Have a burning desire to take photos by candlelight? Have $11,000 handy? It looks like Leica will be able to oblige before long with the impending release of their Noctilux 50mm f/0.95.
A French photography publication leaked details this week about the lens, which is scheduled for announcement at Photokina in two weeks. With the new Noctilux, which will almost certainly use Leica's standard M mount, the German firm will leapfrog its own current 50mm f/1.0 and Canon's 50mm f1.0 L to become the reigning speed leader among consumer lens manufacturers.
Leica Noctilux 50mm f/1.0
With an f/0.95 aperture, the new glass is more than a full stop faster than the f/1.4 lenses that many of us carry. To say that depth of field control would be a challenge near the close-focus limit of this lens when shooting wide open understates the issue.
Of course, there's also that little cost obstacle to consider. Apparently, the privilege of ownership here will set you back around €8,000.
UPDATE: As of Monday, 9/15, the Noctilux f/0.95 is now official. Leica's official press release (pasted below) provides all of the pertinent info.
The new LEICA NOCTILUX-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH. launched by Leica Camera AG, Solms, represents a milestone in lens design. It is the successor of the famous NOCTILUX-M 50 mm f/1 marketed by Leica for over 30 years, beginning in1975. Due to state-of-the-art optical and mechanical technology, Leica has now been able to make substantial improvements to the predecessor product. It is now possible to "break the optical sound barrier" of a lens speed of 1:1.
The LEICA NOCTILUX-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH. offers a unique performance spectrum: A noticeably higher lens speed has been achieved without any major alterations to the size of the lens. The characteristic rendering of the previous 50 mm f/1, valued by many users as a means of creative photography, has been retained with extremely shallow depth of field at full aperture. However, when stopped down, the lens performs comparably with the LEICA SUMMILUX-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH. launched in 2004 which was regarded as the best standard lens ever produced. On top of this, the vignetting and distortion values have again been improved on the predecessor model.
"The LEICA NOCTILUX-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH. is not only a unique high-performance lens in the M system, it also combines extremely high speed with imaging performance that can easily bear comparison with the other top lenses currently on the market. It is made of high-quality materials and intricately assembled by hand at the Solms factory to give a particularly reliable product that will retain its value for decades. The combination of state-of-the-art technology and meticulous craftsmanship based on skill and experience ensure the constant quality of every single Leica lens, once again widening the creative potential of Leica M photography", says Stefan Daniel, Product Manager for the Leica M system at Leica Camera AG.
The new LEICA NOCTILUX-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH. can be used for a particularly wide range of applications. At full aperture the lens features an extremely shallow depth of field, allowing incomparably esthetic portraits or detail studies, for example. The lens is also useful for available light photography, even surpassing the speed of the human eye. In normal light, it can be unhesitatingly used as a universal lens, and the extremely natural effect of the 50 mm focal length enables a true-to-life rendition of the subject.
The LEICA NOCTILUX-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH. integrates eight elements arranged in a double Gauss design symmetrical to the aperture. To ensure high imaging performance, two aspherical lens surfaces are used, which, due to their size and shape, are manufactured in a complex grinding and polishing process at the Solms factory. Five of the glass elements exhibit partial anomalous dispersion, three of them are extremely highly refractive and therefore exceptionally expensive (the price per kilogram of this glass is roughly twice that of silver). An outstanding performance in the close-focus range is also guaranteed by a floating element, the last lens group of which changes its relative position to the rest of the system during focusing. Despite its higher speed and imaging performance, the LEICA NOCTILUX-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH. is still equipped with an E60 filter thread and a telescopic lock-on lens hood. Like the new SUMMILUX-M 21 mm and 24 mm f/1.4 ASPH. lenses, the new NOCTILUX-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH. has to be manufactured to extremely narrow tolerances, and new methods for centering and adjusting the lens elements were developed for this purpose.
The LEICA NOCTILUX-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH. will be on sale at authorized Leica dealers from February 2009.