Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1998/09/06

[Author Prev] [Author Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Author Index] [Topic Index] [Home] [Search]

Subject: Re: [Leica] Noctilux Questions
From: Chris Bitmead <>
Date: Sun, 06 Sep 1998 14:07:52 +0000

Robert G. Stevens wrote:
> Chris:
> I think I have not stated myself clearly again.  The benefits of the
> noctilux over other fast lens is that it is sharp, contrasty, and has
> incredible shadow detail and penetration.

Well, I'm not trying to start a C vs L war or anything. I'm just
interested in low light photography, and the lenses people use
for it.

Now umm.

Sharpness: the photos you posted seem more limited by the
graininess of the film. The Canon seems quite sharp. I don't know
who is the winner.

Contrast: I'm extremely impressed with the contrast of the Canon.
In fact it's almost something I'd say is part of the "look" of
this lens.

Shadow detail and penetration: I put absolutely no effort into
printing these shots, and I don't have a negative scanner, so I
can't really comment. But this is the bit where I get confused.
Perhaps you could help me on this one because they are not terms
which I normally see associated with lenses.

In the case of B&W film, my understanding is that shadow detail
is a function of the type of film used and the development time.
Less development brings out more shadow detail but too little
produces a flat negative etc etc. Similarly, printing has a lot
to do with how well shadow detail is rendered.

Similarly with "penetration". It seems to me the degree of
penetration will be mostly dependant on degree of contrast in the
orginal scene and the films latitude to render detail in shadows.

Now sure, lens flaws such as poor flare control and stuff can
cause all sorts of reductions in a lenses ability to record the
scene including shadow detail, but there are plenty of lenses
which have good control of flare. And we are talking about prime
lenses with a relatively small number of elements.

Let me play devil's advocate for just a minute. Could it be that
because the Noctilux is used in dim lighting situations that the
contrast of the important scenes is very low? In other words,
since they do not have harsh direct light, but rather more
diffused light of indoor type situations, that these scenes are
all low-contrast? And if so, we would of course find excellent
shadow detail because the shadows aren't very deep in the first
place? In zone-system terminology, the scene doesn't cross many

I think it would be fascinating if someone tried a controlled
test of this between the Noct and some other 50mm Leica lens.
Same exposure, same development, same film, same magnification,
same subject, same printing technique and time. I'd love to see
this phenomenon with a direct comparison.

I'm not saying you are wrong about this or anything. It's just
not something I fully understand, and seeing is believing as they

> I guess in conclusion, the Canon lens is usually almost as expensive as a
> used Noctilux, so you might as well get the real thing.

The real thing eh? Well, even if it is the real thing (Whatever
that means), I would have to get an M6 to bolt behind it, which
kind-of changes the $ equation.

> Other fast lenses
> for amodern SLRs are not as good as the Noctilux either.
> Regards,
> Robert
>  At 01:07 AM 9/6/98 +0000, you wrote:
> >Robert G. Stevens wrote:
> >>
> >> Chris:
> >>
> >> I may have mislead some people in my previous post by saying it is the
> >> rendering, not the sharpness, implying it is not a sharp lens at f1.  The
> >> lens is very sharp at f1.  The baby's eyes have detail in even the iris of
> >> the eye.  What other F1 and F1.2 lenses have is a fast speed, but poor
> >> properties wide open.  Your photo is a good argument for that.  In my
> >> picture you can even see the texture of the paint on the chair, while yours
> >> has an overall softness to it.
> >
> >In my original print, the areas that are in focus are pretty
> >sharp actually, but the depth of field isn't enough to have him
> >all in focus. The camera is angled down a bit I think, and only
> >his head is actually in focus. I don't think the Noctilux can
> >work miracles as far as DOF.
> >
> >There is another photo here, the original is 8x10", also taken
> >with the 50/1 at f1.
> >In the original print his hairs are very clearly discerned. You
> >can also see subtle fibre pattern in the cuff of his sleave. His
> >eyes are black because of the lighting. These photos aren't
> >printed particularly well. I only borrowed the lens for a day to
> >make some test shots. Overall, I feel the Canon is reasonably
> >sharp at f1. It's not as sharp as a 200mm prime stopped down to
> >f11, but then I kind of doubt the Noctilux is either (correct me
> >if I'm wrong). Other softness seems to be caused by lack of DOF.
> >DOF is about 2cm so it wouldn't seem surprising if there is an
> >"overall softness". I would have thought "You cannot change the
> >laws of physics" would apply here.
> >
> >
> >
> >I don't think we will solve which is the sharper lens until
> >someone can see some real prints side by side. At f1, subject
> >angle and focusing are so critical.
> >
> >
> >
> >

- -- 
Chris Bitmead