What is ‘Noctilux’? Well, at a base level it’s a term derived from the latin words for ‘night’ (Noctis) and ‘light’(lux). Together the closest literal translation would be ‘night light’, and that’s fair to say because Noctilux lenses gather light better than the human eye.
Beyond the straight translation, however, Leica’s Noctilux lenses (and there are now 4), are considered the pinnacle of fast primes since induction over half a century ago, with their scarcity and price tag only adding height to their lofty perch. But even as they’re associated with lust, expense, and luxury, they are tools of utility, used by the owners instead of sitting in a hermetically sealed box.
Before today the only lenses bestowed with the Noctilux moniker were all Leica 50mm primes:
Noctilux-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH
Noctilux-M 50 mm f/1
Noctilux-M 50 mm f/1.2
But now there’s a 4th that defies that tradition: The Leica Noctilux-M 75mm f/1.25 ASPH. Leica is suggesting it’s the first in a new series, suggesting it’s the ‘co-founder of a new family of lenses’.
At 75mm it’s 50% longer focal length and puts it closer to a proper portrait length. While it’s near-but-not-quite a full stop slower than the 50mm Nocti, the 75mm is sure to drink available light like it’s taking a shot of tequila.
The longer focal length paired with this aperture is only sure to accentuate that which Noctilux has always been known for, such as subject isolation unlike anything else. In fact, these figures suggest it should have a shallower depth of focus than the 50mm Noctilux f/0.95. That suggests it’ll have the depth of focus then, as fine as an eyelash.
“The upgraded features of the Noctilux-M 75 mm f/1.25 ASPH. open up entirely new opportunities in portrait and close-up photography, including a shallower depth of focus than that of the Noctilux-M 50 mm f/0.95 APSH. and a close focusing distance of 0.85m, making for a reproduction ratio of 1:8.8 for even more precise isolation of subjects. Additionally, the eleven blades of its iris ensure a soft and harmonious bokeh in out-of-focus areas.
To guarantee this extraordinary imaging performance, the nine elements in six groups that make up its optical design are manufactured from glasses with high anomalous partial dispersion and low chromatic dispersion. Two of the elements are aspherical, and reduce other potential aberrations to a hardly detectable minimum. The use of a floating element within the complex focusing mechanism guarantees a constantly high level of imaging performance throughout the entire focusing range of the lens – from its minimum focus distance to infinity.”
Leica Noctilux lenses, it warrants saying, are marked by their performance at all apertures, but they wouldn’t be quite so special if they failed to deliver the rather unmistakable Leica aesthetic, and if the sample photos by photographer Sean Hopkins are any indication, that’s not a concern here at all.
See more From Sean Hopkins here.