Nokton 50mm f1.1 – How to master a so short depth of field?

Looking for where the sharpness is #2

Leica MP & VM50/1.1 @ f1.1

This is truly a good question. And I’m going to see if there’s a way to use properly this lens wide open. To see what are the limitations and if it is a good lens. According to some reviewer, it’s almost garbage, but I think it’s better to make my own opinion by doing some trials. The purpose here is not to make wonderful pictures but to see how to use this tool in good conditions. But before we start, let me tell you my history with the Nokton 50mm f1.1.

Looking for where the sharpness is #3

Leica MP & VM50/1.1 @ f1.1

I owned this lens a couple of years ago and I was truly in an other photographic exploration mood. The main camera to use it was the Leica M9 and honestly, it was a pain in the a… to make properly the focus with it. Most of the time I was slightly out of focus and this was really something difficult to accept. I have also tried the Nokton on the Fuji X-Pro1 and then the results were better, but it was not possible to use the full potential with its very short depth of field on a cropped sensor. This lens is able to really paint the light and this is its only purpose. When the new Nokton 50mm f1.5 came to the market, I sold the venerable Nokton to afford it. I hope you follow.

Looking for where the sharpness is

Leica MP & VM50/1.1 @ f1.1

Recently, I had the opportunity to get back the big glass at home. It was no brainer, I missed it more for nostalgic reasons than for real photographic use. But I really liked it and I really like big apertures. But again, it was not easy to master the very short depth of field, and there’s no reason to stop down, otherwise I don’t need it. The nokton 50mm f1.1 is pretty heavy and massive. You don’t take that lens for everyday shooting. Though, I tried it on my M9-P and it is not perfect. I tried it then on an M8 and it was really surprising in quality. Now, I’m making some trials on the M-P(240) with the electronic viewfinder. I read something about another wide aperture lens, the SLR Magic Hyperprime. When coupled for rangefinder, you have to go to Hong-Kong to make the adjustment for the lens with your camera. The tolerances are so tight that it explains why is it so difficult to have a good precision with that kind of lenses. Now, when used with the electronic viewfinder, it’s different, even if it remains complicated. I have applied this principle and get the results you are seeing here. The images are sharper than expected, but it’s possible to keep this shallow depth of field and painted like images. Some reviews said that the bokeh is harsh with the nokton, certainly if you have trees and leaves in the background, but otherwise, it’s apparently pretty smooth.

My Bonzaï

Leica MP & VM50/1.1 @ f1.1

But to be perfectly honest, the rangefinders can be used with an electronic viewfinder, but it’s so much better with the optical one. Though, I was not really satisfied. I was fortunate enough to find recently a Sony A7S Mark 1 on the second hand market for the third of its original price. I know with my previous experience with Sony cameras that the quality is good and with its small pixel count, the camera is a light eater. I’ll certainly make an article soon on this camera. My first lens I tried on this camera was the Nokton. I added the Voigtlaender Close Focus Adapter on it. Next to come, my experience with this pretty impressive combo.

Le D Nasty

Leica MP & VM50/1.1 @ f1.1

There’s not several way to focus properly with this lens. It’s extremely hard to be in focus. To me, it’s practice, practice and practice. Now I have to say that’ it is easier with an electronic viewfinder than with the rangefinder. Small errors in the opt-mechanical parts have less to no effect when the focus is made with the EVF. It’s only your eyes. It remains hard and still need a lot of practice, but from my stand point, it’s easier. It can’t really rely on the focus peaking, most of the time invisible on the Leica M and not that accurate on the Sony A7S. Magnification is necessary, 5 or best 10 times.

Il y a de l'idée

Leica MP & VM50/1.1 @ f1.1

I have read on the web several articles, saying that this lens is no good. I like its character, it’s not perfect wide open, but when the focus is done well, I think the results are very interesting. The booked behind could be sometimes harsh, especially when there are leaves and threes in the background, but I find it pretty smooth otherwise. Some reviewer are real snobs, and they are saying that there’s only Leica… Well, this is not true. Every lens as it own character, and sometimes this is what I’m looking for. I have very sharp lenses and I have others that have a more classic rendering. This is providing sometimes excellent results. I have spend nights reading these reviews and at the end, I decided to make my own opinion. Some of the recent lenses were too much perfect, leaving some images without character. Sometimes like made by a compact camera or an iPhone. With the Nokton 50 f1.1, it’s a different story. It’s not perfect, but if your focus is good, the result is really decent wide open. But, if you are slightly out of focus, then it’s more complicated. That’s exactly what I have seen with le Leica M9 and M-P(240). You must really be in, otherwise there’s some blur on the edges and it’s not that sharp. That’s maybe what other reviewer have seen with their rangefinder, or maybe they give up too fast. I don’t know. This lens is obviously not at the level of the Leica Summilux 50mm Asph. that appears to be one of the best lenses ever made for full frame cameras. I met the same difficulties when I tested the out of range Noctilux 50mm f0.95Asph. It’s hard to focus. It’s hard to be accurate. I have tested my 50 Summilux on the Sony A7S, it’s so sharp that you need to add blur to make the image less artificial. It’s just too much. Might be a very good lens to match with the latest A7RII probably.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/the-itch/20871812704/in/album-72157658187122740/

M8 & VM50/1.1 @ f1.1

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Leica M9 & VM50/1.1 @ f1.1

Le grand Dom

M8 & VM50/1.1@ f1.1

Coffee Magazine & Rolleiflex

M8 & VM50/1.1@ f1.1

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5 réflexions sur “Nokton 50mm f1.1 – How to master a so short depth of field?

  1. Bonjour Dragan,

    C’est la troisième fois que je relis ton article.

    Le 50mm est ma focale de prédilection.
    En 50mm monture M, je possède le Leica Summarit 2.5 et le Zeiss Planar F2.
    Il n’y a pas d’énorme différence entre les deux, sinon ergonomique.
    Le Nokton 1.1 me tente mais ton article m’a « refroidi »… Et pour cause : ce Nokton serait destiné à mon M9…
    Et je ne compte pas fermer systématiquement l’ouverture. Si j’en fais l’acquisition, c’est pour l’utiliser essentiellement en pleine ouverture.
    Me confirmes-tu qu’il vaut mieux passer mon chemin et plutôt m’orienter, quand j’en aurai les moyens, vers le Summilux 1.4 ?

    J’espère que toute ta petite famille se porte bien.

    Amicalement.

    1. Distance de mise au point à 1m, mécanique de précision, mais pour que ce soit bon à f1.1 c’est très compliqué. C’est un objectif fabuleux, mais seulement avec un Sony A7. Avec aussi la bague de close focus pour faire la mise au point plus près. Mais pour le M9, le taux de raté est trop important. A voir sur mon Flickr. Ils a les dernières images prises avec cet objectif. Pour le M9, il n’y a que le Norton 50mm f1.5. Là c’est une vraie merveille. Vraiment une merveille. Pour moi qui en possède deux et aussi le Summilux, je ne sais pas dire lequel est lequel rétrospectivement. C’est de la balle et ça coûte pas très cher. La mécanique est impeccable et le verre est vraiment génial. Une recommendation pure est dure. L’aire Norton, est bien mais c’est trop limitatif. Sans hésitation pour le 1.5 Asphérique de Monsieur Kobayashi… J’ai aussi un article là dessus.
      Merci la petite famille se porte bien. On attend l’été avec impatience. Le premier hiver est toujours délicat rapport aux virus et autres bactéries.
      Merci pour les visites et les commentaires. C’est toujours intéressant de partager.
      Il y a aussi une solution avec le Summicron type 4 des années 80. C’est très bien aussi et ça pique du feu de dieu. C’est une très bon choix et c’est dans les mêmes prix que le Norton 1.5.

      J’espère que ça va aider… : ))

  2. Bonsoir Dragan,

    Une fois n’est pas coutume : je n’ai pas suivi tes conseils.
    J’ai acheté en occasion (comme neuf et pour 500 euros) le Nokton 50/1.1.
    Je mourais d’envie d’utiliser sur mon M9 une très grande ouverture.
    Le Noctilux étant impayable, le Voigt m’a fait de l’oeil.
    J’ai cet objectif depuis 2 jours et ai pris quelques vues qui me donnent entière satisfaction.
    Ce n’est pas un objectif « généraliste » et je ne compte l’utiliser qu’à 1.1 ou 1.4 car c’est pour cela qu’il a été conçu. Peut-être plus tard avec un filtre ND.

    Ceci dit, tout ce que tu as écrit est exact. Mais même si je galère un peu et qu’il y a du déchet, bon Dieu quel bokeh !

    J’ai mis (dans la rubrique site ci-dessous) un lien vers flickr où j’ai posté mes premières images au Nokton 1.1. Dis moi ce que tu en penses. Toutes les images ont été prises à 1.1.

    Bonne soirée et salut à toute la petite famille.

    Amicalement.

    Sympho.

    1. Je suis allé voir, c’est un outils pas facile à maîtriser. Il faut du temps et de la pratique. Je ne suis pas encore sûr de moi sur ce plan là. Après il y a toujours l’attrait de la grande ouverture, c’est un peu comme le graal. Je suis passé voir. Les nettes sont nets et les flous sont excellents.

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