At Photokina 1966 Leitz Wetzlar announced new products, including the 50mm 1:1.2 Noctilux, welcomed by available light specialists of the day. Evaluation of prototypes circa 1964-1966 suggested the Noctilux set new performance standards at the widest apertures. See page 235 of my Volume II-Lenses for prototypes 0000662 and 0000678.
Internationally recognized experts including G.W.Crawley – British Journal of Photography, Bob Schwalberg then at Leitz Wetzlar, and Bill Pierce – Popular Photography published their findings and concluded the Noctilux was an improve- ment over existing high speed lenses. Camera News of West Germany Volume 8, #2,1966 (Photokina coverage) commented the Noctilux features high image contrast and is completely free of internal reflections.
An internal E.Leitz, Inc. New York memo from October 1966 suggests first availability will be November/December 1966 in very limited quantities. Subsequent deliveries are scheduled for mid 1967. Noctilux catalog number 11820 appears in the December 1966 consumer price list at $678 when the Leica M3 body price was $288. E.Leitz, Inc. New York product catalog #40 June 1967 lists the Noctilux In July 1968 Leitz Wetzlar prepared an informative pamphlet 110-79 detailing Noctilux characteristics.
Was the Noctilux purchased by legions of Leica enthusiasts? Probably not as the Elmar, Summicron, and Summilux were sufficient. The Noctilux was expensive and availability was limited but if one absolutely required its capability Leitz Wetzlar offered specialists the supreme tool.