Leitz Wetzlar NOCTILUX 50mm F/1.2

Standard prime lens • Film era • Discontinued • Collectible


Model history (2)

Features highlight

Ultra fast
16 blades


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 and Flange focal distance:Leica M [27.8mm]
Diagonal angle of view:46.8°
Lens construction:6 elements in 4 groups
Diaphragm mechanism:
Diaphragm type:Manual
Aperture control:Aperture ring
Number of blades:16 (sixteen)
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°
Coupled to the rangefinder:Yes
Closest focusing distance:1m
Maximum magnification:<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.

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Standard prime lens

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35mm full frame

43.27 24 36
  • Dimensions: 36 × 24mm
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Diagonal: 43.27mm
  • Area: 864mm2


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Series filters

A filter mounting system developed in the USA and used from the 1930s to the 1970s. The filters were round pieces of glass or gelatin mounted as a rule in metal rims with no threads. The filter is inserted into the screw-in or slip-on adapter ring mounted on a lens and then held in place with threaded retaining ring. A lens hood sometimes acted as an adapter or retaining ring.

Filter type Filter size
(inch — mm)
Retaining ring size
(inch — mm)
Lens diameter, mm
Series IV / 4 13/16 20.3 15/16 23.8 16-18
Series V / 5 1 3/16 30.2 1 5/16 33.3 19-30
Series VI / 6 1 5/8 41.3 1 3/4 44.5 31-42
Series VII / 7 2 50.8 2 1/8 54.0 43-51
Series VIII / 8 2 1/2 63.5 2 5/8 66.7 52-67
Series IX / 9 3 1/4 82.6 3 7/16 87.3 67-85
Series X / 10 4 1/2 114 4 5/8 117 86-114
Series XI / 11 5 7/16 138 5 9/16 141 115-138

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, Nikon, Pentax, Sony etc.) are always incompatible. In addition to the mechanical and electrical interface variations, the flange focal distance can also be different.

The flange focal distance (FFD) is the distance from the mechanical rear end surface of the lens mount to the focal plane.

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. 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 and/or rear lens elements 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.