Friday, August 05, 2011

f1.4 versus f1.1: is it worth it?

I'm on a very tight budget when it comes to photography, so I'm always looking for the best deals. When it comes to new gear and new lenses, I always have to stop and ask, is it worth it?

My first M lens was a Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm f1.4. I bought it for two reasons, it was fast and it was a bargain. I picked it up used for just under $400. First off, I really like the lens. I have only two complaints. One is that I tend to get ghosting and reflection at times. This happened when I was attempting to shoot flowers at f1.4 in the botanical gardens in Brazil. The other is that it can be hard to frame since it pulls up the 50mm frame lines but doesn't quite capture the entire viewfinder area outside of the frame lines. I had to check a few photos after I took them just to make sure I didn't inadvertently chop off Christ the Redeemers head.

Because I liked the lens so much, it got me started hunting for a used Nokton 50mm f1.1. I figured, why not get the fast lens you really want that will match up with the frame lines? It will pay for itself in the long run, right?

We don't have a Voigtlander or a Leica dealer in Houston. It drives me crazy. I can't touch these lenses and see them in person before I buy. I just have to do my research and hope for the best. Here's what I was not expecting when the f1.1 showed up.

Nokton f1.1 versus f1.4

The f1.1 is HUGE compared to the f1.4. It easily triples the weight of my camera. It's larger than the 50mm f1.8 on my Canon AE-1.

I snapped a couple test shots in my office to see if I could tell the difference between the two of them. Here's a 100 percent crop from each of them.

Nokton 50mm f1.1 vs 40mm f1.4 100% crops

Obviously, their performance in low light and how they render bokeh is also going to be a big factor, so I'm hoping to do more test shots tonight while I'm in Kemah.

The big question, is gaining an extra 2/3 of a stop worth another $500 and adding two pounds to your bag? We'll see.

Of course, the f1.1 sure made Dixie Belle look nice this morning.

Dixie Belle
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