Leica’s New M Monochrome, The $8,000 Colorblind Camera


Oh sweet baby Jesus I want his camera

Leica’s new rangefinder camera, the M Monochrome, is colorblind. That is, it will only shoot black and white images. What’s that you say? You can totally shoot color images with any camera you like and turn them into awesome B&W photos later? That’s true, but there are some advantages to doing things Leica’s way.

First, lets get the price out of the way. The Monochrome costs $8,000, and that’s before you start adding lenses. That’s $8,000 for a monochrome camera which offers no autofocus, no live view and no zoom. And yet I still want one.

The Monochrome’s sensor is a modified version of the one found in the M9. The difference is that the color filters have been removed. This does two things. First, more light gets to each pixel, as the red, green and blue filters are gone. This makes the sensor more sensitive, topping out at ISO 10,000 instead of ISO 2,500.

It also means that the images are sharper. With color sensors, the results from the variously filtered pixels are combined (or demosaiced) to make a color image. The Monochrome’s pixels are all the same color, so no demosaicing is necessary.

It’s not all upside, though: the sensor is more prone to blowing out highlights which can’t be recovered in post-processing. This is because RAW highlight recovery relies on grabbing data from the other color channels which may not be so overexposed. To combat this, the Monochrome’s histogram is more accurate, and is based on the RAW file itself, not the JPG preview used by most cameras (pro tip: because of this, you can usually rely on your RAW file being ok even if the histogram shows it as clipped at the top end).

The other downside is that you’ll have to start buying colored filters again. Whereas it is easy to apply “filters” during color-to-B&W conversion with regular digital photos, you can’t do that with B&W captures. If you want to darken a sky with this new Leica, you’ll have to put an orange filter in front of the lens when you take a picture.

This all sounds — to me at least — amazing. When I shot film in my old Leica M6, I almost exclusively used B&W stock (Ilford XP2, Ilford Delta 3200 and Fujifilm Neopan, if you’re asking). And I’d be all over this camera or the M9 in a second, if it wasn’t for those damn prices. You see, I picked up the M6 body in mint condition, but used. It cost me around £600-£800 (I don’t remember exactly) plus the same for a 35mm lens. Buying into Leica’s digital M series is an order of magnitude more expensive.

I guess I’ll stick to Instagram.

Source: [Lei][lei-camera]
Via: [DP Review][preview]

previeww]: http://www.dpreview.com/previews/leica-m-monochrom/
leia-camera]: http://us.leica-camera.com/photography/msystem/mmonochrom/