$14K Lens – Worth it? Leica Noctilux 75mm f1.25
Ever wondered how good a $14K camera lens is? The Leica Noctilux-M 75mm f1.25 ASPH lens is THE most expensive current production Leica M mount lens. A US photographer visited me in London for one of my 1:1 Leica workshops and I had a chance to try out this exotic lens! Coming up I share my first impressions of the 75mm Leica Noctilux lens, the YouTube review and a side by side comparison test with my favourite Voigtlander Nokton 75mm f1.5 VM lens.
Leica Noctilux 75mm f1.25 ASPH
You’re probably aware of the famous Leica Noctilux 50mm lenses but did you know that Leica make a 75mm Noctilux lens too? As far as I can tell the Leica Noctilux-M 75mm f1.25 ASPH lens is THE most expensive Leica M mount lens currently in production in 2023. (Beating the new Leica Summilux-M 50mm f1.4 ASPH II lens I reviewed recently). I was interested to see how good the photos would be from a $14K lens.
Best 75mm lenses for Leica M cameras?
If you are looking for a 75mm Leica M mount lens you have some great lens options to pick from. Here are some of the most popular lenses in speed order –
- Leica Noctilux-M 75mm f1.25 ASPH – YouTube
- 7Artisans 75mm f1.25
- TTArtisan 75mm f1.25
- Leica Summilux 75mm f1.4 – YouTube
- Voigtlander Nokton 75mm f1.5 VM
- Voigtlander Ultron 75mm f1.9 VM
- Leica Summicron-M 75mm f2 APO
- Leica Summarit 75mm f2.4
Leica Owner? Join the Leica Club
For those of you that are new here or may not remember, I replaced my Leica Summicron-M 75mm f2 APO lens with the Voigtlander Nokton 75mm f1.5 VM a few years back. I love the look of the Voigtlander lens and it was less than half the price (new) of the Leica (used). The f1.5 maximum aperture gives fantastic shallow DOF portrait shots and it is sharp enough to shoot wide open on film. Brilliant lens, check out that review.
Leica workshop, London
When John got in touch to request a 1:1 Leica workshop in London I asked what lenses he would bring. I aim to shoot on the same Leica camera system (whether Leica SL, Q, M or CL) and the same focal length as the student so we can both visualise the same shots during the session. Once I knew John was bring a 75mm lens I thought I better pack a 75mm lens too. My 75mm lens of choice was the Voigtlander Nokton 75mm f1.5 VM lens and that’s how this review came about.
Testing the 75mm Leica Noctilux lens
John had flown to Paris for work so caught the Eurostar train to meet me in London for the day. As John is one of my awesome Patreons, we’ve been chatting online for perhaps a year. It was nice to finally meet face to face. Once our model Maria joined us in the afternoon John offered me the 75mm Noctilux lens to try. I returned the favour (but for less money ha) and John tried my 75mm Voigtlander lens. He couldn’t get over how small and light it was compared to the similar speed Noctilux lens (that weights over a kilo).
Comparison test – Leica vs Voigtlander
To have a benchmark photo quality to compare to, I shot with both the Leica Noctilux 75mm f1.25 lens and the Voigtlander Nokton 75mm f1.5 lens. I was interested to see how f1.25 compared to f1.5 in real world use. Also how does a $14K lens compare to a $1K lens in terms of image quality and build quality? Both lenses are beautifully made and I have zero complaints. The Noctilux 75mm lens does have the retractable built in lens hood which is a nice feature that is absent on the Voigtlander. That said, I rarely use lens hoods on modern lenses as lens coating as so good flare is rarely an issue.
Model photoshoot in London with the Leica SL
All the photos you are about to see were shot with my Leica SL camera, captured in RAW and my MrLeica 2023 Leica CL preset pack applied. This preset pack is film inspired and if I shoot in colour this is a look that I always aspire to. If photos look more cinematic I’m already happy. John had planned to use his Leica SL2 but he’d lent it to a friend in Paris. Instead he was using the Leica M11. Let’s talk about cameras quickly before we get to the photos.
Leica M11 + Leica Noctilux 75mm f1.25
The Leica Noctilux 75mm f1.25 lens is rangefinder coupled so you can focus via the standard Leica M rangefinder/ viewfinder. I own a 50mm f1.0 Leica Noctilux lens that I use on the Leica M9 in the past with great results. This was well before the advent of the modern EVF/ Visoflex units. Would I attempt to shoot a 75mm Noctilux wide open on via a M camera rangefinder? Yes if the camera was well calibrated but I wouldn’t expect an overly high hit rate. Especially with moving subjects! I think it would be too shallow for me to attempt to use it accurately on a Leica M film camera such as my Leica M6. (The Leica M3 doesn’t have 75mm framelines).
Thankfully for M users, you can now “cheat” and focus via an EVF unit. Knowing the M system, this would be my recommendation if you buy this lens. The 75mm Noctilux lens is a bit too big and heavy really for the M system. I feel you need to add a hand grip at least to try to balance the weight of the lens on the camera.
Buy a Leica SL series camera for fast Leica M lenses
If you love fast Leica glass (I mean Noctilux fast), do yourself a favour and spend a little bit extra to get a Leica SL series camera. The shooting experience is so much more enjoyable when it comes to big fast lenses. Heavy lenses balance better on SL series cameras due to the camera grip. The built in Leica SL series EVF is way better than the separate Visoflex units for the M system. You can buy a used Leica SL camera for around 50% of the cost of a new Visoflex unit for the Leica M11. It’s a no brainer to me. You can then keep your M camera for what it’s designed for. Small compact rangefinder lenses. The Leica M cameras are fantastic in this regard.
Leica Noctilux 75mm portraits – Black and white
At the start of our model shoot I was only using the 75mm Leica Noctilux lens for portraits. John had my 75mm Voigtlander on his Leica M11. All photos below are Leica SL + 75mm Noctilux + B&W MrLeica Leica CL preset. (Yes it sounds weird but sometimes I mix and match different presets with different cameras). Photos were taken with available light only and I pose my models to the light. (Part of what I teach in my Leica workshops – How to find the light).
Download Leica presets
Colour sample photos – Leica Noctilux 75mm f1.25
Once the rain started we headed inside for cover. Maria changed into her second look and we shot inside the station. Photos below are Leica SL + 75mm Noctilux + MrLeica Leica CL colour preset. We started with available light only, a mix of daylight and tungsten light from the table lamp.
Ultra compact continuous light setup
I’ve owned and used the Boling BL-P1 high power LED RGB panel light for a few years but normally mounted on a traditional light stand. Light stands can be big and a pain to carry. Even the small lightweight ones like I use are bigger than I’d like. What I needed was something even smaller. My new compact light setup is to mount the light on a high quality durable selfie stick (+ base). As we were shooting inside a champagne bar with other customers around, the very small and subtle light setup worked perfectly. It takes only a minute to setup and then I had direction light where I wanted it.
Boling BL-P1 LED RGB light portraits
Most of the photos coming up are lit with me using the Boling LED light FYI. Here are a few photos of my light setup and here is my light kit items. Often I will use a pair of lights mounted via this setup. I use a different stand (base) for a more stable base outdoors. The same stands are great for flash too. Join Patreon for more in depth video showing this setup).
- LED RGB light – https://geni.us/iMQOe
- Flash unit – https://geni.us/UQMO
- Extension pole – https://geni.us/5ZH27Z
- Selfie stick + base – https://geni.us/eD55sK
- Outdoor base – https://geni.us/fucoY0
Voigtlander Nokton 75mm f1.5 portraits
OK so these portrait photos are now shot Voigtlander Nokton 75mm f1.5 on the Leica SL (plus same colour preset applied)
More 75mm Noctilux portrait photos
To finish, here are more images shot with the Leica Noctilux-M 75mm f1.25 lens. Daylight only. Can you tell a difference between the two lenses?
Geeky comparison test photos
See the YouTube video (below) for more test photos but here is a sample (Left images – Leica Noctilux 75mm f1.25, Right images – Voigtlander Nokton 75mm f1.5 VM)
Observations comparing the two lenses
At first glance the photos from the two lenses do look very similar. I was struggling to see a difference and had to colour code them in Lightroom so not to get mixed up. At closer inspection there are subtle differences to be seen.
Image quality – Leica Noctilux 75mm f1.25
I find the Leica Noctilux images very pleasing to the eye and the best of the 2 lenses. You’re probably saying well it should, it costs $14K! The Leica lens definitely has some secret sauce magic going on. It’s hard to pin point exactly but this shoot produced some of my favourite images yet in very ‘normal circumstances’ and clothing. Let’s call it better than expected results from the given situation. Any lens that can do that for you is a desirable lens in my book! The Noctilux has slightly warmer richer colours compared to the 75mm Nokton and sharp enough to use all day wide open at f1.25.
Picture quality – Voigtlander Nokton 75mm f1.5 VM (vs. Noctilux)
To my eyes, the Voigtlander Nokton 75mm f1.5 lens photos were not quite as nice as the Noctilux but very similar. In black and white I think I would see less of a difference than in colour. In colour I prefer the Noctilux tones and tonality. Surprisingly at the same ISO and shutter speed, the Voigtlander photos looked slightly brighter even though it was f1.5 vs f1.25. As with the Leica lens, the Voigtlander Nokton 75mm is sharp enough to shoot wide open at f1.5.
So the verdict – Is a $14K Leica lens worth it?
If you have the budget, there is no question that the results from the 75mm Noctilux lens are amazing and probably hard to exactly replicate. The Leica Noctilux photos just have that added 5-10% wow factor compared to the Voigtlander Nokton lens. That being said, for most people the Voigtlander 75mm Nokton will get you 90% there. It’s hard to say that a $14K lens is worth it but if you want what the Noctilux offers then it is worth it to you.
Buying the 75mm Noctilux lens
Check B&H for stock and the current prices.
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Best 75mm lens for Leica M cameras?
So is the Leica Noctilux-M 75mm f1.25 ASPH lens the best 75mm lens for Leica M mount? It depends. If you want very shallow DOF photos yet well corrected then probably yes. If you enjoy more character and imperfections in your images you will likely prefer the discontinued Leica Summilux 75mm f1.4 lens. I love the less modern look of the Summilux lens. If you want the best bang for the buck I would recommend the Voigtlander Nokton 75mm f1.5 VM. The Nokton is also the smallest and lightest fast 75mm lens for Leica.
A special thanks again to John. I get to meet some fascinating (and often extremely smart) individuals at my Leica workshops. I feel fortunate that our Leica cameras bring us together.
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Watch on YouTube – 75mm Noctilux
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