Dark Knight - Noctilux for the less rich

If you have been in photography for some time you might be as hungry for speedy lenses like I am. I had the opportunity some time ago to get my hands on the Leica Noctilux lens which I put down immediately due to its price tag.

Now I heard of a similar lens much more in a affordable price range - the Zhongyi 50mm f/0.95 Full Frame lens. It belongs to the group of fast lenses with a lens speed of 1:0.95 like the mentioned Noctilux and the Hyper Prime.

That’s a way to go if you want to photograph without a tripod even in nearly dark rooms. Due to the low depth of focus and the normal focal length of 50mm, the lens performs very well for portrait shots. At the minimum focus distance of 0.5m you can get a wonderful dreamy look. The nine aperture blades produces a beautiful and round bokeh. The f-stop ring can be set stepless, which allows soft transitions in luminance and is especially interesting for video shooting.

I just got the real thing today and I can tell you that the quality is amazing. It feels like one of my old Leica lenses. It is actually smaller than the Leica Noctilux f/0.95. This lens and an A7s might be indeed a dream team for the night.

The packaging is stellar as the lens is shipped in a nice case. The lens itself feels solid and constructed in high quality. Smooth dials, click less aperture ring and a metal screw lens cap is convincing.

There are two versions of the the Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95. The original version and the new Pro version nicknamed “The Dark Knight”. I got the pro version. The design of both lenses are very similar and their performance are very similar. The main changes between the original and the Pro version is better lens coating on the pro and a 67mm filter thread (bigger than the original) and a new bayonet hood design.

When you get the lens out from the box you immediately feel the weight. The lens’s weight is 720g and it feels really really good in my hand. It is made of metal and the build quality is solid. As a prime manual focus lens, there are only two movable parts. The aperture and focus ring.
The aperture ring is a click-less design. It is great for video and allows smooth aperture adjustment. As a manual focus lens, there is a helpful distance and DOF marking on the lens.

This lens can create soft dreamy photos at the minimum focus distance apart from that it is a lot sharper than I expected. Even at f/0.95 they have a sharp look. The corners are slightly soft but really not too bad.

The part which is the hardest thing is to nail the focus as f 0.95. But while it sounds difficult, after a bit of practice and with the help of the magnification view, its really good manageable. In my opinion the bokeh is smooth, round and looks pleasant. I didn’t notice too much swirly bokeh which can be an issue with fast prime lenses. The f/0.95 aperture gives you easy separation between your subject and the background and foreground easily. The look is different what a typical fast 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.2 lens. There is a bit of vignetting and some barrel distortion which can be easily get rid of in Lightroom and likewise programs.

The wide open aperture and high ISO possibilities of the A7s match very well the nickname Dark Knight. To afford this super fast lens you don’t have to sell your kids or your house. It’s good value for good money for a super fast prime.

Here some images I took right out of the box today:

Close up of some Tet flowers at the Lenin monument at f 0.95

 Tet flowers near the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum at f1.4

Tet flowers near the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum at f1.4

 crush barrier near some embassies at f2.8

crush barrier near some embassies at f2.8

 Panning of a kumquat delivery at f2.8

Panning of a kumquat delivery at f2.8

 biking along the new parliament at f.095

biking along the new parliament at f.095

 My oldest camera a Rollei inherited from my grandfather at f.095

My oldest camera a Rollei inherited from my grandfather at f.095

 My Nikonos which has been in good use lately in Australia at f0.95

My Nikonos which has been in good use lately in Australia at f0.95

At f0.95 a great lens for shooting product images

New horizons ahead

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