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Why The Noctilux?

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I think the the Nocty is one of the few Leica lenses that really benefits from the 1.33 crop factor. On a film camera, the extreme corners not only at f/1.0 but even at f/2.0 are terrible, worst than a cheap SLR zoom. Of course it was designed for great performance on the centre, were the subject is. Leica designers thought that usually at f/1.0 the corners are dark and/or out of focus.

Incidentally, according to a test I read some years ago, the effective aperture is not f/1.0 but f/1.15.

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Original implementation of the Noctilux was for PJ's and low light shooters pushing film to it's limits back in the day. The vignetting in the corners wouldn't be that noticeable under those conditions - like concerts or dim street scenes...

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I had one as my standard lens for a year on the MP. I frequently carried an ND filter, as well.

 

It was the Best Standard Lens I've ever owned for my type of shooting, and I did NOT often push it "just for the bokeh," but rather isolating subjects.

 

I understand comments about the "f/1 look." Swirly out of focus areas I don't like much, but with careful composition, the Noc doesn't give that look.

 

The Noc also taught me that with grainy film (usually Tri-X in Diafine), sharpness isn't as important as the image itself- that it is but one component of the image.

 

I wish I had another. I traded it (and everything else Leica) for a 5D and a bunch of lenses. Now I'm back, and will eventually carry the Best Standard Lens on my M8. The Canon 50mm f/1.2 didn't do it, for me.

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I doubt it. I think the attraction of the Noctilux is quite often the bling factor. The M8 has brought a lot of brand-aware dilettantes to the M system who were previously put off by the 'film-only' nature of the system. The kind of people who once bought Montblanc pens and claimed that they couldn't write with anything else.

 

Absolute verbal diarrhea:rolleyes:

:rolleyes:

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Guest guy_mancuso

About as a elitist statement that i have read. Come on Ian , people just want the best there is and I'm one of them . Not elitist at all my images count and reason we buy this stuff.

 

 

Frankly it is sickening to hear stuff like this , not picking on Ian but on some forums outside these walls i can bearly read what pigs and spoiled brats we are because we buy Leica. Just becuase we have the money to be able to buy the best quality we can makes us no different than buying the best stereo's , TV's and stuff like that . Folks just want quality products and in this case great images. Hell i could easily get by with Canon or Nikon but i want better images than the next guy and frankly not the greatest ROI you get from buying Leica , it's a stretch for some people. Just becuase we own it does not make us capitialist pigs. Sorry this is my biggest pet peeve about owning leica is the attitude towards the end users and we need to enlighten people that is not the case at all. The Nocti has a special place to make unique images period and people want unique images and there is not a damn thing wrong with that it is actually a good thing for the Art of photography. Okay end of rant and sorry i jumped on the soap box but this attitude needs to go away. My mentality is to have the best I can get be that my gear , my wife and my life.

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In fairness to Ian he didn't say that that _everyone_ bought the M8/Nocti for its 'bling factor'. Perhaps it would be better for people to carefully read what was written before posting a tirade against the poster.

 

As it happens I tend to agree with Ian, it seems indisputable to me that _some_ people will buy into the system purely on the basis that it's expensive and is perceived as cool and retro, rather than any other reason. Nothing wrong in that, but it seems silly to assume that everyone buys it because it fits their photographic need.

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Guest guy_mancuso

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I was not exactly referring to Ian to be clear but it did bring up what clearly is the attitude towards leica owners which is very unfair. Sorry but everyone buys something that is cool and retro and that is the way of life be it Leica or any other product. I'm sure everyone on this forum is quilty of one item they bought in there life that was bought purely on cool factor, my Iphone for one. Guilty but i love it and it works. I just think we are so quick to condemm leica owners than anyone else , that is more my point. Ian sorry i was not really directing at you.

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With respect to the Ian brouhaha, it is of course true that some people purchase expensive things for other than practical reasons. So what?

 

The implication that the Noctilux is somehow devalued as a tool because some buy them for their cache value is ridiculous. It's like suggesting that one should not buy a Porsche Turbo because some who do can't possibly drive them to their full potential.

 

There's no disputing that the Noctilux is very expensive, and has limitations. But as far as I, and obviously many others are concerned, its potential as a tool clearly outweighs those other variables.

 

Regards,

 

Tony C.

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Noctilux is a great lens no question about this, it is peer to none in poor light conditions and more, I dont agree with others saying it is dificult to use or focus, but no body here mentioned the frustrating problem of backfocus or focus shift that owners of the Noctilux (and some other Leica lenses but moe noticeable on Noctilux) are experiencing! when I bought mine a brand new coded fat and beautiful Noctilux last February from my Leica London dealer, I was not aware of the backfocus problem, at the same time focusing results were not satisfactory all the times, frankly speaking I reffered this matter to various possible reasons including my eyesight as I did not dare to accuse this unique lens until I read about this problem in this forum, I did my extended tests and sadly found that this brand new expensive lens is not doing the focus job properly on my M8, I am reading others experience on this problem in this forum but still unable to understand Leica silence on this very problematic issue that undermine the whole merit of Leica quality that we all feel proud about. Noctilux is a real joy to own but..

 

kind regards.

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There is an extended article about focusing issues in the current LFI. It explains how there's a focus shift for all lenses, and how digital exacerbates this situation. Your lens may be fine.

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Guest guy_mancuso

Well the Nocti i had in Germany to work with for 10 days was dead on , which made me order one and looking forward to it . So let's see some images right. Talk is cheap. LOL

 

From Germany a little collection of Nocti shots

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As it happens I tend to agree with Ian, it seems indisputable to me that _some_ people will buy into the system purely on the basis that it's expensive and is perceived as cool and retro, rather than any other reason. Nothing wrong in that, but it seems silly to assume that everyone buys it because it fits their photographic need.

 

I frankly don't know why anyone would buy a nocti for that reason. NOONE but another Leica user would ever recognize the nocti as anything other than a rather large lens on an old fashioned looking camera, and Leica shooters are a pretty scarce breed. It is possible a couple of people may have bought one so they could have bragging rights here or at the Rangefinder forum, but they would be in the extreme minority. I very firmly believe most of us have them for the unique fingerprint and their ability to see in the dark.

 

I had one for a couple of years, then got the 50 lux ASPH and stopped using the nocti for awhile. Finally, I sold it and within a couple of months realized how much I missed the look so I bought another one and won't make the mistake of selling it again. I also have the 50 cron and all three 50s have totally different characteristics.

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The reasons why the Noctilux in its f/1 form was introduced more than 30 years ago were fairly simple – film was slow with 200 ISO just attainable for colour. Lighting at public events, theatres, in the home etc. was far less bright than is normal today and the then existing high speed lenses had a strong tendency to flare. The Noctilux enabled pictures to be taken in circumstances where photography had previously been either impossible or subject to chance. The lack of flare produced images with good colour saturation and enabled subtle colour differences to be seen. Leica made great play of this last point as an acceptable way of saying it had low flare without having to acknowledge the flare problem with its other lenses. The enhanced contrast associated with the low flare was very welcome as it gave the visual impression of higher resolution, compared with its contemporaries, and noticeably improved picture reproduction in newsprint.

 

It was also introduced as a marketing tool to mark out the high tech credentials of Leica who well understood the effect having such a product in the catalogue had on sales across the range. In practice it often became one of the lenses bought by those who could afford them at the extremes of the M lens range where sales have always been surprisingly strong.

 

To achieve these plus points some limitations had to be accepted. These included deliberate vignetting at large apertures to help contain aberrations, focus shift on stopping down, relatively poor performance in the near focus region and noticeable curvature of field. It was also extremely sensitive to calibration errors in the focusing mount and the custom in the early days was to send both a lens and a body, preferably an M3, to Leica to be “calibrated”. Leica, of course, never acknowledged that this rather brought into question their “any lens on any body” claim, but everyone knew exactly what the game was.

 

In this role it has survived as a useful tool but things in the photographic world were and are changing. Film got a lot faster and newer lenses started to have even less flare. Today we have the M8 with its ruthlessly analytical flat sensor. In this context the question that has to be answered is whether it still offers any advantages. All the optical limitations become much more apparent with an M8 and the relatively weak MTF performance is now subject to greater enlargement due to the crop factor.

 

There are those who very much like the way the Noctilux “draws” a sort of low resolution high apparent contrast view of the world which is quite difficult to simulate if pictured are taken with one of the other lenses. This is so subjective that it defies analysis. I can only say that I found it quite attractive in some circumstances with high speed film but I don’t like it with the M8. Then there are those who say they like the restricted depth of field, which is to say that they need the depth of field at f/1 as the Summilux is identical in this respect from f/1.4 down, this is stretching credulity a bit far in my opinion. The Noctilux can only start to be compared with any of the other 50mm lenses for optical performance, even in the centre of the image, from about f/5.6 to f/11 which seems a bit pointless.

 

It is simply not the “best” lens though it is by far the most expensive. The question that has to be asked is: “If the Noctilux is so good would people buy the other 50mm lenses if they offered the same optical performance on an M8?” The answer is almost certainly no. Customers expect better and would soon start to make unfavourable comparisons with other brands and with other lenses in the range. The performance is to my mind only acceptable if it enables pictures to be taken that could not be taken with other less expensive equipment. Those situations just about still exist but they are very rare and becoming even rarer. I predict that its days are numbered.

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Peter,

 

Your interesting post appears to be a mixture of some facts and assumptions which makes oversall assessment a little difficult. Rather like the Noctilux itself. I am slightly reminded of the well known Putts who theorizes at great length, but for my purposes, no benefit.

 

Simply put, my use of the Noctilux, for all its dollar worth does give me what no other lens can in the form of light gathering ability and shallow DOF. I am not influenced by arguments about how close the Lux 50 comes since close is not equal. In my work vignetting and a degree of abberation is not an issue. The issues are light gathering and DOF. After all the speed benefits of the high ISO performance of the M8 are taken into account, the Noctilux allows me to go further. The 1.33 crop factor, to me, is just an extended focal length. I am not interested in the actual value. It just works as it does, so I use it.

 

Had I not invested in the Noctilux years ago, I may have considered the new Lux 50, but that is only speculation and not likely to happen, although I readily admit the small footprint and faster focus mechanism are superior to the Noctilux, as is the weight. Coming from a large Hasselblad outfit the weight is not what I notice however.

 

Perhaps I am repeating my earlier post, but the Noctilux is a useful tool to be selected when the other tools don't quite give the same desired result. It is different from other lenses, with both good and bad differences, defined only by the users perception of those differences.

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Peter,

 

I appreciate your Noctlilux history review, but question some of your conclusions.

 

There are those who very much like the way the Noctilux “draws” a sort of low resolution high apparent contrast view of the world which is quite difficult to simulate if pictured are taken with one of the other lenses. This is so subjective that it defies analysis.

 

It strikes me that liking the way a particular lens draws is always subjective. That doesn't make the attractiveness (or unattractiveness) of a given lens' signature any less real or important than measurable characteristics.

 

I can only say that I found it quite attractive in some circumstances with high speed film but I don’t like it with the M8.

 

Well, guess what? There are obviously many people (myself included) who very much like the way the Noctilux paints images when used on an M8. To condemn the lens in large part based on your subjective dislike of that combination seems rather silly.

 

 

Then there are those who say they like the restricted depth of field, which is to say that they need the depth of field at f/1 as the Summilux is identical in this respect from f/1.4 down, this is stretching credulity a bit far in my opinion. The Noctilux can only start to be compared with any of the other 50mm lenses for optical performance, even in the centre of the image, from about f/5.6 to f/11 which seems a bit pointless.

 

It's quite true that the vast majority of Noctilux owners use it mostly wide-open. That's where it excels, and, as you yourself have admitted, it is a unique tool under those circumstances. As to the second part of that paragraph, you seem to be missing the whole point. The Noctlux draws in a unique manner, and is useable under extreme (low-light) conditions, so why would it be meaningful to compare it to other 50mm lenses in unrelated technical terms?

 

 

It is simply not the “best” lens though it is by far the most expensive. The question that has to be asked is: “If the Noctilux is so good would people buy the other 50mm lenses if they offered the same optical performance on an M8?” The answer is almost certainly no.

 

No one on these forums ever talks about the Noctilux as being the "best" lens, except in terms of its unique abilities. It's a tool, like any other lens, albeit a very specialized tool. And the answer to your question, which is a silly hypothetical to begin with, is yes, of course people would buy the other lenses if they offered the same optical performance.

 

Now, the one question which is not easy to answer is whether the unique signature and low-light capabilities of the Noctilux warrant its current high price tag. Each person will have to answer that question for his or herself.

 

The performance is to my mind only acceptable if it enables pictures to be taken that could not be taken with other less expensive equipment. Those situations just about still exist but they are very rare and becoming even rarer. I predict that its days are numbered.

 

You think that we will soon see a lens capable of the Noctilux's low-light performance and beautiful signature? I won't be holding my breath. And irrespective of when Leica discontinues production, we'll be seeing fantastic images resulting from the M8/Noctilux combination for a very long time to come. Count on it.

 

Regards,

 

Tony C.

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Then there are those who say they like the restricted depth of field, which is to say that they need the depth of field at f/1 as the Summilux is identical in this respect from f/1.4 down, this is stretching credulity a bit far in my opinion. The Noctilux can only start to be compared with any of the other 50mm lenses for optical performance, even in the centre of the image, from about f/5.6 to f/11 which seems a bit pointless.

 

It's quite true that the vast majority of Noctilux owners use it mostly wide-open. That's where it excels, and, as you yourself have admitted, it is a unique tool under those circumstances. As to the second part of that paragraph, you seem to be missing the whole point. The Noctlux draws in a unique manner, and is useable under extreme (low-light) conditions, so why would it be meaningful to compare it to other 50mm lenses in unrelated technical terms?

 

A great point. In fact one of the best reasons to use a Noctilux on the M8 instead of a film M is that, because of the very high top shutter speed, you can use it wide open in almost any lighting conditions without resorting to ND filters.

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I doubt it. I think the attraction of the Noctilux is quite often the bling factor. The M8 has brought a lot of brand-aware dilettantes to the M system who were previously put off by the 'film-only' nature of the system. The kind of people who once bought Montblanc pens and claimed that they couldn't write with anything else.

 

How would you know why I bought my Montblanc pen ?

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The performance is to my mind only acceptable if it enables pictures to be taken that could not be taken with other less expensive equipment. Those situations just about still exist but they are very rare and becoming even rarer. I predict that its days are numbered.

 

I doubt that its days are numbered. I chatted with a Leica employee this past week who told me that the waiting list for Noctiluxes, and that is not just 30% lenses, but also full price lenses (which apparently includes a non-trivial number of lenses bought at the full new price, including the price increase!), is so long that Leica is considering suspending order-taking for this lens until they catch up. He assured me that I would not get my lens in the next 4 months, and this is an order of early July.

 

The lens is simply unique. I always found the look on film a little overboard, but the M8 tones it down just enough that I think it really comes into its own. I did play with a copy I borrowed from another forum member for a couple of weeks before deciding to order one, just to make sure that I knew why I was doing it, and I love it. It has a portrait look on the M8 like no other lens, which is exactly why I am buying it. It is also fun around town, for creative depth of field, as well as brilliant when it is dark, but I am buying it for its portrait abilities, personally.

 

We should be careful about judging each other's reasons for wanting things.

 

.

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