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

Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 quality

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To evaluate the real-life performance 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 center of the composition using magnified Live View assistance. The corner and center crops shown below were taken from the areas marked with the red squares, right, and presented at 100%.

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. I also have separate pages comparing the depth of field and bokeh of these lenses.

  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


I shot the scene using the EM1's RAW mode and processed the files in Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) via Photoshop using the following sharpening settings: 50 / 0.5 / 36 / 10. All lens corrections were disabled, so there's no software compensation for vignetting, geometric distortion or chromatic aberrations, although note the camera may be applying some corrections before the RAW file is recorded which can't be disabled.

Looking at the crops below, the first thing that strikes you is how sharp the Nocticron is across the entire frame even at its maximum aperture. Normally we're used to seeing lenses, especially bright primes, start off looking soft, particularly in the corners. As the aperture is closed, these corners gradually become sharper and the contrast peaks at a sweetspot. But with the Nocticron it starts off looking great at f1.2, delivering very crisp details without any aberrations to mention. The revelation for me is the crop from the far corner of the image at f1.2 which looks much better than you'd expect, and suggests this is a lens with an imaging circle corrected for a much larger format.

This is a lens I'd be very happy using at its maximum aperture, confident in its ability to capture fine details across the frame, not just in the middle as you'd normally expect for a bright aperture prime. That said, there are small benefits to closing the aperture. You'll notice the pinpoints of reflected light gradually become more focused and circular with a peak at around f4. Looking at the file sizes, contrast and overall sharpness, I'd say this was the sweetspot of the lens and if a shallow depth of field or maximum light gathering weren't critical, this would be the aperture I'd probably aim for. But unlike most lenses, the difference between f4 and the maximum aperture is minimal for contrast and sharpness across the frame. I assumed the Nocticron would be all about achieving the shallowest depth of field with attractive bokeh effects, but this sequence proves it's also one of the sharpest tools in the box.

To put this performance into perspective, I shot the same scene with the Olympus 45mm f1.8 and you can see how they compare in my Nocticron 42.5mm vs Olympus 45mm sharpness page. Alternatively if you're ready for some depth of field comparisons, check out my Nocticron bokeh page or head for my Nocticron sample images.



Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 corner sharpness
 
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 center sharpness
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 corner crop at f1.2
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 center crop at f1.2
     
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 corner crop at f1.4
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 center crop at f1.4
     
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 corner crop at f1.8
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 center crop at f1.8
     
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 corner crop at f2
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 center crop at f2
     
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 corner crop at f2.8
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 center crop at f2.8
     
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 corner crop at f4
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 center crop at f4
     
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 corner crop at f5.6
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 center crop at f5.6
     
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 corner crop at f8
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 center crop at f8
     
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 corner crop at f11
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 center crop at f11
     
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 corner crop at f16
Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 center crop at f16


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

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