Review: The Leica Noctilux f1.2

Feb 1, 2021  By Jonathan Slack
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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!

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