Why Is It Difficulty To Get Camera Lenses Faster Than f/1.2?

Why Is It Difficulty To Get Camera Lenses Faster Than f/1.2?
Image: Nikon

The small the f-number, the larger the aperture and the more light a digital camera sensor receives. It also has a significant effect on the depth of field and sharpness of images. You may have noticed most commercial lens stop at around f/1.2. So why don’t they go lower?

Many years ago, LA-based photographer Blair Bunting found himself in a position to not only acquire, but mount sub-f/1.0 lenses to his Canon 1D. Until recently, he held onto both his story — and the photos — only revealing them late last month:

…there was an industrial factory that did X-ray analysis that had gone under and surplussed it’s equipment. I called them up and offered to buy all their lenses for cheap as I intended to mount them to a Canon 1D … The lenses that came in the box ranged from 110mm to 50mm and had aperture values of 1.1 to 0.50. Unfortunately, they were made for industrial X-ray machines, so mounting them would not be easy.

After some creative cutting — and plumbing — Bunting managed to get the lenses onto his camera. The resulting images can be found over at PetaPixel and Bunting’s blog, but here are a couple of examples:

Why Is It Difficulty To Get Camera Lenses Faster Than f/1.2?Image: Blair Bunting

Interesting, for sure, but even with small subjects, getting a clear picture appears difficult. Certainly nothing you couldn’t accomplish with a slower shot.

As Bunting states on his website, modifying the lens and taking the photos was simply an experiment, rather than an attempt to craft an array of super-fast lens for serious use. In fact, Bunting mentions he’s since sold “most of the lenses [he] made”.

So, unless you’re chasing a specific (and blurry) look for your photos, you’ll never have a need for a lens that below f/1.2. You’re welcome to make your own however!

When f/1.0 Just Isn’t Fast Enough [Blair Bunting, via PetaPixel]


  • Canon used to make the 50mm f/1.0L but discontinued it and rolled out the f/1.2.
    I think people had trouble focussing and blamed Canon for poor quality.
    I know that is an oversimplification.
    There may have been focus shift issues.
    The f/1.0 would be problematic in most cases.
    You can still get them on ebay for roughly $4000.
    If you read about Stanley Kubrick’s use of the f/0.7 lens, the actors couldn’t move or they go out of focus.

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