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Leica 50mm f/1.2 Noctilux AA - Shot Wide Open - Part 2

Leica 50mm f/1.2 Noctilux AA - Shot Wide Open - Part 2

It has been three weeks since I posted the first part of this review. Admittedly, to look at this lens render at any aperture setting other than wide open can best be characterized as a big tease. Although at the end of that writeup, I did have one image shot wide open.

But yes, I know... I think that the expectation would have been to have all the images of that writeup to be photographed wide open. Well, that's why I said there would be a part two. And here it is.

First though - the disclaimer. 

Time doesn't always work in your favor. So the first half of this writeup was taken right before sunset. The second half was after sunset. The first half was taken in my office, without any interior lights, using only whatever available light was coming through the window. The second half out on the street.

In addition, all the images on this writeup was taken with the Leica SL Typ 601, seeing that this is presently my go-to camera. I've actually received some criticism for forsaking the Sony A7r MKII in favor of the Leica. To be honest, I know that the Sony is a great camera, but for some reason, it never grew on me. As for the Leica SL, it's growing on me, despite the limitations in manual focus aid.

I am aware that this is not suppose to be a Leica SL test. But focusing the Leica 50mm f/1.2 Noctilux wide open isn't exactly a walk in the park with the Leica M240 and even the Sony A7r MKII. With the Leica SL, I'm very surprised at how accurate it focused this first version Noctilux. I was concerned because on focus magnification, the EVF didn't look sharp. But when I loaded it up on Lightroom, it looked fine to me.

Leica SL aside, the Leica 50mm f/1.2 Noctilux is an interesting lens. The first characteristic worth noting about this lens is the way it renders details. It appears to be sharp without significant contrast and clarity. As such, this makes the 50mm f/1.2 a natural portrait lens. It's much more forgiving in the way it renders skin. Perhaps it's because of it's thin depth of field. But the 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux has an even thinner depth of field (I'm assuming), and it seems to render with much greater contrast and clarity. 

A half hour before sunset, facing the window. ISO 100, 1/250th.

...with the conference table behind... also ISO 100, 1/250th 

One of the more curious aspect of the Leica 50mm f/1.2 Noctilux is the distortion of both vertical and horizontal lines. It is obvious that this lens would not be the best lens to bring with you if you're going to shoot a fair amount of architectural images. In some cases, if your camera isn't leveled, the vertical distortions could be extremely exaggerated. I don't know why this is the case, but I believe that this distortion is the defining characteristic that makes this lens special.

With a view of Victoria Harbour in the background. ISO 100, 1/250th, and Exposure Compensation +2. This image was shot slightly tilted, so I've leveled it (meaning there's going to be some cropping involved). What's interesting is the distortion of vertical lines in this image. I noticed vertical distortion from this version Noctilux, if your camera isn't reasonably leveled.

And now facing the other side of Hong Kong... ISO 400, 1/250th Exposure Compensation +2

Inside my office, ISO 400 1/250th

Closer... ISO 400 1/250th

How the distortion makes this lens special is by rendering a spiral effect. When shot without an interesting background to render, this spiral effect is not apparent. But when the background is cluttered with detail - especially during the nighttime - this spiral effect cannot be left unnoticed. It's very strong, very visible, and it defines the way this Noctilux renders images.

Finally outside, with the sun setting. ISO 560, 125th of a second. The spiral effect in the background bokeh.

Closer up. ISO 140, 1/250th of a second... I really don't understand how the ISO is so low? It was dark outside. For some reason, there's less spiral effect here.

Even closer - More bokeh! ISO 1600, 1/250th of a second. ISO is creeping up, but still much lower than I would have expected. Again, the spiral effect in the background.

However, I don't know how to excite that spiral effect. Here at the bus stop, where there are some noticeable vertical lines, there doesn't appear to be any distortion. Perhaps it's the way I held the camera? But that doesn't seem to make sense. 

It is also possible that this distortion, and therefore spiral effect, is a product of focusing distance. If the subject is further away, maybe the image becomes less distorted?

At the bus stop. ISO 280 1/250th of a second.

Closer. ISO 200, 1/250th of a second.

In the final analysis, the Leica 50mm f/1.2 Noctilux is a unique lens. There isn't another lens out there that renders images in quite the same way. Admittedly, I understand how rare this lens is, and how unlikely most would ever be given an opportunity to try it out. Even so, I think it's important to document sample images of it, given that many might be curious wondering how it renders images - wide open, that is, and not stopped down - like what I did last time. I know, that previous post was such a waste of effort. But I think it's still important to document how it renders images stopped down. Even though it just looks like any other vintage 50mm lens.

After sunset. ISO 280, 1/250th of a second.

Bokeh. ISO 140, 1/250th of a second.

All images in this writeup are full crop. Images have been optimize in Lightroom - however only slightly.

Special thanks to Anna for being a wonderful subject again!

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