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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.

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Comments

Total comments: 451
1234
goblin

OMG, I love Leica so much !!!

These guys have such a great knowledge in nailing the exact cameras I don't need, don't want and don't crave :)

Except with the S2 of course, but that was a while back, so I got over it.

Keep up the good work, Leica LD

1 upvote
lylejk

If I were to want a monochrome camera, I would also have liked an IR option (flip of the switch setting). Still, this would be the perfect newspaper reporting camera since the image will be crisper then crisp without the Bayer filter. Also, you can actually use external full color filters like a yellow filter much like Ansel Adams liked using. I see a lot of potential for the true b/w enthusiasts. Maybe even color bracketed captures (not sure how hard it would be to create a 3 color flip lens) which can later be combined to a very acccurate color capture (I know; Fovean already has a sensor that can do this, but I'm still not convinced it's output is optimum for true color captures). :)

1 upvote
Gesture

GREAT IDEA ABOUT INFRARED, if doable. Actually, there's a number of cameras that let you dial in black and white filtration in B&W mode. Different sensor, I know, but the possibilities were thought of.

0 upvotes
JonB1975

Newspaper images.....

The vast majority of images in UK newspapers are in colour nowadays.

Having said that - I'd love to have this camera - if I win the Lottery....

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Jim Evidon

What a great innovation. I guess I'll dust off my M4P and tell folks that it is the newest in Leica technical advancement.

2 upvotes
GabrielZ

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

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

1 upvote
Gothmoth

a nightmare i guess?

0 upvotes
LensBeginner

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

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

0 upvotes
KennethDante

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

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

it made me think... "wtf?"

0 upvotes
walnist

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

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

6 upvotes
Tee1up

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

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

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

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

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
0 upvotes
Mssimo

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

5 upvotes
rudymnv

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

3 upvotes
RonHendriks

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

0 upvotes
peevee1

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

3 upvotes
dannybgoode

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

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

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

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

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

1 upvote
brujo74

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

1 upvote
SheikYerbouti

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

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

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

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

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

0 upvotes
AnHund

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

0 upvotes
brudy

"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

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

Gallery not working again?

0 upvotes
bradleyg5

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

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

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

0 upvotes
Roland Karlsson

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

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

0 upvotes
Gothmoth

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

Don't look blue to me.

0 upvotes
Mssimo

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

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

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

0 upvotes
Richard Butler

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

0 upvotes
brujo74

Hi! What about that ISO320 thing all over?

0 upvotes
stasvolik

Base ISO, as per the preview :) .

Comment edited 15 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Joesiv

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

@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

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

0 upvotes
CFynn

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

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

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

3 upvotes
prooooof

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

2 upvotes
JadedGamer

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

2 upvotes
unknown member
By (unknown member) (May 10, 2012)

Except the ring won't depreciate.

2 upvotes
Peiasdf

@ JadedGamer
You haven't met Kate Upton

0 upvotes
fad

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: 451
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