B&W Photography

Started Jan 27, 2014 | Questions thread
Jim Keye Senior Member • Posts: 2,014
Re: B&W Photography

As for why I need a back up camera. I find myself sometimes in situations that are so engaging and fast moving that it makes me wish for another body with different lens to be available at that instance. Sometimes I am in situations where I need one to take video and stills at the same time (with me included in the video, not just pressing the shutter while the camera is filming). Add to that my love for b&w. It's one thing to shoot color, and another to take a camera the whole of purpose of which is b&w. Your approach, and mentality will be quite different, I believe. Of course this is subjective.

If you want want, you want one. No need to justify it if you've got the money. But if you're talking about using a body for color work as a 2nd body, video, whatever, you're talking about a 2nd color body. To that end, your approach with either body is the same because they'd both be color bodies.

Obviously if you end up with a 2nd (or 3rd) body that is a mono/converted body, then yes, your approach might be different.

But the purpose of my thread, is to learn the objective differences, if any. Some have mentioned Leica monochrome. I wasn't aware that such a camera exist. So when I read most of the replies that any color camera works, and that b&w occurs in post, then I wonder why is Leica making a dedicated b&w when there is no difference?

Just about all "color" sensors/cameras use a bayer filter (or variation) over the photosites to get their color information. This has two impacts: 1) It cuts down on the amount of light reaching the photosite because the light has to go through a color filter. 2) It reduces detail/sharpness to a small degree because each site is only sensing one color, and interpolating the color information for the other two channels by using information from adjacent photosites. It's a pretty advanced process since they're been working on perfecting it for 20 years now. But it does rob a small bit of information.

On top of that, there' s usually (but not always) an optical low-pass filter (OLPF) / anti-aliasing (AA) filter in front of the color filter array (CFA) to work in conjunction with it and prevent moire. This again robs a slight amount of detail.

So if those two filters are removed, you get a little more detail, and more light reaches the sensor. something in the range of 1+ stops of light. If you needed ISO 1600 to shoot a scene before, you might be using ISO 800 or 640 with a dedicated mono sensor.

Additionally, you get a little less issues with light sources that are strongly colored or not-balanced--incandescent, fluorescent, etc--because their rendering (in color) ends up being influenced by the CFA (as does any subsequent B&W conversion).

However you can end up with infrared light issues. In the past, sensors--particularly CCDs--had an IR blocking filter ("hot mirror") in front of them to prevent IR light from making into the image. You'll recall that different films had sensitivities to different light spectrums--you could buy IR film, for example. Well for normal color work this light wasn't desired, and so it was blocked out. I'm not sure if they're still in wide use/needed with CMOS imagers.

So what you are looking for is a sensor that has no CFA/AA filter, but probably has an IR cut-off ("hot mirror) in front of it. Unless, of course, you want to shoot infrared. I don't know if anybody is doing this these days or how good their work is. It goes w/o saying that any of these sorts of conversions will most definitely void your warranty.

That's why I made the thread...to learn whether or not there is a difference, and whether this difference is significant in anyway...for example, is resolution and dynamic range as important to b&w as they are for color?

Res and DR are important in any capture, but how they're handled in processing and how they can or cannot be utilized in a given output medium are also factors. Put it this way, you can always throw away resolution or DR, but you can't get it back if it wasn't captured in the first place.

If you did B&W with film in the past and got used to using color filters to alter the outcome, you'd like a dedicated mono camera because you can use those filters sans any interference from a CFA in front of the sensor.

The fact that you don't see widespread mono cameras these days should tell you how popular converting color images is. (Have you looked into Silver Efex from Nik/Google?) But I think a part of it has always been who's been doing the mono sensors. Kodak used to do it 15 years ago, but those cameras were pretty clunky frankenstein. Leica did one, but then you're paying for an brand premium and low production volume too. Plus the whole cost of getting into a leica system. There was a medium format maker--Phase One?--who did a dedicated mono back a few years ago....I think it was somewhere between 20 and 30 grand. So again, very limited adoption, not to mention the cost of the system on top of just the back.

Our mediums these days are in color. Most books are printed with color photos now. Obviously everything digital is color by default. So maybe the manufacturers just don't think there is a market. And maybe there isn't. But many people have wished for a major maker to come out with a mono body, and do it at sufficient volume to make the cost reasonable. I think there's a rumor floating around about Sony doing it in their Alpha line.

I miss shooting B&W. I do enjoy converting (color) images but sometimes artifacts from the various color channels becomes obvious. It's often effective enough to work out fine, but there's no denying that a dedicated sensor would do it better--not to mention the other benefits.

Thanks all,


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