The Leica Noctilux 50mm has a maximum aperture of f0.95. Now, you can imagine the shallow depth of field one would get if shot at the widest aperture. It’s almost as if Depth of Field doesn’t even exist. So how does one use this lens for portraiture.
- What aperture to shoot at? I almost always shoot this lens at f0.95 for headshots and wedding portraits. If you have such a lens, what is the point of shooting it at f1.4 or f2. Might as well make full use of the widest aperture. This makes sure that backgrounds just fade away and become abstract paintings.
- Where to focus: For portraits, I always focus on the eye nearest to the lens or make the subject face the camera so that both eyes are in focus.
- Some people don’t like the fact that at such wide apertures the nose, lips etc are not in focus. I frankly see this as a creative element and love the pictures looking very dreamy and silky, especially when photographing women and kids.
- Indian weddings are chaotic and have a myriad of colors. These colors can be quite distracting when shooting the actual event or headshots of the bride/groom. The Noctilux at f0.95 makes sure that pretty much everything behind the couple becomes just a canvas of colors devoid of any shape, thereby making the portraits aesthetically pleasing.
- If shot with some lights in the background, this lens renders those out of focus light sources beautifully, adding a lot to the portrait.
The Noctilux is a special lens. It is heavy, expensive (it is one of the most expensive 50mm lenses ever made) and manual focus only. So, either you’d hate it or love it. I absolutely adore it and click 75% of my wedding pictures with this lens. You have to let go of your obsession with perfect focus, everything in focus etc. and look for creative use of this gem.
The Noctilux is crazy sharp at f0.95. I have tried a few f0.95s. The Canon Dream Lens 50 f0.95 and the Mitakon 50 f0.95 but neither come anywhere close to the sharpness of the Noctilux at f0.95. Yes, the lens does have chromatic aberrations in very high contrast situations but nothing that cannot be fixed in post.
Overall, this is my go to lens for portraits along with the Leica 75mm f1.4 (no more in production). There is nothing in this world that renders as beautifully as this lens, period. 🙂