A Second Look at the Nocticron

GH3 Nocticron

Controversial to some, magical to others there's no doubt that the Leica Nocticron is welcome addition to the high end of the M43 system. Reading about the lens online I see two types of people commenting: 

1 - those who have used the lens/understand what it is

2 - those who have not used the lens/do not understand what it is

Seems those who have used the lens understand the importance of this lens and those who have not used it seem to point at the price point - $1699. There are plenty of value lenses and cameras available for M43 and for those that are happy with that gear awesome, but having gear on the high end available increases the overall value/longevity of the system.

The only way for a camera system to survive long term is to have both pros and non pros working with the gear. Pros will use the gear to make money, will push the system to it's limits and will demand high end gear that can produce results reliably. Most enthusiasts will want a system that is light, easy to use and affordable. With gear like the GH4 and the Nocticron we have native M43 gear that aims at the high end of the spectrum yet are affordable by enthusiasts either wanting the best the system has to offer or that are interested in the business potential of hybrid photography.

Looking at the history of photography for a moment and what happened when 35mm cameras were introduced will give you some perspective on what's going on with M43. The 35mm system was introduced as a lower cost, smaller system for photographers vs medium format cameras. Eventually the benefits of the 35mm system caught on with pros and although the cameras got larger, the benefits of the technology outweighed the tradeoffs - smaller film size, lower image quality, faster operation, AF...sound familiar?

The Nocticron in the Real World

I had the luxury of using a prototype Nocticron in the past and loved it. Unfortunately I had to send it back to the mother ship but I'm excited for the day I get it into my hands again. In fact I'd say I'm more excited about the Nocticron than the GH4 :-0. Good optics are good optics and will remain good optics for many camera generations to come. Put a killer lens on any body new or old and you instantly upgrade the image quality of your system.

Shot live at CES 2014, this image of Olesea is a SOOC JPEG. Lumix GH3, Nocticron - f/1.2, 1/100th @ ISO 200. Click for full res
Shot live at CES 2014, this image of Olesea is a SOOC JPEG. Lumix GH3, Nocticron - f/1.2, 1/100th @ ISO 200. Click for full res

The images that the Nocticron produces are simply stunning. I've never in my career used a lens with such character and now that I got a taste there's just no going back. The transition from sharp to blurry is smooth like buttah, the sharpness is tops and the AF is fast. Speaking of AF, it works very well with video on any of my Lumix cameras I've used and with cameras like the GH3/4 GX7/GM1 continuous AF in video is killer and everything is stabilized as well.

The Animated Portrait of Nadine below was shot live at CES with the GH3, Nocticron wide open

As a photographer who's shooting video like a photographer I rely on auto focus in video, good IS in a lens and the ability to preprocess my work in camera. Working fast, shooting well, creating multimedia content means I'm a value to my clients. In order to do so I need to rely on my gear. I need to know that my AF will work in video so I can move freely between shooting still and animated portraits. I need to know that my work will reflect my unique view of the world and that my work is an extension of my personality. I get it all with the Nocticron but there's now this problem: I want all my lenses to be like the Nocticron. I want a 25mm to be built like the Nocticron, I want a zoom lens too and I hope the camera gods deliver on my fantasies. I think there's a possibility that we'll be seeing more lenses like the Nocticron though. The new Leica 15/1.7 is built like a mini Nocticron and has much of the same character too and I'll take the mini 15 over a new body as well.

You can support Small Camera Big Picture by ordering the Leica Nocticron through this Amazon link.