So…I got to try a Noctilux! But unfortunately only for 1 hour. The Leica Noctilux is the lens most Leica users strive for. At nearly $A15,000 new, this is a 50mm price F0.95. Yep, thats right, F0.95. I don’t techically know how a lens can go below F1.0 (which is what the original Noctilux was), but this lens is super shallow, makes night come alive, and wow, it is just everything Leica stand for in a lens.
I always love the way Leica lenses work with natural light, nothing else compares to them, particularly in bad light, they help you capture the scene so well. That is what the Leica M was all about originally, capturing the natural scene without interference.
Leica lenses have a certain look, a certain pop to them for their focus point. The Noctilux delivers this really well.
But anyway, I got to try a used Noctilux at the Adelaide Central Market. I put it on my Leica MP Film body, and shot on Kodak Portra 160, metering at 100iso. I shot as many of these images at F0.95 as I could.
The lens is heavy, yes, but it is well balanced when on an M. I think it is at home on the Leica MP. For me, I had Leica’s #1 lens, on their #1 mechanical body, with an awesome colour film that scans well, has great colour, dynamic range and fine detail. So the setup for some shots was optimal.
Maybe it was just the lens I had, but I kept on finding that I was knocking the aperture ring off of F0.95 as I was using it. Could of been the was I was holding it, but I found the aperture ring did shift quite easily.
Focusing a Noctilux is hard. The depth is so shallow at F0.95. Not easy to get right. But here are the samples.
The focus ring itself is buttery smooth, but doesn’t shift accidentally which is a real plus.
With the MP 0.72 viewfinder, the 50mm frame lines make focusing and re framing really easy.
The lens has a built in hood. Cool. I like that. Means you won’t loose it.
I would have loved to have taken the lens out at night. Done some low ISO street photography at night, and worked with the city lights after dark. But, i had to settle for the Adelaide Central Market.
Combined with the Kodak Protra I think I got some beautiful colours, and the was the lights and shadows have been rendered is pleasing and to be expected from a lens of this calibre.
But did I buy it? No…
Why I don’t plan to buy a Noctilux F0.95
This is an awesome lens, make no mistake. I’d love to own it. But, for me it may be a bit of a status symbol rather than a tool.
Firstly, I couldn’t justify spending that kinda money. It is an expensive lens.
Secondly, I prefer to shoot Summicrons (F2.0) and Elmarits (F2.8) – Thew 28mm Elmarit is sweet.
Why? F2.0 is forgiving. There is a bit of depth there for when I make a mistake focusing, or if I am in a fast paced environment. Also, I like a bit of extra depth, helps me tell the story in an image better.
Also, as much as I thought I’d prefer a 50mm lens over the 35mm, I’m a 35mm man. I love the frame of a 35mm lens over a 50mm for the way I shoot. Helps me compose better. I’d love to be better with the 50mm but I’m not. My 35mm F2.0 Summicron is my favourite lens at the moment (August 2017). The focusing tab is easy. The lens is compact, it is sharp and has great bokeh for a sweet 3d pop effect. It has that classic Leica look.
All that said, if money was no object sure I’d buy a Noctilux! Here are the samples.