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Friday, 19 March 2021


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I have one–the M.ZUIKO 25mm f1.2 PRO for Micro Four Thirds. I like it, but, I don't actually use it as much as my 17mm and 45m f1.8s, in part because the 50mm perspective just isn't my favorite. I bought it in part for the prestige of owning just one such utterly unnecessary lens–even among the current super-lens trends this one stands out for throwing an absurd amount of lens elements at the solution. But, also for some practical reasons: it's weather-sealed (and it's in-between my two non-sealed lenses, letting me 'split the difference' in the rain or mist when I can't change lenses), and it's got a focus clutch like most of the PRO lenses. It does also, and I don't think it's entirely just marketing nonsense, have the 'feathered' bokeh concept Olympus claims on the three f1.2 PRO primes at the widest apertures, and it does indeed have very lovely rendering such that most people aren't able to tell the photos from it weren't shot on a larger sensor camera.

Though, already owning that one, I never could see enough difference between my 45mm f1.8 and the 45mm f1.2 in my actual use when I borrowed the 1.2 to shell out for it, so, while nice lenses I do agree they're firmly in the land of marginal gains. Especially since, with the 25mm f1.2, it has so much glass its actual transmission is no better than the f1.4 lenses anyway.

I own both versions of the Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 lens. If it were an f/1.4 lens that would be fine with me. I use it frequently for portraits and for event coverage in dark venues. Rarely do I shoot at f/1.2 -- f/1.6 or so is better. The fancy APD version is technically a lot slower wide open, and there is only a slight difference in out of focus areas, but it was a gift :)

I had the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 at work. It was really a much nicer lens than the 50mm f/1.4. Better build quality, better autofocus, overall better images.

1.2? Nope. 1.4 is the closest I own. (Two Leica's, one Canon.)

For a number of years I owned a Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0. It was a beast. I rarely used it and finally sent it along to another guy who'll rarely use it. Ditto a Canon 50mm f1.2 I owned until last year. Big, heavy, pointless.

F2 is my new floor. I'm far more often trying to get as much into focus as possible, not worrying about pretty blurs. And as to your question re: does anyone really need an F1.2, or faster, lens today, I'd have to say not on the basis of simple exposure. We live in 6-figure ISO land, baby!

I don't own an f1.2, but do have a comment -- when I opened TOP this morning, my thought was, "Wow, that lens is bigger than the camera." And it's only a 50?

I have a couple of f1.2 lenses, an old Minolta 58mm f1.2 which is so so & I seldom use it, plus the Voigtlander 40mm f1.2, which is perhaps my favourite lens, due to its rendering.


I also have a copy of the Fuji 56 mm f:1.2 lens. It's lovely, absurdly sharp in the center as expected, with very nice soft rendering of the out of focus areas...er, bokeh. But it's relatively noisy and sluggish to focus, tending to hunt a bit. Like many very fast lenses I find its close focusing limit is not quite close enough for my taste. And at least in my hands the 90 mm f:2 is a lot more usable for portraits. The extra working distance is more comfortable both for me and my subjects. I will readily confess that I occasionally shoot 'play images' with the 56 mm just to enjoy the absurdly narrow depth of field.
I have the same experience with full frame Canon gear; the Sigma 85 mm f:1.4 is fabulous, but I invariably end up using the 135 f:1.8 if I have a choice. Candid portraits are actually candid with that elbow room.

The fastest lens I own is a f/1.4. I can't think of an argument in favor of f/1.2 for digital still photography, but for digital video, where shutter speed is essentially fixed, DR is less, and the files generally are less malleable, I could maybe imagine a circumstance or two where f/1.2 might be desirable. Note that aperture detents on that Sony lens can be turned off (good for video), the marketing plays up "cine applications", and Sony alpha is very popular with budget video shooters (i.e. those who don't work with dedicated cine cameras and lenses, with their 5-figure price tags).

No one likes heavy, but big barrels with large controls can be handy for some video applications.

7Artisans has made those super fast lenses pedestrian. Maybe the low price of admission can allow us to move along - past whoever introduced this "bokeh" thing as a fad ;)

I own two: one a classic Nikon manual 50 f/1.2 that I inherited from my father-in-law and basically never use, so it doesn't really count.

The other one I bought recently: the Canon RF 50mm f/1.2. I usually don't go for lenses like that but after reading about how awesome it was, I rented one and was smitten. It's the kind of lens you'd buy a camera for. It has character.

I have two, both X mount:
TTArtisan 50mm f/1.2
Samyang/Rokinon 35mm f/1.2

Manual focus, small, very cheap, and a lot of fun. The 50mm especially is a tiny little jewel with smooth focus rotation and lovely aperture ring clicks. For play photography and toy photos I prefer it to Fuji's 56mm f/1.2 and their new 50mm f/1.0.

I do own an f/1.2 lens, but it is an AIS Nikkor from the late 1980s. I use it quite often on my Nikon FX bodies, not necessarily because of its light-gathering capacity (which sometimes I do because the other similar focal length range lens for Nikon I have is f3.5) but for its creamy soft bokeh and its smooth yet sharp rendition in portraits even at f/1.2--if I can land the focus properly. The autofocus green dot in the viewfinder is no good on the Dx d300 body I used to have--I could do better by eye--but on my current Df and d600 bodies, it is mostly ok to rely on the green dot.

1. No, I don't own one.
2. Don't need one either.
3. Got an older f1.4 manual lens, excellent price, so I got it for kicks and giggles. Have never used it.
4. f2 is plenty fast enough for me---really, f2.8 is.

Thanks for asking this interesting question, as I have been bemused by the brouhaha over the new Canon lens. No, I don't own one today, and doubt I'll ever buy one in the future. In the past I've had some, including the Canon 50 and 85 1.2s. Those lenses seemed to have nicer bokeh than slower alternatives at the time, but I remember having to correct nasty chromatic aberrations. These days my concern is sharpness across the field thus I am usually at f8 or smaller apertures. The weight, price, and slow focusing times of those lenses were painful.

Good article. FWIW, I don't own an f/1.2 lens, and see virtually no need for one. The fastest lens I own is the f/2.0 on my much-loved Fuji X100F. And I don't shoot that below f/2.8.

With respect to your main points, hoewever. Your article today is prime example how some attributes have become a "fetish" on the Internet and YouTube. The preoccupation with razor-thin DOF and bokeh has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. Gerald of Gerald Undone YT channel did an excellent video a couple years back clearly demonstrating that the two most important factors impacting DOF were 1) distance to the subject and 2) diameter of the entrance pupil, not the maximum aperture of the lens. He demonstrated this quite cleverly by turning the same lens around backwards and showing how much smaller the diameter of the entrance pupil was with light going from "back to front".

And with respect to what people actually prefer when viewing portraits, Andrew of the excellent Andrew and Danae YT channel, is a marketing professional, and conducted a statistically valid survey a couple of years ago demonstrating that the majority of viewers prefer photographs shot at f/2.8 to f/4, because they prefer being able to discern the background behind the subject clearly enough to provide a sense of place or...context. "Context" from a photograph? Imagine that! 😉

So much for Tony Northrup's preoccupation with what Kasey Stern of Camera Conspiracies cleverly and comically refers to as "Toneh". 😜

I have an Olympus G.Zuiko 55mm f1.2 lens.

I have used it a lot on an OM2 and in the digital era, on Sony E mount and Canon EF.

It is a lovely lens and is aesthetically very pleasing on an OM camera, with its 55mm filter thread. The image quality is good wide-open and excellent by f5.6.

Incidentally the out-of-focus areas look fine and the colour rendition like any other Zuiko of that period: the internet warriors spout much rubbish about this lens compared to the later Zuiko 50mm f1.2.

Along those lines, I always got a kick out of the "M" variants of BMW models, as if the regular models weren't good enough. By buying an "M", you're signalling that you're special and need more than those other guys. It's like buying large size condoms, maybe. (Just having some fun again.)

In my experience, there is no particular advantage to a 50/1.2. I never got what I would expect, and I think you need at least an 85 to get the shallow dof to make it pay. I currently own one, it is my second bite at the apple. My first was a Canon 50/1.2 in LTM, which I used on a Canon VI-T rangefinder. It was typical pf 1.2 lenses of the day, not too sharp, although not super soft, but it brought nothing special to the table.

My second is an Olympus Zuiko 1.2, a 50 as well. I can't make a comparison to a Leica 1.2 lens as I have never own oned one, but it is quite good. But I would suggest you can save money to buy more film if you aren't working overtime for the highly overrated bokeh, you can get the Zuiko 50/1.8 which is quite sharp and a great deal lighter on your wallet.

Can't help there, I find the whole concept of super fast lenses a little cult-like myself. Most any digital sensor gives you plenty of space to shoot f/4 in near dark. What's a super-duper NoctiKnockoff going to do for you that you cant do by shooting a little ISO higher? Or, heaven forbid, use a flash? Probably I'm not so very imaginative anymore, but it seems to me that lens manufacturers ought to give us more well-built, f/2.8 SMALL lenses rather than the beast you've got pictured.

I suppose having one of these bazookas it's one way to distinguish oneself from the unwashed masses who have great, big DOF with their iPhoneCams. But then, what to do with that new bokeh-y software on those cams? Some days you just cant win.

"...But I found myself musing...why do people buy ƒ/1.2 lenses these days?..."

One reason is the acceptance of less than full frame systems. Besides exposure, depth of field control means that that f/1.2 Fujifilm 56mm is more like a pedestrian f/1.8 85mm on the APS-C capture.

Even the new super fast fully auto focusing 50mm f/1.0 Fujifilm lens has more DOF than the old Leica 75mm f/1.4 when comparing field of view wide open, where the f/one lens gives DOF of f/1.5.

I had an old 55mm f/1.2 Nikkor that was super flairy and not too sharp. Went back to f/1.4 for widest lens aperture.

You missed it by *that* much.
While "pretty soft concept" is very close to a pun you should have said "pretty fuzzy concept" to stick the landing.

Higher f-stop lens designs these days often entail a greater number of lens elements, which often means greater light loss... if you look at the t-stop of a lens, the actual amount of light it transmits, an awful lot of f/1.2 and f/1.4 lenses transmit exactly the same amount of light as many f/1.8 lenses. Sure, there is still a DOF difference, but you're not actually getting the shutter speed or ISO advantage that you may be hoping for.

I've never understood the big deal between 1.4 and 1.8, or 1.8 and f2 for that matter- other than size and cost (and the granted oh so shallower depth of field, and argument). Please...

I have a Fuji 56mm F1.2. I am almost positive I have never shot it at F1.2. I usually use F4 but sometimes will use F2.8. So it didn't really need to be an F1.2 lens for me.

I have the Canon 85mm f/1.2 EF and I enjoy the lens very much as it is a lens with 'character' or a signature look at f/1.2, 1.4 or 2, that works really well when that is what you want. It is also a good sharp 85 when stopped down. But it is very large and heavy and because of that focuses a little slower than other similar lenses. I like having it, but never bought the 50mm f/1.2. In that Focal length I own the 50/1.4, and older 50 f/2.5 macro (The Plastic Fantastic) and when I bought my 5D mk IV's I added the 50mm f/1.8 because of it's STM motor which is dead quiet for video. I really don't shoot video now but very much like the 1.8 (better than the 1.4) But truth be told when I want a 50, I reach for the 2.5. It is just a superb lens.
There are times when having a really fast lens is necessary for some types of work, but there is a little bit of the marketing lipstick involved as well. I'd probably be just as happy with a 1.4 85mm.
When I need to pop the subject out of a busy background my first pick is the 135mm /f/2, another gem of a lens.
In my experience when I need lens speed, anything F/2 or faster works fine.
I've used the 85/1.2 a lot especially in my occasional gig as my Daughter's second shooter at weddings, and even in dark places I tend to use f/2 because when you get close it helps if you want both eyes in focus, or the eyes and the tip of the nose.
So I do think that while f/1.2 can be genuinely useful, it has also become a bit of a 'signifier' of 'Pro' lenses. Also because you can charge a premium for them, it helps the company's top line a bit.

Apart from the improvement in low light performance and bokeh, which most people might not notice but we will, if there is going to be any distortion at the wide-open edge of a lens then having 1.2 will mean that your 1.4 is rock solid on that same lens. No?

I wanted a fast 50 for my M3’s, for those times when I have Acros or Ektar loaded and will be in low-light (normal kit is a Cron and Tri-X). At the time the Nokton 50/1.2 was available for pre-order at a great price, and given the compact size (under 5cm in length) it seemed like an obvious choice. It has worked out well, though only used occasionally.

I purchased 2 Olympus f1.2 lenses (17&45) in order to squeeze the most resolution out of the small sized 20 million pixel 4/3rd sensor.
Used at their better aputures one can clearly see the advatage.
They were to accompany me on a trip to Montreal to photograph the street night life hand held, alas, the pandemic has put that on hold.

I do own a couple of really fast lenses. Alright, more than a couple. I think almost anyone who is in the gear game long enough eventually gets one, because you've tried everything else.

The one I use most is a C/V 35mm f:1.2 Nockton (2d generation). It is pretty much bolted onto my M9 -- I actually like the way the lens renders without giving much thought to the aperture. It is just that good a lens. The M9 has OK but not great high ISO performance, so the f:1.2 aperture gets used a fair amount particularly indoors during long, dark New England winters.

The other fast lens that I have is the so-fabulous-I-am-almost-afraid-to-mention-it-in -a-public forum Hexanon AR 57/1.2. I talked myself into believing that this is basically the same design as Konica's 50/1.2 in Leica-M mount. In reality, I have no idea whether this is true. The longer lens that I actually own was about a quarter of the price of its M-mount sibling. The now-dead Konica AR mount can be adapted to mirrorless and the output of this lens just makes me a bit weak in the knees. Would I care if it was an f:1.4 lens? No sirree Bob. As long as it produced the goods. In that sense it is like the C/V 35/1.2 -- bought it for the marketing hype, stayed for the IQ.

I also have the infamous/famous 50/1 Noctilux, a C/V 50 1.1 Nockton, a Nikon 50/1.2 etc. Historically, the longer a lens was, the more chance you'd need that maximum aperture in low light. Cause at one/focal length max handheld shutter speed, if you didn't have a tripod, you were kind of stuck in low light. Oh oops. Yeah, I also have a Pentax SMC 50/1.2. So I guess you could say I have fallen for the hype over and over. Still while my official line is, "when you need the speed, you need the speed," in reality I don't use these that much. The 50/1.4 lenses from the same companies are lighter, better corrected and often a steal at a fraction of the price. I think a Pentax 50/1.4 is going for about $85 on eBay right now. Sheesh. That's like giving these things away in a box of Cracker Jacks.

These days, though, with modern cameras turning out perfectly fine results at half-a-billiondy ISO, large maximum aperture seems more about which aberrations you want to introduce into your photography. In general, my answer is "none" save those that the 35/1.2 noted above produces.

I have been tempted by that Fuji lens you mentioned, Mike. More than once. I think the last time I had my finger poised over the keyboard to buy one, my catalytic converter went out. Time before that the washing machine's main circuit board fried. I had the sense that the universe was trying to tell me something. But I can be tempted. Oh, I can be tempted. As my list of lenses above shows, resisting that temptation is not a strong suit.

One does not buy an f 1.2 lens for speed.

The long and short of it is that the differences between an f1.2 lens or an f1.4 or f2.0 lens (these days) has very little to do with the light gathering capabilities of the lens. Perhaps in the good old (bad old) days of 400 speed film and extra stop might be the difference between a blurred picture or not. With ISO 6400 (and more) useable in modern digital cameras, buying a 1.2 lens because you "need it" for low light photography is just silly reasoning.

It is about how the lens draws, maybe narrow depth of focus. It's pretty well proven that the super fast lenses come with a different look, particularly wide open and some of them never even really look like a smaller aperture lens even as the lens is stopped down, the Leica F1 Noctilux (1976 to 2008) is a prime example.

I have two 50/1.2 lenses.

First is a Canon rangefinder 50/1.2. Had to clean out some internal haze. Used it once on my Canon 7s rangefinder, it was either front-focusing or back-focusing. Not by a lot, but enough to be annoying.

Second is a Pentax-A 50/1.2. Used it on one trip with my Pentax K-1. Manual focusing really fast lenses on the supplied "bright" focusing screen on that camera is a bear, really hard to nail it. (Alternative screens can help with focus, but mess up metering.)

See the theme? Annoying focusing challenges!

I'd rather use the excellent Canon 50/1.4 on the Canon 7s. The Pentax-FA 43/1.9 and 50/1.7 lenses are both wonderful and easy to use on the K-1.

The 50/1.2 would be fun on the Pentax LX. But that camera doesn't get out much anymore.

Either of the 50/1.2 lenses would be less frustrating with a full-frame mirrorless camera, live view focusing. Super-speed lenses are an accuracy challenge on any camera with indirect focusing, be it an SLR or rangefinder.

I once owned a Zuiko 55/1.2 but when I sent it for service the postal transport was robbed....

I don't own any, because there is basically nothing I need to photograph that "wide open".

Commercially, I usually need a series of things in focus in the image, that would dictate that I use a much smaller f/stop than wide open.

Even with digital, and modern lens design, I'm not totally convinced that wide open is the sweet spot of any lens. Conventional wisdom from the olden days says that 1 to 2 stops shut from wide open is going to be the best of what any lens has to offer, just enough to correct some aberrations, and before "pin-hole" diffraction sets in. Those in the know tell me that this isn't true today, but dag-nabbit, I ain't believing it!

Even back in history, the 1.4 lenses were offered mostly to photograph near impossibly dark subjects, where the image quality was far less important, than actually getting an image, something photo-journalists were mostly interested in. It would seem cameras that have huge asa ratings would not need this type of commitment.

I will say that based on what I can read about the differences in format sizes, if the sweet spot for doing a head shot with an 85mm lens on FF 35mm, is around f/4 or f/5.6, where the background drops off the way I want, I'd need an f1.8 to f/2 lens in M4/3rd's to make this render the same why, and I shoot a lot with my 45mm Olympus lens at f/2 to f/2.8 to get what I want. Still not f/1.2, tho...

In answer to your question, I don't, so I probably shouldn't be commenting. Which, being the case, I'll keep it short: I have two 1.4 Sigma Art lenses and, if I could afford equivalent 1.2s, I'd be tempted. Why? I live in the UK: we don't do light.

Back when I had the nudie/glamour site, I got a set to buy which intrigued me. Even in full-figure photos, there was a nice blur in the background. I found out that a Canon 85mm 1.2 had been used, and got one for myself. It's expensive and big/heavy, and I might have used a 1.4, except I have the idea that that was not available then (maybe 12 years ago).

I've actually kept it along with a Canon 6D, because when I want extreme bokeh, that's the best option.

By that lens, portrait of a friend:

F1.2 lenses or f1.0 lenses or f0.95 lenses are "holy grail" lenses. There is great pride of ownership but am not so sure about high 'usership'.

In film days when the highest ISOs were a fraction of what we can get with digital whiz kids, having an extra stop made a lot of difference. I'm told photojournalists who had one never left home without it.

Venturing into deep uncertainty here, but here goes. F1.4 lenses have ben around forever and back in the 50's and 60's we all knew an f1.4 lens was pretty crappy wide open but quite useable at f2 and really good at f2.8. So f1.4 got cemented in our minds as being not very good. (There were a couple of f1.2 lenses around in the day and they were even worse, unless it was the Noct Nikkor.) But now comes the current onslaught of f1.2 lenses and they are almost universally excellent, even at f1.2. So f1.2 has become synonymous with high quality. I vote for the antiquated stereotypes school of lens evaluation.

I used a f1 Noctilux for years while my kids were growing up. I loved that it allowed me to use those new tgrain films such as TMAX100 and Delta 100 using window light. Grainless 8x10 inch prints and nicely soft rendition for portraits. There was no internet then and I didn't know it was supposed to be hard to focus. The lens was truly horrible for general picture taking, probably an 8 stop loss of light in the corners and on edges at f1.
The new f1.2 lenses seem to have excellent image quality. The essential point though, is that "Eye AF" in the new mirrorless cameras is really a game changer. No more focus, then recompose. No worries about subject movement. My Canon R5 nails focus with my older 135 f2 L when wide open everytime. Amazing progress.

I have the Olympus 17mm f1.2 and what I like best about it it the large and very smooth focus ring
with focus clutch which I keep set at manual but can change to auto focus fast. The image quality and color rendering of this lens to me is special.
Physically it looks like a telephoto and weighs close to 14oz which is where I'd like an F1.4 version. Also the lens doesn't do well when the
sun is directly shining into it.

I had the old Nikon 58/1.2 NOCT; bought it used at a National Camera Exchange tent sale one summer in the film era, and by the time I was on my D200 (second DSLR) I was finding that I couldn't focus it well enough to get much use from it (optical finder, no magnification and no focus aid, just electronic focus indication). I bought my D700 largely from funds I got from selling the NOCT (bought it for $700, sold it for $3500).

Yeah, 1.2 is not significantly different from 1.4 in general photographic terms. The NOCT was an exceptionally good lens though, which may matter. I did use it a lot on film. But the other 50 I had was the 1.8, not the 1.4.

Then later I had the Voigtlander 17.5/0.95 for Micro Four Thirds. I ended up selling that one on because even 0.95 wasn't enough faster than 1.7 to be hugely desirable in the era of the OM-D EM5, and it was manual focus (I could focus it quite accurately with the EVF tools available, but of course slower than AF).

Also, I found that, when wide open, both of them had shallow enough depth of field to often not be useful in the situations I liked to shoot. If you're doing a specific portrait you can frequently get away with very shallow DOF if you nail the primary eye, but any kind of a group shot tends to fail horribly.

Many times I have spent 1/2 hour or more writing the perfect reply to correct someone’s mistaken notions, in photography and other endeavors. I have been kicked out of several Facebook photo groups, for what I thought was a friendly argument. Now I just remember that comic, and erase my reply. I kid you not, someone called me an f Ing ignorant when I tried to explain that crop factor and aperture are related, when you are comparing lenses on different bodies. Anyway...
I started my photographic journey with a 50mm as my widest lens. And of course I wanted something faster, thinking it would be better. I saw the images taken with the 50mm f1 from Canon, and thought that was the pinnacle of lens design. So now I own both the f1.2 EF versions of the 50mm and the 85mm. And for the first couple of years I shot everything like Harley owners like the throttle to be...WTFO, or wide open if you prefer. But later my taste started to change, and I instituted my own rule, f4 for head shots, and as I stepped away, I would open up. Usually to f2 for sharpness if there was enough light to keep a high shutter speed. Why pay such a premium for f1.2 if I already own an f1.8 plastic fantastic ? Especially when sharpness tests show that they are almost equal from f2.8 ? Number one, it was my dream lens. You can’t put a price on your dreams. Number two, like you said, they put more effort on their premium lenses, even if you didn’t want f1.2, if you want better image quality and weather sealing, you need to step up. And number three, I could tell the difference in the bokeh. The f1.8 has such a nervous bokeh in so many more situations than the f1.2 My copy of 50mm is very temperamental, I did AF micro adjustments 5 times, until I realized how she (it is a she, temperamental and with a will of her own) reacted in different circumstances. Wide open at close distance, dreamy with buttery smooth bokeh. Wide open beyond 21 feet, sharp. f2 at close distances, I thought I had forgotten how to properly focus (because of the focus shift when using the lens at close range but not wide open). So, I have to remember al these details when I use it. Lately I been thinking of letter her go, and getting a super sharp 35mm f1.4, but...f1.4? Sounds positively plebeian. Besides, iPhones can try to imitate the shallow depth of field look, but...we can tell, even on instagram sized images. We can tell. I wish I couldn’t, then I could have saved thousands of dollars. I wish I could be happy with the f1.8 50mm and 85mm.

I'm no lens expert, but simple math would lead me to conclude that 1.2 is a full half stop between 1.0 and 1.4. What am I missing?

I owned a 35mm 1.4 Summilux and while I did enjoy the speed, I really enjoyed the look of shots taken wide open. Maybe the extra 1/3 (1/2?) stop would be even better?

[It's a little confusing, because actually all the numbers are approximated. When the scale is rounded to half stops or third stops, the value under ƒ/1.4 is given as ƒ/1.2 on both. But lens makers conventionally use 1/3rd stop scales for still camera lenses, and the scale at that end would be 1.0, 1.1, 1.2., 1.4, 1.6., 1.8, 2.0, 2.2, 2.4, 2.8, etc., where the bolded numbers are whole stops. Where you find ƒ/1.2 on a camera lens, it's a third of a stop less than ƒ/1.4. --Mike]

Regarding one third of a stop not being significant, you reminded me of the photo magazine reviewers and photographers alike that touted exposure compensation in thirds of a stop as much better than half stops. In reality, a camera with half stop exposure compensation can get to within one sixth of a stop (plus or minus) of what can be set on a camera with one third stop increments. We think finer control must be better but one sixth of stop exposure is just not noticeable, even with Velvia 50.

I’ve owned a few, but never found a particularly good reason to keep one.

I used to have a 1.2 Nikkor that was just awful. Not even in an interesting way other that as an example of physical vignetting and insane amounts of coma.
On a manually focused Nikon F with a k screen it was super easy to focus but shooting with it wide open was only something you did as a special effect or with film so fast that it’s utter lack so sharpness was a non-issue.

I have a Voigtländer 40mm f1.2 for Sony; it, and it’s 65mm super sharp sister, are the two lenses I shoot editorial portraits with amongst other things. I bought the 65mm for high end copy work and fell in love with it, and then tumbled down a Voigtländer rabbit hole. The 40mm is excellent for emphasising even a full length subject in an environmental type portrait. I use a tripod to help with focus frame to frame at 1.2 with this manual focus lens. It’s a great, very compact, unintimidating set up.

I do own the Fuji 56mm that you mention. It's a fine lens, though I don't use it enough and I will sell it. Have made some nice dog portraits with it: a deep black labrador retriever, black black, in a dark room with the light from the window creating some sparkling reflections in the sea of black of that labrador face. I normally prefer some moderate sharpness in the background, f/4 is good for me, but there are occasions when the smaller DOF makes sense.

I have several f1.2 lenses, love them all for different reasons.... Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.2, TT Artisan 50mm/1.2, Cosina 55/1.2, Porst 55/1.2, Nikkor 55 1.2....

all fully manual and worth the effort and patience required to shoot well at f1.2....

A couple years ago I bought a manual focus Nikkor 50mm f/1.2. I already had several 50mm lenses, including f/1.4, f/1.8, and f/2 manual focus Nikkors but I love the focal length and I was admittedly a bit of a snob for fast apertures. I tested it extensively for a couple days and compared it carefully with my similar lenses. In the end I returned it. I could see a slight difference if I pixel peeped, but no one else who would ever look at my photos would have. Besides, I would much prefer that the content of my photos were what mattered, not a barely perceptible difference in rendering.

If I was to decide on a 1.2 lens, sensor size would play a role. It would be more attractive for a micro 4/3 camera than a full frame for the comparable depth of field. But, in reality, with IBIS and excellent high ISO performance, no one really needs them.

I have an Olympus OM Zuiko 50mm f1.2 adapted for Sony. I got it for the bokeh and found it varies a good bit depending on the focus distance. At f2 it has beautiful creamy bokeh and I like the way rounded edges are drawn. Sharpness increases to f5.6 although I use it at f2 most of the time..... or change to something more modern.

I haven't owned the Olympus Pro 1.2s, but I rented the 17mm and 45mm ones along with the latest EM5 to see what I thought about upgrading from my 2011 kit. It *did* feel like a complementary bunch. I found that when I walked about at dusk---or in a low lit forest, or during winter greys--- with those lenses wide open, and with the camera at 400ish, I could choose decent shutter speeds (with the help of IBIS) and capture most things I wanted to capture, and with good quality. I liked how everything handled. I liked the confidence of the builds and the sealing, to boot.

I liked the whole business, but I balked at making a $3k upgrade. In normal light, stopped down a little, the 1.2s produced great photos. Things looked good. But I worried that I was trying to convince myself that they were that much better, and I didn't trust my judgement there. The 1.7 20mm and the 1.8 45mm that I actually own are both good, easier to carry, easier to rationalize, and they cost nothing for me to use.

Is it 1/3 stop between ƒ/1.2 and ƒ/1.4? Turns out 1/3 stop faster than ƒ/1.4 is ƒ/1.26, and 1/2 stop faster than ƒ/1.4 is ƒ/1.19.

So, it’s probably safer to call it half-a-stop faster.

Regardless, I understand the argument that 1/3 stop faster is barely detectable in light/noise and in depth-of-field. That’s OK.

But another question we can ask is, how much better is the ƒ/1.2 lens at ƒ/1.4 than the ƒ/1.4 lens at ƒ/1.4? The answer to that is quite often, “a lot”.


“the scale...would be 1.0, 1.1, 1.2., 1.4, 1.6., 1.8, 2.0, 2.2, 2.4, 2.8,

Actually not. Your mistake is to truncate the numbers into one decimal.

Using two decimal points, the actual scale in 1/3 stops is: 1, 1.12 , 1.26, 1.41, 1.59, 1.78, 2
And in half stops: 1, 1.19, 1.41, 1.68, 2

So 1.2 is very close to half stop faster than 1.4 or half stop slower than 1. 1.26, correctly rounded to 1.3, would be 1/3 stop faster than 1.4.

The correctly rounded series would be: 1, 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, 1.8, 2 in thirds and 1, 1.2, 1.4, 1.7, 2 in half stops.
As mentioned in one post, these are theoretical numbers derived from the aperture area and focal length, not actual light transmissions as T numbers would indicate.

"Seems like it's mainly a prestige thing to me,"

I own a Canon 58/1.2 from 1964, optical design from 1962. The Canon History site says:

"A standard lens for 35mm SLR cameras with the largest aperture in the world when marketed. . . This is a Gauss type lens with seven elements in five groups."

Then, it was indeed about bragging rights. Now, it's part of the menagerie of Bad lenses I keep for their special, optically, uh, different, qalities.

Hi, Mike. I. did side by side comparisons between a Nikkor 50mm AIS f1.2 and f1.4 and there was noticeable difference in bokeh. The f1.2 is tack sharp at f2 but good at f1.2. But if you’re working in a noisy setting, the f1.2 makes a difference.

This project was made on a busy outdoor pedestrian mall. Mostly shot at f1.2 to separate people from the noisy background.

The project is called, What Are You Famous For, and participants were asked, What are you famous for? And the hook was they were able to post-date their responses.


I have the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 AIs. It's like having two lenses. Normally, I roll my eyes when someone starts talking about "creamy" colors and such, but wide open, that's about the best word I can find for the way it renders color. None of my others lenses are like that. I also like how you can photograph someone full length outdoors and isolate them from the background while maintaining some depth (whatever the opposite of telephoto compression is) to the scene. Wide open there's some focus vignetting and other flaws/personality. At f/1.4 it us sharper than the other 1.4s but basically just another 50mm.

I have the Canon EF 85/1.2 mark. 2 and the EF 35/1.4 mark 2.
Both chosen for their performance wide open.
I chose Canon to use those two lenses (and the 135/2.0L), not the other way around.

Shoot them wide open probably 50% of the time.

"Man, if you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know." Louis. Armstrong.

Once upon a time in film day, superfast lenses had point. High iso speeds meant 800iso. Even more relevant was the need for fast lenses to nail accurate manual focus.As cameras with internal light meters closed down apertures, manual focus became difficult. I think it was Minolta that first came up with focus at full aperture and then auto stop down to the required aperture when exposing. The brighter the viewfinder, the easier it was to manually fast focus. There was real street cred in having a fast lens on the front of your slr.
I dont see the point of such lenses on dslrs. Already on cameraphones bokeh is being handled by computational image making. It is a more precise way to manage bokeh and can be adjusted as required in post processing.

Did I miss something? Do I have to redo my maths? Theoretical "light advantage" between F1.2 and F1.4 is one WHOLE f-stop. Opening the lens from f1.4 to f1.2 increases the „ground floor“ of the circle by factor 2 (and theoretically doubles the amount of incoming light).

Mike, I owned both the canon 50mm L and 85mm L f/1.2 lenses. I bought them because I was frequently shooting (professionally) in low light situations and thought the extra light would be an advantage. Also loving a nice boke I thought it would produce a nice effect. They both did a beautiful job with the boke but were totally unusably soft at f/1.2. In the end I never used them past f/1.8 as I don’t think my clients would have accepted the photos.

In your reasoning there is no use switching any lense (say a F4) for a slightly faster one (say a F3.2), because of Norman Goldberg’s margin of error.
I think hardly anybody does.

Two valid reasons to own one: light gathering and shallow DOF. In my experience, most people claim that's why they're buying it, then do things that indicate they didn't need either.

In the right hands really fast lenses can create an image that stands out from others (which is what pros should always want to do), but most of the copies sold aren't in the right hands.

I have a Nikkor 55mm f1.2 (pre-AI) - given to me by a friend who had been clearing out her brother in law's flat in Tehran. It came with a late Nikon F body, but now sits on my Fuji X Pro 2 (shooting and developing film is not practical here in Zambia). I rarely shoot wider than f2, but I won't be trading in my well travelled f1.2 lens. It has too many stories to tell.

I've never owned a 1.2 lens but then again I've never married.

Yes, you missed something (dunno what), you have to redo your math.

A factor of the square root of 2 between f numbers represents exactly one f-stop difference. So f/1.4 to f/2 is one stop, and to f/2.8 is another, and to f/4 is another, and so forth. (Or, the other direction, f/1 is one stop wider than f/1.4).

Lots of articles out there laying out exactly what the math and physics are better than I could here (and with good illustrations).

I've owned two 1.2 lenses. One was an old Nikkor-S 55mm, found at Value Village attached to a badly water damaged Nikkormat. Somehow the lens was perfectly usable in very good shape. My second 1.2 was a Rikenon 55mm. Both lenses were alright, but I never hit it off with them like I did the terrific Takumar and Pentax fifties and fifty fives I've had. But then I've always placed a premium on compact equipment and those 1.2s were a fair bit bulkier than the latter lenses.

The "1.2" I've been coveting lately is the 7artisans 35mm/0.95, an APS-C lens that according to a couple reviews is actually sharp enough from wide open, and fairly compact. I often shoot at night, and never use a tripod, so a wide-open-usable 1.4 equivalent at an affordable price is a really big deal to me and would genuinely open up some significant possibilities.

I own an M.Zuiko 1.2/17mm. I purchased it to use with my Pen F. I used it before the pandemic for low-light photography where I couldn't use a flash; coupled with the Pen F's silent shutter, it was the perfect candid system for me. Later I learned to just use it wide open, even in broad daylight. If I needed a slower shutter speed I put on my BW circular polarizer as a poor-man's ND density filter. I never use the lens stopped down for anything. I paid for f/1.2, Olympus claims it's as good wide open as stopped down, so I'm going to use the feature everywhere I can. I also like the fact the lens is weather sealed. Unfortunately the Pen F isn't...

I love how the lens renders the subject and the subject's surroundings. Of all my Zuiko lenses, it's the one prime I reach for more than any other.

Generally speaking, I am of the opinion that good enough is almost always good enough. But.. I still picked up the Fuji 56mm 1.2 instead of the 50mm 1.4 or 2.0. I have never regretted it.

I wonder where this third-stop nonsense is coming from. Formally, f/1.2 is the half-stop between f/1 and f/1.4. The third-stops are f/1.1 and f/1.3.

And by the way — the reason for the absurdly high number of elements in modern high-performance lenses, paradoxically, is that many elements are easier to assemble than few elements. The higher the number of elements, the more relaxed are the tolerances for the assembly of each individual element.

Always late for the comments.
I just bought a 50mm f1.2 lens, but more out of morbid curiosity than any need. The TTArtisan lens is selling for $98 at B&H and is the third lens I’ve purchased new in my 50+ years of messing about with cameras.
Really, how can you not get this lens? Although it covers APS sensors it’s parked on my micro 4:3 for a 100mm FoV. Lot’s of purdy colors plus low contrast at f1.2 it starts to clean up kinda nice at f4, even better at 5.6.
Now I can say I’ve owned a f1.2 lens. That alone is worth the C note wouldn’t you say?

Even later for the comments...

I could not care less about exact f-stop numbers, and I use the f-stops more in regions than by exact numbers, i.e wide open (usually at least one increment down from max), around f8 for maximum sharpness with reasonable DoF, rarely at about f16 to avoid diffraction.

And yes, I do own and often use that wonderful Voigtländer 40mm f1.2, albeit rarely at 1.2, more often at 1.4.
Snow Again was made with this lens, and I do enjoy the possibility to introduce slight subject insulation even at distances of 4-5m with a normal to wide FoV.

I used to use the canon 50mm 1.2 and it wasn't sharp enough so I switched to the sigma 50 1.4 art but then I missed the character so I picked up a nikon 50mm 1.2 and I love the character wide open on my mirrorless. If I wasn't too lazy to focus I'd use it a lot more.

An even later comment from yet another M.ZD 17/1.2 user. It's a very pleasing do-all fast prime and reminds me a bit of the Contax G 35/2.0 Planar and Contax T3 35/2.8 Sonnar, but focusing a much closer 8 inches then either Zeiss. That better leverages the shallow DoF capabilities. The large aperture couples nicely with the excellent Oly IBIS for previously unthinkable long handheld exposure times. It's also sharp as a sharp thing.

Still a bit of a specialty lens but makes a nice companion to the remarkable 12-100/4 when one wants something much faster.

Fashionably late...
I own the SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.2 (from the series known as the K series, but it's really just the original K-mount lenses).
It's super sharp and renders beautifully at f8.
It also renders beautifully at f1.2 and everywhere else... but I wouldn't have bought it if I hadn't gotten it for basically free (it came with a broken film camera I bought locally, wasn't even in the local ad, but I got the camera bag and there it was...)
I am glad though, it has the most beautiful rendering of all the 50mm lenses I have had, possibly all the lenses I've had. Not that any 50mm lens is capable of bad results...
I find that about f2.4 on APS-C is the aperture I usually need to keep a good shutter speed and a low enough ISO. But having fast lenses is fun, and I think there's nothing wrong with fun (I have a few f1.4 lenses as well...)

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