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.

Log in or register to post comments

56 Comments

Matt Williams's picture

Would I buy it? Depends on how rich I am. If $8k is all of my disposable income, then no. If I'm rich as hell, yeah, I'd love one.

I used to have the original 18MP CCD Monochrom. Really loved it.

Patrick Meulnet's picture

Beeing colorblind (as 8% of the male population), i'd like to have one as I hate fiddling with color files in post treatment. But right now, using B&W modified cameras (CFA removed) that are way cheaper.

Rob Davis's picture

I’d love one but can’t justify the costs at this time. Black & white film is still wonderful and has a much cheaper entry point.

Erpillar Bendy's picture

Sweet! Reminds me that I am basically poor.

Jerome Brill's picture

Um...

James Wakefield's picture

Hey Andy :)
I owned the mk1 Monochrom a couple of years ago after picking one up for about a third of list price.
It was technically a very challenging camera to use, but the most rewarding and exciting for me since giving up film about 15 years ago. It made me realise that I was, at heart, a black & white photographer, but I had lost that since switching to digital because digital saves everything as colour by default (unless you make the change post-process, which has never worked for me).
I sold the Monochrom in favour of a Sony A7ii which I have used for the past 18 months. I have just sold the Sony kit because I just didn't feel the passion or the fervour that I got with the Leica.
I will most likely pick up a Monochrom mk2 in the near future as the prices will drop to less than £3K. The new M10M looks to be the perfect iteration of this camera... it has finally come of age, but it is of course excruciatingly expensive.
It is no doubt a 'niche' camera but black & white photography has been niche for a long time and moreso with the advent of digital. In the right hands, however, this should reinvigorate and re-establish the black and white genre for those photographers (with deep pockets) who yearn for the purity of black and white film, but were overlooked by the digital revolution.
The mk2 will suit me just fine for a few years. Maybe one day I'll be able to pick up a mk3 for a reasonable price, although I'm not sure what 'reasonable' is yet.

Andy Day's picture

James! Welcome. I hear you. This is the first Leica I've ever looked at and thought "wow, I really want to own that." Many of the others definitely have their appeal but there's something about the combination of the Leica rangefinder feel and the monochrome sensor that grabs me. I've given Leica a shout to see if they will let me try one out for a month - or failing that, a few hours - so keep your fingers crossed for me.

With most digital cameras, age takes its toll as autofocus improves and resolutions get higher. If this one lives up to the hype, I think it will hold its value as an image-making tool. Not monetarily exactly, but in terms of the image quality. I'm sure many have said this before, but what more do you actually need if you don't want autofocus and love black and white?

Mark Wyatt's picture

Very cool. Very expensive, but very cool.

Maybe Fuji will come out with a monochrome only camera...

Rajiv Chopra's picture

I have decided to focus on black & white, which is where I started in life. My brain works better in black & white. But, 8,000 $? If they are willing to gift it to me, so that I can check it out, sure! But, to pay that kind of money (if I add customs duties in India, it may well cross 10,000$) - no!

stuartcarver's picture

I feel like I need to buy a large scarf and fedora first.

Dan Howell's picture

I think you mean a beret.

stuartcarver's picture

Haha yeah those too, tbh lately I’ve seen a lot of those leather/wax brimmed hats being donned by those types. I guess I’ll have to not buy one cos I look like a chav.

Andy Day's picture

Scarf should suffice, as long as it's red. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vam8KDCasWQ

stuartcarver's picture

He absolutely reeks of a Leica shooter doesn’t he haha. Getting a shot of those stairs in the Tate modern too, how original.

jim hughes's picture

Ok yes it's a bit over the top but it's also well shot and a very effective ad for the camera. Pardon my ignorance but is this guy a 'name' photographer?

Zack Schindler's picture

A monocle would make you even more stylish.

stuartcarver's picture

I’m on it mate, eBay.

al bagden's picture

$8000 buys a nice vacation. So I’d say No! But if I won the lottery....

Dan Howell's picture

You'd pay $8000 for a vacation?

Felix C's picture

A once in a lifetime vacation would cost more. Some people work in professions where that is not a issue (besides doctors and lawyers).

Deleted Account's picture

If I had the money, no doubt about it. I only shoot b&w, so for now it is the fujifilm x100f and acros film simulation.

Zack Schindler's picture

I have and X100F and the B&W film simulations along with the red, green and yellow filters are all I need, And the Leica does not have a leaf shutter, HSS up to 1/8000 second and a built in 3 stop ND filter that the X100f has.

Deleted Account's picture

Yes to all of that, plus I tend to shoot high contrast, so the tonal range is not as important to me.

Blessing Akajiaku's picture

For a monochrome camera, I think the price is on the hill. Maybe at $2K, I could give it a shot.

However, anyone who's huge dollars to spare, it could be worth a try.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I have used the three shot Leaf DCB2 twenty years ago, basically a monochrome sensor with a filter wheel for colors and it was absolutely a different world especially when used without the filter wheel.
Now, isn't Leica playing the soda water sales technique when the same filtered water used without the sugar and coloring cost you much more than sold with all the killing elements in it?

Peter Gargiulo's picture

NO!

Felix C's picture

Beautiful, but my goal this year would be a new Leica MP with lots of B&W film.

Doug Walkey's picture

As the adage goes: "a fool and his money are soon parted." Every digital camera I own can be B&W with the throw of a setting. Easily done.
The second point is that tonal range is over rated. I'm working through classic family negatives and film has far less range than popular media would have us think.
If you have the money for toys... or self gratification... ENJOY!

Mark Wyatt's picture

Yes but 1/3 of pixels a R, 1/3 B, 1/3 G (maybe it is four, 1R,1B, 2G). Not the same as a monochrome sensor. I do get some good B&W with my Fujifilm XT-2, but prefer B&W film for now.

Doug Walkey's picture

Each to their own. I have shot film for decades, literally, and have the latest roll in being processed right now. But I've never had much luck with B&W film. it has been a recurring disappointment. I admit it is probably MY issue and not the film. But its still an issue.

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.

Mike Hess's picture

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.

Mike Hess's picture

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.

More comments