Lens review: The Leica 50/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH

Noctilux. Regardless of its generation – whether the pioneering (and very, very rare) f1.2 early version or the current super speed f0.95, it’s a bit of a legend amongst photographers, and with good reason. It was one of the first lenses I was loaned by Leica – replacing a 50/2.5 Summarit that was supplied with the M9-P initially. I asked for more speed, and it seems like I got everything they could give me.

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The beast.

Let me start with my first impressions of the outgoing f1.0 lens: a big, huge, heavy, difficult to focus (thanks to a very long focus throw) beast with a near-useless short built in hood. I didn’t like that veiling softness caused at f1 due to a combination of flare and uncorrected spherical aberration; and I really found the ‘swirly bokeh’ distracting (another artifact of uncorrected spherical aberration) – something that most people loved as the signature of the Noctilux. I guess I’m in the minority. The first time I handled the f0.95, I was actually collecting my 21 Summilux; this was in 2009. I duly fondled, took some test shots, thought it was pretty good, and handed it back – I didn’t like the stiff focusing ring, and it was even bigger than the previous one. And somehow felt twice as heavy.

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