Two months with my Leica Noctilux f/0.95 by Jim Main

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

M240 J Main-L1001484-Edit-2

M240 J Main-IMG_0189

M240 J Main-IMG_0184

54 Comments

  1. I’m not so sure about the noct bokeh. I find it too unsettling. It is almost distracting. I really feel the bokeh should be bokeh not the main feature of the picture. I really prefer the bokeh of the 50 lux and even the 50 Apo. It is nice for one-off situations and occasional pictures but the bokeh alone puts me off buying a noct.

  2. I never understand why people get so up the curb when people use these lenses wide open. Why does everyone want EVERYTHING sharp? It’s such a narrow minded and old school ideal, IMO

    • It isnt a ols school but modern taste because smartphones and point and shoot cameras. The old school is to have a shallow depth of field what is used as painters use paint.

      You need to understand the light, colors, composition and meaning of all them together and only few photographers really manage to do that for few of their shots. It isn’t depending from gear itself but about photographer and most who buy these special lenses can’t do it.it is too easy to hide your bad composition and choice by blurring everything today than reveal them in background,

      Same thing as why most vacation photos are bad because they are all sharp.

  3. I really like the one of the boy on the beach and two kids in the field, very nice work!
    I often wonder if I should sell my Summilux and a couple other lenses and just a Noctilux… the size turns me off a little though.

  4. Dear Jim,
    Thank you for sharing! The photo on top is great! I agree with you: the rendering of the unsharp-sharp-unsharp transition of the Noctilux compared to the Summilux is a lot different, even stopping down the Noctilux to f 2.0.
    I own a M240 with Noctilux 2 months now. I use the lens with a UV filter 60mm and a ND 8x filter 62mm (plus adapter ring) which does not interfere with the hood.

  5. Jim, your photos are gorgeous. I love that Leica lens creaminess and presence, which the Noctilux takes to the next level with it’s razor thin DoF. In talented hands such as yours we can really appreciate what it’s capable of. Thank you for sharing these.

    • Simply because I’m not brave enough to leave the front of the lens unprotected and I was taking the ND on and off a lot. I’ve since bought a B+W Vario ND that pretty much manages to stay on the lens most of the time as it goes from 0.5 to 5 stops withdrawn simple twist, highly recommended.

  6. Well, the shots are interesting, but following the reasoning that not all the shots are to be taken full open because it is matter of “context” (and I wholly agree on this), it seems to me that for a “one-trick pony” the price is way too high – I would prefer the Voigtlander or SLR Magic equivalent (I won’t start a war on build quality but let’s admit it, other brands are equally capable of excellent craftmanship). So in the end, if you feel you have made a good investment and are happy with it, it’s ok…

  7. Well, there we have the typical rangefinder style pictures… one centered object with an extreme shallow DOF.. i’m bored!

  8. In all fairness to the Noctilux and to those of us who like it, no one said you have to shoot it wide open on every shot. I stop down to 1.4 frequently. The isolation is almost as good and the lens is sharper with better DOF. Please don’t tell me why I should use the ASPH Lux instead. I have one and the Noct gives me the option of shooting wide open when either the light level or the need for isolation is appropriate. ISO 6400 at f/1 and 1/60 is equivalent to EV 0 which is pretty dim light. With the Noct, you still have a sharp image if you do your part.

    • Wow !… you stopped down to f/1.4 frequently !

      Well Rod, you spend the whole 10K on the Noct…so nobody can tell you that you have to use the summilux, right?

      For isolation the DoF of 1.4 or 2.0 is enough…..in daylight 0.95 you need a ND filter of at least 5 stops

      • I don’t think spending 10K on the Noct requires you to shoot it wide open all the time anymore than spending 4K on a an ASPH Lux requires you to shoot it wide open all the time. If that was the case, there’d be no need for aperture mechanisms and they could drop the price by a couple of thousand. I shoot it wide open as I feel the need. You’re right about the ND filter.

        • So a fixed noct with only 0.95….I think that would be the right thing to do, with a build in ND.
          As a Photographic Mechanic I can tell you that the aperture mechanism is fraction… the big spending is in the glass and to get the 0.95 Aspherical.

          You’re right 4K for a 1.4 lens in in the same order, the advantage there is the size and weight.

          I read a lot about these Noctilux buyers and in 99% of the time it’s about the myth.
          However if you can define what it is in the Noct that makes your pictures have your identity … than 20K would be fine to me to.

          Example…The movie Barry Lyndon by Kubrick with the one and only NASA 50mm f/.7…. He never used that on f/5.6…and I guess that the Zeiss is .7 fixed

  9. To say there’s too much blur means you don’t understand anything about composition. Yes, blur for blur’s sake would be cliche…but the way these shots are composed, the blur is completely relevant and of course makes the shot. If you imagined any of those shots as composed without the background blur, they wouldn’t be interesting anymore…just mundane every day photos….the akill of these photos is ro compose them the right way so that when u highlight the subject by using differential focus, the shot immediately becomes eye catching and interesting. I think these are all fabulous shots!!

    • So, if the shot isn’t interesting you pay $10,000 to make it interesting?

      First things first, find something interesting to photograph. ‘blur’ (or any other additional signature, like glow, or saturated colour, etc.) should be the icing on the cake, to make the interesting thing astonishingly interesting.

      Besides one very interesting chocolate box cover shot (the corny field shot) I think these are demonstrations of a lens in search of something interesting. And the difficulty arises because habitual blur removes context from the subject, a bird is just a bird, there is nothing around it but blur, and it soon becomes a starvation diet for the eye when repeated time after time. After seeing a few they all become meaningless and thereby pointless. They mean something to the photographer because he knows the dog is a characterful little scamp, but heck, it’s a dog with blur around it to the rest of us. We can’t share in the context of the occasion because blur is being used instead of composition and communication. They are very introverted photographs.

      • Well stated and I agree. I prefer some carefully framed context that adds meaning (I don’t mean distracting busy backgrounds or foregrounds) and perhaps that is why I often shoot between 24mm and 35mm focal length.

      • I don’t like being critical of others’ images and I REALLY like the enthusiasm of the shooter here but I have to agree with Steve. And I think the Noct is an amazing lens and I love many shots taken with it. But you have to use it not for the blur per se but for the specular highlights… AND you need to have compelling subject matter. If you do those things, yeah, that lens is incredible. Go to Flickr or Flickriver. Two months with the lens? Take ten years and see what kind of miraculous shots you have to show.

  10. The first picture and the one where two kids standing in the wheat field are my favorite ones. Very nice.
    Though I find the bokeh is a little too much or too busy as others say. Or simply, I am graduating from bokeh addiction.

    • Every lens has different signature of bokeh, say texture, clearance, etc. I wonder why it is to be criticized to comment on bokeh. Notice nobody complains/criticizes about composition. We are just talking about preferences on bokeh made by f0.95 lens.
      Also, using f0.95 lens at f1.4 is something to be criticized? For what sake?

  11. I guess I’m one of the few that doesn’t particularly like ultra shallow DOF for every picture. I think it works great for shot #1 and #4, but it seems a bit excessive for the others in my opinion.

  12. Also being an owner of the Noctilux, I must say it’s a fun and interesting and challenging lens.
    However,I think we sometimes put too much emphasis on the blur or bokeh.
    Not every shot is required to be shot wide open. It is an easy habit to fall in with the Noc.
    I find some of the photos here well done, but honestly, some of them could have been stepped down a couple of stops. There is a point where the blur is just not necessary, or where it just demands too much attention.

    • I agree Bruce, but that is what Noctilux is all about….got to 2.0 and you have plenty of good lenses doing the same or better.
      It’s a matter of taste…with your own eyes you will never see an image as the noctilux does at .95, so it’s a kind of art. That’s why you prefer to stop down some time, because it’s more real…

      Don’t think much people here agree with you

  13. Thanks for sharing. I’ve had my Noct for nearly three years and it’s my favorite lens… it’s on my M9 95% of the time. The only thing I’d add to your experience thus far is that sometimes in addition to shooting wide open, I’ll stop-down to f8 or even f11 and get a second shot of the same subject (wide open and stopped down). I found I was missing some great shots by only shooting wide open.

    • Hi Chris, if you try one it’s addictive and I find it can turn completely mundane subject matter into a picture. However as I said in my intro it’s not to everyone’s taste, I also added a comment above saying that since these I’ve been using the lens a lot more at f4 and beyond. The lens seems to retain its creamy effect even though it produces razor sharp depth.

    • Amy, you shouldn’t “change it up” just cos you’ve reached a quota of left-facing shots. If the moment presents itself, take the shot.
      Even if you flip the image in post-production, making the subject face the opposite direction can affect the way we see and “feel” the photo. The brain process left and right facing images differently.
      If there was a specific photo that you think may look better facing a different direction, then maybe you should state that.

  14. I completely agree. I’ve had mine for about three months. The only reason I use any other 50 is because the Noct is a little slow to focus. Other than that, the images it produces are pretty amazing. Nice work Jim!

    • Thanks Rod. As I said in my intro, I find the opposite to you, I seem to be able to pull in the focus quicker with the Nocti than the Lux.
      One thing I’ve done since buying to which has helped me considerably is I bought a +0.5 diopter correction piece, this effectively brings the viewfinder back to 0.0 as they leave the factory at -0.5.
      Don’t just buy one online though, go into a shop and try them, they come in 0.5 steps.

    • Easily one of the best set posted here by far. PP is great, sharpness is spot on and of course the bokeh from that hunk of glass is just dreamy. Particularly liked the field shot.

    • Hello Chris, Gregory and all other ‘posters’. Thank you for all your comments and my apologies for not commenting earlier. I’ve been traveling in India for the past two weeks with little web access and I didn’t realise Steve had posted this till today.
      I agree that when you first get one of these the temptation is to use it open all the time. There’s two reasons I did. First is the ‘magic’ it seems to produce but second is that it makes you pay great attention to accurate focussing, there is very little margin for error on this thing, especially close up. On this trip I’ve been taking more shots at f4 and higher I.e. towards f16. I’m staggered by the sharpness this lens is capable of at these apertures, it’s no ‘one trick pony’ in my opinion. I bought a B+W Vario ND filter before this trip and it’s been a fantastic addition in the bright Indian sunshine and it goes down to half a stop so I’ve actually left it on the lens full time in place of a uV protector.

      Again, thanks for all comments, that’s what these forums are designed for.
      Jim

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