Leica Noctilux-M 75mm f/1.25 ASPH lens review

Picture credit: Albert Tsai (www.alberttsaiphotography.com)

Picture credit: Albert Tsai (www.alberttsaiphotography.com)

Picture credit: Albert Tsai (www.alberttsaiphotography.com)

The new Leica Noctilux-M 75mm f/1.25 ASPH lens ($12,795) is now shipping worldwide. Here is a review of the lens by John Buckley (www.tulipfrenzyphotography.com):

When Leica announced late last year that it would soon release a 75mm, f/1.25 version of its legendary Noctilux, I was intrigued but didn’t envision circumstances in which I’d really want it.  I’d been using, since 2010, the 50mm, f/0.95 Noctilux, which while a specialty lens, was among my very favorites.  This was one time, I thought, when Gear Acquisition Syndrome would pass me by.

Besides, my 75mm APO-Summicron had spent a long time being moved around my shelf, not on the front of an M10 or SL, because I don’t really think in terms of the 75mm focal length.  I don’t shoot portraiture per se, and on the street, I’m much more comfortable with a 35mm or 50mm focal length.

But still, how could one not be intrigued by that Nocti magic in a short telephoto lens?  The images Leica released, particularly those by Sean Hopkins, showed what the lens could do, and reviews and images by Kristian Dowling and Jono Slack made the mouth water in that familiar, Pavlovian way.  And I began to think it through.

I have a number of 50mm lenses, including Leica’s APO-Summicron-Asph and the SL 50 Summilux.  Having a Noctilux at a focal length I don’t “see” in – 75mm – began to make sense, or at least could be rationalized.

A Noctilux is unquestionably a specialty lens.  For me, 75mm is a specialty focal length.  Having a Noctilux with a shorter minimum focusing distance (0.85m compared to the 50 Nocilux’s 1 meter) offered new possibilities, as did the magnification of 75mm over 50.  It seemed to be doubly a specialty lens, one that could be used to achieve certain effects more intensively than its 50mm big brother.

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

And so I took the plunge, trading in both my 50 Noctilux and my 75mm APO-Summicron to get within range, if just barely, of the very expensive ($12,795) lens.  While Leica promised the lens would be delivered in “early 2018,” it wasn’t until St. Patrick’s Day that it arrived.

In the past two weeks, the season has brought both snow and cherry blossoms, giving me a chance to try using the 75mm in a variety of different conditions.  What I am appreciating most so far is how perfect a lens this is for use with Leica SL and its incredible EVF.  The lens is bigger and heavier than the 50mm Noctilux, but it seems like an ergonomic match for the SL, especially given how heavy the 24-90 Vario-Elmarit is.  Focusing is smooth and precise and fast – so fast that I actually can see using this as a street lens, on occasion.

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

With the slight magnification and shorter minimum focusing distance, it can operate almost like a macro lens.  This means isolating certain images precisely in the way the Noctiluxes have always worked.

The 75 Noctilux is essentially a single f/stop lens.  You can use it to shoot at f/8, but that’s not why you buy it.  With an 8cm focal plane, compared to the 50 Nocti’s 20cm focal plane, the difference between f/1.25 and f/0.95 is virtually nonexistent. And of course the reason why all of us who love these lenses are so enamored of them is because of the transition from in-focus to out-of-focus areas, the patented soft bokeh.

Shooting wide open can be overdone, and it’s not for every image. But when it’s right, it’s right. If you enjoy isolating the main subject from its background, there is nothing like a Noctilux, and this 75mm can do what the 50 Nocti can do at either shorter or greater distance. The magical Noctilux look is delivered with every bit the kick of the 50mm, but with the greater drama of being a short telephoto lens.

One thing that’s clear is that this lens shows less purple fringing wide open than the 50mm Noctilux did.  It’s still a good idea to buy a 10-stop ND filter, if you want to use it in daylight outdoors.  But the absence of purple fringing at the pixel level is astonishing.  It’s also hard not to think of this as an Apochromatic lens, given how gorgeous is the color rendition.

I’ve had the 75 Noctilux for less than 10 days.  Because I’ve owned a Noctilux going back to my M7 film days from 15 years ago, owning this isn’t a novelty.  It has proved itself, in a very short time, to be just what I hoped for.  It is a unique lens, both in terms of its performance and, especially since I generally don’t shoot at the 75 length, in its combination of focus and performance.

Is it worth it? That’s the question, right?  That’s a decision one has to make weighing in the balance its high cost.  Its performance is exemplary, exceeding my expectations.

More sample photos:

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

John Buckley is a photographer in Washington, D.C.

Photo website: http://www.tulipfrenzyphotography.com.

Check also John’s original Leica Noctilux-M 75mm f/1.25 ASPH lens review.

If you have an interesting idea for a guest post, you can contact me here.

Check Leica Noctilux-M 75mm f/1.25 availability at B&H | Adorama | Leica Store Miami | PopFlash | Park Camera (UK).

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