View Full Version : New 50mm F-1.0, a good "standard lens" or a special case?
I had the opportunity to handle a new Leica MF the other day, as a Leica rep came through Cleveland. Nice. I very much liked it with the f1.0 lens.
I've heard that the lens suffers from flare and isn't really a good standard lens, compared with other 50mm's- that the f-2 and f-1.4 are actually better for hauling with the camera.
I'd like to know what people here think.
This is still "an idea," as I've not the time to find someone to buy the Mamiya 7 and lenses quickly enough for me to make my Wednesday "Goin' back to Portugal" deadline... I was thinking of using the Leica there.
I know that even poor 6x7 lenses can create images that look better than the best 135 format shots possible, but the little Leitz still has an attraction...
Unless you habitually work in dark places where flash is out of the question, you are much better off with a Summicron, which is smaller, lighter, sharper and less expensive. Part of the reason to go with 35 mm is portability and this property should be compromised only by necessity. In close to 50 years of photography I have used f1.4 or faster (I once owned an f1.2 Canon on a Canon 7 RF) fewer than 6 times, and only really needed it once. Depth of field is the big limitation. There's not enough of it at maximum aperture when the subject is closer than 20 feet.
That it isn't as sharp would be the prime consideration- I admit that I'd only use it at 1.0 rarely, but it it isn't as good as other lenses stopped down, there's no point. DoF isn't much of a consideration- I've shot lots of pictures with a 100 f-2.8 allaway open...
The Noctilux is an outstanding lens. There is NO flare. That being said, you need this lens if you are limiting your photography to nighttime, low-light pictures. The drawbacks are many. It is HEAVY! The DOF wide open necessitates carefull focusing and lots of practice. if that's your "thing" go for it. The lens is not limited to wide open however. At F4 and up you will be hard pressed to differenciate from the Summicron. only after using a tripod, and enlarging the images beyond 16X20 you might see a slight edge to the summicron. If you do decide on the Noctilux, get the next to the latest version, the one with the snap-on hood. The collapsible version is a pain as it does not lock out. And you can save yourself a good deal of money.
The Noctilux, as the Summarit on its heyday, suffers, according to some Leica users, of a certain softness. I was thinking about one myself, but the legendary Summicron convinced me. Not long ago I considered getting a Summilux, because I was getting a fairly nice deal from a store in NY, but again, the Summicron won by being nicely sharp at f2.
If you intend to do a lot of night- or available light photography, sure, nothing beats the Noctilux. But at the price it comes... I wouldn't know how to justify the expense.
If we had to justify the expense, we'd be taking pictures with a $200.00(or less) point "n" shoot and Leica would have passed from the scene 50 years ago.
Leica would be in the same company as Rolls Royce, Mercedes Benz, Cadillac, Range Rover, BMW, and so many more.
Actually, from what I understand (from the Medium Format Super Site) many modern box cameras have center lens resolution far greater than film could resolve.
We pay for all the other things that go along with it. The only way I could rationalize a Leica purchase is that it is functional.
Kajabbi, you're right about not needing to "justify the expense." However, let me put it this way: I couldn't justify an expense the size of the Noctilux because I don't know how many times I'll get to use it to its full "power", or to its full capacity. Besides, I already have a Summicron, so the 50mm focal length is covered.
Now... I really would like the Summilux 35mm f1.5 Aespherical. I can justify that purchase to myself, the problem is I don't have the dough. That's all...
Francisco, I entirely agree with you. I came up in the era where the 50MM lens was the "universal" lens. I still feel more comfortable with the 50. I do use the 35MM, but in dim-light situations, I seem to retreat into my original comfort zone(50).
If you ideal zone is the 35 then, by all means, explore the choices available in the focal length. Cosina makes a 1.7 that is gang-busters(for a more realistic price). I have the old 35Mm1.4 and am very happy with the results. There are quite a few aroung and the price isn't too bad.
The Cosina Voigtlander 35/1.2 seems a good choice for those more comfortable with a 35 lens than a 50. Here is a link to the first role of pictures I shot with this lens. I cheated an used a flash for a couple shots, but otherwise,
Not having used a Noctilux can make no comparison, but I was shooting 1/30 sec and 1/15 sec on many of these shots.
Silly way to spend $2,000. Silly way to get back & neck pain.
Mmmmm. Silly. I like being silly, especially if silly takes good pictures.
I just came back from a trip where the 1.0 would have been a good thing, as I was limited to f-4 with the standard lens, not that I missed any photos, but instead had to lean on things, stabilize the camera, &c.
Wish I could find a nice bright standard for medium format that was packable! Leica might have to do the trick.
The Noctilux was designed for one thing.....photos wide open at F:1. Why would they make this lens otherwise. To use it at F:8 is NOT what it was designed for!
How many photographers NEED this speed? Some Nat'l Geo. photogs. (William Albert Allard shoots alot of natural light indoors), come Magnum photogs. shooting Kosovo refugees huddled around a single candle, etc. But for the most part....isn't F:1.4 fast enough (IF you use it wide open?).
It's horses for courses....you don't need this fast of lens unless you really NEED it. But go to any Leica meeting and you'll see several mounted on cameras being worn as...well, worn as what?
Yeah, if I had the money, I'd guess I'd have a Porche or Jag, but do I need it.....no. But, hey, this is America...if you want it and can afford it...why not go for it!
OKAY! NEW LEICA PRODUCTS WE CAN EXPECT! Stefan Daniel, the head of Leica product development (I think I got that right) started out by putting a prototype LHSA gray hammertone MP on the lectern in front of him. He confided that when he first saw the gray hammertone top plate, not yet fitted to a body, he didn't much care for the look of it. After he saw the finished camera, though, he though it was "all right."
Asked about the possibility of a digital M, he explained what we on the Leica Forum already know: it can't be done with present sensor technology. Stefan said it was their dream to make one; but until someone comes up with a sensor that doesn't have to have little micro-lenses in front of the pixels, or little filters, it will stay a dream. Someone wanted to know if he perhaps had a digital M in his pocket, and wasn't satisfied until Stefan turned his pants pockets out!
So, no digital M. How about auto-focus? Nope. Will there be an APO 75mm f/1.4? Stefan didn't know. Will there be a redesigned and updated 50mm Summilux? YES! It is a priority! Stefan said we can expect one. How about a 75mm Summicron? Stefan said a lot of interest has been expressed, and it "could happen."
What else? Stefan said Leica is not satisfied with their lens hoods and caps on some models, and is looking to improve them. And--are you ready? They are considering made-to order Leicas. You tell them what features you want, and they build it. Sort of like a Dell computer, maybe?
FYI! This was taken from another Forum.
This was an interesting discussion on the famous dilemma Summicron vs. Summilux/Noctilux, but now it took a nice slant.
Thanks for the news, kajabbi! Is this from the St. Louis meeting?
I'm planning on joining the LHSA at the beginning of 2004. Will I be able to attend their meetings? Only if they take place in Chicago, and if they include a weekend! :p
Bact to the Track: if the 50 f1 becomes the standard again, we might see a new generation of Summicrons and Summiluxes at lower prices! That surely will affect the Leica "wearers", but not us, poor saps with champaign-taste-on-a-beer-budget.
However, I still doubt about the "practical" reasons to make a switch and turn these fast lenses into the main thing: in fact, we're seeing pure marketing muscle here, the same muscle that transforms Leica into "male jewelry"...
This report originated in St Louis at the LHSA annual meeting.
I would think the reformulating of the Summilux 50 ia a given as the current formula is thirty+ years old. The improvement will be in the images at F1.4. and probably F2. Beyond that the lens is as good or betteras 99% of us that use them.
As far as the Noctilux becoming the "Standard", it's not very likely. I very much doubt that the F1.0 has be manufactured in the last 5 years. I think LEICA is still selling stored inventory and there will not be a "new" model developed and built for years if ever.It would be quite revealing to know the actual movement of new Noctiluxes at retail in REAL numbers. My guess the number would be extremely small. Much more sales in the "used" end of the product. "I get tired of mine and sell it". You buy ,use it for a while, sell it to another and so on. As LEICA users we tend to take good care of our stuff, the used market is full of "cared for" items.
In other words, the Noctilux is pure Leica hype.
As I stated above... I'd have a hard time justifying its use. When would I get to really use a very fast lens? Not on a camera whose fastest shutterspeed is 1/1000, and which seems to gag if you load it with regular film (400) on a sunny day. The truth is that I've seen Noctiluxes for sale at $1900, but then, that's about the cost of a brand, spanking new 35 'cron Aesph, which I would appreciate more.
Good we're on the same boat here, kajabbi. Can you imagine a day in which such a fast lens becomes the standard? Fuzzy photos galore! :(
Francisco, with the advent of Digital, I doubt if the manufacturers will spend the necessary R&D on such a product anytime soon. HOWEVER, if the market should demand it, a lens that fast would theoretically possible.
It is my view, however, that if "digital noise" can be completely eliminated at higher speeds(ie. 400,800,1600.3200.) then the need for fast standard lenses will substantially DECREASE.
Hmmm... Sensitive media plus slow lenses with short focal lengths makes it hard to limit DOF. Well, we can add attractive bokeh electronically, can't we. :-)
95% of the Digital users do so because they can look at the "TV" screne and know which way to point the "D-----" thing.
i've one in me bag. paul must be weaker than me 3 year old, hell it's only a pound and a quarter!
I like the Nocto alot I love low light capability of it and love the look of portraits taken at f 1 , however, I don't use it that often and the f/2 stays in my bag always. ( I borrow the f/1 from my boss) that way I don't have to shell out $2K myself...I don't know if I would spring for one, but it is fun to use:)
That "fun" of course is the reason most people use [i]any[i] lens.
It's an interesting idea, that 1.0 lens. Completely impractical right now, but interesting.
I have "Temporarily" satisfied my "Noctilust" with a Canon 50mm F0.95 for two reasons: I could not believe that any lens could be as bad as "some other" Leica Forums claimed it was; and I got it for $200 on a BIN over lunch. I lucked out and got the non-TV version. If you get a TV lens, I have seen instructions on the 'Net for adapting it to an M Mount.
This shot is the 2nd taken with the lens. RF was right on with my Canon 7, no fine adjustments required. Very limited DOF; but little or no vignetting wide-open. Shooting a few rolls with it did not produce the flare or other faults that "made it worse than the bottom of a coke bottle" according to some. In my opinion, overall sharpness compares with a Canonet QL17.
Now I just need someone to list a Noctilux for a $200 BIN thinking that it is an Elmar.
"Tough Day at Pre-K", Canon 7 w 50mm F0.95 wide-open.
That looks like a lot of depth of field for f/0.95!
I did, in fact, answer my own question.
About a month before I went back to Portugal, I decided to trade in just about all other cameras I own, as I was going to finally commit to the Leica (in Portugal, pronounced "Leeka")
So I got a Noctilux, a 135 Elmarit, and a Contax IIIa Colordial (and working meter) which takes the CV 21mm and who's shutter is rather better than the Kievs...
It's a "Yes," by the way. The Noc is heavy, but completely usable as a normal lens. It does have its idiosyncrasies, but it's not nearly as hard to focus right as many have claimed. I have lots of practice on cameras without the sharp-edge spot of the Leica, and found the Noctilux just as easy to focus as any other. No blown shots for focus, exposure, or any other reason- a record for me.
It's a nice lens. I am used to carrying around a Mamiya Universal and though the Noctilux won't ever replace that wonderful f/2.8 100mm, it certainly falls in line next to the other lenses I have for my MP.
Bring along an 8x ND filter, a 60-62 step up ring, and slow film. Wide open in the daylight is fun!
I've found that I do spend lots of time in restaurants and other dim places, so it's a perfect all-arounder for me.
The attached picture is Tri-X shot at 1250, with a Wide Open Noc for exposure, in a sushi bar near the Ponte Salazar (apenas bricando!). A touch grainy, but not objectionably so. Not my best work, but the first out of the soup.
50mm summilux asph 50mm summilux asph 50mm summilux asph 50mm summilux asph 50mm summilux asph 50mm summilux asph 50mm summilux asph 50mm summilux asph
Try to find one at a decent price. They don't yet exist at the "Black G2 plus 28,45, and 90mm lenses" pricepoint. "now" is better than "later," at times.
D. Laney writes in his book (I have the German version, Leicaobjective in der Praxis)
" Certainly not an universal lens. In bright light the results do not even come close to
a Summicron 2.0". I would love to check that statement :D
M like Leica M6
I own a similar lens, a Voigtländer 1.2/35mm. This lens is excellent, but heavy and big - the Noctilux is even heavier and bigger. After a day in the street I sometimes wish I had a 2/35 instead because my hand is aching from the weight, but on the other hand I would feel like a snob if I had two prime lenses of the same focal length. I am sometimes happy about the extra possibilities that a 1.2 lens gives me, but in 95% of the cases I could easily go without, and in fact I use my Summicron 2/50 very, very often, also because it is ultra-sharp. With a Mamiya 7 you are not really used to compact equipment, but try a Leica with a 2/50 or 2/35 and feel the difference.
Lovely bottle. I borrowed one from a very generous friend for a year. Yes, it's huge and heavy, which for me tells against it more than any lack of image quality as compared with the 50 Summicron (which I used so little I sold it 12 years ago). My 'standard' lens is the last pre-aspheric 35/1.4, which I love because it's so compact -- but I'm seriously wondering about borrowing another 50/1 for a forthcoming trip. ANY 50 is a bit specialist for me so being 'double-specialist' doesn't worry me too much. If I can't borrow the 50/1 I might even take my old 50/1,2 Canon, where the image quality is abysmal next to the Noctilux, let alone the Summicron: the speed matters more to me than the quality.
I keep with me a 35mm ASPH Summilux (also the widest I have) when I need a wider field of view. Mamiya 7? Ha! I sold THAT lightweight a while ago- the Universal with the 250mm weighs in at close to 4 kilos!
I'd someday like a Summilux ASPH 50mm, but the Noc is still a pretty good optic. I took lots and lots of pictures with it, and indeed it can be used as a standard lens, for me. The arguments of weight don't hold water, but that's personal, and I know it- many folks prefer lighter, smaller, and faster focusing. After I got practiced, none of it made a difference to me, and I've yet to miss a shot, or be uncomfortable as a result of what I mentioned.
I love the diversity of opinion as we express it on this forum, and thanks all!
This is my opinion: the super speed lens are fantastic for nightshots, but I believe that when you use an aperture like 1 - 1.2 - 1.4, you need a very accurate focus, because when you miss the focus at this apertures, the image appear blured. I think, for me, that the best option to take relative sharp pictures is make the photos between 1.4 and 2. Obviously the super speed lens are big, heavy, and probably enter in your viewfinder... I prefer lens smalls and portables
I's true that the Nocti is not known for tack sharp photos at f1 but if you are looking for that "painterly" effect then get the Nocti. I have used mine allot and it always performs well for me. That having been said I do not believe that I have mastered this lens after having it for a year. It is merciless if you try to use it at the one meter focus distance. I find that setting it at about two meters focus and then moving closer or farther away from the subject to fine tune my focus gives me better results. An amazing lens and you can see some examples of photos taken with this lens in my gallery. I like it allot for portraits in available light. That soft look with a beautiful women. Nothing like it!
JD, I'm glad you found the Noc to your liking! And I'm heeding your words too, since I don't object to packing around a 645 camera either (I do wish their lenses were faster). Not the Noctilux for me, I think, but I've been tempted by the 35 Nocton and Summilux.
David Oliver, the great Australian photographer uses the noctilux to deadly effect. It is an excellent lens, but for that particular crazy bokeh quality, I just go for a summicron collapsible. Obviously it does not have the same miniscule plane of focus, but it is still pretty small at f/2 and it seems to have a similar character to it.
As for the 50/1.4 ASPH, I bought one last week and it is absurd. What a freaking amazing lens. I am working on a writeup on it and I just posted a few photos on the leica forum at photo.net. It can be had for a "reasonable" price if you look around. I got mine for 2200 new. Grey market, but 2 year warranty. It has perfectly damped focus and aperture, the locking hood is great, and it is not much bigger than the summicron. Its sharpness at f/1.4 is pretty darn close to the summicron at f/2. It only gets better from there.
The attached picture is Tri-X shot at 1250, with a Wide Open Noc for exposure, in a sushi bar near the Ponte Salazar (apenas bricando!). A touch grainy, but not objectionably so. Not my best work, but the first out of the soup.JD, in further examining your photo I see something curious around the woman's arm... You know how illustrators often draw a sketchy line outside the line of the actual object to indicate motion? I see a faint hint of that particularly near her wrist, elbow, and shoulder. Was her arm moving, and was that a slowish shutter speed? Almost more noticeable peripherally than directly... And her fingers are more blurred, yet the menu (?) is not as blurred... odd.
Yeah, slow shutter speed, and I think she had *just* jerked her arm- handing us the menus. It was pretty dark in there. Most shots were 1/15 or 1/30 and WFO (wide... open).
My lens is sharp enough that it's making me think about sending my 35mm in to Leica to make sure all is well with it... The 'lux just doesn't seem sharp. We'll see.
If the 35 lux ASPH doesn't seem sharp, something is wrong.
The Noctilux is the oldest LEICA lens design for 50mm's now.. unchanged from 1976... quite an eternity... And I doubt they will change it ever... things have changed a lot since then... Probably the Noctilux is nearer to vintage LEICA lenses than to newer APO/ ASPH. Summicron/ Summilux 50's or 35's glasses swith their tack sharpness.
I have a Canon 0.95/50. It makes pictures at f/0.95 - quite good. Kind of "impressionistic" - nice for portraits. Sharp enough, but not for technical use. I beg the Noctilux isn't either. If using a lens at f/1, I assume more or less "total darkness". Otherwise it would be wiser to take an f/1.4 lens with double-ASA film... once I did some shots (2 or 3) with this lens at f/2.8. Here it's very sharp and contrasty... but hell: if light enough for f/2.8 why take an f/1-lens?? Poor guy, can only afford one standard lens? And carry it's immense weight?
If you close the f/1-lens to f/8 or 11, you getn't the performance a modern, compact f/2-lens delivers at f/4. Sorry to say. But no reason to blame the designers for, this isn't what they aspired, and always told you. These are designed for speed.. get light on film *at all* wide-open - sacrificing universal use...
Part of the story is that I wanted a fast lens that I could trade gear for- and nobody had a 'lux of any flavor locally (Cleveland, I could almost be on the moon as far as Leica gear goes!) so I found a Lux, an involved trade we made, and I walked away with a Lux, a 135 Elmarit, and strangely enough, a Contax IIIa. I lost 4 or 5 cameras, 9 or 10 lenses, and ended up with something that works well enough.
I agree that the purpose of an f/1 lens is probably more often best used at f/1, and it's fun to do so! Would have I taken a Lux? Yeah, I would have. Then again, this got me the most for all of that pesky gear hanging around collecting dust...
I'd LOVE a Summilux ASPH!
Note too that much of my picture taking is with Tri-X pushed in Diafine to 1200- a bit grainy, but more importantly, if I'm hand-holding at 1/15 wide open, goin' to 1/8 is hardly an option with a stop darker lens- I'm certain to get worse shots.
And about the 35mm Lux... It was "new," but a store demo. Old style (mid 90's) box, it's been in use as a demo for a long time. It does indeed take "nice" pictures, but the Noctilux does seem to have a better bite. Sadly, that's all I can compare it to- I'll have to throw the J-12 on the Contax, and if IT'S sharper scanned, the Lux goes back to the factory!
I use a Noctilux all time. Yes, it's big & heavy for an RF lens, but certainly not overwhelming for me & I'm hardly athletic. A couple years ago I used it w/a 50/2 Zeiss-Opton Sonnar (mounted via a Contax RF-LTM adapter) on a trip to London (UK) to nice effect for both daylight & night shooting--now that was a big disparity in size & weight between 2 lenses! [Bodies were an M6 TTL 0.85 & a Contax IIa]. I also think it's just a damn fine lens, whether I'm shooting @ f/1 (http://not.contaxg.com/document.php?id=1071&full=1 or http://not.contaxg.com/document.php?id=1003&full=1), f/1.4 (http://not.contaxg.com/document.php?id=1300&full=1 or http://not.contaxg.com/document.php?id=1217&full=1 or http://not.contaxg.com/document.php?id=1291&full=1), or even "stopped down" to f/2 (http://not.contaxg.com/document.php?id=1181&full=1) or f/2.8 (http://not.contaxg.com/document.php?id=1221&full=1). The swirly boke has never bothered me, nor has it been apparent in many of my pix. Most of all, I like the Noct's resistance to flare. Load some Neopan 1600 in the M & there's almost no place too dark for me to shoot!
Of course, if the 50/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH had been available in 2002, I might have been tempted to get that instead, but no such thing existed, so I got a used Noct' off eBay.
Also, FWIW, there are a few daylight Noct' shots here:
The weight of the Noctilux doesn't bother me. 50mm is not my favorite focal length, so if I could use only one lens that would not be it. However, if I had to use only one 50mm as a standard lens, I could see using the Noctilux because of the extraordinary speed. Indoor lamplit exposure--with dim lamps--is often 1/30 at f/1, whereas it'd be 1/8 at f/2. You get a lot more photographs when you can shoot at 1/30, I find. The design, as advertised, seems to have no flare at all, so you don't worry about direct light sources in the field of view or just off axis, either, which is a pretty common situation in available light situations.
I think the zero depth of field of the Noctilux also creates lovely indoor portraits: well lit subject with creamy-looking out of focus backgrounds.
I have no complaints about the Noctilux at smaller apertures, although I agree with others here that if I had to pick an all-around 50mm, were doing it over again, and could find and afford it, I would probably choose the new Summilux ASPH, which clearly has the best all around performance of the Leica 50mm lenses. I think the one advantage the Noctilux might have is its absence of flare, although I have not been able to try the Summilux so am just basing that on reviews.
Ditto re: the speed issue. This is 1 thing that some folks who don't do a lot of lowlight (non-flash) shooting may not appreciate. The difference between 1/8th & 1/30th sec. can be huge, not just for the shooter's ability to handhold, but also to reduce subject motion blur (which can be a problem if you're shooting musicians, performers, or fidgety children/adults).
50mm is not my favorite focal length, so if I could use only one lens that would not be it. However, if I had to use only one 50mm as a standard lens, I could see using the Noctilux because of the extraordinary speed. Indoor lamplit exposure--with dim lamps--is often 1/30 at f/1, whereas it'd be 1/8 at f/2. You get a lot more photographs when you can shoot at 1/30, I find.
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