A Noctilux is for Life, not just for Christmas! By John Tuckey

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!







All the best

John Tuckey





  1. You don’t buy this lens for it’s overall sharpness at 0.95. You buy this lens because it can shoot at 0.95 and very well thank you. It renders images differently to each of the other lenses. The image shape, contrast, colour (well grey scale here) and the out of focus areas are what makes the lens.

    That said, I am a fan of the Schneider 50mm on the Kodak Retina as well.

    Here, the lighting makes the image as much as the lens. Great shots and I would speculate that they would be great to everyone on a different 50 mm lens because of the skill of the photographer in posing the subject and the lighting.

    Nice shots.

  2. Lovely images! Sharp they’re not, not even where they’re supposed or expected to be. So yes, a number of oldfashioned (Russian. 😉 lenses would probably have achieved the same effect. Lovely nonetheless, where the lighting plays an important role.

  3. Nice portraits with very good lightning indeed but a complete misunderstanding of the Noctilux to me. As Steve stated here once: we want fast lenses to shoot them wide open otherwise there would be no need for f1.4 or even f0.95 lenses. Take the same set up add an ND 1.2 filter or at least 0.9 to it and open the Noctilux up to f1 or f1.4 and then there will be definitely magic!

    • i had the nocti and i had the lux, i was keen to see if i needed both – could the nocti be my only 50?. trying to decide whether to let my lux go and just keep the nocti was the reason for shooting it at f4. the nocti is still much softer at f4, much more flattering to skin as an example. in the end i kept the nocti and the lux 😉

  4. What is ‘old school’? Something mentioned a couple of times here and in other posts of high contrast B&W shots in past posts.

    High contrast B&W seems to attract the expression frequently. I believe it is a misnomer. Professional ‘old school’ photographers produced images that were of a wide dynamic range with a lot of tonal variation. In reality the high contrast shots were failures or the result of cheap camera, cheap film and poor processing and any combination thereof. Often home jobs or professionals on the run with deadlines or away from base processing.

    It is the aim of every photographer to achieve a ‘look’ they are imagining and it is not my place to say if they are right or wrong in their choice. It is their choice, so for them it is always right. Also its not my place to say if they have achieved their target, only they will know that. John seems to have achieved his goal as he has presented the photographs. Well done to him for that achievement.

    But calling something with high contrast as ‘old school’ is inappropriate. Old school photographers produced images with wide tonal quality and graduation from black through to white. There are millions of B&W shots from the mid 1800s on to attest to this. Museums, galleries and the internet will show examples. The high contrast ones usually come from home development or roving photographers shooting and developing in a hurry.

    John’s shots are far from ‘old school’ they are in a new style. One that is developing and covers black blacks to white whites and little in between on one side. Through to those that John has presented. Images that have areas of wide tonal variation within a high contrast surrounding, a surrounding that also includes part of the subject. It is using tone and lack of tone as a substitute for DOF, or an enhancement of DOF. It is definitely not ‘old school’

    This is old school http://www.flickr.com/photos/powerhouse_museum/3332674800/ and there are thousands more.

  5. I like the images. I think the lighting helped you achieve a given look, which I might call “old school.” My one bit of constructive criticism is that except for #2, she has the same basic look and face angle. She’s a beauty, and I (for one) would rather see more variety. Glad you have a Noc!

    • I agree with Bob, nice photos but since her face looks pretty much the same in every shot (same expression, same angle, same light). You should pick your favorite from this series and that should go in your portfolio. The arm in the last shot looks a little odd as well, as if it’s someone else’s.
      Overall, I love the mood and tones you created though, like someone else mentioned, very classic.
      Well done!

  6. In a studio you could take pictures like these by a ten dollars Jupiter-8 or a twelve dollars Chinon lens. Nice photos but do not show why this lens is superior to anything made after 1950.

    • Beautiful photographs, gorgeous lighting and tone – but using f4 or smaller apertures with flash is not what the lens you’re reviewing about is it? Shouldn’t that be used wide open in low natural light? As any decent lens could render such scenes (with a good photographer attached as yourself of course 😉

      • Sometime I drive my Porsche below the speed limit. Why? Because I like to. I suppose I should trade it in for something else as I don’t use it as it was designed to be used. Also, I sometimes use a flat head screwdriver where I should be using a Phillips.

      • hi Ibraar, sorry for the delay in reply. Indeed, why shoot the nocti at f4 with flash? my reason is simple, this was one of my first nocti shoots and i was keen to see how it would compare to the same types of shots id have taken with the summilux. why? well if i can just keep the nocti as my only 50, then i can sell the lux. why? well that would be enough to buy a whole contax 645 rig… just as a random example you’ll appreciate 😉

    • actually, they still have a different character at f4. trying to decide whether to let my lux go and just keep the nocti was the reason for shooting it at f4 in the first place. the nocti is still much softer at f4, much more flattering to skin as an example. in the end i kept the nocti and the lux 😉

  7. I’m just glad that my passion tends toward old Sonnars as they are much more attainable, not to mention they block a lot less of the viewfinder.

    • Noctilux on F4? Ban him! Jail him! Take Nocti away from him!

      Just a joke.

      I enjoy the photos, especially 2, 3, 4 and 6.
      To this extend, that I`m grateful for my strong will. I`ll not go for MM again… Well, not in coming months…

  8. An excellent series! This crazy lens and the M9 are a killer combo. Nice delicate post processing as well.

    One little criticism however: On the shirt shots, three of them had the focus set on the far eye, not the close eye.

    This produces a disturbing and unnatural result when the image is viewed closely, but from far away this is not a problem.

    Just be careful in the future. I would assume this happened because you chose the edge of her face for split prism focus and this unfortunately set the focus on the far eye.

  9. The lens does have a nice character. I think the M9 did a fine job. Also the light was very creative. Looks a little the glamor shots of old. The model is also not hard to look at. Good stuff.

  10. Lovely photos.

    I had a Noctilux in the early 2000’s and regret selling it. The photos I took were not very good, yet I love looking at them anyway.

        • I have to agree with Greg here: these simply amazing photographs are brilliant because of the model, the pose, the lighting, the composition, the editing—in short, because of the content, not the visual quality. In my opinion the DOF in the last photo is too shallow, and keeping both eyes in focus would have been desirable (in that regard I actually think the Noctilux often leads to inferior photos: it “has to” be shot wide open as that’s the reason for its high price).

          Apart from that though, I think the photos would have been just as terrific if they had been shot with a kit zoom lens. Sharpness doesn’t matter here, bokeh gets lost in the darkness, contrast is deliberately stark. I don’t think the character of the lens is particularly accentuated.

          These pics would be great with any lens. That’s why they are not great examples to promote this lens. If anything I’d argue that they are great examples to show how much more important lighting is than the lens.

  11. Very lovely photos! I’ve just started using my Noct (.95) on the new A7R. In my opinion, the A7R is the body the Noct was meant for. I almost always shoot at .95, and with focus peaking, I’m nailing about 95% of my shots. A significant improvement over my M9.

    • My first thought exactly, Jim! Love John’s setup and his compositions! Beautiful model with a great look and her comfort in front of the camera! It all adds up to some very nice images!

      Well done, John!!!

    • I was thinking the same – who cares about the camera, lens, lighting, exposure, bla, bla. I want to know her name! what a beautiful woman!

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