Owning a Leica is often revered as having achieved a certain level of success amongst photographers. It’s what many, myself included, aspire to attain. Out of all of the 50mm lenses on the market today, Leica’s lineup of 50mm has easily been my favorite. The Leica 50mm f0.95 Noctilux is the brand’s flagship lens. It’s also one of their most expensive lenses.
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The 50mm Noctilux is a perfect focal length for many photography applications. However, the price is unattainable for most photographers. Is the image quality worth the price? Keep reading to see if the cost of ownership is justified.
Too Long Didn’t Read
Leica’s 50mm Noctilux f0.95 is one of the best 50mm manual lenses on the market that many photographers cannot afford. At $12,795.00, it is a status symbol. If you can afford it, you will enjoy the images you can create. Make sure to book a hand massage afterward because it is much heftier than Leica’s other lenses.
Pros and Cons
- Versatile focal length
- Great in low light
- Lovely contrast
- Sharp with plenty of bokeh
- Exceptional build quality
- It is pretty heavy and not very comfortable
- The lens is costly
- Razor-thin focus at f0.95 when shooting close up
We tested the Leica 50mm f0.95 Noctilux lens with a Leica M10-R body and a Broncolor Siros L monolight.
Tech specs are from the LensRentals listing.
- Angle of View: 47 degrees
- Aperture: f0.95-16
- Autofocus: Manual Focus Only
- Brand: Leica
- Diameter: 2.9”
- Length: 3”
- Filter Size: 60.0mm (nonrotating)
- Filter Style: Nonrotating
- Focal Length: 50.0-50.0
- Elements/Groups: ⅝
- Hood Included: Yes
- Image Stabilization: No
- Item Type: Lens
- Lens Type: Normal Range
- Max Aperture: .95
- Maximum Magnification: .059x
- Minimum Aperture: 22.0
- Minimum Focusing Distance: 3.3 feet
- Mount: Leica M
- Weight: 1.5 lb
The Leica 50mm f0.95 Noctilux lens is the fastest 50mm aspherical lens for the 35mm format. A floating glass element reduces many aberrations, yet the images still have character. From a design standpoint, this isn’t the most cutting edge. It is a much beefier version of what we already know and appreciate from Leica.
At first glance, you will notice this looks like a heftier version of Leica’s other compact 50mm lenses. The Noctilux fits in the palm of your hand nicely. The added weight of the extra glass and metal is quite noticeable. It weighs almost three times as much as its Summicron counterpart.
The 50mm Noctilux follows the classic Leica-M formula. The depth of field ring is positioned closest to the camera body. Next is the textured focusing ring. The click-style aperture ring is a combination of textured and smooth metal. Unlike some of Leica’s other offerings, there is no finger rest on this lens.
The built-in lens hood is located at the end of the lens. Twist it to extend it or retract it. The Noctilux has a 60mm filter thread.
I appreciate how Leica uses contrasting textures in their lens designs. Adjustments become second nature and are easy to make without leaving the viewfinder.
The Leica 50mm f0.95 Noctilux is a premium lens. An all-metal housing and ample use of glass make this lens feel solid. It is a beautiful lens and is built like a tank. Although it isn’t officially weather-sealed, Leica has assured us that it’s built with weather sealing in mind.
The lens handled wonderfully in bitter cold temperatures and moderate snowfall. I did not encounter any fogging. The optics were the same as they were in much balmier weather.
Achieving manual focus with this lens is relatively simple. Utilize the viewfinder and watch it slide into the frame. I prefer the viewfinder over the live view mode on the back of the camera.
Ease of Use
If you are used to shooting with Leica’s other 50mm m-mount lenses, this lens is quite similar. There are a few caveats, however. The lens is much heavier than other m-mount lenses. The weight of the lens on the petite mirrorless body isn’t comfortable to hold for long periods. My hands often needed a break or they would become sore.
The most significant learning curve was establishing my perimeter with a longer minimum focusing distance. From there, it was easy to develop a cadence and switch focus from closer up to much further away. The lens also makes shooting in low light very doable without studio lighting.
This lens creates beautifully dynamic tones with excellent contrast. Images are perfectly sharp, and the bokeh is as smooth as velvet. The 50mm Noctilux is an ideal recipe for portraits, both perfectly sharp and intentionally out of focus. It is also the perfect focal length for a variety of applications.
At f0.95, the Noctilux delivers dreamy bokeh. You can create impactful frames that really highlight the subject. The lens also creates wonderful environmental portraits when stopped down to f2.8.
The Leica 50mm f0.95 Noctilux is a superbly sharp lens. Give yourself a bit of space to nail the focus of your subject when shooting wide open. Naturally, the center of the image is quite sharp, and the focus fades at the corners when shooting at its widest aperture. The sharpness extends throughout the frame as you stop down.
The images produced with this lens are incredibly sharp with a unique bokeh. It has a slight natural vignetting and produces striking images with bounds of contrast. Lens distortion and highlight fringing are minimal. They are also easily corrected in Capture One. Although challenging, it is possible to achieve sun flare and stars. Most images require minimal editing if any.
The colors produced by Leica’s 50mm Noctilux lens are fantastic. Leica is renowned for its tones, and the hues of this lens are stunning. Winter scenes are brought to life with the sun’s golden hues against the blue shadows. The skin tones are spot on and do not require correction. I appreciate the true, deep blacks this lens provides. It is ideal for fashion photography.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
Conclusions of the Leica 50mm f0.95 Noctilux Lens
- State of the art optics
- Plenty of lens character
- Gorgeous tones with decent contrast
- Images require very little post-processing
- Ability to shoot in very low light
- Sharp images and plenty of bokeh
- It’s hefty for the m-mount system
- The lens is heavy and my hands were sore
- Not affordable for a large percentage of photographers
Leica’s 50mm Noctilux f0.95 lens provides stunning optics straight out of camera. The colors and tones are beautiful, and the contrast is plentiful. It is definitely a status symbol with a price point of $12,795.00. The price is beyond what many photographers can afford or are willing to pay. I wonder who Leica primarily envisioned using this lens. Was their vision the best choice to show off what this lens can do?
Regardless, the 50mm Noctilux is a joy to shoot with if you can get used to its cumbersome heft. You might get in the habit for scheduling a massage after a long shoot day. And if the price is unattainable, you really can’t go wrong with any of Leica’s m-mount 50mm lenses.
We are giving the Leica 50mm Noctilux f0.95 lens five out of five stars. Want one? You can rent it from LensRentals. Or go ahead and pick it up on Amazon.