Lomography’s latest art lens has been announced on Kickstarter. The Nour Triplet 64mm f/2 follows the company’s trend of releasing incredibly distinct lenses that providing users something perfectly imperfect to chase their creative visions.
The new 64mm f/2 Nour Triplet lens is effectively three lenses in one since it can shift its aberration modes between classic, bubble, and soft using a Lomography Control Knob located near the end of the lens. Each mode gives photographers a bit of connection to the past and allows them to transition between insanely soft and hazy focus glow to wildly pronounced soap bubble-style bokeh patterns with intense separation between subject and the background(s).
The lens holds onto the 19th century design that most Lomography users will be familiar with, but pays a deep homage to the father of modern optics who lived around 965 C.E., making it an unusual blend of two worlds. The company says each lens is handcrafted to ensure every one is able to take its users on a creative journey, and honestly it kind of does since it forces you to step out of the comfort zones provided by modern mirrorless and DSLR systems and makes you slow down to take in the surroundings before taking the shot.
Since this lens leans heavily into its chromatic/spherical aberration, it’s probably best we get into the definition of what these terms mean. Aberrations occur when the light passing through a lens does not converge at a single point. There are multiple types of aberrations in lenses and they can affect sharpness, focus, magnification, distortion, and color in your images.
Spherical aberration (SA) occurs when the light passing through the edges of a lens focuses closer to the lens than light passing through its center. It is among the few aberrations that impact the entire frame. SA creates a diffused haze and soft focus effect that causes the frame to ‘glow’ which is what this particular lens leans heavily into to create its “delightful haze” for creative photography.
This manual lens has all that aberration and haze in spades but just how good is it to use and what kind of results can you achieve with it? The honest answer is that it is frustrating at first, but actually a whole lot of fun once you figure it out. The “good” part is all up to personal choice and style preferences, as there’s no denying this lens is different from most other lenses on the market since it embraces its imperfections instead of trying to fix them.
Nour Triplet: Design and Build Quality
The 64mm Nour Triplet manual lens looks pretty similar to many of the other recent art lenses introduced by Lomography in the last few years. It features a solid brass (or Black Aluminum) body with a removable lens hood (should you find yourself wanting to save a little weight/space from the lens) and a solid, but not weather-sealed body design down to the mount. Along the top of the lens you’ll find the “Lomography Control Knob” that allows you to change the spherical aberration and give some entirely different styles to your shots by switching from classic (or normal in the middle), to soft (on the left) and soap bubble (on the right).
The aperture ring is located closer to the top of the lens with f-stops ranging from 2-16, with each full-stop in between marked on the barrel. Behind this and closer to the mount of the lens, users will find the focus ring. Both the aperture and focus rings have some significant amounts of tension to them so focus and aperture drifting shouldn’t be an issue outside of any accidental bumps while making adjustments manually. Additionally, this aperture ring is “clickless,” meaning there is no noticeable click when you make changes to the aperture, so since it’s both a manual lens with a quiet ring, users will want to be sure to double check their settings before taking any shots.
Despite its small size, the lens weights about 675 grams (including the lens caps) so it’s not exactly a light-weight lens but it is pretty tough and durable despite its lack of weather sealing.
I should also make it clear that the lens we got to test was a prototype lens, and as such, the production model(s) will likely perform and even possibly look slightly different from the version tested for this review. Additionally, we were not sent any of the drop in aperture plates because the design was still being finalized during our testing, so we cannot comment on the usage, build quality, design, or performance of that particular feature. However, we can tell you that the company has confirmed that unlike the Petzval style lenses we’ve covered in the past, the drop in plates will go in the rear of the lens before mounting it to the camera which the company says allows the lenses to be smaller and lighter in design when compared to the other lenses with the drop in plates secured in the barrels of the lens. As for how these drop-in filters work and function, sadly I cannot comment until we see a production model.
Focusing and General Use
Since the lens is entirely manual, users will want to enable focus peaking in their systems to help ensure they’re getting a sharp shot, but keep in mind, even with the system “in focus”, when shooting at f/2 with this particular lens, everything will still be rather soft no matter how much you try. While the lens can stop down to f/16, I mostly shot it at f/2 to get the soft and dreamy bokeh patterns, along with all of that crazy aberration detail. Obviously with such a soft lens, at the wide open settings it can be challenging to nail the focus, but it is likely the company will argue that this is part of the charm of the lens. It is “kind of a vibe” as my friends who tested the lens out with me said, and I have to agree.
When shooting wide open, users will be greeted with a very, and I do mean very, soft focus regardless of what aberration mode you’ve placed it in. Obviously you can quickly get three different looks by sliding the dial left and right, but no matter which way you choose the images you’ll be left with are definitely very vintage feeling, which holds true to the company’s claim to be paying homage to Hasan Ibn al-Haytham who discovered aberrations in lenses to begin with.
In addition to the soft feel of the lens, like many of the other Lomography lenses, it will challenge your usual composition standards by making you keep the subjects you want to be clearest/sharpest near the center of the frame. This “issue” is not nearly as prevalent as with the Petzval lenses, but it’s still there. You can still focus on objects along the edges of the frame, and they can be sharp, but there’s something about those outer edges with a lens like that that you’ll find yourself wanting to leave open so you can show off the bokeh patterns as much as possible. Again, it’s definitely a vibe.
Finally, users should know that when you change the aberration setting, the minimum and maximum focus distances will change as well, meaning you can’t just swap between modes and instantly have the same focus. You’ll need to re-focus your image each time you shift modes, and sometimes the focus distance can be quite different. This was kind of frustrating in testing, especially when shooting handheld, as it made it kind of hard to frame up similar shots for each mode. And in normal settings it means your models must hold their poses a bit longer while you shift between modes and reacquire focus on them. Not a deal-breaker, but definitely a bit of a speed-bump in the workflow when in use.
Additionally, something that I chalked up to it being a prototype, the aperture settings weren’t “exact”, but rather an approximation of where each f-stop would/should be. And since it’s a fully manual lens, there wasn’t really any straightforward way to confirm each f-stop. So other than the minimum and maximum apertures, the ranges in between are more like f/2.8-ish or f/8-ish since they lack “clicking” confirmations. I guess that’s just another reason to basically keep shooting wide open when you have these lenses anyway.
Nour Triplet: Bokeh and Aberration For Days
It can be troublesome to get your head around with all the crazy sharp and near-perfect glass available on today’s market, but the Lomography Nour Triplet lens really focuses on imperfection, which the company says is meant to inspire and assist creatives to capture their artistic vision. For the moody street and portrait photographer, I can see what they mean.
Shooting wide open was wildly frustrating to get a “clean” shot, but once I gave up on that and just started paying attention more to composition than “perfection” it started to become a lot of fun. While it didn’t really fit in with the style of work I would normally do, I see the appeal, as there really is an absolute bucket of bokeh and aberration available to creatives looking for that imperfect feel for their art.
The lens provides some rather unique glows and hazes that would take heavy use of filters and post production to achieve to create the same sort of feel, and when you have a busy background, especially with lots of lights, the bokeh patterns are truly beautiful. It is very much an “old soul” kind of lens that kind of forces you to slow down and pay more attention to what you’re capturing.
The only thing that frustrated me with this lens was identifying my shots (as in what aberration mode was it?) when I got back to my computer. I suspect after some extensive time spent shooting it would be clear which bokeh pattern came from what mode but I only had the lens a short while so it was a little confusing until I came up with a routine for each shot basically shooting similar images using the same pattern each time.
Below are some images captured using the Lomography Nour Triplet V2.0 64mm Art lens;
Are There Alternatives?
Weirdly enough, there are actually a few alternative lenses on the market for creatives seeking something off the “perfect” path and they are all largely found under the Lensbaby and Lomography umbrellas.
Lensbaby fans can find the $349 Composer Pro II with Soft Focus II optic, the $449 Velvet 56mm f/1.6 Macro Lens, the $199 Lensbaby Spark 2.0, and the $279 Twist 60. From Lomography there is the $399 55mm f/1.7 MkII Petzval Art Lens, the $499 80mm f/1.9 Mk II Petzval Art lens, and the $299 Daguerreotype Achromat 64mm f/2.9 Art lens. Both brands have a wide variety of other lenses available for them as well, each offering some very unique and obscure camera effects which are worth looking into for anyone seeking something a bit more challenging and creative.
Should You Buy It?
Maybe. Honestly, if you’re looking for something to make you slow down, think outside the normal photography box, and try something creatively challenging, the Nour Triplet f/2 64mm Art lens from Lomography is definitely worth the investment — backing options start at $335 — especially since it kind of gives you three lenses for the price of one. Just be aware of what you’re signing up for since it is a fully manual, and very unusual lens that will require you to pay extra attention to your images when shooting on the wide open side of things.
The Nour Triplet will ship to backers beginning this December, and its eventual MSRP is $449 for the aluminum version and $549 for the brass variant.
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