[Gear] Who Needs Color? $8,000 Leica Camera Shoots Only Black And White

[Gear] Who Needs Color? $8,000 Leica Camera Shoots Only Black And White

Leica has gone against the grain of recent camera bodies with this interesting release of a digital camera that shoots only black and white images. The Leica M-Monochrom is a full-frame, 18MP Rangefinder style camera. What do you think of the price of something like this? Novelty or in a class all on it's own? Product photos and tech specs after the jump.

MSRP: $7,950.00
Body type: Rangefinder-style mirrorless
Max resolution: 5212 x 3472
Effective pixels: 18.0 megapixels
Sensor size: Full frame (36 x 24 mm)
Sensor type: CCD
Color space:sRGB hardwired
ISO: Auto, 160-10,000
Image stabilization: No
Uncompressed format: RAW
JPEG quality levels: Fine, Standard
DNG (RAW) 14-bit uncompressed (36 MB) / 8-bit compressed (18 MB)
JPEG (Fine / Basic)

[via DP Review]

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Jan's picture

You should have mentioned that since it only shoot black and white the pixels don't have sub pixels and the camera therefor should produce a sharper image.

Only if you screw on a colour filter that takes away 1-2 stops of light. Without filter,  aberration messes up, a thing that is usually corrected easily by software on bayer sensor output.

Jorge Moro's picture

I think the images will be incredible.  If you can afford to purchase it without breaking the bank, then go for it.  On the other hand, kinda limits you. I shoot in jpeg+raw with my Nikon D700 and D3 and then convert to BW with Silver Efex.  Works for me.  This is a sweet camera though, as are all Leica's.
If money were no object I'd order a M9 and a few lenses, and for good measure throw this one into the mix.

Phase One also produce a B&W only MFDB

hmm....i guess they got so bored that they decided to go backwards and go from color to black and white again. I remember how amazed my photography mentor was when color film came out on the market in the 40's. now we are amazed at a digital camera that only shoots b&w. hahhaha

DeonvanZyl's picture

I can dig it. 


Why? I don't get it... if you told me it was better, sharper, faster or something then I could understand it... but just B&W I don't get it....why would I limit myself when I can get the M9 and shoot both color and convert to B&W and better yet I can use those color to apply "filters to change the tone of the image, ie the sky is blue apply a blue filter in PSD and make the sky lighter or darker" Sure you could just put an actual filter on the lens but that affects everything.... I DON'T GET IT!

But given that the sensor doesn't rely on Bayer interpolation, as it shouldn't need subpixels, the images should be sharper than conventional 18Mp cameras. :)

 It's a shame that Leica, a company that knows all about optics, comes up with the resolution argument. It is invalid. Why? Real life is in colour: colour means aberration. No matter if the sensor is B&W, the different colour rays of light land at different points on the sensor. Bayer filters allow you to see each colour seperately, and realign them through software (which is common on Nikons for 4 years now, and which Canon is experimenting a little on the 5DmkIII). That is why the D800 is so crazy detailed: it eliminates all lens faults by software, because a Bayer-sensor lets you do that. Aberration:gone, light falloff: gone, curvature: gone. With a B&W sensor, you have too little information to fix these faults. The only option to become tack-sharp, is to screw a yellow or red filter to the lens. It eliminates the advertised 2 stop advantage (the Leica Monochrome is probably just as sensitive as the D800 is in full colour, or even less). I doubt whether Leica can match the 14.4 stop D-range of the D-800 too.

DPreview goes into good detail of how it should affect the final image. Basically, you should get much greater detail (and Leica lenses can surely resolve that well) as well as lower noise and the noise you get should be less muddy and more film like.Ultimately, Leica doesn't make their own sensors. They use Kodak's CCD. B/W sensors are a fairly common thing in scientific/medical imaging so it's not like they had to develop a new sensor for it. Knowing that lots of people who shoot Leica end up putting their images in B/W it only makes sense to offer it as the sensor is available and offers some advantages. It's not like a whole lot of R&D went into this camera, they just adapted the m9 to this sensor. I'd think of it as an analog to the Nikon d800e or the Canon D60a. A little spin on an existing product to cater to the needs of a specific group of customers.

I love the idea of a high quality, full frame, BW only, camera with a sensor specifically designed to capture a very high dynamic tonal range, coupled with incredibly sharp, bright lenses like the Leica or Zeiss lenses. In addition it should have a high ISO range and a set of built-in filters so that that one could alter which colors map to which shades of BW. But NOT at an $8000 price range. Maybe at a $3000 range with lens.

I would love it if Leica did a camera like this (or with a color sensor) but skipped the LCD screen.
The whole point of Leica is nostalgia and/or retro combined with a build quality surpassing every other brand.
They make their new cameras to feel and behave just like their old ones. Just take it one step further and remove the LCD on the back, put a dedicated ISO wheel, like on analog bodies on top and it would be grand!

A digital camera that acts just like an old analog one, isn't that what Leica buyers are looking for?Removing the screen makes the whole shooting process more "analog like" since you spend more time taking artistic decisions than just shooting away and chimping. I shoot analog from time to time, just because of this. To train my own artistic abilities and take a slower pace where each shot counts instead of blasting of 500 pics while going to the store, hoping that one of them will turn out to be a lucky shot.

Of course, you could do this even without the LCD, but I think it helps to not be able to see the picture the second after it has been taken. My "keepers ratio" is far higher on film than digital and I feel that I become better at taking pictures by shooting film since I have to analyse the shot before I press the trigger.
This camera would be the best of both worlds. The ease of use (no scanning or even developing of film) of a digital camera and the "think before you shoot" mentality of film.A Leica M7 with a digital sensor and flash card slot. Would buy (if I won the lotto..):3

Josh McDarris's picture

I think it makes more sense to shoot B&W film than to buy an $8k B&W digital camera. Just saying.

Well that's one way to get rid of the purple fringing problem.

I think i'd rarther buy a blad for that money... there will always be a market for a camera like this with the overpaid hipsters and purists..

Michael's picture

I'd love to know the demograpic of their customers...

RUSS's picture

I cannot see limiting ones self to only being able to do black and white photos, for a price of $7950.00?
black and white pics can be amazing. But color can be amazing as well. Why only have one choice?
With today's technology in the latest releases, having more detail is a mute point.
It's a big deal that an over priced camera only shoots black and white? To me, it isn't worth the paper the advertisements are printed on.

I'd take a M6 and a TON of B&W film any day of the week... Honestly though, one most likely will not be able to tell the difference in sharpness without some serious pixel-peeping...

 Geez. If I had that kind of cash, I would save it for a Phase One. I suppose it's too much to ask for Leica/Cannon/Nikon et al to make their cameras more modular. If you could swap out the sensor module, it would make more sense to manufacture sensors exclusively for black and white.

It's starting to bother me a bit that FStoppers writers are sounding like the trolls an the commenters are the well-informed ones.

Guys, please do your homework before posting troll-bait stories like this.

ChristophZiegenhardt's picture

Here's a different kind of review on the Leica M Monochrome: http://www.czed.com/blog/2012/05/12/a-different-review-of-the-leica-m-mo...

Ralph Hightower's picture

What's wrong with B&W film? So far, I've shot 29 rolls of B&W film this year. Y2K12BW: 2012, the year I use B&W exclusively; but photography is not my vocation. 2012 is the year that I experiment; I am learning to visualize in B&W.

Shannon Wimberly's picture

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