If you thought that Nikon’s 58mm f/0.95 Noct lens was ludicrously huge, heavy and expensive, consider that the original plan was for it to include autofocus, a design that would have made the lens outlandishly enormous.
In a curious interview with Japanese website Xitek, some of Nikon’s senior engineers explain that the original idea for the lens was for it to include autofocus, but plans changed when it was realized that the system would be very slow and, given the optical construction, the resulting size of the lens would be “far beyond imagination.”
The lens, which is continuing to prove difficult to buy, weighs 4.4 lb (2 kg) and is 6 inches (15.3 cm) long. As standard primes go, this is very large.
The changes to flange distance and throat diameter have opened up new avenues for lens designers. While Canon opted to produce some exceptionally sharp, incredibly fast glass — such as the 50mm f/1.2 and the 85mm f/1.2 — Nikon chose to create a museum piece that has truly remarkable optics but almost zero practical use, especially when you consider that it costs $8,000, assuming you can find one in stock.
Somewhat ironically, Leica owners, a breed of photographer accustomed to paying outlandish amounts of money for lenses, will soon be able to buy an M-mount 50mm f/0.95 lens for one-tenth of the price of the Nikon Noct. The TTartisan 50mm f/0.95 is available for pre-order for a mere $755.
Should Nikon have opted for more feasible f/1.2 glass rather than creating a unicorn? Or should the Japanese manufacturer simply gone the whole hog and produced an enormous autofocus f/0.95 lens that came complete with wheels and a hoist? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.