Just For Fun: The Olympus OM-D with Leica Noctilux and Nikon 50 1.2 AIS by Brad Husick

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)

53 Comments

  1. reading the comments makes me kinda glad i paid about a hundred times less for a 50mm f1.8 AIS-E. havent had much time to test it out yet though.

  2. What I would like to see is a comparison between this Leica 50mm f/0.95 ASPH Noctilux, and the legendary Ai Noct Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 (produced between 1977-1997).

    That particular Nikkor is said to be astonishing; as sharp and contrasty at f/1.2 as it is stopped-down — one of Nippon Kogaku’s “hall of fame” lenses, to be sure.

    Asking price for mint examples of the Ai Noct typically run as high as $5000.00.

    Anyway, THAT’S a comparison I’d like to see! Given how well the standard Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 lens does against the Leica glass, I bet the results against the Ai Noct might be surprising.

  3. I would like to know what type of adapter you used for the Leica lens with the new Olympus OM-D.
    Thank you,
    Paula

  4. I was wondering, none of the shots look particularly sharp at the focus point, especially the crops.Is this just due to low light shooting conditions or from using adapted lenses with whatever manual focus assist Olympus has?

  5. The Leica def has more separation to it. Items stick out more than on the Nikon, however, $12,000 for a lens is silly. There isn’t THAT much difference between the 2 to warrant paying the extra car for. I have the 25mm f1.4 on my GF2 that can get pretty similar to both of these. I also have the SLR Magic 50mm f0.95 which can get close to this as well, just a bit more softer when wide open. But i def understand the pride in owning a lens such as the Leica.

    I also notice there are a lot of Seattle people here =o]

  6. The Noctilux really is crazy expensive, especially in light of the new SLRMagic T0.95 lens, which costs a “mere” 3000$ for CSCs (1/4 of the price for an equal and in my opinion even slightly better performance).

    However, I’m fine with my f/1.2 lenses. I’ve got a Voigtländer 35mm f/1.2 lens (which will give me very usable 70mm on my OM-D) and a lovely Minolta 58mm f/1.2 lens. They are not that much slower (half a stop) and IMO they have a great image quality, too. Particularly the Minolta has lots of character. And even combined they only cost me 1/3 of the SLRMagic or 1/12(!) of the Nocti. The Noctilux is a terrific lens and it has a strong attraction, but for me there just is no rational justification for the price. That might be different if I were making money with photography, though.

    By the way, I just stumbled across the mention of an SLR Magic 25mm T.095 lens. Anybody know anything about that? Seems to be a prototype for a new lens to be released soon? I hope it’s an original design as well and not a CCTV lens.

  7. Hi Brad, a quick question, is it me or is the Nikkor more saturated and a tad underexpose? FWIW, I like the rendering and the tonal quality of the Noctilux (its a lil less “in-your-face”). Whether or not its worth all that money however…….I’m not too sure.

    How about testing the rare one…..the Pentax 43mm f1,9 LE LTM…….. 🙂

    • Sam,
      In some of the shots it does appear as if the NIkkor is more saturated but I think that may be an effect of the background being a little more in focus due to the narrower aperture. I let the OM-D pick the exposure, so there may be slight differences, but the lighting remained constant during the shoot.

      That Pentax is a rare one indeed. I have never tried it.

      All – I will try a comparison of the Oly 45/1.8 and the Noct – that will be fun!

  8. The Noctilux is considerably sharper and has better contrast. But I don’t think the price difference is justifiable for 99% of photographers.

  9. Interesting but a comparison of the legendary nikkor noct 58. 1.2 since it is aspherical and has no aberrations to speak of to the noctilux would be more appropriate I have one it is a beautiful thing about 4000 these days and just as good as the noctilux if not better unfortunately I do not have the Leica noctilux other wise I would compare the 2

  10. Why did you use such high iso’s? With the IS of the OM-D and those fast lenses, use iso 200 !!! Beside the bokeh, that is just the point of using fast lenses …

  11. Price difference aside, this is not a fair test. Why? Well, the Noctilux is a specialist lens and has been specially computed to perform exceptionally well wide open, not so the Nikkor, nor for that matter any other “standard formulation” lens, be it from Canon, Zeiss et al.

    I do see a sharpness advantage to the Noctilux, as I would expect and be very surprised if I didn’t see it, but I find these tests of super-wide aperture lenses wide open versus traditionally computed lenses wide open a bit meaningless, save to confirm how much a bargain normal lenses can be. I believe most photographers are aware that traditionally computed lenses work best around f5.6 to f8 and IMHO this is the basis on which they should really be judged.

    • Terry,
      Saying that we should shoot most lenses at f/5.6 or f/8 is like saying most cars get their best MPG at 35 MPH so you should always drive that fast – forget about having fun. If they make a lens that opens to f/2 (or whatever) then we should be able to use them at f/2 and expect reasonably good results. The fun in owning fast glass is to shoot it wide open. Otherwise, slow cheap glass is good enough. The point of a fun comparison like this is to show people what actual results they might expect. If you’re building MTF charts, then by all means test every aperture, but that’s not what this is about. If we try lenses wide open and publish the results and the photos look crappy then we have done everyone a service by showing it. Celebrate choice!
      -Brad

      • Hi, Brad. With diesel fuel in the UK costing approx. $9.50 a gallon one certainly drives with fuel economy in mind. Otherwise, I perfectly take on board the gist of your comments. 🙂

  12. Guys! Guys! Guys! PLEASE. Fact is that fitting such a Leica lens to the OM-D is like putting a Ferrari engine into a skidoo! The lens is limited by the capabilities of the camera! Surely. And, wonder of wonders, we find that a well made and well priced lens does almost as well. Who would have thought? You wouldn’t believe it unless you read it here!

  13. These are not really crazy comparison’s…. If you really want to have a crazy comparison why not stick almost any lens on a 5 x 4 view camera or even a 10 x 8 deardof view camera against a leica M9P with added price tag for no logo with a insanely overpriced Nob-tilux …. Now that would be interesting ?

  14. Most annoying thing to me with such fast lenses are the usually extreme longitudinal cromatic abberations. The 12K lens seems to do a pretty well job here compared with the Nikon 1.2. But as Lightroom 4.1 can finally correct these issues, it may almost be better to have the CAs a bit more pronounced to make the correction easier. Sounds crazy, but look on the second last pictures (the chair crop). The extreme green CAs on the Nikon might be easier to isolate than the more natural looking on the Leica.

    Anyway 12K is too far off my budget and I doubt you will see a mayor difference in real photos to the 1.8 45 Oly ($300).

  15. I own the Nikon 1.2
    The Noctilux beats it as far as sharpness, bokeh and flaring are concerned but for the price, the Nikon is a much better lens.
    Plus they are special orders and I believe they are one of the few hand built Nikons left on the market.
    Why Leica continues to hype the price of this lens up is beyond me. One stop more than my 50 Summilux is not worth more than two of the same lenses.

  16. Brad, have you ever tried other f1.2 lenses? I heard Pentax SMC f1.2 is slightly sharper than Nikon and has better bokeh. Nikon for me looks unusable at f1.2.On the other hand, Canon 50L and 85L look sharp wide open – but at ~2.5-3X the price of Nikon..

    • Albert, I did own a Noctilux f/1.0 and the images wide open are dreamy and creamy – very different from the ASPH 0.95 lens. I have not owned other super-fast glass except the Canon 200 f/1.8 which was astounding – like shooting with night vision goggles. I used that lens for indoor swimming shots.

    • I agree. I use the Minolta Rokkor 58mm f/1.2 on the Ricoh GXR for these type of shots. It has great bokeh and is sharp enough at f/1.2. I am looking forward to testing it on a OM-D if I can ever wrestle one out of its supply chain …

  17. Would of been cool to see the 45mm 1.8 thrown in just for a basis of comparison.

    Only $400, weights just ounces, lightning fast AF but perhaps lacking “character” many would argue

  18. The new Oly with its dedicated lenses seems like a capable system, however, adapting 35mm-format lenses to a sensor with 2x crop factor doesnt make much sense … as demonstrated above.

    I bet the Oly 45/1.8 blows both lenses away in performance on a MFT camera.

    • absolutely agree! adapting 35mm lenses to m4/3 cameras is fun and all, but I find the veiling to be too much wide open (it’s magnified x2 after all). i’ll take my nikkor over the noctilux any day, and on tri-x, thank you!

      and yes, the 45/1.8 is amazing. can’t wait to use it on an om-d (it’s on route!).

      cheers!

      • The Noctilux 0.95 ASPH is a unique performer on the Leica M camera. It’s more than just one stop of light compared to the f/1.4. It draws in a special way that makes the bokeh super smooth and the plane of focus very narrow. When you shoot faces the eye is in focus and the tip of the nose is out of focus.

        Sure, it’s crazy expensive, but it’s nice to have the opportunity to use these lenses even if they’re out of reach. I applaud manufacturers for having the conviction to make over-the-top performing products even if they won’t sell many. That’s different from just expensive, silly versions with yak leather or diamonds – I am referring to performance. Another example here is the new Leica 50 Summicron ASPH – crazy price, but from what I have read, it sets the new benchmark for 50mm performance. I can’t wait to try one (but it’s not on my shopping list at $7500).

        • Seems you are blaming the wrong camera for these lenses. I followed this site for less than 1 year. The more I know about Leica products, more questions I have. Why people use ultra fast lens on a 2 fps camera? Why people like to take portraits with blurry nose and ears?

          • Just an artistic choice. I can show you an amazing portrait of a boxer shot with a Noct in last years Leica catalog that has the fall off effect used properly.

        • Isn’t the 50mm Noctilux F0.95 better than 50mm Sumicron ASPH? If it’s not then you can sell the Noctilux and buy that Sumicron ASPH and have money left.

          • Hey now, don’t forget that when it comes to Leica,you are paying for a myth. Myths cost money you know! LOL

  19. Wow while the noctilux is a tiny bit sharper. Definitely not 12K worth of difference! i gotta get me that nikon!!

    • Leica M mount lenses on MFT are a waste of money anyway. They are built to cover a much larger frame (despite the “Leica” brand premium…).

      I bet the Oly 45/1.8 beats the Noct on MFT – at a tiny fraction of the cost.

  20. interesting indeed…. i just can’t find the 12k difference being so ‘must have’ that anyone looking at this would say whaoh…i can see why it’s 12.5k and i love leica glass… but their pricing is insane…. when you drive an MDX and X5 you can tell the difference and walk away knowing what you pay for.. here, well not so clear to me. thanks for sharing and helping us all learn/see these reviews that we otherwise might not experience.

  21. Nice comparison, as a 50 f/1.2 AiS owner myself, I guess a hair’s worth of sharpness lost to the Noctilux is just the confidence booster I’d need. I can’t get enough of this lens, it’s literally stuck to my NEX 7 hehe.

    • Yes, I thought it was always coustomary to add the images of the lenses attached to the camera for those of us who like to see what the relative size of the set up looks like. Tomas just got strait to the point as where I like to dabble around a bit.

      • Here are photos of the Noct on the camera.

        I tried posting this link several times but I think the blog software prevents URLs in posts. Let me try it this way (remove the quotes):

        “https://picasaweb.google.com/husick/OMDWithNoct?authuser=0&feat=directlink”

  22. It seems Nikon 50 1.2 wins for the price/cost…it makes the Noct seems not worth the 15X cost factor

  23. I prefer to have the Nikon, save a lot of money to buy other gears. Could not see big difference between these two lenses. Actually, I have an old Nikkor 55mm f1.2 non-Ai converted to Ai by myself, I found it is very good.

  24. For once I much more prefer the Nikon (except the one with the car plate — where both suck for some reason)

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