they are today, especially in the used market. I was able to collect several editions of the 35mm and give them a thorough “shootout” before I decided which one was the keeper. I also tested out some wider angle Leica lenses, but I realized that the additional viewfinder was often obtrusive and it just didn’t fit my style of street photography with the Leica M2. The Type IV, also renowned as “The King of Bokeh” was my choice, simply because it was very compact and light, the replaceable lens hood was very affordable and easily attainable, and the new concaved focusing tab was an excellent focusing tool for such a small lens. This lens is exceptionally sharp but maintains that Leica “glow” and signature, more so than the other generations at this focal length. I chose this lens above all other wide-angles and aperatures because I felt that it had great balance for price, image quality, and compactness.

 

Leica 50mm Noctilux-M

Many Leica users and experienced photographers collectively know that the Noctilux is a very prized optical monster. It doesn’t just quiver under low-light condition; it actually lives for it, as Dr. Mandler would agree. This is my unequivocal favorite lens of all time. You might read online and various literature about the Noctilux’s focusing issues with the digital-M, lack of sharpness, extreme vignettes, enormous size, and countless other complaints. What is my response to all of these issues? Yes, I would have to agree with all of them! But I guess this is what taming a beast like the Noct is all about. Yes it requires a little love from the elves to make it perfectly adapted to your digital-M body. Yes, it is not the sharpest lens, but that’s the reason for its magic glow and signature bokeh. Images shot with a Noctilux can only be described as watercolors to me; the background always gives a very distinct paintbrush flavor while the outline of the subject usually glows with a warm soft texture. Yes, vignettes are a part of this lens’ repertoire, some folks hate it, but many like myself love it. As for the size argument, although the Noctilux is one of the largest of the Leica lenses, it is by far much smaller than many other normal focal length lenses in production. I was tempted to swap my classic Noctilux for the newer f/0.95, but after several days of using it at the Leica Akademie last year, I decided that the older model’s characteristics was more preferable for my taste.

These three lenses have many different attributes, yet the unique characteristics that they showcase are unmistakably, Leica. Will I use other cameras and lenses in the future, I am sure I am not immune to the shutterbug nor am I too stubborn or ignorant to say that this brand or that brand is the best for everyone. What I can say is that I love the Leica M system, for its simplicity, signature images, and obedience to what the idea of photography truly is – an art form.

Feb 082012
 

Price of the SLR Magic 50 T0.95 LM (Leica Mount) Hyperprime Announced

After all of the guessing and wondering what this new Leica mount T0.95 monster lens will cost, I was informed today by Andrew from SLR Magic that the official price of this lens will be $4288 US dollars. Higher than some thought, and lower than others thought. About $300 more than I thought. As many of you know, I have been reviewing this lens in a “rolling review” and updating is as I go along and use it. I have now shot with this lens on three M9 bodies, including two M9P’s and on each the lens has performed flawlessly. No focus issues, no problems.

What does the $4288 get you? Well, for starters it gets you as close to a Leica Noctilux ASPH f/0.95 as you can get and for about $6700 less. You get a hand-built, hand calibrated lens that is on par with the Leica in weight and feel but no, you will not get a red dot.

This is a T0.95 lens so the widest aperture is equal to f/0.92.

Some more facts about the lens…

  • It is faster than a Leica Noctilux ASPH so technically, this is the fastest 35mm lens in production today.
  • It is slightly larger and weights slightly more than the Leica Noctilux ASPH
  • It will focus as close as .7 meters with very sharp and accurate results. There is no floating element in the SLR magic and it is NOT Aspherical. The Leica focuses to 1 meter but has a floating element and ASPH glass.
  • The lens is sharp wide open, and share stepped down. To date, I have not discovered any focus shift in my use of the lens (though further testing is coming)
  • The lens will be rangefinder coupled of course, and SLR Magic is also creating a CINE version without RF coupling for $2988, for use on NEX, Micro 4/3, etc.
  • The lens is hand assembled in Hong Kong by SLR Magic. Production will be limited. Not mass-produced.
  • SLR Magic is including a 3 year warranty with the lens.
  • You can order the lens with a black or green ring for the front, so black IS NOW an option.
  • Lens will be available to order in September 2012.
  • If anyone is in Hong Kong and wants to see the lens, you can visit the SLR Magic shop at — Shop 316, 47-51 Shan Tung Street, Sim City, Mong Kok, Kowloon, Hong Kong

You can read and keep up with my review HERE and I will be adding to it weekly. So far the only negative I see with this lens when compared to the $11k Leica is this lens has barrel distortion. If shooting straight lines up close, you will see this distortion. It can easily be fixed in 2 seconds but it is there. There will be samples showing this added to my review soon.

Below are a few newer samples I added to the review this week…

1st one, wide open at T0.95 (f0.92) – just to test wide open performance. 

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This was shot at f4 or f5.6…cant remember! But either way it is sharp :) Click image for larger and 100% crop

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Shot at T1.4

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