The 1st Leica Noctilux, the rare f/1.2 Aspherical

The first Leica Noctilux Ever…the rare f/1.2 Aspherical

The Leica Noctilux is a hell of a lens…it is lusted after by almost every Leica shooter in the world and to date there have been a few versions released. We have all heard of the most popular version, the f/1 Noctilux. Most of us DREAM of owning the f/0.95 version but at $10k++, for many, it remains a dream. One version that you may not be aware of is the Mandler designed f.1.2 ASPHERICAL version of the magical Noct.

Not many have been produced and the reason this lens was discontinued and replaced with the f/1 NON-Aspherical version is because HALF of these lenses were trashed because back then Leica has no way of testing the lens until it was completed and assembled. They had a 50/50 success rate and it was a very hard and challenging lens to produce.

This was also the very first Aspherical lens.

I have read about and heard about this mystical beast but I have never ever seen on in person, let alone shot with one. When I visited Westlicht Camera in Vienna with Seal, we spotted this lens in the used shop. It was so small compared to even the f/1 Noctilux and I was intrigued by it. When I asked how much it was I knew it was way out of my budget but when we attached it to an M9 and gave it a whirl we were pulled in by it’s classical magic.

Seal ended up taking it with him and I was able to shoot it for an hour one day in the hotel. I really enjoyed the lens and I now I would like to share the test shots with you since I cant find any shots taken with this lens online. This lens is REALLY rare and hard to find so this is why samples are scarce.

All samples here were shot at 1.2, wide open. The first two shots were taken with a Fuji X100.

Two M9-P’s – Black and Chrome – with the first and latest Noctilux


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48 thoughts on “The 1st Leica Noctilux, the rare f/1.2 Aspherical

  1. This lens, similar in size to the old 50 mm Summilux, was designed by Drs. Marx and Sindel. Wide open, the f1 Noctilux gives better overall results.

    1. Actually I disagree. This lens gives a bit better contrast and color at f 1.2 over the f/1 Noct. I would not say the f/1 gives better results at all, unless you have an f/1.2 that needs adjustment.

  2. Hello,i have a seller, in Barcelona on a mint condition Noctilux 1,2 everything is perfect and new, boxes, manuals guarantee, etc! It really must be one of a kind on this condition, it’s as if it was unused!
    It belonged to his dad who passed away!
    They are asking 19.000 euro, if anyone is interested leave a reply and I will contact you 🙂

    1. Nice lens but that is priced VERY high. I have seen one for sale in the US recently for $12,000 US in excellent condition. $19,000 Euro is over $25,000 USA. Way too high even in the box. If it has been sitting unused for that many years it will need a CLA as well so I would guess it would be for someone who is only wanting to collect.

      1. Well Steve, i have seen it and its in perfect working condition, and cant seem to find one like it nowhere in the market, i know that its priced high but the owner saw one listed for 23.000 usd Leica Noctilux M 50/1.2 50mm f/1.2 RARE Yr.1966 and that one is listed as “good condition with signs of use”
        the one im talking about is a perfect jewel! i know its expensive but for sure they would be willing to negotiate something around max 1.500 euros less…
        its one of a kind, believe me, everything is perfect with this lens!
        also the owner is a respected owner of a generations bussines on las ramblas in barcelona so the reputation is completely confirmed and the traceability of this lens is total with full warranties!
        I met the owner when they came to casanova fotografia in barcelona (most reputed through generations photographic equipment dealer in bcn) as i buy all my equipment there, so this woman and her brother came just with a list, asking to see how much were they willing to pay for her recently deceased father’s leica equipment, it was this one of a kind finding to hear them! so i talked to her and came to the hardware store that their family owns through generations, and saw the whole package of things, i hadnt seen equipment in better conditions, everything was like if new, their dad kept everything, including paper bags from the dealer!!! it was a beautiful sight! of course i told them i could help for a comission of 5% on the sale and thats why im advertising it, but as you have maybe seen on my web page, im a pro photographer with many years working and high end clients in spain so i wouldnt be talkin lightly about this!

        if i had the money just to spend on an art point of view, i would definitely get it myself!

  3. Hello Steve,

    Nice of you to post this good opinion of the 1.2. The lens feels like a sort of muscular 50 Summilux and it balances very well on the camera, particularly the digital M’s and the M-5…the mount is really an attractive feature of the lens simply because it just seems to fit very well in the hand. The focussing action is heavy enough to be very precise but definitely not to the point of feeling like you are working the combination of a bank vault. I dont feel like it is that much more magic down at 1.2, but if you are running around in a place like Afghanistan, you get in a lot of different exposure situations (!) and all those f-stops give you LOTS of flexibility. The flexibility and the handling make the Nocti 1.2 an indispensible field lens. Nice big ol’ shade, too.

  4. Wow!

    Excellent review of the unobtania’ Steve.

    I’d love to see more images from the f1.2 if you, or anyone, else has them.

    So far, it reminds me quite a bit from what I’ve seen by the Nikon 58mm f1.2 Noct, but even more-so.

    I’m not so crazy with what I’ve seen from the f1.0 Noct (NPE).

    Sure the .95 is very nice enough, but it’s too big & heavy for a M, & seems to be missing the glow in favor of ultimate sharpness & accuracy. I prefer the glow, myself.

    Looks to me like the f1.2 just might be the pick of the bunch.

    Good on Seal for stepping-up.

  5. Red Dot Camera in London had one of these magical original Nocti’s in stock about two months ago, not sure if its still there.

  6. A couple of people that I know of have this lens and amongst them they all believe this 50/1.2 is the best 50mm ever produced by Leica.

    It seems like the lens 6′ has doesn’t have a hood and from what I know, the original hood itself can cost upward of US$2,500 oocuh….

    1. OUch, a hood for $2.5 K…..sigh….hope all’s well, Norman. Seeing what I have seen from the original Noct, it’d be hard to argue the point, but I love the new f0.95 tops…truly magic wrapped in metal…

  7. You’re travelling with a separate monitor? And I thought my wife packed everything!

    What post processing did you do in terms of colour and contrast? It looks nice, but how much is lens, and how much is Lightroom?

  8. you two stop buying…there will be a european shortage of leica gear

    have had a conversation with stephen b. relating to the fact that pretty much all leica gear…especially lenses… has been up there for decades and it sometimes easy to forget these in the marketing of summilux this and asph. that and you don’t really need to spend a fortune on excellent used gear.

    unless you go for the really rare stuff…you lucky buggers!

    1. Agreed Robert. I managed to pick up a 1961 Summilux for £500 and my other two Leica lenses are similar vintage for £250 – £300. Not quite as sharp as the modern ASPH lenses but still produce beautiful images.

  9. Sorry to possibly burst a collective bubble here but apart from this lens being rare what is so magical about it optically? I can easily get this kind of photos with, for instance, equivalent Karl Zeiss lens.

    By the way, I would love to have Leica M9.

    Cheers

    Dag

    1. .
      “..I can easily get this kind of photos with, for instance, equivalent Karl Zeiss lens..” ..indeed you can!

      (Er, but not on your X100 ..because that lens can’t be taken off and exchanged, of course.)

      1. David Babsky – man, you do feel the need to bash the x100 any chance you get, even if it’s completely off topic…

        That kind of statement says more about you than about the x100.

        1. .
          No, no; it was just a gentle reminder..

          Dag has posted marvellous photos on his website – e.g: at http://tinyurl.com/67uc9a7 – which were taken with an X100. This is a reminder that it’s not possible to put an f1.2 lens (Zeiss or otherwise) on an X100.

          The quality of images, though, from an X100 is undisputedly terrific, as I said when I wrote about it, remember? “..the picture quality itself is truly excellent.”

          1. Just in case there is some irony involved here about my photos: these are street photos taken at night and most of the time from a very close distance from the photographed people. So they are not a showcase of Fuji x100 capabilities, which are great by the way.

            However, they show how Fuji x100 performs in street conditions when there is no time to focus, it’s dark and people are extremely aware of any lingering photographers. I was, for all practical purposes, invisible to the victims:)

            In case there is no irony involved, I apologize and thank you for viewing my photos. By the way, I have pretty strong views on photography and they are not mainstream. Of course, I am not saying here that I am a good photographer or anything like that.

            Cheers

            Dag

  10. Very nice render. Is it me or is the focus just fractionally out on the Seal pictures. Might be that or that is just how that lens renders. Shooting as wide open as that can give that impression, even at 1.4. Here is one taken at 1.4 (Lux asph) on an MP. Close eye in focus but far eye OOF. Darn tricky to nail. Steve, what do you think? Were these shots spot on with focus? Are you happy with them for this lens?

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5906787110/sizes/l/in/photostream/

  11. Just received my Canon 50mm f1.2 from eBay (..to try alongside my long-standing Konica 50mm f1.2, which I’ve never really liked). The Canon is smaller, lighter, sharper, but less contrasty (less black paint inside the lens housing) and appears to give a -s-m-o-o-t-h-e-r- blend into out-of-focus areas ..because focus slides off to one side with the Konica, but spreads out in all directions (better colour-corrected) with the Canon.

    I don’t think I’d like to go to a wider aperture, though: it’d be too tricky (and slow) to get sharp focus. Cost? ..£750 ($1200) – a bit less than a Voigtländer 25mm f0.95, and about a tenth the $$ of the Leitz 50mm f1.2.

    Happy with it? ..Yes; very!

  12. Lovely test shots. I’d love to see a “concert” shot with this lens, Steve, if Seal would allow it. The look seems a little more tame than the Noct f/1, slightly more contrasted….the captures of Seal are truly magical, far more than simple test shots, these could be the inside of a record cover….The DOF and OOF rendering is quite unique…..

    I agree with Kristian however, in that the latest Noct is the perfect one for me…this one’s big benefit is size, but at the cost of some speed….

    1. “…but at the cost of some speed….”

      …now THAT is funny.

      Geez, only 20 years ago I was happy to get a 24mm 2.8 (Japanese.) Oy.

      1. Speed is a relative term in this case…it’s not THAT funny…

        fast 50’s can’t be compared to slower 24 mm lenses, other than the fact that both are lenses…and both are prime lenses…Oy is right…

        1. I meant no arrogance, nor was my mention of a Japanese lens a rebuttal. What I find funny, and I do, is our changing expectations. I know lenses in the 1.0 – 1.2 range have been around for at least 50 years but were few and far between. It’s now the norm to own a focal length range of, at least, 1.4 lenses. We all know good photography is in the mind and heart, still, we (I too) want Leica, Ziess, Nikon, Canon, etc., to present us with more “options.”

          Peace

          1. no offense taken…Our expectations are certainly changing, I definitely agree. Previously, ISO 3200 film was as sensitive as one could get. Now, there are cameras boasting ISO’s in excess of 100,000!!! I think certain items will not change, such as fast 35 and 50 mm lenses, and their slightly slower counterparts….

            The shape and functioon of cameras will continue to evolve. I see a move to smaller form, large sensor cameras, as technology evolves. IQ is fairly constant and consistent at this point that it’s hard to imagine that we’ll get much better for most cameras.

            Thanks!

  13. Last time I saw one of these it was NEW, $711 in 1969 in Altman’s in Chicago. I could only afford the 2.8 Elmar for $81…

  14. Steve, the shots are great! I really like the DOF on the last photo. Also, I hate you for showing us these because now I want one! 🙂

    1. It’s as if one can look into your spirit from your comment. Moronic. Stupid. I hope you are not as big of an idiot as you appear.

  15. Magical?……..Mystical!
    particularly so the last one of Seal.
    Wondrous images Steve….keep them flowing bro!

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