After my reviews of the Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ1 version 1 and the Voigtlander 50mm ƒ1 VM Aspherical, I had assumed that these super fast legendary M-mount lenses wouldn’t appear in my hands for a while, but I guess I must be truly blessed to be have a dear friend loan me the Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ0.95 for a spin and thus, making this review possible.
This review is hardly technical (this is a very much discussed lens hence I see little point poring over MTF charts etc) but more of an emotive sharing of handling the Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ0.95 for a day on the streets.
The Leica Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ0.95 is a polarising lens, because the sheer size and weight of it goes against what the Leica M system stands for. However, the sheer difficulty in owning one due to its obstentious price and the unique Noctilux look from its images makes it a yearned for piece of Leica optics by many.
Despite being released 15 years ago in 2008, the Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ0.95 is still the fastest lens in Leica’s M-mount and for those who believe they deserve so, this is the sole unique choice.
Anyone should try this lens once, it renders in its unique surreal and unique way not many optics do.
The Leica Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ0.95 polarises in the views it garners, but it is a lens most aspiring M users hopes to own.
Announced in 2008 as the ‘modern’ equivalent of the Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ1 (versions 1 to 4), the Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ0.95 comes in a 8 elements in 5 groups design proudly sporting 2 aspherical elements.
With a maximum aperture of ƒ0.95 and an aperture range up to ƒ16 in half stop increments, the Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ0.95 sports 10 aperture blades with a 60mm filter diameter similar to 3 of its previous siblings.
A significant improvement over its predecessors is the lens is equipped with a floating lens element (FLE) design, improving near-field sharpness and generally reducing focus shift issues.
The Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ0.95 comes in at a hefty 764 grams. I prefer to be honest and at its length of 79mm and 72mm wide at the aperture ring, this is hardly an ergonomic lens to handle on a Leica M rangefinder.
Handling and Performance
An interesting way to describe the Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ0.95 would be that it is akin to the Summilux-M 50mm ƒ1.4 APSH on steroids. I personally love the Summilux-M 50mm ƒ1.4 APSH’s rendering and it is my go-to lens for portraits, and the Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ0.95 is simply just that bit better in speed, colors, bokeh and micro-contrast.
A lens can actually be ‘too sharp’ and that the Noctilux-M 50mm F0.95 is in this realm of ‘just sharp enough’ to be near-perfect when the image comes together with its excellent micro-contrast and bokeh quality.
The Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ0.95 has an unique look in the images it presents. Beyond the excellent pop and bokeh, creamy bokeh and the extraordinary thin depth-of-field, there is this surreal and dreamy look in the images that somehow draws me in.
I was asked a few times and I would also like to set this straight, the Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ0.95 is not as razor sharp as the Voigtlander 50mm ƒ1 VM Aspherical, which is by itself an excellent piece of optics but sharpness is only one component of what presents an image.
The Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ0.95 has a minimum focusing distance of 1m. I do wish it could focus at 0.7m sometimes.
This is a piece of optics I believe in photographing wide-open as far as possible, and I do use this with a 3-stops ND filter when needed.
I use the Noctilux-M 50mm F0.95 with a 3-stops ND when needed. My opinion is that Leica should include this with this USD12,995 lens during purchase and not sell it separately for another USD200.A 16x E60 ND Leica filter costs USD200
At smaller apertures, the Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ0.95 is plenty sharp and of course, the purple fringing that one often gets with very fast lenses disappears. But if you bought the Noctilux to photograph at ƒ5.6 or smaller apertures, I don’t think we can be friends.
Photographers who use this lens should not be complaining about the purple fringing either, which can be easily fixed during post-processing.
Rangefinder focusing at F0.95 was thankfully very manageable for me with a 1.25x magnifier. I did not use the Visoflex i brought along in the end.
A worry I had initially was my competence in being able to focus this lens wide open at ƒ0.95, and in fact, I had brought along a Visoflex. In the end, I realised that with my 1.25x eye-piece magnifier on the M10-R, I had very little difficulty focusing and in fact were able to even grab a few shots of moving subjects.
Bringing out the Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ0.95 for candid street-photography was frankly reckless of me, as after all it is a fact that this lens was designed to be a very specialised tool. For example, for posed portraiture and with its extremely thin depth-of-field, not the easiest lens to use.
The Noctilux-M 50mm F0.95 has this surreal and dreamy look when photographed wide open that draws me in. This is not something I am able to discuss in technical terms.
But my mantra has always been that if Keith, a nobody who is not a Leica ambassador (for example, I have not even tested the M11-Monochrom or the upcoming Q3) and simply a hobbyist who writes as a passion can handle this lens wide open and capture the shots above, anyone with a bit of determination and practice can and likely do better.
If I can, anyone with the determination and practice can do so too.
I would like to describe using the Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ0.95 as like trying to summit Mount Everest. It is a challenging lens to use, very few can afford to do it, and in fact, no one ever needs to do so but yet this endeavour is one which everyone should attempt if they have the opportunity at least once in their lives.
Thank you for reading.
- All product photos and samples here were photographed by me. I believe any reviewer with pride should produce their own product photos.
2. All images were shot with the Leica M10-R. The Noctilux-M 50mm ƒ0.95 belongs to a friend and was returned.
3. This review is not sponsored.
4. I do not do affiliate purchase links to keep myself neutral. I write as a passion and a hobby, and I appreciate that photography brands are kind enough to respect and work with me.
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6 Replies to “Leica Noctilux-M 50mm F0.95 – an emotive review”
Great photography. The photos you posted are all inspiring and worth viewing. They’re all lovely photos. Just keep going and enjoy. Have a great weekend.
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Thank you for the kind words and encouragement 🙂
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You’re welcome. You can visit my blog too if you have time. I hope you will like and follow it.
Very interesting review. It’s a bit heavy but no other lens renders like it. I have used it on an SL with ease and on an M10M with an EVF attached.
True and that is what makes the Noct unique too. So far I’ve been using it with the M10-R on the OVF.