(First shots wide open in Lan Kwai Fong) Anyone that shoots Leica M cameras may have heard the buzz that is going around currently about this new 50mm lens that is due to come out later in 2012.
We were lucky enough to meet Andrew Chan from SLR MAGIC who let us have a play with a prototype lens here in Hong Kong for a few hours.
Something I must state up front is that firstly I am in no way affiliated with SLR MAGIC or Leica, so my opinion is completely unbiased.
Secondly, I have never even touched a Leica Noctilux lens, which of course is the only other lens in this category (unless you consider the Voigtlander 50 1.1), and to which people are comparing this lens, therefore I cannot compare quality, bokeh or any other details.
I am only qualifed to tell you what I think as a working professional and extremely passionate street photographer my views on what I thought about the lens after an hour or so of playing with it.
Please note that none of the pictures here have had any sharpening applied to them, only minor colour and tone adjustments.
We met Andrew in Lan Kwai Fong in Central, a great place to shoot in low light as there is plenty of street lighting, alleyways and of diverse characters to shoot. Also that night it was raining which added a certain ambience to the light.
I was running a street photography workshop with Eric Kim from LA this last weekend so he joined us and posed as my subject for a few of my first test shots, which have now landed as his profile pic on his website and facebook page:-)
We will be running many more of these street photography and travel workshops regularly by the way for anyone interested, check our website here (apologies for the quick plug to my own business..:-))
(Eric Kim posing for the hyperprime...focussing was perfectly accurate at 0.7 metres)
I do own a Leica 50mm 1.4 pre-asph lens which is extremely sharp and I am very much in love with this lens, so I wanted to compare the two, not really for sharpness but more to see how big the difference in BOKEH (background blur) was between 1.4 and 0.95 and if I thought the difference was substantial enough for me to consider buying the hyperprime when it is available.
So my first thoughts in brief for this first look are as follows:
1. Its damn heavy (as expected), its a very big piece of glass, so this is no surprise...I don't mind this fact, heavy glass means quality as far as I'm concerned.
2. The build quality feels great, very very solid...I love the smooth 'no click' aperture ring...very very cool, and lovely built in sliding hood and screw on lens cap.
3. Its gonna be expensive...nowhere near as expensive as a Noctilux of course, but its gonna be a lot more expensive than the Voigtlander 50mm 1.1 (I have used that lens, and unfortunately I'm not a big fan of that particular lens although for the price it is still very acceptable for many people).
4. The BOKEH is AMAZING!! Yes, I compared it to all I had available...which is a 1.4 and of course there is a big difference between the two.
5. Its damn SHARP wide open....I took about 100 shots with it, all wide open...and found about 90% of the shots were pin sharp where I focussed, I am sure any mis-focussed shots were only down to me, not the lens.
(Eric Kim in Lan Kwai Fong)
Please bear in mind that I am not a technical guy...to be honest, none of my Leica lenses are coded, I don't notice any problems or differences between other lenses that are coded that I have used, maybe I'm lucky, or just ignorant...I don't look that hard, I just want to make strong images, and I'm more concerned with my subject matter. I don't get too excited about whether a lens has a very slight vignette effect, MTF charts or slight barrel distortion...I'm a photographer...not a scientist :-)...Most imperfections in my opinion (especially vignette or barrel distortion can be fixed in Lightroom 3 in about 2 seconds, and even quicker if u set up a lens profile preset that if you had any issues, so could easily be fixed on import without ever having to do anything).
Just to note on my previous paragraph, I didn't see any vignette or distortion with this lens, but i didn't test it for these factors either, as I said I tested it as a photographer who shoots low light portraits and street photography.
To summarise, are these very few points that I have addressed enough to make me want to buy one?....the short answer is YES...I want one NOW.
I will be contacting Andrew at SLR Magic to get my name on the list...I will buy one as soon as they are available...not because I'm a gearhead (that's debatable among my friends :-)) but purely because I LOVE to shoot in very low light...I love BOKEH....and I love to save a bit of money where I can...there's no way I can afford a Noctilux...the Voigtlander 50mm 1.1 is not in the same league in my personal opinion.....so this is where SLR MAGIC is going to fill the gap with regards price...but with quality I suspect they may well overtake the Noctilux....I really can't fault this invention and I hope the production copies are as accurately calibrated as the prototype I played with.
The camera world is very exciting at the moment, and I'm very positive about this lens and am sure its going to be a great success.
Here are a few other images shot with the lens, all wide open on the M9.
(Me, photographed by Eric Kim at minimum focussing distance)
(shot wide open from a bit further back..)
(wide open, shooting through my friends with background about 10 metres away.)
(black and white conversion)
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F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.