Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1998/04/25

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Subject: [Leica] Re: ... and the noctilux [ a long story - with a happy ending ]
From: Donald Ingram <>
Date: Sat, 25 Apr 1998 13:09:24 -0400

Just thought I would add my piece to the noctilux thread: It might be
useful to prospective noctilux buyers:

When I first got the lens, I marveled at the quality of construction, the=

smoothness of the focusing. =

My fears of the lens being too large were also dispensed with - so much s=
that after about a year of never using
my summicron - I sold the smaller lens, and have never regretted  doing s=

However I was initially very dissapointed with the resulting photos - the=

optical 'failings' of  lens just screamed out.

The first night after the lens arrived, I was very keen to see just how
good the was, so I rushed some polaroid polachrome through it: the pictur=
were terrible ! =

I had taken the camera out and shot off a dozen pictures around the town
just after it got dark, all taken with the lens wide open.  =

Street scenes were very dark except in the centre - it looked like the le=
had tunnel vision.
The street lights had the biggest coma flashes I had ever seen - about 5m=
on the slide.
The longer exposures ( on tripod ) of 20s or so -  showed some  reflected=

street lights in the sky.

After this I came to the conclusion that this was not a lens for
'technical' night photography.

I then tried something different: I used the noctilux to take 'candid'
photos at my sisters wedding - the results ?

They were just brilliant - the indoor pictures showed a smoothness and
plasticity I had never seen before yet were stunningly sharp  at the focu=
The out of focus background - stained glass windows etc, showed all the
delights of  a smooth bokeh  ( thanks to PT for introducing this term to
the world ). =

I used a color neg film Fuji NPH - the light fall off in the corners was
acceptable and in most cases not noticable.

I also wrote to Leica - Gunter Osterloh as he had commented on the optica=
properties of the lenses in the Leica M book.
I explained my results with the noctilux  and asked which lenses they cou=
recommend for astrophotography and in particular which lenses produced th=
least coma.
The reply was " the 35 f/1.4 ASPH,  NOT the noctilux f/1.0  but  the old
noctilux f/1.2, NOT the 75 summilux but  the 90 summicron "

I thought about buying a noctilux f/1.2 until I saw the price of one

By now it was getting into comet season and I wanted some good pictures o=
Hale-Bopp. Not being able to afford the $8,000 noctilux, I took a gamble =
the Noct-Nikkor 58 f/1.2 ( aspherical ) at only $1600 it seemed like a
bargin even considering I had to buy a body to use it on.

I applied a similar street test to the Nikkor - it passed with flying
colours: no fall off, no coma and few reflections.
I thought that I had cracken the problem - goodby Leica.

 ( btw.  the viewfinder in the  FM2 with the f/1.2 is a lot brighter than=

the Leica viewfinder )

I then took a few rolls of Provia 1600 and TMZ of Comet Hale-Bopp mainly
with the Nikkor but I also took a film with the Leica noctilux as a backu=
=2E =

The photos looked great no the light box  BUT  there was something no qui=
right with the nikkor slides - all the stars were fuzzy.
Compared side by side the 'backup' photos taken on the Leica noctilux wer=
pin sharp and the comet looked a lot better.

In  the end I never used any of the nikkor photos as they looked so bad
when  next to the leica ones. =

The problems with the noctilux  i.e. coma and falloff were still there bu=
the subject was such that they were masked. =

The pure dark sky  meant that the corner light falloff only reduced the
number of periferal stars and the coma - predominantly blue - was only se=
in stars at  the extreme corners of the image, and was not in the least
offensive or distracting.

Surprised by this comeback by the noctilux, I carried out a few more test=

The noctilux is coma free at between f/1.4 and  f/2 and  falloff is
The Noct-Nikkor needs to be stopped down to between f/2.8 and f/4 to be g=
as sharp as the noctilux is f/1.0 =

I sold the Nikkor and kept the Leica noctilux.

I learnt the hard way that the noctilux is one of those things that it
takes a long time to learn how to work with, but once you have tamed the
beast its unbeatable.

I hope this tale will be of value to you.