Last summer, I shot my friend, colleague, digital marketer and Well Dressed Wellness guru Sameena with my most rare lens, the Canon 50mm f/0.95 TV “Dream Lens”, on my most prized camera, a Leica M-P (Typ 240).
There are not a lot reviews about this lens (best one I saw is, of course, from Steve Huff) so I wanted to add a few short notes of my own about this lens.
All shots are unedited JPEGs straight out of the camera.
I’ll Start with the Bad stuff
This is a very hard lens to use. The fine focus ring has a very long throw. The minimum focusing distance is not close at all. The output is not necessarily sharp. Shooting at f/0.95, it’s hard to hit your focus target. Every shot needs a longer time to get both focus and exposure where you like it and even then you’ll need to take an additional few shots just to make sure! (I know that’s a lot of tough things, but read on.)
This is a very hard lens to acquire. Not only will you have to get a copy from eBay (or your aftermarket of choice), you’ll have to hope it’s fungus-free. Then if you do get one, you’ll have to have the mount converted professionally (I was lucky that Don from dagcamera.com had time to do mine, but you can see this thread for other suggestions) and that usually takes a long time (mine took 3 months and that’s with a rush on it). A fully-converted, clean copy is upwards of $2,000 on eBay and that alone is giant barrier for acquisition.
You will need additional tools to unlock its true potential. I suggest a variable ND filter. If you’re getting a f/0.95 lens, bet your ass you’ll shoot at the widest aperture as much as you can! The ND filter will help, because that’s just too much light specially in the day time. The samples from this post did not have an ND so even at max shutter speed I still could not tame the highlights, so I just had to wait until a cloud covers the sun a bit or move under the trees. Another tool you might need is an EVF. Activate focus peaking and that will greatly help in seeing where you are in focus with this lens.
This lens is big and very heavy. The lens is giant and heavy. It’s hard to carry around let alone around your neck even for short periods. If you have this on an Leica M, it even covers part of the viewfinder. This is kind of the opposite on what you’d want on a nimble rangefinder.
The good stuff, in short
No need for bullets here because there is only one reason why you would want to get this: you cannot argue with the unique look it produces (and the Leica Noctilux is $11,000+). This is not dubbed “Dream Lens” for nothing — images do come out very dreamy! Any f/0.95 lens will really give you that very shallow depth of field, but coupled with a big sensor, the combination is instantly artsy. It may take an extra shot or two to actually get this lens to focus where intended, and it may take another second to properly expose your shot, but when you get this all working, your subject is floats against a background that is melting away.
Yes, there are lot of cheaper f/0.95 options from manufacturers like Mitakon and Voigtlander (Nokton), but most of those are Micro 4/3 mounts. If you are rocking full-frame mirrorless, specially a Leica, this as close to the Noctilux that you can get at only around a tenth of the price.
This Lens is Best Utilized for
Single-subjects shoots specially not-too-tight portraits