Leitz Wetzlar Noctilux 50mm F/1.2

Standard prime lens • Film era • Discontinued • Collectible

Model history (2)

Leitz Wetzlar Noctilux 50mm F/1.2 [11820]M6 - 41.00mS.VIII 1966 
Leica Noctilux-M 50mm F/1.2 ASPH. [11686]M6 - 41.00mE49 2021 
Leitz Wetzlar Noctilux-M 50mm F/1.2 ASPH. Silver (100 units) [11702] 2021 
Leitz Wetzlar Noctilux-M 50mm F/1.2 ASPH. "Leitz Auction" (20 units) 2023 

Features highlight

Ultra fast
16 blades
Series VIII


Production details:
Production type:Small-batch production
Availability: Sold out
Order No.:11820 - black anodized
Original name:LEITZ WETZLAR NOCTILUX 1:1.2/50
System:Leica M (1954)
Optical design:
Focal length:50mm
Maximum format:35mm full frame
Mount:Leica M
Diagonal angle of view:46.8°
Lens construction:6 elements in 4 groups
On Leica M8/M8.2 APS-H [1.33x] cameras:
35mm equivalent focal length:66.5mm (in terms of field of view)
35mm equivalent speed:F/1.6 (in terms of depth of field)
Diagonal angle of view:36°
Diaphragm mechanism:
Diaphragm type:Manual
Aperture control:Aperture ring
Number of blades:16 (sixteen)
Coupled to the rangefinder:Yes
Closest focusing distance:1m
Magnification ratio:<No data>
Focusing modes:Manual focus only
Manual focus control:Focusing ring
Physical characteristics:
Maximum diameter x Length:⌀61×60mm
Filters:Series VIII
Lens hood:12503
Lens caps:14102 (front)
14051 (rear)
14269 (rear)
Sources of data:
1. Manufacturer's technical data.
2. Leica M5 booklet (PUB. 110-87d) (March 1974).
3. Leitz General Catalogue of Photographic Equipment (January 1975).

Manufacturer description #1

From the LEICA photography magazine (1966, No. 3):

The six-element Leitz 50mm Noctilux f/1.2 lens for the Leica was one of the most talked-about optical innovations at the October Photokina exposition in Cologne, Germany. It offers corner-to-corner correction, sharpness and contrast never before available in a lens of this speed.

The appearance of the 50mm Noctilux lens, first of an experimental production series based on new manufacturing techniques from Leitz, is a major advance in the field of lens design and production.

Until now, conventionally designed and made lenses have used only flat and spherically ground surfaces. This has produced such unwanted effects as spherical aberration, which means that light rays passing through the edge of the lens focus in a different plane then do the central rays. Correcting this and other problems of high speed lens design is best solved by the use of aspherically ground lens surfaces. But grinding and checking such surfaces, especially on a production basis, has not been successfully accomplished before.

However, Leitz's Glass Research Laboratory, lens designers and production engineers, working as a scientific research team, came up with both the optical glasses and methods needed to achieve the long-sought goal. The result is the new Noctilux f/1.2 lens.

The "secrets" behind the unparalleled performance of the Noctilux lens are:

1. Aspherical lens surfaces. Heretofore, it has been impossible to produce such nonspherical surfaces on a production line.

2. High-refraction optical glass. Leitz's own glass laboratory has developed the glasses which make it possible to produce a high-speed lens with superlative correction across the entire field.

3. Close relationship to Gauss-type lenses with but a few glass-air surfaces for excellent contrast.

4. Progress in optical computation which provides contrast and correction, even at f/1.2, which virtually eliminate flare, even at full aperture. Superb color work can be done with the new Noctilux with existing light without fear of loss of color saturation on the transparency.

The performance of the 50mm Noctilux f /1.2 lens far surpasses previous lenses of this aperture. And, with three times the speed of the Summicron f/2, it offers new possibilities for photography by existing light in black-and-white and especially in color. The 50mm Noctilux will be available in mounts for the Leica M3 and M2. Price is expected to be $678.00. A small supply of this lens will be available by the end of this year on a ration basis to professionals. Regular deliveries will begin in the summer of 1967.

Manufacturer description #2

Since it first appeared on the market in 1966, the Leica Noctilux-M has always been considered a masterpiece of optical engineering that brings photographers enormous creative freedom. It is the world’s fastest aspherical lens for 35 mm photography and, when shooting in low light, reveals fine details that are hardly perceptible to the naked eye.

Pictures made with a Noctilux-M are characterised by the unmistakable bokeh of the lens and a visual quality that verges on impressionism. It is a fascinating tool with which photographers from every corner of the world master visual and artistic challenges. The lens has been used by them to bring us fascinating stories from the darker and lighter sides of life. The character of images captured with the Noctilux remains unrivalled until today.

The Noctilux-M is characterised by its unique rendition of contrasts – this results in pictures of outstanding brilliance, sharpness and minimal flare and coma effects when shooting at maximum aperture. A street lamp at night, the tail lights of a vehicle, the face of a child in candlelight, or an actor or singer spotlighted on stage, appear with authentic and natural clarity in every picture. Subtle nuances of colour and finest textures become visible. These images radiate a certain delicacy and sensuality.

What’s more, a Noctilux-M enables creative composition with the aperture, the plastic, seemingly three-dimensional, isolation of the subject that lets it float against a creamily dissolved background. No other lens can achieve such perfect bokeh. An aspect that for many photographers is much more important than working with Noctilux-M ‘only’ in failing or hardly perceptible available light.

1966: the first Noctilux lens is presented at photokina.

The Noctilux astounded visitors to the fair and the industry press with its virtually revolutionary optical properties. For those days, it offered a simply gigantic maximum aperture, but not only that, it was also a maximum aperture that delivered exceptional optical performance.

Also remarkable was the fact that it was the first ever lens produced in series to feature two aspherical lens surfaces. One of these two asphericals was made from special glass with a high refractive index. The task of the asphericals was to reduce spherical aberration at maximum aperture and increase quality in the image field.

At that time, the production of asphericals was a particularly complex and costly process. Even the most innovative new lens grinding machines were no alternative to the experienced precision optical engineers who gave each element its final polish completely by hand. Even so, such specialists were unable to further minimise larger tolerances in the final stage of their production. Often enough, an element had to go through every stage of the grinding process all over again. An extremely costly method that was in urgent need of improvement.

At the same time, new testing methods also had to be developed to assure the technically almost Utopian precision demanded for the aspherical surfaces of the required elements.

Manufacturer description #3

The 50mm NOCTILUX f/1.2 is a special LEICA lens designed to meet the most critical requirements of available-light photography with high-speed films.

From the point of view of the practical photographer, modern optical correction brings two principal values: resolving power and optical contrast. Resolving power, the classical criterion of lens performance, represents the ability of the lens to image very fine subject details. Optical contrast refers to the ability of the lens to perform two very different, and very important practical functions: to clearly separate closely similar tonal values, and to concentrate all of the light from a single subject point into a single image point.

Because high-speed films - both black-and-white and color - used for high-aperture "available darkness" photography provide only moderate resolving powers, the LEITZ NOCTILUX was designed to yield an exceptionally high degree of optical contrast, with slightly lower resolving power than the other high-speed 50mm LEICA lenses. Whenever available-light pictures are made with high lens apertures on b-and-w films with indexes of 400 ASA (27 DIN) or higher, as well as when fast color films are used, superior optical contrast weights the scale decisively in favor of the NOCTILUX.

A glance at the NOCTILUX cross-sectional diagram reveals a 6-element, 4-group classical Gauss formula that is actually simpler than those of other high-speed lenses. This less complicated optical design with fewer air-glass surfaces was made possible by the most modern computer calculation methods, the use of very new optical glasses with specially high refractive powers and low color dispersion developed by the LEITZ Glass Research Laboratory in Wetzlar, and by the employment of aspherically ground optical surfaces.

No one of these factors could have provided the high NOCTILUX performance by itself, but the inclusion of aspherically ground lens surfaces is the key factor. It is this that gives the NOCTILUX its almost perfect freedom from spherical aberration over the whole field, and from coma.

Almost complete freedom from coma is a special NOCTILUX advantage of great practical value to the available-light photographer. Coma is the optical aberration which distorts image points into tear-shaped forms pointing either inward toward the center of the picture, or outward toward the margins. Coma is especially critical in available-light work because such pictures often contain direct light sources such as incandescent lamps. Even at f/1.2, this aspherical lens records these light points accurately, without shape distortion.

The high correction of coma and of all other critical aberrations, combined with an almost complete absence of internal reflections, results in an unusually high optical contrast. In available-light photography, NOCTILUX optical contrast means more shadow detail with cleaner highlight areas. Even at f/1.2 the NOCTILUX produces so very little flare that strong light-sources are imaged with only minimum halo surround. Brightly back-lighted subjects, anathema to poorly corrected high-aperture lenses, have clear, accurate outlines.

High optical contrast is especially advantageous in color photography because exposure by non-image-forming light subtracts from final color density in the reversal film process. Available light color transparencies made with the NOCTILUX exhibit improved color saturation because light energy is concentrated where it belongs: rays intended for highlight areas are not spread all over the film.

Another interesting fact about the NOCTILUX is that it has what might be called a "built-in optical lenshood". This can be seen by looking at the front lens surface from an extreme angle, and then slowly moving your eyes toward the lens center. When your visual angle exceeds the NOCTILUX field if view you will see what appears to be a mirror. This is a total reflection of all unwanted light rays from outside the imaging field.*)

Superior optical contrast due to high correction for coma and all other critical aberrations and due to freedom from internal reflections, make the NOCTILUX the ideal high-aperture lens for use with high-speed available-light films.

*) Although a lenshood is not so important for the NOCTILUX as for other lenses, LEITZ provided an open-sector hood for this lens. This hood is useful for blocking out very strong side illumination, as well as for keeping the front surface free from rain, spray, and finger marks. The NOCTILUX lenshood also serves as a holder for standard Series VIII filters.

Other standard prime lenses in the Leica M system

Sorted by focal length and speed, in ascending order

Leica M mount (27)
Leitz Wetzlar Elmar 50mm F/3.5 [III] [ELMAR-M / 11110]CollapsibleM4 - 31.00mE39 1954 
Leitz Wetzlar Elmar 50mm F/2.8 [I] [ELMOM / 11612, ELMOM / 11112]CollapsibleM4 - 31.00mE39 1958 
Leica Elmar-M 50mm F/2.8 for M6J (1640 units)CollapsibleM4 - 30.70mE39 1994 
Leica Elmar-M 50mm F/2.8 [II] [11831, 11823]CollapsibleM4 - 30.70mE39 1995 
Leica Summarit-M 50mm F/2.5 [11644]M6 - 40.80mE39 2007 
Leica Summarit-M 50mm F/2.4 [11680, 11681]M6 - 40.80mE46 2014 
Leitz Wetzlar Summicron 50mm F/2 [I] [SOOIC-M / 11116]CollapsibleM7 - 61.00mE39 1954 
Leitz Wetzlar Summicron 50mm F/2 [II] [11117, 11118, SOMNI / 11818]M7 - 61.00mE39 1956 
Leitz Wetzlar Summicron 50mm F/2 [II] Dual Range [SOSIC / 11918, SOOIC-MN / 11318, 11320]M7 - 61.00mE39 1956 
Leitz Wetzlar Summicron 50mm F/2 [III] [11817]M6 - 50.70mE39 1969 
Leitz / Leitz Canada Summicron-M 50mm F/2 [IV] [11819, 11825]M6 - 40.70mE39 1980 
Leica Summicron-M 50mm F/2 [V] [11826, 11816]M6 - 40.70mE39 1994 
Leica APO-Summicron-M 50mm F/2 ASPH. [11141, 11142]M8 - 50.70mE39 2012 
Leitz Wetzlar / Leitz Canada Summarit 50mm F/1.5 [SOOIA-M / 11120]M7 - 51.00mE41 1954 
Leitz Wetzlar Summilux 50mm F/1.4 [I] [11113, SOOME / 11114]M7 - 51.00mE43 1959 
Leitz Wetzlar Summilux 50mm F/1.4 [II] [SOOME / 11114]M7 - 51.00mE43 1961 
Leitz Wetzlar Summilux 50mm F/1.4 [II] [11113, 11114]M7 - 51.00mE43 1968 
Leica Summilux-M 50mm F/1.4 [III] [11868, 11856]M7 - 50.70mE46 1995 
Leica Summilux-M 50mm F/1.4 [III] Titanium [11869]M7 - 50.70mE46 1995 
Leica Summilux-M 50mm F/1.4 ASPH. [I] [11891, 11892]M8 - 50.70mE46 2004 
Leica Summilux-M 50mm F/1.4 ASPH. [II] [11728, 11729]M8 - 50.45mE46 2023 
Leica Noctilux-M 50mm F/1.2 ASPH. [11686]M6 - 41.00mE49 2021 
Leitz Canada Noctilux-M 50mm F/1 Type 1 [11821]M7 - 61.00mE58 1976 
Leitz Canada Noctilux-M 50mm F/1 Type 2 [11821]M7 - 61.00mE60 1978 
Leitz / Leica Noctilux-M 50mm F/1 Type 3 [11821]M7 - 61.00mE60 1982 
Leica Noctilux-M 50mm F/1 Type 4 [11822]M7 - 61.00mE60 1994 
Leica Noctilux-M 50mm F/0.95 ASPH. [11602, 11667]M8 - 51.00mE60 2008 

Lenses with similar focal length

Sorted by manufacturer name

Leica M mount (13)
Cosina Voigtlander Nokton 50mm F/1.1 VMM7 - 61.00m⌀58 2009 
Cosina Voigtlander Nokton 50mm F/1.5 Aspherical VMM6 - 50.70m⌀49 2013 
Cosina Voigtlander Heliar 50mm F/2 VM “Voigtlander 250th Anniversary” (2500 units)CollapsibleM5 - 31.00m⌀39 2006 
Cosina Voigtlander Nokton 50mm F/1.2 Aspherical VMM8 - 60.70m⌀52 2018 
Cosina Voigtlander Nokton 50mm F/1.5 Aspherical II VMM8 - 70.70m⌀43 2020 
Cosina Voigtlander APO-Lanthar 50mm F/2 Aspherical VMM10 - 80.70m⌀49 2020 
Cosina Voigtlander Heliar 50mm F/1.5 VMM6 - 30.50m⌀49 2021 
Cosina Voigtlander Nokton 50mm F/1 Aspherical VMM9 - 70.90m⌀62 2021 
Cosina Voigtlander Color-Skopar 50mm F/2.2 VMM7 - 60.50m⌀39 2024 
Konica M-Hexanon 50mm F/2M6 - 50.70m⌀40.5 1999 
Konica M-Hexanon 50mm F/1.2 Limited (2001 units)M7 - 60.90m⌀62 2001 
Carl Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50mm F/1.5 ZMM6 - 40.90mE46 2004 
Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm F/2 ZMM6 - 40.70mE43 2004 
Leica screw mount (45)
Canon 50mm F/1.2M7 - 51.00m⌀55 1956 
Canon 50mm F/1.4 IM6 - 41.00m⌀48 1957 
Canon 50mm F/1.4 IIM6 - 41.00m⌀48 1959 
Canon 50mm F/1.5M7 - 31.00mS.VII 1952 
Canon Serenar 50mm F/1.8 IM6 - 41.00mS.VI 1951 
Canon 50mm F/1.8 IIM6 - 41.00mS.VI 1956 
Canon 50mm F/1.8 IIIM6 - 41.00m⌀40 1958 
Canon Serenar 50mm F/1.9CollapsibleM6 - 43.5 ft.S.VI 1949 
Canon 50mm F/2.2M5 - 41.00m⌀40 1961 
Canon 50mm F/2.8 IM4 - 31.00mS.VI 1955 
Canon 50mm F/2.8 IIM4 - 31.00m⌀40 1957 
Chiyoko Super Rokkor 45mm F/2.8 [C]M5 - 31.00m 1947 
Chiyoda Kogaku Super Rokkor 50mm F/1.8M6 - 51.00m⌀46 1958 
Chiyoko Super Rokkor 50mm F/2.8 [C]M5 - 31.00m⌀40.5 1954 
Chiyoko Super Rokkor 50mm F/2 [C]M7 - 61.00m⌀43 1955 
Chiyoko Super Rokkor 50mm F/2M7 - 61.00m⌀40.5 1955 
Cosina Voigtlander Color-Skopar 50mm F/2.5 LSMM7 - 60.75m⌀39 2002 
Cosina Voigtlander Heliar 50mm F/2 LSM “Cosina 50th Anniversary, Bessa 10th Anniversary” (600 units)M5 - 31.00m⌀39 2009 
Cosina Voigtlander Nokton 50mm F/1.5 Aspherical LSMM6 - 50.90m⌀52 1999 
Fuji Photo Film Fujinon 50mm F/1.2M8 - 63.5 ft. 1954 
Konica Hexanon 50mm F/2.4 LSM (1000 units)CollapsibleM6 - 40.80m⌀40.5 1997 
Leitz Wetzlar / Leitz Canada Summarit 50mm F/1.5 [SOOIA / 11020]M7 - 51.00mE41 1949 
Leitz Hektor 50mm F/2.5 [HEKTO, HEKTORKUP, HEKTOCHROM]CollapsibleM6 - 31.00mA36 1931 
Leitz / Leitz Wetzlar Summar 50mm F/2 [SUMAR, SUMARKUP, SUMARCHROM]M6 - 41.00mA36 1933 
Leitz / Leitz Wetzlar Summitar 50mm F/2 [SOORE / 11015]CollapsibleM7 - 41.00mE36.4 1939 
Leitz Wetzlar Xenon 50mm F/1.5 [XEMOO]M7 - 51.00mA51 1936 
Leitz Wetzlar Summicron 50mm F/2 [I] [SOOIC / 11016]CollapsibleM7 - 61.00mE39 1953 
Leitz Wetzlar Compur-Summicron 50mm F/2 (150 units)M? - ?1.00m 1954 
Leitz Wetzlar Elmar 50mm F/2.8 [I] [ELMOO / 11512, ELMOO / 11012]CollapsibleM4 - 31.00mE39 1957 
Leitz / Leitz Wetzlar Summar 50mm F/2 [SUMUS, SUMUSKUP, SUMUSCHROM]CollapsibleM6 - 41.00mA36 1934 
Nikon Nikkor-H·C 50mm F/2 LSMCollapsibleM6 - 30.90mS.VI
Nikon Nikkor-H[·C] 50mm F/2 LSMM6 - 30.45mS.VI
Nikon Nikkor-S·C 50mm F/1.5 LSMM7 - 50.45m⌀40.5
Nikon Nikkor-S[·C] 50mm F/1.4 LSMM7 - 30.45mS.VII
Nikon Nikkor-N[·C] 50mm F/1.1 LSMM9 - 61.00m⌀62
Jupiter-8 50mm F/2M6 - 31.00m⌀40.5 1947 
Industar-61[L/D] 52mm F/2.8M4 - 31.00m⌀40.5
Jupiter-3 50mm F/1.5M7 - 30.90m⌀40.5 1948 
Industar-26M 50mm F/2.8M4 - 31.00m⌀40.5 1954 
Teikoku Kogaku Zunow 50mm F/1.1 [I]M9 - 51.00m 1953 
Teikoku Kogaku / Zunow Opt. Zunow 50mm F/1.1 [II]M8 - 51.00m⌀54.5 1955 
Voigtlander Nokton 50mm F/1.5M7 - 51.00m 1953 
Yashica [Super-]Yashinon 50mm F/1.8M6 - 53.5 ft.⌀43 1959 
Yashica Yashikor 50mm F/2.8 [II]M5 - 40.90m⌀40.5 1959 
Yashica Yashikor 50mm F/2.8 [I]M4 - 33.5 ft.⌀40.5 1959 
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Chromatic aberration

There are two kinds of chromatic aberration: longitudinal and lateral. Longitudinal chromatic aberration is a variation in location of the image plane with changes in wave lengths. It produces the image point surrounded by different colors which result in a blurred image in black-and-white pictures. Lateral chromatic aberration is a variation in image size or magnification with wave length. This aberration does not appear at axial image points but toward the surrounding area, proportional to the distance from the center of the image field. Stopping down the lens has only a limited effect on these aberrations.

Spherical aberration

Spherical aberration is caused because the lens is round and the film or image sensor is flat. Light entering the edge of the lens is more severely refracted than light entering the center of the lens. This results in a blurred image, and also causes flare (non-image forming internal reflections). Stopping down the lens minimizes spherical aberration and flare, but introduces diffraction.


Astigmatism in a lens causes a point in the subject to be reproduced as a line in the image. The effect becomes worse towards the corner of the image. Stopping down the lens has very little effect.


Coma in a lens causes a circular shape in the subject to be reproduced as an oval shape in the image. Stopping down the lens has almost no effect.

Curvature of field

Curvature of field is the inability of a lens to produce a flat image of a flat subject. The image is formed instead on a curved surface. If the center of the image is in focus, the edges are out of focus and vice versa. Stopping down the lens has a limited effect.


Distortion is the inability of a lens to capture lines as straight across the entire image area. Barrel distortion causes straight lines at the edges of the frame to bow toward the center of the image, producing a barrel shape. Pincushion distortion causes straight lines at the edges of the frame to curve in toward the lens axis. Distortion, whether barrel or pincushion type, is caused by differences in magnification; stopping down the lens has no effect at all.

The term "distortion" is also sometimes used instead of the term "aberration". In this case, other types of optical aberrations may also be meant, not necessarily geometric distortion.


Classically, light is thought of as always traveling in straight lines, but in reality, light waves tend to bend around nearby barriers, spreading out in the process. This phenomenon is known as diffraction and occurs when a light wave passes by a corner or through an opening. Diffraction plays a paramount role in limiting the resolving power of any lens.


Doublet is a lens design comprised of two elements grouped together. Sometimes the two elements are cemented together, and other times they are separated by an air gap. Examples of this type of lens include achromatic close-up lenses.

Dynamic range

Dynamic range is the maximum range of tones, from darkest shadows to brightest highlights, that can be produced by a device or perceived in an image. Also called tonal range.

Resolving power

Resolving power is the ability of a lens, photographic emulsion or imaging sensor to distinguish fine detail. Resolving power is expressed in terms of lines per millimeter that are distinctly recorded in the final image.


Vignetting is the darkening of the corners of an image relative to the center of the image. There are three types of vignetting: optical, mechanical, and natural vignetting.

Optical vignetting is caused by the physical dimensions of a multi-element lens. Rear elements are shaded by elements in front of them, which reduces the effective lens opening for off-axis incident light. The result is a gradual decrease of the light intensity towards the image periphery. Optical vignetting is sensitive to the aperture and can be completely cured by stopping down the lens. Two or three stops are usually sufficient.

Mechanical vignetting occurs when light beams are partially blocked by external objects such as thick or stacked filters, secondary lenses, and improper lens hoods.

Natural vignetting (also known as natural illumination falloff) is not due to the blocking of light rays. The falloff is approximated by the "cosine fourth" law of illumination falloff. Wide-angle rangefinder designs are particularly prone to natural vignetting. Stopping down the lens cannot cure it.


Bright shapes or lack of contrast caused when light is scattered by the surface of the lens or reflected off the interior surfaces of the lens barrel. This is most often seen when the lens is pointed toward the sun or another bright light source. Flare can be minimized by using anti-reflection coatings, light baffles, or a lens hood.


Glowing patches of light that appear in a photograph due to lens flare.

Retrofocus design

Design with negative lens group(s) positioned in front of the diaphragm and positive lens group(s) positioned at the rear of the diaphragm. This provides a short focal length with a long back focus or lens-to-film distance, allowing for movement of the reflex mirror in SLR cameras. Sometimes called an inverted telephoto lens.


A photographic lens completely corrected for the three main optical aberrations: spherical aberration, coma, and astigmatism.

By the mid-20th century, the vast majority of lenses were close to being anastigmatic, so most manufacturers stopped including this characteristic in lens names and/or descriptions and focused on advertising other features (anti-reflection coating, for example).

Rectilinear design

Design that does not introduce significant distortion, especially ultra-wide angle lenses that preserve straight lines and do not curve them (unlike a fisheye lens, for instance).

Focus shift

A change in the position of the plane of optimal focus, generally due to a change in focal length when using a zoom lens, and in some lenses, with a change in aperture.


The amount of light that passes through a lens without being either absorbed by the glass or being reflected by glass/air surfaces.

Modulation Transfer Function (MTF)

When optical designers attempt to compare the performance of optical systems, a commonly used measure is the modulation transfer function (MTF).

The components of MTF are:

The MTF of a lens is a measurement of its ability to transfer contrast at a particular resolution from the object to the image. In other words, MTF is a way to incorporate resolution and contrast into a single specification.

Knowing the MTF curves of each photographic lens and camera sensor within a system allows a designer to make the appropriate selection when optimizing for a particular resolution.

Veiling glare

Lens flare that causes loss of contrast over part or all of the image.

Anti-reflection coating

When light enters or exits an uncoated lens approximately 5% of the light is reflected back at each lens-air boundary due to the difference in refractive index. This reflected light causes flare and ghosting, which results in deterioration of image quality. To counter this, a vapor-deposited coating that reduces light reflection is applied to the lens surface. Early coatings consisted of a single thin film with the correct refractive index differences to cancel out reflections. Multi-layer coatings, introduced in the early 1970s, are made up of several such films.

Benefits of anti-reflection coating:

Circular fisheye

Produces a 180° angle of view in all directions (horizontal, vertical and diagonal).

The image circle of the lens is inscribed in the image frame.

Diagonal (full-frame) fisheye

Covers the entire image frame. For this reason diagonal fisheye lenses are often called full-frame fisheyes.

Extension ring

Extension rings can be used singly or in combination to vary the reproduction ratio of lenses. They are mounted between the camera body and the lens. As a rule, the effect becomes stronger the shorter the focal length of the lens in use, and the longer the focal length of the extension ring.

View camera

A large-format camera with a ground-glass viewfinder at the image plane for viewing and focusing. The photographer must stick his head under a cloth hood in order to see the image projected on the ground glass. Because of their 4x5-inch (or larger) negatives, these cameras can produce extremely high-quality results. View cameras also usually support movements.

135 cartridge-loaded film

43.27 24 36
  • Introduced: 1934
  • Frame size: 36 × 24mm
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Diagonal: 43.27mm
  • Area: 864mm2
  • Double perforated
  • 8 perforations per frame

120 roll film

71.22 44 56
  • Introduced: 1901
  • Frame size: 56 × 44mm
  • Aspect ratio: 11:14
  • Diagonal: 71.22mm
  • Area: 2464mm2
  • Unperforated

120 roll film

79.2 56 56
  • Introduced: 1901
  • Frame size: 56 × 56mm
  • Aspect ratio: 1:1
  • Diagonal: 79.2mm
  • Area: 3136mm2
  • Unperforated

120 roll film

89.64 56 70
  • Introduced: 1901
  • Frame size: 70 × 56mm
  • Aspect ratio: 5:4
  • Diagonal: 89.64mm
  • Area: 3920mm2
  • Unperforated

220 roll film

71.22 44 56
  • Introduced: 1965
  • Frame size: 56 × 44mm
  • Aspect ratio: 11:14
  • Diagonal: 71.22mm
  • Area: 2464mm2
  • Unperforated
  • Double the length of 120 roll film

220 roll film

79.2 56 56
  • Introduced: 1965
  • Frame size: 56 × 56mm
  • Aspect ratio: 1:1
  • Diagonal: 79.2mm
  • Area: 3136mm2
  • Unperforated
  • Double the length of 120 roll film

220 roll film

89.64 56 70
  • Introduced: 1965
  • Frame size: 70 × 56mm
  • Aspect ratio: 5:4
  • Diagonal: 89.64mm
  • Area: 3920mm2
  • Unperforated
  • Double the length of 120 roll film

Shutter speed ring with "F" setting

The "F" setting disengages the leaf shutter and is set when using only the focal plane shutter in the camera body.

Catch for disengaging cross-coupling

The shutter and diaphragm settings are cross-coupled so that the diaphragm opens to a corresponding degree when faster shutter speeds are selected. The cross-coupling can be disengaged at the press of a catch.

Cross-coupling button

With the cross-coupling button depressed speed/aperture combinations can be altered without changing the Exposure Value setting.

M & X sync

The shutter is fully synchronized for M- and X-settings so that you can work with flash at all shutter speeds.

In M-sync, the shutter closes the flash-firing circuit slightly before it is fully open to catch the flash at maximum intensity. The M-setting is used for Class M flash bulbs.

In X-sync, the flash takes place when the shutter is fully opened. The X-setting is used for electronic flash.

X sync

The shutter is fully synchronized for X-setting so that you can work with flash at all shutter speeds.

In X-sync, the flash takes place when the shutter is fully opened. The X-setting is used for electronic flash.


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12503 (1966)

For the NOCTILUX 50mm, f1.2 introduced in 1966. Double trigger fastening and engraved "1:1.2/50 12503".


Replacement lens cap, plastic, for 21mm SUPER-ANGULON f/3.4, 28mm ELMARIT f/2.8 [I] & [II], 50mm NOCTILUX f/1.2.


Replacement rear cover, plastic, for Leica M-mount lenses (except 21mm lens) and Visoflex.


Replacement rear cover for Leica M-mount lenses.

Aspherical elements

Aspherical elements (ASPH, XA, XGM) are used in wide-angle lenses for correction of distortion and in large-aperture lenses for correction of spherical aberration, astigmatism and coma, thus ensuring excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture. The effect of the aspherical element is determined by its position within the optical formula: the more the aspherical element moves away from the aperture stop, the more it influences distortion; close to the aperture stop it can be particularly used to correct spherical aberration. Aspherical element can substitute one or several regular spherical elements to achieve similar or better optical results, which allows to develop more compact and lightweight lenses.

Use of aspherical elements has its downsides: it leads to non-uniform rendering of out-of-focus highlights. This effect usually appears as "onion-like" texture of concentric rings or "wooly-like" texture and is caused by very slight defects in the surface of aspherical element. It is difficult to predict such effect, but usually it occurs when the highlights are small enough and far enough out of focus.

Low dispersion elements

Low dispersion elements (ED, LD, SD, UD etc) minimize chromatic aberrations and ensure excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture. This type of glass exhibits low refractive index, low dispersion, and exceptional partial dispersion characteristics compared to standard optical glass. Two lenses made of low dispersion glass offer almost the same performance as one fluorite lens.

Low dispersion elements

Low dispersion elements (ED, LD, SD, UD etc) minimize chromatic aberrations and ensure excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture. This type of glass exhibits low refractive index, low dispersion, and exceptional partial dispersion characteristics compared to standard optical glass. Two lenses made of low dispersion glass offer almost the same performance as one fluorite lens.

Canon's Super UD, Nikon's Super ED, Pentax' Super ED, Sigma's FLD ("F" Low Dispersion), Sony' Super ED and Tamron's XLD glasses are the highest level low dispersion glasses available with extremely high light transmission. These optical glasses have a performance equal to fluorite glass.

High-refraction low-dispersion elements

High-refraction low-dispersion elements (HLD) minimize chromatic aberrations and ensure excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture.

High Index, High Dispersion elements

High Index, High Dispersion elements (HID) minimize chromatic aberrations and ensure excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture.

Anomalous partial dispersion elements

Anomalous partial dispersion elements (AD) minimize chromatic aberrations and ensure excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture.

Fluorite elements

Synthetic fluorite elements (FL) minimize chromatic aberrations and ensure excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture. Compared with optical glass, fluorite lenses have a considerably lower refraction index, low dispersion and extraordinary partial dispersion, and high transmission of infrared and ultraviolet light. They are also significantly lighter than optical glass.

According to Nikon, fluorite easily cracks and is sensitive to temperature changes that can adversely affect focusing by altering the lens' refractive index. To avoid this, Canon, as the manufacturer most widely using fluorite in its telephoto lenses, never uses fluorite in the front and rear lens elements, and the white coating is applied to the lens barrels to reflect light and prevent the lens from overheating.

Short-wavelength refractive elements

High and specialized-dispersion elements (SR) refract light with wavelengths shorter than that of blue to achieve highly precise chromatic aberration compensation. This technology also results in smaller and lighter lenses.

Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics

Organic Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics material (BR Optics) placed between convex and concave elements made from conventional optical glass provides more efficient correction of longitudinal chromatic aberrations in comparison with conventional technology.

Diffraction elements

Diffraction elements (DO, PF) cancel chromatic aberrations at various wavelengths. This technology results in smaller and lighter lenses in comparison with traditional designs with no compromise in image quality.

High refractive index elements

High refractive index elements (HR, HRI, XR etc) minimize field curvature and spherical aberration. High refractive index element can substitute one or several regular elements to achieve similar or better optical results, which allows to develop more compact and lightweight lenses.

Apodization element

Apodization element (APD) is in fact a radial gradient filter. It practically does not change the characteristics of light beam passing through its central part but absorbs the light at the periphery. It sort of softens the edges of the aperture making the transition from foreground to background zone very smooth and results in very attractive, natural looking and silky smooth bokeh.

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Image stabilizer

A technology used for reducing or even eliminating the effects of camera shake. Gyro sensors inside the lens detect camera shake and pass the data to a microcomputer. Then an image stabilization group of elements controlled by the microcomputer moves inside the lens and compensates camera shake in order to keep the image static on the imaging sensor or film.

The technology allows to increase the shutter speed by several stops and shoot handheld in such lighting conditions and at such focal lengths where without image stabilizer you have to use tripod, decrease the shutter speed and/or increase the ISO setting which can lead to blurry and noisy images.

Original name

Lens name as indicated on the lens barrel (usually on the front ring). With lenses from film era, may vary slightly from batch to batch.


Format refers to the shape and size of film or image sensor.

35mm is the common name of the 36x24mm film format or image sensor format. It has an aspect ratio of 3:2, and a diagonal measurement of approximately 43mm. The name originates with the total width of the 135 film which was the primary medium of the format prior to the invention of the full frame digital SLR. Historically the 35mm format was sometimes called small format to distinguish it from the medium and large formats.

APS-C is an image sensor format approximately equivalent in size to the film negatives of 25.1x16.7mm with an aspect ratio of 3:2.

Medium format is a film format or image sensor format larger than 36x24mm (35mm) but smaller than 4x5in (large format).

Angle of view

Angle of view describes the angular extent of a given scene that is imaged by a camera. It is used interchangeably with the more general term field of view.

As the focal length changes, the angle of view also changes. The shorter the focal length (eg 18mm), the wider the angle of view. Conversely, the longer the focal length (eg 55mm), the smaller the angle of view.

A camera's angle of view depends not only on the lens, but also on the sensor. Imaging sensors are sometimes smaller than 35mm film frame, and this causes the lens to have a narrower angle of view than with 35mm film, by a certain factor for each sensor (called the crop factor).

This website does not use the angles of view provided by lens manufacturers, but calculates them automatically by the following formula: 114.6 * arctan (21.622 / CF * FL),


CF – crop-factor of a sensor,
FL – focal length of a lens.


A lens mount is an interface — mechanical and often also electrical — between a camera body and a lens.

A lens mount may be a screw-threaded type, a bayonet-type, or a breech-lock type. Modern camera lens mounts are of the bayonet type, because the bayonet mechanism precisely aligns mechanical and electrical features between lens and body, unlike screw-threaded mounts.

Lens mounts of competing manufacturers (Canon, Leica, Nikon, Pentax, Sony etc.) are always incompatible. In addition to the mechanical and electrical interface variations, the flange focal distance (distance from the mechanical rear end surface of the lens mount to the focal plane) is also different.

Lens construction

Lens construction – a specific arrangement of elements and groups that make up the optical design, including type and size of elements, type of used materials etc.

Element - an individual piece of glass which makes up one component of a photographic lens. Photographic lenses are nearly always built up of multiple such elements.

Group – a cemented together pieces of glass which form a single unit or an individual piece of glass. The advantage is that there is no glass-air surfaces between cemented together pieces of glass, which reduces reflections.

Focal length

The focal length is the factor that determines the size of the image reproduced on the focal plane, picture angle which covers the area of the subject to be photographed, depth of field, etc.


The largest opening or stop at which a lens can be used is referred to as the speed of the lens. The larger the maximum aperture is, the faster the lens is considered to be. Lenses that offer a large maximum aperture are commonly referred to as fast lenses, and lenses with smaller maximum aperture are regarded as slow.

In low-light situations, having a wider maximum aperture means that you can shoot at a faster shutter speed or work at a lower ISO, or both.

Closest focusing distance

The minimum distance from the focal plane (film or sensor) to the subject where the lens is still able to focus.

Closest working distance

The distance from the front edge of the lens to the subject at the maximum magnification.

Magnification ratio

Determines how large the subject will appear in the final image. Magnification is expressed as a ratio. For example, a magnification ratio of 1:1 means that the image of the subject formed on the film or sensor will be the same size as the subject in real life. For this reason, a 1:1 ratio is often called "life-size".

Manual diaphragm

The diaphragm must be stopped down manually by rotating the detent aperture ring.

Preset diaphragm

The lens has two rings, one is for pre-setting, while the other is for normal diaphragm adjustment. The first ring must be set at the desired aperture, the second ring then should be fully opened for focusing, and turned back for stop down to the pre-set value.

Semi-automatic diaphragm

The lens features spring mechanism in the diaphragm, triggered by the shutter release, which stops down the diaphragm to the pre-set value. The spring needs to be reset manually after each exposure to re-open diaphragm to its maximum value.

Automatic diaphragm

The camera automatically closes the diaphragm down during the shutter operation. On completion of the exposure, the diaphragm re-opens to its maximum value.

Fixed diaphragm

The aperture setting is fixed at F/1.2 on this lens, and cannot be adjusted.

Number of blades

As a general rule, the more blades that are used to create the aperture opening in the lens, the rounder the out-of-focus highlights will be.

Some lenses are designed with curved diaphragm blades, so the roundness of the aperture comes not from the number of blades, but from their shape. However, the fewer blades the diaphragm has, the more difficult it is to form a circle, regardless of rounded edges.

At maximum aperture, the opening will be circular regardless of the number of blades.


Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

Maximum diameter x Length

Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

For lenses with collapsible design, the length is indicated for the working (retracted) state.

Weather sealing

A rubber material which is inserted in between each externally exposed part (manual focus and zoom rings, buttons, switch panels etc.) to ensure it is properly sealed against dust and moisture.

Lenses that accept front mounted filters typically do not have gaskets behind the filter mount. It is recommended to use a filter for complete weather resistance when desired.

Fluorine coating

Helps keep lenses clean by reducing the possibility of dust and dirt adhering to the lens and by facilitating cleaning should the need arise. Applied to the outer surface of the front lens element over multi-coatings.


Lens filters are accessories that can protect lenses from dirt and damage, enhance colors, minimize glare and reflections, and add creative effects to images.

Lens hood

A lens hood or lens shade is a device used on the end of a lens to block the sun or other light source in order to prevent glare and lens flare. Flare occurs when stray light strikes the front element of a lens and then bounces around within the lens. This stray light often comes from very bright light sources, such as the sun, bright studio lights, or a bright white background.

The geometry of the lens hood can vary from a plain cylindrical or conical section to a more complex shape, sometimes called a petal, tulip, or flower hood. This allows the lens hood to block stray light with the higher portions of the lens hood, while allowing more light into the corners of the image through the lowered portions of the hood.

Lens hoods are more prominent in long focus lenses because they have a smaller viewing angle than that of wide-angle lenses. For wide angle lenses, the length of the hood cannot be as long as those for telephoto lenses, as a longer hood would enter the wider field of view of the lens.

Lens hoods are often designed to fit onto the matching lens facing either forward, for normal use, or backwards, so that the hood may be stored with the lens without occupying much additional space. In addition, lens hoods can offer some degree of physical protection for the lens due to the hood extending farther than the lens itself.


Teleconverters increase the effective focal length of lenses. They also usually maintain the closest focusing distance of lenses, thus increasing the magnification significantly. A lens combined with a teleconverter is normally smaller, lighter and cheaper than a "direct" telephoto lens of the same focal length and speed.

Teleconverters are a convenient way of enhancing telephoto capability, but it comes at a cost − reduced maximum aperture. Also, since teleconverters magnify every detail in the image, they logically also magnify residual aberrations of the lens.

Lens caps

Scratched lens surfaces can spoil the definition and contrast of even the finest lenses. Lens covers are the best and most inexpensive protection available against dust, moisture and abrasion. Safeguard lens elements - both front and rear - whenever the lens is not in use.