Is the Leica Noctilux a good choice as an everyday Lens?

Is the Leica Noctilux a good choice as an every day lens?

Things to consider before making that purchase…

By Steve Huff

Over the past two years I have received at LEAST 100 e-mails asking me about the Leica Noctilux and if it would be a good choice as an ONLY lens for a Leica M system. Since many of my articles spawn from reader e-mails I decided to write up a short piece on shooting the Noctilux as an only lens, and if it is a wise choice to do so. Now of course this is all just my opinion so you can take it or leave it but I do have experience with just about EVERY Leica lens and both Noctilux versions, the f/1 and f/0.95.

The reason I have had that question come through my inbox so many times is because the current f/0.95 Noctilux is a $10,495 masterpiece of a lens and there are quite a few M9 owners out there who have thought of selling their three lens kit to fund just ONE 0.95 Noctilux. Let’s face it, no matter who you are $10,495 is loads of cash for just one 50mm camera lens! The more I think about it, the more crazy it sounds.

Leica Lenses have been great investments…

When I bought my old F1 Noctilux brand new about 6-7 years ago it was $3500 and I had a hard time justifying it then. Today at over $10k this lens is out of reach to most of us, but at the same time it’s qualities are so amazing and unique that many of you have considered selling off other things to fund it. Even that old f/1 version today sells for well over $5000 USED. I have seen it go for as high as $7000…used. So those who bought one new a few years back had some huge appreciation on the lens. Most fast Leica glass is like this these days, plus the Nocti is so damn hard to get I have even seen the new version sell for $13k used!

So the big question is this: Is the Leica Noctilux., F/1 or F/0.95, usable as an every day lens or is it too heavy and slow to focus?  Is it worth the cash?

The good news is that I will do my best to answer this based on MY experience with the lens, and will also be providing some new photo samples along the way. The bad news is that what is good for me and not good for me, may not be the same for you but read on to see what I think about this whole subject.

To see the images at their best, click on them to see the larger and better version

Leica M9 and Noctilux f/0.95 at f/2 – The colors this lens produces are simply delicious.

There was a time when the only camera and lens I owned was a Leica MP along with the older Noctilux F/1, which is quite a bit smaller and lighter than the current Noctilux 0.95. I took that rig everywhere… shooting street, shooting portraits and just goofing around the house with it. When I purchased the M8, there was also a great while when all I had was a Noctilux. I remember falling in love with the lens after seeing what it could do. That old F/1 Nocti has some serious mojo going on with its classic and sometimes swirly Bokeh. You either love it or you don’t but I was one who really enjoyed it.

Thing to consider #1 – The Nocti is one heavy beast

These days, I am lucky and blessed enough own the new Noctilux f/0.95 and find it to be one of the best, if not the best lens I have ever shot with. It is quite amazing and special, and I really can’t afford any other fast Leica glass so many days it is just me and the huge heavy Monster. When on the camera it is VERY front heavy. The M9 with the Nocti is a beast of a machine but still lighter than something like a Nikon D700 and Zoom or big prime. It also happens to be THE MOST unique camera and lens combo EVER created for 35mm digital or analog. PERIOD.

But keep in mind that if you are considering buying this lens, or getting on a waiting list for one, that it is HEAVY and unlike most of  the small and light Leica glass you may have tried already. Also, while this lens is huge and heavy (for an M mount lens) it is built better than my freaking house and could also double as a weapon if you ever needed aid in self defense from someone trying to rob you of your camera. I mean, this thing could kill someone.

Shooting the Noctilux 0.95 wide open will usually make any subject look amazing 🙂

and again, the rich colors just POP with a depth you normally do not find in other lenses…

Thing to consider #2 – It’s a 50, and only a 50…

If you are considering this as an only lens, make sure you really enjoy the 50mm focal length. Some of you are 28 shooters, some are 35 and I suspsect MOST are 50mm shooters. This focal length is pretty much my fave along with a 35. Give me a 35 or 50 any day and I would be happy and easily adapt with just that one lens. A 50mm is good for many things..portraits, scenery, landscape, and everything in between. It’s like the jack of all trades in the lens world. The Noctilux also happens to be the best 50mm in the universe. The build, the exotic glass, the engineering and the love and care that goes in to assembly is what makes this lens so special.

Shoot it at f/0.95 or fully stopped down and you just get breathtaking performance. My Nocti was just in for calibration (needed an adjustment as it was 2+ years old and used all over the world..banged, beaten and a true workhorse) and it is now SCARY good. I now never miss focus, EVER! What I see is what I get in my VF. It’s always so nice to have an M system with the camera and lenses in perfect calibration!

As a side note, Some of you may remember a couple months back when I was in Brazil and I put up a test between the 50 Summicron and the Noctilux. It showed the Nocti was soft when I shot it at infinity. MUCH softer than the 1/5th price Summicron. Well, the reason for that was, and I know this now, is that my Nocti was out of alignment. Now that it is fixed it will not only match the cron, but would beat it for color, contrast and smoothness.

No more focus errors with my Nocti…it’s now PERFECT

So if you are OK with the lens being heavy and only a 50mm and are still lusting after it then you are half way there 🙂

Thing to consider #3 – It has a long focus throw, so can take more time to focus…

When you shoot this lens wide open at f/0.95 you have to be precise with your focus and Leica knows this. If you are even slightly off when you focus then your shot will just not give you that classic pop and 3D depth you expect from a lens of this caliber. I have to say that there is all of this nonsense online that has been spread around for years now that this lens is hard to focus. THIS IS NOT TRUE! If your lens and body are calibrated to Leica specs then this lens is just as easy to focus as any other fast 50. If you can line up your focus in the RF patch and you glass is calibrated correctly then your images will be in focus.

Sure at 0.95 there is shallow depth of field but I have NO problem achieving focus though the focus “throw” is long. What does  this mean? It means instead of turning the focus ring a very short distance to focus, you will have to turn it more and more as the focus patch will move slowly, so you can be precise and not over or undershoot your focus. This is a good thing in that respect, but if this is your only lens then you may need a bit of practice before you get used to it. On the street I can focus a 50 Summicron or Summilux quicker but again, I will not get that Nocti look from either of those lenses, though the 50 Summilux ASPH can at times come close.

This is a JPEG right from the M9. The Nocti has a way of producing images that are smooth but have amazing depth. The color is also outstanding.

Wide open and well calibrated this lens is nothing short of perfection

If you are ok with the long focus throw, then there is only really ONE last thing to consider if you are thinking of making this your ONLY lens.

Thing to consider #4 – $10,495…are  you ready to get serious?

This lens is the most expensive 35mm lens EVER to be sold. It is also the most unique but it is so priced out of the range of so many people, which in turn, makes it so unique. If everyone owned a Nocti 0.95 then the lens would not be so special anymore as the web would be filled with Noctilux shots! Leica knows what they are doing and they price this lens the way they need to but does that mean you are ready to plunk down almost $11,000 to fund the fastest lens in the world, possibly selling off other lenses to do so?

If you are in love with the Noctilux “look” and 50mm is your focal length, and you do not mind the weight and slow focus throw AND you won’t feel sick in the morning after spending $11000 on a camera lens, then GO FOR IT! While the weight sometimes gets to me, it is still better than walking around with a huge hulking DSLR around your neck and the results can be quite spectacular. This lens is the worlds best 50mm lens for the 35mm format and if you love your Leica M, there is no more satisfying lens than the Nocti.

Besides, you could always buy the Noctilux and a cheaper Voigtlander 35 so you have another focal length. The Nocti is magic, plain and simple but it will not be everyones cup of tea. It is one of those “lifetime” lenses, and who 10 years it may be worth $20,000 🙂

Im gearing up as tomorrow night me and my Nocti will be shooting the 1st Seal show of this tour in Parnu Estonia. Can’t wait to shoot it now that it is all calibrated and focusing PERFECTLY!

I will leave you with a few more shots from today around Tallinn Estonia where we are staying until Sunday. Enjoy! If you have a Noctilux, new or old, leave a comment and let me know what YOU enjoy about this special lens. In my opinion, it is one of the things that make the M9 so special, just because you can mount this lens! The Fuji X100 can NOT do that.



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  1. Hi Steve, loving the Leica reviews and in particular the reviews of the Nocti. I’m close to pulling the trigger on an M9 or maybe M10 (fingers crossed) and a Noctilux.

    Can you please tell me how much of the finder is blocked by the lens? And how much a problem you have found this to be.


    • Hi, I know that I’m not Steve (to whom you directed this question) but having a Noctilux on an M9, I just took a look through the viewfinder and my best guess is that about 20% of the lower right corner is blocked by the lens. I’ve never found this a big deal. The area blocked is about the same as most of my Leica lenses (except the 50 Summicron). I hope this helps. As a less costly option to the Noct you could consider the Voigtlander Nokton 50 1.1. It’s a little bit smaller in size and while not the same as the Noct, it does do a respectable job.

      • Brilliant, that’s much less than what I thought it would be and great news. No, I’m definitely going to get the Noctilux. There’s no point doing things in halves.

        Thanks so much for the info, much appreciated.

  2. Hands Down, IMO, the nocti signature is the Leica signature – i’ve had three versions over the years and had to or decided to sell them – then miss them terribly. It is a lens you have to shoot to appreciate, used it as my “always on” lens until I’d decide my d3 now d3s s with a 50 1.2 was lighter (ha) so sold of the nocti to fund something new. . . the life a photog. . . Good Read Steve, great comments – superp lens – happy shooting . . .

  3. I cant comment the new Nocti but only the old one, and the old (1.0 version) was a tricky pony because of its focus shift.
    Now the new one should not suffer from that – but, I have some Leica lenses which I needed to send in to Leica as much as 3 times until they focused fine, even at f1.4
    So I would assume with a Nocti there is a chance/risk the lens has to stay some time with UPS and Leica until you get it goin.
    I admit however my main reason to not own one is price, for me 0.95 vs f1.4 doesnt seem like such a big advantage.
    The Summilux, smaller, lighter (not so much total weight but weight balance with the M9), shorter minimum focusing distance, faster to focus, half the price is just fine. I pay the same amount of money for S2 lenses but find in case of the Nocti the alternative Summilux asph is just to good and the Nocti to me seems like pure luxury.

  4. I think the Noctilux is a high performance lens. Like anything else that’s made with that kind of quality it takes skill to operate.

    I’ve seen people who obviously had the money but not the time vested and the results are spotty.

    The opposite tack is the portrait of a boxer in the recent Leica catalogue (by Jeff Plomley?) where it’s obvious the Noctilux could be the best lens ever made.

    I’ve never held one so I can’t comment on what it would be like having it as an everyday lens. One could do worse and if it was I think the experience would help you become a better photographer.

  5. Hmmn – I’m sure it is a nice lens, but $10,000 + requires a “calibration” every 2 years = not a favourable equation. I know you state that this lens has “been around the world” in those 2 years, but not even a rich pop star treats a beautiful $10,000 lens in an especially rough manner. It sounds as though the Summilux may have less problems with consistency of performance at a lower price – I guess that’s the problem with shooting for the “bleeding edge” of performance … it is “bleeding” for a reason !!

    • Just posted a 1.4 shot, full size from the Noct. Also, teh last 50 ASPH I had was off at 1.4, had to be calibrated. One I had with my M8 a few years back was off at mid distances, had to be sent in. Calibration is actually an issue with Leica glass and M digital bodies and it is my opinion more people than not have lenses that are off but they just do not realize its the lens, and blame their focusing skills.

      This Noct is mine and last tour I banged it up on walls, barricades, people and other camera bodies while shooting the shows. So it was due for a calibration. Thanks,


      • Steve, you’re absolutely right about calibration…I got my nocti less than a month ago…I thought I’ve an issue with focusing or my eye sight..after doing the same test by focusing on infinity and bench mark against 50 lux my nocti+m9 are definitely not aligned.
        just curios about the process, how long do they normally take to fix it?

  6. Steve, I subscribe to nearly every statement you posted about the Nocti so far and I also love this special look so I definitely would shoot most of the Seal Tour with that magical lens as well.

    But there is one thing I disagree: I would not say that the Nocti stopped down to f1.4 performs even better than the Summilux at open aperture. I am not talking about MTF charts or that stuff but in my comparisons I saw that – when used at brighter light conditions – the images of the Nocti suffer a bit from purple fringing at high contrast borders and shiny surfaces even at f1.4 whereas the Summilux is nearly free from these frings already at f1.4. And the Summilux combines at f1.4 a bokeh with perfectly round circles of confusion in the out-of-focus area with unbeaten pin sharpness in the focus layer where the Nocti deliveres nearly but not perfectly round circles anymore.

    So from my point of view, what you win with the Nocti 0.95 compared to the Lux is only the special “0.95 rendering” (which is not a gain of a full stop regarding brightness anymore due to the growing vignetting). THAT’s what you have to decide about if THIS is worth the extra charge for yourself.

    • Fair enough but the last Lux ASPH I had had purple fringing wide open and was off and had to be calibrated. At 1.4 it was soft on the M9. AFter it was fixed it was spot on but no better than this new Noct at 1.4 in regards to detail, sharpness, etc. It did have slightly less fringing though. In every other area, I prefer the Noct at 1.4 BUT!!! I do not prefer the size and weight. In a perfect world, we would have a 0.95 or f/1 Leica in the size of the lux.

      For an every day lens, I would prefer a Lux ASPH due to weight, not IQ..but no way I can own both 🙂

  7. Excellent article. My Noctilux 0.95 goes with me on all of my travels. The weight becomes a minor issue if one considers its other fine attributes. I don’t believe one should own a Noctilux as an only lens. It should be part of a lens arsenal that can be employed as needed. Buying one lens and precluding other focal lengths solely for financial reasons makes little sense to me. One will not produce better photos this way.

  8. I don’t care what anybody says. It might cost $18,000 …but WHO can’t see that the Nocti coupled with an M9 doesn’t produce something VERY special. When put in the hands of a sensitive person it really produces something special…repeatedly. Do you have to have this to produce art..NO…but the images are amazing…just amazing. Someone can’t see this??????? DUH.
    (BTW …I own no Leicas).

    • Photos are nice, but nothing that can’t be achieved with canon 5d mkII with nikor 50mm 1.2 ais, not to mention with canon 85mm 1.2

      • That’s not true. I own a 5D MarkII with an 85mm 1.2 2nd version and i am sure i can’t replicate this look. I love the look I get, but it pretty different than this.

        • I also have a 5D Mark II and the 85mm f/1.2. This combo does produce incredible photos…but there is something very special about the M9 and it is even more so with the Nocti on it. I would love to compare prints …I think the M9 would produce more of a WOW-factor.

  9. I am a VERY HAPPY Nocti 0.95 owner, it never left my M9 since. I have 6 lenses, but the 0.95 is a piece apart. First, the weight is not an issue after a couple of weeks. The most difficult for me was to deal with the large diameter focussing ring, which needs some training to be used fast.

    In sunlight, no problem at all. As far as i know, every lens with the same amount of light, the same aperture, and the same speed will transfer the same amount of light. So, a Summilux at 16 and a Noctilux at 16 deal the light the same way. And for really extreme conditions, i use a Schneider Kreuznach ND filter.

    I was a Nikon guy in the past, looking mainly at performance charts, and convinced that is was right. Leica stuff is competing in such another category, some say they do not play the same game at all. Here we are talking about emotions, heart, love, and not performance charts.

    I am going this summer for a one month holiday in California – Nevada – Utah – Arizona, and yes of course, the M9 and Nocti is in the bag (plus a new 35 lux and a 75 cron and a small carbon tripod). Otherwise, why buying expensive stuff to leave it at home ? Camera gear is made for taking photos, not to stay at home.

    Thank you Steve for your interesting approach about the nocti. I guess it is, like some other exotic stuff, difficult to write about it if you do not own it. It is always a pleasure to read you.

  10. ….Wonder if Eugène Atget, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, William Eggleston at al cared about MTF charts. …….

    No they didn’t….. but if they had a 2011 50mm Summilux, they wouldn’t use the mid 20th century technology..

    Is there sombody in this Church still awake and dare to be critical?
    Steve doesn’t look at MTF, well Steve, somethings sometimes are important, even MTF…

    Noctilux 1.0 and Summilux 50 1.4…. I had them both, and now the Summilux only.
    They are both ridiculous expensive !, sure I can explain why Leica production methodes leads to technical perfect lenses and why there is aprice for that. But hey why spending so much mony on ‘high degree technical production lenses’ if the technology coming out, like MTF doesn’t botther.

    A 300$ AF-D Nikkor 50/1.4 on my D700 does a remarkable job vs the 4000$ Summilux on my M9.
    Yes …I just look at what is coming out, no pixel peeping, MTF or other brickwall sience….

    So wake up members of this non-critical-site, for the most of us no lens, no noctilux or whatever, will make a better photographer of you…. so get a life….grap a camera and a lens …go out and shoot…develop your way of looking…. the camera and lens are just instrumental…

    Don’t agree? well look at Bressons pictures, I hav eseen a lot of them.
    technically … just dramatcically bad (1940 technology)…composition ? top !…. but that is what he did see…not the lens…

  11. Steve – excellent analysis as always. I have a f0.95 Noctilux as well as a 35 Summicron ASPH. I use the 35 about 95% of the time. It is SO much lighter and more compact than the Noctilux and it makes carrying and using the camera all day a joy – I also prefer the wider angle. HOWEVER, when I do break out the Noctilux (as I am currently doing some night shooting in NYC) it is AMAZING. Photos from the Noctilux have such a unique look and the low light images have a fantastic quality about them. If the Noctilux was my only lens I definately would not carry around my M9 with me as much as I do and that would equal less images and less photographic enjoyment For me, the Noctilux is a special occasion lens – but one that is worth every penny because when I use it – it truly is special!

  12. Here’s my take… I own a Noc .95 and for the most part I’ve enjoyed using it. The weight is no big deal. It sits very close to the camera, unlike say a Canon 70-200 2.8, so balancing the extra weight is very easy. And besides, the 1.5 lbs of the Noc isn’t all that much weight unless you’re coming from a Summicron 28. But here’s why I would say this is NOT an everyday lens: it doesn’t stop down enough. F16 leaves a very large aperture opening. This lens when used in full sunlight on my M9 has at times exceeded the 1/4000 fastest shutter speed of the M9. This lens needs an F22 aperture. But indoors, watch out! I took a bunch of photos of kids and adults at a party this past March. Shooting in so-so indoor light at .95 and 1/250 second and only correcting for white balance (the M9 shoots way too cool — blueish cast) in Photoshop, the photos had a glow that no other lens on a 35mm body can achieve. Simply magical looking. If you can afford this lens then also get the Summicron 50 for outdoor, bright sunlight shooting if using a 50mm lens is your thing.

    • Gary, I can not imagine a real life situation where f16 with 1/4000s will deliver an overexposed image. For my f1.4 lenses I usually buy a 8x ND filter that reduces light by 3 stops (which compares to shooting with f4) and with this combination I never was limited by the 1/4000s border.

      • Just after I bought my Noc (Feb 2011) we made our usual commute and stops (ABQ-LA-ABQ along the I40) and stopped at Painted Desert. About 11am, bright late-winter sun. The camera consistently flashed the shutter speed (1/4000) with the Noc set to f16. I switched to my Summicron 28 and 75 and had no problems with the same scene. I figured way too much light was entering the camera through the lens. Bought a 50 Summicron and in the same and similar setting in April, no problem. Thanks for the ND suggestion; I would not have thought of this. I’ll pick one up and try that later this year.

  13. Lots of 50mm lens choices from a few manufacturers. Lots of shooting styles for shooting said 50mm. So everyone is entitled to their opinion. I don’t need .95…..1.4 is plenty. And the 50 lux asph is an excellent lens for landscape, as one person commented above. These type of articles are just to start an argument me thinks…….

  14. Actually I use a Noct mostly. Almost everyday. Comparing Japanese SLR set, Noct is nothing bigger than a standard lens for SLR. I don’t think it is too bulky to carry around. Surely it won’t be easy to take a shot in sunny day time, yet Noct does have aperture blade and F11 F16 are always there for such situation.[img][/img](taken in F11)

  15. IMO, the best single lens for a 0.72 Film M or M9 is the 35mm summicron asph; the 28 cron asph for the M8.

  16. I’ve asked this question many times over, as I own the Noct Asph and the Summilux Asph. Both lenses are nothing but spectacular. Is it worth owning both? Tough question, but here is why I do. CA is a problem with the Noct from F/.95-F/2 or so. (I only use film Ms currently, the Noct ran me dry!! HAHA) The min focus distance for the Noct is 3.3ft vs 2.3ft for the Summilux. Noct weighs over 800 grams, I don’t know where Leica got 700 grams from. Summilux Blk version 335 grams. I have never tried the Summicron, but have only heard good things about it except it can flare badly at times. I change my mind everyday as to whether or not the Noct can be an “all in one” 50mm and if I can really justify owning the Summilux as well. I guess it all depends on your taste, and if you want to lug an 800+ gram $10,500 (w/o tax or shipping fees) jewel or tool (depending on how you use it) around your neck.


    • I own the same lenses, only my Noctilux is one of the last runs of the f/1 series and my 35 lux is the last version, not the newest one.
      I purchased my Noct last July from Ken Hansen and it has not left my M9 in almost a year! I love to shoot wide open with an ND filter…it’s addicting. I keep saying that I’m going to put my 35 Lux back to use, but so far it just it just hasn’t happened…and I do love that lens and 35 mm is my prefered focal length of the two. I keep thinking I should just eBay the 35 Lux at this rate.
      That said, I also took delivery of the X100 a few weeks ago and I’ve been enjoying shooting with it so much, that my Leica keeps getting left at home now. Lately I keep saying that I should just sell all of my Leica gear (except the Noctilux…would hang on to it for future reference) and recup some serious money, and just shoot with the X100 for while…at least until they come out with the M10. 😉

  17. I think that charts are good if you understand what they say. I agree that looking at photographs is good, but as Steve says, it may not be for everyone. Lets understand that graphs show how lenses would compare under the same situation, and that makes them valid to compare lenses. It is the scientific way, everything under control. If a lens performs better on the charts, certainly it will perform better on the real world. BUT, be sure to understand what the charts measure, because the charts don’t measure things like the color pop or quality. So, if you care about contrast and sharpness in real world photos, the charts will work for you. If you care for color or any other fact the charts don’t measure, then they will be of no use for you. Charts are a tool, and as any other tool, they are useful in knowledgeable hands. But finally, I think there should be no discussion about this. Everyone should judge lenses the way they like and then decide based on their own judge. Worst mistake when buying something is basing the decision on someone else.

  18. I love the look that comes from the Nocti but for me it is too big and too heavy as a one lens solution. Happy to stay with my lux which does everything at least as good as the Nocti except the obvious. As Steve Hu said above though, the smallness, the lightness the unobtrusiveness of the lux cannot be underestimated and factoring it all in, if I had to choose one lens, it would have to be the lux.

  19. I used to sell to a magazine here in North Carolina that wanted pictures that were tack sharp. Then they replaced the photo editor with an art director. She didn’t want sharp pictures, but more artistic blur. The pictures taken with this len wouldn’t get in the front door of that magazine, very sad. Like your work, and though I don’t own Leica, I do come here often to read what you say. I own a GF1 and I take many photographs every week. I thought that the camera body cost to much, but when you get something this costly, it is either a toy of the rich, or the very special tool of the pro, and I don’t fall into either of those two camps.

  20. I have the last version of the F1.0 Noctilux. The more I use it the more I love it and get good keepers.

    I found that I use it more and more for the shallow depth of field effect rather then low light capability, to the point where I have bought a 3 stop ND filter to be able to use the lens wide open most of the day.

    If you buy a Noctilux, and really use it a lot, a 3 or 6 stop ND filter is a must have accessory in my opinion.

    I have half a dozen lenses, but generally only carry 3 in my bag at a time, my Noctilux makes the short list 90% of the time….. I could see taking it out for the day as my only lens, or as a key lens in a 3 lens set.

    The Noctilux is a magical lens, unfortunately the price is rather magical…….

  21. i’ve used the nocti on a m7 for many years.

    but not so often: it’s too big, it blackens out parts of the’s too heavy. it contradicts the be-unobstrusive-m-system. the IQ is worse than you might think.

    “classic” m is: f8, 1/250 s, prefocus. 2.8/50 lens is just right for that.

    for artsy flower-blending there are better means than a m9 with nocti

  22. we traveled in california and nevada in april, 17 days, with an m9 and ‘old’ noctilux, and a 903SWC. family stuff, las vegas, death valley, highway 1, daytime, nighttime – all well covered. it was refreshing not to change lenses several times per day, and i would do it again. my one regret, i didn’t take any sort of ND filter along to help with the bright days.
    greetings from hamburg

  23. Hi Steve. Can you suggest where I can have my M9 and lenses calibrated? How long does it usually take?

  24. Hi Steve,

    When I traveled through Turkey last Fall all I took with me was my M9 and a ‘cron 50/2 and it did nearly everything I wanted in a lens, with the exception of low light performance.

    That got me to thinking I’d like to have a 50/0.95 nocti, so when I got back to the states I went to a Leica Road Show and tried the Nocti on my M9 and pretty much fell in love with it, and unlike others the size & mass of the lens didn’t bother me at all.

    Then I e-mailed you and asked you if you thought it would be practical as a single all-around lens for the M9 and you said “Yes!” I buy all my lenses from Ken (thanks for letting me know about Ken!) so I contacted him to buy one. None available. I checked back after a few months – still none available. I guess I’m just going to have to be patient, but I sure wish Zleica would up production a bit on the Nocti.

    My short term solution has been to add a Voigtlander 50/1.1 to my collection – once again – while I wait. While it’s no Nocti, I really love the images I’m getting from the V in the meantime, and at around $1K the price is right.

    Steve, I’d like to hear more about your experiences with the M9/Nocti combo, and if you are using ND filters for bright light and such.

    Keep up the great work!

    Kind regards,


  25. It’s like arguing about having a Farrari or an Aston Martin for your everyday drive, the real world is not everyone’s world, I just hope articles like this won’t scare away the ordinary readers, I love this site, and I love my everyday lens 20mm Panny on my E-P2, just pre-ordered Leica DG 25mm f1.4 from Adorama, hope sometime in July or August, we can have an article auguring about which one you rather to have, Panny 20 or Leica 25…I think the answer would be pretty obvious, but who knows, the Made in Japan Leica might be a big let down, hope not.

  26. A few years back I had the shutter on my M4 replaced. When I went to pick it up, the owner of the camera shop brought it out to me with a like new Noct F1 mounted. My first reaction was that it made the camera far too heavy and it was no longer the perfectly balanced pocketable tool that it was with either my 50 or 35 Summicrons attached. I took the lens off immediately and told the shop owner that I was not interested.

    What a mistake! I should have made a few test shots. If memory serves, the price tag was just over $1,300. Where’s my kick me sign?

  27. Even if i had that kind of cash (which I don’t) i could never bring myself to buy such an expensive lens. I travel a lot & i have an M9 & M7 & i find that in itself very stressful, to be walking around with over $10K worth of gear on me. I also have the 50mm summicron & it’s an amazing lens, but i still perfer my 35mm voigtlander classic for general snaps & 75mm (voigt 1.8) for portraits.

    Have any of you out there every been robbed of your gear? Steve, do you buy insurance when you go to places like Brazil, just wondering?

    I really appreciate this site btw…..


    • No insurance for me on my gear. Its ALWAYS with me. When its not, its in a safe. If someone tries to rob me Id use my M as a weapon if at all possible 🙂

      • You would risk your life for bloody M9 and Noct?! That`s too far, man. Sombody said “no picture is worth the life”, more so the it goes for gear.

        • NOtice I said “If at all possible”- for example, if there was some teenage punk threatening to punch me if I don’t hand over my gear Id just twirl my 9 and Noct around and give him a few whacks with it before letting him take it. If it was a few heavies with weapons, that is another story 🙂 Lol…

          • The said teenage punk would then go back home to brag about being whacked with an $18,000 weapon… It would be a memorable experience for him. And you could publish yet another great street photograph featuring mostly shoe soles flickering in the dark. Perfect job for a wide open Noctilux. The newly emerged style then would be coined ‘hit-and-shoot photography’.


  28. Hi Steve,
    Nice to see you have a great time there.

    My take on the noct, 2 words: LOVE IT!

    I guess I am “lucky” enough (I saved money, fought over, and flew cross country to hand-pick it) to own this -IMO- ultimate 50. I have contemplated it since day 1 before I made my jump into Leica-land last year, in fact the noct and 50 lux were my main reasons for Leica. I didn’t sell my 50 lux asph since it’s also a hard-to-find lens. Just love 50 FL.

    Unfortunately, these days my M9 is away in Solms for sensor replacement as it cracked recently. I was told it could take 12-16 weeks for repair, so what camera to get for now? This temporary substitute must be a worthy one, preferably easy on the pocket and not so overwhelming that I won’t use my M9 when i gets back. Hmmmm… toughie.

    A thought came about the X100. I did have a hoopla session on your site with some of its fans. So… just to be fair with them, I decided to get the X100 and try it out for myself (my beloved shop here also happened to have just 1 unit on that day).

    Well oh well, to my surprise (and repentance), I am beginning to love this little fella that does big things. I just have it for a few days but I can tell you this, while it cannot replace the M9 completely, for its price-feature-perfomance it’s definitely a WORTHY side-kick..

    Here’s some pics of the noct (I hope the pics show up properly, it’s my first time posting a comment with pics in it)





    Here’s several pics of X100:




        • Thanks Al..

          Here they are (from the noct):
          Water time

          Watched over


          Chill out

      • These are test shots from the X100:


        Vignette added

      • YOu can upload them to the site easily. If you prefer to link, you must link to the actual JPEG, not the page the JPEG is on. The URL has to end in “.jpg”

        • Hi Steve, sorry I still don’t get how to upload pics to your site other than this one: You can add images to your comment by clicking here”. When I click the link, it asks me for the image URL. I don’t know how to use this url address thing to upload the pics from my hard disc.

          Am I missing anything here?

          Thanks in advance

    • 12-16 weeks??? I mean that body costs 5000 Euros. Reminds me of Apple service. Way too long but everyone takes it gratefully. Did they explain to you what takes them so long?

      • Yup.. 12-16 weeks. The issue, in the first place is: why did the sensor crack? Shouldn’t happen to any camera in this day and age. However, I was told that since the IR filter is so thin (0.2mm if not mistaken). It is prone to cracks.

        The number “12-16 weeks” are standard number given by Leica. It can be worse, depending on production capacity and the queue line. The comforting thought is that once it’s fixed, this problem should go away (no more over-tightening of sensor I guess). It reminds me of Patek Phillipe… Same story…

        And no, I don’t take this gracefully… 🙂 Also, given to the fact that this is my second M9. I had to sell away my first away due to hot pixel plaguing my sensor.

        I still love it, though… 😀

      • Uhm, I brought my Apple Computer into Apple the day I called and they looked at it, and fixed it within an hour. I’d say that’s much faster than what Leica can deliver.

  29. Sharpness? Wow!wow! I would like to see big difference at f:5,6-8 between Noct, Lux, Cron and Mar. Bokeh? Have you seen a portrait shot with 135/2 or 200/2 with is`s background few meters away? Leica made new Noct because they wanted to show they can. Erwin Puts said actually about old Canon 55/1,2 asph from 70-ties.”the Canon lens outperforms the Noctilux 50/1 at wider apertures and closer distances. Accepting that the Noct has a half stop more power in light gathering we still have to note that mere a half stop asks for some compromises”. So aren`t we getting a bit religious about what we have. Of course it does what others cannot do, but does it so much better? I doubt.

  30. My thought and point about wondering whether Atget et al worried about MTF charts was that, principally, they got hold of a camera and went out and took photos of the world around them, not charts or brick walls.

    Sure it’s great to have the best gear money can buy – both aesthetically, mechanically and optically – but some of the world’s most renowned artistic and emotive photographs have been taken with the most basic of equipment, zone focussed (zone focussing a f0.95 maybe a little difficult, I admit!) and without the use of a lightmeter.

    I’ve been fortunate to own everything from a Pentax SL, Zorki 4, Rollei B35, Nikon F2 and FM2, Leica IIIc and M 4-P, Minolta CLE with a selection of lenses for each system, and have professionally used a MPP 4×5, ‘blad and twin-lens Rolleis. Some of my best shots were taken with an Olympus XA.

    Guess which my clients were most interested in: resolution charts or photos?

  31. My thought and point about wondering whether Atget et al worried about MTF charts was that, principally, they got hold of a camera and went out and took photos of the world around them, not charts or brick walls

    Sure it’s great to have the best gear money can buy – both aesthetically, mechanically and optically – but some of the world’s most renowned artistic and emotive photographs have been taken with the most basic of equipment, zone focussed (zone focussing a f0.95 maybe a little difficult, I admit!) and without the use of a lightmeter.

    I’ve been fortunate to own everything from a Pentax SL, Zorki 4, Rollei B35, Nikon F2 and FM2, Leica IIIc and M 4-P, Minolta CLE with a selection of lenses for each system, and have professionally used a MPP 4×5, ‘blad and twin lens Rolleis. Some of my best shots were taken with an Olympus XA.

    Guess which my clients were most interested in: resolution charts or photos?

  32. I am so upset again after this article. Just few weeks ago, Leica dealer in Bahrain called me for a new noctilux. I was a little bit late and I was in the dealer after 3 hours but unfortunately, the dealer said that one of the Prince in Bahrain had bought the lens.. I have to wait for the next party, only God knows when I can get the same chance again. It is hard to believe but the third guy was coming from Kuwait, the same day just to buy this lens.

    • Yeah man, that`s the lens for the sheiks asking for the most expensive lens, car, watch wine around, caring a damm what you use them for. Just must have. In this case Leica made a very good move making Noct scarse. It wouldn`t suprise me that there will be buyer for it at 20K price or even more, gold plated and diamond studded.

  33. Hi Steve!

    I’ll add my opinion – I am waiting already for months right now to get the 0.95 Noctilux and trade in my f1.0 Noctilux. For me it IS the only always on lens on the M9.

    Just a few times I used the 35 cron and almost never the 90 Elmarit.

    I am 50mm fan, almost addicted to that focal lenght!


  34. Thanks, Steve, for a very good article, which provides the subject of dreams. The only real hope I have of acquiring a Noctilux in the next decade is that when I retire, I can get to tax-deferred savings. Perhaps I will present myself with a Noctilux as a retirement gift? Before then, of course, I will have to obtain an M-lens camera to make sure my aging eyes can operate a rangefinder! (Another possibility would be a different, non-rangefinder platform that could use M glass, if it could render images of comparable quality.)

    While I do not own a Leica camera, nor M glass, I do own Leica binoculars, and yes, there is something special about Leica glass.

    As for MTF charts, some people make a hobby of chart-watching. Some people make a hobby of
    enlarging images on large monitors and peeping at pixels. Some people photograph brick walls or
    graph paper, to look for distortions. These are worthwhile pursuits, but not everyone cares for such
    things. There is indeed a mathematical side of digital photography, but there is also the artistic side. An artist who paints does not necessarily render a painting that is mathematically proportional to the subject, and sharp corner to corner, so why should a photographer be so limited?

    If I never own a Noctilux, that is OK, too. I read articles and books on other subjects that I will never own, touch, nor personally experience, and that does not diminish my pleasure in reading about them. Happiness is a state of mind, not a destination that is reached by possessing things.

      • This sounds very familiar. I have the same experience. I don’t have big lenses but sometimes I use a lens hood with my 50mm (for protection mostly) and it blocks the view a bit. But strangely, the blockage miraculously disappears when I start shooting. Must be some special mechanism built into my Leica…

  35. Love your review, as always. Lovely pictures too!

    But I do have to say, paying $10,495 for a lens, any lens, is ridiculously stupid, no matter how anybody spins it.

    • Thank you. Wasn’t spinning anything, and I agree, the cost is staggering – no way I could ever afford that kind of cash. Well, maybe one day but not today.

      • Steve – thanks for the response. Wasn’t trying to imply that YOU are spinning it – quite the opposite, I think you have a way more balanced and realistic view of things than many others. But there are some folks that will find some way of arguing why $10,495 for a lens is not plain crazy.

  36. Steve, I’m going to have to ask you to block my IP from accessing your site.

    It’s just no fun for a student who can’t even afford a second lens for his A55 ;(

  37. I think for me the Nocti would be too heavy for an everyday carry lens ( I got to play with one for a little while at a Leica event last year ) and I think I would be constantly worrying about damaging it.

    On the other hand 10 Grand is a lot of money for sure and certainly beyond my budget right now, but I think price is a matter of perspective. Many people with the means easily spend that much or more on their pastimes and passions… motorcycles, vintage Stratocaster, wine cellar. I’d take an M9 and Nocti over any of those !

  38. Wonder if Eugène Atget, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, William Eggleston at al cared about MTF charts. Just a thought.

    • Actually Bresson would only use Leica’s that scored high on DXOMark. Back in those days there was no internet, so they nailed their charts to the Paris bullitin boards in the villiage squares.

      Walker Evans was very worried about storing his RAWs. If you think an NXCapture crash is bad, you should have your silver nitrate negatives start on fire!

      • Mark, I know for a fact that HCB used one particular lens throughout his photographic career and that was a Zeiss Sonnar 50/1.5. He started using that lens because at the time Leica didn’t make any lenses that fast. And even when they started to, he still continued using the Sonnar. Sure, he owned and shot some other lenses but the Sonnar was his lifetime choice.


        • Greg, you got that wrong. HCB used indeed just one lens, but it was a collapsible 50mm Summicron, not a Sonnar. And he rarely used it wide open.

          • Mark, I didn’t get your joke right away. Only after I posted my comment I realized it was a joke. Had a long day and a sleepless night…

            Linus, HCB used many lenses throughout his life but one lens he continuously used over a period of about 30 years (1930s through 1960s) was Zeiss Sonnar 50. That fact is confirmed by John Brinnin and others who had close association with him. He rarely used it wide open but he preferred to have that capability in a lens for low light situations. Especially since he was mostly shooting in his preferred manual shutter-priority mode, setting the shutter speed at 125 and adjusting the aperture to achieve proper exposure. He did many different things but that was his favourite mode of shooting.


          • Don’t worry Mark – It’s Greg’s problem, not yours … The joke was entirely obvious, but Greg seems to be a “serious” man, who is a little, ahem, “slow” on the uptake !!

  39. Hey Steve – Enjoy Tallin and the local attractions ; )

    You mention a Voigtlander 35 mm lens which one do you refer to ?

    The “Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 VM Nokton Classic” ?

    Or the new heavyweight ?

    Voigtlander 35mm f1.2 Asph VM II

  40. I have the fortune to have a 0.95 Nocti as well and I love the look it produces. However, it’s a one trick pony – an exceptionally fat and heavy pony. I usually end up picking the 50 Lux ASPH instead. The Nocti does 0.95 but for everything else I prefer the Lux and not only because it’s of a manageable size.

    I don’t regret buying the Nocti, but could not imagine having it as an only lens.

    If it is worth it depends on your budget and your aesthetic preferences. In my case it’s not clear cut. I think it was worth getting it, but I can’t say value for money is good. At half the price, sure. At $10,000 the decision is much more difficult. I like my lenses to have a distinct character but I don’t want it to dominate every shot. I did not like the f/1 Nocti that I had before – the rendering style of the lens was far too dominating in the pictures. The 0.95 Nocti is much better in that respect but still on the brink of being a bit over the top for my taste.

    • Actually I disagree 100% on the Nocti/ one trick pony statement. Nothing could be farther from the truth. At 1.4, it meets or even beats the 50 ASPH and as it stops down it’s also as good as the 50 ASPH lux. Its huge and heavy but it does one thing the Lux CANT do, and thats shoot at 0.95.

      It can do everything the Lux can do, sometimes better though. BUt you have to deal with the weight. A big drawback as an every day lens. The old f/1 was sort of a one trick pony but the 0.95 can shot at any aperture without any compromise.

      Me, I could use it as my only lens but would I want to? No. A 50 cron would be a great 2nd 50 IMO.

      • Steve, I couldn’t agree less – I’ve found that at f/1.4 the Lux ASPH is far better. Now we don’t have MTF charts for both at f/1.4 but we do at f/2.8 and they show very clearly that the Lux is much better with the contrast in the fine details (i.e 40 lp/mm). At f/5.6 it’s still much better in the sagittal 40 lp/mm. It does make a big difference for stopped down landscape photography – where I think the Lux ASPH is great and the Nocti only good.

        • I should add though, that the Nocti does have somewhat less field curvature stopped down, which is nice.

        • I dont go by charts, I go by results and looking at old shots from my lux at 100% at f4-f8, they are no better than what I get from the Noct at the same aperture. Real use is what matters, not charts as many times charts would say one thing, but in real use those numbers usually don’t mean much as it has more to do with technique and light than anything. We don’t always shoot in perfect environments so charts, for me are sort of silly. The 50 Lux is AMAZING…I LOVE IT, but to say the Noct cant do what the Lux does is sort of silly.

          • Your refusal to go by charts does not make them irrelevant. The difference from f/1.4-f/8 is very visible in direct side by side comparison shots. I know as I’ve done piles of them when I was trying to decide if I should keep or sell the Lux. And of course two different optical designs will be *different* no matter which.

            If you think that difference is relevant or not will of course depend on how sensitive you are and what types of subjects you shoot. To me and my type of photography the difference between the two lenses is significant and I’ve found the Nocti to be lacking in the contrast in the fine details. If you for instance shoot a scene stopped down and you really want some fine texture to be accentuated, the Lux will deliver while the Nocti will give you only a half baked result.

            It would be wonderful if the Nocti could do the same thing as the Lux – I’d be able to sell the latter and save money and weight. Unfortunately it can’t. They’re good at different things.

          • Refusing to look at MTF charts does not make irrelevant, but a good print does. If you can make a satisfactory print or whatever output form you are going for, then who cares about the MTF chart??? I think that is steve’s point. You can read the data, but in the field if the lens can accomplish the task at hand then so what about the data….

            Now if you want to argue objectively than fine, but that is the difference between photography and a MTF chart… One is totally objective and the other is totally subjective.

        • I would imagine that the results the Nocti produces stopped down are more than good enough for most people; this is why the charts don’t matter. It may be measurably different, but on a very small scale.

          You mentioned you did piles of comparison shots “trying to decide if you should keep the Lux.” If a 2-option choice seems difficult, the result of either choice is likely to not be very different. In other words, if it really was a question, the answer would have been more obvious.

          • The stopped down Nocti results are very good, but the Lux is a bit ‘better’. Better is of course an oversimplification as for instance the Nocti has higher contrast center frame in the fine detail and less field curvature. However the Lux have the other benefits in rendering that I outlined above.

            As for tests, the difference is definitely visible in web sized shots. The reason why one has to do a lot of tests is to make sure to test it with different scenes and under different lighting conditions. It has nothing to do with how different or similar the lenses are.

            As for the importance of the magnitude of the differences, well, that’s hard to say anything about in absolute terms. Many people won’t see the difference between a $100 Canon 50/1.8 and a $10,000 Noctilux – that doesn’t mean there is no relevant difference. My judgement in this case, according to my standards was that the lenses were different enough to warrant keeping both – despite the expense.

            That doesn’t mean that my conclusions are universally valid for everyone – ultimately it’s a subjective call if you think that the difference is relevant.

      • then again, the lux can do one thing the nocti can’t do, and that’s be a small lens and be discreet.

  41. I’m lovIng Your shots in recent posts, even tho they are just to compliment the articles and compare lenses etc there are some stunners here. Good luck at the gig 🙂

    • Last 15 posts, this is the only article I wrote about the Noctilux. Had a guest post about it using it on the M4/3 cams…so your math is a bit off. If we go back to the last 30 posts, still, only these two. The cool thing about all of this is that you can easily skip a post if you are not keen on the topic. Thanks for looking 🙂


    • You mention everything great about the lens but didn’t put emphasis on it’s weight.
      The weight is not practical for “everyday use”. Period. And shall I put in another “period”?
      It’s an immensely large lens with a large blockage of rangefinger.

      • Steve wrote: Thing to consider #1 – The Nocti is one heavy beast

        And regarding the size…of course it’s big…it’s a .95 for cryin’ out loud!

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