The new camera in Leica‘s M series lineup has been announced on May 10th 2012 in Berlin. Its the Leica M Monochrom – a camera with a dedicated black and white sensor. The event has been joined by a lot of popular Leica shooters from the internet community like Steve Huff, Eric Kim and Thorsten Overgaard.
Shooting black and white is at the moment very trendy whether done using black and white film, making color conversion in post processing or applying in-camera filters. In post you have a variety of software – like Silver Efex Pro – you can choose from. But back to the camera.
Let me list the specification of the Monochrom:
- 18 megapixel full frame (active area: 23,9 x 35,8 mm) monochrome CCD sensor
- Infrared filter
- No low pass filter
- Resolution: DNG™: 5212 x 3468 (18 Megapixel), JPEG: 5216 x 3472 (18 Megapixel), 3840 x 2592 (10 Megapixel), 2592 x 1728 (4,5 Megapixel), 1728 x 1152 (2 Megapixel), 1280 x 864 (1 Megapixel)
- File format: DNG™ (raw) uncompressed; JPEG
- File size: DNG™: 18 MB (compressed), 36 MB (uncompressed), JPEG: ca. 2–10 MB
- Color space: sRGB set fixed
- Memory: SD (up to 2 GB), SDHC (up to 32 GB)
- Menu language: german, english, french, spanish, italian, japanese, traditional chinese, simplified chinese, russian
- Metering: TTL, center weighted
- ISO 320/26° to ISO 10000/41° (Pull: ISO 160), in 1/3 ISO steps
- Exposure compensation: ±3 EV in 1/3 EV steps
- Leica M mount (nearly all lenses produced since 1954 are supported)
- Rangefinder focusing system
- Viewfinder: 0,68 magnification, parallax compensation
- 2.5“ 230k fixed LCD display (sapphire glass)
- Shutter speed (min. 32 sec., max. 1/4000, bulb)
- Hot-shoe (with engraving „Monochrom“)
- Flash sync speed 1/180
- Continuous 2 frames per second
- Self timer (2 or 12 sec.)
- Raw data histogram, clipping information
- Auto exposure bracketing ±2 (3,5,7 frames)
- Full metal body
- Included Software (Lightroom 4, Silver Efex Pro 2)
- Special print service for owners (Whitewall)
- Hand made in Germany (Solms)
As you may have realized the specification is like the one of the M9/M9-P beside the sensor. Another difference can be found in the design – basically it looks like the M9-P but has no engraving on the top plate. On the hot-shoe you find its name engraved. Its a very sexy looking peace of craftsmanship.
In general you have on top of the sensor pixels a color filter (red, blue and green pixels), but to get a color image the information of neighboring pixels have to be interpolated. This leads to a loss of sharpness. Wiki read-on. The Monochrom has no such filter and therefore the images produced have about twice the resolution. You could say it acts like a 36 megapixel sensor.
Raw data histogram
To check your exposure the Monochrom delivers you a real raw data histogram so you can see unaltered information. There is also an extended possibility to show clipping.
In camera JPEG
If you shoot JPEG you have different setup possibilities:
Toning: sepia, cool or selenium
Sharpening: off, low, standard, medium high, high
Contrast: low, medium low, standard, medium high, high
Shooting the Monochrom
If you shoot this camera you have to consider that blown highlights are lost. There is no information to pull back. Some highlight information on a sensor with color filter array are stored in the color channels. On the other hand you have a massive amount in the dark areas to recover. So basically I would set exposure compensation to -1 EV or so.
You have also to consider that if you see a contrasty color scene but with no high luminance contrast your images would look like very flat. So it might happen if you shoot this camera that your way looking around changes.
Another aspect to consider: the high ISO capabilities. As far as I have seen from the already surrounding sample images ISO 6400 works well and even 10.000 is pretty usable.
So this camera is the perfect available light beast. Being able to shoot this high ISOs you can speed up your shutter speed quite high. I personally don‘t like to shoot below 1/125. 1/90 if needed.
On the other hand you have a base ISO of 320. I wont use the pull 160 because of the limitations. But think of shooting the Noctilux or Summilux at daytime with 320 – you would have to stop pretty down. So if you already use an ND filter you would probably want to buy a stronger one.
Yes, the color sliders in Lightroom (or other software) wont work as you are used to when converting a color image to black and white. So if you would like to use color filtering you have it to do the old style way by screwing the color filter onto your lens.
Menus and controls
As mentioned before the MM is basically an M9/M9-P. Therefore the menus are very similar. You have no white balance setting and the JPEG setting differ (see above).
The downsize is the price. As its a niche product and less sensors are produced the amount to pay is even higher than the M9-P ones. € 6.800,–
But I love the idea of the black and white only digital and hope to get my hands on one very soon. If you want one you better get your name on a waiting list. This page will be continued.