Oct 132012
 

The Leica Monochrom Review Part 2: Low Light, High ISO and Filters

This part of my ongoing Leica Monochrom review will go over Low Light and High ISO shooting as well as using filters on the lens and off the lens. The images here were all shot by me at high ISO or in low light. I will have many more great samples in parts 3 & 4. For now, Enjoy part 2 and feel free to leave your comments about the Leica Monochrom!

Read Part 1 Here which goes over what the camera is all about as well as a quick comparison with 35mm film. I also added some supplemental photos HERE. Part 2.5 is now up as well! Thank you!

katiebabycrop

My Monochrom Journey Continues…

After reading part one of my continuing Leica Monochrom Review (you can read it here) you now realize what the Leica Monochrom is all about as well as who it is for and NOT for. You also know it is an $8,000 B&W only camera that does not shoot color. I have been shooting continuously every day with this camera and I have to say that after two weeks I am really connecting with the Monochrom on a level even more so than I did with the M9, which was my camera “soulmate”..or at least I thought. The more I shoot the Mono, the more I think that this one may be “the one” that sticks by my side for as long as it can. I shot the M9 for 3 years and only gave it up to get the Monochrom and I am not in any way disappointed with this decision. In fact, I feel 100% happy with this choice that I made and after daily shooting with this I can say it is a camera that is VERY capable of creating some fine photographs and in the right hands, works of art. Low light, high ISO..yep, the Monochrom is the real deal my friends.

The Leica Monochrom is a serious tool even at night on the street at ISO 2000. I shot this in San Francisco while taking a street walk and was very happy with the results. Please click the image for a larger 1800 pixel wide version.

BTW, I edited this to have the darker gritty feel. I like this high contrast deep black look when shooting late night street and the Mono gave it to me. I could have easily taken the flat grey low contrast look as well. Many Monochrom haters initially said the camera was incapable of producing blacks yet when I compare this to my high contrast film shots on my HD this looks much better to my eyes. 

and one more with a less harsh look

musicman

Vision

With the Leica M9 we all had (or still have) a tool that can deliver mind-blowing results with the right lens and of course the right vision of the person behind the camera. There  are indeed limitations though because the M9 is limited with high ISO. Even shooting the street at night with an M9 and 35 1.4 was a little tough at times because the max ISO is 2500 and at that level it is pretty damn noisy. I have used ISO 2500 on the M9 in B&W to great effect but it was still grainy and noisy and that was it… The ceiling was hit with nowhere else to go in regards to low light. Well, that is not true actually. You could always grab a Noctilux f/0.95 for a cool $11k. :)

When Leica announced the Monochrom they touted it as a camera that will put an end to B&W film. After using it for a while and getting the hang of the processing I almost believe that statement. I still feel B&W film like Tri-X will never fully die due to the film die hards who will refuse to ever give it up and admit that anything digital can beat it but here we are in 2012 and more and more B&W films are fading away and being discontinued. Neopan 1600, T-Max…it’s a sad time for those who love shooting silver B&W. Many faves are dying away and there is nothing to replace them with. They each had their own look and feel and even smell. Can the Leica Monochrom deliver the goods for those who love those films that are now gone?

I think so..if you have the vision to create what your mind sees and wants.

ISO 1600 – I slightly back focused my 35 1.4 but the result is still gorgeous. While other guys were using strobes and flash I went “au natural” with whatever light was in the room and I like the result much better than the deer in the headlights look. Again, I processed this to have more contrast and deeper blacks. I could have went with a lower contrast look. Remember no lighting was used here so the shadow on her face is due to this. 

It Delivers the Goods

The really nice thing about the Monochrom is that it delivers the goods *if you know how to use it and process the files from it*. Many shots from the Monochrom, even from a couple of well-respected shooters and reviewers look a but flat because the files need a little bit of work to make them go from great to WOW. I am not saying that my shots are “WOW” but I have come a long way from my 1st samples in Berlin which showed the flat grey look that many are getting with this camera. I am speaking of the look of the files, the tones..the pop..the beauty. In my opinion, the Leica Monochrom is a box full of hidden potential and it may take me a year to really get the most from it. The one thing I know is that it certainly CAN deliver, and it is the real deal if you take the time to get to learn it and become one with it.

Here is an example I shot on the streets at night at ISO 8000. Yes, 8000. I processed it to give it a high contrast pop and as you can see, it has it. Gone are the dull greys you saw in earlier samples. LIke I said, this camera is VERY versatile and can get any look you desire once you learn how to work with the files. 

When I say it “delivers the goods” what I mean is that it can do just about anything you need it to do in the B&W world. Do you like flat grey shots? No problem. Do you like gritty high contrast? No problem! Do you like a Tri-X look? The Mono can do it all but to help it along it is quite simple. I always shoot RAW for the best quality file and then during RAW processing I tweak the exposure, black level and contrast to where I want it. I then process the RAW and use either an Alien Skin Exposure filter or bring it in to Silver Efex Pro (which comes with the Monochrom) to finish it up.

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Using Software Filters with the Monochrom

You do not have to use any kind of filters with the Monochrom but they can add the look of your old fave film and get pretty damn close to it. You can go for rich blacks, high contrast, low contrast, grit and noise, or anything you desire just by running an image through Silver Efex Pro or Alien Skin Exposure. I love Alien Skin Exposure 4 and have put a sample below as to what it can do for a photo from the Monochrom.

This 1st image is direct from the camera with no adjustments at all. As you can see it is a bit flat and dark…

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I took that image and ran it through Alien Skin Exposure using a simple preset (but I did it without adding grain). This example now pops more and has more contrast. This is just a generic example of a 3 second filter added. You can get as complex as you wish and you can also choose different looks for your photos. The arsenal of film stock filters and customization of these software packages are a must for any Monochrom owner. 

So if you are buying a Monochrom or already own one I highly recommend at least playing with some of these software filters. The camera actually comes with Silver Efex Pro which is the standard by which all others are measured. Alien Skin Exposure 4 can be downloaded here with a 30 day trial.  I highly recommend it not only for the Monochrom files but also for any digital files. Mess with it and get creative..step outside of  the box and see what you like. You may be surprised. I am happy that the Monochrom puts out flat files. Remember, this is a GOOD thing! This gives us the room to process the files to our liking. If the files came out all contrasty and slick then we would have less freedom to create our vision.

The Monochrom is just right and does what it does for a reason. It is not a camera for beginners.

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The software filters also allow you to get as creative as you want by adding frames and more noise..ISO 2500 – I cropped this one and it shows the effects of the filter I applied. 

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Using Actual Filters on your Lenses. Red, Yellow, IR and ND. Old School B&W.

With the Monochrom you are shooting just like your Father or Grandfather (or even you do today) did back in the day. Many B&W film shooters use filters on their lenses to enhance their skies or skin tones and you can also do this with the Monochrom. When shooting just imagine that you are shooting film because what worked when shooting with B&W film will work with the Monochrom. I feel Leica should have included a set of nice filters with the camera for those who want to take it all the way old school and get back to the ultimate B&W frame of mind.

They didn’t include any so I went out and bought a few. I picked up a B+W Red, Yellow and IR filter as well as an ND filter for those bright sunny days when I want to shoot with a wide aperture. With the minimum ISO of the Monochrom being 320 it is impossible to shoot at f/1.4 in full sun or mild sun. Adding an ND filter solves the problem. I bought this one for my 35 Lux FLE.

IR filters

I bought one of these out of curiosity. Here is the description of what it should do:

The B+W 46mm IR Dark Red (092) Filter is used for infrared photography with digital cameras and specialized infrared films. This nearly opaque filter blocks all visible light up to 650nm, lets 50% of radiation pass between 650 and 700nm, and more than 90% of radiation pass between 730 and 2000nm. Infrared film sensitivity is rarely greater than 1000nm, so this filter essentially allows most perceivable infrared radiation to be transmitted. Due to the nature of infrared photography, the filter factor for this filter is highly variable and depends largely on your film sensitivity and lighting conditions.

This was shot with a B+W IR-695 filter. I wanted to expiriment a bit with one. This one was at f/1.4 with the 35 Summilux FLE. 

Red Filter Usage and Example

The Red Filter when used on the Monochrom or with B&W film will add massive contrast. If you use this to shoot clouds in the sky you will get very dramatic results with borderline “Thunderstorm” effects. Unfortunately I live in Phoenix where there is rarely a cloud in the sun filled sky so all I have for this section is a shot that shows an OOC JPEG from the Mono with a red 25A Red filter. In most cases you would not want to use this filter – only for dramatic effects in skies IMO. When I get a nice sky shot using this filter I will post it here. I bought a cheaper red filter as I will rarely use it. 

Yellow Filter Usage and Example

Using a yellow filter will help bring out some contrast and can help skin tones a little as well. It’s a mild filter that can help bring more pop out of the camera to your files from the Monochrom. Using a yellow filter for B&W is pretty standard and is usually the goto filter as it will help your skies from being too bright as well. If you get one filter for your Monochrom, get a yellow. I use a B&W  Medium yellow which is a very high quality filter. The image below was shot with the yellow filter on the camera. Click it for a larger view.

Using filters can be part of the fun and creativity with the Leica Monochrom and will bring you back a bit. Pick a filter for your specific use and go with it. You can also buy other filters but these were the ones I bought for my Mono as they are the most used in B&W film.

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Really High ISO & the Monochrom

With the Leica Monochrom you no longer have to be limited to ISO 2500 because you can shoot up to 10,000 ISO with this camera and get usable results. I have already shown an ISO 8000 shot earlier in this review but below you can see more from ISO 3200 and up. What amazes me about the Monochrom is the detail that is kept even when there is noise and grain. Even when shooting at night which is a torture test for ANY digital camera and high ISO the Monochrom keeps its cool and delivers stunning results in detail, tonality and overall wow factor.

Click the image below to see a larger version. BTW, this was ISO 8000 on a DARK street. The detail that is here is quite amazing. The tones are rich. IMO, this beats film because I was not stuck with one film in my camera. With the Monochrom I have ALL B&W films available at all times. 

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Another ISO 8000 with crop – click it to see full crop embedded

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ISO 6400 with a little more light shining in…and none of these shots have had ANY Noise Reduction of any kind. What you see is what you get.

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Real world ISO 6400 on the street at night…not the best shot but you can get a feel for the noise level when there is no light around..This is direct from camera with no filter applied at all..

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ISO 2500

The bottom line on the high ISO and low light is that this camera is SUPER FANTASTIC! This camera is really  a treat and so nice to shoot at night and in low light because it just does what it should and that is to have every kind of B&W film loaded up and ready at your command. Dial in ISO 320 to 10,000 at any given moment and be surprised by the results you will get. The Mono keeps the detail and sharpness and the noise is like a nice grained film. I was very happy with the results and when combined with a fast Leica lens like a Summilux or even Noctilux you can be king of the nightime B&W world. There is no color camera that can do what this one does with the tones nor the experience. The Monochrom is a different camera than anything on the market right now and many scoff at the idea of a B&W only camera but at the same time many are drooling over the thought of owning one.

Shooting in B&W requires passion and a love of the art of photography. You will get out what you put in and the camera can either reward you with beautiful files or disappoint you with flatness. For all of you getting this camera be sure to work with the files using lightroom or Photoshop as well as filter plug-ins and physical filters. This is when you will start to really appreciate what the Monochrom can do for you. I feel that this camera also inspires and when you tale it out to shoot you know you have something special in your hands. I may not agree with Leica’s pricing on this camera but I have to tell it like it is and the fact is that I adore this camera. End of story.

BTW, I am loving the combo of the 35 Summilux FLE with the camera and is my favorite Leica lens ever. My perfect kit would be a 28 Elmarit, 35 Summilux, 50 cron APO and a 75 of some kind. No way I can ever afford the 50 APO but it is a killer lens on the Monochrom.

For those that want to replace B&W film with a camera that can do it all in the B&W world but were worried about high ISO..well, don’t be. The Monochrom delivers :)

Part 2.5 is up HERE.

To buy the Monochrom you need to get on a list or pre-order. Mine came from Ken Hansen ([email protected]) but you can also buy from Dale Photo, PopFlash, B&H Photo or Amazon!

Look for part three of this ongoing review  in 7-12 days where I will have side by side comparisons (full size samples) with cameras like the M9, Fuji X, OM-D and others :) I also plan to do prints with the files as well so bookmark and check back often!

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  155 Responses to “The Leica Monochrom Review Part 2: Low light, High ISO and Filters”

  1. Great pictures. The M is out of reach for me but one day maybe. Thanks Steve keep it up.

  2. My dealer contacted me on Friday to say mine is in stock if I want it!!! So hopefully it wont be too long before I get my hands on it. Thanks for the great info, its really helped my decision. Cheers, Jason.

  3. How did the higher ISOs compare to what you found with the RX1?

    • I think this kind of performance is similar. You’d need insane demands to be disappointed with either. I think the real reasons to get a Leica are: you like the brand, you want interchangeable lenses and like theirs, you like the/a viewfinder. Sony were extremely close to compete an two of these with the RX1. I guess it’s another year or two for that.

  4. Um, Steve? The person in the third shot from the last photo has no head. I’d say you captured something quite unique there! ;P

    Doug

    • I saw this person stumbling down the street..and they appeared to have no head. But they did and it was sunk very low in front of him. From behind it appears there is no head but it is there.

      • Why should we believe you, Steve? What have you done with this person’s head? This being the Internet, please, just the facts, man. And you would be stumbling too of some photo blogger from cyber-space had lifted your head. Dontcha think?

    • The person does indeed have a head and you can see part of it if you look closely. He/she just has severely hunched shoulders.

  5. Some beautiful photos here Steve. Really like first one, sharks and the portrait where you have applied a filter.

    Nice to get back to basics as well with this post. That last one was a doozy!

    When you do your comparisons (I am guessing will be tough) but would it be ok to include some of the OCC Jpegs from the RX1 into that? I know not a straight comparison but side by side with all of these cameras would be great.

    I love B&W photography and this review of the M is inspiring me to get out there and take more photos.

  6. Nice article love reading about this fantastic camera! Luckily film is here to stay for a long time if not always. In fact, it seems like there are MORE people interested in giving film a try than just a couple years ago, at least folks really interested in photography. ADOX just released a brand new B&W film (Silvermax). The Impossible Project is another resurgence of film. Definitely more hassle but I think it’s worth it! Plus, if you don’t have $8k lying around you can go get an old M-camera and shoot B&W film for a long long long time.

    • Absolutely true! But what about the time? I spent 3 hours yesterday developing and scanning 2 rolls of 35mm. I like to shoot film and I like the look but honestly? I hate it that I have to sink so much time into it just to get to a point where I can see the images on my sceen (I can’t do wet printing as I don’t have the space for it any more).

      It’s a shame really but if I factor in the time I spend developing and scanning then add that to the cost of the materials, shooting film is just not economical for me… :-(

      • Yes I agree! For film it’s enjoying the process and hopefully you have a digital cam as well. If all I had was a film cam that would get old real fast but for those times when I want to enjoy the whole process of film it’s a fun experience.

        • I love the film developing experience and the results can be much more exciting to see than digital..time is a factor and so i just develop a couple of 120 b+w rolls a month and send of a couple of colour ones..there’s not too much time taken up scanning those..I’d never give up developing and scanning it is too special..Digital is very useful of course.

    • Johnny

      This is a subject that has come up before. The break even point from the earlier discussion was as follows.

      Leica MM = 1 Used M6 + ~240 rolls of film + processing & scanning at around

      Self processing will increase the number of rolls of film to balance the above. But this is pretty close.

      PaulB

  7. Thanks Steve, for giving us more insight. I still think I’ll pass on it, but it is good to know there is a camera for those people who are able to see the world in b&w and want to shoot digital

  8. Great review. I’m not surprised the Monochrom files require a bit of processing. When I first got my M9 I was disappointed with the color. I quickly realized that the default RAW profile in CS5 was the problem. I created a new RAW profile for my M9 and now I get amazing colors with it.

    I agree that the Monochrom RAW files being flat out of the camera is a good thing. It allows you to do what ever you want with them in post. When the first sample photos from the Monochrom came out I downloaded and tweaked them in photoshop to see if I could overcome the “flatness”. As you demonstrated in your review, it can be done.

    My only problem with the Monochrom is that it’s taking too damn long to deliver. I was told mine wouldn’t arrive until Christmas. Your review is only making me more impatient ;)

  9. I don’t get it……… there is nothing special in these pictures. The pictures are nice but nothing special here that a much (cheaper/better) color camera could not make with some Nik/Photoshop etc….. The pictures are flat and need to be PP and that is a good thing…….. I just don’t get it. And than we have the story about how this camera has better detail etc….This is just not true. And the final reason for buying this camera could be the old school feeling you get when you’re taking pictures with it. I just don’t get it. I think this camera is for people who are bewitched by Leica and do not have a grip of reality any more.

    But i am happy for Leica. There marketing strategy must be really really really great if they can convince people to buy this camera. Or is Leica just targeting the defenseless people who just can’t say no to every new product Leica is Making.

    I like you’re site and work Steve, but in this case i am wondering if you are part of the Leica marketing strategy….

    • He is part of the photography marketing strategy! Looks at and likes a broad range of small and very good cameras from Olympus, Fuji, Sony, Leica, etc……

      It’s all about information rather than a commercial bias and as a supporter of this site…..thats the way i see it……Thats the great thing about this site…… So many different opinions and views and a lot of talented Daily Inspirations using all sorts of systems….including yours. Like you I’d be happy for anyone who owns this camera, the RX1, etc etc……

      Just got to figure whats best for me now!! I know it won’t be an M, but good to know it performs.

    • I agree with your thought on this PP thing…
      A great camera should give a great result straight out of camera.
      If post processing is needed MOST of the time, then something is not right. Sony RX1 seems much better straight out of camera, at a saving of USD5000…

      • “..A great camera should give a great result straight out of camera..” ..Darn it, I agree.

        I took the film out of my camera, and there wasn’t a thing on it!

        Apparently, it had to go through all kinds of chemistry to make anything visible, and then it had to be put into a separate mechanical ‘enlarger’ to have a light shone through it, and then the paper underneath the enlarger had to go through all kinds of chemistry, too, in order to get a picture!

        Darn cameras! ..Why don’t they “just work”?

        • hahaha David Babsky, that made me roar with laughter! Good Call :)

          Great comments, great review for what looks like an exceptional camera. Having started my photography life in 1987 as a tri-x and Hasselblad lover, l was horrified to return to photography last year to find digital was the chefs special and my beloved film was near forgotten.
          Needless to say, with 3 kids at home and no time for darkroom fun, l bought a D700 and 16 months later i’m still cursing the lack of velvety blacks and depth.

          I think that the M-Monochrom is a very innovative and exciting option for us b/w togs who see primarily in b/w not colour.
          People seem to think that photography is all about the camera… l think Bill Brandt, for one, would disagree. Your image is only as great as your eye and your ability to make a photograph from a pinhole and an open, fertile mind.

          Bravo on a great website Steve Huff!

      • I think that Steve explained it well. If you get a great looking file straight out of the camera you won’t have the flexibility to change it a lot. When you get film scanned you don’t scan it with a setting that looks great in the preview. You scan a flat curve to capture all tones. Send a negative to a professional scanning service and what you will receive is the rather flat file to allow you maximum flexibility in post-processing. They do this because they dont know what the final photo should look like in your artistic interpretation. I agree that 95% of photographers will be more than fine with any other camera, like the RX1. This MM is a camera for the 5% that just don’t get the look that they got used to when using film. If you don’t see value in that then that is fine and saves you a lot of money. If you don’t see value in what current digital cameras put out then this one may be the solution. Many photographers don’t see a reason to shot in raw because they get good results in jpeg. But when you tweak a file you wish you would start from a slightly dull looking raw file. The MM does give you an even flatter file to allow for max flexibility, something like a scanned, unprocessed B&W negative. Steve said it is not beginners. I would go further that this camera is not for most photographers currently out there, even if it would just costs 2k, because it is highly specialized and demands a lot of extra time in post-processing. But to get as close as currently possible to the various looks of B&W film, without using film, this camera is the key. So does a 8k camera for only 5 or less % of the photographers make sense? For those 5% it does big time. Personally I like that Leica makes such a specialized tool and at these low quantities it is ok to charge more to cover R&D. In the end we can all choose what to buy and what to use. Isn’t that great? D!RK

        • I would repeat that 99,9% of photographers will be more than fine with an RX100 :-)

          • I guess it depends on how you define “photographers.” If you mean anyone who takes a photo then you’re probably not far off. If you mean people who make money or take the craft seriously enough to call themselves “photographers” then you’re way off the mark. I don’t make any money on my photography, but the low light ability of the RX100 would leave me very disappointed.

            • I define a photographer as a person who is seriously interested in making photographs. Check Ming Theins RX100 shoots, he is a professional and the shoots he made with RX100 are excellent.

              Regarding high ISO performance I think the RX100 is doing very well for its sensor size, but it is not comparable to MM and other kings of high ISO.

        • I think you’re absolutely right here, D!RK! Only small remark: I wouldn’t call the Sony RX1 “any other camera”. I believe this is a camera for photographers (in the real sense of the word) that share much of the spirit of the M-buyer, but can’t spend that kind of money.
          But absolutely, to me too, it’s the greys that are important. In the comparison shot between the MM and RX1 (see Steve’s article “Sony week wrap up), I immediately noticed more grey nuances in the MM file. So it’s clear: you got more material to work with. That’s why I wondered, in my comment on that article, how much information (that is how much grey tones) the RX1 files deliver. I guess there is quite some, but still, it’s easier to enlarge contrasts (with the MM file) than having to pump up greys (with the RX1 file), IMO. I believe one simply can go further with the MM fille.
          But still, not wanting to spend the 8k on a body, I hope so very much that Sony will come with an IC RX1. I would be perfectly happy with that kind of IQ.

      • So untrue. EVERY camera made besides some point and shoots require PP if you want to get the most from your images/files. There is not a camera I have used that gave me any kind of really great results using OOC images. ALL have benefited from the use of some slight PP. Mono images take about a minute per image to PP and it all depends on your tastes and how you want your images to look. But the fact that the images come out of the MM in a way that allows for the PP of your choice is great because if they came out all tweaked it would not be a good thing as not everyone wants the same look. This is not a P&S nor a camera for beginners.

        • Absolutely agree. I want a flat image in RAW I can work with in post. Give me dull, grey but with good detail in the blacks and highlights that I can manipulate. This approach is familiar to most photographers who shoot RAW on any camera (and to anyone who has scanned film negatives with serious gear), so I don’t know why there is even any discussion. If you want to work quickly, it’s easy to create presets in your favourite RAW developer (Aperture or Lightroom) that can get you 85% of the way there with a few clicks. I shoot RAW because I want to choose the final look, not have the engineers who programmed the jpeg engine determine it for me (unless they work for Olympus ;) ).

      • RAW files are flat by design. They’re digital negatives (FFS!). They’re not intended to produce perfect OOC results. If you want that shoot in jpeg and view your photos on an iPhone. For anyone intending to make high quality prints shooting RAW is a must; and, just as with film, some time in the (digital) darkroom is required in order to get the results you want.

    • Many people believe that with the M Monochrom Leica wanted to replace the black and white film. That’s just not right. With the M Monochrom, Leica did create a new artistic photographic medium … not a replacement for film. I´m still waiting for the comparison between black and white photos taken with the Leica M3 (etc.) and the digital Images from the M Monochrome … all done with the same lens. I know th result, as I do it often and really love it. You will be surprised … two completely different results … which actually are not comparable … and this makes the camera really great and so unique.

      • Alfred, check Alexandre Maller’s side-by-side test with MM and M6:

        http://www.focus-numerique.com/test-1450/compact-leica-m-monochrom-test-terrain-18.html

        Cheers,
        Greg Shanta

          • Proves my point, to all intents and purposes, apart from more contrast, each photo is as good as the other.

            • Good as each other as the photographers eye and subject is key – though the contrastier images are more pleasing, nice inky blacks, nicer highlight control and more pleasing texture. Sheesh, I thought the left side pics were an M8, after reading I realise they’re M6! I was going to say M8 is King!

            • From my experience and my perspective there is a clear difference. There are nuances, … I freely admit … but these are (at least for my photos) particularly significant.

        • Thank you Greg … I really love it … wonderful side-by-side test. All the best, Alfred

          • What do you think, Alfred and Steve? I have a feeling the MM wins in terms of resolution but film wins in terms of tonal range and overall esthetics. I just love that film grain. But the digital files are undeniably sharper.

            Greg

        • That was superb, thanks for that link as I have not seen that one yet.

          • Good that he has the originals available for download. I played with them in Lightroom and I couldn’t replicate that film look. Haven’t tried Silver Efex on them yet. Would be fun to see if that could bring out the true film look out of those files.

        • Hi Greg!
          If you want more images of my test (with HD and DNG), you can go there:
          http://www.summilux.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=51356

        • Good link Greg. Thanks. I hope many people as possible understand not only the images but what the photographer said about his experience with both cameras. At the end he preferes M6 for the render; dynamics and feeling of the camera; he likes also the processing in darkroom; but he said also that “if” he had the money he will buy a MM for compleating his tools and for use it in situations where is good to be more practical or for random photography every day.

          Personnally I like more his film images in that shot session than digitals.

      • Incorrect. At the launch of the camera in Berlin Andreas Kaufmann said himself that they created the Monochrom to put an end to B&W film. This is why I made the statement as Leica themselves said it. In part 1 I posted some 35mm film crops from an M7 and 50 cron vs the MM and 50 cron. Much different as the MM resolves way more detail than film and with the MM you can have clean and smooth MF looking files or gritty and grainy files. You can have low contrast smooth files or high contrast grit. It’s 1000% more versatile than film and there is no need to spend hours processing your film, scanning your film or making prints in the darkroom. Sure there is a different vibe to film and the die hards will never give it up but facts are facts and it is what it is. I find film a bit more harsh (and i have thousands of B^W negatives from my M6, MP, M7 that tells me this) but some may prefer that look.

        • You chose a grainy 400 speed Tri-X film and compared it to the MM. After this, you said MM resolves way more detail than film. Are you aware there are many other B&W films which will resolve far more than the MM? Sure, they may not be as versatile, but you are for some reason basing your statement on one type of film.

        • Steve that’s total marketing PR b/s, surely no one really believes such tripe. :)
          Not even Leica do, but they want to promote this beast, so will talk it.

          Leica forget that there are other higher resolving Digital cameras out there with much nicer features and sensors that’ve been around for years, and they have made no such claims. I just giggled when I read that! There’s as much chance of an iPhone being used as a professional Camera, and replacing a pro camera – as Manfrotto said recently.

          The LMM might give you cleaner sharper results than an M6/7 35mm, but:

          a) it sure as hell doesn’t look any better, (though it’s in the eye of the beholder) – it gives you a different look, as you’ve shown with your examples here, it’s Mono, but it sure isn’t Film, nor does it resemble film, and in many cases it lacks the beauty of Film. Sure you can apply all sorts of computer Filters, but it still isn’t film!

          You can add ‘grain’ (read Noise) and do all sorts of things, make the image softer, put in IR effects, but all you’re doing is copying, mocking and mimicking Film, That’s all it is, there’s nothing else to ‘copy’ apart from film. If Digital photography were take a purely different approach, ie. a Digital approach, we’d have photoshopped images or neutral natural looking photo’s (to mimic reality) or hideous HDR type photographs, or ‘Sin City’ type images – again, photoshopped.. But no, the most pleasing results are ones which mimic FILM.

          I suppose you could send a file off and get a BW Negative from the Leica file, that’s the closest it’ll ever get to film.

          As all the copying, and tinkering, tweaking and filters, whether 1000 or 10000000 more versatile than film, it’s still code in a computer, or code in the ether of wireless or Code through Fibre-Optic cables – manifested as a ‘photo’ on a computer screen – it’s about as ‘real’ as a Kindle Book, or a dot.com company, or an MP3. This is what people fail to grasp, it’s NOT Film, that’s why I shoot film, I could probably get as nice or even nicer results (generally) if I used Digital, but it’s not real is it? I’ve nothing in my hand at all, that’s one of the reasons why I stopped shooting digital – it’s not real.

          Film lovers, they’ll use Film and what it offers for the final print, the traditional way. You can make inkjet prints all day until the cows come home, but, they’re NOT photographs!
          The only reason to scan is if you want to view on an iPad or Monitor or want to share Online! Why else? Make an Inkjet print? Or send the File to a publisher or printer? If I wanted to go that far, I’d be using a larger Format anyway, most of the time.

          As you know, people these days shoot film out of choice, because they love the experience, the look, feel, timing, the highlights, the grain, and it is an Art form.

          Digital photographers can tweak and tweak, play around with Files on their Macs to get a film look, and people have been doing this with Colour photography for years now – but the Velvia created by the computer isn’t Velvia, and nor does it resemble Velvia (or Film for that matter) has colour Film photography died a death? No.

          Film isn’t ‘harsh’, it’s soft. Unless you like really sharp grain structure and fast film.

          b) The LMM still gets smashed two ways from Sunday by probably any half decent Medium Format Film camera in most respects. try comparing the MM images to a Mamiya 7′s.

          Anyway, it’s plain that you’ve been swept head over heels by Leica’s newest baby, and it’s all good, as ultimately it’s about what gives you pleasure and what you like. You’re getting very nice results, and you’re happy.

          But Steve, mate, please don’t give it the “this is better than Film” palava, please! As that’s what it seems like you’re alluding to (without actually saying it)
          We’re not Neanderthals! We know Digital can be manipulated relatively easily, that it can give clean results, that 35mm is surpassed in ways by 35mm Digital, we’ve read, re read and thought about, and rejected all the Luminous Landscapes comparisons years and years ago – and are bored stiff of them, but that’s not important.

          Most people are able to view, compare and assess things, and judge for themselves and that’s why we use your site, as it’s excellent, and your reviews are excellent (and it helps that you’re an excellent photographer and a Gentleman)

          I seem to have too much time on my hands, not being interested in the LMM, but cannot help reading and commenting!

          • Who wants to go out at night and shoot street with a MF kit? Not me, not many others. Would I rather have ISO 10,000 capability that equals the M9′s ISO 1600 results? Sure, of course. Do I want to be stuck with B&W only forever? NO..which is why this is a niche camera for certain individuals who want such things. For me this will come out in certain situations and I will use my OM-D or whatever else i have on hand for color most of the time.

            But to compare this to MF is ridiculous as they are different cameras. Whoever loves the M experience does NOT want to lug around a MF kit most of the time, which is much slower and more cumbersome and in reality will not give you any better (at the least very minimal) results at the end of the day in print or file. You have your tastes, I have mine, and everyone else has theirs.

            Id say there is probably 6% of M users who have interest in this camera. Many will be thrilled shooting an M9 or M for their color and B&W, which is actually a great idea as the differences are minimal but they are indeed there. Low light alone is a huge one. The Monochrom is a very unique camera and if given the choice to have the Mono or three MF kits or one D800E and 3 lenses or a Nikon D4 and 3 lenses Id take a Mono hands down. Why? Because I am not interested in heavy cameras and lenses nor am I interested in film these days. Too cumbersome, too time consuming and too expensive for a slightly different look. I do not have the time or the funds to shoot film all of the time. Especially when I have a tool like this at my disposal.

            Thx for your comments :) I appreciate them all.

            • Thanks Steve, let’s agree to disagree. :)

              I would like to add though, the Mamiya 7 for example isn’t huge, and the Leica isn’t quite blazing fast neither, it’s manual focus, using an archaic system.

              Who wants to go out at night and shoot streets? some people do, I don’t, but if I did want to shoot people (photographically haha!)pretty seriously, in the street (in the day) I’d much prefer an AF system regardless, as it makes much more sense, unless you want to stand there for ages pre focussing and waiting for someone to walk into your target zone, fiddling around with getting the spots lines up – by which time the target has been long gone!
              The Rangefinder ‘Experience’ is pretty cumbersome and time consuming – relatively speaking, no one can deny this statement.

              But your final comments have proven many peoples point; the M Mono is very expensive for what it does, it’s a boutique niche camera, and basically something for those who are very well off and those who can afford such a luxury – and not an investment for Joe Bloggs, as to all intents and purposes, it won’t give you ‘better’ and noticeably superior end results to anything else – and besides, you’d have to get another camera to shoot colour, and for $8k a pop – that’s a lot of funds!

              • The Fuji GA645 isn’t huge either and makes lovely pictures. Easy to carry around. The Mamiya rangefinder series cameras, the 6, and 7 are beautiful. Wish I bought one years ago. Mary Ellen Mark used them.

            • Steve, you mention that MF will give you “not any better (or at least very minimal)” improvement over the 35mm camera (MM or whatever). I’d say that MF cameras are an equivalent step up in quality over 35mm in the same way a full frame sensor is a step up over a micro 4/3 sensor. The same sort of improvement you would get from going from an OM-D to an RX1. I’m guessing the final RX1 review won’t say that there is a minimal to no improvement over a micro 4/3 sensor. I’d say the amount of detail in MF film will absolutely “destroy” (to use a common Huffism) the detail in this Monochrom.

    • Thanks Steve for the review. I am surprized that in each thread about the MM comments appear which say all that can be done with cheaper cameras, flat images, not seeing the detail etc.
      Many of those not even having used a MM or ever seen a print from it.

      • Exactly. I will go over prints in a later part of the review, probably part 5. Printing is where it is at with this camera but those who hate on the MM are teh ones who dont get it or understand it AND in fact have never touched one. That is OK as it is not for everyone.

        • But by your own admission, to get the look you wanted you had to tweaked the files. That is why I continue to use my antique DSLRs because I can tweak the files to give the look I want. Again, it is all a matter of taste. As long as your images satisfy YOU, then get whatever camera you want. When that camera no longer allows you to fulfill your vision, then look at what will whether it is an MM, a D2h, or even a film camera.

    • Come on man, the pictures are special, lovely composition and tone, as Steve is a creative talented photographer, but he’d get much the same results with any other quality digital camera. Give Steve an M8 or M9 omD or rx1 nex or 5d canon etc and I warrant the results would all be equal, I can’t tell the difference. Leica are very clever they’ll charge people More for a worse camera and people will pay it

      • Not true. These could not have been taken with an M8, M9, or OM-D. I shot some on this same street with the RX1 that were lovely as well but not the same tones and not the same experience or look. The RX1 would be great and shoot color but the M8 or M9 or OM-D could not have shot these low light shots as the max is 2500 and some of these were higher than that. Even at 2500 the M9 is much noisier and could not have done this. This is a much better camera IQ wise than an M9 (if you want B&W only of course). More detail. Much better noise control. With that said the RX1 is the one I am interested in doing a real side by side with but it’s still not an RF and still does not give the same tones out of camera or converted. Close though.

        • Steve, I think this is one of your best reviews ever!

          Cheers,
          Greg

        • Steve, you may have done all that, and the settings may have been what you say they are, But I still can’t tell the difference, nor does it matter to me – the viewer, I’ve seen M9 BW OM-D BW etc which are superb and others which are total pants, I’ve seen LMM images which are great and others which are Dire. What settings you use doesn’t matter to the end viewer.. The result does, my point is that I’ve seen results like this from a scores of cameras.

          • And I called it a ‘worse camera’, as it only shoots B&W!
            pretty useless, as what will you do if you want to shoot colour? carry another body?
            :) Surely it’s easier to, err, carry a M9, or change Film??

      • Yeah Steve, just do a blind test with a survey in here already. Pics taken for example with any full frame DSLR with simple B&W conversion compared to the Leica MM. This should put the arguing to rest. I’m ready to bet 500 bucks that Leica fan boys won’t be able to tell the difference

    • Yea, I am part of the Leica marketing strategy. Lol. Like I said, it is not a camera for everyone as many just will not understand it. Like you said yourself, you just don’t get it. Not everyone will. Thx for reading.

      • wow!
        you’ve finally confirmed it!
        is there gonna be an article titled “how-to become a part of leica marketing strategy”?
        oh come on man, I’m begging you! I’d love to be part part of leica marketing strategy (I bet they calling you PolMS!) I promis I’ll be just a small part… just cooling down in your shadow no backstabbing i promise!
        Do you have a secret leica tattoo? or is there some woodoo involved?
        And maby latters you can write “does being PolMSchanged my life? a bit.” article!
        If not ok… I’ll deal with it. I’ve wanted leica but what the hell! I can easily become part of other companys marketing strategy…!
        ha ha… ha ha!
        you’ll see!

        fuu. ok now back to ground.
        It seems to me that files from monochrome under good comand are reeeealy crispy. I mean charming.
        My friend told me he saw 40×60 print from monochrome and his eyes almost jumped out of his head. So I’m very exited, what you’ll think about your prints.
        So it really looks like an interesting camera. But I wouldn’t say it means end of the film. Lot of people will still prefer to develop film. As sally mann said: photography as we know it will always be chemical.
        I just think everyone should do what he feels to be right (not what he reads in forums under articles :-)) and I hope photographers will always have choice between classic and digital.
        And of course. Important think is to shoot photos (that outlives their makers if possible) no matter with this beautiful imagemaker of yours (whom seems to lost all this digital sterility somwhere in Solms possibly) or with any other camera you prefer.
        Have a nice day and hope you will be promoted to emparor of leica marketing strategy today. And watch out for treacherous apprentice!
        :-)

        • That is quite funny Leica doesn’t even speak to me but 1 or 2 times a year MAX. They are odd and hard to deal with folks who run the company in quite a backwards way. If I am a fan of something I say it…plain and simple. Doesn’t matter who makes it.

          • well i was hoping to be funny! a bit. :-)
            yeah, leica talks to me from time to time too… like the other time when I was begining to want one particular voigtlander lens leica spoke to me: “you need summilux! voigtlander is crap! 1.4 is better than 1.2!”
            few hours with my terapist and I could buy a voigtlander one as happy man!
            Than they spoke other time in different fashion: “hey man! don’t be square, buy just one! we’ve got some cheap elmarit down here!”
            :-)
            Well I’m sorry If you’re not working for leica.
            But I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t trade your monochrome just to be their marketing guy, me neither if I had one!
            or would I? Maby I could then steal it from the office. You know I will take it! ooou. wait. I don’t have one.
            doh.

  10. Steve, with your experience with the MM so far have you found much difference between shots taken with say a yellow filter on camera as opposed to using a yellow filter in PP in Alien Skin or Silver Efex?

    Tbh I’ve never bothered using any filters when shooting digitally other than a CP as pretty much any affect can be applied in PP very effectively. Just wondering if the B&W sensor in the MM produces noticeable difference by using a glass filter is all.

  11. Excellent review and thank´s for the advice to use Alien Skin Exposure 4.

  12. One day… She will be mine…

  13. Hi Steve!

    According high-iso performance I would like to see the MM shots compared to an actual SLR (NIKON D4, Canon 1DX) in the same situation and of course changed to b/w too.

    So we can see how far the MM can hold up…(iso3200? or more?).

    Cheers

    • But why? A D4 is so different than any M. I would buy an MM for $8k before i would buy a D4 for $2k because I would never ever take a D4 out with me on the street to shoot or to take 95% of what I shoot. It is just too damn big. Those who have any interest in an MM do not have ANY in a D4. if so they need to figure out what kind of camera they want because one is a small well made rangefinder with small fast lenses and the other is a huge fat tank with humongous lenses that weigh a ton. Different cameras and the they even affect the way you shoot and what you shoot. With an MM you are in a different mindset. First because it is a rangefinder and 2nd because you know you can only shoot B&W. Finding light for B&W is different than finding light for color which is something that can be tricky. In any case, the MM high ISO, especially 3200 is not lacking in any way and when compared to film ISO there is no contest. ISO 8000 on the MM is more like ISO 1600 film.

      • Greetings Steve!

        Why? Just because of the technical aspect… the D4 with 16MP, the 1DX with 18MP so about the same pixel density.

        I would say its just what you call here one of your “crazy tests”.
        ;-)

        Of course it’s apple vs. oranges but it would give us a comparison about how much better the b/w only sensor in the MM is then with the one with the bayer pattern over it in the M9/M9p.

        As a M9 owner looking forward for the M(M10) due to the (hopefully) much better high iso performance this would be interesting to see.

        Wish you lots of fun with the MM!

        • S Huff is a DSLR hater. Live with it.

          • I do not hate DSLR’s, I hate the big bulky ones that are so so heavy. For pro use yes, for casual hobbyist use? NO! I love smaller DSLR’s like the Pentax K line. I am not a fan of the huge Canon’s or huge NIkons even though they are wonderful machines. I don’t “hate’ anything, I dislike heavy and bulky when there is no need for it, especially when other cameras can do just as good if not better in a much smaller package.

            • I get it now :-)

            • Same here, Steve. That’s why a have a Pentax K-30, that is pretty compact and fast, and a couple of AF and manual primes. The only zoom here is the 18-55, because that one covers the 18mm range pretty nicely, and there is no good prime for that…
              Makes a compact kit that is great to use on trips.

  14. Very good research, excellent writing and superb pictures. Thanks a lot.

  15. Some day over the rainbow………… But meanwhile this side of the rainbow thanks, Steve, for this very instructive review (and the one on the RX1). I can use so much of it in thinking how I shoot mono with my humble Nex C3. The first two shots – so different from each other – have all the WOW I shall ever want from portraits. The M makes complete sense to me, but the RX1 might just be in reach.

  16. Strange! I like much more the flat grey pictures you took from Berlin! These one in part 2 are a bit charcoal…

    • These are high ISO and with filters as this is what the article was about…tweaking files to your liking. Me I prefer a bit of “charcoal” :) The good thing is you can have it either way. Thx for reading!

  17. Thank you for another great review!

  18. The last photo is so awesome!

  19. Interesting story to follow, and good to see the “It doesn’t remotely look like film” comments are dying out. It’s a digital camera that produces b&w images that need, as with all cameras, some work to get them to look like you want. But please get off the filter route to make them look like FP4, Tri-X, HP4, HP5+ etc etc. I’m very interested to see what the images look like without all the filter applying, adding or taking away grain etc. I’d like to see the REAL Monochrom look.

    • Comments are dying out, as they’ve been said. Purely as a voyeur and out of curiosity I’d like to see OOC Jpegs on a series of pictures without any post processing

      • That a comment (especially this one) has been said hasn’t stopped anyone before. Anyway, I’d like to see some RAW, properly processed, images, without any treatment to make them resemble film, to be able to see the “real” Monochrom look.

      • JPEG’s ARE post-processed. They are processed in the camera itself an instant after the picture is taken…using the internal ‘Take-It-Or-Leave-it-Quality-Be-Dammned’ software programme.

  20. I really want to feel the love for the MM; it was the increased resolution promised from using a non-RGB sensor that really excited me. The first postings by owners with the flat greys were a let-down, and later images with appropriate contrast boost were helpful. But now I’m seeing enormous information loss in the dark areas. Steve’s sample image above of the model indoors has no information in her left eye area, none in the side table rear of her right, and almost none in the display cabinet to her left. Same with the night shots, but that can be forgiven because of the lack of available light.

    It would have been expected that the model shot would have contained more information in the dark zones. The traditional film method of exposing for the shadows would have solved this problem; if Steve had done that however, the highlights would have blown out. (With film the highlights would blow-out too, but at least they would have done so in a slower, smoother, more sympathetic manner.)

    Viewing the MM images posted here and everywhere else has been a sad disappointment for me, strictly in terms of what I’m seeing in the dark zones. I’ve even been questioning the values of my computer monitor, the results are so irritating!!! At the same time so many of the readers here are having a pleasant reception to the images. I wonder if I’m the only one. Could it be that downsizing images for web publication causes a loss of Steve’s post-processing, and that on his computer the images have the proper zone structure which I cannot see here? I don’t know…I’m looking forward to Steve’s side-by-side comparisons with film; hopefully I can be persuaded then.

    Really, as I said above, I WANT to love the MM, but so far – true to its name – I’m only seeing black or white, with little definition and delicacy in-between.

    • I was not using any lighting in that shot at all and the side of her face was in a shadow. I could have processed that photo to have all of the info in her eye and dress but I processed it to MY liking. The photo has plenty of info in the dark zones but just like when processing and editing film files, if you want it flat and grey you can get all of the info. If you want a little more contrast you lose that info. Not rocket science. As for a side by side with film, that was in part 1 and there was also a great link here posted by Greg which was a very well done comparison. You should check it out. The Mono is capable of matching film 99% IMO. You can get any look you desire from it.

    • fuu…
      for me that picture whit lack of eye details looks stunning!
      besides the model is nice, sparkling, besides it is nice portrait. i really like feel of the image. tones, grain, noise, black parts white parts. This one I like most from what i can see on my screen.
      But maby it is different from what you see. It can happend.

  21. Thanks for a very interesting and well written article.

  22. Ah I love debates and discussion, disagreements and comparisons – Steve, you’ve an excellent site, excellent review here, and excellent photography regardless!

  23. Steve, I would love to see how the Pentax K-5IIs with some Pentax primes would stack up. Of course, with the same pp effort applied. My guess is the Pentax may excell at higher ISO.

  24. These shots are among the best I’ve seen you do! I’ve only been following the site for a few months but still. I feel I learn something new everyday from your site. Cheers!

  25. Strange how some people can compare different cameras (Monochrom and D4 f.i., two very different cameras, which would make for a right crazy comparison) only by talking down one camera and talkingup the other. There’s probably some interesting psychological phenomenon going on in the background.

    I just remind myself that everyone visiting this site has a positive interest in photography, the images and the equipment, and probably likes the equipment he or she uses. Noone like his equipment being talked about in a biased, derisory manner.

  26. Wow leica has something special on thier hands. I dout its going to kill film and the darkroom experience, but it sure is going to take a whole bunch of crappy photos and beautiful photos : just as with any other camera.

    • Lol true! I think once this gets in the hands of some true artists the results will be just that more special than say a normal M9 converted. Like I said, i will need a while with the MM to get the most out of it and besides, even after all of these years I am still learning myself. Thanks for reading.

  27. Great piece Steve! I wonder how the high ISO on the new (color) M will compare with the MM. If they’re close, will be a hard sell (to myself) to go with the MM vs. the M.

  28. Oics 1 & 3 look not very good to me (IQ): burnt highlights, artificial greys, strange gradations and transitions between clear and dark greys… And others seem, like the one with the IR filter, very digital. Curious. As someone says, a real new experience from Leica.

    • That is my processing and how I WANTED These high ISO street shots to look. I much prefer this look for street than flat grey and low contrast (which is also easily done with this camera). As for the IR shot, it is a digital camera and looks like the M9 looks. No digital will ever look just like film, but in the case of the MM I find it better than any film I have ever shot. Just MY preference. Others will feel different. I find MUCH more freedom shooting a MM than an M6 due to the fact with an M6 you are stuck with whatever film you have in the camera. Also, the cost of film, processing and the time involved getting it right in the lab or at the computer is frustrating. There is nothing the MM can not do that B&W film can, IN MY EXPERIENCE with both. I like film but with the MM I feel that film is no longer the superior medium for B&W. The MM can do high DR, low DR, low contrast, high contrast, low noise, high noise, dirty grit, deep blacks, light blacks, dirty grey or smooth grey. Dirty whites or clean whites. It is your choice in how you process the files and this is something you do not get with one film in your camera. If I had Tri-X loaded then I would be stuck with ISO 400 or pushing it a bit. With the MM I can have T-Max, Tri-X or Neopan 1600. I can have Delta 3200 as well. THAT is what makes this camera unique and pretty special for those who love B&W. Those who never used one or have no idea about the actual capabilities can knock it down all they want but it doesn’t change the facts of what it is and what it can do. Thx for reading!

      • Imitating film with a digital camera will always look artificial.

        • I agree that an excess of fake film grain is distracting and usually looks wrong, but that is not a characteristic of the very even-grained MM. Steve uses added grain with a light hand for legitimate aesthetic reasons.

          So what’s the point? That only film can properly create b+w images? Phooey. Artists were working in charcoal and other monochrome media for thousands of years before film was invented. Digital monochrome cameras is part of that artistic tradition as legitimately as b+w film cameras are.

      • Hi Steve,

        As far as I rememer from my OM-1, I sometimes changed film at frame 10, 20 or whatever and made a note of the frame count and when rewinding the film I made sure to leave a small strip of the film outside the cartridge.

        The cartridge could then be inserting at a later time and set to the same frame position by shooting the already exposed frames again, but without exposing them to any light.

        So you are not entirely stuck with the same film if you don’t want to. But it is just so easy with digital that most people would probably not bother to do it anymore, myself included.

  29. As an actual Leica Monochrom M OWNER, I would like to make the following additions to Steve’s review:
    1. The camera is extremely well made and feels like it is worth every penny of the $8k price tag
    2. The raw, unprocessed images coming straight out of the camera are stunningly detailed and beautiful! I know it may be hard to believe but they look much better than taking a color M9 file and converting it to b&w. Yes, you can add further processing but I do not feel the need to do that to most of the images. It is FUN to play with the post processing but it is NOT necessary. If you want to add sprinkles, chocolate sauce or a cherry on top that is fine BUT the plain, regular ice cream is already excellent.
    3. The high iso performance is incredible and even at iso 8000 or 10,000 the images the images are not just usable but are worthy. They are so good that I may start shooting at 8k or 10k just to replicate the look of the files at high iso.
    4. I have now shot with red, yellow, and orange filters. Green filters are now hard to find. The files look much different using real filters vs post processing. It is very rewarding to treat the camera as a real b&w film based camera.
    5. I think people are missing the point of THIS camera. Taking pictures with the Monochrom is FUN! I mean, A LOT OF FUN! I don’t care about the technical data, side by side comparisons, value for the dollar, blah, blah, blah…. I really ENJOY using the camera, the images it makes are truly unique, and best of of, it brings back the pure JOY of what it is like to take pictures!

    Rod in Annapolis
    P.S. You can now go back to your “blah, blah, blah”, I am going to out and take more pictures…

  30. Tha detail and super cleaness of these files is awesome the blacks are really black! and people’s every photographer Got special looks in the darkroom for their shots in the olden days they had to process in the darkroom for hours I can’t see any difference doing it digitally just part of photography I hope the leica M has files like this?

  31. “When Leica announced the Monochrom they touted it as a camera that will put an end to B&W film.”

    This of course, is nonsense and any analog black & white photographer knows this.

    First of all, if Leica really believed this, they would stop making the M7 and MP and stop selling it at some point. They have stated this won’t happen.

    And most importantly, having a good looking black & white image from the Monochrome sitting on your hard drive is one thing. Being able to produce a high quality enlargement on photographic paper from a true negative is a totally different matter. No matter how good the files are the Monochrome produces, when it comes to bringing the image to paper, no thermo printer, inkjet printer or laser printer in the world can match a true black & white enlargement from a negative in character and – most black & white photographers will argue – in quality.

    And last, the Monochrome is too rare and too expensive to even make a dent into the relevance of black & white film today. For $8000+ people can buy a lot of black & white film, paper and chemicals. The most important black & white films are still around. And while Kodak may fade, others will rise to the opportunity (Ilford comes to mind).

    • Ha yes, of course, but that’s the problem. 99% of people who have the money to spend on this camera, love the arguments but have no clue on how to print, and, at the most, will let an inkjet printer spit it out. The images may be nice, but printing is an art, and when it’s automated, there are no human skills involved to elevate the picture (and its value) to another level. That’s why digital prints of digital files are pretty much worthless in the art world. Of course, Leica wants it this way, and that is why this camera is 8K. The rich amateur is their target, not the working photographer, the printer, the artist. They will use those few to bring attention to the product and show everyone what it “can” do, but I can guarantee you that the bulk of sales are from wealthy amateurs who love to pixel peep and share on Flickr, Facebook, etc. That’s not a nasty comment, but simply reality, whether you like it or not.
      What most 1) don’t know, 2) don’t care to know, 3) are too lazy to learn, 4) rather make excuses, is that today, one can use an amazing camera like this IN THE DARKROOM. How? Make digital negatives to contact print on silver paper, or platinum/palladium prints that will take your breath away. The prints blow ANY inkjet print away by a wide margin. OR, digital positives for polymer or copper plate Photogravure. The image quality is as good as any medium format film, and may even rival large format, aside maybe to produce mural size prints.
      I’m working on a project right now, for which I am exclusively using the Monochrom to make copper plate photogravure prints. For the ones who don’t know, copper plate photogravure, is the oldest photographic process to produce, what still is today, the most beautiful prints, for me followed by platinum and silver gelatin. It takes me 1-2 days to produce one plate and a proof print. It’s a hands on, laborious process that involves time, knowledge and skills. I’m basically using a hybrid process to produce gorgeous analog prints that will be indistinguishable (assuming anyone would even care to make that distinction) and probably better from prints originated from a film negative, enlarged to positive. Frankly, to buy a camera like this to exclusively process files, argue about it, post online, and MAYBE spit out an inkjet or two, is a giant waste of time. That may be what Leica wants everyone to do, but don’t blame them or the camera if you get sucked into that. The tool is perfect to create as wonderful art as you can imagine. Whether one wants to gain knowledge, skills, and spend time (and money) on how to do it, is an entirely different matter.

      • Buyers of art pay money not just for aesthetics, but for work belonging to an established artistic tradition with an established market, permanence (usually), being difficult to forge, and exclusivity.

        Digital prints, no matter how good, fail on these points. They are only a few years old as a distinct form and have little sales history; their resistance to fading is improving, but is still poor when displayed on a normal, bright living room wall; convincing forgeries can be made by anyone with access to an original print, a high quality camera, and the right printer; and their potential for being reproduced in mass quantities by either forgers or the original artists worries collectors and terrifies snobs and investors.

        These problems will eventually be solved, just as they were for conventional photography, which had essentially the same problems and still sold for modest prices until recent decades.

        The biggest problem right now is the printing processes. Buyers want art that will hold up to normal display for hundreds of years. Solve that, and all you have to do is wait until the older men who buy most of these images are gone and there is no longer a prejudice against the upstart.

        • What a load of bunk. Take Peter Lik as an example…he has sold 100′s of millions of $$$$ worth of his work. Yes, he started out shooting film in the 80′s and he still shoots some film but he also shoots digital. People are buying lots of his digital prints because HE created them, not because they are film or digital.

          Think what you want about Peter Lik…no one can dispute his success.

          • Yeah, right. Overpriced, mass produced crap, being sold on ebay and at various “online” galleries. That’s a market for suckers. Sure, let me buy a print numbered 866 of 950 for $57,000 just because it’s a Peter Lik. Please. I don’t dispute his success, just as I don’t dispute Thomas Kinkade’s. Both have produced vast amounts of overpriced crap and they have found a way to market themselves properly to get rich. Good for them.

      • Max I very much respect your photography and your contributions to this site. I also come from a film background and still shoot film as well as digital. However I do not agree with you about inkjet printing. There is huge amount of creative skill required to make a master print using any photographic process, but if you have any doubt about the artistic possibilities in the digital darkroom then may I recommend one of the finest books on photography I have read. B&W Printing by George Dewolfe, a book that I would describe as a “road to damascus” experience. One of the main problems with the digital photographic age is that photographers view there work up too close on their computer screens. To get a better perspective I often stand back from my screen to see if the shot is in balance. Producing a file for web consumption is for me quite different from the printing process and I work with different copies of the master file depending on my chosen output, (either for web or print) Where I feel that most photographers could improve on their digital printing is strangely by not over relying on the computer screen image and the soft proofing. This should be just a guide and test prints should be made right from the beginning and the adjustments should be made in relation to these prints.That might be quite a concept for some who try to match there screen image with their print out put. Darkroom or light room is at it’s best an astonishingly creative process and while I am of an age that recognises the advantages of film, I also see the creative growth of photography as artists and master printers begin to inhabit the digital world. Cheers Max to my eye your work is superb.

      • Amen, Max. Which is why I dumped my Leica gear and bought a cheap old Nikon FM2 and a very fast Nikkor 50mm 1.4 lens. the prints will come out fantastic compared to the digital files on ink jets. Leica Shmeica.

  32. Wow!! the fish and cat photos almost look like there’s color in the photos especially the cat’s eyes unbelievable i love it! Please gives us more photos i love it

  33. Very interesting Steve. High ISO is really great. But I hoped that you would show us the difference between using hardware filters and software post-processing (which indeed will yield different results), or just the difference between filtered and non-filtered exposures.

  34. I agree that for the most part this replaces B+W film (of coarse i’m still going to shoot with film as long as it is around) but I would love to see how it compares to some 25 iso B+W film. Maybe in the future I can submit some samples to Steve.

  35. I also forgot to mention that although some films are being discontinued there is plenty of new film being introduced to the market. Anyone try the Rollei films, they pretty much rock it is basically AGFA film that has been enhanced.

  36. I would love to see IQ comparison of Leica M9 monochrome & the latest M9.

  37. Thanks for your reply. I understand that for you the process of B&W film can be frustrating. In the same way, I understand that for some people shooting a rangefinder camera or a medium format film one can be cumbersome. However, I shoot an M3 and a cx503 and find limitations (time, iso, developing, etc) very rewarding. Maybe it’s an old fashioned way of seeing things, but I find limitations as one of the most interesting things in life, and something very pleasurable when dealing with photography. Taking one single photograph instead of 12 or 20 or 50 everytime I shoot is the main inspirational limitation. Limitations force you to do things in other ways. I agree with you, however, on the cost of film. But it’s true too that I save in new cameras and maybe I gain some peace of mind avoiding new gear decisions.

  38. This is a reply to Steve’s reply to my comment number 28. For some reason did not work as such. Ihope this one does.

  39. Ive said my feelings about M9 vs M3 lots of times.
    I take it aaaaaallll back for the MM.

    p.s. i can wait five years for Rx1 to drop in price
    i will have to save if i want a MM cause i reckon in five years its gonna hold its value.

  40. Hi Steve, yes you are so right, this MM is a camera for life, and I will go back to using a 50mm lens, on occasion a 35mm. Since I got the camera I have fallen in love with the process of image creation again! What most B&W photographers wouldn’t miss is the smell, and the time spent producing the roll of film drying in the cabinet. The contact sheet, and more time producing the prints.
    Why could you not miss that?
    If anyone thinks that a colour DNG is the same as that from a Monochrom is missing the point with this camera. I must sell my other cameras.

  41. Just when I said I wasn’t really jonesing for anything…..
    Looks good Steve

  42. Leica saying they created the MM to put an end to film is actually pretty funny. You bet, I’m just going to toss all my cameras and excellent, time-proven lenses in the garbage, and run out and plunk down the cost of a cheap car on an MM and a lens. APUG, just this one site devoted to film use, has over 50,000 members, and tens of thousands more readers. I can just hear those hundreds of thousands of cameras and lenses landing in the dumpsters now.
    It’s statements like these that show how far they actually are removed from reality. Whoever writes their press releases should probably be writing for Jay Leno.

    • Will those archaic digital files be laying around when your kid’s kids generation “rediscovers” your work? Negatives most likely will and can instantly be converted to the technology of the day. The issue with digital capture is still long term archivability and accessibility. The legacy of your work should be more of a priority than the momentary spark of the latest and the greatest.

  43. Steve

    One small comment for your reference. “B&W” (i.e. Bowers & Wilkens (sp?)) makes very high end audio speakers. “B+W” makes very high quality photographic filters. ;-)

    PaulB

    • I am well aware that B&W makes makes high end speakers (though not VERY high end when compared to some brands of HiFi) :) I used to have have a $30k audio 2 channel system that was built up over 10 years. Never liked B&W though – a bit harsh for my tastes. I was a Sonus Faber and tube man all the way but the B&W was a typo that should have been B+W though I expect 99.9% of those who read it knew what I meant. Thx :)

      • I have a pair of Sonus Faber Guarneri Memento’s staring at me in my living room… :-)

      • Steve

        I am sure you are correct, concerning B&W vs. B+W being recognized as filters. At least for the experienced photographer.

        I also agree that B&W speakers are not what they seem. At least not to my ears. My 26 year old KEFs are an easy match for the new top end B&Ws. Sonus Faber is one of the few speakers that got me to think of trading mine. Of course if we want to talk truly highest end speakers, we need to mention Wilson and Focal. They can make Leica look like a bargain.

        Paul B

  44. hi steve,
    i hope you print those photos on book, i believe ur fans will buy ur book… i wish i could keep ur book for collection. many many thks for sharing ur amazing photos…

    kofeel fr singapore

  45. Hello Steve. You are doing an excellent job presenting your experience with the MM and leading the discussion on our expectations. I am looking forward to part three. Thank you for following up on people’s comments.

  46. Steve: Nice review and images. I would enjoy to see a comparison of the same shot/similar settings if possible from Leica Monochrom,M9 & and a Fuji Xpro1…. Thanks!

  47. Why would you want/need to add colour filters in post, just as in film days you could not use colour filters in the darkroom to separate colours, just stating the obvious to me.

  48. I am sure that the Leica MM can be an amazing tool. Especially based on the comments saying that you can get tons of details in tones and obviously sharpness (expected from Leica). With all due respect, however, I just don’t see the point of getting a $12000 camera (with a decent lens) if you like high contrast images with blocked shadows. I am drawn to the dark eye in the first picture as if it was a black hole and I am not sure I like the feeling…

    • Sorry, I mean the second picture.

    • That is your feeling, not mine nor is it everyones. The beauty of photography and art in general is we all have our own style and choices we make when making and image. The framing, the aperture, the look, the processing and the final print or output is all up to the Photographer. I like high contrast and deep blacks when shooting STREET at NIGHT. That is what I said. The cool thing is that the MM can do this as well as do low contrast with huge detail in shadows. You can do whatever YOU like with the files. For me, shooting street at night…I like gritty and dark.

  49. If this camera works out for B&W work. I fell as if this may not be Leica’s last one. Other camera makers may also follow suit. It is still a little high for me. I would also like to see a full review of the camera. I am a B&W guy. I now use a X-Pro 1. Color is secoundary to me. I may think about this one. Try green or light green for people under artificial light. Good skin tones, as far as film goes. I just hope there are no draw backs to the sensor.

    • I am 99.9% sure this will be the only B&W camera made by Leica, or anyone. The market for this camera is pretty teeny tiny so there is simply no way Nikon or Canon would do this and highly unlikely Olympus, Panasonic or others would either. I feel this camera will actually go up in value over the years, especially if Leica discontinues it down the road.

  50. Very nice shots. But the digital greyscales are not very convincing or pleasing to the eye.. Gonna keep shooting b&w on film and print in the darkroom for a few more years..

    • Film, as I have said before, IQ fades into grain. Digial fades in into pixels. Film has a more analog change to it’s gray scales. Because it is analong. As the real world is. So it lost of reproduction of any kind looks, more natural.

  51. http://www.flickr.com/photos/52028515@NO5/sets/72157631592332933/
    Just for a change ,heres someone who not only has a good eye but also seems to have a way with this camera .

  52. I read a lot of stuff that makes me frown the eyebrows.
    If you wanna shoot colour, don’t buy the MM! Sure it’s only for a very limited number of people. But that’s the concept. Please don’t argue about that! Nobody is forced to buy it. So never judge a concept. A concept is to fill a whole in the market. If you’re not there, leave it. It’s for the people who are precisely positionned there to judge this camera. The only comment one can make here is, that the target group is very small. So what!? Leica wants to make exactly those people happy, that want a B&W camera. So don’t moan about colour!
    To me it’s obvious. With the MM files, one can go in all directions as far as B&W is concerned. Judging from the comparison shot with the RX1, it seems to me that it’s files make more possible than the RX1′s, since there are more tonalities. And Steve’s pics prove clearly that the processing is easily done.
    What I would like to see now, is an in depth comparison with the new M and the ME, and with the RX1 as well. I hope Steve can provide that in the near future.

  53. Steve, I am a fan of your website and like the way you shoot.
    The output from this B&W Leica is really impressive and I agree that a professional photographer who works a lot with B&W should consider buying one.
    But man, it is really pricey!
    I’ve been pushing some buttons on my recently bought NEX-5N and found out the Picture Effect gadget. There, I found the Rich Tone Mono.
    I sho it with my Rokkor 50mm 1.4f wide open and voilà!
    Please don’t take me wrong, I am risking to become persona non grata here (deep breath).
    I bet that if you Steve try exactly the same gear and put one picture between those from the Leica that it will look much worse.
    Actually, I believe many of the gear heads around will not perceive the difference.
    And this is a 600 USD (camera+lens) equipment!

    • Thx for reading the site! I have to say though…the NEX-7 I have in Rich Tone Mono doesnt even come close to what the Mono can do. I have tried..believe me. The Rich Tone takes 3 images and stacks them and they look very flat and muddy..very. I love the NEX system but using Rich Tone does not make a mini mono :) Ill post a comparison though in my next segment and we can see how close. The Mono is capable of incredible things, it’s a tool that requires an artist, someone better than my skills to really show what it has under the hood.

      You will see some of that in my next installment too. Its pricey, overpriced..but its incredible for those who are into B&W. It also can print HUGE without any degradation.

  54. Wow, Steve! You sure have a convincing way of expressing your enthusiasm for the Leica Monochrom and showing samples too. I do not agree with back holes for eye sockets but it is your site. As a very experienced wedding photographer myself, it makes me wonder what your wedding pics look like. I was thinking that the camera might be interesting for B&W weddings but no one seems to mention how to use a flash with it; bracket, PC sync socket, hot shoe comaptibility, TTL and fill flash, etc. Shooting an all available light wedding? I hear that story from enthusiastic DSLR users and I don’t agree with them either. Your review made me think that Nikon or Canon could easily come up with a camera made only for B&W. Just jack around the sensor and keep the DSLR features that we know and love and, please, take off the movie features. It would cost only a song in comparison. Who is going to go out with an $8,000 body only camera at night shooting the streets? Sounds insane, especially with a $2,000 lens attached and a few more lenses in your pocket. No camera lasts for a lifetime. It gets dropped, broken, lost and/or stolen. Some investment. Where do people get $8,000 for a camera body anyway?

    • I know of at least 50 people off of the top of my head who bought a Mono and go out with it on a regular basis. More than you think, but no where near the amount who buy a cheaper canon or nikon. Leica is a niche brand, and while the numbers overall are small in the grand scheme of things, they are large enough for Leica to have made an insane amount of cash in 2009-2012. 2013 may be a different story if the new M tanks, but I am confident it will do well as it seems to be the be all end all digital M. Just hope it works as good as it looks.

  55. Hi!!
    Thanks for this enthusiastic description!!! Great photos, great description….and loved the unboxing!! ;-)
    I had an M9..and sold it to get the MM…which will arrive on monday!!!!!! Am so excited and after reading all this am even more!!!!!!
    I am using already Silver Effex but will certainly check on Alien Skin..I guess I’ll order it!!!
    I will think about the filters..
    Anyway wanted to thank you for the way you share all this!! Always a pleasure to read you!!
    Christine

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