Why I Hate the Nocticron!

I hated the the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.2 lens when I reviewed it recently. I didn’t hate it for what it did – how could anyone, it’s as near as dammit faultless?
I still hated it, though and I’ll explain why.

I have a lifetime’s experience of photo equipment which has given me a broad basis for my opinions. I simply ask, what is this item intended for and how well I think it does it at the price being asked. It’s just an opinion, of course, but I try for an informed and fair one. I rarely make an observation that I can’t logically defend and I can invariably sum up an item without agonizing over it. In other words, after a period using an item, I can make a fair assessment.
Not the Nocticron, though. I hate it.

The reason that I initially invested in Micro Four Thirds was its synthesis of image quality, usability and weight. Ultimate image quality doesn’t concern me any more than a car that does 150mph does. I want something that has good enough IQ for my needs. Micro Four Thirds meets that quality level with some to spare.

Ditto lenses. I want something fast enough and sharp enough for my demands. Fast enough for me means, ideally, zoom f2.8, prime f2.  Sharpness, I haven’t yet come across an MFT lens that falls short of my standards. Least of all the Nocticron. I still hate it though.

A lens that fast with high performance at maximum aperture. What? That’s not a lens, it’s the holy grail. Every picture I took for the review was at f1.2. It gets even sharper as you stop it down. Does it meet my standards? Is the Pope a Catholic?

But hold on! – how about my little Olympus 45mm. Admittedly a stop or so slower but still faster than my required f2. And still more than sharp enough for my needs.

By my own personal standards, the Nocticron’s performance is no better than the Olympus. Where it does score over the Olympus is in the shallower depth of field attainable. It’s not a massive difference but it is creamier as a result and it does make a difference.

The biggest downside for me is simply the size and weight. I accept that that goes with the territory. I accept that it is actually small compared to a full frame equivalent. But even so, when i just go for a casual bike ride, this is a lens that will not be in my saddlebag. It won’t fit. Or for a walk, in my pocket. Again, it won’t fit. My 45mm Olympus will, though. And out cycling or walking are when most of my favourite pictures are taken. Did I hear you say that’s a reason not to buy it, not a reason to hate it?

OK, let’s find out  where I stand, I’ll  make a personal points system from 10 for each attribute. Sharpness: Nocti 10 Oly 9; Speed; Nocti 10 Oly 8 Build Quality Nocti 10 Oly 7; Feel Nocti 10 Oly 7; Size Nocti 5 Oly 10; Price Nocti 5 Oly 10. That’s  Nocti 50 Oly 51.
I’ve made my decision based on my logic and the Olympus wins by the narrowest of margins. So I don’t really hate the Nocticron then? Yes, I do. Logic has nothing to do with it.

The Olympus was always going to win for me because even if I did buy the Nocticron, I was never going to sell the Olympus. I’d buy the Nocticron for the relatively few occasions when it would do better what the Olympus would do well.

So, on balance, my decision is on a knife edge and tips away from the Nocticron based on my personal laziness. Fair enough, my money and my decision. Plenty of other people think differently and their reasoning will be as valid for them as mine is for me. A great lens by any standards then and a fair price for such a distinguished optic. So why do I hate it?

Oh, nothing to do with the lens itself, I just hate the fact that it exists. Until the f1.2 came out I was utterly, completely happy with everything about my little Olympus 45. It represented to me the heart and soul of the Micro Four Thirds system.

And then along comes this chunk of exotic glass. Nothing about my 45mm Oly has changed, of course. It’s no less sharp, no slower because the Panasonic exists. It’s the same super lens as it was pre-Nocticron.

But now, I shoot a portrait and I know it could be a teeny bit sharper, the bokeh a teeny bit creamier, the depth of field a teeny bit shallower. It’s unsettling and destabilizing and It’s not right and that’s why I hate this lens.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Here’s my plea to Panasonic. Put the price up to £5,500 and reinforce the body and glass to military standards so it weighs 3kg instead of 400gm. Triple the length so that it won’t fit my camera bag.

Then I’d be happy because, frankly, Panasonic, your lens would be too expensive, too big and too heavy for me even to consider the stupid thing,

As it is, it’s just about affordable, not morbidly obese and will just about go in my bag. That makes it tempting  – and that is why I hate it!



25 thoughts on “Why I Hate the Nocticron!

  1. Kevin Saruwatari

    HaHa! I always like to hear your thoughts on stuff David! I know this post is old but I recently bought the Nocticron after months of being convinced the Panny 1.7 was what I was going to buy and checking out every review and comparison to make my decision.

    The problem was I knew the focal length was what I wanted but I didn’t have a specific job for it. Then I came up with a portraiture based project and had a vision in my head of what I wanted. I went to Flickr and looked at hundreds (maybe 1000’s) of shots from the smaller Panny, Oly, Voit, Samyang etc. I wouldn’t say the Noctircon is better. More images from it matched what I want in my photos closer than the others. So at that point it was either I get it and figure out how to make it give me what I want or make the project different. The sensible thing would have been to make the project slightly different but I am a bit bull-headed.

    I’ve only been shooting with it a little over a month and absolutely no regrets. Recently I have been shooting musicians in dark pubs with it and the 75mm Oly and I will say that starting at 4.0, 2.8 is only a stop of light but at 1.8 (or more correctly 1.7), 1.2 is a *WHOLE* stop of light more!

    At first I thought I might still buy the Panny 1.7 for carrying around but at this point that’s out. When I shoot with the Noctircon, I still chuckle when I open the pics on the computer and the images where it nailed it, hit me in the face. I’d hate not having it too!

    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      You’ve nailed what I meant by why I hate (ironically, of course) the Nocticron. It’s too big, too heavy etc etc but here’s an ultra high speed lens that thas the thing so many don’t, the ability to use it wide open without compromising contrast or sharpness. For most the f/1.7 will be plenty. I found myself using Nocticron at the f/1.2 or f/1.4 most of the time. The thing about lenses like this is that if you are not going to use the widest apertures regularly, it’s a lot of money to spend. If you are, it is quite reasonably priced because you re going to keep it for many years. I’m also with you on finding uses for it. Any lens that extends your capabilities will suggest new ideas and uses to you. That’s why, when I hear photographers saying that equipment means nothing to them, I don’t believe it.

    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      No, sorry Chris I haven’t tried it. It seems to be pretty good but as you would expect performance wide open is not that great at the edges. The main problem I’d see with this lens is the difficulty of focusing accurately enough at maximum aperture. With the Panasonic f/1.2 just point and its in focus. The Panasonic lens performs well from f/1.2, similar to this one at f/1.4 from the tests I’ve seen. I have to say that lenses like this are really only worth their money if you intend to use them wide open a lot. Panasonic’s f/1.7 and Olympus’s f/1.8 are a fraction of the price and perform just as well, if not better provided you can forego that last bit of speed.

  2. kesztió

    As I’m Panasonic user the lack of stabilisation bothers me a lot in case of the the otherwise exceptional 45/1.8, but the equation is somewhat changed since Panasonic has a new budget, yet high quality portrait lens which even marginally surpasses the Oly 45: the Lumix 42.5/1.7.

    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Yes, looks like a nice lens and not too expensive considering the stabilzation.

    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Yes, undoubtedly a lovely lens as is the Nocticron but an outlay of £2500 or so with an EM1 body? It’s a lot of money to justify an extra 50mm over the 35-100 Panasonic and the camera bodies I already have. If I was going to spend that kind of money, I think I might be tempted to buy another Start and Fender amp valve amp instead!

  3. Lacunapratum

    Wonderful! Just got one based on your recommendation :). Will also get the 60mm Sigma, just to make sure the Olympus still beats them all :).

  4. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

    You’re an addict, you know that don’t you 🙂 But it keeps us taking pictures and at the age I am I’m realizing how important that is. Photography has been a great friend to me, I’ve always had a reason to get up in the morning and I’ve never the lost the thrill of seeing an image whether it was day later with film or a second later with digital. Youy sound similar and if equipment and the love of it is part of that, well, I’m glad.

    I don’t really have any outlet for my pictures other than selling them through my agent or on my videos. My personal taste is a bit quirky – just out with a camera and observing. How I used to love photographing my kids!

  5. Bob Fairbairn

    As a small time professional photographer shooting mostly for small commercial projects and for fun and family I find the M43 system really fits my needs well. Now getting family pictures of a 2 year old running around is a challenge. Maybe I should buy a Canon 1Ds or Nikon D4 just for those occasions. And you know that 100-300 Panasonic is not really perfect so maybe I should go get the 100-400 Canon with the 1.4x tele convertor. And really my GX7 is not a small enough pocket camera so that Sony RX100III should fit that bill nicely. Of course the iPhone 5s camera is not good enough maybe after the 9th of September Apple will give me a better camera in the iPhone (unknown##). Oh those studio strobes should be upgraded to Prophoto so I use them more….

    But I would never buy the nocticron that would be terrible……. OR the Panasonic 25mm. No I HATE myself for HATING that they exist. I will keep my existing stable of lenses……. maybe…….

    Now I need to go take more pictures……

    PS thanks again David for the insight into your world. Are you publishing any of your photographic works any where?

  6. Philip Danks

    Here’s one I don’t think you’ve reviewed, David: the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f/2.8. Would it go in to the Nocticron category of “I love it but I’m not having it” I wonder?

    If you get round to it, I wonder how you’d rate the Olympus compared to the excellent Lumix 12-35mm f2.8 you had a look at last year?


    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      I’d love to try that lens. Looking at the specs, it look like it would be a bit past my personal size limit and I don’t have any problem with the IQ of the 12-35 Panasonic at all. But personal experience is always going to be more important than looking at specs. If only Olympus would answer my requests – I don’t even get a reply from them.

  7. Dale Croy

    Oh darn, now to be a photographer we have to have common sense. If I could be that lucky….

    Thanks for another great review. I have enjoyed and learned from all of them. I have the Olympus 45mm, but still look lustfully at both the Voigtlander 42.5 F0.95 (I have their 17.5mm and the 25mm) and also this Panasonic 42.5 F1.2 lens. I sure wish you had a comparison review between the Panasonic and the Voigtlander 42.5mm lenses. I really value your thoughts on M4/3’s camera bodies and lenses. Thanks again for your great work, anxious to see what comes next. Oh, any more episodes on your GH4 in the future?

    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Thanks, Dale. I get hold of what I can to review but mostly it’s stuff that I own. Big companies don’t even reply to me. Of late ePHOTOzine have been very supportive – the Nocticron came to me through them. Yes, I’ll do some more on the GH4. Any thoughts on what folk might find interesting?

  8. Mark Rychel

    I absolutey hate your reviews for virtually the same reason you hate the Nocticron. Because they exist.
    I have all lenses that you have reviewed and all the Panasonic cameras that you have reviewed.

    Thanks for your practical common sense whimsical style.


    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      Haha! Hoisted by my own petard! I read your your first 5 words and thought, oh no, what did I do? And then I read the rest. Thanks for the laugh (and the sense of relief), Mark

  9. Lawrence of Arabia

    I shall and will do as you tell me to, sir.

    But seriously. Haven’t you ever considered to start over again? Leave m43? If a beast like the nocticron charms you, then a beauty like the fuji with its lovely and only slightly larger / heavier lenses must tempt you aswell… Not to speak of the evil seductive sony with its pioneering spirit which surpasses every other mirrorless camera to date. I’m wondering what keeps you faithful at nights? The fear of rejection or disapointment? Or is it that you wouldn’t dare to break the sacred vow? Then again what would it take for you…to jump ship again?

    1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

      I don’t take vows about religion, let alone cameras 🙂 I regard cameras as white goods, there to fulfil a task. One of the first requirements for a photographer is to know your equipment thoroughly so that you can use it instinctively. Chopping and changing gear doesn’t facilitate that.

      All that keeps me using M43 equipment is that it does what I need well enough for my needs. I don’t require better image quality and the range of lenses for M43 is wide enough for what I do. I used Nikon cameras for my newspaper and magazine feature work not because they were the best cameras (a meaningless phrase at the best of times) but because they had the best professional back-up service.

      If better IQ was my main primary requirement – and it never has been in my entire career – I’d buy full or medium frame cameras, most likely a D4 or maybe Hasselblad with a digital back. When you say that ‘a beauty like the Nocticron charms me’, it didn’t do a very good job then because I said in my video that I wouldn’t buy one.

      In the end, what would it take for me to ‘jump ship’? Sony or Fuji or whoever giving me their systems so that I could flog my M43 stuff and buy a new Strat with the money. In the meantime, M43 has the right balance of performance, size and weight for my needs and to attract my money. You would obviously make a different choice from me and since you’re not me, that is a good thing. I don’t sell MFT cameras, I just use them and write about them. I have never, ever wanted to persuade someone else to use them.

      1. Lawrence of Arabia

        You’re right. You don’t sell cameras or lenses. But you certainly make very good arguments for it. I see that it is a personal choice of yours to discuss these topics and not advertise them. Agreed. But I’m still amazed at how many enthusiasts (and probably professionals too) depend their buying patterns on online opinions / reviews / unpackings etc. And I don’t think that it’s just to get educated and know the specs and facts. I think it’s collective opinions (or hype) that often dominate our behaviour. Enough united opinions from people you like and respect form a cloud that blur our judgement. You seem to be more of an exception, I guess. You got a lifelong experience and know very well and on your own authority what suits you and what not. I admire that. I’d lie not to consider myself “guilty” in some cases… The reasoning behind my purchase of the gh4 for example was to have easy and professional access to a digital film camera as an independent filmmaker. or maybe I just bought it because everybody seems to be loving and praising it… I’d like to say it’s the first reason. But I’m not sure… Well I better stop my ramblings here. In the end, if this “gear need” indeed qualifies as a vice, at least it’s a enjoyable one. And relatively harmless. It’s not like collecting Ferraris and Maseratis without using or even knowing how to drive them…

        To you Mr. Thorpe I want to express my thanks and high regard for your craft and willingness to share it and – for a good part – entertain us readers and watchers. I truly feel in good company.

        1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

          Thanks for that. I wonder myself if reviews inform or simply muddy the waters. I complained in another blog that it was becoming difficult to write a bad review on MFT stuff because there just isn’t any bad stuff. There’s equipment that is technically better than other stuff or has more facilities – but you pay for it. What’s hard to find in MFT is something not fit for purpose or bad value for money.

          I notice a lot of reviewers just shoot example record shots of buildings or a face for their pieces, to show the sharpness or bokeh or something but I always use and use an item until I am thoroughly familiar with it and the stuff I shoot goes to my stock agency as well as on my review. In other words, I actually use equipment for taking pictures that I will use elsewhere. That’s why I can say that the Nocticron is among the best lenses I have ever used – but I won’t be buying one. It doesn’t do enough above my little 45mm Olympus to justify the cost and weight and I’d be unlikely to have it with me when I needed it. Mind you, if I was simply a gear freak, it’s one I’d have to buy.
          I love photographic gear, always have. As you say, if it is a vice it is a relatively cheap one compared with golf or cars. I feel lucky that when I pick up a new lens or camera I feel just as thrilled as I did when I was 18 years old – as do you and most of us. If that’s a vice, well I can live with it! All the best, Lorenz.

  10. Lawrence of Arabia

    thanks for the inspiring words. i know the feeling. so human. being convinced of needing something that you don’t. which isn’t logical. not even remotely. that’s what I experienced when I bought an olympus with a kit zoom lens. Would I need another? Ok, maybe just two fixed lenses to be versatile. now it’s half a dozen of lenses. prime zooms and fixed ones. not counting the “slow” ones I sold. but well. in the end I guess i needed them all. at least I use ’em on a regular basis. and it’s all within the same system, right? m43.

    only if I wouldn’t feel the same about the sony a7s. because my brand new gh4 isn’t enough anymore. it’s amazing indeed. and in almost all regards suits my needs. only not as fast, damn it! Not that I “need” the extra push of light sensitivity. but still. the possibility is out there.

    that’s why I hate the sony a7s! for now. maybe I’ll buy the Nocticron f1.2 to compensate for it. it’s the most decent thing to do, isn’t it? It’s only human…

    1. eli23nyc

      But maybe won’t be totally fulfilling..
      You see I have both the GH4 and the Nocticron as well as the 12-35 and 35-100 Pani’s
      And lets throw in my GX7 while we’re at it.

      I still hate the Sony a7s!!

      1. dt@dthorpe.net Post author

        I’ve yet to come across a camera that is totally fulfilling. They’d be different cameras for different people anyway, I suppose. I don’t find myself hating any camera, simply because I’ve used so many. They all have their strengths and weaknesses and the Sony seems to me a fabulous camera – just not one that fulfils my personal criteria.


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