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Review: Leica 50mm F1.0 Noctilux

The Noctilux is simply one of the most interesting 50mm prime lens in the photography world since there are not many lens with a larger aperture or as unique of a bokeh.

Ever since I first found out about this lens online I have been longing to get one someday but it just simply felt out of reach at the time.  So the stars aligned one day and it fell into my hands.  This lens is quite a large lens for being an M lens.  It feels heavy and it blocks quite a bit of the viewfinder, however it is really not much bigger than my Nikon 50mm f1.4 afs.  It was a constant self struggle before finally deciding on this lens since I already own the perfect 50 prime, 50 F1.4 Summilux ASPH.  The Summilux is an optical masterpiece, it has perfect sharpness, bokeh and ergonomics but just lack some of that character. With that said, the Noctilux was everything I expected.

Ergonomics wise the Noctilux takes some time to get used to, the focus throw is long, dampened and lacks the focus tab.  One surprising discovery is that getting sharp focus at f1 is not as hard as I have thought, my hit rate is about the same as focusing the 50 ASPH which is very good.  After mounting the lens on to my m9 it does feel a bit front heavy, even more so when on the M6.

As mentioned already, one of the main reason for buying this old and big (for m mount lens) is because of the signature bokeh and draw.  The best description for the look is the look of an oil painting I guess.  It just has that very smooth yet structured look to it’s out of focus areas.  This is especially exaggerated in photos with slight to medium busy backgrounds at great distance to the subject.  The Noctilux is the lens to get for Leica users that like to shoot natural light all the time added with some unique look to the photo.

A few things worth pointing out is that there appears to be some samples variation amongst each Noctilux which causes some of them to not focus accurately.  My Noctilux appeared to be slightly back focusing out of the box when mounted on to my M9, I resolved it temporary by offsetting the focus distance a slight bit for each picture (I turned the focus ring slightly so that I am focusing closer than what the rangefinder overlap was telling me).  I then realized that it might be a body issue since neither my 50 ASPH and 75 summarit was focusing properly at infinity (rangefinder patch unable to overlap perfectly at infinity).  Which does explain why some of my shots are slightly out of focus sometimes when i shoot at further than close distance.  After adjusting the rangefinder on the M9 itself with a small hex key, focus is spot on now for all lens used on the M9.

In order to really use the Noctilux to its full potential is to get a ND filter since shooting at F1 outside during the day is impossible because the shutter speed required exceed the maximum shutter speed of the M9.  I find that a 3 stop ND filter works best overall for all shooting situations.  Anything above that you will need to remove once you start shooting under the shade.  With the 3 stop you can still keep it on just by bumping up the iso slightly. Once indoors in low light, the ND filter will need to be removed.

Finally, the Noctilux I’ve chosen is what is known as the Version 3.  I liked it better than the other version due to the removeable clip on hood (much prefer it to the pin hood of the Version 2 and the fixed hood of the version 4) and the fact that it was 60mm diameter compared to 58mm diameter of the Version 2 (the larger diameter helps with less severe vignetting at wide open apertures).  See below info for the different Noctilux versions.

Version 1 = 50mm F1.2 Noctilux
Version 2 = 50mm F1.0 E58 Noctilux (removable pin hood)
Version 3 = 50mm F1.0 E60 Noctilux (removable hood)
Version 4 = 50mm F1.0 E60 Noctilux (built in hood)

Now I must go shoot more photos with this lens!:)

OlympusUser - Dear Ricky,
I saw your pictures on the ECPZ and know that you are using a Leica 50mm f1 V3. I love the characteristic and bokeh of this lens very much, so after searching for a few months, I got my Version 3 50mm f1. My question is if the lens can use a E60 filter and still the original hood can be put on the lens. As I put on a B+W E60 filter, the diameter of the hood is slightly smaller than the filter. So at this moment, I can only put on the filter without the hood or put on the hood without the filter. Would you tell me what brand of filter you are using and still can put on the hood at the same time.
Send my best wishes to you and family.

OlympusUser

Mahesh - Hi, I wonder why you prefer removable hood instead of slide-out?
Thanks

inzite - Hi Mahesh,

I am not a fan of the built in hoods on leica like the 50 1.4 asph or the noxtilux v4. they are often flimsy feeling and dont usually lock into place. For example, my 50 asph feel onto carpet floor from chair height and now the built in hood has more play than it had which is annoying. Also most hoods are click on/snap on because they are supposed to give away when the lens/camera is dropped instead of transfer the impact to the lens and camera itself. Thanks for dropping by :) .

Ricky

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