Noctilux

7 March, 2013

‘King of the night’

So many superlatives have been thrown at this one lens.  8 Letters + 3 special digits gets the heart racing.

NOCTILUX 0.95

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A feat of human engineering.  Fastest Production Prime on the planet.  If your a Leicaman, this is THE lens to aspire to add to the arsenal.

The sheer cost of it adds to the legendary status.  Apparently only 2 make it out of the factory everyday in Solm Germany.  Apparently the Glass takes a year to cure.

This is the closest that images can come to ‘paintings’, bokeh becomes pastels.  Sharpness is insane wide open, no veiling whatsoever.

Is it perfect?  No lens ever is.  At this level of performance, purple fringing in back lit contrasty situations is prevalent.

It’s heavy, blocks the viewfinder and is not very unobtrusive due to the size (a counter-intuitive reason to buy into the leica system).

So why did I acquire it?  f0.95

Shooting wide open just for the sake of it is mundane, a cliche’.  Just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.

However, shooting at such a gorgeous aperture with intent to produce some magic, careful composition and framing…

well, there is no better 50 on the planet (Leica 50 Summilux asph comes close!)

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It is ironic and acknowledged that Leica has the most superbly engineered lenses of any manufacturer.

Yet their sensors are A LONG way behind in terms of output above 800 iso.

Given their price point, this really shouldn’t be.

The upside is that because their lenses are designed literally to be used at large apertures, this slightly compensates for the sensor.  But really, it shouldn’t be.

The recently new M has addressed this, but moving from CCD to CMOS may have taken away what has made the M9 a masterpiece.

Low iso quality and acuity.  Images just ‘bite’.

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Web images, especially downsized jpegs will never be able to showcase these wonderful files.  Sure they aren’t as malleable as Nikon’s or Canon’s.

Out of the camera, they just need a slight tweak to finish them off.

There is a beautiful structure to the files.  It retains detail, even up to ‘higher’ iso’s, but to the detriment of noise.

Digital noise in itself is ugly, especially luminance noise.

The M9P noise is actually very similar to the Nikon D800e, however, the D800e has about a 2 stop advantage, plus the crazy 36 Megapixels to play with.

So why spend a five figure sum on a single prime (no matter how exquisite).

Well… Justification is always personal.  It’s the sum of 2 parts.  The leica rangefinder system + the Noctilux.

The process of getting the image in a day when automation is prevalent (see Nikon D4), has almost been lost.

It is very easy to set what I want, aim, acquire and wham… instant image.  Wedding photography the way I shoot it requires this… at speed.

The Leica system is not designed for that.  Some say you can shoot a whole wedding on a leica, sure… but your risking ALOT.  Like not getting the shot.

With anything I do, I want to know it’s not gear, it’s me.  Photography is funny like that.

If a lens isn’t sharp and your question yourself that it might be your hand holding technique but really, the lens is flawed.

It’s better to move on.

You cannot add detail that wasn’t there in photoshop, no matter what the hacks say ‘we’ll fix it in post’… duh.

A good example of why I have this lens can be found in the question of why I don’t have the Nikon 50mm f1.4 and dislike the Canon 50mm f1.2 L.

The Canon veils like it’s nobody’s business wide open.  It is crazy bad.  4 sample variations confirm this (as well as Canon reps admitting it is a dog of a lens – the 85mm f1.2 L on the other hand…)

If I am going to pay for something, anything, it had better live up to it’s billing.

The Noctilux does this in spades.

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Camera gear always gets upgraded, especially the bodies.  Technology gets better and better.  Lenses too can benefit from Technology, tighter tolerances and better material.

I do foresee that the Leica Noctilux will be in my bag for the long foreseeable future, or until photography is of no interest to me anymore (can’t see that happening).

An exquisite piece of glass will always be an exquisite piece of glass.

If Photographers out there become ‘jaded’ with what they do, please do yourself a favour and pick up a rangefinder camera (a film one would be even sweeter).

Shoot with it exclusively for a month.  You will feel the pleasure of owning the images you make, they are truly yours because you worked for it.  There is no automation.

The captures are all you.

It is inspiring for me to just pick up the machine that is the M9P with the Noct.  The all metal all glass kind of feeling.

Knowing it’s heritage, what it can do (obviously what it can’t do) and wrap the silk artisan artist strap around my neck and head out.  It’s like my drug.

If you have any questions for me on this or my experiences with the Leica System (I owned an M3 and M6 and shot Weddings with Film back in the day… geez I feel old)

please don’t hesitate to email me.  I love this stuff.  :) V

 

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