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Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 Gordon Laing, Jan 2014

Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 Bokeh

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To evaluate the depth of field and bokeh of the Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 lens, I shot this interior scene at every aperture setting using an Olympus OMD EM1 mounted on a tripod.

The EM1 was set to its base sensitivity of 200 ISO and the lens focused on the closest tap on the far right of the image. On this page I've simply presented the entire frame, reduced to fit the page, at a selection of the widest apertures. Clicking any of the images will allow you to download the original from Flickr for a closer look.

I also shot this scene moments later using the Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens for a direct comparison and you can find this in the contents, above right.

  Leica Nocticron results
1 Leica Nocticron sharpness
2 Leica Nocticron vs Olympus 45mm f1.8
3 Leica Nocticron bokeh
4 Leica Nocticron bokeh comparison
5 Leica Nocticron coma
6 Leica Nocticron Sample images

On the previous pages we saw how sharp the Nocticron was across the entire frame even with its aperture wide open. It's very impressive performance for a bright prime, but the major use for a lens like this is to throw the background out of focus, preferably with nicely rendered out-of-focus effects.

In the table below I've shown the full frame of a composition at f1.2, f1.4, f1.8, f2 and f2.8 for comparison. In the first crop with the aperture wide open at f1.2, the background has become nicely blurred with smooth rendering of out-of-focus effects that avoids the business of many cheaper lenses. Don't get me wrong, this is not the creaminess I've seen from the Zeiss Otus, but equally the Nocticron is a lens that's three times cheaper.

You will however notice that out-of-focus specular highlights are rendered as oval-shaped cats-eyes towards the edges when the aperture is wide open. As you close the aperture, these become more circular in shape, and by f1.8 they're perfectly circular. I also can't see any undesirable shapes or artefacts in the background.

While this page is all about the background, it's also worth mentioning the foreground: the beer tap is pin-sharp on all the frames even at f1.2, despite being positioned close to the edge of the frame. This is something lesser lenses struggle with as you'll see in my comparison on the next page.

But concluding here I'd say the Nocticron succeeds in delivering a very nice degree of separation between subject and background; it may 'only' be equivalent to 85mm f2.4 in terms of full-frame depth of field, but it remains one of the brightest lenses in the Micro Four Thirds catalogue.

There is of course one lens that's brighter still: the Voigtlander 42.5mm f0.95. I haven't had a chance to test this in person, although I have seen many reports on it. When wide open these reports show the Voigtlander also renders specular highlights as cats eyes, and while the depth of field is shallower, I personally feel the Nocticron has a tidier bokeh, and the focused areas are definitely sharper. I hope to make a full comparison in the near future. In the meantime though I was able to compare the Leica Nocticron against two very popular bright primes in the catalogue: the Olympus 45mm f1.8 and Olympus 75mm f1.8 and you can see how they all measure-up in my Nocticron Bokeh comparison. Alternatively, check out my Nocticron sample images!

Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 Bokeh (full image)
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 at f1.2 (full image)
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 at f1.4 (full image)
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 at f1.8 (full image)
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 at f2
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 at f2.8 (full image)

Leica Nocticron results : Sharpness / Sharpness vs 45mm f1.8 / Bokeh / Bokeh Comparison / Coma

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