The Elusive Noctilux

Over the years, I’ve met and interacted with hundreds of photographers. I’ve visited more studios and camera shops than I can count. Despite all mingling, I had never seen a real Leica Noctilux in person.

The Noctilux is like a white whale.

Yesterday that 53-year streak was broken when I met a local artist for coffee in Clayton, Missouri.


Leica is probably the most storied camera brand of all time. Just hearing the name is like a siren song that makes rational people do irrational things.

When I was toiling in my first job at age 22 as a staff photographer at Washington University back in 1986, I discovered that the studio’s equipment locker held a Leica R4 camera system.

That’s akin to opening up your grandfather’s barn and finding a Charger Daytona just sitting there, washed & waxed, with the keys in the ignition and a full tank of gas.

Being a full-fledged staffer I didn’t need to ask permission to use the camera but I did inquire with Herb, my boss, by asking some “technical questions” about the camera.

Herb was amused by my instant obsession with the camera and he tried to temper my enthusiasm by telling me two things to cool me off a bit.

1. The Leica was not a pro camera and that fact would reveal itself by the time I got through the third or fourth roll of film.

2. No girl would be impressed by that camera.

I believed none of what he said.

It turned out that Herb was right and two days later that Leica camera and lenses were back in the cabinet and the whole episode was mostly forgotten until yesterday.

About the author: I am Stephen Kennedy, an experienced photographer with more than 2300 completed sessions in all 50 US states.