Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 Lens Photography Tips
For years photography world was divided between DSLR and rangefinder type camera users. The presumption is that if you are doing sports or wedding photography or any professional photography work the only way achieve consistent results would be to use autofocus lenses with a dedicated DSLR camera. If this is true how did professional photographers were able to capture some of the most iconic photographs with manual lenses? The answer is they did not need autofocus capabilities to capture those stunning photographs.
In this article, I want to share with you some of the secrets and techniques that I have used as a photographer that spans three decades. For this, I have chosen one of the most challenging lenses in the world, the fastest 50mm lens, Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH lens to demonstrate how I use it on a professional assignment. It is for this reason, this article is titled, Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH lens photography tips but these tips can be applied to all photography lenses.
Enter Sports Photography
Rightfully, if we were to search for sports photographs taken with Leica cameras, especially Leica M series like the Leica MP240 camera, we would be hard-pressed to find anything online. In fact, lack of fast autofocus believed to be the vital ingredient to sports photography missing from rangefinders had everyone convinced that the field of sports photography belonged to DSLRs.
We wanted to test that premise. But we also see how well Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH lens would perform under low light conditions which in this day and age has turned most camera manufacturers into a frenzy to have six digit ISOs which make any rendition of photography almost useless for anything but social media postings.
How would the fast lens in the world perform in low light condition? I took my favorite camera, Leica Monochrom Camera (CCD sensor for more pleasing film-like rendition) with my silver Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH lens to a nearby boxing gym known for its fierce fighters.
Some may wonder why I would choose a camera like the Leica Monochrom Camera with CCD type sensor instead of a CMOS sensor camera such as the new Leica M10 to photograph fast-moving subjects. The obvious truth is with the Leica Monochrom Camera the standard ISO settings start at 320 while Leica MP240 camera has a base ISO of 160 and a dynamic range that allows photographing at 6400 ISO.
Arguably, CCD-based Leica Monochrom Camera is a full stop slower regarding low light performance. Yes, technically it is true that Leica M10 Camera or the Leica MP240 camera would be a more prudent choice. But, actual rendering of photographs will tell a different story which I will touch upon in my future reviews.
Setting the Scene
Our team was filming a scene. The lights in the gym were turned off, only lighting coming from our studio lights, I took the leap of faith in capturing what would some consider an “impossible” task of photographing a fast moving subject, the boxer with the aperture wide open.
The obvious question that comes to mind is, how do you focus with a rangefinder if the subject is moving when the Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH lens is wide open at f/0.95. Logic dictates that to capture an image that is in low light, fast moving would require high shutter speed and stopping down in the aperture.
Some would jump the gun and say “Oh, he used hyperfocus.” Seriously??? Rethink that statement again, please. Stopping down in a low light situation to capture an image with almost nonexistent lumination….
The answer is nearly all photographs were taken with the widest aperture of f/0.95. What that would make is anything moving fast before the lens almost impossible to focus. Right ? Au contraire, Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH lens coupled with Leica Monochrom Camera had all that was required to photograph this project.
Gamble all, place all the bets on the table and let the dices roll.
Here is one of the first images out of the camera. Untouched, that means no photoshopping or lightroom editing, only converting to JPG for posting here.
You see, there is the ease of going out in daylight to see how your camera manages to capture images. Then you can dissect, crop to see if they are actually sharp. My point of view is that performance of a lens is more than an academic exercise of measuring its performance on a chart or by numbers on a scale, the true performance of any lens is its ability to render unique images in a photographic task.
Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH lens is designed around a wide aperture performance that aims to give a “unique look,” if while photographing a boxer or an athlete I could capture that “Noctilux feel” with my Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH lens then the result is an achievement of aesthetic beauty.
If photography is an art form, Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH lens does give the photographer a unique tool with which he/she craft a unique photograph. In that sense, it could be said that the camera and lens combination has performed as they were meant to providing results that stand the test of time.
In my point of view like any professional who excels in his trade, a photographer who captures images for artistic purposes chooses his tools as a painter would select his paints and mixes them to create that unique color rendition.
Setting Photography Goals
If my aim was to capture images in ultra sharpness, I might have chosen to use Leica Summicron 50mm f/2.0 APO and more lighting. Here though, I wanted to see the boxer in a “timeless” period such that if someone were to look at these photographs, one would feel the “magical” timeless quality.
It is the artist’s responsibility to combine the right elements to create what he has envisioned, as a photographer, this required precise combination aperture, shutter speed, positioning, lighting and more.
Boxer rapid movements meant to stop action would require high shutter speed. So, how would I position my angle of view so that effect would be created; that is the art of photography.
As a photographer, I find that when people pose they often look “unnatural”. This meant that if I told the boxer to pose all “naturalness” would be lost. More importantly, his state of mind during training created that characteristic persona of a boxer which was what I wanted to capture.
Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH lens performed flawlessly. In some images, the action was suspended in midst air, freezing time, stopping all for an instant to observe and immerse oneself in the transient moment of life.
Leica Monochrom is a splendid camera that often has people asking “is that an old camera ?”. It is a delight to hear because I like everything brought to its bare essence, functionality, and nothing else.
Imagine an old Harley Davidson that performs flawlessly, even though more than twenty years have gone by. Leica monochrom with its core functions of shutter speed dial, an aperture dial, focus ring to perform what a camera is essential designed to do; a solid built that can last a lifetime.
No, Leica Monochrom Camera is not for the wanna be’s, unlike smartphone shooters thinking that they have magically turned overnight into a pro-level photographer. Leica Monochrom Camera asks of its user to compose, understand basics of photography, become intimate with the camera.
Like a painter using his oils to render an image and knowing the right combination of colors to create another color, Leica Monochrom Camera does require an understanding of aperture, shutter speed, and all the essential elements of photography.
There is a learning curve involved. This means an amount of time has to be invested. Investing time in something that requires you to immerse yourself in the process creates a bond. That is why Leica Monochrom Camera is unique in the way, it is. You own it. For Life…
This flies in the face of consumer ideology that everyone can be a photographer by pointing a smartphone to take a photograph or that you can be a better photographer if you acquired the latest gear with more functions and higher ISO settings.
As Ansel Adams said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”. For professionals who attempt to perfect their art through years of devotion and hard work, Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH lens presents a tool with an extraordinary amount of possibilities.
I believe that like the ancient singing bowls of Tibetian monasteries, with the use of Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH lens over many years the photographer is molded into a craft master of his trade. This requires dedication and love of photography.
My recommendation to anyone who is an amateur photographer, buy another Leica lens that is less challenging and easier to learn. The learning curve you will have with other lenses will give you the opportunity to hone your skills.
When your skills have evolved to a level that calls you to own a Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH lens, you will know that the right time has come. On that fateful day, you shall drive pleasure from photographing with a Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH lens as you were on the first day you got your first camera.
But for some that time may never come, as a sword practitioner may never evolve to the level where a katana handcrafted by a swordmaster is needed.
If however, you are already own this fantastic glass, I will make a few humble suggestions. One is to buy an ND filter. If you don’t know what it is, then you should not own a Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH lens. You will need an ND filter if you plan to use it during daytime with wide open aperture.
Secondly, know that focusing at f/0.95 is not easy, especially, if the subject is moving. So, don’t hesitate to shoot at f/2.0 or higher.
More, importantly if you are lucky enough to own one of the latest Leica digital camera’s like Leica M10 Camera or the Leica MP240 camera gets the electronic viewfinder accessory. It is an indispensable tool if you are into sharp images and photographing at a wide open aperture.
Finally, this lens is heavier than other Leica lenses, that means during a whole day of photographing you will feel the weight. So, if you are traveling to a destination where you will walk around all day, you should get a lens like Leica’s Summicron 50mm F/2.0 APO. It is the sharpest lens that will allow you to photograph everything from buildings, landscape to people. Plus, its price is a little less than a Leica Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH lens which would mean you can use it to splurge on something you fancy.
Here are some links to get the best prices on Leica Noctilux Lenses.
For my upcoming 2018 photography workshops, here are the links
We offer numerous workshops around the world specializing in Leica cameras and lenses. You are invited to take part in one because what you gain from a dedicated a photography workshop for Leica cameras and lenses. The tips and techniques you will learn in these workshops will take your photography to the next level also will stay with you for a lifetime. We look forward to hearing from you.
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Oz Yilmaz – Leica Review Team
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