Would You Spend $8,000 on a Compact Camera That Only Shoots Black and White? Leica Announces the M10 Monochrom

Leica has just announced the latest version of its classic M series compact rangefinder cameras, the M10 Monochrom. What makes this camera stand out is its 40-megapixel full-frame sensor that records only luminance data and doesn’t capture any color.

The advantage of this type of sensor is that it increases the tonal range that can be captured by the camera, producing what B&H Photo's black and white aficionado Allan Weitz regards as the best monochrome images he’s ever seen by a digital camera. In this video, he’s incredibly enthusiastic about the photographs produced by the M10 Monochrom, to say the least.

Leica has opted to couple the black and white photography with the understated stylings of the M10-P that has a matte finish and leaves off the classic Leica red dot.

Leica M10 Monochrom

The Leica M10 Monochrom. Image source: leica-camera.com.

Clearly, this is something of a niche product and also a significant investment, but for black and white enthusiasts, if the sensor is as good as Weitz says it is (read his wonderfully effusive review here), street photographers that otherwise would never dream of being able to justify the cost of a Leica might want to start saving up. However much we might rib Leica for its limited-edition snakeskin bodies and ostentatious “limited edition masterpieces” (to quote the Leica website), I’ve yet to encounter someone who’s bought an M-series camera and regretted it.

The truth will be in the raw files, but until you can track one down, you’ll have to settle for this selection of images published on the Leica website. Enjoy.

The Leica M10 Monochrom is available for pre-order for $8,295 and is expected to start shipping in the next week or two.

Will you be splashing out? Is color overrated? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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56 Comments

Previous comments
Black Z Eddie .'s picture

If I won the Lottery, it'd still be a no. :)

David Pavlich's picture

No. I shoot a lot of wildlife. Not my kind of camera. Besides, can you imagine what a 400mm f2.8 would cost?!

Mark Wyatt's picture

That lens is for an SLR, not a rangefinder.

David Pavlich's picture

I know that. The point is that the diminutive lenses for the Leica are as much or more than a Canon, Nikon, or Sony 400 f2.8.

For $8k, no. The technology is amazing and I wish more manufacturers would follow suit with a monochrome version of an existing camera. The removal of the color filter array inherently makes for sharper images. The fact the photo sites only have to record the luminance values makes it sharper. I would love to see an M version of a new R camera with around 20MP.

Mark Wyatt's picture

I wonder if you could modify an existing camera? They modify for IR. Still I suspect the Monochrom is optimized for monochrome.

EDIT: https://maxmax.com/shopper/category/9510-fuji-monochrome

Andy Day's picture

Interesting point. This does beg the question: if Canon is willing to give astrophotographers an Ra, why doesn't it give black and white enthusiasts an Rm? Is the latter really more niche than the former?

Mark Wyatt's picture

Most people will just say to use the color camera and convert, but it is really not the same.

I was thinking the same thing, but forgot to mention that in my comment. I wonder what the ratio of astro photogs to monochrome photogs would be? The Ra model seems way more niche than a monochrome body would be. But, there must be a reason they make it.

liliumva's picture

I wonder how it compares to an IR converted camera. I get removing the bayer cfa, but for 8K is it worth it? I rather enjoy my IR converted D800(665nm atm), so I'd never spend the money on it. Maybe a dedicated BW shooter would for both the name and what it offers.

Mark Wyatt's picture

If you follow my link I posted, that company does a number of modifications including IR and UV. I know there are other companies also that do modifications.

liliumva's picture

I've modified my own d800... I was questioning how this camera would compare to an already IR converted one. Given that you can easily convert one to full spectrum(I have) or any NM you so choose. So removing the bayer cfa may or may not be worth the extra cost, even with the fractional amount of sharpening removing said cfa would give.

jim hughes's picture

I definitely feel the pull of this camera. But.

Lately I've been thinking about DR and what it means in today's output media. The only ways my photos get seen are online, and as inkjet prints sold through a POD. That means JPGs on typical displays, and inkjet prints from places like BayPhoto. Let's say I start with this camera, and look at a photo on my calibrated high-gamut display - am I seeing everything the camera captured or have I already lost something? Now I reduce it to an 8bit JPG, people see it in browsers on tablets, maybe buy a print. Are they getting anything that they wouldn't get if I'd used my Nikon Z6?

In other words, how many stops of DR are there at each step of this process, and what are the losses?

I understand that if I have more DR to start with, I can compress it in post and end up with more detail. But that's not the same thing.

Mark Wyatt's picture

delete

La Vida Leica's picture

I have the original "M9M" Monochrom. It's a fantastic camera, and shoots high ISO really well - the noise is very film like. Granted I had to replace the sensor (under warranty/recall). Would I spend the money on the M246 or this newer M10 based version? No. I don't *need* the refinements to the bodies that came over the years, nor the 40MP of the newest sensor. The 18MP of the original translates well to about 24MP in a color/bayer sensor and that works for me. Faster file handling, smaller storage requirements and good enough for large prints. In the end though, are these monochrome cameras any better than a B&W conversion of a color image? I do believe the tones are better, and there's a bit of an undefinable "edginess" to the images - but it's not worth $6-8k to get it. If B&W is really your thing though... Then go for it. Or shoot film.

Mark Wyatt's picture

B&W film is much more affordable and can produce amazing results.

La Vida Leica's picture

Absolutely! But it does require more work (namely developing and scanning). For some that may not be worth the trouble or time.

Mark Wyatt's picture

I use a lab (The Darkroom) and am happy with the results. I do have to wait, but like the anticipation.

Plus $8000 buys a lot of film and processing!

Blake Aghili's picture

Even PhaseOne produces a fully B&W camera : 100MP Achromatic XF.
So yeah at some levels there IS a need/demand for it or someone like PhaseOne wouldn't do it either.
If I currently want pure black and white however, I personally shoot B&W Film .

Timothy Gasper's picture

Very nice, but no. With over 47 years of photo experience and too much equipment already, I am quite happy and capable with what I have. For me, there has to be a time when enough equipment is enough equipment...........I'll let you know when that time is.

barry cash's picture

You can pick up a Fujifilm GW690 III for 500.00 put what ever film in it and have a great B&W shooter. This is deserving some deep thought because for a few dollar investment you can try out B&W for a while and see if you really want to go for a more modern $15k set to shoot just B&W.

You may be wondering why I suggested the Fujifilm GW690 III the main reason is the lens it is critically sharp and the larger negative will give you all the resolution one could want. If I didn't swear off film after shooting it for 40 years I would go back but for me never again.

Zack Schindler's picture

Well if someone bought one for me and a Leica 35 f1.4 I would not complain, But be aware that you will be spending $13800.00 for my dearest affections.

I think it looks great but unless I had seriously more disposable income, I'll be sticking with my X-T3 and Acros film simulation for my black and white street photography.

It's a beautiful camera except for the exposed screw head right above the lens

Motti Bembaron's picture

I would not buy it no matter how much money I had. There is silly and then there is just plain stupid.

why would anyone buy this camera for 8,000.