Leica’s M Monochrom (Typ 246) features a full-frame black & white-only sensor. See if it justifies its huge price tag in our Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) review. By Callum McInerney-Riley

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246)

Pros:

  • - Brilliant dynamic range
  • - Leica M-mount has a large range of superb lenses
  • - Basic and traditional photography controls similar to a film camera
  • - Good at High ISO sensitivities

Cons:

  • - Viewfinder frame lines are only an approximation
  • - Limited to monochrome
  • - Prone to Highlight clipping

Product:

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Review

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£5,750.00 (body only)

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Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Review – At a glance

  • Shoots only in monochrome
  • 24-million-pixel, full-frame CMOS sensor
  • ISO 320-25,600
  • 3in, 921,600-dot fixed LCD
  • Leica M mount
  • £5,750 body only

In May 2012, Leica announced its first M Monochrom rangefinder. Modelled on the Leica M9, it boasted an 18-million-pixel CCD sensor with the unique feature that it shot only black & white images.

Many non-Leica users cannot understand why anyone would want to restrict themselves to shooting solely in black & white, when colour images can be converted to mono in post-production. However, Leica photographers – many of whom are more likely to shoot in black & white than in colour – pride themselves on being different in their approach to photography, and the thinking behind the camera’s development is as bold as it is strange.

The original M Monochrom is a popular camera and is used by many Leica enthusiasts. Now, three years on, there’s a new M Monochrom in the form of the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246), which boasts Leica’s newly developed CMOS sensor along with a host of other improvements.

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Review – Features

Leica M Monochrom Typ 246 product shot 3

The Leica M Monochrom ships body-only as standard

The new Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) was launched in April, just eight months after the release of the Leica M-P (Typ 240), and has an identical body shape to that camera. Both feature the same Leica-developed 24-million-pixel, full-frame CMOS sensor which does not use an optical low-pass filter. However, the M Monochrom’s sensor doesn’t have a colour filter array (CFA) either. The removal of these two filters has a positive effect on image quality, resulting in sharper images, better dynamic range, better high ISO performance and no colour noise artefacts.

Removing the CFA also means that more light can reach the sensor and, as a result, the sensitivity range of the M Monochrom is ISO 320-25,000. While luminance noise at ISO 320 will be less than it would be with the CFA present, not having the low base of say ISO 100, is a disadvantage. Losing 1.5 stops at the low end makes shooting in bright conditions more difficult, although this can be rectified by the use of a neutral density filter.

The M Monochrom uses Leica’s Maestro processor, which is a bespoke chip based on the Fujitsu Milbeaut media processor. This is the same processor as that used in the Leica M and it is claimed to be three times faster than the sensor used in the original M Monochrom.

There’s a 2GB buffer that allows 4 frames per second shooting for a total of 30 frames. Users can select shoot in JPEG, compressed raw, uncompressed raw or a combination of raw + JPEG simultaneously.

Leica M Monochrom Typ 246 product shot 6

The M Monochrom utilises Leica’s M Mount

Leica’s M mount is fitted to the M Monochrom. M-mount lenses are arguably the best lenses currently available, with a host of models boasting incredible sharpness. However, while their brilliance is accompanied by suitably substantial prices, Leica is keen to point out that lenses from its discontinued R-mount SLR system will also fit onto its M-series models using an adapter. Most other lenses can also be used, including old manual SLR optics, with the right adapter. These generally can’t be focused using the optical rangefinder, so will work best in Live View mode.

The M Monochrom records video in 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution or 1280 x 720 HD resolution at either 24 or 25 frames per second, all in black & white. A built-in mono microphone is featured on the top left of the camera, although it’s possible to record stereo sound using a microphone that attaches to an adapter on the hotshoe.

There are a number of add-ons available for the M Monochrom, including a version of the Summicron-M 35mm f/2 Asph (£2,500) and Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 Asph (£3,125) lenses have a black-chrome finish that match the subtle black of the new camera.

Unlike with a black & white conversion from a digital file, there is no colour information in which to lighten or darken an individual colour channel on the M Monochrom. However, in August Leica will be releasing yellow, orange and green colour filters in 39mm and 46mm sizes for controlling the tonal contrast (prices to be announced).

The optional handgrip for the Leica M will fit the M Monochrom, adding both GPS and tethering for studio photographers. Many other Leica M accessories can be used too.

Raw files from the M Monochrom are saved in Adobe DNG format. A copy of Adobe Lightroom comes included with the camera, which is among the best post-production software available.

  1. 1. Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Review - At a glance
  2. 2. Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Review - Build and Handling
  3. 3. Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Review - LCD, Viewfinder and Focusing
  4. 4. Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Review - Metering and Dynamic Range
  5. 5. Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Review - Image Quality
  6. 6. Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Review - Our Verdict
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  • Kevin

    It’s a Leica monochrom ,,So in the cons column is…wait for it………….only shots monochrome. Isn’t that the point of a monochrome camera?

  • foto2021

    As the author of the article wrote, “When you buy a Leica, you buy into an ethos about photography. The button layout and the build of the camera have a traditionalist quality. There’s nothing else quite like it and you either subscribe to it or you don’t.”

    So you can’t afford to subscribe. Poor you.

    Mine’s on order.

    I’m not rich. I live a frugal lifestyle so I can enjoy the things that matter to me without having to worry too much about the cost. Shooting Leica M gear is one of the things that matters most to me.

    You obviously have other priorities. I don’t criticise you for having different priorities to mine.

  • Andy Whiteman

    Well I’m sure it’s beautiful and its lens will be beautiful too but about £8K for a camera and a lens and it only shoots B & W…sorry but I think anyone who buys this, regardless of how rich they are, is stark raving bonkers. In the 60’s Leicas were expensive but if you really wanted one you could just about aford to buy one if you saved up and worked to get it but £8K is just crazy.