My Leica Monochrom Arrives! Unboxing Video with review up in 3 weeks…
So finally…after months and months of waiting and being #1 on the waiting list of Ken Hansen my Leica Monochrom has come in. Ken only received ONE this week and this is it. Leica has been super slow in getting this camera out for some reason. Not sure if they are trying to keep the stock low to make the demand look high or if they are just restricting the numbers made for other reasons but it has finally arrived, so I am happy.
The Monochrom is one of those cameras that NO ONE else has even dared to take on. No one else besides Leica would even dream of making a B&W only camera so why did Leica do it when it could have spelled disaster for them due to cost and the basic fact that you can not shoot color with this oh so basic old school rangefinder camera? $8000..black & white only. This is not for everyone.
The video below shows an unboxing of a production and final Monochrom
The release of this camera has caused quite the controversy because mostly all of the samples (besides the official Leica samples they showed off at the Berlin event) that have been shown to date on various websites (including this one) has shown results that are mixed. The fact is that the files from the Monochrom appear flat right out of the camera with loads of grey tones. They look very “UN”…un-exciting, un-dramatic and un-soulful. MOst of the time. If you have that perfect lighting you will get amazingly detailed rich files right from a JPG but most of the times these files need some work to spruce them up.
There is a reason this camera ships with codes for Lightroom 4 and Silver Efex Pro. I feel to get the most out of the Mono you must use plug-ins like Silver Efex Pro or Alien Skin Exposure. With that said..why would or should we have to do this with a camera such as this? If we wanted to convert why wouldn’t we just keep our M9 and convert? Is there REALLY a difference?
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I feel the B&W images from the Mono do have a different look than a converted M9 file and it is going to take me some time to get it all figured out which is why I will be taking this camera out for the next few weeks and taking my time with the review. I feel once we learn how to properly process these files that the results could be stunning. At this point I am still experimenting.
All I did today was fire off a few snaps with a 35 Lux to test the focus and I can happily say it is amazingly spot on 🙂 What I have noticed so far is the Monochrom has gobs of detail, much more dynamic range than an M9 and high ISO up to 10,000 will be nice to have. So right there it is an improvement over an M9 (though again, no color here). If you have the bucks this camera and the new M should make an unbeatable combo. Even this mono and an M9 or new M-E would be sweet. Again, if you have the bucks and enjoy the Leica experience (such as I do).
Yes indeed this camera will cost you big time but if you have the passion for B&W photography and you have the cash then it really wont get much better than this. Of course I am speaking of 35mm full frame/compact size. After just a full day with it I am really loving this camera, and no, I am not even close to being rich. You do not have to be rich to buy a Leica. I just live a simple life in all other areas. Small cheap house, cheap car, no other expensive hobbies. This is now my only M camera. My M9-P was sold to fund the new M. So it is B&W only for me for the next few weeks as I dig into this new MM. Full Review in a few weeks.
BTW, the case I have on the Monochrom comes from classiccases.co.uk and I will review this case with the Monochrom 🙂 But so far it is a PERFECT companion for the MM because it has a back flap that covers the LCD..no chimping allowed!
Now some snapshots I grabbed right after the camera arrived to make sure all was good…click them to see them the right way.
Here I am with the Mono at 1.4 – click all images to see them the right way and just how detailed they are!
The 35 Lux out of my office window at 2.8 – had some fun with a Alien Skin filter but click it to see the tones!
An old antique 1940’s doll – added an Alien Skin filter
The detail is insane. This is at 1.4 with the 35 – click the image for larger size and 100% crop. ISO 640. Look at the detail on the crop of the hand.
The 35 wide open..cant get any sharper
Detail Detail and this is an OOC JPEG! The 35 at f/2 – click it to see full crop!
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Steve: do you know where is the “best” place to order this camera at this time? What I mean by best is quickest time to get my hands on one.
Will be very interesting to read the full review. The new Pentax K5 IIs should have great dynamic range and sharpness. Would love to see a review of this one and/or a comparison to the Monochrom.
Please, consider redoing the unboxing video in b&w, it would be the correct traditional format for this preview on the Monochrom.
When I did this at the Berlin event I got loads of complaints about it being in B&W 🙂 Go figure..
What is the vendor that made the case for your Leica?
As stated and linked to in this article..classiccases.co.uk
Best M case I have ever had on an M.
Honestly, silver FX needed to make a BW camera look decent..just buy an M10. No, not a fine art photographers camera, they purchase what they need, sensibly, so they can still put food on their table to eat.
This is a rich mans camera; not a pros, not an art photographers..i am sure you will see plenty in Dubai being held with a wrist with a Patek on it.
3 weeks?!?!? How about a “rolling” review Steve? I’m sure you’ll get more traffic on a daily basis. At least from me! 😉
A rolling review would, indeed, be much appreciated!!
I can understand an $8,000 camera and a $7,000 lens — not that I could afford either — but just what kind of printer would you need to turn out the kind of print you took out of the box. If OOC images and Internet files aren’t good enough to share, what kind of time, effort, and money do you need to spend on a suitable image?
Curious to see to what conclusions you come, this is definitely a niche camera, even for such a niche manufacturer lol…
I am curious though – do you buy most of the cameras you review or do you rent them? My guess would be a mix of both, but boy this toy alone is $8k….
It is indeed a niche within a niche! As for the camera, it is mine. I sold my M9-P a while ago to help fund this as well as a few other things. I also take any ad revenue this site brings in and use it to buy cameras and lenses to review when I have no other way to get them. Sometimes I rent, sometimes manufacturers send me items to review and other times I have to buy. This time I bought it as I wanted this camera for a long term review as I knew it would take a while to really get to know it as well as compare it against an M, M6, with and without filters, etc.
Thanks for the response, and keep up the great work! Love your site.
Was at a Leica Akademie workshop a month ago and we were able to shoot a Monochrom for a couple days. Beautifully made camera and like any Leica it can make wonderful photographs in the right hands. I will be saving for the new ME though, probably not the Monochrom. Have fun Steve, that is an amazing camera!
I wish you much enjoyment with it and look forward to your reviews. The real test, for me, will be Monochrome against converted M files rather than against M9.
Personally I still prefer film for B&W (I enjoy the hobby aspect of it) and I can’t shoot sunsets in colour when there’s Adox 20 in my M3 either 😉
I am finding just on day three with the mono that I would take it over film any day of the week. You can shoot it and pretty much make it look like just about any film stock just with some tweaking. You have ISO 320 to 10,000 and an unlimited number of frames to go through. If this camera was $5000 it would be priced right and many would agree with me. I WILL compare it against the M but can not do that until the M is available. I will also compare it to an M6 with B&W film.
ADOX CMS 20 film. Resolves to equivalent 500MP camera. ISO 20! I’d rather have lower ISO performance than higher ISO performance. 320 is too high! Put those ND filters on and you’ve just degraded your image.
I am waiting for my monochrom too .. 2 weeks again ! Just a question of “look”: The half case ? Artisan & Artist ? Zhou ? Luigi ? The leather look very good !
(Apologize my poor english …)
I mention the case and link to it in this preview. classiccases.co.uk – I can say it is the best case I have ever had on any M. Nice fit, looks great, nice design and flap on the back that keeps me from looking at the LCD when shooting. Makes shooting the MM like shooting film 🙂
Thanks Steve for the site. A question : can you tell us, in your future review, how LightRoom 4 work with monochrom’s DNGs ? I read many advice who say that LR is not so good with the MM than with the M9. In the same way can we have a serious test of MM files in SIlver Effex Pro 2 compares to M9 ?
I’m not quite sure why everyone says that you *have* to use filters for black & white film. I can’t remember the last time I shot black & white with a filter. Even Ansel Adams said that filters were overused. I see it being useful when the sky is in a shot (red filter), but the idea of *always* using a filter for black & white is foreign to me.
ouch so sharp that hurt my eyes :p
congrats on your new Mono… give it a 35cron and let’s see how it runs against the incoming RX-1 🙂
Well congratulations Steve. If you can’t get excited about a Monochrom…then I don’t know what. Just watched your unboxing video and i have to say ( performance aside ) Leica really should not put that awfully ugly CE sticker thing on the baseplate. I mean, for me it kills the aesthetics of a camera like this.
In fact they should take those ugly things off all cameras including my humble OMD. But it really ruins a nice M camera in my opinion.Makes it look cheap and nasty almost. Well, almost. On a cheaper camera I’d live with it but on something special like..how much again? USD 8k.
It would be interesting for us mere mortals and hopeful owners to see a comparative test of the summarit, summicron and summilux lenses, say on the 35mm and 50mm, as most commonly used. As much as we know the aperture possibilities and huge cost differences, how do they really compare in usage could be helpful.
I would love to but I do not own a summarit or sum micron these days, only lux. Maybe I can rent them so I will see what I can do.
…and people, the camera is $8000.00, get over it. I probably will never have one, so what? It does not mean I cannot admire it for what it is and for the results it creates. You have to use processing software? Great! I like to do that with my pics so they portray EXACTLY what I want, its not like people around here always get perfect shots from the first try.
The camera is looking great Steve, I am sure you will have a TON of fun with it. Share the fun, wont you? Keep posting those photos 😉
This one is special, even for Leica, as far as pricing is concerned. It’s USD 8k for very old technology. Develpoment costs for the M9 have long been recouped. The new M with all its development costs, better components and 2011 technology is priced quite a bit lower. That’s what makes the MM price look completely unreasonable, if not a joke. Says a M9 and MP owner.
I never said it was a reasonable price, all I said was to everyone to get over it (including me!) 😉
Do I like the price? No. Do I think its justifiable (not really either). Do I think its an awesome camera that I would love to have? Hell yeah!
I wish Olympus would do an EM-5 Monochrome or something similar, but they said it would be too expensive to do and to sell. I am happy with the results I get from my EP-3 anyway as far as B&W is concerned, dying to upgrade to the EM-5! 🙂
the EM-5 does B&W quite well 🙂
actually, any camera does B&W well, its the eye of the processor that is the key, and at that its subjective.
B&W is more than art, a lot finer 🙂
the camera does not maketh the photographer….and we have heard that before.
Damn, I am impressed. I was not convinced but these shots are great!
These photos are very sharp and incredibly detailed. Does the Monochrom have a B&W version of the M9 sensor, a B&W version of the new ‘M’ sensor, or is it a one-off sensor unique to the Monochrom?
$8000 for a B&W only digital camera that then requires you to use post processing software programs to make the B&W look good is a total rip off.
For $8000 this camera should have Silver EFX built right into it and process the pics in camera and make tiffs of them using any custom designed preset the user creates.
In fact for $8000 the user should be given the ability to create custom presets on their PC with Silver EFX and then export and store these presets in the camera and be able to apply them to any pic they take in camera.
I have compared RAW files that I have converted myself from the Monochrom and the M9 taken with the same lens on a tripod of the same subject with the same settings.
No doubt about it, the Monochrom has way more detail and dynamic range. The M9 pics, even after a lot of sharpening still look foggy compared to the unsharpened Monochrom pics.
So I tip my hat to Leica for this.
But unless they can make this camera a B&W wonder, spitting out moody, fully complete, no processing needed tiffs then it is just a very expensive acquisition device.
If this camera cost $2000 for only acquisition then maybe. But 8k and you need to post process? Hmmmmm.
Totally agree…..still a very interesting camera
I’m just hoping/praying that Ricoh releases a B&W GXR module for those of us without $10,000 photography budgets.
In the meantime, I look forward to the review. Steve, these first snaps are among the best looking photos you’ve posted on the site. Keep up the great work! … and thank you.
If Ricoh does, then Oh BOY!
You have a 50/1.2 Hex? Wonderful lens, I love mine to bits.
Just using it for review…not mine but it is a nice hunk of glass for sure 🙂
The detail looks great on this camera did you process these in silver efex I would love to see straight from camera shots no processing it seems odd to me to use a black and white conversion software on a black and white photo unless your only setting contrast saturation etc and not applying any black and white effects or filters?
Hi Steve, I look forward to your review and wish I could afford one right now. There is a joy in using a small light camera compared to something like the Nikon D800 (which is amazing for its purpose!). I used to enjoy doing B&W with a Leica M4P and regret selling the camera. I am interested in seeing your fun with an amazing camera.
Awesome shots Steve! Looks like you might have it figured out. None of them look flat or gray.
Thanks Craig, these are just 1st day snaps but shot more today and it’s looking great 🙂
” No one else besides Leica would even dream of making a B&W only camera ”
I don’t know about dreaming but Phase one made their achromatic medium format back in 2009. I guess it doesn’t hurt to check facts once in a while
Why are so many like you so mean-spirited. Give the guy a break! My wife is a pre-K teacher and if you were one of her students, she would have said to say the same thing something like this: “Steve, don’t forget about model XYZ back in 2009, it had a B&W sensor but not many, but internet geeks like me, knew about it.” Steve is not getting paid for this, it’s his passion and he’s here to help us. Why don’t you just NOT comment and make the world a better place.
Kodak made one too circa 2003 in the body of a Nikon F5, I believe. But of course, nobody cares because it is not Leica.
What I meant was in the 35mm world. A camera that you can just slide on you and take anywhere…a camera with 35mm IC lenses. Should have been more specific. I do not usually cover MF here and MF is not really all that portable or meant for candids, street, etc. So in this regard, no one has yet done this.
thanks for the reply, I wasn’t mean spirited as one of the comments above suggested, just wanted to point out that others have thought of this first and should get credit for their inventiveness. Phase one is certainly very creative company as was Kodak (though with terrible management obviously)
and I have used rented hasselblad 503 cw with a digital back mounted and it is actually not bulky at all, awsome camera and a joy to use and of course, most importantly, the quality of files is just amazing
My Mamiya 7II is a MF film rangefinder. It weighs less than 1000 grams-force for the body. It shoots just like a small format rangefinder except has fewer frames per roll than a small format rangefinder. It is plenty capable of doing street and people. I use it in that capacity frequently. Of course you can’t shoot everything that moves. You need to learn to take only the better shots.
I just watched the “unboxing”. I known that in film days, when you would go to print, it would be on step shorter contrast. It must be alsom in digital world. A yellow filter for general, again in film world, lite grn/yellow green for people and man made lighting. I wish I had the money, I would see if it would react ( filters) like film. I maybe able loan you some filters. I have a lot of them.
Thanks Karl, I have a set of filters arriving Friday from B&H.
As you think Steve, I agree with the emotion, the Leica MM produces stunning images, they don’t ‘feel’ the same as a converted image. Nothing one can say would make one prefer this or the M9P, learning to shoot entirely in Monochrome/B & W if you will, I realised you don’t ‘need’ your images to be in colour. Content, shapes, tones, light, dark, shapes. A great photo doesn’t need to be in colour, often it’s a distraction. Time to check a few links.
So it seems a lot of us want to have a sense of how the MM does vs. the M9. To that comparison I would add a Leica film camera of your choice, just to see if we can do the same thing or better with film and what the test results would look like. I know it must be hard to set that type of comparison up, but from a pure equipment cost standpoint, the film Leica would be a lot cheaper no doubt.
An nice M6 could be had for $1200 or so – processing, limited frames, cost of film..kind of a hassle. The MM would pay for itself eventually depending on how much one shoots.
Steve, congrats! I very much look forward to seeing what the camera is capable of once you have worked through your process. I was very much intrigued by Leica building this camera. Years ago I became quite excited at the prospect that Kodak was doing something in the same vain with their DCS-760M, info here http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/products/cameras/dcs760M/specs.jhtml. It made me think, I can get proper black and white resolution with out having to spend tons of time correcting with channels? Then I saw the price and that dream was dashed, but I hoped maybe this idea of a monochome camera would live to see another manufacture follow up. Sadly Nikon and Canon failed to do so. It is great to see Leica pick up the baton, just wish it wasn’t $8k and unbelievably tough to get. Maybe someday :). Thanks again Steve, keep up the great work.
It IS a very beautiful camera and the sample images already look really great. This is without any doubt a camera that can thrill you. The concept appeals very much to me. Still I wonder. When I convert images to B&W, I choose the filter type (blue, green…) that gives the most beautiful greys to start from and often further customize. I guess it’s depending on the colors of the scene, that one or the other kind of filtering works the best. So does this camera always filter in the same way? Or is there a kind of “interpretation” of colours? Or something completely different? Or do I just hit the ball completely wrong?
This camera will act like a film camera with black and white film. Filters must be used on the lens. The way it works is exactly like the way it worked before digital.
Which is why I have a full set of filters arriving Friday and will shoot with them for the review 🙂
I just saw Steve’s Unboxing Video only now and, well, it covered the filter issue. 🙂 It’s really gonna be back to basics! Using filters on the lens…
Again, it has a certain appeal to me. I guess maybe this “artisanal” factor can further enhance the joy of shooting. But on the other hand, also does increased convenience.
Anyway, although Leica says the pictures will look at their best when printed, I’m still very eager to see them online too. Comunicating pictures through internet is something one can’t ignore, and really, my sympathy for the artisan doesn’t go that far that I’d want pictures only to be printed…
Dirk, you might also be interested in this article.
Thanks for the link, Alexander. Interesting site.
Let the party begin! Congrats on your new tool sir. I don’t think it’s an accident that the images come out of the camera the way they do. I think this is a serious tool for serious photographers who know their way around a Lightroom and prefer the extra latitude. Unlike analogue we don’t get to choose the film stock until after we shoot so it makes perfect sense to have multitudes of grey instead. I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again: It’s impossible to really get a feel for the quality of this camera over the internet.
More then any digital camera before it the MM requires that you work with the files in person and print them in order for you to see the Jewel of the Nile. Look forward to seeing what you do with the camera Steve and may I suggest you keep including 100% crops as it helps to show what the camera is capable of on a computer screen.
Thanks and will do on the crops!
I wish I could send you my D800E for comparison for B&W shots!
That would be interesting… along with the DP-2m Sigma Fovean
Steve dont 🙂
I gets a feeling at base ISO DP2M is going to do magik which M9 + Lux50 even with red filter isnt going to match.
Hey it is possible 🙂 Not laughing… but it is a totally different user experience and you are stuck with the one 2.8 lens on the slow as molasses DP2M. Guess all depends on what you want to shoot.
I know the D800E is right up there with this as the D800 was amazing.
I hope you will do a comparison from a straight M9 .. I’m just not seeing it. I realize it’s gains a few things but losing the ability to shoot color is huge. Even if you are a hardcore B&W person you surely occasionally need/want a color shot.
if you mean comparison from BW straight M9, it is not in the same level technically. i would rather see both DNG from MM and M9 to be processed by Silver Efex or other editing tool.
Let’s say you are building the perfect B&W camera, what it is you would like to see that you are not seeing now? If you are comparing this to an M9 then there is no contest, this camera will blow it away as soon as the sun sets and you have limited light to work with. I think comparing it to the new M will be a more interesting test. Although there will always be those who prefer the CCD sensor.
I for got to add that there are photographers that only shoot in b/w, all the time every time. They wouldn’t compromise their portfolio for the sake of a beautiful sunset. That’s why I think this camera is more geared towards the professional fine art photographer and the normal camera consumer.
Professional fine art photographer? i think you mean professional fine art smuggler. LOL
I have no idea what that means. Is that in reference to trying to stick the camera in your underwear at airport? I’m at a loss.
It’s a reference to the fact of how much the camera costs in relation to fine art photographers, who unless they’ve made it big time, generally dont have money. Most fineart photogs are students or partime photogs so I dont think this camera is meant for them…unless daddy bys it for them as an accessory to their Porsches. LOL
You’re right and a dedicated B&W sensor (only this and PhaseOne for now, as far I know) has a lot of advantages, but if you shoot RAW with a “normal” sensor with no Bayer’s filter, you will have the possibility to make changes to the 3 channels, this meaning you can get the same effect as using 3 different filters selectively and with the Monochrom you go back to film days and you can use only one filter and I wonder if the changes during edition will be as easy and as effective.
Any opinion on this, pls?
Bold step Steve, this is definitely not a mainstream camera. I expect that it takes some time to get to grips with the peculiarities of ‘digital BW’ and processing, but then no doubt it will yield interesting imagery. And therefore it is also sensible to take three weeks before writing the review. Looking forward to that!
Steve, congratulations. After you come down off your Monochrom rush, how about an RAW comparison with the M9. Of course the M9 will be color but we could get some idea as to how much more detail is in the Monochrom file.
Thanks for sharing.
WOW!!!! What more can a mere mortal say about this Leica. Do they sell on the installment plan? Just kidding. Enjoy this gem.