58mm f/1.2 Noct

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by JB, Nov 12, 2005.

  1. JB

    JB

    502
    May 27, 2005
    Washington, DC
    I'm curious about any lenses which Bjørn gives "5" on the D2X. Given the high prices paid for used 58mm f/1.2 Noct on ebay I'm surprised Nikon doesn't see enough demand to re-release this lens, or better, update it with a new AF version.

    Anyone here have examples from this lens they'd share with us?
     
  2. here are two recent shots...
    51147582.

    original.
     
  3. nfoto

    nfoto Guest

    That curiosity could cost you a fortune ! :biggrin:
     
  4. It cost me a fortune but I really, really like this lens! I have a long ways to go to understand it. It amazes me that it can be so sharp already at F1.2, with a little agressive sharpening the pictures are very usable. at F1.8 it is outstanding all the way up to F4 or so.

    They are getting very hard to find.... People hang on to them...
     
  5. nfoto

    nfoto Guest

    I've hung onto mine for 20 odd years :biggrin: Cost me no less than $200 at that time, double the price of my 28/2 which I purchased together with it.

    To me it is a kind of "on/off" lens which I use extensively for a period, then put it away.
     
  6. Wow Andreas! Those are beautiful. The first one with all the stars is really great. Oh-uh! I feel LLD creeping up on me.

    Rich
     
  7. PJohnP

    PJohnP

    Feb 5, 2005
    JB :

    The Noct is an incredible lens, but there's a steep learning curve associated with it. I'm yet to reach the point where I'm close to satisfied with my work with the lens, but every time I shoot with it, I reach further.

    In technical or optical terms, it's one of the most advanced lenses of its type. Perhaps the Noctilux from Leica is "better" but the differences are going to be quite subtle at this level of low light performance, and thus more subjective. I've been told that the Noct won't likely be revived as a lens, given the hand polishing required. As well, it's been noted elsewhere that the people involved in that hand-polishing have retired without training successors. Take all of that with a grain of salt, however, because I'm sure that the technical and manufacturing specifications have been maintained by Nikon.

    Where I find some difficulty is in getting a razor sharp focus with the lens in low light. Obviously, shooting in low light means utilising a wider aperture (smaller f/stop), and at that point, the DOF is rather shallow. The lower light also means less contrast, thus making it harder for the user to find the best available focus. That combination makes for some OOF shots if one isn't quite careful. The other way to look at this is that I've just become lazy with auto-focus, I suppose. :redface: But seriously, shooting at f/1.2 or f/1.4 in the short to medium distance requires good focus discipline, and that's a function of practice with each lens in my experience.

    All in all, I'm glad I purchased the lens, but I don't necessarily recommend it for the casual user.


    John P.

    P.S. Reading Bjørn Rørslett's discussions of lenses and their qualities is a dangerous practice, indeed ! I would hesitate to add up the costs of lenses that I've been "pushed over the edge" into buying because I consulted his reviews when I was unsure, then throwing caution to the winds (actually, and in total truth, I can't blame anyone but myself for my purchases, but that doesn't make for as fun a story after all...) OTOH, it's also provided me caution on getting some other lenses that I would ultimately have been disappointed in, so the balance has been good. :smile: If he and I are ever in the same place, I hope to buy him a drink and/or a dinner in thanks for his excellent work.
     
  8. JB

    JB

    502
    May 27, 2005
    Washington, DC
    Andréas,

    Thanks for sharing your pics! Impressive.
     
  9. JB

    JB

    502
    May 27, 2005
    Washington, DC
    It may have already Bjørn! But no regrets! That cost has been offset to some degree by saving me from buying lenses that I'd have been dissapointed with. :smile:

    I refer to your reviews often when looking for a lens. I also refer others to your site when asked for an opinion on a lens I've never used. It's an easy thing to do since my own impression frequently matches yours once I've had a chance to use a lens. Thank you for sharing your reviews on the web with us, it's a great resource.
     
  10. JKirbs

    JKirbs

    39
    Sep 6, 2005
    Nailing focus at 1.2

    Hi Everyone, oops, this is a First Post - i'd forgotten i'd registered a while back whilst lurking! Please forgive me :)

    I'd like to add to John P.'s comments regarding learning curve:

    For a long long while i carried a Minolta Rokkor 58mm f/1.2 (and also a later 50/1.2 on a second body) with film rated at 800. These were my _primary_ and sometimes only lenses in use.

    On a 135 film body, at 6 feet or so, you're dealing with maybe 3mm (1/8") of DOF.

    Andréas' photos are wonderful, but they're also at infinity, or at leats far enough away that he's not encountered _for those shots_ the Death Of Field Effect[TM] you'll get if you think you can open wide to 1.2 for portraits. Try locking on a forward eye - get it right and wonderful things can happen - but sway just the slightest and, well, you know what you're getting, and it likely will be dissapointment.

    This is the one reason it's a sheer shame Nikon don't revise the Noct for AF. If (on my Rokkor/Minolta) i had to shoot portraits, or be absolutely selective without a tripod, there was a moment of pure concentration as my left hand cupped the focus ring, and my right was poised to release ever so slightly before focus was hit. No waiting, else my body movement would kill the focus. Even than, it was and remains a trial. Give me an AF-S Noct, and me and my D2X will be in heaven . . .

    To digress a little, the way to trade with such fast apertures is down to lens design. Every Noct shot i see exhibits high acutance or "rate of change" contrast, most visible on clearly defined scene boundaries and edges. The 1.2 AI (Non - Noct) exhibits greater micro-contrast, and appears "softer" but when you've missed the focus perfectly i think that effect is more recoverable at short range.

    Now i am not speaking from experience with these Nikkors, but in Minolta terms, my 1.2s mirrored the Noct and non - noct designs, which is why i carrried both. The effect was reverse for the Rokkor - the older 58 was "soft" but held microcontrast which delivered to my and other eyes superior OOF transition rendition (that's me trying to be specific what some people mean by "Bokeh") and worked better for close shots of people where i'd - in a hurry - deliberately throw focus behind the subject, to avoid risk of distracting planes of focus on a chin or ear . . the newer 50/1.2 was contrasty but actually less sharp (USM adds acutance, emphasising the Noct strengths - in very low light, the human eye is a fantastic edge resolver, but poor detail resolver, so this approach reinforces charateristics) and so i kept that one for environmental / landscape.

    When John P. says there is a steep learning curve, be expectant of a baptism. This is the one reason I've not bought a Noct myself, as yet, because for $2000 or so (at least for a cosmetically nice example) i would struggle. Why do i say that? I mean i am used to shooting at f/1.2 . . because the handling of my D2X needs to be adjusted to suit using a manual lens of this temperament and precision, and my earlier experiences made me "work out" on excercises on handling just to avoid embarrassment.

    Naturally, life changes with tripods. But if you're tempted to use a tripod with a Noct or any 1.2 lens, i have to start questioning your purchase rationale. How many times will you need that shutter speed _and_ be tripood mounted _and_ want to be at 80mm effective FOV? I would further query the use of the rendition / bokeh characteristics at long subject distances, landscape / tripod mounted. Simply because you have to be very certain hoow you want to shoot, which predicates an intimacy with your subject of style which suggests to me, if you need that, you've alreday decided, and don't need to ask. Bjørn Rørslett's wonderful work with super fast lenses (atop some serious stabilisation, no less) is both an example of the best kind, as well as a caveat - can you dedicate the same efforts to your technique?

    very best from me,

    - kirbs





     
  11. JKirbs

    JKirbs

    39
    Sep 6, 2005
    Hi Andreas,

    i think you might be right about "aggressive sharpening" - pic#1 shows artifacts very clearly around the tree branches and in particular the stars. I'm sure this is exacerbated by jpeg compression / conversion, but i imagine that doesn't look very good at larger sizes.

    I don't mean to bach your shot - the second is far better, but still i see dithered halos, in particular near the highlight on the tree trunk. I'd be wary of enlarging either. Is it so bad when you tone down your USM?

    best from me, and lovely shots, i just think you turned on the sharpening too high . .

    - kirbs
     
  12. PJohnP

    PJohnP

    Feb 5, 2005
    Kirbs :

    Some really good points, articulated far better than I could - thanks.

    Following one of your points, I do think one can shoot with the Noct, and do this reasonably effectively, but it does take practice. Practice is something a lot of people - hopefully none here at the Cafe !!! - eschew in today's world of photography. Even learning certain basic points of camera function is too much effort for those folks, and the Program mode along with constant autofocus is their way.

    Well, good for them. The more DLSRs they buy, the lower the pricing for me on my next body. I hope they buy three or four bodies each, along with high end expensive pro lenses to keep Nikon going with their development on new gear. However, I want to stretch the limits on the DSLR just a little more than treating it as an expensive P&S that I can boast about.

    With the Noct, that means that after several months with the lens, I'm just starting to gain some comfort in my shooting with it. I still miss the ideal focus more than I'd like, but that's coming. What I am getting consistently is a strong feeling of the wonderful quality of the images possible with the lens to lead me to more practice. The OOF backgrounds of this lens are beyond just the term bokeh, and instead provide a wholly different context for the subjects of my photographs than any other lens I have (including the redoubtable 105mm DC, I might add).

    Again, following on a remark of yours, I think that I'd have to re-learn certain aspects of this lens with a D2X, given the greater acuity of the sensor on that camera. It would be worth it, but I'd have even less margin for error in my shooting. More practice, obviously.

    Excellent point about tripod use with the Noct, BTW. If I'm going to shoot with a tripod all of the time, I lose the more immediate aspect of shooting with this lens, which is walking around and capturing a moment with a twist of the focus ring and a click of the shutter. For me, that's a reason to find another lens to shoot with for these kinds of subjects.

    I do think that the low coma effects of the Noct (along with the 28mm and 85mm f/1.4 lenses from Nikon) are a major factor for many people in getting the lens. Granted, the OOF areas become less of an issue when shooting hyperfocal or infinity distances, but getting the crisp rendition of lights with the lens is pretty amazing. I'm looking forward to shooting some of the outdoor Christmas pageants here in Santa Fe this year with the Noct, although I'd love to have a D200 to allow for some limited metering in that exercise. More practice, again.

    All of that said, I have no regrets in getting this lens as the results are quite unique and delightful. Nobody ever said that having fun didn't require work, though...


    John P.
     
  13. JKirbs

    JKirbs

    39
    Sep 6, 2005
    Hi John,

    a few prompts here for some more words :)

    [sorry to snip, but i hope okay for simple points]


    Surely, no worries shooting with a 1.2 lens, nor with practise - but the question is how much the pracise is monitored, measured, fed back into technique. I tried to give a handling example from my Minolta days . .

    Hmm, well that depends on pricing elastiicity. I think Nikon are particularly good at limiting production runs versus equipment manufacturing life. Think it would take a veritable herd of sillies to force the price lower on a D2X substantially. Anecdotally, if when i bought my D2X (nor pre-ordered, i hate that game) there was a D200 as well in the store, i'd likely have got it. I'd have been dumb too - choosing that as i would then because my Dynax/Maxxum 9 had a popup flash. Yeah, well, digital flash is a different game. I'd have made the wrong choice there due to a subjkective instinct. Neither would i trade my D2X for a D100, even with enough cash in return for a 28/1.4. Top end kit has to nail viurtually every aspect of usability,and you pay for that, reinforcing my idea the high end will never be affected by pro-sumer users. The D200 pricing (plus careful availabiliity management) attests to Nikon's confidence, and as one of the few profitable companies in the game, I'll take that hint!

    Back to the thread - the handling is everything with a super fast lens, even a "light weight" one like a Noct. When i finally "got it" with digital, i realised the D2X controls gave me immediate access to the "digital substrate" and an ability to change its nature, sometimes beyond anything i could do with halide processing. For me, and my developmental use of Nikon, this is too early still to report any more useful or detailed comments.

    LOL! I think it took me a year, and a quantity of Portra that made me wonder when Kodak was going to send me complimentary loose women, before i felt happy using my 1.2 Rokkors! :-0

    I cant comment directly on the Noct, but will add that Bokeh (i keep trying to define this on fora, and just bore everyone with my take, guess i posted a long one on dpreview sometime. . ) is affected by the substrate qualities. Digital sensors are _not_ film. I mounted my 58/1.2 rokkor on a Dynax 7D, adapter optic removed. No way the same. On film i think the examples i had were unsurpassed. You have to be confident to throw focus several feet behind your subject, but that was more a function of printing. Ask me by all means, but i'm working tiem to time on a paper regarding this. Somewhat conntentionsly i still think halide superior at high iso, for a lot of reasons.


    I think, like many sports (i used to play squash a lot) the point is to practise until you can switch off your mind from the process. This is highly important to reaction times. The brain, put simply, is a silly thing that gets in the way. Your Noct is an animal, be one yourself :)


    Is it really immediate? My point just above notwithstanding, when i first learned to shoot very low light, i was a complete dunce. Lift camera > frame shoot > engage brain > ad nauseam and often stuck in a loop. Is anticipation an "immediate aspect" , or does it control the shooting scenario too much for the photographer to dissapear from the sphere of influence sought to be captured?

    Thus, technique, and what you have to practise, depends on the actual situation you find yourself in. Practise, as such, is too easily controlled and so worthless in real life, though i recommend getting your index and third fingers strong enough to pull focus smoothly form a fixed and rapidly accessibly notch. leaving you to decide framing and release with your active brain. Think like older AF does - calibrate your far point, and bring it in. Gloriously, on a manual lens, you've all the feedback you need to pace it how you need. Some extra finger strength required to hit the same starting point repeatedly, mind.

    Well, i agree, but i've been to my view spoiled. And ruined. To explain that i think the rendition of the Rokkors i used is second to none, and vicariously i have too little experience with Nikkors to argue this comprehensively. More practically, i dumped all too quickly i think my Minolta setup due to atrocious treatment by the newfangled KM, ignoring i was going to buy a second (small format) system anyway. My genuine rage at the KM hopelessness made me review super-critically everything i'd ever shot. Even those negs / chrome that are lost i can visualise clearly to this day. You know, i got _loads_ of coma in those 1.2s i had. No big deal. What looks good at 1.2 is a whole different game. That Nikon could correct for this, is a superlative achievement (confirmed by occasional rentals) that in the 70s was throwing down the gauntlet. No-one took the challenge.

    Bottom line - once your "in to" bokeh, yadda, OOF, super fast, shallow DOF, pushing the substrate limits, if your style is good, these technical irritations like coma don't matter a bit. A "lens test" does not test what you can bring home, and certainly not what you can describe playing to strengths as opposed to ignoring limitations.

    Oh, no regrets i'm sure! LOL! But this is more than a casual bedfellow. Work on your pillow talk :)

    dang, it's nice to talk about applicative photography instead of boring tech (sick with a bug today, so laid low)

    cheers!

    - kirbs
     
  14. PJohnP

    PJohnP

    Feb 5, 2005
    Kirbs :

    Well, the more cameras that Nikon sells, the better their income. It's kind of "a high tide lifts all boats" thing. Or so I hope.

    Well, I did say that I was starting to get comfort, not reached it ! :cool:

    Oh, yes, that's so. The whole debate on bokeh or boke, depending on your specific sources for the term, can get tedious. I'm much less interested in bokeh than I am in many other aspects of a lens. That said, smooth creamy bokeh is a delight, sort of like the sprig of fresh mint served with cool desserts as an accent, but that adds so much more flavour to the mix when actually tasted. Having the great speed of the Noct's glass at my fingertips is only made sweeter by the fun OOF backgrounds that I can get with the lens.

    No contentions from me - silver halide still has attributes that digital processing cannot match. And the converse is true, digital processing allows for some things not easily done with film. The endless sniping on this topic is pointless - film and digital are different media, and while they can be compared, they are different.

    It's that old thing, "Chance favours the prepared mind", that comes to me in this discussion. To rephrase what you say in another way, practice means that I won't fumble with the gear when that seminal moment arrives for the shot. As much of the "Photography is Zen" stuff that floats around, there's still a requirement for understanding and experience with the gear that doesn't just strike from above like satori or kensho. Would that it did ! My photography would have grown of an instant formed like a bonsai with precision and care, not drooping like a straggly weed by the roadside...

    Well, my pillow talk with lenses has been as a result of seductions through LLD, so I should stay away from the "bed of photography gear" for a bit...

    ... and in any event, more lenses won't mean better photography, alas. Only practice will make that happen for me.

    Feel better.


    John P.
     
  15. JKirbs

    JKirbs

    39
    Sep 6, 2005
    Well, i seriously doubt that your photography is a drooping straggly weed [sic] but i do believe some of these lenses are perfectly formed bonsai ancients!

    On that note, may i thank you for an excellent exchange of thoughts - "Zen" I am not, but should anyone let go of their higher ambition, then i think they should lay down their exotic glass too and think again. I did, and it was a harsh treatment as well as an experience i'd not forgo in retrospect.

    Thank you again for so many kind, intelligent, and and well meant words,

    best,

    - john (kirbs - prefer kirbs online ;)
     
  16. Noct: 17xxxx series OK?

    To anyone of you who owns a Noct:

    I'm looking for a Noct, & have been read somewhere that it's better to look for the 9-bladed version; ie the 18xxxx series.

    To all those who have a Noct:
    Is you Noct the 7 or 9 aperture bladed version?
    (7-blades serial numbsers run 17xxxx,
    9-bladed serial numbers run 18xxxx to 19xxxx)


    How is the bokeh?

    Maybe Bjorn can shed some light on the possible differences between the 2 versions. (better multi+coating, closer min. focus?)


    I've managed to locate one in Europe...!

    BUT it is a 7-bladed version (17xxxx series), :frown:

    & to be honest the price is a bit on the high side ($1600):Depressed , so I'm very hesitant.

    Are ther or not noticeable differences between the 2 versions of the Noct?

    Help please:confused:
     
  17. nfoto

    nfoto Guest

    Mine is the earliest 17xxx model (among the first 500 in fact), no complaints about its bokeh.

    It seems the correct decision is to purchase "legends" at the earliest possible moment. If memory serves me right, you are about to pay 16 times more for your copy of a Noct than I did 16 years ago :biggrin:
     
  18. JKirbs

    JKirbs

    39
    Sep 6, 2005
    And also i'd not consider that blade numeracy has anything to do directly with bokeh. That's a bigger equation, and even dropping a lens (misaligning centered elements, what do you know, being the n'th owner?) will cause more variability than [edit: typo, sorry, changed meaning back to intent] aesthetic tests easily measure . . - you may get "less pleasant" effects [with 7 blades opposed to 9 e.g.] and even some rather odd coma artifacts, but nothing that really is killer IMO. You can usefully use that coma in street shots at night, for just one example where i know it worked to my advantage.

    Bjørn is really right regards pricing. But win some, loose some. Sucks now you can just boost ISO to get past so many of those intractibles, doesn't it? :biggrin:

    Just an aside for Bjørn - have you come across the M1 mount Angenieux 50/0.95? I know the breach is way too wide, but there seems to be a issue that many high priced examples come "untooled" i.e. without a base thread. One with such a thread is far more affordable to me . . and i thought of this because, and no less, 12 diaphram blades :cool: and i can loose infinity at the offered price . . No worries or hurried, but i'd take a bet you've seen one in the flesh and i haven't!

    cheers!

    - kirbs
     
  19. Recalling that you bought yours for $200, then (my math being adequate) means the NOCT can go for....gulp.....$3200!:Shocked:

    Um...think I'll pass on that one. My LLD suddenly got better.
    :rolleyes:

    Rich
     
  20. PJohnP

    PJohnP

    Feb 5, 2005
    Rich :

    Oh, you can find them for less than that, substantially so. I think this is one of those questions of being willing to jump on a lens when it becomes available, and be prepared to make that very quick decision without a lot of second-guessing yourself (assuming, of course, that you're dealing with a reputable seller). I did this summer, and I've not looked back for a single moment on it.

    And, Rich, if you do start shooting with a Noct, you won't look back either... < long evil smile >


    John P.
     
Loading...