Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2 R vs. Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm F0.95 ASPH.

This is not a review of either lens, but just some notes I’ve made about both lenses while using them. Only some of the photos are taken at the same night at the same location, because at the moment my Noctilux it being calibrated at Solms, Germany. Please bear in mind that the photos I’ve taken with Noctilux are not perhaps the best the lens can do since it’s out of calibration and needs servicing. The cameras used were Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Leica M240. I might do a followup to this article once I get my Noctilux back if there has been a lot of interest in this.

Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2 R and Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm F0.95 ASPH.

How do they compare

One thing to note is that due to APS-C crop sensor on Fujifilm, the effective field of view is 85 mm with the Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2. The crop factor also affects the depth of field which is around F1.8 on the Fujifilm. The crop sensor does not, however, change the exposure, so the F1.2 is F1.2 regardless of the sensor size. Because of different effective focal lengths, it’s not easy to try to replicate the same image on both cameras at least on a busy street. Shooting 85 mm lens is somewhat difficult, and the sometimes slow autofocus does not help there. It’s easier to focus the lens and use zone focusing manually. You probably guess that focusing the Leica at F0.95 is not easy either since the depth of field is quite shallow, especially at close distances. All photos I selected for this article are shot wide open for comparison. They are not manipulated in any way apart from some vignetting correction on Noctilux. Depending on the scene the Noctilux vignetting can be severe although it’s part of the magic if you’re shooting people (let’s see how my travels go after saying that aloud). Noctilux is truly F0.95 only at the centre of the frame and for comparison the Leica Summilux-M 50 mm F1.4 ASPH.. is not that bad because if is sharper and does not vignette wide open at all. There is still some magic to the Noctilux photos that is not just some single value or even a few. It’s the surprise factor that comes from getting pictures that look different from what the human eye can see, and this is something the Fujifilm completely lacks even at F1.2. To be honest, the Leica Summilux-M 50 mm F1.4 ASPH. has more of that special mojo wide open than the Fujifilm, but maybe that is because comparing F1.4 and F1.8 the Fujifilm effectively is. On full frame camera, the F1.2 seems to be the aperture where this magic starts appearing, although nothing I’ve tried beats or is even near the Noctilux apart perhaps another Noctilux (the F1.0 version). The old Canon LTM 50 mm F1.2 is also close to magic but in a different way. Luckily I have the first revision of the lens that does not suffer from back element hazing or lack of contrast the second revision has. I haven’t tried the F0.95 version of the Canon LTM myself, but it’s said to be magical also. I should have bought the lens when it was still inexpensive as it is nowadays totally unacceptable in price at least when I have the Noctilux.

Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2 R

Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm F0.95 ASPH.

Should I purchase one

Don’t even think that these are the best examples of what the Noctilux is capable of. I chose similar photos for comparison just because for most people money matters, and the Fujifilm is the only affordable choice no matter how much better the Noctilux is. Let’s not forget that we’re comparing lenses that cost 1100 and 10995 euros new. There is a tenfold difference, and it’s everyone’s own decision whether this is the difference is worth it. The same tenfold difference remains if you buy the lenses used. If you’re not deciding things by price but with personal properties alone, the Noctilux well be a natural choice for you, especially if you are not concerned about the price.

Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2 R

Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm F0.95 ASPH.

The difference in maximum aperture means that the Leica is allowing lower ISO values. When I purchased the Noctilux, the Leica M10 did not exist, and even if it did, the high ISO looks terrible in all cameras, regardless of manufacturer. Fujifilm X-Pro2 is one of the best, but I can assure you I will pick the 2009 Leica M9 ISO 160 photo every time just because a photo with total lack of noise is something to marvel at. Fujifilm does not look the same at ISO 200. The Leica M240 is closer, but I still love my M9 enough to never part from it. The M240 has its moments and is in many aspects a way better camera, but M9 it is not. If I had to replace either, I’d buy M10 to replace the M240. But there’s nothing wrong with M240, so why upgrade. Camera prices fall quickly, lenses do not.

Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2 R

Where does the money show

Now back to comparing these lenses. Noctilux is sharp, but I don’t think it can match the Fujifilm at full aperture. I’m not even sure if it when stopped down a bit, but Noctilux is not about the absolute sharpness. The F1 version is not as sharp as the F0.95, and for many, it is the better lens for their taste. Sharpness is maybe the most overvalued aspect of photography because of pixel peeping. If you see the photos in web or printer, you won’t see the difference unless it is huge. Fujifilm somehow lacks the same colour that comes out of the Noctilux pictures, and I don’t think it’s the camera causing the difference. I could have tested the Noctilux with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 with a Leica M-mount to Fujifilm X-mount adapter, but seeing how bad the Sony is with adapted lenses, I feel it’s fair to compare lenses with their native mounts. What you often see with Noctilux and don’t see in Fujifilm photos is not something you can add in Adobe Lightroom using vibrancy slider or similar. There is also some telephoto effect going on with the Fujifilm lens which is, of course, missing from the 50 mm Noctilux.

Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm F0.95 ASPH.

Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm F0.95 ASPH.

My sincere wishes to Fujifilm

I wish Fujifilm would release a 35 mm F1.2 or F1.0 lens that is reasonably priced and also has some of that mojo you miss with almost every other lens than an original Noctilux. The 50 mm focal length is my favourite and there the 35 mm F1.4 lens Fujifilm has is very good, but not at all comparable to a Noctilux. Fujifilm has introduced weather resistant versions of their lenses and at the moment there are 23 mm, 35 mm and 50 mm lenses available. I heard the term “Fujicron” attached in conversation about these lenses, similar to F2.0 Summicron series Leica has. I wish they’d introduce a lens or two to the other end of aperture spectrum for available light photographers like me. A Noctilux is like a door to Narnia, and I wish Fujifilm had something similar because while magnificent, the Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2 still isn’t in the same category. I have a feeling that most of you who don’t live up here near the Arctic Circle don’t understand at all what the fuss about fast lenses is about. I’ve seen multiple times that why to buy the F1.4 versions of Fujifilm lenses when the F2.0 versions are simply better. No they aren’t if the sun sets at 14:30 and there isn’t enough light to take photos even at ISO 12800, and when they barely make it, they still look abysmal just because of the level of noise. People here see less sunlight than 99,7% of the world’s population. There’s your answer to why F2.0 lineup is not impressive at all. At F1.4 one has one full stop more light, and at F1.0 one would have two full stops, meaning that the ISO 12800 photo is suddenly ISO 3200 and might look worth something. So, Fujifilm, where are your 23 mm and 35 mm F1.0 lenses? It’s dark out here.

Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2 R

Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm F0.95 ASPH.

Shooting in the dark

In the film era, fast lenses were a necessity just because ISO values maxed out at 1600, or 3200 if you pushed your B&W film. Consider me old, but I’m still stuck at a time when maximum usable ISO is 1600, and that is why I like my Leica M9 so much. It’s like a digital film camera if you don’t skimp. For those of you who can’t resist skimping, Leica has made a special version of the camera with no screen at all, but it comes at a price. Just buy the M9, forget that there’s a screen and be done with it. With fast enough lenses ISO 1600 is enough for just about everything and on a well-lit street at night you can shoot at ISO 160. Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2 is one of four Fujifilm lenses I’d choose from for a night shoot, the others being the Fujifilm 16 mm F1.4, the Fujifilm 23 mm F1.4 and the Fujifilm 35 mm F1.4. Of all these, the 56 mm makes the most magical photos. I don’t mean that in the sense when people say that your oven makes good food because, in the end, it is you who takes and makes the photos, not the lens nor the camera. It is just a fact that with some lenses the success rate is higher than with others and every lens has its pros and cons.

Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm F0.95 ASPH.

Great alternative for Noctilux

Fujifilm XF 56 mm F1.2 is an excellent lens, but not without its flaws. The focusing is very slow, maybe the slowest of all Fujifilm lenses I’ve tried myself (so that excludes the old 90 mm and 60 mm lenses which are said to be on the slow side as well). It also needs very high shutter speeds especially if you are shooting handheld, in the dark and with the 24-megapixel sensors. As I said in an article maybe a month ago, the APS-C sensor needs higher shutter speed than the rule of 1 / focal length would generally assume. For the 56 mm lens that means that the 1 / (56 * 1,5), which is 1/85 seconds, isn’t enough. Instead, you’ll need to calculate the speed using the full frame equivalent focal length in place, making the slowest speed for this lens around 1/125 seconds. I don’t know why that is, but I noticed the problem after upgrading to 24-megapixel X-Pro2. Maybe it is because of the higher pixel density or the smaller size of the sensor, but once I use the values calculated this way, I get good results. With my Leica, the 1/f rule still stands, and the camera itself is made well enough not to introduce any shutter shake, and it also is very stable in your hands when handheld. For 50 mm Noctilux, that means a minimum shutter speed of 1/50 seconds, meaning that at F0.95 you can take photographs in such dark conditions that the problem is focusing, not shutter speed.

Trying out some vintage Leica, Canon, Minolta and SMC lenses on Sony a7R

A while ago I decided to do a comparison shoot with four different vintage lenses. The aim was not to make excellent photos, but just to shoot the same thing with same settings and compare the results. The lenses used were:

All of these lenses were shot wide open at F1.4 except the Summicron, which was at F2.0. This is because all vintage lenses look more or less the same at F5.6 or F8.0 which I should have used on the street scene if I were shooting the street and not just comparing the lenses. Old lenses tend to show their flaws aperture wide open, so I did not see any point in comparing these in any other setting since they’d look the same. I have a large collection of lenses, and these were chosen because of relatively low price and good quality. I have better lenses, but comparing affordable lenses is more interesting. I tried to shoot the same scene with a less affordable combination as well so you can do a little bit of comparison between very affordable lenses and not so affordable one.

The camera I used was a Sony a7R with adapters for each lens. I did not do any colour correction after shooting these lenses, so you can see the lesser quality of Sony cameras compared to Leica or Fujifilm just by looking at the white balance. If I need good quality photos from the Sony a7R, I need to change the white balance manually for each photo. That is something I don’t have to do with any of my Fujifilm or Leica cameras. I don’t know what Sony is thinking, but all photos taken on a Sony camera are brown. A photo taken of my grey cat looked brown enough that a friend of mine asked if it’s my cat since it looks brown.

I also made a couple of comparison shots with Leica M9 and Leica Summilux-M 50 mm F1.5 ASPH. at F1.4. These are just to show that there is a difference both in cameras and in lenses when you go up the price scale. But the truth is that you can take very good photos with lenses that cost less than 100€. When I bought these lenses, they cost less than 50€ each apart from the Summilux which was over 200€. I bought the Canon FD 50 mm F1.4 from Amsterdam, and it came with Canon T70 camera and camera bag all for 40€. It once belonged to an old man who was enthusiastic about film photography, and the widow was delighted to know that the lens was going into real use like his husband would, not into a dusty collection or museum.

Why a cold street and not some nature?

There are places like this in the centre of Jyväskylä if you just look.

Less than 3 km away from the centre of Jyväskylä the view totally changes.

It is currently winter in Finland and these were taken at the end of January. There is nothing that is green around and believe me when I say that there isn’t a lot of nice places to see at this time of the year. When the moment is right and you’re in the correct location you can get nice shots, but when there is little to no snow and everything is brown and grey, looking for something nice is challenging. It was +3 degrees celcius when we were taking these shots and Sony depleted its full battery in less than 45 minutes. I don’t know what Sony is thinking when two batteries in a battery grip last only 12 minutes in -10 celcius. My Leica M240 can shoot whole weekend with one battery and Fujifilm is no slouch either, although not nearly as nice as the Leica M240.

First comparison

This scene was shot at walking district in the centre of Jyväskylä, Finland. I focused all lenses to a pole in the centre of the photo. Sadly the last shot with Leica M9 is not shot in the same direction as the tripod must have moved, and I did not see that in the optical viewfinder of my Leica M9. I have an adapter for M-mount lenses for Sony a7R, but the results are often so disappointing due to sensor differences that I don’t think it’s worth it using any Leica M-mount lenses on a Sony camera, it just looks wrong. Leica has a thinner layer of glass over the sensor and microlens structure to combat colour cast and vignetting. In my opinion, the Leica M240 is even better with all Leica M lenses including wide angles, so Leica has made improvements in that respect. On the other hand, Sony sensor is not designed at all for non-Sony lenses that are very close to the sensor, causing the outer edges of the image to be blurry. For example, the Summilux I used on my M9 during this test shooting is very blurry on the Sony a7R.

Canon FD 50 mm F1.4

Canon FD 50 mm F1.4


Minolta MC Rokkor-X PG 50 mm F1.4

Minolta MC Rokkor-X PG 50 mm F1.4


SMC Takumar 50 mm F1.4

SMC Takumar 50 mm F1.4


Leica Summicron-R 50 mm F2.0

Leica Summicron-R 50 mm F2.0


Leica Summilux-M 50 mm F1.4 ASPH. with Leica M9

Leica Summilux-M 50 mm F1.4 ASPH. with Leica M9

Second comparison

This second scene if very near the first one to the same direction. The red granite spheres are called “Kahden kesken” and are made by Matti Peltokangas in 2003. In fact this second set was shot before the first one because of sunlight.

Canon FD 50 mm F1.4

Canon FD 50 mm F1.4


Minolta MC Rokkor-X PG 50 mm F1.4

Minolta MC Rokkor-X PG 50 mm F1.4


SMC Takumar 50 mm F1.4

SMC Takumar 50 mm F1.4


Leica Summicron-R 50 mm F2.0

Leica Summicron-R 50 mm F2.0


Leica M9 and Leica Summilux-M 50 mm F1.4 ASPH.

Leica M9 and Leica Summilux-M 50 mm F1.4 ASPH.

What did we learn?

For me it’s obvious that all these lenses are different. I can’t show the exact differences using the same scene but instead, I would have to look for a specific situation for each lens and shoot it with all lenses to show the difference. That would be too much work for something that you’ll eventually see if you purchase any of these lenses.

What was interesting is that price does not always guarantee excellent results. A high-end lens like the Leica Summilux-M 50 mm F1.5 ASPH. demands some practice because of field curvature and other features of the lens. Without particular situation where an individual lens excels, all these are very capable tools. I could have changed the captions for the lenses, and you would never know I did that. The Leica Summilux-R 50 mm F2.0 looks slightly better to my eye, but so would each of the other lenses if they were shot at F2.0 instead.

Camera differences

I have several Fujifilm cameras, but as these all have crop sensors, I decided to use a full frame camera for 50 mm lenses. Since my Leica M240 is still in Solms, Germany, I had to use my Leica M9 for comparison shots. Whenever I go taking photos, I have noticed that everything I shoot with Sony cameras is brown or somehow sad looking. I really like the more true colour balance I get from Fujifilm cameras. Leica M9 is far from neutral, but it has its own charm by having a bit of a Kodak film look, which is not a surprise since the sensor is designed and made by Kodak. Sony a7R is good for adapting different vintage lenses, but it is not capable of using Leica M mount lenses properly because of the short flange focal distance. I know that some lenses look good, but most do not and I hate it when someone is comparing Leica lenses to Sony lenses using a Sony camera when there is a big difference in quality when you use a real Leica. Leica M240 has more neutral look compared to the M9, but sometimes the old CCD look of the M9 is just what I need.

Fujifilm X100T review and why it is still relevant after X100F release

Fujifilm X100T with 23 mm F2 fixed lens (35 mm equivalent)

I have owned a Fujifilm X100T for a couple of years now. I haven’t written a review about it just because there are plenty of those already on the web, many of them better I would ever write. What started me with this article was the release of the new version X100F, which was said to be improved in almost every way. The X100F is technically a better camera than X100T, I don’t deny that, but let’s dig deeper. A short disclaimer about the photos I’ll post with this article: I’m writing this on flu, and it’s winter outside anyway, so it’s better to delve into old photos of my X100T. The pictures I picked are as is, without processing in Adobe Lightroom, because I’m having network trouble with my photos collection and can use only the unmodified photos taken at the time. Maybe that’s for the better as you’ll see how the X100T looks like, not what Adobe Lightroom is capable of. I have been using Classic Chrome film emulation for some of the photos and to me it sometimes really looks like the real thing, but without the grain.

Fujifilm has implemented a kind of Kaizen philosophy to their products. Kaizen means continuous improvement, but improving also includes the products they have sold, even the very old ones. Fujifilm has released firmware updates for timeworn cameras whereas some other manufacturers do not support their product after the next best thing is released. They’ll do the best they can to improve the old cameras to the point the hardware allows. I understand that they have business interests not to introduce every new invention to all old cameras also, but everything that you felt wrong about any Fujifilm camera when it was released has been more or less fixed later, only limited by the hardware (e.g. lack of phase detection points for autofocus). The best example is the X-Pro1 which is now entirely different camera compared to what it was when first released. I have not checked the current price for 2nd hand Fujifilm X100T, but I’m sure there are good deals around now that people are upgrading to the latest model. What many do not understand that releasing a new model does not render the old model obsolete, it is as good camera as it was before the new version was released, now only significantly less expensive.

The X100T has internal ND filter and both leaf and electronic shutter so you can shoot in bright conditions at full aperture if you want. I’m not a fan of ND filters you screw on your lens since these seem to cause trouble, more or less depending on focal length. Switching on the internal ND filter can be assigned to a button, so it’s very easy to use. One other as useful feature is the macro capability meaning that you get good closeups as well. Although the lens is fixed and the focal length is 23 mm, these additional features widen the capacity of the camera.

For Fujifilm X100T this means that it does not feel like an old camera, although having been released on September 10, 2014. Compared to how other manufacturers use planned obsolescence to get you to upgrade, the X100T does not feel as old as it is. When comparing technical specifications with X100T and X100F, the most important new features of X100F come from X-Pro2 or X-T2, and to be honest; you’ll do just fine without them. The megapixel race is still continuing, and unless there is image stabilisation involved, I would not put more than 16 megapixels on an APS-C sized sensor. For full frame, the sweet spot seems to be 24 megapixels like on my Leica M240. On X100T the 16-megapixel image is 4896 x 3264 pixels in size, while the newer camera has the 24-megapixel sensor. I don’t know how large your prints need to be, but for my purposes this is fine.

I am always using my X100T with a single centre focus point. Since it does not have joystick nor touch screen, I do what I’m used to with my Leica’s – focus and recompose. Autofocus speed is very fast when used in this manner, and since you have a fixed 23 mm lens, you’re probably not going to shoot sports or wildlife with it anyway. The new X100F has the same lens from what I’ve heard, and since the 23 mm F2.0 is already a bit soft at certain distances (but not too soft to be any real problem), I don’t see anything gained by adding more megapixels to the image. It’ll only mean you’ll have to use higher shutter speeds to get sharp pictures. I haven’t shot with X100F, but X100T is good enough with high-ISO and for photos that matter, base ISO is what counts to me. I don’t need 50 million grainy pixels at ISO 4 million or whatever the trend is now, and I am having a hard time thinking why should you either.

Fujifilm has always been quite good at higher ISO because the noise and grain it has tends to be monochromatic involving only luminance, which is easier to remove if you want to do so. Colour noise, however, is much harder to get rid of and usually causes the photo to be blotchy, wax-like or like watercolour. My Sony cameras are terrible in this department because every time there is noise, there is also some additional colour that wasn’t there.

Is there something you miss by purchasing the older model? Faster focusing is maybe the biggest issue, but if you’re like me and like to zone focus or use even manual focusing, that slight increase in speed might not be a problem at all. To be honest, if you’re looking for speed, why not buy the X-Pro2 or similar and have the incredible Fujifilm lenses in your arsenal as well. The X100T and the new X100F is about having a fixed focal length masterpiece with optical hybrid viewfinder making the camera unique. It’s fun to use, tiny and the battery lasts well for its size. The X100F has few interface changes and new menu, but who uses menus anyway? The ISO dial and one assignable dial are nice, but so far I haven’t missed them. Fujifilm X100T weighs only 440 grammes with battery and memory card, meaning that it’s the best thing when you’re stepping up from smartphones. I have iPhone 6S Plus and Huawei P9 with Leica dual cameras (one of which is B&W only) and while they are good and can take RAW images, there’s still so much you’ll gain by using a real camera like the X100T. There is only one thing that I miss in X100T, and that is weather resistance, or even better, weather sealing. I don’t swim with it, but the weather in Finland can sometimes be intolerant to digital cameras.

1 2 3 34