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!