My first month with the Leica Monochrom by Gage Caudell

My first month with the Leica Monochrom

by Gage Caudell

From Steve: MORE Monochrom coverage! This site has had the most coverage of the Monochrom since the camera was announced. To get up to date you can see the 1st article HERE, the second HERE, the 3rd HERE, the 4th HERE, 5th HERE, 6th HERE7th HERE and just last week THIS ONE . Now, enjoy the article below by Gage Caudell.  My thoughts and full review of the Monochrom will be up soon as my own personal Monochrom arrives TOMORROW thanks to Leica dealer Ken Hansen – BTW I was 1st on his list for this and it JUST NOW came in as Leica has been slow as MOLASSES with this release. I will continue to cover this camera as well as have upcoming reviews of the Leica D-Lux 6  and of course as soon as I get the “new M” the RV Road Trip Review with 4 of the readers of this site will get under way! Enjoy!

Steve,

I read Ashwin’s post the other day and enjoyed his thoughts and pictures. I was fortunate to get a Leica M Monochrom the second week they were released in the United States. I’ve been shooting with it almost exclusively and have been amazed by the amount of detail and quality of the images. As Ashwin mentioned, the pictures right out of the camera are flat but because they hold so much information in the midtones, shadows, and even highlights (the ones that are not blown out), once processed the pictures are quite good.

Most of the pictures below were processed in Lightroom 4 and a few in Silver Efex Pro 2. I’ve always been an Apple Aperture guy but they currently don’t support the M Monochrom. Also, I converted a few of the “dng” files in Ligthroom to “tiff” files and imported to Aperture and was not happy at all with the processing. I’m unsure if this is because Aperture software is not as good as Lightroom or because I’m not processing the same image type and therefore loosing some date when exporting to a “tiff” file. Nonetheless, I’m extremely impressed with how Lightroom processes these images and found my self using Silver Efex Pro 2 less.

I agree that it is important to under expose your images and I typically shoot at -1/3 to -2/3 exposure. Blown out highlights can easily occur and must be considered each time you shoot in well-lit places. I routinely focus on my subject and then point the camera to areas of increase light or to area in my scene that I believe will give me the best exposure and lock my exposure by pressing the shutter button halfway (you have to hold it there) and then compose and take my picture.

Last, this camera obviously is not for everyone. The price point alone and or the ability to only shoot black and white will make most uninterested. I have a strong interest in black and white photography, and I felt this camera would suit me well. I enjoy shooting people, especially family and friends. I’m unsure how much I’ll use it for landscape but I did provide a few landscape shots.

P.S. Thanks for providing such a terrific website. I always enjoy reading your post and the many guest that post. I also find the comments very useful, especially when they are positive (most are). (Thanks Gage!

Gage Caudell

My website: www.rangetraveler.com

iso 320 1/90 sec f1.4 35mm summilux

iso 320 1/90 sec f2 35mm summilux (made Leica “M” Master shots)

iso 8000 1/45 sec f1.4 35mm summilux

 –

iso 4000 1/60 sec f.95 50mm noctilux

iso 2500 1/250 sec f4 50mm noctilux

iso 320 1/750 sec f1.4 35mm summilux

iso 320 1/60 sec f1.4 35mm summilux

iso 320 1/4000 sec f8 35mm summilux

iso 500 1/250 sec f2 50mm noctilux

114 Comments

  1. A lot of odd comments here from, dare I say it, ignorant people…

    I have bought a Monochrom having originally been tempted by the M9 and then the M240, but the bottom line was what I could do with the files. I have worked with M9, MM and M240 files and this is from the perspective of an experienced darkroom worker and a good level of competency in LR etc. The Monochrom are far more flexible than those from the colour Leicas and also my 5d III. I can produce files that look much more organic with a full scale from rich blacks to delicate highlights… i.e. what I would often strive to achieve in a wet print, or much more digital looking images if I wish. You just need to know how to process. The malleability of these files is MILES greater than colour canon files for example and M240 files are not in the same ball park.

    Who on earth spends $8K and expects the camera to do it all for you when it comes to image creation? Quite a few people, evidently…. I bought this camera to give me a ‘negative’ I can work with and I can count the number of negs that have made satisfying straight prints in the darkroom on one hand. Ever. With any camera, I expect to work on every single file and to do so extensively. I am not after reliably really good results every time. I am after spectacular results when I do my part and that’s what this camera does. Sure, its anachronistic, overly expensive, based on a now old body, but the truth is it is capable of better digital files than any other digital camera I have used.

    This brings me to another point. Who on earth is comparing this to a D800E and why? The D800 with fast lens is two and a half times the size and weight, so it is immaterial if the D800E can produce the same results for under half the price… because who is going to walk the streets for 6 hours a day for weeks on end with a 2 kg lump?

    OK, so we can agree this camera is not for lazy people who want the camera to plonk out a nice looking JPEG for posting on Facebook,but those who want to produce the very best (probably large) B&W files possible in the digital realm, in a very small package.

  2. The first 2 pictures are very beautiful and would make very dynamic huge prints.

    How anyone can shoot the Mono output down is beyond me. To appreciate what this camera can do you must stand in front of large pro prints and wait for your jaw to drop. Some of the above comments are obviously made by people who only view images on their computer and mainly web-based sources. The web is great but it is also hopeless compared to a REAL HUGE PRINT on 75 year plus fade resistant paper.

    We all see things differently so i respect other peoples views and thoughts.

    Money permitting i would buy the Mono tomorrow and would never ever bother scoping out the latest releases again. The Mono would do all i would ask of it to do.

    The lucky owners who have one already should realise they have a camera for the rest of their days that will always deliver stunning results for them.

    The Mono is the new benchmark for digital B+W and even 10 years from now will still be making gallery quality images.

    My car may yet be sacrificed for this camera. Respect.

  3. I am a little disappointed to find out that most files coming from the Monochrome has to be “tweaked”. n other words, the results will only look good if you are good in processing them in Lightroom, photoshop, etc. Whats the point?

  4. Gage, wonderful images from a wonderful camera. The tonal rendering is excellent in my opinion. Although the Monochrom has its critics, using a tool that not only enables — but inspires — is often worth the cost, depending on the individual. A great pianist can make great music on just about any piano, but might insist on a Steinway if he has a choice. The ways in which we practice our art is intensely personal and we all have individual preferences that make sense for one and not another. I don’t have a Monochrom, but it certainly has inspired me to shoot much more black and white with my current equipment. While color photography has a painterly aesthetic to it that is appealing in its own right (think of Steve McCurry’s work) monochrome has a sculptural quality that is compelling and powerful.

  5. Schnitzel guy, identify yourself! I’d like to see more of your incredibly hard to follow rants!

  6. Wow. A hell of a lot of comments here. I have the M as well. I would agree that the SOOC files are a little flat, but that doesn’t bother me as there is a lot of latitude in them. The shadow detail is ridiculous. For me, the main problem is having to adjust my workflow. Film was a lot easier in some ways as I would know what I’m getting. Now I need to learn to understand Lightroom and Photoshop to get the look I am after. And yes – the files look digital because they are…digital.

  7. I just responded to you but got some error message and it went away. It wasn’t anything important anyway. You’re right and I’m wrong.

  8. In all honesty: The Monochrom is a waste of money. It’s nearly 2013, so B&W? I understand it will be a hot item for people who have a lot of money to spend or who are willing to sell most of their other camera gear, but – really – what’s the point? It’s just a luxury item, like a Louis Vuitton bag. Better results can be obtained with a Nikon D800 and prime lenses.

    • One of the point(s) are lenses, another point is size/weight, a third point would be user interface.
      Some prefer a DSLR, some prefer a rangefinder, some prefer color, others prefer b&w, and some do like both (including me).

  9. True. The processing program, the decent laptop, etc. I already have and would have anyway with or without the Leica M-M. I also already have the Leica glass which I currently use on my M3 which I bought over a decade ago. So really I only need to factor in the cost of the body when comparing what I pay for film vs. what I would pay for the Leica Monochrome.

  10. Very much looking forward to your review on this camera. I have been looking at it very closely and am considering purchasing it. Like Steve, I’m not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but I do live a very simple life. Small house, a car that is paid off, no debt beyond my mortgage. Spending the money on the Monochrome is a stretch for me, but not impossible.

    I’m still a film guy, but the cost is getting harder and harder to justify. I probably spend about $250+ dollars a month on film plus more on chemistry, negative sleeves, etc. I’m kind of looking at a Leica M-M purchase the same way some people look at Solar Panels. It would be a lot of money up front, but if I replaced the bulk of my film use with the Leica M-M I would save money in the long run.

    Yes I know I could buy a different digital film camera for much cheaper. The thing is I don’t enjoy modern cameras all that much. I’d rather shoot with my Leica IIIc over say a Nikon F5 or a film Canon Rebel. Digital is no different in that respect for me. The Leica M is the only digital camera I’ve picked up that doesn’t feel like I’m operating a computer. I tried liking the Fuji XPro but it didn’t quite get there for me. Still the same ol’ delema. I know it sounds lame, but the “feel” of my tools makes a huge difference to me. The tool itself is one of the primary reasons I’ve never converted over to digital.

    The question becomes – am I ready to transition the bulk of my work to digital? I just don’t know, it’s hard letting go. I’m always going to shoot some film, but the justification behind the Leica M-M would be to shoot less of it.

    I’m in no hurry to make a decision on this, but it is something I’m thinking about.

    • Andrew, the Monochrom is for you; I completely follow your reasoning for wanting to do B&W only.

      Consider the cost: A Monochrom, a lens, a processing program, a decent laptop with a decent screen, Retina preferably (that would leave only a few); you’re looking at (dollars, pounds, euros?) 12k at least?

  11. I get the impression that many people who find the MM images look too smooth and miss punch are comparing it to 35mm b&w – where you often see grain and nice contrasty images.
    I believe the MM images look more like images from larger formats.
    If you want the “punchy” look I find sometimes images from a GRDVI do more look like it.
    Personally I prefer the smoother look – where one also can add contrast and (digital) grain and vin getting if you feel it is good for your image.

  12. Gage – great framing these photos and beautiful family!

    Unfortunately, I have to agree with the comments regarding the flatness of these pictures. Seems like an $8K B&W only camera from Leica with a $11K Noctilux should yield something that stands out more. I feel as if your pictures could really POP if there was additional editing, but it might just be your preference as a photographer.

    Anyway, enjoy your Leica MM. As for me, I think I will stick with my M9-P and post process B&W in Silver Efex Pro.

  13. That shot with couple standing so close, with closed eyes … and … a child looking at them in between is remarkable! Love it! Beautiful shot.

  14. Gage, thank you for such beautiful photos! Your daughter is an absolutely adorable subject, and you and your camera have done her justice IMHO. You’ve added a glow to my day, and that tells me you and your camera (and your processing skills) have been successful! Thank you.

  15. Gage, congratulations, these are really great pictures. the “one shoe at a time” and “no sweat dad” are absolutely superb!
    As for image quality, I agree with other readers that the only way to judge the “real”picture quality is to print them, and not by judging a low resolution jpeg AND on a Color Monitor !

    I’m sure these files will look amazing when printed !

    Leica being way far out of my (financial) reach, I wish Nikon would make a B&W dslr, I would be first on the list 🙂

    Thanks for a great post!

    Kris

  16. I went back to review all the articles Steve mentioned. He missed this one:

    http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/05/10/the-leica-m9-monochrome-has-been-announced-1st-shots/

    Three pictures on this article are direct from RAW(non edited). They looks quite good.

    The pictures on the other articles were processed to each indivisual’s taste. I don’t know how to comment on them. But none of them had incorporated the “wow” factors as compared those pictures from M9.

  17. My new MM arrived, from reading some comments with polar opposite views, I for one am so excited about this camera, of course it won’t be identical to your favourite film, but it has given the option of behaving like a mono film. Of course you always had to post process your negatives back in the wet processing film days. Because everyone had their own particular darkroom style of processing, I think people will develop their own style, the computer is now your darkroom to produce your own method of producing prints. What is especially exciting is the return to manual focus, for me it’s a return to the method I learned to shoot, and capture my ‘decisive moment’.

  18. . . . . wow, I been shooting ( very successfully) professionally for 30years + , Hasselblad , Nikon , Leica , film – digital – film .
    I am beginning to wonder if I’ve ever produced a totally expectable black & white print , sfter readiing all the above comments.
    I think this guys b&w work is just fine , regardless of which Leica it comes from .

    • Yeah I agree Joe. I get the feeling there are some serious “photography scientists” out there examining the molecular structure of digital vs. film, monochrom vs. colour sensor, etc. Nothing wrong with that so more an observation!

      I think this camera (assuming you can only have one for whatever reason!) is for someone who just loves to shoot B&W. If you have 2 cameras then half your luck.

      One risk with this theme I see arising is it will/has started to take people down the SLR equipment road. Instead of lugging lenses around you’ll be taking cameras and wondering which one to shoot with!

      I like my B&W’s from my x100 for what its worth….

  19. When you use a professional scanning service to get negatives scanned you won’t receive files that pop. What you get are very flat files that ensures that all the information and tonal values have been captured. The MM is similar. It won’t provide cool looking out-of-camera-jpegs. It creates files that look flat right out of the camera but they can be “processed” like well scanned negatives. Many users of digital cameras got so used to contrasty b&W or color images form their cameras. This is a speciality camera just for people who love B&W and who know how to process these files. D!RK

    • Hi D!RK, I believe Kristian Dowling has posted some OOC jpegs compared to jpegs converted from raw file. It appears that the OOC jpegs are more contrasty which I think is smart, for people who don’t want to mess with DNGs. But I think the DNGs are, as you say, perfect for further manipulation.

    • “It won’t provide cool looking out-of-camera-jpegs. It creates files that look flat right out of the camera but they can be “processed”

      Right. That’s what all RAW files are supposed to do. So then, what is the difference between a processed MM RAW file and another RAW file from a great DSLR? That’s what I’d love to see. A direct comparison. While I do find composition and subject matter far more important that this techno-quibbling, to a lot of people the point might be why one would spend “x” amount of dollars more on the MM plus which ever subsequent lenses to compliment it, than an DSLR such as say, the D800/D4 or any Canon equivalent.

      Doug

      • The first difference is the type of camera and how you use it.
        The second difference is that you start with a monochrome image where you dotch and burn to make interest and direction of your image, with a normal raw image you need to set it to monochrome first and then work your way to get the end result. So it will be easier to process the MM files in the end.

        So when you are used to shoot film with a yellow filter all the time it’s easier to use the MM, then process each image from a normal camera!

  20. I will say it AGAIN. YOU CANNOT JUDGE ANYTHING BY USING YOUR MONITOR. YOU MUST MAKE PRINTS TO EVALUATE WHAT ANY CAMERA AND LENS COMBO LOOKS LIKE. WE all use a different monitor to view these files. Sharpness can be analyzed on a monitor but NOTHING ELSE.

  21. Gage great photos. I personally liked photos: 2, 6, 7 and 9. That little girl of yours is going to bring out some special images over years to come! I have 3 daughters!

    I am not a technical photographer. I take photos, do some LR production until tones, contrast and other aspects connect with me. I like the train tracks for its flow from dark to light, the light on the plane and DOF and composition on the stairs.

    Well done.

  22. I’m absolutely loving some of the images I’m seeing from the MM. There’s a real presence and three dimensional quality to the picture of the girl on the floor and some of Ashwin’s images. I don’t know how much is attributable to the Monochrom directly or how much is original lighting or processing, but the end result is very compelling.

  23. I really like the intimacy of the pictures and i think Gage did a fine job of showcasing the camera. I don’t understand why people get so angsty about this camera. It’s a beautiful photographic tool that is to be enjoyed by those who choose to shoot with it. No one of merit is trying to push the MM agenda by saying far surpasses your DSLR or mirror-less cameras. It’s just a camera, just a choice…nothing to get upset about or feel the need to discredit at every turn. Anyways that’s my two cents about the subject.

    • I think because the MM has the spirit of the “pet rock” to some. Does anyone remember the pet rock? People actually bought those things and yes, they were just rocks. I geuss some don’t take kindly to the MM because they see it as a silly gimmick, seeing as how you can get BW and color with every other camera so long as you have a pc, making a strictly BW camera to some is like an insult. ..perhaps an insult that the MM even exists. It would almost be like a bakery making only sliced bread abd charging alot more because it’s sliced for you. what counts is the “perception” of deception, not the actual product sometimes. Look at the Leica s2, that thing is NOT better in IQ than the Nikon d800, and the s2 sensor is only marginally bigger, which is no surprise, but the fact that Leica will tell people that it is better does not win many fans with those in the know. This aint the old days of film, people have pcs, they shop around, they can compare online, they don’t need darkrooms, they don’t want to get ” BS’ed” by Leica or any other company.

      • No offense but it just sounds like your not fan of Leica in general so I wouldn’t expect anything less from you when it comes to the MM. I’m not going to get into the whole debate about what sensor can do what because I haven’t dealt with MM files or D800 files. I only know Fuji X Pro, Nex7 and M8 files. I’m going to assume you haven’t worked with the MM files either.

        With that out of the way I will say this. There are two kinds of buyers of the Leica MM. 1) Rich 2) Avid B/W Leica M shooter. That is the market. Thats has always been Leica’s market. There is no mystery there. You will never convince either of those buyers that the MM is worthless. You will run out of breath and pass out trying. So what’s the point? The only way I see it as a waste is if it takes shite pictures. It doesn’t.

        I’m sure Leica says a lot of things in their promotional material, as does Nikon and Sony and Fuji and Canon. Their argument has never been “It cost more so it must be better” at least not that I’m aware of. The S2 has amazing lenses with a central shutter, that’s the real selling point. Again it’s geared towards people who already have a predisposition to Leica so it’s not really something to be upset about. I mean has either of those cameras affected you or your photography in a negative way? Let them eat cake… as Marie Antoinette once never said.

        • LOL, if you believe what Leica tells you , than be my guest. I havent used every camera, neither has anyone, but I will say that someone doesn’t need to dripped paint on a canvas to know that Pollock was a disturbed fraud.
          So what’s the point? Well, yes, the Leica MM doesn’t take shite pics, but then again, lets be honest with ourselves, no camera takes shite pics, do they? So why doesn’t Leica go ahead and make a gold camera and get it over with? Leica hasn’t been relevent for many decades and they aren’t now. I’m just merely pointing out something Leica fans don’t get on a regular basis , and that’s a dose of reality, you’re all welcome!

          You don’t need to be a fan to see that , but as a fan, you can’t see that.
          And about sensors, Leica doesn’t even make their own, so we can all take that equation out of it. You shouldn’t be charging celeberty chef prices at a place when the chef doesn’t even cook there anymore , can you? I know MM buyers will never be convinced, because no one who spends millions Rothko or Warhol ever thinks that what they bought isn’t worth a shiny shites do they, even though all they are doing is contributing to the destruction of fine art. The MM is no more than just an unrelevant camera, with a few great photographers who have used them. Note the “few” great photographers, yes, there’s not endless lists of great photographers, as many people seem to think. But it’s about time Leica got off those few photographers coat tails and did something camera worthy again. Leica MM is no more about picture making anymore than a disposable camera.

          The best qoute that folks should heed is funny enough from a simple song called “sweet dreams” by Annie Lennox. ” Some of them want to abuse you, some of them want to be abused.” I guess I can’t blame Leica for their tricks if folks want to be willing victims, can I? Look around us, the world has alot more willing victims then there are abusers, I guess it’s no different in the camera world as well.

          • Sorry guy I’m not debating you anymore, your obviously just a Leica hater and I’m not going to waste time typing when it wouldn’t make any difference. I use to shoot with Canon and Nikon and I never really connected with those cameras big cameras. Then I saved up and bought a used M8 and I finally felt at home. Check out my portfolio, it’s speaks for itself. Have fun hating on cameras.

          • Now that;s childish. If I’m a Leica hater does that make you a Leica lover? Iam no more biased than you are if that is the case. Why is it ok for you to be biased for Leica and others who have an opposite oppinion. I never once said that Canon or Nikon was the best either, have I? Last time I checked, the top of this page doesn’t say ” Leica Lovers Comments Only.”And seeing as how I’m not going around insulting people but just commenting about cameras and photography, I don’t see why you’re so sensitive.

            With all due respect, when your works make it into timeless fame and people in the know proclaim you as a great photographer, than I’ll check your portfolio out. What I’am is a myth hater or a BS hater , if I’am that at all. Maybe my common sense has rubbed you the wrong way it seems.It’s a camera man, you need to relax a bit. When Leica rebadges Panasonic productd and uses Olympus EVF’s and calls it their own, I think that’s pretty disingenuous of Leica, donlt you think? Leica didn;t even bother reshaping the Oly evf2, that shows you how much they really respect their customers, doesn’t it? i mean, if you were to pass off something else as your won you would think they could at least dress it up a little, right?Am I so far off base about Leica? I don’t think so, as I’am NOT the ones who are passing off Panny priducts and sensors as their own creations…THEY are. Leica hasnt been relevent for a long long time, let’s call a horse for what it is, okay? Fuji is one FF 3k x camera away from ending the Leica name.

          • correction ” Why is it okay for you to have a biased view for Leica and not others who may have an opposite oppinion?”

          • I just responded to you but got some error message and it went away. It wasn’t anything important anyway. You’re right and I’m wrong.

          • I gotta point out though because i just noticed and it made me laugh, this last post when you were trying to make me look like some crazy eyed Leica defender that was hyperventilating you said, “It’s a camera man, you need to relax a bit”. Ok now go up to my original comment and re-read….yeah exactly. I’ve been relaxed since I moved out of my parents house 16 years ago. You’d never change that.

          • You would relax more if you were at your parents house instead of joining the rat race. Free room and board and food is always more relaxing then living on your own. But living on your own is more romantic I suppose, like a Leica. LOL

  24. Nice user review.

    I have the M9P and was at Photokina. Played with the new M, but will skip that one for sure. However there was one M that’s made me Lust after: The M Monochrom! lovely camera with the spirit of a real M.

    But what really hocked me in was the M Monochrom gallery. Jaw dropping. If I would have enough spare money I would buy one.

    B

  25. Good composition, an eye for lighting and exposure, and fortunately not the usual over PP we’ve seen from the Monochrom. What more could you want? The dynamic range is very (digital) Leica like; an abundance of finely spaced mid greys, which will not be to everyone’s liking. Still, if you look for it, there are examples of this type of B&W photography in film history. These don’t look like film though. But that’s not a mortal sin. I’d love to see these on big print, and I’d love to see what a D800E can do in B&W.

  26. Selfridges, London’s Oxford Street are doing £1000 (£1K) off M9P if you take in ANY dslr.
    Pay full price in Selfridges, Leica send cheque of £1000.

    Though i must say i am very much taken with the idea of M9M

  27. These photos look terrific! And I mean both the image quality and the compositions! 🙂

    I think the Monochrom would be perfect if it had the CMOS sensor of the new M and its EVF accessory port. You could directly “see” in B&W through the EVF and you could have a histogram/zebra mode overlayed on the live-view image, making it easier to avoid blown out areas.

  28. Hmm, although I am very tempted to try one of these out if I ever get the cash, I do not think I will enjoy it as much. Of these ones I love the third one, and although I do not mind the “flat” look as others say, they do look too perfect to my tastes…but hey! That is what this is all about! Choices due to personal choice!

    I am glad you are enjoying the camera, keep on shooting!

    • Is the new version significantly better than the previous? I’m using it a lot but I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.

  29. I like it. The images look fine. I am old guy and shoot/shoots film. I miss Fuji 1600 with high key and it’s sharp grain. Sometimes the grain adds to the image. All your images have the tone of Plus X and the grain of Pan X. Can you go high key and have a shorter range of shades, for effect.

  30. I could have gotten to work in many different variety of transportation, but I drove my own car, and as long as I got here and enjoyed the ride, who cares? It’s strange to me that people seems to expect something magical from this camera, then get disappointed and say “oh I could have gotten this with my nikon/canon/m9/etc”. It’s just a tool that’s flexible to serve a wide range of BW shooters. If you could have gotten the same result from your other camera, then please go take that photo and share, so everyone else can tell you how they could have gotten the same result with another camera.

    Sorry for the rant… Beautiful photos, Gage, of precious moments.

  31. Agree. Still clipped highlights (girl in airplane-other than that very nice pic) and greyish “artifacted” look in general. Nice photographs, but IQ seems to lack soul, even with cream OTC lenses. If the solution is hours in PP and the need of filters, one wonders. Thanks Gage for the post.

  32. While I don’t see B&W magic with this camera, I think everyone needs to try a little harder to understand such a camera. I’m more of a color shooter myself, but, if I was a strictly B&W shooter like many shooters out there, why wouldn’t I choose the MM over the M9? The resolution and noise appears much better than the M9 in B&W photos, so, while the MM may not exactly look like B&W film to me, it certainly is an improvement over the M9 in some areas.

    For strict B&W shooters that plan on buying Leica anyways, I can’t see any reason NOT to buy the MM.

  33. Well done Gage, I enjoyed all of your photos – nicely done, and congratulations on getting a camera that ignites your passion for taking photos.

    I’m a bit of a gear head and gleefully await the newest camera releases and milestones in technology each new camera release brings us – and yes I actually do get out and shoot … often.

    So far though I just haven’t had that “aha” moment with the Leica Monochrom, where I totally get its appeal. I love B&W photography, I just don’t understand the allure of a $7K camera that only shoots black and white.

    For the money and exclusion of being able to shoot rich, colorful images – does the Monochrom capture images that are ‘more’ black and white than other camera’s? (Does it go to 11?)

    I can shoot a beautifully rendered RAW color image with my M9 and with Aperture 3 (I too have ALWAYS been an Aperture user 🙂 – I can convert to B&W, adjust black point, high and low tonal width, mid contrast, use 5 different color filters, adjust temperature, monochrome, sepia, infrared … and from there I can make further adjustments in CS6 and add film grain, and any number of other effects.

    The low light/high ISO shortcomings of the M9 notwithstanding, I dare say that identical images rendered from each camera with good glass and a few minutes of post production would be indistinguishable short of reading their exif files.

    In summary, I think the Monochrom creates incredible black and white images. But so does my M9, as will the new ‘M’ without any of the low light/high ISO issues. For me, the advantages of the Monochrom just aren’t obvious enough to justify buying a $7K one trick pony. But, that’s just me.

  34. Nice captures, Gage, regardless of the camera… especially liked your daughter’s cautious steps on the stairs. A keeper for the family scrapbook I feel!

    My first thoughts from Ashwin’s Monochrom post was that the camera certainly has a lot of latitude (I think I crudely termed it ‘B&W HDR’), and your shots seem to reinforced this impression.

    I’d really like to view gallery standard prints as a monitor, no matter how well calibrated, just doesn’t engage me in the same way – though the Monochrom’s files do look stunning on my calibrated setup.

    Have you printed off any? … and if so, what’s your feeling?

  35. My take is that the post processing seems to be very important, and the files look to have great latitude.

    Any of the supplied images could have been lightened or made “more snappy” in Silver Efex 2 or LR.

    • Agreed, but the same applies to any digital camera with a colour sensor too so still can’t really see what (if any) advantages there are with using the MM as opposed to an M9. I have seen no better B&W files thus far from the MM that clearly disprove otherwise.

      As you say, so much of what makes a decent digital B&W image is almost always in the PP. So if you still have to do the same PP in a B&W only digital camera and they still do not look markedly different to those processed by a very good colour digital camera then it makes no sense at all. If someone (anyone) can point me to a wide range of images produced from the MM that look drastically different and better than equivalently processed B&W images output from the M9 then I would love to have a look. Until then, not remotely convinced.

      • I think the one area where the MM might have an advantage is that, being panchromatic, you can use B/W photography filters without subsequently losing resolution due to the Bayer filter on a colour camera’s sensor.

        And, really, with a well-exposed file, you can use any image processing tool to get a good image, without the need to spend extra money on things like Silver Efex, etc.

      • The Monochrom gives substantially greater monochrome resolution than any other Leica. Possibly than any other ff camera. And you don’t lose any if that resolution when using color filters. It’s the most interesting Leica to me. I agree that the ooc images look a bit flat, but I’ve seen people take those flattish images and make them really pop. Or leave them as they are for a soft, delicate look.

        The criticism that an image looks ‘digital’ tells me nothing as it rarely means the same thing to any two people. It’s a convenient way to say film is better without having to discuss the technical limits of each medium. Too ‘plastic’? Too flat, too contrasty, too pale, too vivid. Film can be any of those, too. Additionally, most of us are viewing these images on our own digital displays, often at reduced resolution. When pixels are noticeable and the display is unable to display all the image has to offer, digital images will suffer relative to a good, large print held in your hand. So will a scanned film image.

        I think these particular images are well composed but do look a bit lacking in contrast. That is probably a choice Gage made. Many photographers throughout history have also chosen to emphasize midtones. Fashions change, but there is no reason every artist should change their tastes to match fashion.

  36. I’m excited for those of you who have already received your Monochroms and hope those that haven’t yet get them soon. I’m really enjoying the excitement in those that are shooting with the camera and the results you’re getting. I, personally, can’t justify purchasing a camera that only does B&W at the current price point but really wish I could.

    As for those complaining about the image “quality/look” I think need to remember this is an entirely new “format” and it will take some time for each Monochrom shooter/owner to adjust to the necessary changes in post process to get the most from the files this machine creates.

    I for one don’t plan on ever going back to the massive bulk of a dslr to practice my photography. I’m finding the small size of the rangefinder to be perfect for today’s traveler.

    I also see the new Leica M making headways into the fashion photography field too with its new flexibility to use R lenses and Live View.

    Gage, thank you for sharing some of your personal family images with us. I, myself, am not comfortable showing my personal family life stuff nor my better half. I like what you’ve done here and look forward to seeing more.

  37. I very much enjoy photos #3 and #6 (the lines and energy are great)!

    I do wonder though, if the “dull” and “flat” look that others describe (and with whom do not disagree) might actually be the result of your intentional underexposing. Preserving highlights is one thing, but you might be doing it at the expense of dulling the visual impact of your images.

    Looks and tastes in aesthetics will change, and there are “timeless” images that span all types of image quality descriptions. Happy shooting, and enjoy your new camera 🙂

    • I don’t think it’s under exposure. I do think the images are soft, but it could be that people simply aren’t used to manipulating digital B&W monochrome images. Before the Monochrom, we B&W fans converted to monochrome from color RGB. The Leica Monochrom is an entirely new beast, and part of me thinks that the problem with the flat look has more to do with peoples’ inexperience with manipulating digital B&W files than shortcomings with the camera itself. I suspect that Monochrom users will have to be more diligent when it comes to using lens filters while shooting and brush up on their basic dodge and burn skills in Photoshop in order to tease the best from these images.

      • I also think that the web-resizing utility does the sharpness a rough turn, as well. If you click on the images to see the higher-res versions, they’re not so soft (I noticed this with my article contribution here a few months back).

        I do agree with what you’re saying with processing B&W digital images. B/W filters used to not make any sense on top of Bayer-filtered sensors, and you have to work a monochrome file like you would a negative scan, etc. But I still don’t think the intentional underexposure is helping him any 😉

        • Khoa,

          Thanks for your comments. And yes, the web-resizing in my opinion makes a HUGE difference. I’m using a MacBook Pro with retina displace and many images online look bad.

          Doug, I think you are right about the processing. As I get more experience, I will process the images differently.

  38. The photographs are wonderful captures, but I’m still not feelin’ the love for the Monochrom. The B&W tonality is very smooth and silky, I’ll give it that, but it lacks punch. It does not look at film-like to me, although for me that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m not one who thinks that digital needs to emulate the look of film to look great. Mostly, I just think the pictures look grey and dull and flat.

    • “..It does not look at film-like to me..” ..I’d say that it doesn’t look like 35mm film, but more like sheet film on a larger format – complete absence of ‘grain’, and very smooth flow from one tone to another.

      It just shows what a good 36x24mm sensor can do when the coloured Bayer filters are removed.

  39. I really enjoy reading the comments concerning the nuances of the film look, digital look, what look certain lenses supposedly give you, it’s so so funny…sort of like tennis players at a local tennis club talking about which rackets give you more power or spin or control. LOL

    • “..what look certain lenses supposedly give you, it’s so so funny..”

      Well, think of your own speciality; something which you know a lot about ..it could be concert grand pianos, or microphones, or sunbeds.

      If you’re a specialist in any of those things, you’ll know the differences between how a Steinway sounds, and a Bechstein or a Bösendorfer.

      Or the difference between a Neumann microphone and a cheap’n’cheerful Audio-Technica ..and a classic STC BBC ribbon mic.

      (..I know nothing about the differences between sunbeds, so I’m a complete novice with those.)

      But there are differences between the looks “..which certain lenses .. give you”.

      Maybe you don’t see that ..but there are people who can identify which lens was used for which photo ..and they choose their lenses accordingly.

      I’m rather colour-blind, so I don’t see the nuances between ‘Olympus colour’ and ‘Panasonic colour’, and, in any case, I think “..that can always be corrected, or adjusted, afterwards with software”. I can’t tell the differences between most wines, either. But I CAN tell the differences between Coke, Pepsi, any “lite” brands, and every brand of cola. I’m very sensitive to the differences between sweetnesses. And between microphones. And loudspeakers. But pianos? ..No.

      Oh, and between lenses. But that doesn’t make me a more stupid person.

  40. If I had to bought now a camera, I don’t known what I should do between the M10 and MM.
    Anyway almost the photo I shoot are for friends ans family, and some want colors even ugly, but colors, so poor me, I can’t buy both …
    DS

  41. Nice images, good composition and I am sure that some of them will preserve lovely memories. With all that said, if it was mentioned that these were shot with nikon (or canon or whatever else non-Leica) lots of people would jump shouting “too digital” and “I’m off to shoot some film” and what not (I’m sure that also many would say that the photo with palms and fountain is hdr etc) but since it is Leica I’m also sure that some magical quality not known before will be observed.

    As I mention, photos are nice but at least here and from what I saw from Ashwin’s post nothing that couldn’t be achieved with good knowlegde of b&w conversion in the lightroom (or silver effex) and with a camera with good dynamic range.

    In principle, since I enjoy b&w photography, especially landscapes I would love a camera with b&w sensor with a wide tonal range but from what is seen one is better of with d800 or any of the latest full frame dslrs (or slts) and save change for a monthly trip around the world…

    ps phase one achromatic from what I saw seemed way more convincing with of course even steeper price

    • One thing that’s nice on the M9 is that you can do a B&W monochrome JPG and color RAW simultaneous, and the B&W shows up on the LCD for review. WIsh the D800/E did that…

      • Every camera that has an option to record raw can do that, what you see on LCD is jpeg with parameters set up in camera. And Nikon D800 can certainly do that, I have the camera, their jpeg B&w engine is quite customizable as well, you can set up contrast, toning,red, yellow, orange, blue or green filter…

        • Good to know Mika I will have to play around with that. I have the D800 too and maybe I just didn’t delve into the menu far enough. I’d like to be able to review the B&W image after each shot but still have the RAW recorded. I know it did RAW plus JPG but didn’t know the settings could be such that the B&W showed up on the review after each shot. Thanks!

        • Mika,

          I would tell you that I can see subtle differences between the files on the MM versus the M9. Most would never notice the difference. I agree, the D800 creates similar quality images when changed to b & w (I have D800E). I just prefer carrying my smaller camera the majority of time.

          I’m unsure if the high iso of the D800 could be the MM. I think the MM noise has a unique characteristic to it (being able to shoot at such high iso is probably what made me most interested in the MM).

          • well d800 is double the resolution of MM, so when both are viewed at 100% camera with higher resolution is at the disadvantage though I haven’t found noise of d800 to be a limiting factor in any case. Nice things about today’s dslr or mirroress cameras is that all of them produce top quality images and responsibility is on the photographer, his/her craft and imagination. Of course people rarely blame themselves and think that they should learn more but it is always the tool that is to blame,I read the other day a person saying something like quality of images I got from images I got from Canon 5dmkiii were terrible as I couldn’t bond with the camera, now I have fuji x-pro1 and quality is much better and he posted photos to prove the point all were the same-dull and without sign of a talent, though I guess if it makes him happy…

    • Aperture 1.0 is seven years old now, Lightroom 1.0 only five. I think that qualifies for an “always” 😉

      But damn! I still remember being in the Beta program for Lightroom 1 and the free Lightroom licence after Adobe bought Pixmantec! Time flies when you’re having fun! 😀

  42. Great set of varied and inspiring images, Gage! I just received my own copy, and am throwing my vintage rigid cron n it o see what happens…. I find LR4 to be capable in editing MM files, particularly with whie, black, highlight, and shadow adjustments and it’s native grain processor (if that’s your kinda thing). Looking forward to mre images from you, and thanks for the shut out!

    • Thanks Ashwin. I agree about LR4. The adjustments you just mention alone have persuaded me to move back to LR4 from Aperture. I think I will now process my pics in LR4 and then export the final pics to Aperture 3 so that they can easily play nice with all my Apple gear.

  43. Like all the other pictures I’ve seen taken with the Monochrom, these look flat, overly grey, and very digital to me. Majority of these shots would be better served with a good DSLR, in my opinion. I’m absolutely unimpressed with the Monochrom. I guess it’s a matter of personal taste.

      • I wouldn’t judge the camera based on only the look presented here unless you are an OOC JPEG shooter. My BW negative scans are “flat and overly grey” too when scanned. That’s how they look when you do not want to “clip the histogram”. The contrast is then processed to taste in the image editor. Flat whites can easily be made “white” with ease if one wants them that way.

        • +1

          Judging from the DNGs I’ve seen and worked on, the Monochrom gives you a digital “negative” with a lot of headroom for postprocessing. The files are very flat and dull but perfect to work on. You can really go in any direction with them.

          I think It’s vital to do a fair amount of post processing on the DNGs. Even if it’s only contrast and black point in Lightroom it will do the picture a world of good. In that respect it’s really similar to a wet workflow where you would choose the appropriate developer and paper grade to achieve a desired look, only you’re much more flexible with the Monochrom compared to film…

          Gages images are very good but would benefit from some more post processing (exposure, contrast, black point sliders) to make them look more gripping.

        • I’m judging based on the look presented by all of Monochrom shots I’ve seen so far – not just these. It may be possible, as Christian pointed out, to really get something special from the Monochrom files, but I can only judge based on all of the final files uploaded so far – and so far the results are very bland and lifeless, in my opinion. This is nothing against the photographer or the subject matter – I’m simply writing about how the files are rendered. There is nothing in any of the files I’ve seen so far to make me appreciate the Monochrom. Just the opposite – the more I see of it, the less I want one. Sorry if I come across as overly harsh, but I’m not going to pretend that there’s something magical in the files simply because they come from a Leica. If we were told these files come from a Sony or Panasonic, the comments here would be overflowing with criticism of how grey and flat they appear.

          • I have to agree with this comment from NEx5guy, I do not see anything special with any of the Leica Mono images I have seen anywhere, not detracting from the often delightful photography. I feel that the images from this camera are like the emperor’s new clothes

          • Nex5Guy,

            Thanks for your comments. The last point you made in your original post is correct. It all comes down to personal taste. We can debate all day camera quality, sensor resolution, post-processing, etc… but at the end of the day, what matters most is what the photographer likes.

            With that said, I think the best way to really evaluate the “quality” of a picture (ie camera and/or lens) is by printing it out (other readers have mentioned this in this post). All of us are using different monitors with different resolutions, brightness, and contrast ratios. I’m currently using a MacBook Pro with retina display and almost all pics on the web look bad.

            gage

          • ” All of us are using different monitors with different resolutions, brightness, and contrast ratios. I’m currently using a MacBook Pro with retina display and almost all pics on the web look bad.”

            Same could apply for print as well… Different printer, paper, ink and so on… As you said though its ultimately the photographer.

    • Shooting with a DSLR in general would make no difference in the tonality of the image or the look of the image itself. It’s simply a box that holds a sensor with lens mounted same as the Monochrome. If you want to talk about lenses and sensor please use specifics because Mike and Christian are correct when they talk about being able to go great distances on the chart, left or right, whatever your choice. Jon I don’t think anyone on here is trying to compare 35mm to medium format, rather the Mono vs. color sensors with desaturation in post.

      • People need to stop looking at photos with magnifying glasses and look at the photos themselves, that way, maybe they’ll learn something. Why so many folks are interested in looking at every tiny twig and leaf instead of the whole forrest in front of their nose, is beyond me. LOL

        • Seriously? Well, let’s see.. for starters, if camera #1 costs $8k sans lens, and camera #2 costs $2k, I’d say there’s a great reason why people would use a magnifying glass when trying to justify spending that much more! I think that the images produced above are nice and all, but from a technical pov, they bother me. I also think that they are flat and lack a tonal range which tends to draw attention to certain details.

          Secondly, if the files are great to work with in say, LR or PS.. then why not utilize that power? Or from another standpoint, if one HAS to go into one of those programs in order to extract proper detail, then the point of spending $8K is lost on me. I mean, I just don’t see anything that couldn’t be produced by a much less expensive DSLR or even film camera if you want to go there.

          By the way Gage, your daughter is absolutely adorable! Love that staircase shot.

          Doug

          • No one is forcing anyone to buy the $8000 camera….Why dont you help the guy make these mages more correct, instead of all this damn criticism.

          • And what if the Leica s2 for example doesn’t beat the nikon d800? What then? a Camera that costs 4 times more with a marginally larger sensor can’t beat the d800, will you then denounce Leica then? LOL. So that’s what photography has become to you, an excuse to use a magnifying glass? Why don’t you pixel peepers or film grain peepers stick to shooting brick walls with your Leica lenses and leave photography to those who care to look at photos. It’s like you’re a judge at a beauty contest and all you can look at are what kind of pores someone has. You obviously can not see the forrest through the trees, jesus christ, I sincerly hope you dont become a judge at an art admissions college, cause you would be doing is judging applicants by how sharp their photos are , or by how much tonal range you can count in his work. The world is fulll of pixel peepers, folks who care about ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE DAMN WORK, and it is high time we put real priorities in their place, otherwise, we will have a world with more and more Pollocks, Duchamps, Koons, Christos , the list is endless.

            And about detail, how much is enough fro you? You want enough detail to see the dandruff in someones hair from a distance? Havent you heard of the saying ” sometimes less is more”? More detail, more tone, more DR, more and more and more and more and more..what on earth are you trying to accomplish? You seek something frivolous like resolution or something other cameras dont have, but so what, news flash, that’s all done by the camera, just like PP is done by a program, no credit to any one, so what if you pics look like film? Or if it looks like a cross between both? It DOES NOT change a crappy or good pic, it doesnt make a good pic better or a crappy pic and better..it’s insignificant. Take a look at the Nikon v1. good looking images, how much more does one need? Oh, hear we go, they need less DOF, yes that’s what the world needs, more pics of a subject floating in front of a background of blurry space, ooh blurry backgrounds…how unique and great! LOL

          • The point of this camera is to have files that come out in shades of grey because digital shooter do not get to choose their film stock until they are sitting in front of the computer as it should be. I wouldn’t w want the camera adding any contrast for me, I’ll do that myself. This camera is not for amateurs but for photogs that have experience working with B/W film and know there way around a LR or if they are new to photography it’s because they want to learn the trade of monochrome images.

            I also have to completely disagree with you about tonal range. I have not dealt with the files myself and I don’t think you have either but from seeing what comes from the camera and then seeing the work of Jacob Aue Sobol and what he does with it I think its safe to say there is a huge latitude, much more then you get from a color sensor.

          • Even if….even if you can get one thousand different kinds of tone in a BW photo, so what? The film or the sensor or the machine in the dark room or PC does the work and should take the credit. How many kinds of grey do you need to make a photo, 5, 10 ,20, 25? Is there a precise number so we can all shoot for it? If someone finds one more shade of grey do they get credit for making a “better” photo? I’m not saying a BW should have just 3 tones, black ,white and middle grey, but the obsession with tone does not make sense. You dont put your nose up to a photo and count the tones, theres a point where the human mind does not pick up on extra tones, just like after certain frames per second in animation, your eye can not tell…so there is no need for 1000 frames per second in cartoon animation just like the extra tones in BW. And BW is tone, and tone is basic anyways, one step behind color. Tone is light, dark, light, dark, people use BW in photography because it is EASIER when you eliminate color from the equation, and you have to get rid of color because, unless its studio work, the world presents you with what you get, you cant change the color of the trees nor the sky, all you can do is sit there and wait for what nature gives you. Thats’ why it’s impossible to work with color and that is why there are no masters of light in photography. There’s nothing to master when nature does all the work and all you do is chose when click the shutter and where move the camera.

            BW has its limits, but to go deeper and deeper into obsessing over the collecting of tones defeats one vital purpose, and that is what you need to make a good photo. Which poses an important question, what is a good photo? Is it the amount of tones in a picture, the smoothness of the bokeh? Is it the fact that a photo looks more like film that makes it good? Or is it the fact that the picture has the highest resolution? I dont think it’s any of those things because it’s not as easy as something clinical, something the machine makes or something chemicals make. It is something more, something that has nothing to do with sharpness or more tonal range. The photographers who do nothing in photography always find things to center on that have no real relevance on photo work. It’s like a sprinter who values how many steps he can take in the race rather than figuring a way to WIN the race.The question is, what makes a good photograph? If you believe that the sharper photo makes a better photograph, than you should rethink that question. Because if sharp photos is all that required, than why don’t we all buy the sharpest lenses on the best resolving films or sensors and call ourselves great and call it a day? The amount of time people obsess over the trivialities of photography leads one to believe that anything but photography is their concern. There are a dime a dozen tonal BW photographers but very few that actually make great photos. This kind of obsession is no different than judging how good a movie is because of the amount of tones and sharpness you see it it. How about the MOVIE itself? If a great photo is how much it looks like film and how many tones the pics have then we should all just shoot brick walls with film leicas and call it a day. It is a very slippery slope when minor insignificant details overtake the value of the work as a whole. When things that are hard to do in art are made to be insignificant because the easy things to do are made significant, there nothing in the end of that road but the destruction of art itself.

            Today, everything is great, everyone seems to think everything is great. Sorry, very very few things are great, some are good, many are mediocre, and most are crap. If people dont educate themselves on art, we will have yet another century of the pretentious self indulgent mediocre tripe which came from New York 50 years ago. Does anyone ever wonder why there are no great painters anymore? Well, when people take Pollocks drippity drip paintings as to be great, Michaelangleo, if he were alive today would be marginailzed by the same supporters of such garbage. The whole point is, people must learn what makes great art, it’s not as subjective as one thinks, and from that learning, they can know what is good and what is bad. I dont care about art, I only care about great art, the rest can go to the bin for all i care. Remember, if everything is great, then nothing can be bad, and if nothing is bad, then everything is great. We have already slid off the slope, been doing it as a society for a long log time. When triviality becomes important, then the important things will become trivial..and that it’s in the majority of the world we are living in today and enough is enough. The hardest thing to do in photgraphy and the only thing a photographer can do in terms of skill is knowing where to put the camera and when to press the shutter, and that is all. Those two things seperate great from good, and good from bad photogs.

    • Honestly I expect to get a great OOC result from this Monochrome… However, most results are tweaked thru image processing software…which shows more of how good a person is behind the computer software, rather than how good an image is out of the camera.
      I just hope someone can prove me wrong, and show me a great un-edited result from the monochrome….

      • This is what the files look like straight from camera:

        http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/05/11/my-one-hour-with-the-new-leica-monochrome-by-steve-huff/

        The Monochrom has an amazing amount of detail with the right lenses, much more than the M9. The ISO is also usable at 10,000 so the MM with a 35 1.4 is pretty much unstoppable no matter the light condition. With any camera the files will be better with tweaks. In the case of the MM, just using a plug in that takes 2 seconds will improve the files.

        I will be shooting the MM with filters and will be showing file without filters, with filters, with and without silver efex pro, etc. Stay tuned.

        • Hmm, certainly not a bad example straight OOC, however they are missing certain “punch” or “character”. I guess I will just wait till more results are available, before making any decision. Thanks Steve

  44. These photographs are the closest digital prints that I have seen to anologue (chemistry) prints (using an Heiland split-grade analyser) to date!!!!!!!! Congratulations Cage…

  45. Nice images, im impressed with what I’ve seen so far from the M Monocrom. Out of all Leica’s new releases this is the one that interests me the most. Sadly I feel I will have to wait for the Leica X Monocrom 🙂

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