Leica Noctilux M 75mm f/1.25 ASPH lens hands-on review and sample photos

A reader recently received his Leica Noctilux M 75mm f/1.25 ASPH lens ($12,795) and send me this quick hands-on report together with  a few sample photos (thanks Onasj!):

I received mine today at the Leica Boston store. They received one, and I was fortunate to be first on their list (I got in line before it was even officially announced, which resulted in some quizzical looks from the gentlemen running the store).

I’ve been working very late nights this week, including tonight (have to pay for these $13,000 lenses!), but some quick first impressions are:

  • It’s almost shockingly heavy. Noticeably heavier than the 50 Noct. And somewhat larger (mostly longer) as well.
  • Of course the craftsmanship is world class. The twist-out lens hood, like the 50 APO, is a joy to use. In contrast, I find the fidgety 50 Noct telescoping hood to be less reliable and less fun to use.
  • The outer (white) box contains an inner (silver) box which contains FOUR smaller cases/boxes: 1) the usual leather lens cylindrical pouch; 2) a leather pouch for the tripod shoe (!); 3) a regular plastic pinch-to-use lens cap; 4) the second inner box (black), secured with the ribbon envelope-style clasp, containing the 75 Noct and a lovely black metal cap that covers the entire outside rim of the lens. The lens is bagged and in a black satin-covered contoured foam clamshell affixed inside the second inner black box.
  • The RF calibration was very good when used with my M10.
  • Wide open, I was surprised to see evidence of a bit of camera shake shooting at 1/90 or even faster when fully zoomed into a photo. I don’t usually see camera shake when I shoot the 90 APO on the M10 at 1/90. Perhaps part of the reason for more apparent shake with the 75 Noct is…
  • Wide open, this lens is astoundingly sharp. Even though the MTF curves suggest it is not sharper than the 50 APO, the images convey the sense of being even sharper than the 50 APO perhaps due to the longer focal length, small MFD for a Noctilux, and magnification factor. Remarkably, the sharpness does not fade as you approach the edges of the image (the drop off in sharpness away from the center is very apparent with the 50 Noct, by comparison).
  • Wide open, the lens is astounding contrasty. In this regard, it reminds me very much of the 50 APO, except at f/1.25.
  • Wide open, the lens has far less CA than the 50 Noct, but not as low CA as the 50 APO. Still, for a f/1.25 lens to show such control over CA looks almost… disorienting to me, not unlike the first time I shot Zeiss Otus wide open.
  • The bokeh and the fall off between in-focus and out-of-focus regions of the image is simply lovely. The bokeh is less prone to be colored by CA, and is smoother-looking overall in my opinion, than that of the 50 Noct. And I think the 50 Noct offers very nice bokeh indeed.
  • There was some curious debate about this issue in a another thread, but I can confirm that in a few real-life portraits and test shots so far, it’s clear that even “in use”, the depth of focus is often indeed thinner than that of the 50 noct. (In other breaking news, numbers are still the best way to determine which of two official depth of focus ranges is larger…)
  • My hit rate shooting the 75 noct wide open with the RF on the M10 (maybe 50% sharp focus, 70% ok focus or better) was not as bad as I thought it would be off the bat. I found the focusing accuracy to be no worse than, and possibly better than, the 50 noct despite the thinner depth of focus at the MFD, perhaps because it’s just substantially sharper to begin with, especially away from the center, so a bit of focusing inaccuracy can still lead to a reasonably sharp capture, at least by the standards of the 50 noct.
  • My hit rate shooting the 75 wide open with live view was very high, in part because the lens is so sharp and contrasty that the focus peaking is very apparent. In contrast, the 50 noct shot wide open away from the center can be soft enough that focus peaking doesn’t light up much.
  • The 75 noct does not swallow nearly as much light wide open as the 50 noct wide open. Which again, math will tell you (50@ f/0.95 vs. 75@ f/1.25), but what this means to me is that I am keeping both the 50 noct and the 75 noct, because they have different niches. When light is an extreme premium, or there is a need to shoot at a low ISO, the 50 noct will likely be more useful than the 75. The 50 noct is also noticeably “dreamier” in its rendering than the 75 noct. I’m sure people will debate the usual “Leica glow” vs optical imperfection vs atmospheric vs clinical rendering… but it’s safe to say the two nocts draw the same subject quite differently.

I hope some find these comments useful. I think those about to receive theirs will enjoy this optical masterpiece very much.

As they should for $13,000.

Sample photos

Leica Noctilux M 75mm f/1.25 ASPH lens sample photos

For comparison, the sample photos include also three pictures taken with the 75mm Noctilux and a Sony a7III camera (wide open) and one shot with the 50mm Noctilux (direct link to download DNG files, the JPG version are on flickr) – all photos handheld, no flash, wide open (f/1.25).

  • The 75 noct works superbly well on the a7riii, even in the very corners of the frame. I added three full-resolution 42 MP captures of the same subject, centered and in two of the extreme corners, with the 75 Noct at f/1.25, hand-held, no flash, on the a7riii using the Voightlander close-focus adapter (at normal focus range).
  • The 42 MP resolution and high dynamic range of thea7III sensor really shows that this lens is handily out-resolving the M10’s sensor. If you look at the centera7III shot and zoom in to 100%, it is like looking at the subject under a microscope!
  • Sadly, the Techart Pro autofocus adapter does NOT work with the 75 Noct. By does not work, I mean they are physically incompatible due to the geometry of the 75 Noct around the mount to accommodate the tripod mount. Which is a shame (see above)!

Thanks Onasj!

Leica Noctilux-M 75mm f/1.25 ASPH lens officially announced

Testing the $12,800 Leica Noctilux-M 75mm f/1.25 ASPH lens (video)

Leica Noctilux-M 75mm f/1.25 ASPH lens pre-order links: B&H | AdoramaLeica Miami | PopFlash | Park Camera (UK).

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