Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 (Review)

Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 v2 (1981-1982)

2 part article covering the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1 review and sample photos

Part 1: I just bought a Leica Noctilux 50mm f1!

As a Leica photographer and even before owning a Leica camera I always dreamed of owning a lens that was faster than f1.2. I love shallow depth of field (“DOF”) and my best lenses for this to date include Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm f2 (medium format lens on the Contax 645 – equal to 50mm f1.1 approx on a 35mm camera), Nikon 200mm f2 AI-s, Nikon 50mm f1.2 AI-s, Carl Zeiss Pancolar 80mm f1.8 (M42) and more recently on the Leica cameras; Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii, Leica Summicron 90mm f2, Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5 (1954) and Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 (to mention a few).

Despite owning all those mentioned lenses the dream lives on. Today I decided to make that dream come true and reinvest some savings that had matured into Leica glass rather than a low interest deposit account. No price can be placed on the enjoyment I get from my photography and as Leica lenses retain their value well I see it more as an investment than an expense.

Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 vs. Leica Noctilux 50mm f0.95 – Price
The fastest Leica lens and in current production is the latest Leica Noctilux 50mm f0.95ASPH that was released in 2008. (Canon actually made the first 50mm f0.95 lens years earlier) Here in the UK the retail price to buy a new Noctilux 50/0.95 is in excess of £7.2k. Used Noctilux lenses hold their value well but this is more than double the cost of a used Noctilux 50mm f1.0. Most of the Leica shooters that I know use a f0.95 not the older f1.0 but I was not in a position to spend that kind of money on one lens.

Was I tempted by the newer sharper faster Noctilux f0.95?
Initially of course yes. I do like my apparent lens sharpness combined with a shallow DOF however my taste seems to be changing as my photography matures. I own the famous ‘Lux ASPH 50mm f1.4 and it does indeed have edge to edge clinical sharpness at f1.4. That said, it is not my first or even second choice when selecting a 50mm lens to use for my portraiture photography. Until recently I favoured the Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50mm f1.5 for a combination of sharp, contrasty, punchy images with a nicely rendered OOF area/ bokeh. I then bought a 1954 Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5. That has changed everything. It is soft, low contrast and prone to flare yet I absolutely love its quirks and the vintage imperfect look it applies to images.

Sample image using the Summarit 50/1.5 @f1.5 on my Leica M9

Classic Black & White Photography

Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 vs. Leica Noctilux 50mm f0.95 – Images
If I compare photos taken with the older Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 vs the current Leica Noctilux 50mm f0.95 I would say it is like comparing the 1954 Summarit 50/1.5 vs the current Leica Lux ASPH 50/1.4. Many people say photos taken with the Noct. f0.95 are not dissimilar from those taken with the Lux 50 ASPH. Both these lenses give clinical sharpness. The older Noct f1.0 however has real character and ‘proper’ imperfections that you just cannot make or add to an image after in Photoshop. A particular favourite characteristic is the misshaped bokeh balls of the f1.0 that are more akin to bokeh of the Summarit 50 lens. I think the f1.0 images capture many of the best bits seen in the Summarit 50 photos yet 10 fold.

Painting with my camera not etching with micro precision
The vintage Summarit really is a fantastic lens if used correctly but I feel I will be able to get even more out of the Leica Noctilux 50 f1 lens. I like to ‘paint’ things of beauty with the majority of my photography regardless of the subject. Having a lens that appears to paint on the detail with a big fat brush rather than etch in the finer details with micro precision is exactly why I chose the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 over the 50mm f0.95.

I have not even received my lens yet but this is my conclusion to date drawn from the research I did prior to my purchase. Most of the reviews I had read for the Summarit 50 were terrible but it turns out the lens is a real gem. I hope to prove that the older Nocti f1.0 is more than a match for its newer sibling for some types of photography.

More about the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 v2
I bought the v2 model that has an E60 thread and removable Leica hood. Many people praise the v4 as being the most sought after of all 5 models released. The v4 has built in slide out hood but the v2 is lighter and often cheaper than the v4. I like using flare in my photography so there is a very high chance that I will not fit the lens hood. I will just protect the end of the lens with a ND filter or UV filter. Lens hoods often make lenses much more imposing so I currently do not use any add on lens hoods on my LM mount lenses.

I bought my 1981-82s Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 v2 lens from Italy via eBay so I must now wait patiently before I get to try the lens and share some sample images with you. The Noctilux lens is the now the most expensive item in my photography bag but I see it as a long term investment rather than a luxury expense. It may seem that I buy new camera gear almost every week and sometimes this is true but I buy almost all second hand and I spend little to nothing on anything other than photography! I get paid working as a Leica wedding photographer, fashion and beauty photographer and for running photography and lighting workshops from my Coventry studio and on location. Any money I receive from my photography is reinvested 100% back into my passion.

I am excited for the arrival of my Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 and I will of course report back soon once it arrives.

 

PART 2: Arrival!

Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 v2 (1981)
MatthewOsbornePhotography – Leica Photographer

Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0

After getting the chance to try a new Leica Noctilux 50mm f0.95 lens during a London Photography Workshop a few weeks back I was excited for the arrival of my older Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0. I purchased the mint condition vintage Leica lens on eBay from ‘longmilan84’ (Long) who it based in Milan, Italy. Despite the worry of the high value purchase the transaction all went very smoothly and the lens arrived as described. Many thanks Long!

Leica Noctilux 50f1.0 for wedding photography?

I ordered the Nocti lens to arrive in time for a wedding booking last weekend. I used the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 for wedding photography and was really pleased with the results. It is well documented that the f1.0 lens is much softer wide open the compared to the newer 50mm f0.95 but I was hoping to use this effect to my advantage. I relied on Leica m mount lenses I knew for the most part of the day (CV 35/1.2 ASPH + Leica Lux ASPH 50/1.4) but did use the Nocti at the end of the day and for arty ‘B roll’ style detail shots. Once I was confident with the results from the Noctilux for wedding photos I asked my next wedding couple in advance if I can use this lens for their wedding and they said yes! Great news! I now hope to use the Nocti as much as possible on the wedding day shot wide open throughout.

Here are some Noctilux wedding photo examples, all shot wide open at f1.0 on a Leica M9
Leica Noctilux Wedding
Noctilux Bokeh
Leica Nocitlux Bokeh
Leica Food Photography
Noctilux DOF
Leica Noctilux Bokeh
Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 Sharpness
Leica Look
Leica Nocti Wedding
Leica Noctilux Low Light

(I will share a separate blog post for the full wedding highlights including more Nocti photos)

Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 for Leica Studio Photography?
Yesterday I was teaching a photography and lighting workshop again in my Coventry studio giving photography tuition on how to use available light for portrait photography. Holly kindly modelled for me and here are a few samples of me using the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 in the studio shot wide open on a Leica M9 camera body.
Leica Noctilux f1
Leica Noctilux Portrait

Did I like using the Nocti 50f1 in the studio?
I found I kept wanting to get closer than 1m to my model to give a tighter crop. The 50f1 will not focus closer than 1m so at times changed lenses to my Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 that will focus as close as 0.7m. Here is a sample image using the Lux ASPH 50 as a comparison (on the M9) –
Leica Portrait

Initial thoughts.
I am very happy with the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 purchase and I do not have the desire to upgrade to the newer f0.95. The Noctilux f0.95 gives a similar look to that from the Summilux ASPH 50 f1.4 but has the same drawback as the f1.0 in that you can only focus as close as 1m. If Leica released a new Noctilux with 0.7m focus distance I would be there in an instant! ..after robbing a bank en route! (joke – as I imagine it would be very expensive!)

I have not yet had chance to do a dedicated model / fashion photography shoot with the Leica Nocti as I have been teaching photography much more in recent weeks. That said, as soon as I do I will share the results. I am also really looking forward to all the Leica weddings booked for the year as I hope to sell them the Leica Noctilux look as I have for the next wedding. Wedding photography is no different to any of my other photography genre. If I can’t get excited when taking the photos I will not enjoy it and then I would stop doing it. The Leica Noctilux photos make the ordinary look extraordinary and that is what I want others to benefit from too.

Noctilux Related Posts

 

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Author: matthewosbornephotography

Coventry, UK studio based Model and Wedding Photographer offering both Medium Format Film and Digital Images. 1-2-1 Photography and Lighting Tuition also available.

4 thoughts on “Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 (Review)”

  1. Great article! I too am currently in the process of looking for a version 3 noctilux. Was wondering if there are any tiny air bubbles in the glass of your v2 copy? I hear it’s pretty common for the older versions to have these bubbles.

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