Lens Made of Rare Metal, Unobtainium: Nocticron 42.5mm F1.2

A few weeks ago I have had a close encounter with the Panasonic Nocticron 42.5mm F1.2 lens. 

Around the same time, Kirk Tuck said in his blog about the Nocticron: "It's dense because it is built with a certain amount of rare metal called, Unobtainium." 

Shaun who has that lens is in town again, and together with Bjorn we attacked Chow Kit, and Shaun was kind enough to loan me the lens made from Unobtainium for a whole morning. I was a happy kid all over again. 

The lens looks great on the E-M1

You see, when Olympus and Panasonic started the Four Thirds which subsequently moved on to the Micro Four Thirds system, with the sensor a quarter of the size of a full frame 35mm sensor, it has been widely propagated and falsely advertised that ONLY by using the larger sensor you can achieve shallow depth of field, and you cannot do it with the smaller sensor system cameras. Then Panasonic came up with their 20mm F1.7, and then Olympus with now the highly regarded 45mm F1.8 (which I can't live without now), it is not too difficult to produce shallow depth of field shots with the Micro Four Thirds system anymore. In fact, more and more interesting lenses were released, notably the Voigtlander F0.95 series (though lacking AF capability), and then the Olympus 75mm F1.8, which I believe still renders the shallowest depth of field for Micro Four Thirds system, and trust me when I say not many can tell whether photographs taken from such large aperture lenses were from either the traditional full frame DSLR cameras or the newer Micro Four Thirds system. 

Now, Panasonic took the large aperture craze to entirely new level with their Nocticron 42.5mm F1.2 lens. That is right, it is F1.2, and you can expect super thin depth of field, and knowing the "Leica Nocticron" branding, the bokeh quality is going to be excellent. 

I had a full morning shooting with the Nocticron 42.5mm F1.2, mounted on the OM-D E-M1, and I shall be writing about my experience with the lens. No, unfortunately I do not have sufficient time with the lens to make a full on review (I am rather occupied this weekend) and I do not like to rush out a review like that. With whatever limited time I had with the lens, I will make some honest comments. 

I really like this lens. It is larger than most Micro Four Thirds, and obviously heavier, yes, but it did not feel out of balance with the E-M1. If you have the battery grip (I did not) it should be perfectly balanced, and I found myself using the lens rather comfortably. I like how creating shallow depth of field is so easy shooting at F1.2. I know full frame shooters will say that their F1.8 lens will render better bokeh and narrower depth of field, well, honestly, how much more shallow do you reaaaaaally need? My staple lens, the Olympus 45mm F1.8 is already sufficient to fulfill my bokeh fetish, and I almost never complained about not having shallow enough depth of field, in fact I found myself stopping down the aperture when necessary to achieve MORE depth of field to have more zone in focus. So yes, F1.2 on that Nocticron is surely more than enough for 99% of what you need to shoot out there. 

The lens is sharp, really sharp. Sharper than the Olympus 45mm F1.8, possibly but I did not have the time and energy to do side by side comparison. Contrast from this lens is good, and I was pleased to find that the Olympus OM-D E-M1 does a great job in correcting the chromatic aberration from the lens.Focusing was actually very fast and always accurate on the E-M1, on par with any Olympus lenses, which was a pleasant surprise considering how E-M1 and E-M5 have minor focusing hiccups with the older Panasonic lenses, such as the 20mm F1.7 and even the 25mm F1.4. The best part about using the F1.2 lens on the E-M1? You get that advantage of the super bright aperture F1.2, AND the amazing 5-Axis Image Stabilization. 

I really do not find there is anything I do not like about the lens. I know it is bulky and heavy, but come on... it is F1.2!

Say hello to Bjorn Utpott from Canada (the guy in focus), currently residing in KL. Do visit his blog, he has got some amazing street photographs!

And Shaun (shooting with the E-M1) is where the Nocticron 42.5mm F1.2 came from. 

F1.2, look at the wall and how thin the depth of field is. 


Ohh Sweet Bokeh....

Portrait of a Stranger 1

And then there was a cat, with bokeh

I like how subjects just just popped out

Morning Smoke

Working Hard


Back Entrance


Portrait of a Stranger 2

Lunch, Cheese and Garlic Naan

Portrait of Shaun and his E-M1

Bjorn's secret weapon for the day: Lumix GM1 and the new 15mm F1.7 lens. 

Kirk Tuck was right when he commented that the lens was made of a special rare metal called Unobtainium. At the skyrocket high price ceiling, the lens is just unobtainable for me.

Now the question comes down to the Olympus 45mm F1.8 vs the Panasonic 42.5mm F1.2. Two very different lenses and one priced much higher than the other (you can probably buy five Olympus 45mm lenses with the Nocticron 42.5mm, according to local Malaysian pricing). We know that the F1.2 is indeed significantly brighter than F1.8, no doubt about that, and that the Nocticron is better built with metal, unlike the plastic Olympus 45mm lens. 

However, when I asked myself, am I happy with the Olympus 45mm F1.8, honestly, it is a HUGE YES. Is the F1.8 rendering sufficient shallow depth of field for what I shoot? Again, another YES. Do I wish I have the F1.2, I must be truthful to say here, YES I do. Can I afford the Nocticron 42.5mm F1.2 lens? Unfortunately, no. Is the Nocticron lens worth paying five times of the Olympus lens? Definitely no, and but I am sure this is not stopping those of you with no financial constraint from getting it!

Panasonic made a very bold statement with the pricing on the Nocticron 42.5mm that it is not the lens aimed at everyone. A very different strategy in contrast to the price friendlier Olympus 45mm F1.8, which is a default MUST HAVE lens if you get into the Micro Four Thirds system. Combined with a capable camera such as the E-M1 or GH-4, the Nocticron is surely capable of amazing results. 

I know some of you already have this lens. Tell us what you think!

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  1. Qualitywise, what about the Noct compared to the m.Zuiko 75mm?

    1. I can't make any comments because I did not do side by side comparison (which does not make sense either, different focal lengths) but I would say 75mm is still a league on its own.

    2. a little after the fact, but this guy compares the 75mm in his review

      great shots robin!
      chris keats

  2. one of the best image sets yet ....:)

  3. Hey this lens will probably remain unobtainium for me too. But, these photographs are absolutely wonderful. Thanks for sharing, Robin!

    1. Thanks for the kind words. Unobtanium to me too unfortunately.

  4. Hi Robin,
    I use the Nocticron for my wedding business to obliterate busy backgrounds during the Getting Ready sessions. It's quite effective and I do love it for that. I have two EM1's with grip and it balances perfectly. If I weren't using it every weekend for weddings, I'm not sure I could justify the price. However, if you are a depth of field fanatic and that is your look, you will want this lens. I'd love for Olympus to issue a firmware update to make use of the aperture ring on this and other lenses (if possible) as it currently is just for looks. The Oly 45mm 1.8 is fantastic and my second shooter now uses it on an EM5. In a different topic, I'd love for you to revisit 4/3 lenses on the EM1 now that the 1.4 firmware update is out and claims to have better autofocus with the 4/3 lenses. Thanks!! I love your blog and look forward to all the articles and images.

    1. Hi Steve,
      I wish I can do more but work is holding me down at the moment. I want to shoot more and there are so many things to try and write about.
      Thanks for sharing about the use of the Nocticron 42.5mm for your wedding job, I am sure it does very well and you have made amazing photographs.

  5. I just checked AUD 1700 on eBay. For some people who love spending money, that is relatively cheap. :)
    Really stylish focus gradients, colours and tones on those photos......

    1. Oh my I have a very different definition of cheap. But I can't argue with the amazing image quality.

  6. Hi Robin,
    It was great fun shooting with you and Shaun yesterday.
    This is a wonderful set of images that really shows off the unique look that the Nocticron is able to produce.
    It's hard not to be enamoured with the lens.
    That said, M.Zuiko 45/1.8 does a better job of exploiting the smaller mFT sensor size for the sake of portability.
    That's also important, so it's good to have the choice between these 2 lenses.

  7. The aperture ring, really like that. But if I use it on a Pen is there no influence if I change it, for example by accident.
    Many comments on your blog, Robin, tell me and you that people like your pictures and that it is very good work. If you ask me, they are right! It's fascinating to see what you can do with these camera's and lenses, although with the Sony you did some very nice shots. Keep up the good work . . .

  8. Hello,

    is there anybody who can compare the new lenses (like the Nocticron) with the old Olympus Zuiko 50 mm F 1.2 from the OM-system?

    Many thanks in advance.


    1. well i don't have nocticron but i do have OM 55mm/1.2 (lens that was replaced by 50mm/1.2 )and also Canon FD 55mm/1.2 aspherical (on loan to me) and here you can see samples on E-M5 with those lenses:
      i did a small comparison between the two lenses:

  9. Robin, I used this and compared with Oly 45mm. The sharpness was amazing and the look it produced when taking pictures from 2-5 meters was brilliant. However, the difference in all other cases wasn't big enough justifying the weight (and price). I returned it needless to say, sadly. I so wanted to like it much more and keep it.

  10. I have the 25... I have the 75... seems all I'm missing is the 45mm. The 25 doesn't provide enough isolation. The 75 does but the working distance is a chore every time. Could the 45 be the sweetspot in between? :)

  11. I am really hoping Olympus will release some PRO primes similar to this in the form of 17, 45, 25, and 12mm at f/0.95 or f/1.2. That would eliminate my full frame dependency and allow me to use my e-m1 exclusively. I am tempted to get the panasonic or voightlander, but I keep telling myself to wait and see what Olympus delivers.

  12. Unobtainium? I'm feeling stupid now. I thought that was just something they made up for the film Avatar. The name even sounds made up haha.

  13. Robin - thanks for the review and more importantly, sharing so many inspirational shots on here. You have a true eye for street photography, colour and composition. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading this and will read more articles and bookmark your blog.