Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2004/06/03

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Subject: [Leica] Re: FS Noctilux
From: mark at (Mark Rabiner)
Date: Thu Jun 3 10:15:12 2004

On 6/3/04 3:17 AM, "Richard Ogden" <> wrote:

> Mark Rabiner wrote:
>> Yea but how good was the Noct 1.2? I heard not so good.
>> Mark Rabiner
>> Photography
>> Portland Oregon
> A short-lived British magazine called 'Creative Photography' ran a test
> report in their February 1982 edition comparing the 50mm f1.2 lenses
> then available. They came to some interesting conclusions:
> - 'Our test target is perfectly flat and simply not the kind of target
> for which these lenses are made. Depth of field is so limited at f1.2 or
> f1.0 that you don't need to understand a lot about optics to realise
> that edge resolution will look awful when the centre is focused.'
> - 'Fact: fast lenses may take better pictures in the field than in the
> test lab, especially at the edges of the field at full bore.'
> - The magazine identified what it called 'a fatal flaw' in using f1.2
> lenses - 'the inability of the 35mm film track to hold film flat enough
> for all parts to stay in perfect focus.'
> - They conducted 'Star Tests' to check how these lenses resolved point
> sources of light - common elements in the subject matter for which these
> lenses might commonly be used. They concluded that 'it is very clear
> that the Noctilux and the Noct-Nikkor have a significant head over the
> opposition.'
> - In their opinion 'you would only be advised to spend nearly ?600 on a
> Noctilux (1982 prices!!!) . . . if you intended to use the lens at
> nothing but its full aperture, because it has no significant advantage
> over any other lens when you stop down to f2. If anything, the
> performance in general terms of the very high cost lenses was
> disappointing. . . . . for general, as opposed to night time or low
> light news shots, the Nikkor standard f1.2 was actually better than the
> Noct-Nikkor.'
> MTF figures for the lenses tested (average of readings) was as follows:
>                       Centre (10 lpm) full aperture    2 stops down
> Leitz Noctilux F1.0 50mm        62% (@ f1.0)            73% (@ f2.0)
> Nikon Noct-Nikkor f1.2 58mm     64% (@ f1.2)            80% (@ f2.4)
>                        Edge (40 lpm) full aperture     2 stops down
> Noctilux                        16%                     22%
> Noct-Nikkor                     15%                     30%
> Incidentally, in view of the recent discussion regarding the replacement
> of the 50mm Summilux, I checked their test report in the January 1982
> edition.
>                       Centre (10 lpm) full aperture    2 stops down
> Leitz Summilux-M F1.4 50mm        71%                     88%
> Leitz Summilux-R f1.4 50mm        73%                     90%
>                        Edge (40 lpm) full aperture     2 stops down
> Leitz Summilux-M F1.4 50mm        23%                     38%
> Leitz Summilux-R f1.4 50mm        26%                     43%
> They concluded that 'Leitz achieved staggeringly high full contrast in
> both their lenses (M and R types) but they clearly design for good
> central performance at the expense of edge quality where the Japanese
> makers go for overall even coverage with less full aperture bite.'
> Their overall conclusion was that 'the ultimate lens for low light
> photography on very fast film . . . is the Leitz SDummilux-R 50mm f1.4.'
> Looking at their results the Summilux-M is only a tiny margin behind,
> with both lenses clearly ahead of the competition if open aperture
> performance is the main criterion. The new Summilux has something to
> beat to improve on the current version!
> Hope this is of interest.
> Richard
> ****************************************************************************
> From:             Richard Ogden
> e-mail: 
> *****************************************************************************
> _______________________________________________
> Leica Users Group.
> See for more information

Felix what you are saying about the very high speed glass has the ring of
truth to it to me the only thing I have along these lines are the Leica
Noctilux current and the Nikon 28 1.4. My 50 1.4 Nikor AI I use as a loupe
in lieu of the amazing cheap and lightweight and small 1.8 D Af lens from

I'm not big on the 2.8 monster zooms though and have gone the variable
aperture route. Moose and that Thom guy with the yellow backgrounds both are
leaving their monsters at home and are using variable aperture half the size
half the weight half the cost options. They produce equal to better images
than the monsters.
Canon has no answer to the 12-24mm f4 Nikkor DX G AF-S ED IF Aspherical I
get a lot of mileage out of which translates to a 18-35 when you multiply by
1.5. The most popular lens configuration out there for that film stuff we
used to use.
To compliment my 12-24 I use the awesome 24-85mm f3.5-4.5 Nikkor G AF-S ED
IF which also gets raves from everybody and has a 67mm instead of 77 filter
size. Much smaller gaze. This becomes a 35-135 at 1.5 and is my default lens
when I shoot Nikon digital or film. The lens I'm about to get maybe is the
Nikon AF 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 G-AFS ED-IF DX Lens which is super compact as
it's designed for the digital format and translates to a 28-105. And as I'm
used to Leica over the past 10 years all this stuff seems priced to sell. 3
or 4 hundred bucks. Chump change.
I'm not a photojournalist who needs to suspend my subjects in a low light
Bokeh zone as a matter of course. And 3.5-4.5 Bokeh is ok too these guys are
using curved aperture blades now ever since they started reading the lug on
this subject and lots of them too! (aperture blades). And "Phil" flash and I
go way back. (It's my old pal "Art" who went over the top in WW1! He's long
gone but I remember him.)

I may get a second D100 and not have the drive on it to do more street
shooting with.
But come to think of it I'll just keep saving for this Epson Cosina body
about to come out for my Leica glass. Then see how much I can get for the
Nikon stuff on EBay. I'll buy "EBay for Idiots" one of those yellow books I
saw on the shelf in Powells technical bookstore.
Right now I'm reading "Jewish Mysticism for Morons" another yellow wonder
which I got in one those green bookstores in the chain with the cappuccino
in the malls.

Mark Rabiner
Portland Oregon


In reply to: Message from richard at (Richard Ogden) ([Leica] Re: FS Noctilux)