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...
The Leica Monochrom works in almost exactly the same way as the M9. As a rangefinder, it is completely manual focus, with manual, shutter and aperture priority exposure modes.
Before talking about the quality of the images, it is important to address one feature that the Monochrom has inherited from the M9, which really should have been improved: the 2.5in, 230,000-pixel (690,000-dot) screen. Even compared to those on much less expensive entry-level DSLRs, this screen is small and of low resolution.
Although we don’t have the luxury of an LCD screen when shooting black & white film, it is something that as digital photographers we have come to rely on, more than anything, to help us check that an image is sharp and in focus. While the philosophy behind both the M9 and the Monochrom is all about high-quality images, design and mechanics, the screen does seem at odds with this ethos of ‘excellence’, even more so considering the Monchrom’s price.
Although both cameras handle in the same way, there are some things to be considered when exposing images. With highlights blowing out more easily than with a camera that has a colour filter array over the sensor, images need to be underexposed for the best results.
I found that sometimes up to -1EV or more was required to make sure there would be enough highlight detail to adjust when editing raw files. In fact, shooting raw images is almost essential with the Monochrom, and rightly so given the amount of detail the sensor and high-quality lenses can resolve.