Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1999/01/15

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Noctilux fever
From: Joe Berenbaum <>
Date: Fri, 15 Jan 1999 23:56:54 +0000

At 11:40 PM 1/15/99 +0100, you wrote:
>With all the recent ranting and raving about the Noctilux, I thought I'd
>add a (sane) comment to the contrary.
>I don't have the Noctilux.  I have no desire for it.  I fail to see the
>reason for spending horrendous amounts of money on a lens for one more
>extra stop, when using one stop slower shutter speed & bracing, or 
>one stop EI faster film will do the trick. I will admit, though, that
>the bokeh is *very* nice, judging from LUGgers pix.
>I would welcome comments from those who use the older Leica gear. Those
>with IIs and IIIs, who use 35 Elmars and Summarons, 50 Summars,
>Summarits and Summitars, 90 Elmarits and 135 Hektors. Tips for using
>cameras without built-in meters in poor, non-uniform lighting.  Not
>because I'm anti-technology, but because I'm sure you exist and it would
>be a nice balance to the discussions about high-tech, super-expensive,
>exotica.  Leica, to me, is as much about being able to take pictures
>where an SLR wouldn't work, as it is about quality, myth and money.
>I guess it boils down to the kind of photography your interested in.
>I would much rather have a III with 50 Summar and Ilford Delta 3200
>than an M6HM with Noctilux and EI 100 slide film.  Of course, should
>someone give me the M6HM+Nocti combo, the revenue from the sales would
>buy a litter of IIIs ;-)
>No doubt someone will write to "enlighten" me to the fact that the
>Noctilux and Summar are worlds apart with regard to resolution,
>contrast, MTF, lp/mm and whatnot.
>And, by the way, yes, I am interested in "available light" photography,
>and not just at noon during summer.  Still, with EI 400 film, at f2 and
>1/15s or 1/30s (possible with bracing and proper breathing) you can get
>wonderful shots.  With a Nocti, the same would be 1/60 or 1/125 at f1.
>The difference between resting your elbows on the table or not.
>I'm sure that those who have bought Noctiluxes are very happy with
>them.  Still, I'm convinced that spending the equivalent on practicing
>(i.e., film, developing and printing) would ultimately result in
>better photographs.  At least for me.
>Martin V. Howard

I think that "better photographs" is missing the point of the Noctilux. One
could argue that even better photographs are possible with even slower
lenses  if one would merely use a tripod. But they wouldn't look the same.
The thing that a Noctilux alone (unless you consider the Canon 50/f1 lens)
will do is get standard lens photographs but with extremely shallow depth
of field. That is why Noctilux pictures tend to stand out. You can't do
that with the slower lenses- it just doesn't look the same at f1.4 or f2.0.
So if someone _wants_ photographs with that particular look, the Noctilux
is required to get it. Of course you can still get low light exposures with
slower lenses. But where that very shallow depth of field is wanted, you
need the lens that gives it. It isn't a question of better or worse, simply
that one lens does things that (most) others don't. If it isn't your
interest, that's okay. Some of what is raved about here doesn't interest me
too much. Different people have different tastes. But the Noctilux is an
extraordinary lens and it is of great interest to a number of people.

Joe Berenbaum