And discovers it takes time to form a long term relationship… This is a story about a man, a lens, and photography that we can all learn something from.
P.Lynn Miller writes:
The announcement of the Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f1.1 was one the most exciting moments in my photographic memory. I had been actively pursuing a Noctilux for almost 2 years, and while I had finally saved up the funds for a Noctilux, I was more than happy to put the extra few thousand dollars toward film and my retirement when the Nokton was announced at a price of 1/4 of a used Noctilux.
I pre-ordered my Nokton 50/1.1 the same day from Mainline Photographics and was one of the first to receive the Nokton in Australia. And I was sure the Nokton 50/1.1 was going to be a lens that I would never put down, a body cap for the M5.
Well… I have never been so disappointed in a lens… ever. The Nokton 50/1.1 simply left me cold and emotionless. I felt like I had a big lump of coal attached to the front of the M5, it was the biggest let-down in my photographic career. It came as such a shock since I connected instantly with the Nokton 35/1.2 and the Nokton 50/1.5 is a gem of a lens. The Nokton 50/1.1 lens was sharp, very flare resistant with plenty of contrast… so it was a technical marvel… but seemingly without a soul. Maybe I had over-hyped the Nokton 50/1.1, maybe I was expecting miracles, maybe the lens was just a dud, maybe all the rumours and gossip about the Noctilux was true… there really is no inspiration beyond f1.2. I put the Nokton 50/1.1 on the shelf.
And it sat on the shelf unused for almost 12 months. I even gave my M5 to a friend on long-term loan for nearly 6 months. I returned to using my trusty Nikon F’s and Nikkors. I had given up on Noktons and M5.
I decided about a month ago that I was selling all my M-mount gear including the Nokton 50/1.1. I collected all my M-mount gear from friends and boxes to sell.
But something kept bugging me… the Nokton 50/1.1. I had to give it another chance. So I decided that I would treat the Nokton as I would any other 50mm lens. Forget about the magical f1.1, and simply shoot it… at any f-stop that I wanted, f1.4, f2.0, maybe even f8.0, just like I would use any of my fast Nikkor’s. Just use it… and let the lens speak for itself.
So I shot it in the dark,
Then straight into the scorching Aussie sun,
Took candids with it,
Even shot the girls one more time,
Yep… it is a rangefinder lens… a very capable, predictable lens. The Nokton 50/1.1 has delivered sparkling negatives no matter what I have thrown at it. Flare is very well controlled, resolution is high across the field at all apertures. Contrast is maybe a touch higher than I normally prefer, but not overwhelming. Shadow detail is exceptional with this lens even when pushing the contrast up deliberately with film and developer choice.
The Nokton 50/1.1 is a quiet performer. It does not impose itself on every photo, like the Noctilux or 35/1.2. Thus it is not a ‘magical’ lens, but this dull and sterile attribute, allows for far more creativity than I first imagined since the lens does not limit the ‘look’. By not trying to force the lens into some preconceived look, rendition or signature, just concentrating on the images, not the lens or f1.1, I was able to actually learn how to use the lens as another fine tool in my photographic toolbox.
So in the end, the Nokton 50mm f1.1 is exactly what I needed(wanted), an all-purpose, dependable 50mm lens with extra speed. Sort of a like a family station wagon with a big V8, not flash or trendy, but reliable and dependable for daily use.
And my Nokton 50mm f1.1 is not for sale!
Photographer Sydney Australia