The Leica Monochrom – More early 1st thoughts with a pre-production camera

The Leica Monochrom – more early 1st thoughts with a pre-production camera – Part 1

So I was told by Leica today that the Monochrom body I have is a Prototype and not ready for a review as they are still working on firmware (this one has .009). They tell me full production models will be ready for review in July. So for now, all I can give you guys are some more of my thoughts and a few samples instead of a thorough review.

YES, more Monochrom madness!

I have been shooting the Leica Monochrom for only 1-2 days and have been trying my hardest to see what it is that draws me to it. A B&W camera for $8000. Doesn’t sound like it makes ANY sense but I personally know 6 guys who already have their pre-orders locked in. I even heard about a guy who traded in his 0.95 Noctilux even up for a Monochrom. But why? Why is this camera luring photographers and even hobbyists in? I think it’s a mix of a few things like mystique, the fact that there is nothing else like it, pure simplicity, and partly because there is just something classic about it. Also, some guys will just buy anything new that Leica releases because once you really shoot Leica you tend to have a hard time really bonding to lesser quality. That is MY experience at least because Leica is and always will be my true love in the photo world.


Even so, I do not think Leica will sell as many Monochrom cameras as they did the M9 but there will be people flocking to this camera due to it’s uniqueness and overall quality. I have heard rumblings about “who needs ultra sharpness”? Well, you really do not need it to make a good photo but it sure does help when you are using those amazingly crisp Leica lenses. It doesn’t make a bad photo a good one but it can help a good photo become great just due to the look and feel, much like medium format film has that rich depth and “big” feel. The Mono feels like you are shooting a medium format camera loaded with B&W film. Rich quality, sharp details, and loads of tones not full of hard contrast. Basically not so “black and white” but more “Monochrome”. Click on the image below to see it in higher quality and you will what I mean.

Of course there will be those die hards who will always complain about digital saying NOTHING can replicate film. Well, they are absolutely right! The Monochrom will not replicate the look and feel of a good B&W film but quite honestly…why should it? I feel the M9 and Monochrom can EXCEED film in many ways and it is not like B&W film doesn’t suffer from blown highlights or the “flat and dull” syndrome, as it can and often does. Film is nice but it is just a different way to record those images. I have tons and tons of film files scanned at crazy high resolution on my hard drives from the years past and I was looking over some of them tonight before writing this so I had a fresh perspective.

Grain Vs Noise. Digital noise will not look like film grain as it is not grain, it is noise. But the future for the masses is digital, plain and simple. Film is slowly fading, slowly getting more sparse and yes, even more expensive. Those who LOVE film will never give it up and an $8000 camera is not the answer for the ones who really love and cherish film for its unique qualities. But for many others it will be. Again, I love to shoot film as it does offer that classic look and feel but I also accept the fact that digital is indeed the future. Still, even though I am really “feeling” this new Monochrom I am having a tough time wrapping my head around the cost..for ME. I have no doubts about its capabilities and if I were loaded with cash I wouldn’t think twice because I happen to love B&W.

As for film, I do not have that illusion that only B&W film can create a great B&W image or print because that is not the case. I have seen gorgeous images from digital cameras in B&W on screen and in print. I shot a whole Seal show in B&W with the M9 (using Silver Efex Pro to convert) and had wonderful results that were printed in a tour book. I even wrote about creating moods with B&W. If you visit that link you will see the B&W results the M9 gave me. They are good but the Monochrom does give you a different feel IMO. Still, the M9 is no slouch nor is the M8 when you take those files and convert them with software. ANY of these will provide you with acceptable results but the Monochrom will give you that little bit more.


Yep, from what I have seen of this Monochrom “prototype” it is the real deal IMO. Both this and the M9 (or any decent digital for that matter) can give you great B&W images but the Monochrom seems to give you a richer, more detailed and more “Monochrome” look. When I get a hold of a production sample in July I will post a full thorough review with the comparison shots as Leica is still working on firmware and tweaking things with the camera. I will also be shooting a bunch this weekend and will post more from it next week, hopefully some portraits and street stuff. The BIG question will be, are those differences worth the price tag (same as an M9-P that gives you color or B&W options)?

The Leica is expensive, but again, it is Leica. We all know how their pricing works. It is not an impulse buy and to even consider it means you have to accept the fact that you can not shoot color with it, that it is $8000 for the body only, that it is manual focus only, using a rangefinder system and that you get a 3 year warranty. That is a ton of cash when you can buy a used M6 for $1300 or even an M9 for $7000 and convert the files to B&W. You can also shoot a little OM-D and convert to B&W as it does quite well itself, though the files are not as rich, detailed, smooth nor do they have the depth of the Leica. I feel many Leica shooters will buy the Monochrom and come July we should start to see many reviews when the production models are available. Me, I really do not need one, but that doesn’t mean I do not WANT one 🙂 It does have that classic charm and lure..the one that speaks to and pulls at your heart 🙂 So far I am not fond that the ISO starts at 320 and the shutter speed tops out at 4000. Using fast glass in daytime situations (yes, many of us DO this regardless of why these fast lenses were designed in the past) so I am finding that during the day we have to stop these lenses down a a bit. Other than that, it’s an M9 with the modified B&W only sensor and crazy sharp output as you can see if you click the image below.

So do I think Leica will put an end and destroy B&W film with this camera as they claimed? No. Maybe if it were priced at $2500 and the masses bought it, but at $8000 film is not going anywhere as this price is still way to out there for most to afford. But those who are passionate enough, those who are the “real” photographers who live and breath for this, they will want one, and probably find a way to get one. It does appear to have a special appeal, like it or not. Leica had the balls to create it so I do applaud them for that – it is once again, a quality product regardless of cost.

I will try to post some more larger samples this week as I updated this from my iPad so the last few images are small as they were out if cam jpegs imported to the iPad. I will also have samples from the Leica X2, which I have to say is really really good in the IQ dept.





  1. Hi, I don’t often look at cameras on the internet but have always said I wouldn’t buy a dslr until someone made a b+w one. I’m gonna get one!!!

    As an aside I have 3 b+w astro cameras but well one needs a computer to shoot with them ;<)

  2. I’ve had a new MM for long enough now to know it really suits the way I capture images! It’s superb. And I only need one or two lenses, takes me back to the way I learnt how to shoot.

  3. Having looked at a sample at 600% enlargement, and compared it to a shot taken by my M8 and converted to mono, the new Leica wins hands down. It will not be a camera for those who think they will try to take a mono shot.

    Looks to be a stunning addition to the Leica stable, I never understood why they developed and marketed colour sensors before monochrome, suppose it’s market forces, colour cameras sell. Monochrome images are more niche market.

  4. Well, it’s pricwd $4400 less than the last Monochrome Digital camera that I bought! and it has 11x the pixel count. Of course, that was 20 years ago.

    I’m very excited that Leica has brought Monochrome Digital into the 21st century.

  5. I have to admit, the more I read about the M9 Monochrome the more I like it. The rich black and white tones are very pleasing to the eye.

    I find it strange how the desire to shoot with a “simple” camera comes with such a high price tag. I would absolutely love it if Fuji or Sony or anyone for that matter, would come out with a very basic rangefinder without all the bells and whistles. Just a good solid body, f/stop on the lens barrel, shutter speed dial on the top and the ability to change ISO coupled with a pleasing viewfinder. That’s it. That’s all I want. But I suppose that will never happen.

  6. the images from this camera coupled with Steves artistry combine into an impressive combination. After much observation, and admiration for steves work and looking at steves other work, I’ll be honest and say steve couldve made much the same with any decent camera. The photos aren’t flat, they’re almost perfect as far as digi cams go I think, but I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between a leica shot or any other, I can only judge a good photo from a not so good one based on my opinions likes and dislikes regards art.

  7. Isn’t it self-evident that a “first thought” is “early”?
    And can there be more than one “first thought”? 😉
    All jokes aside, interesting thoughts (plural), Steve!

  8. I don’t have (and probably never will) $15k to throw at a camera that gives me strictly B&W.

    Went to the Bronx Zoo to test a Nikon F5- and the loaded roll was black & white. While I love B&W, the photo’s at the “Bird House” were really lacking one thing: COLOR!

    I can post the Peacock in B&W and then in Color.. it’s a no-brainer.

    I will continue to work with NIK Silver FX and put out EXCELLENT B&W..

  9. The mood of this pics remind me of LF photographs from the 50ths. Sorry. Clean and a lot of resolution but not the punch which we are familiar from the seventies onwards in b&w 35mm photography.
    I’m afraid that 65% of users will recognize that this cam doesn’t deliver as expected……

    Film is magic……. 😉

  10. Um, sorry Steve, but virtually every manufacturer of B&W film is reporting sales increases, used, good quality film cameras are going up significantly month by month, and APUG has thousands of members, (including me).
    Film “fading away”. Not quite.
    A good digital camera can make a good B&W print, if you feel like sitting in front of your computer to do it. It won’t look quite the same, not better, not worse, but different in a way that tens of thousands of people using film still like.
    A lot of people who have to sit in front of a computer a number of hours every day, don’t want to do it for all of their photography, (like me). I, and many others, like to work with their hands to do things.
    Nothing lasts forever, but the constant predictions of the demise of film that have been going on for years have all proven to be completely wrong.
    And so is this one.

    • Well said, it’s all fair and well pratting around with software photoshop lightroom and the silver nix or whatever that program is people play with to get decent BW effects, and it’s all fair enough ‘pixel peeping’ and posting on websites, iPads to show clients and Flickr, BUT people forget, it’s ALL about the PRINT, and in my opinion nothing can touch a silver gelatine print, well, apart from a Platinum print.

  11. I’ve pre-ordered my MM and can’t wait to get back to carrying two Leica M’s – one for color and one for B&W just like I have for the last 30 years, but this time they will both be digital cameras.


  12. The pictures really are amazingly sharp. If nothing else I’m impressed by that. B&W isn’t my deal so it’s not a camera for me but there’s a wow factor for sure. I agree that the samples you’ve provided look much better than those I’ve seen elsewhere. Would love to know which glass you used though (if you said, I apologize).

  13. If I had the money to easily spare maybe I’d buy the Monochrom, but seriously I’ve considered forking out for a X2 as the results I’ve seen are simply stunning- my heart says ‘yes’ but my ‘head’ says no. I’m looking for a carry anywhere, social situation, quality result camera and it’ll probably be a Panasonic GX1 with a couple of lenses.

    • Did exactly this a while back [GX1 and a couple of lenses], and haven’t touched my 5D since. For those B+W moments Silver Efex Pro 2 gives great results (I use it as a plug-in with Aperture).

      Good luck whatever you go with.

  14. Digital in my view has been liberating- in so many ways. I worked in ‘pro’ darkrooms since the sixties and to get a good sharp image you needed to use rollfilm (120) upwards preferably 6×7 which was a good compromise for IQ, up to and sometimes 10 x 8 inches sheet film. For a few years I shot exhibition stands on 5×4 sheet film where a Hasselblad just could not cut it for resolving stand detail.
    Digital has been extremely liberating for the ‘amateur’ with a ’35mm’ film camera, a film format with which you could never get a sufficiently sharp print (say A4 size)- the minimum you needed was a 645 format and this just began to get an acceptably sharp image.
    Even if I say so myself, I was an extremely skilled and experienced printer often working for very demanding clients, but I have to say that I don’t miss film one little bit as digital has revolutionized what can be done image wise.
    I admit that I do miss that element of ‘real photography’ which digital does lack- I mean all the old film cameras and the simple controls, the rolls of film and having to develop the film and all the mystique associated and I guess that’s where the current crop of Fuji cameras are appealing to people with their old world appeal. One thing, a camera like the Fuji X100 would not have got a second look back in the day and would have been considered very pedestrian.

    • “…with a ’35mm’ film camera, a film format with which you could never get a sufficiently sharp print (say A4 size)…”

      Sorry, but that statement is a load of bunkum

      • Indeed, in fact I would go as far as to say I find it hard *not* to get a sharp A4 size print from a BW 35mm negative. To be honest I doubt if I’d notice any real differences at that size between 35mm & 120.

        • The more and more I read this statement;
          “…Digital has been extremely liberating for the ‘amateur’ with a ’35mm’ film camera, a film format with which you could never get a sufficiently sharp print (say A4 size)- the minimum you needed was a 645 format and this just began to get an acceptably sharp image…”

          The more I’m giggling. So let me get this right, the bare minimum I need for an ‘acceptably sharp’ A4 sized print is a 645, and even then it’s not really sharp?

          Well, this teaches me to start posting in such pointless threads. I wont bother again.

          People are willing to spend $8000 dollars on a camera body which shoots digital black and white which produces images which don’t look any different from an image taken with any other Digital larger sensored camera, because they think it gives them ‘more’ and makes them a better photographer – man, that reminds me of this Golfer i know who hasn’t even managed to get a Handicap of lower than 28 yet thinks the latest most expensive clubs will make him into Tiger Woods.

    • Ibraar and Cidereye,

      “Sufficiently sharp” is, of course, a subjective idea sharp for whom? ..How sharp for what purpose? If you’re displaying 3 foot x 2 foot photos on some kind of commercial exhibition stand showing, for example, new pumps, or new circuit boards, or canal cruises or musical instruments, then 35mm film just can’t give the intensely sharp images which do justice to the product you’re advertising ..when blown up to a nice big two foot or three foot size (or larger) to attract customers to your display.

      You’ve probably used roll film, so you know that those negs are nice and big, and so don’t need as much enlargement as 35mm, and so look far sharper, more detailed, and with less-grainy tone range than 35mm when enlarged to the same size.

      If you haven’t used 4×5″ film, or 10×8″, then – with all respect – you don’t know what you’re missing!

      Even Polaroid posi/neg film gave detail and clarity far exceeding the best quality b&w 35mm film.

      At A4 size, to my eyes anyway, there’s a world of difference between enlargement from 35mm (which is perfectly adequate for ‘camera clubs’) and A4 enlargement from roll film or from 4×5″ (which is the least you’d need for suitable quality for demanding commercial clients).

      Martin explains that he was printing for commercial clients. For them – and I agree – 35mm just would not be “..sufficiently sharp”. Hobbyist photographers and commercial photographers have quite different criteria ..just as hobbyist video shooters and commercial cinema shooters do.

      • since when has the M been a commercial photographers tool? So don mccullin steve mccurry etc are camera club photographers are they?? Haha, you brightened up a boring day at work with this humorous post. You know as well as I do that martin is talking bollocks, and you know that you’ve just dug a hole for yourself with this response.
        I think ‘commercial photography’ is bollocks, you may beg tto differ.

      • so let me get this right, the M or X2 in the other fellas case, is a commercial tool and used for this type of ohotography? Mmmm… And Don McCullin, Steve McCurry et al are camera club photographers? Right…. Your post is full of arrogance and ignorance. I’d rather milk a rabbits love juices than get involved in any way shape of form with mindless, soulless boring and crass Commercial Photography (it shouldn’t even be classed as art) good luck.

      • so let me get this right, the M or X2 in the other fellas case, is a commercial tool and used for this type of photography? Mmmm… And Don McCullin, Steve McCurry et al are camera club photographers? Right…. Your post is full of arrogance and ignorance. I’d rather milk a rabbits love juices than get involved in any way shape of form with mindless, soulless boring and crass Commercial Photography (it shouldn’t even be classed as art) good luck.

      • “Calm down, dear..” as Michael Winner says in UK TV adverts for insurance..

        You don’t need to “..get involved … with mindless, soulless boring and crass Commercial Photography” if you don’t want to. No-one’s putting any pressure on you.

        And nor do you need to tell me that (in your opinion, anyway) my post is “..full of arrogance and ignorance”.

        I haven’t seen prints of McCullin’s or McCurry’s pics at three foot by two foot (as I described), only at smaller sizes. But at 3’x2′ their 35mm negs – anyone’s 35mm negs, Steve’s negs, your negs, my negs – wouldn’t look as sharp as the same thing shot on a bigger negative.

        What’s the problem?

        But.. don’t bother to answer, Ibraar, if the answer will be more invective and insult.

        • Go and visit some exhibitions, and see for yourself. The Imperial War Museum had a McCullin exhibition, and whether they were small prints or large, believe you me they were ‘acceptably sharp’. McCurry’s Afghan Girl (Kodachrome 35mm Nikon) has been enlarged to all sorts of sizes, that’s an example many are familiar with – and it’s more than ‘acceptable’.
          I apologise if my post sounded insulting, it wasn’t meant to, (I need to hone my typewritten skills me thinks), but the original poster claimed that an A4 print in 35mm isn’t acceptable, and it’s that statement I wish to refute as dribble.

          • If you go onto McCurry’s site, he’s offering prints up to 40″x60″, most from 35mm Kodachrome photographs. If they weren’t acceptably sharp, at 10″x8″ at least I’m sure they wouldn’t be available.

            This is just an example to the original poster that his remarks were bunkum.

          • Hi Ibraar ..not (much) offence taken – thanks for the warm words.

            What I was trying to point out (and I think Martin was, too) is that in Art, anything’s acceptable. If Steve McCurry has his prints made at 40″ x 60″ (three and a half feet by five feet) then people will stand back at a suitable viewing distance (say five feet), and they’ll look pretty much as sharp as smaller prints seen at a closer distance ..the “relative” sharpness will be the similar. So, no problem.

            But for commercial commissioning clients – people who are paying to have photos taken to their own requirements – those clients will look far closer at large photos, and will examine them in great detail, and if big prints, at close-up distances, are not the sharpest possible, there’ll often be severe trouble.

            Art and commercial contracts are quite different: friends of ours have a huge and very blurry indistinct photo of a swimming pool (taken with a plastic-lens Holga) hanging on their wall, and they’re very, very happy with it! And that’s Art. Art is whatever the artist says it is.

            But if that had been commissioned as a clear, sharp representation of a pool by a swimming pool manufacturer, it wouldn’t have been accepted. Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks.

            Art can be anything – sharp, blurred, large (like Damien Hirst’s huge transparent man) or small (like teeny Brueghel miniatures). Damien Hirst’s huge transparent man had such a strong resemblance to (I’m being careful with words here) a toy transparent man made by Humbrol which sold for £14.99, that he was sued for breach of copyright. The original finely detailed toy was made for commercial reasons be sold in toy shops. Hirst’s huge and similar transparent man was – supposedly – Art.

            Martin was, I think, talking about those demanding commercial clients who want the sharpest possible prints at large sizes ..irrespective of whether the photos may be ‘artistic’ or not. Railway and airplane engines for carrying passengers are made to the finest sharp tolerances to be acceptably reliable. Trains and planes or photos as Artistic artifacts may be finely engineered, or may equally well be made of jelly (jello) doesn’t matter. Photo chemicals can be painted and printed onto blancmange to make images of a solid mountain or a train or plane that wobbles as you walk by. Art can be anything – a Steve McCurry picture shot on 35mm or 16mm and projected 20 feet high on a column of damp air.

            (When Bert Hardy shot the poster campaign for Strand cigarettes on a pocket 35mm Leica, the posters were blurry, and the brand died ..partly, though, because the man with the cigarette looked so friendless, and the slogan read “You’re never alone with a Strand” ..but he obviously was!) So commercial requirements for posters, for example, usually involve shooting on the largest possible film or digital format, for absolute maximum sharpness. But Art – which can be anything – can be shot and printed with anything, at any size, blurry, or sharp, or even unreasonably sharp! Anything goes.

            That was what I meant.

            P.S: One of Steve’s-M9-and-Noctilux 35mm-equivalent digital pics was plastered as posters all over Richmond Station here a few months ago to advertise Seal’s latest album. So 35mm can be blown up for medium size commercial posters ..but it was used as an ‘artistic’ in-and-out-of-focus ‘feel the atmosphere’ shot, and wasn’t the usual sharp commercial ‘pack-shot’ or portrait.

          • Thanks David, I completely understand, of course commercial photographs such as of products are taken with Medium Format – even Nikon use MF backs on ‘Blads and Mamiya’s for their products as their 35mm sized digital’s are simply not good enough.


  15. I think the noise handling and detail out of this camera looks outstanding, but I’m not convinced that the B&W tonality is any better than converting color files, especially with the control one gets with the color channels. I still don’t think this camera can compete with shooting film and printing in a darkroom, in terms of making excellent b&w photographs.

  16. Hey Steve, awesome review and I am seriously considering this camera. What lens did you use for the feet shot??? It’s got such amazing depth and texture.

  17. An $8000 camera is completely out of of the current socio-econominc context [( those who can afford it are for the most part those who have demonstrated to have the skill to destroy the western economy with their brillant ideas )] if it is only black and white then it is an insult to human intellect. Leica deserve to fail for its arrogance and i hope it does, Panasonc could do a color M9 equivalent for $1500 and it would be far away beyond its fair value.

    The worst thing about having an $8000 b&w only camera is that it makes it so easy to manifest total lack of talent

    • Hi eeeee, if you can make a business out of it, it is not that much because you can fully deduct the tax and the rest can be deducted over something like 3 years (at least here in Denmark where I live).

      It is just a little more expensive than the nikon D4 and a lot less than a camera equipped with a Phase One back which is probably something like 5 times the price of a Leica Monochrome. Also if you shoot a lot of film it will be cheaper in the end. But I agree it is still a lot of money.

  18. Nice photo’s Steve, apart from the photography pictures are nice and sharp, but look clinically digital, and yes, that’s a bad thing!

      • Use your eyes, look, observe, do they look anything else but digital? (and clinical, lacking character – sure they’re sharp and have detail but if you think that that is what BW is all about then….well…)

      • steve is a talented photographer and his street set here is superb. I’m talking about the look of the images, look at tthem, tthey look ‘digital’, that’s the digital cameras characteristics and one either likes that or doesn’t. They’re sharp and clinical…digital.

        • I don’t know what lens Steve was using, but I would bet that if he tried his Summitar, or an older Summicron, the images would be less “clinical.”

          On another subject, (and not responding to you, Ibraar) I’m baffled by all the suggestions that the images look “a little flat.” Just like darkroom printing, the contrast is entirely a matter of taste. Choose a different grade of paper, or do what you need to do with levels, or the contrast slider, or the black point, or whatever. Criticising a camera because the images are “a little flat” is just silly.

  19. Steve, the images look a bit flat. Are you shooting with any filters at all? I would shoot with at least a K2 on there and for the people shots go a litte heavier, at least to orange.

  20. The first pic with the boy is outstanding. Nothing related to the m9 methinks, but still an outstanding pictures.

  21. COLOR information is THE BEST WAY TO MAKE OUTSTANDING B&W !!!!! … loosing the color information is not an help for B&W photography

        • Oh yeah, one more thing… if color is no good for producing cool B&W pics, then why use a red filter? I don’t know…that’s for sure.

      • I think the point is that the loss of colour information is not a help to the digital BW workflow. The manipulation allowed (for instance in the rather excellent Silver Efex Pro that ships with the MM) relies on the colour channels to apply filters in PP.

        What this means in practical terms is that you have to handle all of this manipulation in the pre production phase instead using filters. Personally this is one aspect of film BW photography that I do not miss one bit.

      • back in the film days i was forced to use filters a lot and digital B&W allows you to choose how every color render in B&W in post production …. much much more versatile

        • this camera makes me think that leica is no more for photographers but for rich hipsters from russia or dubai …. who really need such a product to make B&W ??? i don’t understand

          • Black and White is all about Tones, not about Colour.

            I see no colour in a roll of Black and White Film.

            I think the original poster was saying that a normal digital sensor captures RGB channels and needs to convert these into greyscale, hence a colour sensor might give more control perhaps? hence he referred to it as “The Best Way”. I disagree, I don’t think a colour sensor is The Best Way.
            but I say again, B&W is about Tones, as for coloured filters they work to block out spectral light, eg, Red or Blue, and this helps with the tones and contrast on the Black and White Film/Sensor.

            So statements such as “if colour is no good then why use red filters” are a bit naiive, reality is in colour, LIGHT is in (essentially) COLOUR, so of course colour is used, but the sensor or film doesn’t have to be in colour and it’s a demonstrated and observable fact that Black and White Film gives the BEST black and White photograph.

            so Leica should be lauded for releasing a Mono camera, though they need to be ridiculed for charging so much.

          • “but the sensor or film doesn’t have to be in colour and it’s a demonstrated and observable fact that Black and White Film gives the BEST black and White photograph.”

            That’s not observable fact, that’s subjective opinion. Just saying.

    • Howdy… I don’t really understand the building of a monochrome camera but nonetheless, its my understanding that there are only (in the digital world) 256 shades of gray including white and black… so how can any more than that be produced by any digital camera? And why can’t a color digital produce the same 256 shades of gray? Just curious…. I bet someone out there knows about this much more than I.

      • Techinically, every single camera sensor is B&W, and recording only 265 shades of gray. In a color mode camera every single photosite (pixel, or so) has either a small red, blue or green filter in front. That means only 1/3 of the information reaches every single photosite (pixel). These photosites are grouped in an RGBG pattern, this way the body can calulate a color image out of it (called Bayer filter). Removing the color filter array you let the (full chomatic) light to reach the sensor, so you get 3 times more information out of a BW sensor then a color one.

        • OK… thanks for that info… I never quite made that connection. So, now if you convert a color digital photo to b&w… then does that kind of muddy the shades? For instance, a Red pixel that is 50% in the color photo, will that translate into a 50% gray in the b&w? And one last question if you have time… I have seen that a lot of folks are using Nik Software Silver FX for PP. Now some of those photos I have seen from that process look pretty awesome. I notice the new Leica comes with that software…Something seems odd about that. Maybe it’s just me. Hahaha.. usually is.

          • Rick

            It is actually a bit more complicated thatn that, and I am about to go beyond my own understanding, so please bear with me. First, half of all the pixels are green and these are used to record luminance (brightness) information. Of the remaining half, half are blue and half are red, and these are used to interpolate the color information with the green pixels. In a monocrhome sensor, all of the pixels are used to recored luminance information, which is why resolution and ISo is higher.


      • It seems that Leica expect you to ‘play with the film out of the camera’ hence the inclusion of the Lightroom and – especially – Silver Efex Pro.

        Given that you can no longer experiment with ‘Filters’ in the Silver Efex Pro, I can only assume that you are left to experiment with the faux ‘grain’ and ‘border’ settings.

        [on the other hand I do like the Nik Software dodge/burn implementation though]

        • Well, yes, experimenting with your filters is one of the main features of B&W optimization. Once your file is out of that camera you’re buggered…. Mind you in the ‘good’ old days we had no choice but to do these things in camera.

          • I think we had Polio, Ricketts and travelled by sail etc too in those days…!

            I’m sure the MM is a nice thing, as all Leicas are nice things. However, it remains very niche in todays world and Leica are indeed becoming toys for the hipsters of the Middle East and Russia – and Japan, which often gets special models just for that market too.

            Mind you, I have concluded that America is not in a recession of any kind. Having read a lot of on line photo stuff in the last few years I am continually amazed at the number of people there who have immediately pre-ordered every new camera that comes along months in advance with no idea if it is any good and no apparent concern for the cost or the depreciation etc.

            Must be nice to live somewhere so wealthy!

  22. As I see it Leica has two weaknesses that need to be improved:

    The focusing method is difficult at best.
    The display and measurement of exposure and exposure compensation is marginal for a camera of this class considering all the high end instrumentation Leica manufactures (like earth stations and such)

    It is simply not right to shower so much praise on the M9 camera system without qualifying how substandard these features are and how hard they make it for the photographer to achieve good results. In my experience they are cause enough for loosing many great photographic moments.

    • you obviously don’t visit this site, I’m sure you’ll get a lecture on how these limitations make you a better photographer and hear from people who think that it shouldn’t have lcd screen in the first place, I probably forgot some of the other cliches but you’l sure hear them soon

      • Oha, lets get started. 😉 Actually I agree with you on the exposure system and the screen. The screen really sucks. You show an image to someone at 100% and people start asking if that image is in focus. Then you have to tell them that it will be once you show it on the computer. Th screen is just good to verify exposure and to see if anything got into the composition that shouldn’t be there. Here some may say that this is all you need but I want a better screen as well.
        The focus system I really like. I think the Leica M system is the best focus tool to select individual people out of a crowd. When you have to deal with lots of foreground/background layers then the manual focus can be perfectly set. With autofocus I could do the same if I set it to spot focus. Most if the time I use auto focus with several focus points and they start to grab the wrong items in layered shots. While the focus system works really well for me the thing that I don’t like about it is that is can get out of calibration. When that happens you are f…… . You can’t tell from the screen and you may shoot an entire set and back home you see that all focus points are off. But when it is calibrated it is a pure joy to use. I don’t find it difficult, rather easy with a tendency of being delicate. 😉 D!RK

        • Agree…Regarding AF: I always use spot focus on my Nikons – I simple want to be able to choose (one) focus point and put it where I want in the frame. When used that way it never get confused. No need to recompose either ( which you need to do with Leica M – many people doesn’t do it though – that’s why you can see sooo many Leica images with central composition! )

          I think we should talk about that kind of usage of AF when we try to compere with rangefinder focus experience…


    • Anders, sorry mate, that Notre Dame photograph is horrid, it just looks wrong, poor processing and doesn’t even have all the values to make it a good or acceptable B&W And that’s from Leica’s site, tut tut leica, I’m sure the MM could do better than that!

      • I’m sorry Ibraar, I’m not an expert in B&W (but like the output from the Leica Monochrome), but I still think that the details in the Notre Dame photo is simply astonishing – it is tack sharp edge to edge on my high end calibrated Eizo CG245W monitor 🙂

        I also think it is a very dramatic image with the high contrast and position from which it was shoot.

        • I’m with Ibraar, the Notre Dame image is astonishingly poorly composed and would have gone into my Aperture trash can before I even checked for sharpness. In addition the Fisherman shot is sorely lacking in contrast.

          Aesthetics come before sharpness, even for ‘performance proof’ images.

          • And you may be right about the composition too, guess I was just overwhelmed by the amazing amount of detail in the photo.

          • The fisherman and bridge could have been made with ANY digital camera that can give you a shallow depth of field.

            And there’s absolutely nothing worthy of the price tag about any of the shots.

          • I disagree regarding the fisherman lacking contrast. I pretty much prefer the subtleness of the tones in the image. There is more to b&w photography than almost cranking up the contrast to the limit.

      • I’m with Ibraar on this too, I thought personally Leica made a bit of a mistake by posting that particular image on their site to promote the camera. It just looks flat and as always with most digital cameras look into the shadows for loss of detail.

        The day anyone produces a BW camera that replicates the tonality of BW film then that may well be a game changer. Who’s to say that will ever happen as it sure ain’t happened yet? 😉

  23. Hi Steve – what lens were you using? A lot of reviews have been shot using the new 50 APO and, while the results are breathtaking I’m trying to get my head around how much of the detail is the camera and how much is the lens Were these also shot using the 50 APO or something less exotic?

    Thanks Steve.

  24. the feet/grass shot looks like it’s been HDRed (I know it isn’t)…just insane sharpness going on. which is either a good thing or bad thing. still yet to make my mind up. Maybe you need to de-focus a touch in PP with the M9M to get a smoother feel….crazy I know.

  25. Hi Steve,

    All good & valid points you put forth there…. i actually ‘pre-pre-ordered’ the M Monochrom a few days before it was presented based on a bit more than just simply rumours floatin’ the net. I somehow feel this is THE camera for me & my b/w digital dreams for many years to come and dont mind even for one bit it doesnt do color (I mean, thats the whole point of it, no?); for that I employ the X-PRO1 (aaaah, the Fuji-colors;o)) and with their newly announced M-adapter, I guess, I can even use some of the exquisite M-glass with that one as well. Im one lucky bastard, I know….

    Traded in a brand-spankin’ new M9-P for the M Monochron and dont regret it for one second. Possibly the upcoming M10 can do better in dynamics but I’m sick of upgrading endlessly (I guess GAS also has its grip on me to some extent although Im not happily admitting so) and somehow I think this is a ‘one off’ – hopefully not to be succeeded by some M Monochrom/P or what not – hahaha.

    Looking forward reading up on the beast when You get a final version although I bet Im gonna beat You to it;o) Keep on shootin’, brother…


  26. OK, this new set of shots is forcing me to re-consider my negative first impressions of the Monochrom. The tonality I was seeing in early samples elsewhere looked flat and boring to me. But these are quite good.

  27. Steve, could you say some words about the sepia preset? I don’t like to shoot b&w all the time, but I absolutely love warm sepia tones. Do you loose any details or sharpness when shooting sepia? And do the advantages over the “color” M9 translate well when you convert the RAW-files to sepia afterwards?

    Thanks for the preview!

  28. Hi, Steve, have you ever think of using M9 to take some B&W photos and compare them with this new Monochrom .

  29. Great post Steve and even greater photos. It’s pretty hard not to lust after this camera even if someone’s initial reaction to it was indignation. I just went through the most recent LFI and the images they had from Jacob Sobel were out of this world. So powerful. If I only shot B/W I’d sell my entire kit and start over with this camera and whatever Nokton I could scrounge in with it as well. Alas I shoot 95% color so I’ll just watch others live out the dream!

  30. From what I’ve seen, the M Monochrom shots do look richer & have more detail than ones I’ve converted with my M9. I have one pre-ordered and can’t wait to handle it. Thanks for the review.


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