Leica’s long-running historical past closely influences and evokes its M rangefinder digital camera system and library of suitable manual-focus lenses. Its Noctilux-M 50mm F1.2 ASPH. ($7,895) is a reimagining of one of many rarest, most sought-after collectibles on the digital camera market, the unique see-in-the-dark Noctilux 50mm F1.2 (which was initially on sale from 1966 to 1975). The up to date version makes a couple of tweaks to the unique’s optical formulation however retains the mushy, wide-open rendering, flare, and different character quirks that contribute to its standing as an obscure object of need. Better of all, it is obtainable at retail, not simply public sale homes.
A Uncommon Lens, Made New
The unique Noctilux 50mm F1.2 is an almost legendary piece of photograph equipment. Though it was in manufacturing for practically a decade, Leica produced simply 1,757 copies of the extra-bright lens. In recent times, copies have offered at public sale for greater than $20,000, whereas press-time listings on eBay begin at round $45,000. Reviews point out that the well-known Leica-fan Seal even owns one.
This new model is dear, although not out of order for a Leica. Third-party choices apart, factory-fresh M lenses begin round $2,800 and unique entries fetch practically $15,000. The Noctilux collection undoubtedly qualifies because the latter: After the unique F1.2 left the market, Leica produced a 50mm f/1 model of the lens for some time, and the current-edition Noctilux-M 50mm F0.95 ASPH. goes for round $13,000.
The Noctilux-M 50mm F1.2 sports activities the identical black end as the unique, which was the primary M lens to take action. The anodized aluminum makes for a comparatively mild lens (14.3 ounces) given the two.0-by-2.4-inch (HD) barrel. Collectors can search for a restricted version chrome, silver-over-brass version in 60s-inspired packaging, although it is rarer even than the unique, with a manufacturing run of simply 100 items.
The field contains the lens, a vented metallic hood, metallic entrance and rear caps, and a plastic dome show container. We did not obtain the latter accent—Lensrentals offered our overview loaner with simply the fundamentals—however it protects the lens throughout transport and retains it freed from mud in storage.
The lens would not embody any of the climate safety of most fashionable optics, however it would not have any electronics both, and we could not affirm whether or not it has a fluorine coating both.
Dealing with and Controls
Though it is small for an F1.2 optic, the Noctilux is on the chunky facet so far as M lenses go, particularly in case you connect the included hood. The mixture will not be a ache to hold, however you do have to concentrate on how a lot of the viewfinder the hood blocks. I paired the Noctilux with the M11 Monochrom to check the extent of the difficulty.
With out its hood, the Noctilux partially blacks out a tiny portion of the underside proper nook of the 50mm body traces when targeted at distance. For those who do connect the hood (obligatory to scale back flare), it partially obscures a triangular space that accounts for a few fifth of the body. The impact worsens at nearer focus distances as a result of body traces shift all the way down to the fitting to compensate for parallax. Whether or not this bothers you is a matter of choice. With digital M cameras, both an add-on EVF or reside view is an possibility for exact through-the-lens framing, although you need to reside with it in case you’re utilizing an M6 or different movie physique.
Like different M lenses, the Noctilux 50mm F1.2 requires handbook management for aperture and focus. The aperture ring sits towards the entrance of the barrel and goes from f/1.2 to f/16 in half-stop clicks. The main focus ring simply behind it’s comfy to show and simple to search out by contact, because of a scalloped design that features common indentations with milled ridges. The latter design parts function pure finger holds.
The main focus motion is pleasingly easy, with sufficient dampening to maintain the main target locked if you aren’t utilizing it. Depth of discipline marks go from f/1.4 all the way down to f/16, and there is additionally a distance scale if you wish to try stopped-down, zone focus with the lens.
Focus is out there from 3.3 toes (1 meter) to infinity, which is limiting contemplating that Leica cameras from the times of the unique Noctilux targeted to 0.7m. Right here, the 1-meter focus nets 1:17.1 copy, which is extra appropriate for portraiture than macro work. A few of Leica’s current releases focus a lot nearer, together with the 2023 version of the Summilux-M 50mm F1.4 ASPH. (1.5 toes/0.45m) and the 2022 version of Summilux-M 35mm F1.4 ASPH. (1.3 toes/0.4m).
We do not anticipate many to make use of the Noctilux-M for video, particularly since current Leica M cameras are stills-only. However the lens’ character may lend itself nicely to cinema initiatives. For those who choose to pair the lens with a digital camera for video, bear in mind there may be some bloom in angle if you shift from one airplane of focus to a different (in any other case often known as the respiration impact).
Noctilux-M 50mm F1.2 ASPH.: Within the Lab
The Noctilux-M’s optical formulation was groundbreaking on the time of launch: Leica touts it because the first-ever, production-line lens to incorporate aspherical parts (there are two of them in its 6-element/4-group design). The aspherical parts did a greater job of suppressing the funky spherical aberrations that have been obvious with alternate options on the time, together with the 50mm F1.2 that Canon offered for the Leica thread mount (LTM) within the decade prior.
To see how the classic optics deal with on digital cameras, I grabbed my Leica M (Typ 240) for shade work and the M11 Monochrom for black-and-white images out in the true world. I additionally ran lab checks with it on each the M11 Monochrom and a 60MP Sony a7R IV (with an adapter) to get a very good deal with on its decision capabilities in Imatest. For the overview, I checked out Imatest outcomes from the Sony digital camera as a result of it permits for extra exact handbook focus by way of its EVF and I didn’t have a Visoflex add-on obtainable for the M11.
Lab scores correspond with what I noticed within the discipline. At f/1.2, the Noctilux is comparatively mushy. It exhibits round 2,000 traces of decision on the middle, which is not a very sturdy outcome on a 60MP sensor. Off-center outcomes fall beneath 1,000 traces. Though we’re sure the Noctilux exhibits blurred outcomes away from the central level of our check chart, the quick testing distance we require for a 50mm prime (shy of 4 toes) makes the numbers appear worse than they’re. After all, mushy, wide-open outcomes are extra of a function than a flaw of this lens. If you would like a shiny customary prime that is sharp throughout the body at extensive apertures, think about the Summilux-M 50mm F1.4 ASPH or APO-Summicron 50mm F2 as an alternative.
Check scores enhance as you cease the lens down. At a half-stop all the way down to f/1.4, the Noctilux’s middle decision doubles to round 4,000 traces, a outcome we think about superb for a 60MP digital camera. It crosses into excellent territory from f/2-11 (5,000 traces). Sharpness takes only a slight step again at f/16, a results of optical diffraction. The Noctilux’s rendering is not distinctive stopped down, and I would not ever describe it as scientific, however you possibly can nonetheless get wonderful decision from middle to edge between f/8 and f/11.
At wider apertures, the character reveals itself in areas of defocus. The Noctilux exhibits fairly a little bit of longitudinal chromatic aberration (LoCa) away from the airplane of focus, which might result in busy backgrounds in some situations. Consider scenes with vibrant foliage behind your topic or parts with heavy specular highlights like dew on grass or the solar’s reflection on water. I did not see a lot in the best way of purple or inexperienced fringing in check photographs of energy traces or tree branches even at low apertures, nonetheless.
The bokeh has a slight swirl across the edges, which provides some pop to portraits, together with slight, however palpable, barrel distortion. Specular highlights are completely spherical towards the middle of the body, however it’s simple to identify the cat’s eye impact towards the sides between f/1.2 and f/1.4. From f/2-2.8, the 16-blade aperture attracts an fascinating, however not-quite-circular form.
For those who’re making an attempt to keep away from flare, it is a good suggestion to make use of the included hood to stop mild from falling on the entrance component from askew angles. Ensure that to keep away from strongly backlit topics, too. Then again, if you’d like some flare in your images, it is not arduous to induce the impact. Getting the solar into the body, or simply behind your topic, provides a mushy glow to your image. The decrease distinction in these photographs contributes additional to the glowing impact.
Adobe features a correction profile to compensate for distortion and vignette, and, relying in your import settings, it is possible on by default. I checked out some images with and with out the profile, and for this lens, I want the uncorrected photos, however it’s simple sufficient to toggle on and off to see which look you like. I processed the pattern photos on this overview with the correction profile turned off.
A Gem From Leica’s Historical past, Introduced Again to Life
Leica has an extended, wealthy catalog of photograph gear, and its M system is good for reimagined antiques, like this Noctilux-M 50mm F1.2 ASPH. In spite of everything, its M rangefinder cameras have not modified too a lot up to now seventy or so years (the swap from 135 movie cartridges to digital sensors however). It is merely a deal with to see which outdated formulation Leica trots out as new, even when the reissue line consists of simply this Noctilux, the Summaron-M 28mm F5.6, the Thambar-M 90mm F2.2, and the latest Summilux-35mm F1.4 ASPH. Metal Rim for now.
The unique variations of all 4 are collector’s gadgets to some extent, whether or not out of absolute rarity, excessive demand, or, within the case of the Noctilux, each. Collectors would possibly need an authentic to show and brag about, however reissues such because the (nonetheless very expensive) Noctilux are extra readily obtainable and sensible. To that final level, it is an actual pleasure to make use of and snaps images which can be distinctively totally different than these from modern-day, completely corrected APO and ASPH. primes. In distinction, the Noctilux-M 50mm F0.95 ASPH. has a modern-minded, sharp look alongside its airplane of focus when used extensive open, as is the case with the majority of Leica’s present catalog.
For those who do not wish to spend fairly a lot to get the old-school look, you possibly can think about older M and LTM lenses in your digital rangefinder. The Canon 50mm F1.2 for LTM and the Leica Summitar 5cm F2 are two favorites and you may get them for not some huge cash on the used market, although it is best to experiment with a number of older lenses to see which one clicks for you.
Due to LensrentalsLensrentals for offering the Noctilux-M for overview.