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Leica M-Monochrom Hands-on Preview

May 2012 | By Richard Butler
Buy on Amazon.com From $7,950.00


Preview based on an M-Monochrom with Firmware 0.012

Leica has long been a manufacturer happy to exploit niche markets - its M9 may be a fascinating camera to shoot with, but the company's adherence to the near-obsolete, manual focus rangefinder design, coupled with its distinctly exclusive pricing ensures its cameras will only ever be enjoyed by a few. However, we can't think of any of its products that combine 'fascinating' and 'niche' as well as its latest creation - the Leica M-Monochrom. As the name suggests, the Monochrom is a truly black-and-white camera, with no filter array to allow the capture of color information.

Just as any discussion between former film photographers will eventually come 'round to the idea of a dedicate manual focus digital camera with the large, bright split-prism viewfinder they remember from their film-shooting days, it was almost as inevitably touch on the idea of a black-and-white digital camera. But it's not just nostalgia that makes the idea of a monochrome camera sound appealing - especially on a system famed for its (expensively achieved) high quality lenses.

Removing the color filter array from the front of a sensor has several advantages. There are certainly benefits in terms of noise, mainly because all the light hitting the sensor is available to be captured, rather than just one color being allowed through to each sensor location. But also, because noise isn't spread by a demosaicing process, the noise pattern doesn't appear to muddy detail. These two factors see the camera's maximum ISO increase to 10,000, rather than the M9's 2,500.

However, the biggest advantage is resolution - each captured pixel gives one output pixel, with none of the detail-blurring combining of neighboring data that demosaicing inevitably brings. As a result, the M-Monochrom immediately trumps even the low-pass-filter-less M9 for sharpness. Given the reputation of Leica lenses, this has immediate appeal.

There are drawbacks, of course - the 'headroom' found in Raw files comes mainly from the fact that bright regions have usually only over-exposed one of the three color channels, with usable data still available for the other two channels. With a true mono sensor, any overexposure is absolute - once the channel has clipped to white, there's no chance of recovery. Equally, anyone who has got used to producing mono images by converting color images, with all the selective color mixing that brings, will have to get used to pulling the correct color filter out of their camera bag at the point of capture.

And that is a challenge - the best black and white images are the result of a tonal response that is perfectly matched to the subject, usually as the result of extensive darkroom or post-processing work. With only five contrast settings to select in the camera, even with perfect exposure, it'll probably take a bit of Raw processing to get the best out of each image. The M-Monochrome shoots 34.7MB DNG files (there's no compression option), for users willing to make the effort.

Interface changes

The challenge of getting correct exposure are somewhat reduced because the histogram is not influenced by color or white balance. Leica says the histogram is based on Raw data (rather than the preview JPEG, which many cameras use), to give a clear understanding of what has and hasn't been captured. Still being based on a revised version of the M9's 18MP Kodak CCD means the Monochrom still can't offer live view, so this histogram is only available after you've taken your shot.

Beyond this, changes to the existing M9 interface are minimal - the saturation and colorspace options have been removed from the menu, and white balance has been excised from the 'Set' quick menu but otherwise it's almost unchanged. The camera has slightly more sophisticated highlight and shadow clipping warnings than the M9, it also gains three 'toning' options, each with two intensity levels, but those are the only additional options. The toning options are Sepia, Cold and Selenium.

Given the cost of buying into the Leica system, it's not surprising that Leica expects most buyers to come from the pool of existing M owners. However, in addition to M8 and 9 users, Leica clearly also hopes some film shooters who haven't embraced digital will appreciate the apparent simplicity and quality that native mono shooting brings. When explaining the camera to us, Leica repeatedly returned to the word 'authentic' and it's this desire for an 'authentic' shooting experience that we think will sell this camera.

Leica M-Monochrom specifications

  • 18MP CCD monochrome sensor (24 x 36mm)
  • No anti-aliasing filter
  • No color filter array
  • ISO 320-10,000 (with a 'Pull 160*' option)
  • 2.5" 230,000 dot rear LCD
  • Supplied with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro 2

*Pull 160 is essentially the ISO 320 setting given 1EV extra exposure, with a different tone curve to give the correct final image brightness. The result is a reduction in highlight dynamic range, compared to the full ISO settings.

M-Monochrom - color sensitivity

It may seem odd to think about the M-Monochrom's sensitivity to different colors, since it can't distinguish between them. However, as with mono film, the best results from the Monochrom come from adding colored filters in front of the lens. For this to work, the camera needs to be fairly similarly sensitive to light from all across the visible spectrum (it needs to be panchromatic). We asked Leica whether it had needed to add any color filter to the sensor, to balance-out its sensitivity to different wavelengths of visible light, and were told it hadn't.


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2012 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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Comments

Total comments: 452
1234
ChrisKramer1

What about a sepia sensor? That'd be well cool.

1 upvote
1singur

i wanted to complain about price vs limits (to me b/w only is a drastic limit in a digital camera), but then i've seen the samples :/

0 upvotes
Bob Coulter

Ya butt does it squirt water?

3 upvotes
aliquis

It's got an app for that.

3 upvotes
Anirban Banerjee

What's the DR?

0 upvotes
GabrielZ

Kudos to Leica for coming up with something unique. But this camera really is a niche within a niche! The only advantage to this camera's sensor design is image sharpness. But take a Nikon D800/D800E with a quality Nikkor prime or even better a third party Zeiss prime with Nikon lens mount and you get equal to superior sharpness, more B&W processing flexibility and a much broader DR for a fraction of the cost of this Leica on Leica action. Still, a beautiful piece of mechanical art for the tiny fraction of people willing or able to afford it. I hope Leica at least gets back its R&D costs!

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
guyfawkes

I'm not convinced of the logic of this camera or the direction Leica has gone. It's cost alone will make it accessible only to people with deep pockets, but tying oneself to only b/w images, whilst they may visually be superior to those that can be obtained by other quality digital cameras, at far less cost, seems like a cul-de-sac to me. It's appeal will surely be limited and once the initial take up has been met, owners will find little scope for moving it on.

If you really want b/w, use any of the M series film cameras, and you will have the real thing. AND, if you wish, you can even shoot in colour!

3 upvotes
Andy Crowe

Plenty of people have been going on about wanting a B&W camera body, so makes sense for a company that specialises in expensive niche cameras to produce one.

2 upvotes
forpetessake

It's quite obviously a collector's item. Very few would buy this expensive camera with so many limitations to take pictures.

3 upvotes
liptonius

I am not impressed.
My GF1 brings me just as good pictures with my Nikon 35 F-.1.4 lens.

6 upvotes
Andy Crowe

No it can't, not even close. While not all the example shots are sharp (depending on the focus and lens use) the ones that are sharp are a lot sharper per pixel than the older m4/3 sensor (owning several m4/3 cameras myself) and as the M Mono has a higher resolution sensor that's an even bigger advantage.

The only other sensor that can give you that sort of sharpness is the new Foevon or a very high res (24mp+) sensor downsized.

3 upvotes
Jakub Kubica
3 upvotes
Doc_Holliday

When someone says, "I could do a better job with a Kodak Brownie", just get up and leave.
- Camera 35 magazine, 1980s.

1 upvote
Joseph S Wisniewski

@Andy, you just nailed the biggest problem with the M9m...

"The only other sensor that can give you that sort of sharpness is the new Foevon or a very high res (24mp+) sensor downsized."

Had they launched the dang thing two years ago, when the 24mp+ choices were very limited, the M9m would have been a game changer. But it's 2012, and 24mp+ sensors are everywhere. Nikon has probably already shipped more D800 in the last three months (despite how scarce they are, by Nikon shooter standards) than Leica has shipped M8 and M9 in five years. How many APS SLRs are currently in the field with the 24mp Sony? A million? Two million?

Nokia put a 40mp sensor, with only downsized output available, in a phone.

0 upvotes
villagranvicent

And my GF1 with the 20mm 1.7... even my Minolta MD 50mm 1.4 deliver the goods for $75dlls, basically $6925dlls cheaper than the new Summicron and mine is 1 stop faster.

0 upvotes
smileyfad

It's beautiful!
In the days where every second person has a DSLR, this camera brings the "art" back into photography. Aah, I so want one but I can't afford it.

2 upvotes
Petka

Greater sensitivity is claimed for this monochrome sensor compared to the old color counterpart. Native ISO is 320, double that if the color one, so that claim might be true. The highest ISO is only 10000, though, not higher. If we look at the DR performance graphs of the recent new cameras it is easy to come to a conclusion that the high ISOs are not really there, but they are kind of artificially made by sacrificing DR. With a sensor which has 14 stops of DR this approach works fine. You can make an easy experiment by underexposing a shot taken at low native ISO by 4 stops or so and fixing it in Lightroom, the result looks more or less that same as a shot taken at 4 steps higher ISO.

I suspect that Leica Monochrom sensor does not have a very good dynamic range after all, as the ISO reaches only to a relatively low 10000 ISO. Pushing it higher would restrict the DR to an unacceptable level compared to other new cameras. After all, the basic sensor construction is badly outdated.

Comment edited 46 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Andy Crowe

Might be true? All other things being equal it would be physically impossible for it not to be more sensitive.

1 upvote
ICPix

I wonder if it comes in a snazzy red, or, oh! wait that new Pentax yellow,...yes there are the endorphins. Hold it, you don't think the monochrome moniker applies to the body colour do you? Goodness, for shame.

Look, I get it.

Beautiful wide dynamic range, no AA handicap, clean tack sharp image. Construction beyond reproach.

But 5 mortgage payments?.... Not me, Pro's only need apply. They can generate the income to indulge. And make no mistake, this is an extraordinarily self-indulgent and self-referential camera.

0 upvotes
88SAL

Id love to own it. I cant afford it, but if it were the cost of any other FF camera new release, I still couldn't afford it. I cant claim leica glass ownership as a reason to get this as I only own a Summar 5/f2 from 1936!

1 upvote
Doc_Holliday

88SAL, I have four Leitz lenses and I am jealous!

0 upvotes
mugget

Name one luxury brand whose products aren't self-indulgent?

Why does anyone expect Leica to be different?

0 upvotes
Dattaphoto

Price may be ridiculous but so is the image quality. Those samples are amazing. It is clearly excellent at what it does.

I wish I could afford one.

1 upvote
Ernest M Aquilio

Bold move from Leica. Great to see them push the idea of a specialized camera. I will take donations to purchase this camera :)

0 upvotes
JMCO

The Leica supplied images by Jacob Aue Sobol of Magnum are infinitely more interesting examples.

http://en.leica-camera.com/photography/m_system/m_monochrom/

1 upvote
Tom Barry

Yes! I downloaded the orange-filter shot of Notre Dame Cathedral and the image is impressive. Much better example of the Monochrom's capability than the stuff presented here. Thanks for the tip!

0 upvotes
forpetessake

If I wanted that kind of pictures I would have kept my old film Canon -- you can get one for $10-100 on ebay, and it will also be a lot more technically advanced.

1 upvote
psn

I'm curious to see the sensor's spectral sensitivity... Of course you can create color images with this sensor! You just have to manually use color filters. :)

0 upvotes
zyghom

One day I will have Leica, top one
This day will be my 25th marriage anniversary
At least my wife promised - and the promise is a promise
Till then ... just watching what Leica can do so I will be prepared when the day comes ;-)

0 upvotes
Lukino

Pointless, overpriced piece of hardware without any reason to exist. But now I'm so in love for this camera I will only dream in black and white from now on...

1 upvote
voz

Not for me, but nice to see companies doing their own thing.

0 upvotes
DecisiveMoment

Obviously the images posted in the preview samples need a major Leica firmware upgrade. To post these sample images of such poor quality does a great disservice for this new Leica Monochrom and makes it imposible to make any valid evaluation of what this camera can do. It was a waste of time and effort to post these images. Some are poorly focused and most are boring. :>(

5 upvotes
TXforester

You have point about the quality of the images being important to a review, but comment about boring pictures is off the mark. Camera reviews are about the qualities of the cameras (sensors, ergonomics, ease of menu use, etc.), not about art. A D800 is capable of making a lousy picture (photographer's fault).

Assuming the camera is capable of better quality images, will it make it in the market? How do you tell if an $8000 proof of conept camera (B&W only) fails because there isn't enough demand, or most of the demand is at a lower price point?

0 upvotes
Marc Kairies

I love the idea of this camera and it is different than others. Just perfect. The world is colorful (www.vr-head.com/english/mk-wave/index.html) or black & white, playful and creative. The market offers a camera for every type.

Small, fine manufacturers need a niche and fill it out very creative.

Have fun!

0 upvotes
hammerheadfistpunch

pretty images? yeah. better images? Arguable. but the thing that I keep coming back to is the term "diminishing returns". $13 grand is a lot of money for a camera that does one thing, albeit well.

Comment edited 8 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
RRJackson

The camera lists for $7950, not $13,000.

0 upvotes
Josh152

RRJackson you are forgetting the lens.

0 upvotes
RRJackson

You don't have to mount the most expensive lens made by Leica to use the camera. My personal preference would be the Zeiss 21mm f/4.5, which is $1100.

0 upvotes
hammerheadfistpunch

The lens in the test is the one i referenced, its $4,995

1 upvote
wilsonlaidlaw

I am a Leica enthusiast. I have used Leicas since the 1950's and currently a IIF, an M4 owned from new and M8 and M9 cameras. Will I buy the monochrome - no not interested. The images have the plasticy look of chromogenic film, which I don't like.

If I want B&W, I have more than enough film cameras to use or I can use my M9, where I can post process the colour RAW/DNG in CS6 to get the effect of filters. Having to screw filters on and off is IMHO one of the things that most gets in the way of creative RF style photography. I quite enjoy creative filters with DSLR and have a set of Cokin P filters but that is a different activity, usually on a tripod.

On the assumption that the M10 will have a lower noise CMOS sensor with maybe 28MP or more, I would guess that it will be difficult to tell a converted B&W from that camera from that made by an M9M.......and guess what guys - it takes colour as well.

Wilson

Comment edited 45 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
youhu

I just see the pictures on leica web. They are different from here. I like those there.

0 upvotes
ybizzle

Nothing that a D800 or 5D MKIII couldn't produce...At less than half the cost!

4 upvotes
RRJackson

You basically need twice the resolution of the Leica to get comparable sharpness, so the D800 could probably do a passable job of mimicry (while being much heavier with inferior wide-angle optics and generating much larger files). The 5D III just doesn't have the resolution to match a non-Bayer M9.

This is a very compact camera with no Bayer array. It's a very significant thing for people who shoot B&W. For others it won't be as significant.

3 upvotes
ybizzle

You might be right but I don't think I will see $4000 worth of difference in image quality between the D800 and M9. ;)

5 upvotes
RRJackson

And that's the real subject of most of the comments here. It's like someone saying, "$225,000 for an electron microscope!?!?! It outputs in B&W!!! For $75 the microscopes at my community college output color and you can just convert those to B&W if that's what you want to see!!!"

And it's difficult to explain why that's not the same thing to someone who has no idea what they're talking about. ;-)

2 upvotes
epo001

I could explain the difference between an ordinary microscope and an electron microscope to a 6-year old: it lies in the size of object they can resolve, nothing to do with B&W at all. The comparable explanation of the difference between a M9M and a D800 is?

How about the difference is one of them appeals to retired dentists reliving the cameras of their youth, the other is a DSLR.

3 upvotes
jjlad

Those who 'want it' will no doubt be a great market for it. I shoot a D7000 and really can't see where that, with good glass and LR4 processing can't satisfy the needs of most. Certainly the D800 goes further yet.
Were my pockets extremely deep and the importance of my 'image' extremely high ...I might be tempted ..but then it would need "Leica" showing where the people I'd be trying to impress ...would see it.
jj

0 upvotes
RRJackson

The comparable explanation is that current sensors can't capture color information. So the way people approximate that is by using a process similar to the old Technicolor 3-strip process. An 18-megapixel "color" camera takes 9 million green photos, 4 1/2 million blue photos and 4 1/2 million red photos for every exposure. And then an automated process combines those and approximates what the output might have looked like if 18 million full-color images had been captured. The difference or error is something we just live with. And then on top of that level of distortion some people like to do a subtractive conversion that removes even more information and they think this B&W end result is an acceptable substitute for a process that removes all of these variables from the process of capture. But it isn't.

0 upvotes
hexxthalion

@ RRJackson - guys over at luminous landscape have a preview and they say resolving power is similar to 24MP sensor

Comment edited 16 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Petka

@RRJackson: you seem to know an awful lot about how sharp this Leica is compared to D800 and 5D3 for example. You must have test files somewhere. Could we also see them, please?

Or is yours just a case of some sort of addiction to this senseless gadget and you feel compelled to invent an endless stream of excuses why it is worth $8000 to invest in a thing which can do about 10% of things new DSLRs can do for less than half the money?

2 upvotes
RRJackson

It's not a question of "how sharp" it is in that, "Hey, this here lens is pretty sharp!" kind of way. Monochrome capture is a process that eliminates the Bayer array, so data interpolation is absent from the process. Now this may or may not appeal to you and the cost may drive you into some kind of frenzy, but it's a superior methodology to Bayer capture if a monochrome end result is your goal.

Now certainly you can bemoan the old Kodak CCD technology underlying the camera. I prefer CCDs in a lot of ways, but low light capture hasn't been their strong suit and it's been a point of contention. And you can bemoan the manual focus rangefinder design which is again a matter of personal taste.

At the end of the day all you can really say is that the way you capture monochrome images is good enough for you and you don't need superior dedicated monochrome capture equipment. And that's fine. It could never be asserted that this is a camera for the masses.

0 upvotes
rhlpetrus

RR: you forget that one of the main + of Bayer for b&w is the ability to do digital colr filtering at will, plus using softs like NIK Viveza that acts selectively using colrs. Ansel would have loved the flexibility that the digital lightroom allows. Of course, the photog is the most relevant part of it, but digital color has the definite advantage over b&w capture. Re D800, it has likel;y much wider DR than this camera, espcially for b&w conversion since just one channel detail may already be enough to recover relevant info for b&w.

1 upvote
RRJackson

@rhlpetrus Actually, that's a terrible way to work, IMO. It's a subtractive process. What you're doing is dropping the levels on one of your color channels and essentially removing even more information from your photograph. It's much better to use an optical filter with a monochrome sensor the same way you did when you shot B&W film.

0 upvotes
Danlo

Its like, "why in gods name do you eat Low Carb when you can just enjoy the good in life and eat a High Carb diet!?? Maybee because I want to and it makes me feel good? Is that not a good enough answer for you?

1 upvote
mugget

You fail to take into consideration one very important factor - the fact that some people much prefer to use rangefinder cameras. Myself included. Personally, I never even want to touch a DSLR again!

0 upvotes
jsis

it still ain't a Leica

0 upvotes
Marcelobtp

I do understand what Leica is... And thats the reason why it still alive nowadays.
First they achived the status, of a top branch, they always sold with that fame, and they will keep their place until the end.
The price is a diferenciacion of the rest and an auto marketing. They have their audience to sell, and will always have.
This camera is amazing, because you can expand your photography to another level. The B&W is an exercise for your eyes and your mind. You change your vision about the light and it's effects on the many diferent surfaces.
Be able to take excelent photos at 10.000 ISO without the filter and the other things is just fantastic!
If i were rich probably after seeing good reviews i would by this camera!

1 upvote
Petka

Several new digital high resolution cameras like Fuji X-Pro1 have a B&W setting in the menu, for free. Fuji even has the possibility of choosing a red, yellow or green filter in camera.

2 upvotes
Marcelobtp

No, you did not understand at all, the range finder is in B&W you see B&W, and fuji X-pro is completely a diferent experience and you will have to use the live view mode. Fuji has no low pass filter but is not nearly the same thing...

0 upvotes
Petka

What do you mean "rangefinder is in B&W" in X-Pro1? It certainly is not. If the camera is set to B&W, then the LCD and EVF are also B&W, but optical stays optical.

2 upvotes
Vergilius

These pictures evoked a wave of nostalgia for me. I received a Kodak Instamatic 100 for my eighth birthday in 1964. All my dad ever bought for me was black and white Kodak 100 film (it was cheaper), and I still treasure all of those photos that I took that summer. Never once have I regretted that they were in black and white. In retrospect, I'm glad they were. The negatives still make great prints and none of my black and white prints from 1964 and later have faded. As for the samples, I love the detail in the Space Needle photo. Just look at those people standing on the observation deck halfway up!

I'll never be able to afford this camera, but I would buy one if I could. If nothing else, a lot of post-processing color work would disappear.

0 upvotes
hermanofarias

I think there is some kind of demosicing. If you use dcraw to extract a B&W tiff file from the raw, of any dslr, without demosicing, at 1:1 view, you actually see the the pixels, and not a smooth image such the examples in the DPR preview.

0 upvotes
Hynee

I think you're very confused. These look "smooth" as you say because there is no Bayer filter. That's why you need demosaicing for the output from any old DSLR.

0 upvotes
hermanofarias

Well maybe. But I don't see why it wold be so diferent. The demosaicing is to remove the pattern GRGBG pattern, and not to make the image smooth. By smooth I mean, not to be made of dot's, when you look it really close like 600%. The bayer filter may make the dot's more visible, since adjacent pixels could be contrasty.

0 upvotes
tkpenalty

The lens alone does most of the aliasing; most lenses will not be able to out-resolve this sensor.

1 upvote
rhlpetrus

You need to do interpolation as usual, since the sensels info will have just point by point analog info. For pixels you need to combine nearby info.

1 upvote
Alberto Tanikawa

Crazy detail, like the monochrome digitals of yesteryear (Kodak DCS 760M comes to mind) and the astrophotography cameras that you take multiple shots changing color filters in between. I'm sure it will please many b&w connoisseurs out there :)

1 upvote
Tom Barry

Maybe I missed it, but were color filters used on the lens(es) when the sample photos were taken? If so, it would be informative to include the color of the filter, if any, used for each shot.

0 upvotes
StanRogers

They appear to me to be (mostly) unfiltered; the bright and flat/uninteresting sky in many of the pictures and the general skin tones compared to lips and eyes look "straight" to me. Many would be dramatically improved with at least a K2 (yellow), which is a sort of walkin' around filter for outdoor B&W. (A couple are just screaming for a #25 or #29 red filter.)

2 upvotes
Tom Barry

That was my impression, but as whomever wrote the specs list didn't know this is a rangefinder, not a "rangefinder-type," I wanted confirmation. Sadly, you're probably right. The images as presented are useless. It seems to me that if DP Review wanted to show what the camera can do, it would show what the camera could do when used as it would be in the real world - with filtration.

0 upvotes
Danlo

If I would use any filter I would use a dark green or blue to get natural skintones. Skin is not supposed to be bright white, its supposed to be around middle grey if converted to b&w. And thats horribly hard to get with digital, even with filters and proper PP. Thats why I still shoot b&w film.

0 upvotes
forpetessake

And that's another advantage of converting color image to b/w, you can use any filter in PP, and with b/w camera you have to put that piece of glass right on the lens, which is 1) inconvenience and 2) reduces the amount of light entering the lens.

0 upvotes
Pacific Highseas

Wow, are there ever some misconceptions here!
"Leica owners are all rich." I am not, I have accumulated my lkit over many year. I did buy an M8, and sold it for an MP. My M3 is over 50, and works perfectly. All digitals will soon be obsolete. A camera that works fine after 50 years is a bargain.

"Leica owners are reactionary Luddites."
I live and work in places where electronics go to die. I have never had an electronic film camera that did not give troubles. I am not a Luddite, and I use digital for a variety of things. For the images I like to preserve however, I find greater satisfaction in film.

"Leicas are slow." This is the greatest absurdity of all. Cameras have only three controls, four if you include adjustable ASA. Focus, aperture, and shutter speed. That's it. I can get through half a roll before the guy with a DSLR stops playing with the buttons.

Would H C-B have used a digital? Likely, for some things. Would Capt. Cook have used a GPS? Of course he would, so what?

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
Joel Pimenta

Voigtlander Bessa (any) - 700 or 800
Voigtlander 40:1.4 - 400 or 500
Kodak TMAX 400, 800, 1600... 4 or 5

That's a better BW option for a "cheap" rangefinder.

3 upvotes
RRJackson

It's a nice option, but I doubt your TMAX is going to look very good at ISO 10,000. Personally I top out at about 1600 in practical terms using HP5+ and stand processing. Past that the grain structure is just too pronounced for my tastes. Although bigger film helps a lot. This is at 1600 with 6x7 and to me the grain seems very fine.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/r_jackson/2144189107/

Comment edited 26 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Tom Barry

In the specs list you refer to the body
as "rangefinder-style mirrorless." No. It is a rangefinder, period.

3 upvotes
Plastek

People want to call everything mirrorless these days. Soon compacts will become mirrorless cameras...

1 upvote
Lupti

Ok, I say take an ordinary DSLR, set it to B/W and take the same shots. I doubt that most people can distinguish them from the Leica shots if not told from what camera they are. Really. I also would go as far as taking an ordinary P&S with B/W mode and compare them with these.
I don´t see the point of this camera aside from being a new toy for people with too much money. I also never understood what´s so great about the Leica system, the cameras and lenses cost megabucks for what reason? Handmade in Germany, a red dot? But the parts are so expensive there isn´t money anmyore for a higher resolution display? Okay...there are still too much people with too much money.
And no, there is no envy at all.
Now I think some people will tell me I´m trolling(I´m not) or that I don´t understand the special art of photographing with a Leica, but really, I couldn´t care less.

5 upvotes
Plastek

Ever heard of dynamic range, bayer filter, demosaicing, etc? I see you did not.

0 upvotes
Sunny15

I've heard of 'em, and I'm still curious to see if there is any noticeable difference.

0 upvotes
7enderbender

I agree in that the sample pictures are uninspiring and don't showcase anything that this camera may be doing better (or worse) than other cameras.
However, I can absolutely see the appeal in this one and would trade my 5DII and all my lenses in a heartbeat for something like this. But even then there is still a hefty price gap and it's out of my reach at the moment. And ultimately I'd probably want both, a Leica system and DSLR/SLR system.
I see the "limitations" of the Leica rangefinders (and this one in particular) that would suit my priorities in photography. I like the size and sturdiness, the solid and excellent lenses, the use of metal instead of plastic, the absence of AF - in short the reduction to what I still consider the essence of photography. Half of the gizmos and settings on my DSLR are completely useless to me - sometimes they're even in the way.
Clearly, this is not for everyone - not just because of the hefty price tags on their stuff.

0 upvotes
diogenisd

You will be able to tell the difference. Soon, reviews will launch testing A-B shots from various dSLRs that will show the benefits and need of such a sensor. And then you can always couple the camera with their new 50mm APO summicron, for the absolute best.

0 upvotes
tkpenalty

normally the leica argument does not hold. However forget this is even a leica for a second. It is a B+W camera, designed for massive dynamic range because of the lack of colour filter array (which causes light loss).

0 upvotes
Petka

So what is the dynamic range of this new Leica? Does it really beat D800 with 14 stops of DR? You are also stuck with the panchromatic grayscale rendering of color with no possibility of post processing adjustments you get when converting color images with PS or Lightroom. Basically you pay $8000 to loose a great feature compared to anything else. For straight in the camera B&W pictures new cameras have built in B&W converters also, for free.

2 upvotes
cxsparc

That is a good point Petka. The DR of normal cameras is already beyond what any print can reproduce. But the color cameras allow you to select and manipulate the bw transfer process at home, so you can emphasize green, red etc or even multiple colors at the same time. All this more practical advantages are lost using a BW-only camera.
Again, this looks as a retro vehicle for more-than-affluent baby-boomers.

0 upvotes
AlexCHStudio

fully agree. it is enough just to open eyes for Leica mirage to disappear.

0 upvotes
RRJackson

@Petka I'm not sure you really understand how much detriment a Bayer array does to an image. In the name of capturing color about half the image is interpolated data. And of course you sprinkle clumps of chroma noise on top of that. You can oversample and get similar results, but that means you'd really need the 36 megapixels of the D800 to yield a "Leica-like" 18 megapixel B&W image.

Fake B&W through processing is fine for people who don't understand the process of monochrome capture, but it's certainly not a superior process. Any more than Instagram is superior to actually cross-processing film. It's faster and you can make changes that would be harder to make with chemistry, but the final result isn't going to fool a real photographer.

0 upvotes
Petka

What does it matter to be able to fool a real photographer? Is there some rule how pictures must be taken? Do you add grain to your digital images to fool photographers to think film was used? Yes, you can use filters on a monochrome camera, film or digital, to manipulate the grayscale, but can you apply different filters in this Leica on different part of the image? Easily done in PS conversion. In the LL site they have come to a conclusion that 24 MPix color camera is enough to match this 18 Mpix Bayerless wonder. So, my understanding is that Bayer array has a 25% detrimental effect, not 50% you have come up with. So 5D3 matches Leica, and D800 beats it. And you have the color filter manipulation in post, to boot. And they take color pictures also, if somebody finds any use for them anymore. And they are cheap. I would even wager that my X-Pro1 matches this Leica in B&W!

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Csaba Farkas

"I think some people will tell me ... that I don´t understand the special art of photographing with a Leica, but really, I couldn´t care less."

Well then, why on earth are you wasting time – yours and others – commenting on something you have no idea about? Have you ever used a Leica? I don't think so.
See, the Nikon D-whatever shoots a zillion fps. Some people need just that and pay high bucks for it. Others couldn't give a flying F for fps, but they love to punish themselves with an obsolete rangefinder, and have a whale of a time doing just that. I certainly do. We are all adults here, accountable for our deeds and purchases, stupid or wise. You should respect it, and stop wasting your precious time with slagging.

1 upvote
RRJackson

Photos can be taken however you feel like taking them. B&W photos taken using a camera with a Bayer filter will show artifacts (defects, errors...whatever word works best for you) that betray the limitations of the process. Many professionals will recognize this limitation of your methodology, but that doesn't mean you can't use it. People have shot parts of feature films on Fisher-Price Pixelvision cameras.

As far as coming up with a percentage of detriment, the green pixels make up 50% of the pixels captured. That's the highest percentage of pixels captured by a single set of pixels, so in absolute terms a Bayer camera will be able to capture half as much resolution as a similar non-Bayer camera. But it isn't that simple because the Debayer algorithms have become very sophisticated at interpolation, so there appears to be more information on-hand than there actually is. So '25% detrimental' may be a good apparent conclusion.

0 upvotes
Lupti

"Well then, why on earth are you wasting time – yours and others – commenting on something you have no idea about?"

Then why are you wasting time with replying? Own goal?
I think everyone can share their opinion about this camera, no matter if they have hold a Leica or not.
Just to sacrifice colour for more DR don´t seems to be sensible for most people. Maybe Leica should have bought(or co-worked) Foveon to avoid typical Bayer problems...

1 upvote
topogon

I never did quite bring myself to fork out the money for a Leica M9. But I have borrowed and used them several times and pixel for pixel they outperform any of the big brand rivals in ultimate image quality, largely due to the optics i guess. Even if this camera gives only half the theoretical improvement in B&W over a regular M9 I would be happy. I just ordered one today!

1 upvote
CameraLabTester

I will hold out on this one...

Waiting for the Leica model next year called Glass Plate.

Now that really takes you back...

.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 8 minutes after posting
1 upvote
jjlad

I'd wait for the Leica Pinhole or perhaps one that's just "like a" Pinhole"
Meanwhile I may have to get some sweet b&w film and fire up my Konica Auto S2. It still works flawlessly and that Hexanon 1.8 on it is nice glass. That can be my "Like a Leica" :)

0 upvotes
spiegellos

What sense does it have to drive an SUV like an Q7 or X6. It is useless to rave or stress about a product that is not for everyone. I know people who have an m7 0,72 and 0,85 and and M9 with all the lenses. I am sure tehy will buy the monochrome.

0 upvotes
Petka

Those SUVs are great allround cars. This Leica is like a Q7 with just one wooden seat and 2-cylider scooter engine.

1 upvote
JEROME NOLAS

this time not one but two steps ahead of competetion, makes me wonder what trey are doing in Japan, sleeping a lot I guess...

1 upvote
Fotog C

I will keep the M9 for color photos and keep my M6 or MP for b&w film thank you very much! For the price, you can have a brand new MP and configure to have a 0.85x finder. I would do it rather than spending this sort of money for M Mono. Film is going but still be here for a while until Leica get the M10 out eventually.

0 upvotes
LCraker

So when can we download a DNG?

0 upvotes
Michal59

Kinda snobbing marketing IMO. For enthusiasts with big pocket. On the other side its brilliant piece of hardware. I like the appealing look of samples, nice film-like grain. Resolution is great. Does anyone know other cameras w/o color filter array?
Maybe Leica will push the market to offer cameras with bayer/no bayer hardware switch, hence improving the resolution in some situations.

0 upvotes
diogenisd

yes. Leica MP but its film, and PhaseOne Achromatic 40Mpixel back, but it's medium format, heavy and expensive.
I wonder if your idea with filter/no filter switch is possible...

0 upvotes
Joesiv

I don't think you'll like the idea of not having debayering if the color filters on each photosite still exist. Either you'll get photos that have alternating solid primary colors, or you'll have black and white images with horrible gradients since different color channels will pick out different detail/tones.

Since the color filter array is mated to the actual photosites I doubt you could have a "switch" to actually remove it.

*maybe* you could do something like LCD panels where the colors can be twisted (TN) or enabled, but this may not be possible with any hope of sensor efficiency (native ISO's would likely drop a lot from what we're used to currently. a once ISO100 may end up being something like ISO10)

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Michal59

Actually that's what came to my mind :) The idea is simple in its form, application maybe not - today. But tomorrow...

0 upvotes
Bluetrain048

For those debating the PS/Lightroom black&white conversions versus this black&white sensor, there is one thing to consider.

It has already been mentioned that having no CFA, AA and debayering going on you gain a large resolution advantage (and the samples, to me, really show it).

However, when you use the colour sliders to adjust the black and white conversion from colour, you are losing even more resolution. If you drop the blue channel for instance (to simulate a dark red filter - gives you dramatic skies), you are essentially losing much of the information / resolution those blue pixels would provide.

Try it. Crank down the blue and green sliders in a black and white conversion and then look 100% at the sky, the clouds, the hills and surrounding areas. You will probably notice nasty pixelisation, posterisation and other artifacts.

FWIW I 'get' both sides of the colour vs B&W argument. But a conversion versus a native mono sensor will be leagues apart.

4 upvotes
SLove

I didn't know there was an "argument" about color vs. B&W. It's one of those things that are simply a matter of taste and artistic preference.

0 upvotes
Petka

So how many potential Leica Monochrom users are going to use deep red filters? How many of them even know anything about controlling the color mapping into grayscale with color filters? If they did know, they would get D800 and Lightroom 4 instead.

2 upvotes
RRJackson

I'm not sure you actually understood what Bluetrain048 said. Subtractive editing is inherently inferior to filtration at the point of capture. I mean, it's fine if Instagram-style photos are your goal, but it's certainly not a superior methodology.

1 upvote
Petka

You are talking about theory, I am talking about reality, where a photographer can experiment with the filter sliders in post, and with light handed use nobody is going to notice any quality degradation.

Real Photographers like You certainly are able to lick a finger, stick it into air and pronounce: "for this shot I need a 2E and a dash of 23E to bring the autumn foliage in proper focus". We mere mortals have to experiment in Lightroom.

0 upvotes
RRJackson

Like I said, if Instagram-style pretend-B&W images are your goal then you'll do just fine in Lightroom or PS. I mean, I do it sometimes, too. I have Alien Skins Exposure. I find it does a fairly good job of approximating the look of B&W film for the occasional shot where it seems apropos. But it's a subtractive process and it does degrade the image. Just like correcting for lens distortion degrades the image. In a web-sized image you won't notice it most of the time, but in a large print it will sometimes jump right out at you.

But yes, mediocre quality is good enough for most people most of the time.

0 upvotes
Csaba Farkas

SLove, "I didn't know there was an "argument" about color vs. B&W.") I think Bluetrain meant the argument whether a BW sensor makes sense in comparison with a converted colour image. I guess no one here disputes the esthetic merits of either.

0 upvotes
jto555

The shots on the sample page look good. But think how much better they would look in colour...

Oh dear, I think I have found the flaw with this camera...

2 upvotes
Caleido

No significant advantages in terms of IQ over other cameras - even without the color array, there is still more noise than competitors.

It feels like Leica is in panic. They can't come with a better and up to date sensor, so they make it hardware b&w to get some extra ISO performance?

That, or Leica is mocking everyone.

0 upvotes
Michele Kappa

Nicely done comparing a Hyundai with a Ferrari. :P

1 upvote
Caleido

Leica is indeed the Hyundai in this case, sensor wise.

6 upvotes
Michele Kappa

ahahahahahahaha great joke, you really made my day :D

0 upvotes
Caleido
1 upvote
cxsparc

Michele, a Ferrari is a high-tech equipment capable of extremely high performance driving.
The Hyandai is a cheap car capable of transporting you from a to b.

The Leica is expensive, but its performance is not even uptodate with much cheaper cameras. Think of the Leica as a special Mercedes convertible with minimal power engine and without the roof-top convertible usually have. Yes it is expensive, yes it is german built. Yes few have it. But yes, it is not as fast as many other cars and it is quite unusable for a variety of conditions.

1 upvote
Debankur Mukherjee

Got to be crazy to buy this camera.......

0 upvotes
Photozopia

Potential owners are presumably those who don't do 'real' B&W.

Just think how many rolls of film + an M3, the RRP of this camera would purchase. Obviously, $8000 is the going price for digital convenience nowadays ...

0 upvotes
CharlieDIY

"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."

To whom? I find the whole Leica thing somewhat goofy, but, then, I've felt that way for something like 50 years.

1 upvote
Petka

The fact that Leica provides less for more money certainly makes it less desirable. There still are some rational people around even in photography circles.

1 upvote
CharlieDIY

$8000 and synthetic leather trim. Oh my.

I think not.

4 upvotes
spidermoon

But the most important question, wil it blend ? ;)

1 upvote
Henrikw

Yep - this b/w look can only be achieved with this monochrome Leica.
Leica snobbery to the extreme

2 upvotes
raiden78

Holy s..t, 8.000$ for a BW camera? The end of the world is coming :))

Comment edited 58 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
technic

Interesting camera, but way too expensive for almost anyone, unlike the BW in analog times that was accessible to anyone and stimulated experimenting.

No mentioning of infrared capability - or is that accidentally built in, like with the M8? Does the sensor still have an IR blocker? IR would make it more interesting than just BW.

I hope some day Panasonic or Olympus will introduce an affordable BW, IR-capable body for their m43 system. That would be better than paying $250-400 for IR conversion of an existing body, and still being stuck with Bayer sensor and all the resolution loss that goes with it ...

0 upvotes
Sebit

Nice samples, thanks. Detail level is high indeed, sometimes resulting in some jaggedness in high contrast transitions, but with the benefit of simply stunning resolution of low-contrast objects (the crane near the lower-right corner of L1000610-DNG for example). DR seems good, too.
Waiting for a full review, and, pixel peeping aside, approach to photography represented by this gallery and the camera itself reminds me of scanning b&w negatives from my hexar af...
I suppose I will never own this camera, although it is kind of on the cheap side both for being Leica and such a niche concept, but it's nice knowing that finally idea of b&w sensor camera was resurrected.

1 upvote
KVirtanen

The price of people's old color filters will go through the roof on eBay :)

0 upvotes
kelvinjay

Those sample images really do a good job at showing how poorly the camera can perform. Maybe another photographer would have been able to get better results, but those are just shocking.

The one of the girl laying down holding the Nikon is just full of blown highlights and has no detail in the brighter areas of her jacket. The girl in the back of the cab has her nose blown out too. These aren't just insignificant parts of the compositions.

4 upvotes
camillako

i dont want to start a "fight", i really dont.

but you could take your comment above and apply it to 90pct of these pictures

http://abduzeedo.com/classic-photography-henri-cartier-bresson

are highlights here and there really the best unit of measure?

1 upvote
tessl8d

So you like washed out poorly composed images with overblown highlights. Whats that got to do with Bresson?

2 upvotes
spidermoon

I agree, and i guess you need a high end printer to take the most out of the camera. But on my color lcd monitor, i can't see any difference between those shots and some amazing one an on B&W Flickr group on Flickr.

2 upvotes
jaapv

Never mind what all the bashers say. I have been shooting this camera ( a preproduction one) and I have the files on my macbook here. The only thing that keeps me from reaching for my credit card is the state of depletion it is in. Dammit, this is the most desirable camera to have appeared the last decade. Where is the nearest skimask store in Berlin? If you have an ounce of photographers blood in your veins and a modicum of cash, get it or you will never know what you are missing. And do not try to take film -copycat shots like the current current fad of convert-and-imitate shooters do. this is a whole new ball game which is waiting for real artists to define digital monochrome shooting.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 5 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Shashinka73

I'm glad you like it, but if you're the same Jaapv from the Leica forums, you would defend Leica if they blew up your house, stole all your possessions and replaced all your Leicas with Holgas.

0 upvotes
dopravopat

Certainly there will not be any purple fringing or chromatic abberations with this camera. :-)

4 upvotes
Total comments: 452
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