Leica Noctilux 50mm f0.95 ASPH M – A Nocturne
Leica Noctilux 50mm f0.95 ASPH M - A Nocturne
Leica Noctilux 50mm f0.95 ASPH M – A Nocturne
Noctilux 50/0.95 ASPH
If I remember correctly, I briefly held this lens in Sydney 2011 Photokina. Good old days when there weren’t too many product releases, and each excited you. Noctilux is like Mount Everest for every Leica lover, the holy grail. We climbers reach the base camp with the Summilux, and we are all waiting for the right moment to climb the top without a sherpa. You have to try it once to feel the power. You don’t have to buy it, just bring your wife or girlfriend to a local dealer and try this lens. Show them the picture. I am confident they will like it.
50mm is my favourite focal length. I almost bought this lens by trading in the Noctilux 50mm f/1.2 ASPH reissue to a local dealer. But I walked out of the store without a 0.95 because that copy suffered a front-focusing issue. I kept searching for another copy in Hong Kong; a copy that focuses accurately will suffice. Thanks to my good friend Andrew for letting me try his lens. Now I know what’s so magical about this lens.
A Heavy Loaded Summilux
A standard bottle of Chardonnay, contains 750ml. This Noctilux weighs 700g! So you can imagine yourself holding a bottle of wine on the street to hunt some lovely photos. It should be a little less heavy than that because the bottle also adds extra weight to the wine. As a previous owner of Pentax 67, it is like a kettlebell. Literally, it is like bicep training. This Noctilux will be like a small dumbbell that you need to consider if this matters because it will make your forearm bigger sooner or later.
Noctilux f0.95 is a Leica Summilux 50mm f/1.4 ASPH in boost mode. It has a maximum high-speed aperture of f/0.95. Excellent pop and bokeh, creamy depth of field with the clean-cut but not razor-cut like the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.0 ASPH. It has floating element systems to improve performance at all distances. It has a minimum focusing distance of 1m. Unlike its little brother, I wish this Noctilux could focus at 0.7m.
The Size that Matters
How does it feel like holding a Noctilux in your hand? When I got into the endless Leica world, all 35mm lenses looked small. Almost everything is like a miniature compared to the chunky DSLR lenses. Using the Noctilux 50/0.95 is like mounting a Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM on your Leica body. If you don’t relate to how big that is, open the fridge and find your favourite peanut butter, which is approximately the size.
Despite its size and weight, it looks more handsome than the cheaper alternative TTArtisan 50mm f/0.95 in terms of the lens proportion, front rim, aperture ring and the design of the focusing barrel. But I always think the black anodised paint is not durable on any Leica M lenses. After heavy usage, there will be some signs of silver patina.
It takes a 60mm filter, which is a unique size. I use a size-down adapter to share colour filters with other 62mm filters. ND 2x, 3x or 6x is useful if you want to shoot wide open during the day.
Character and Picture Quality
It is identical to the Summilux 50mm ASPH. You will love this lens if you like the Lux. When I learned how to paint my drawing, my teacher would ask me to mix the original and add other colours to make it look nicer. Shooting Noctilux wide open is just like getting the best colour you can. Compare to Noctilux 50mm f1. It has more contrast and a slightly better purple fringe performance at wide open. The richness and creaminess will make you forget how heavy the peanut butter jar is holding on your hand.
0.95 on B&W Negative Film
There are multiple versions. Let me list out all here for your reference.
- Leica Noctilux 50mm f/1.2 ASPH
- Leica Noctilux 50mm f/1.0 E58 V1 (pin hood)
- Leica Noctilux 50mm f/1.0 E60 V2 (pin hood)
- Leica Noctilux 50mm f/1.0 E60 V3 (clip on hood)
- Leica Noctilux 50mm f/1.0 E60 V4 (internal hood)
- Leica Noctilux 50mm f/0.95
- Leica Noctilux 50mm f/1.2 ASPH Reissue
- Leica Noctilux 75mm f/1.25 ASPH
It has a sliding hood, which looks nice and neat for every practical photographer. But watch out if your hood extends and you hang the camera on your shoulder. The hood could bend if you knock something.
On the M3, it blocks almost half of the lower right viewfinder, including the frameline. It will block less if you mount it on a 0.72x finder such as M6 or MP.
Focusing tips: Use a magnifier 1.25x on your MP or use it on an M3. Then you will increase the hit rate. And try to have both eyes open to check what’s on your lower right corner for composition.
Why do I need a Noctilux 0.95?
It works exceptionally well as a portrait lens. Some female friends are impressed that the lens smoothens their skin and makes them look prettier. Also, if you like the spatial feeling of medium format or large format cameras, this lens could simulate the look of a thin depth of field separating your subject from the background. Also, another review I read mentioned it is a great lens to create art, and I couldn’t agree more. It is a lens well suited to people who want to do creative work and capture the world in a 0.95 spectrum.
Difference between a Noctilux f/0.95 and an f/1.0
Sharpness and Bokeh
I have tried multiple copies and versions of the Noctilux f1. The 0.95 is much sharper at wide open; the definition is more explicit, meaning more 3D pop. Also, the bokeh has a more dramatic fall off the edge. Noctilux f1 has gradual and subtle bokeh shape changes from cat eyes to smaller ones. It has minimum barrel distortion and better flare performance than the f1. If you want extra sharpness and clean images, go for the 0.95.
Check out the bokeh comparison with other fast lenses – HERE.
What to look out for if you are eyeing a Noctilux 0.95?
Focusing: test the lens with an object like a water bottle to see if the focus point is correct. When the focus is right, the bottle cap should be pretty sharp with details. If it is slightly blurred out, you move it to the side and shoot at a 45 degree to see how front or back-focused it is. Local repairman often cannot fix it with the floating element lenses that need special equipment to align.
Check the copy carefully before you buy.
Aperture ring: Watch out aperture ring that is too loose because you will accidentally turn it with fat fingers.
Versions: Early version doesn’t come with a metal front cap and if you prefer to have that nice metal cap, look for a later batch.
Versus Other Ultra-fast Lenses
Voigtlander inherited a cooler colour tone. It is sharper than the 0.95 and more clinical like the Summilux 50 ASPH.
The Noctilux f0.95 has more solid and define images, not dreamy, clean and sharp. If you like a lens with softer images, flaws and flare, go for the Canon.
I am happy and satisfied with my Noctilux f1 E58. I will make the best out of that lens. I might need to wait for my GAS to kick in to start looking at the 0.95 again. Leica released Noctilux 75mm f1.25 ASPH, which improved its wide-open performance. I am curious if Leica is going to update this 0.95. Please make it focus down to 0.7m and slightly compact or lightweight like the Voigtlander 50mm f1.