Jump to content

Review: Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.2


Recommended Posts

  • Replies 349
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

Introduction This is the third lens in Leica's historical lens series where they revisit classics and remake them with modern glass and coatings, but with the original basic design. The two previous lenses are the 28mm Summaron which is a tiny lens, originally released in 1954 with a screw mount. Then came the Leica Thambar M 90mm f2.2, a quirky soft focus portrait lens from the mid 30's.  The Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.2 is rather a different beast. Released in 1966 it was the state of th

Great review Jono I was fortunate to be beta tester and Leica asked me to do the official release photos taken with the lens. Shot on the M10-R   Hello guest! Please register or sign in to view the hidden content. Hallo Gast! Du willst die Bilder sehen? Einfach registrieren oder anmelden!

Probably a bit lighter than the Pounds that will leave your wallet.........

Posted Images

On 1/28/2021 at 2:15 PM, pedaes said:

Agree - although Mr. Karbe is on record saying it dosn't float his boat. 

Hope the rumoured 35mm is still in the plans.

I think the 35 APO Summicron is ahead of the 35 Noctilux, in that the 35 APO already is present in FW updates with a 6 bit code. I would guess by the tiny size, from sneak photos of the 35 APO (e39 filter thread), that it is a Karbe lens. It makes the Voigtlander 35/2 APO-Lanthar look humongous, bigger than the already large Zeiss 35/1.4 ZM Distagon. However, I would guess that small size does not equate with small price, maybe £7000. Will I be a customer for this lens?  Probably only if I sell my ASPH Summicron and chrome ASPH Summilux. I will hang on to my near mint 35/2.8 Summaron, as that is LTM and is the lens of choice for my IIIg, with a SBLOO finder. 

Wilson

Link to post
Share on other sites

By the way reidreviews did a studio test of the Noctilux f1.2, and obviously I won’t be able to share the results here since it’s a paid service, but I think it’s fine to share that he found no focus shift with the lens & also the distortion negligible: ) 

On another news, still no updates whatsoever in Asia about when we’ll be able to get the lens. It seems the February window may have been overly optimistic from Leica’s side. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Advertisement (gone after registration)

29 minutes ago, shirubadanieru said:

By the way reidreviews did a studio test of the Noctilux f1.2, and obviously I won’t be able to share the results here since it’s a paid service, but I think it’s fine to share that he found no focus shift with the lens & also the distortion negligible: ) . 

Even Leica's own graphs show this lens has plenty of barrel distortion (around 3%) and it is visible on original 1.2 images as well (like here)
Not something that can't be corrected in post, but definitely worth mentioning.

Edited by padam
Link to post
Share on other sites
31 minutes ago, padam said:

Even Leica's own graphs show this lens has plenty of barrel distortion (around 3%) and it is visible on original 1.2 images as well (like here)
Not something that can't be corrected in post, but definitely worth mentioning.

Isn't that link showing photos taken with the original lens?  I suppose it should be same but there might be some improvements.  Whatever, I do like the rendering so if the new lens matches this then I wouldn't complain.  Also note that the photos were taken on SL 601.  Not sure if that makes any difference.

Link to post
Share on other sites
50 minutes ago, padam said:

Even Leica's own graphs show this lens has plenty of barrel distortion (around 3%) and it is visible on original 1.2 images as well (like here)
Not something that can't be corrected in post, but definitely worth mentioning.

I trust reidreviews studio tests so I’m just conveying what his findings were for those who cant see his website. He did say there was distortion but not to a point you’d bother (therefore negligible in real life photography). If you want to read the whole thing I suggest subscribing :) he has a lot of great content. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Are any of the silver ones hitting the wild yet? Leica's original press release indicated that they would all ship in February-- seems like almost nothing has left the mothership...

Not that I expect to see any on dealer shelves, but it seems like no one is even bragging about obtaining one!

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, mdg1371 said:

Are any of the silver ones hitting the wild yet?

Sadly, since only 100 silver ones were made and at about double the cost of the black I suspect that most were pre-sold, will go straight into collections, and are unlikely to be used at all to retain their resale value.

If you do see one in the wild, immediately stop what you're doing and buy a lottery ticket.  And one for me too please. ^_^

Pete.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, farnz said:

Sadly, since only 100 silver ones were made and at about double the cost of the black I suspect that most were pre-sold, will go straight into collections, and are unlikely to be used at all to retain their resale value.

If you do see one in the wild, immediately stop what you're doing and buy a lottery ticket.  And one for me too please. ^_^

Pete.

By ‘hitting the wild’ I mean showing up in the hands of those that pre-ordered. I did, and I think I have a pretty good position, but the Leica Stores never know exactly when they will receive any given item. 88 Leica Stores world wide, 100 lenses, and it isn’t strictly first ordered/ first served, they do spread them out some. It also isn’t sooo spread out that every store gets one.

My source of contusion is that the press release said that they would all ship out in February, and it sure doesn’t seem like that is the case...

Edited by mdg1371
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, mdg1371 said:

By ‘hitting the wild’ I mean showing up in the hands of those that pre-ordered. I did, and I think I have a pretty good position, but the Leica Stores never know exactly when they will receive any given item. 88 Leica Stores world wide, 100 lenses, and it isn’t strictly first ordered/ first served, they do spread them out some. It also isn’t sooo spread out that every store gets one.

My source of contusion is that the press release said that they would all ship out in February, and it sure doesn’t seem like that is the case...

Post #265 in this thread is a photo I took of my silver copy using my black copy of the 50mm 1.2. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, mdg1371 said:

By ‘hitting the wild’ I mean showing up in the hands of those that pre-ordered. I did, and I think I have a pretty good position, but the Leica Stores never know exactly when they will receive any given item. 88 Leica Stores world wide, 100 lenses, and it isn’t strictly first ordered/ first served, they do spread them out some. It also isn’t sooo spread out that every store gets one.

My source of contusion is that the press release said that they would all ship out in February, and it sure doesn’t seem like that is the case...

Doesn't @Flu's post indicate he has one? As with the guy on youtube who ripped up the outer grey box. I've seen a couple on some HK Leica reseller's pages on Instagram, and Schouten had two. 

Edit - Flu confirmed he has one just as I replied

Edited by chasdfg
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 minute ago, chasdfg said:

Doesn't @Flu's post indicate he has one? As with the guy on youtube who ripped up the outer grey box. I've seen a couple on some HK Leica reseller's pages on Instagram, and Schouten had two. 

Edit - Flu confirmed he has one just as I replied

Yes, I didn’t  say it appears none have shipped, just that is sure doesn’t appear that 100 have shipped—

Link to post
Share on other sites
Posted (edited)
3 minutes ago, mdg1371 said:

Yes, I didn’t  say it appears none have shipped, just that is sure doesn’t appear that 100 have shipped—

Might want to check with your dealer then, especially if you placed a deposit. I wouldn't be surprised if all 100 were made as one single batch and all are out the door. (your post earlier today did seem to indicate none were out in the wild yet, so i took it as that) 

Edited by chasdfg
Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, farnz said:

Sadly, since only 100 silver ones were made and at about double the cost of the black I suspect that most were pre-sold, will go straight into collections, and are unlikely to be used at all to retain their resale value.

If you do see one in the wild, immediately stop what you're doing and buy a lottery ticket.  And one for me too please. ^_^

Pete.

There are actually a few in the wild, not on the street but definitely out there.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/28/2021 at 6:49 AM, jonoslack said:

Introduction

This is the third lens in Leica's historical lens series where they revisit classics and remake them with modern glass and coatings, but with the original basic design. The two previous lenses are the 28mm Summaron which is a tiny lens, originally released in 1954 with a screw mount. Then came the Leica Thambar M 90mm f2.2, a quirky soft focus portrait lens from the mid 30's. 

The Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.2 is rather a different beast. Released in 1966 it was the state of the art lens for shooting in low light, it was very expensive, and very difficult to make, estimates of how many were produced vary between 500 and 2,500. But I understand that the actual number was 1,757. As a result of this it has become a photographic legend and a serious collectors item with production lenses selling for well over $20,000 and even lens hoods changing hands for around $4,000! Sadly I do not have an original lens to compare with the new one, but I guess that will be true of most of the people who buy this lovely lens.

I've been lucky enough to have a prototype copy of the Noctilux for almost the whole of the lockdown. I've used it on both the SL2 and the M10-R and have very much fallen in love. Of course it has it's vices and would not come out well in a technical comparison between the current f0.95 Noctilux (or the 50 f1.4 Summilux come to that!). Just a glance at the MTF curves shows that pretty clearly. But this lens is an important part of Leica's history and it's great that Leica should re-make it so that us lesser mortals can have a go with it!

For more sample images you can read the article here: https://www.slack.co.uk/leica-noctilux-f1.2.html

History

In 1966 Leica was still a big player in the photojournalism world, and there was an increasing demand for fast lenses for shooting in very low light. Nikon, Minolta, Canon and Leica all produced f1.2 standard lenses in the 1960's. Canon was first out of the block in 1962 with the 58mm f1.2, they improved it to 55mm in 1968, but it was not until 1980 that the focal length was changed to 50mm.  Nikon hit the market in  1965 with its 55mm f1.2, in 1978 they managed the 50mm f1.2 AI Nikkor. Minolta brought out their 58mm f1.2 in 1966, the same year that Leica trumped them with their 50mm f1.2 double Aspherical.

Work started at Leica in 1957 on the production of aspherical elements: The first lens prototype produced in 1958  was the Summaron 35mm 1:2.8 ASPH This featured 2 Asph surfaces, but never went into production.

A 52mm f1 Asph prototype also featuring 2 aspherical surfaces was produced in 1959, But Leica realised the image quality wasn't good enough at f1 and settled for f1.2. 

The first prototypes were made in April of 1964 Designed by Helmut Marx and Paul Sindel (Helmut Marx was Professor Max Berek's successor as head of the photographic lens design in Wetzlar, and creator of the first Summicron 50 in 1953). The Noctilux 50mm f1.2 was released as the 11820 in 1966.

Professor Helmut Marx used an Elliott 402F computer helping design and saving lots of time ray tracing. This was before he had begun to develop his COMO optimisation program for lens design in the late 60s

The Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.2 has two aspherical elements (front and rear) which were made on a specially built grinding machine that had to be operated manually. There was only one machine, and only one person capable of operating it (Gerd Bergmann), he had to discard many elements as rubbish.

After the release in 1966 there was much research to produce an f1 version of the lens with 3 Aspherical elements, but in 1970 the project was abandoned because the aspherical technology was in its infancy, and the production costs were immense. The f1.2 lens remained in production only until 1975.

In 1975 Walter Mandler in Canada designed an f1 Noctilux without any aspherical elements. It was launched in 1976 and was a great success, staying in production until 2008. In 2009 Leica introduced Peter Karbe's stunning f0.95 Noctilux, a double Gauss design with 2 aspherical elements.

The Modern Lens

The original Noctilux did not have a filter thread on the front element, it was part of the clip-on lens hood. The new lens does have a filter thread, and as far as I'm aware that's the only obvious difference between the new and old lenses. Even the lens hood is superficially identical (although it says "LEICA CAMERA WETZLAR" and misses out the 'GERMANY' on the original lens - or at least my prototype does!.) Otherwise the size, handling and appearance of the modern lens is just the same as its illustrious predecessor. 

By modern standards it's a small  lens, about the same height as the current 50mm Summilux Asph and only a little fatter. It handles beautifully on an M body, perfectly balanced, but with a much longer focus throw than the more modern M lenses. It only focuses down to 1metre, I was hoping it would focus closer, but apparently that wasn't possible. 

Image Quality

First of all I should say that I had quite an early prototype lens, but I expect that the image quality is pretty representative. It almost behaves like two different lenses. 

At f1.2 nothing is quite sharp, even in focus at the centre, by the edge of the frame it's very soft and there is quite a lot of vignetting. It doesn't sound so good, but it's actually rather a lovely dreamy look. 

By f2 the centre is quite sharp and the vignetting has mostly gone, however, the edges and corners are still quite soft. At f2.8 things have improved further and by f5.6 everything but the corners are incredibly sharp, however the corners are still soft and remain so at all apertures.

Overall Contrast is fine, but not like a modern Leica Aspheric. However, stopped down, in common with the rigid Summicron the Noctilux has incredible micro-contrast and really great acuity. In fact the image quality is very comparable to the rigid summicron from about f4 and on.

Bokeh is lovely (well, I think so, it's rather a personal subject). Stopping down a little the 16 aperture blades ensure that the aperture remains completely circular. 

Which Version?

The Noctilux f1.2 is coming in two versions. The simple version is €7,000 and is black with an aluminium body, this is the one for normal mortals! There is also a Silver Chrome version with a brass body in a strictly limited edition of 100 copies. This retails for €15,000. and being brass I imagine it's pretty heavy; lovely, but more for collectors than for everyday use. I suppose one could buy both!

Conclusion

I really like the concept of remaking classic lenses, and this Noctilux is a lovely example, especially as the second hand price of the original lens makes it well outside the range of the average photographer. At €7,000 this lens seems like a something of a bargain, especially considering it's rather exotic double aspherical design. (Apparently it's still pretty difficult to make). Unlike the 90mm Thambar or the 28mm Summaron (lovely as they are), the Noctilux is very usable as an everyday lens, both on M and SL cameras (I guess it might also be fun on the CL). Dreamy and strange wide open, stopped down it is wonderfully sharp, and, if you like the look of the classic Leica lenses from the 50s and 60s then this would be an exciting addition. I'm going to start saving!

Sample Images

Jono,

Thank you for the great review to the point I have the new 1.2 on order. Sorry to hijack this but can you please share what brand and info on the black round camera strap shown in these pictures as it looks lovely and I'd like to buy one.

Thank you!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...