Previous page Next page

Design & Operation

The M-Monochrom looks a lot like an M9 (and, for that matter, not radically different from 1957's M2 and many of the company's cameras since that point). In keeping with the camera's minimalist approach, the M-Monochrom has almost no markings whatsoever. There's no 'dot' logo on the front, red or otherwise, and even the brand's elegant script and its beautifully austere (and bespoke) 'Leitz -Norm' geometric sans serif inscriptions are absent from the top plate.

The words 'LEICA CAMERA MADE IN GERMANY' on the back of the body seem to be the only branding but, if you really search, you'll find the word 'Monochrom' etched into the hotshoe.

And, just as the camera closely resembles a film-era rangefinder, so do its controls. Leica hasn't made any further concessions to digital with the M-Monochrom - the interface is essentially identical to the M9's. This means that primary settings are well-placed but anything as modern as changeable ISO feels a little bit like an afterthought.

The camera's ergonomics are identical to the M9 and are the result of lessons learned over many years of film camera production - shutter speed and aperture are easily set but any of the more obviously digital settings (specifically, on a camera with no white balance to be set, ISO), are less well catered for.

Body elements

The hotshoe contains the only hint that you're dealing with the Monochrom edition.
The M-Monochrom has the same button layout as the M9 but also sadly has exactly the same disappointing 230,000 dot rear screen.

This puts it on a par with contemporary $100 compact cameras. For reference, the first 920,000 dot screens started to appear on DSLRs around 5 years ago.
The M-Monochrom features the same two-tone metering reflectors on the shutter blades that first appeared in the M9.

It also has the lens encoding sensor at the bottom right-hand corner of the mount, allowing it to recognise lenses with painted identification markings.
The MM features the same side-mounted USB socket under a plastic cover. This is the camera's only external connector.
The bottom plate of the camera has to be removed every time you need to change film charge the battery or get at the memory card.

First impressions

Our response, when we first heard about the M-Monochrom was not dissimilar to those Leica users who've heard the rumors about the camera - falling somewhere between surprise and incredulity. However, spend some time with the M-M and, in its own reality-impervious way, it begins to make a strange kind of sense. The level of detail the camera captures is nothing short of astonishing and, as we found when shooting the M9, there's a real pleasure to be found in having to think harder about the shots you're taking. Getting the best out of the Monochrom takes practise (perhaps a lifetime's worth) and processing, but willfully embracing that challenge seems to be part of what this camera is about.

Is it easier, more flexible and many times less expensive to shoot in color and make black-and-white conversions (albeit at a cost of the pixel-level detail the M-Monochrom offers)? Of course it is. But then there are many cameras that offer greater capability, flexibility and (in most respects), image quality than the M9 (at a fraction of the cost), but that doesn't make the Leica any less desirable.

Previous page Next page
38
I own it
84
I want it
7
I had it
Discuss in the forums

Comments

Total comments: 449
1234
GabrielZ
By GabrielZ (May 10, 2012)

I was hoping for a new M10 with full frame CMOS (rather than CCD) sensor, with a 24-36 MP res maybe and the superior high ISO and live-view capabilities a modern CMOS sensor would provide. A high-res EVF panel to replace the traditional frame-lines and viewfinder LED's together with a modern 3 inch VGA res or higher rear-panel LCD or OLED. And finally a new quad-core image processor to handle it all! Wishful thinking? Yes! Maybe next year...

3 upvotes
pcblade
By pcblade (May 10, 2012)

Brilliant ! I've dreamed of this for a long time ! Kudos to Leica :-)

1 upvote
Gothmoth
By Gothmoth (May 10, 2012)

a nightmare i guess?

0 upvotes
LensBeginner
By LensBeginner (May 10, 2012)

My monitor is not calibrated.
Do you guys with calibrated monitor see the same amount of highlight clipping (horse head, guy's forehead) that I see?
Just asking, not trying to bash nor troll.

0 upvotes
Gothmoth
By Gothmoth (May 10, 2012)

the white at the nose is 255,255,255... it´s clipped.

0 upvotes
KennethDante
By KennethDante (May 10, 2012)

Since the msrp seems to have eluded me in this review. Maybe I can save someone else the trouble.

(between $8,500 and $9,000).

1 upvote
ulfie
By ulfie (May 10, 2012)

Clicked on some "original" images per R. Butler's suggestion and found ... nothing that knocked my socks off. Other "regular" if you will digital cameras even APS-C sized sensors can do as well or better.

3 upvotes
Gothmoth
By Gothmoth (May 10, 2012)

it made me think... "wtf?"

0 upvotes
walnist
By walnist (May 10, 2012)

There are many technical advantages for a pure monochrome sensor.
Having no bandpass filters means each pixel will be able to capture more light, and the sensor coating could be optimized to enhance sensitivity in a certain spectrum (like for IR cameras for example).

Having no bayer array, the effective resolution is at least doubled (like on a Foveon sensor), and this is further enhanced by the lack of low pass (anti alias - moirè) filter.

So by having a monochrome sensor, theoretically you should achieve lower noise, higher sensitivity (iso) and much higher per pixel sharpness.

Then again, Leica's sensor technology is a bit outdated by today's standards.
But I like the idea.

5 upvotes
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (May 10, 2012)

I'm surprised the preview doesn't explain this.

6 upvotes
Tee1up
By Tee1up (May 10, 2012)

Is there such a thing as 'per pixel sharpness'? I would have thought you needed at least 2 pixels to even begin talking about resolution issues. Maybe I need to brush up on this.

1 upvote
cinefeel
By cinefeel (May 10, 2012)

Pointless.

You can get the same result with the Sigma SD1, for MUCH cheaper. Same per-pixel sharpness, lower price.

Better result actually, because the SD1 has color information that can be used in B+W filtering. It can, of course, take color pictures too!

5 upvotes
topstuff
By topstuff (May 10, 2012)

I can't pretend to understand the technological advantage this gives compared to using a regular camera and converting to b&w, but I can say that I find the images very pleasing in their tone and gradation.

0 upvotes
win39
By win39 (May 10, 2012)

Brilliant. Something many photographers have wanted for a long time, but something the market dominating makers which spew out copies of each others equipment have been unwilling to offer. Nice to see a manufacturer thinking about their customers and not just a consumer after more features.

3 upvotes
MPA1
By MPA1 (May 10, 2012)

I simply cannot see the point of this unless you are wealthy enough to own an M9 AND this perhaps.

Good luck to them but I am afraid my eyesight is no longer good enough to MF an M camera and both mine went about 5 years ago.

0 upvotes
HoustonPowers
By HoustonPowers (May 10, 2012)

Looks nice

0 upvotes
Mssimo
By Mssimo (May 10, 2012)

mandatory comment...Does it do 1080@60p? :)

5 upvotes
rudymnv
By rudymnv (May 10, 2012)

Mandatory reply, just silent movies or use of 3 predefined vintage piano tunes (mono).

3 upvotes
RonHendriks
By RonHendriks (May 10, 2012)

I like taking black and white images, but still don't have the cash for this wonderfull machine!

0 upvotes
peevee1
By peevee1 (May 10, 2012)

I am sure the buyers will be proud and happy owners of their new Leica. Both of them.

3 upvotes
dannybgoode
By dannybgoode (May 10, 2012)

Utterly pointless, massively expensive but do I want one?! If I had the money I would happily get one but I wouldn't bust a gut saving!..

1 upvote
adamlambert
By adamlambert (May 10, 2012)

I'm pleased they did it because they could - but not sure it will be their biggest seller. I'm sure they don't care. I think it has a certain cool about it. When I look at the pictures they don't seem to have the widest contrast or dynamic range to them. Not sure I really see much point beyond a curiosity.

Well done Leica for not caring that a majority may think it irrelevant.

The person buying this probably enjoys the drama and skill of taking the photo and may not be bothered about fripperies like price or photoshop.

Why not?

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Double Dust
By Double Dust (May 10, 2012)

Leica? Pathetic. When you like manual focus buy a NEX-5n with a viewfinder, a M-mount adapter and Zeiss lenses. Till 6400 ISO you have a good useable image in RAW. In PS you can decide how your B&W will look like. For 1700 dollars.

5 upvotes
Deleted1929
By Deleted1929 (May 10, 2012)

I can't help wondering how much more you have to pay for the EVF over the (apparently) identical Olympus EVF with nothing more than a Leica name-tag.

One for the red-dot addicts only, I guess.

1 upvote
rhkirkando
By rhkirkando (May 11, 2012)

What are you talking about? Rangefinders don't have EVFs.

1 upvote
brujo74
By brujo74 (May 10, 2012)

White balance presets?! Wow! Sooo cool! 2,5 inches 230000 dots lcd? That's sad...

1 upvote
SheikYerbouti
By SheikYerbouti (May 10, 2012)

B&W instead of color? Is this austerity for the 1% ???

> But then there a many cameras that offer greater
> capability, flexibility and (in most respects),
> image quality than the M9, at a fraction of
> the cost, but that doesn't make the Leica
> any less desirable.

... oh yes it does. Being part of the economically challenged 99%, obscene pricing makes all the difference to me. I find the Leica M-M highly undesirable.

3 upvotes
iAPX
By iAPX (May 10, 2012)

Sad the M is so expensive, I would like Nikon (and Canon too) to have a D800 BW or a future D400 BW, because I like it, and the resoilution seems to me better than what we have with a bayer-color filter and demosaicing process!

I like black & white portraits, wether in studio or on the road, and this is a great idea from Leica! (just sad it's so expensive!)

1 upvote
Skipper494
By Skipper494 (May 10, 2012)

Super sharp! I'd be interested in cutting back to two cameras, my D700 and this one, if I could afford it! Too bad the sample page is a little doddery and the shots need processing properly to improve shadow and highlight lighting and gradation. Ansel Adams would take issue with the blacks and washed out highlights in the samples, easily recoverable, I find.

0 upvotes
Zigmont
By Zigmont (May 10, 2012)

It would be interesting to take identical B&W photos with the Leica and with another good "normal" camera; say a Nikon D800 and compare the differences.

I'm also thinking that web resolution isn't showing us what the camera is really capable of in the hands of an experienced B&W photographer who also remembers how to best print B&W!

2 upvotes
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (May 10, 2012)

The full-size files are available for download from the gallery (click on the link marked 'original'

0 upvotes
AnHund
By AnHund (May 10, 2012)

R Butler: I click on the samples and nothing happens. Too many users on the site or other reason?

0 upvotes
brudy
By brudy (May 10, 2012)

"Leica hasn't made any further concessions to digital with the M-Monochrom "

I'm not sure how having manual controls has anything to do with concessions to digital. That statement makes no sense. And why fix what isn't broken?

1 upvote
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (May 10, 2012)

Beyond the primary controls, Leica hasn't done much to offer access to the controls you might want to access on a digital camera.

1 upvote
AnHund
By AnHund (May 10, 2012)

Gallery not working again?

0 upvotes
bradleyg5
By bradleyg5 (May 10, 2012)

Man I wish Canon or Nikon/Sony would do this. Leica already had bad high ISO performance but imagine if you did this to a D4 or 1Dx, they would have absolutely untouchable high ISO performance for many many years.

2 upvotes
prooooof
By prooooof (May 10, 2012)

Seems to me like it would have been a better design to engineer a bypass/passthrough to the color array rather than an entirely self-contained camera. It could be a feature you switch on or off. Maybe that's not possible. I just don't see this being much of a profit generator for Leica. I was hoping to see an M10 because I want to make that my first Leica digital but I guess that's for Photokina.

0 upvotes
NetMage
By NetMage (May 10, 2012)

Totally not possible. You may want to study up on imaging sensors or read Wikipedia.

0 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (May 10, 2012)

Woa! Lots of people have waited for a B&W camera. And then it comes - in the shape of a Leica M camera - at $15,000 with one lens.

What could go wrong :)

Never mind - I actually think this is a bold try. I hope other camera makers follow. It should be VERY little extra development cost to put a B&W sensor in a color camera. The B&W counterpart sensor is probably on the shelves of the sensor manufacturer.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
2 upvotes
smallcams
By smallcams (May 10, 2012)

These pictures look like they have a blue cast to them.

0 upvotes
Gothmoth
By Gothmoth (May 10, 2012)

your monitor is not calibrated and profiled!
just load them into photoshop an check the RGB values.

they are neutral...

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
AnHund
By AnHund (May 10, 2012)

Don't look blue to me.

0 upvotes
Mssimo
By Mssimo (May 10, 2012)

o.O --- The moment you find out the monitor you used to edit all your photos for the last two years was not calibrated.

4 upvotes
fastlass
By fastlass (May 10, 2012)

While your technical introduction was very interesting, I can't imagine the 99 individuals in the target market, worldwide, care that much other than knowing this camera can create beautiful BW images.

I certainly hope it inspires people to create great works.

1 upvote
limorenko
By limorenko (May 10, 2012)

Just use this link:
http://www.dpreview.com/galleries/reviewsamples/albums/leica-m-monochrom-preview-samples

0 upvotes
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (May 10, 2012)

If you are experiencing problems with the samples gallery, try refreshing your page. The gallery is 'public.'

0 upvotes
brujo74
By brujo74 (May 10, 2012)

Hi! What about that ISO320 thing all over?

0 upvotes
stasvolik
By stasvolik (May 10, 2012)

Base ISO, as per the preview :) .

Comment edited 15 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Joesiv
By Joesiv (May 10, 2012)

How are leica users going to shoot wide open in daylight with only 1/4000th shutter and ISO320? That's part of leica look :)

I think this is a neat product, would love to see what a D800M would look like! Not only would the images be super detailed, but the ISO range would be 320-infinity or something like that!

The first thing I was thinking is how can I get a color filter wheel on this thing lol...

Comment edited 25 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
shigzeo ?
By shigzeo ? (May 10, 2012)

@Joesiv - Filter. Use an ND8 or something to shoot wide open during the day. My camera has 1/1000 as its maximum exposure speed. But to be honest, even with a modern SLR I rarely if ever shoot wide open, ever.

1/4000 is very fast and unecessary for all but the most SLR of applications.

0 upvotes
Joesiv
By Joesiv (May 11, 2012)

I know, I was kidding :P This seems like a camera to keep a polarizer on 24/7 :)

0 upvotes
CFynn
By CFynn (May 10, 2012)

I'm sure it is a nice camera, but the reported prices are nearly $8,000 for the camera and $7,200 for the new 50mm f./2.0 lens. Is this a camera for bankers with big bonuses?

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
4 upvotes
stasvolik
By stasvolik (May 10, 2012)

Why only for bankers? I would think that it's for anybody with $15K+ of disposable income (or some photo jobs lined up that could justify this expense :) ).

0 upvotes
Gothmoth
By Gothmoth (May 10, 2012)

yeah pimps and hookers have money too.....

3 upvotes
prooooof
By prooooof (May 10, 2012)

Yeah wonder why they built a Leica store in DC? Richest concentration of wealth in the US... Follow the money.

2 upvotes
JadedGamer
By JadedGamer (May 10, 2012)

Still more useful than a $15,200 diamond ring. :)

2 upvotes
wchutt
By wchutt (May 10, 2012)

Except the ring won't depreciate.

2 upvotes
Peiasdf
By Peiasdf (May 11, 2012)

@ JadedGamer
You haven't met Kate Upton

0 upvotes
fad
By fad (May 11, 2012)

Ever try to sell a diamond ring?:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1982/02/have-you-ever-tried-to-sell-a-diamond/4575/

0 upvotes
Total comments: 449
1234