With no colour filter array, the 18-million-pixel sensor in Leica’s new M Monochrom rangefinder captures highly detailed black & white images. Richard Sibley considers the advantages of using the Monochrom and finds out if it really is like shooting on film. Read the Leica M Monochrom review...
Leica M Monochrom review – Introduction
Although long rumoured, when finally released the exact details of the Leica M Monochrom digital rangefinder still came as something of a surprise. Based on the company’s £4,800 M9, the Monochrom only shoots black & white images – but costs £6,200.
Designing a digital camera solely for black & white images may seem counter-intuitive. After all, one of the major advantages of digital imaging is that the photographer can instantly switch between shooting in colour or black & white. Once an image has been converted to monochrome it is easy to alter the contrast or to add a filter effect, so why would a photographer restrict themselves to monochrome only?
For the vast majority, a dedicated black & white camera is unnecessary. However, there are some photographers for whom shooting black & white images is as much a specialism as infrared photography – and that genre has its own dedicated cameras. Furthermore, there are some significant advantages to shooting with a camera that has a sensor designed exclusively for monochrome. As Professor Newman explains, with no coloured filter array the luminance values recorded by the sensor are for the entire colour spectrum, meaning that a true black & white image is presented, not one that has been converted from a colour photo.
Putting the cost of the camera to one side, I was keen to see exactly what the Leica M Monochrom is like to use, and even more eager to see how much detail it can resolve, especially in highlight and shadow areas.
Image: The Monochrom produces a great range of tones and there is a surprising amount of detail in the shadow areas of this image. However, noise becomes visible when the image is brightened