Leica Announces the M Monochrom Black and White Digital Rangefinder

Leica has officially announced its new monochrome digital rangefinder, the M Monochrom — the world’s first digital camera to do dedicated black and white photography. The camera features a newly designed 18-megapixel monochrome CCD sensor and “100% sharper imaging” due to the fact that raw data is processed directly without interpolation. The monochrome sensor allows the camera to achieve extremely low noise even upwards of ISO 10,000, and various programmed tones can be used to adjust the look and feel of the black and white photographs. It’ll cost $7,950 when it hits store shelves starting in late July 2012.

(via Leica Rumors)


    Wow. As someone who shoots black and white film more than color on a digital SLR, I am salivating. If only Nikon would do something like this…(wishful thinking, I know)

  • Tom

    Just a quick clarification, this is not a world first… Phase one have a monochrome digital back called the achromatic+

  • Amadeusz Leonardo Juskowiak

    Not the first (look at Phase One), however first usable BW camera.

  • cristofa

    … I completely don’t get this! I have always preferred to produce black and white images, but I am loving the image control I have in Lightroom adjusting colours in the conversion to B&W – far more than I was able to achieve in the dark room. Apart from the crazy price, why would you want to produce a disabled product?

  • Wallerus

    People will buy it! Just look at at the Fiat. ;-P

  • Guest

    Because it gives you better image quality: sharper and less noise.

  • Guest

    The PhaseOne isn’t a camera dedicated to b&w, it is a digital back. 

  • Bureau_c

    I don’t think this would work for me. I love it when I discover an image I’ve taken works in B&W, but I rarely know that until I’m playing with it after the fact. Might be interesting to play with multiple exposures using colored filters and then combining, as is often done in astrophotography, but I’m not experimenting for $7K.

  • MillsLula39

    as Lee said I cannot believe that any one can profit $9238 in 1 month on the internet. did you see this web page===>>⇛► 

  • Rwboyer

    This product is a joke – the really silly part is once we start seeing images from it that have been post processed to add simulated grain. Wow for only $7000 you can have this… for another few hundred you can add simulated grain… while you are at it you can get the matching $7000 50mm f2 summicron… Wow this is great.  WTF?

    Maybe you should just get out your old film camera and shoot black and white film… maybe?

    What a crock of shit. $8k camera $7k 50mm f2 – what non-sense.

  • Markus

    The first commercial available digital camera was the Logitech FotoMan in 1990, with BW only. And then the Kodak DCS-100 in the BW version was the first available monochrome camera with interchangeable lenses around 1990-1991. And for other notable cameras you have the KODAK PROFESSIONAL DCS 760M, the latest BW only DSLR (until the Leica showed up). 

  • Suman0102

     I was always under the impression that if you take an image in color (with the 5D mark II for example) and then change it to b&w in post, even in high ISO, the noise is less prevalent (simply because its a b&w image). I’m sure this leica’s sensor is still better since it is dedicated for b&w.

    But if a canon /nikon would make a sensor dedicated to simply black and white, i’d assume the quality out of those would be in a league of its own. Think of all the processing a color camera has to go through. Take all of that out of the equation and you can really make one hell of a b&w camera.

    Just my 2ç

  • SameGuestAsAbove

    I think the main difference is in the sensor not the processing. A sensor doesn’t see colour it sees light, absence of light and everything in-between -> in other words b&w. Strip out all the filtering needed to get rgb and you’ll get sharper images and each pixel/point on the sensor receives more light. That is at least how it works as far as I understand it ;)

  • Jostein Roalkvam

    I can shoot and process ~$8000 worth of film before this digital camera would eventually become a cheaper solution. That’s a lot of film. Think I’ll stick to my M6 and some good old Tri-X for the time being…

  • Michael

    I don’t get it, who cares about the sharpness and noise, the whole point of B&W is the noise and surreal blurriness that adds character and texture.  That’s why I always dislike shooting in digital trying to create fake B&W look and this Leica is at its worst example.

  • Guest

    Trying to fake the look of film with digital equipment is one thing.. but fake B&W?! If anything this sensor is a pretty honest representation of the amount of light it receives.

  • Brandon

    Damnit, this will NOT be the camera to drop the M9 to M8 prices. Why spend an extra G for something that only does 1/2 of what the M9 does? Epic Fail, Leica.

  • wickerprints

    Let me first state that I’m not a fan of Leica–I find their products grossly overpriced, but what really irritates me is the attitude of those who swear by its superiority.  Leica fans tend to be gear snobs who think that their photos are better simply because they paid a lot more for their camera.

    That said, however, I completely understand the technological basis for this camera.  There are distinct and significant advantages to having a panchromatic sensor over one that uses a color filter array.  The most obvious advantage is light sensitivity.  A CMOS sensor intrinsically is wavelength-agnostic:  however, individual pixels are made color-sensitive because they have a red, green, or blue filter placed in front of it.  This reduces the light sensitivity by approximately 2 stops.

    Furthermore, by using a color filter array, one must use some kind of demosaic interpolation algorithm to “guess” the information that was not captured.  This results in a loss of spatial resolution, as well as potential image artifacts.

    So, there are very good reasons to want a panchromatic sensor.  The tradeoff is that color information (i.e., wavelength) is not captured, so one must weigh the benefits against the drawbacks, just as photographers once did with film.  I appreciate that the choice exists.  I don’t like that Leica thinks it’s worth nearly $8000, but the underlying technological justification is sound.

  • Rwboyer

    let me first state – who f’in cares. 8k – hahaha… 

  • Michael

    Too honest in my opinion, but once you try to post process looking like Tri X to Acros that’s what I mean by faking B&W.  Digital B&W imho is too honest and too boring, it just doesn’t give enough character.

  • WK

     Agreed! The camera is a parody of BW. A handful of super rich will buy and end up shooting  generally bleh images in their spare time.
    The  irony is in the marketing and PR  hype….’ the soul of photography blah,  blah blah’. Odds are that if Bresson was active  today he would be shooting a DSLR.

    Leica cameras are remarkable – no mistake – But at the price they loose their real value. After all its a tool , no less no more, and their are many other tools that can do the job as good or or better for the working pro and photojournalist.

    I say this because in the 70’s I shot  with M2’s. But when I got my hands on a Nikon F and later an F2  I never touched the Leica’s again.

  • Stavros Giannouris

    Oh, you must be new.
    Welcome to the German Rangefinders price range.

  • Rwboyer

    Actually I have owned M cameras longer than most people here have probably  been on the planet. Both of them purchased new. What’s rairly new is this idiotic notion that $8k for a similar camera and $7k for a slightly improved version of a 50 summicron is somehow justifiable or rational. I hate where Leica is going – and has been going.

  • BLP

    ALL sensors are B+W. They put filters over the individual pixel site to read red, blue or green spectral split – usually in a Bayer pattern. In theory, a sensor array without filters will have more ‘usable’ info. Because in colour sensors, each pixel can only read R, G or B and the firmware determines the aggregate colour. Converting this colour data to B&W is two steps back, one step forward. Much the same as you could always make B&W prints from colour negs, but not the same as B&W to B&W.

    If you have the cash and don’t mind the limitations, go for it. I find it a little sttrange that  we are willing (?) to spend $8000 for a digital camera to replicate B&W film. $8000 buys a hell of a lot of Tri-X.

  • GambleIrma29

    like Anita responded I didn’t know that any one able to get paid $9717 in a few weeks on the computer. have you read this site===>>⇛►

  • jeffbakerphoto

    As an old fart who studied w/ Russell Lee and Gary Winogrand in the 70’s, I find all the comments interesting and sad. I’ve been a Leica user for over 40 years, as a journalist and documentarian. The reason for using a Leica is that it’s a rangefinder camera. You are seeing the image you shoot the moment you click the shutter, unlike with an SLR, where the mirror is blocking the shot the moment you snap. If any of you have looked at Cartier-Bresson’s work, the Leica is all about that decisive moment when you make the decision to press the shutter. We’re not talking sports or motor drives here. Aside from that, it’s built like a tank, which was incredibly important if you are covering the world’s tragedies. The other and most important thing about using a camera that is dedicated to B&W is that you are committed to B&W images. One thinks differently when they know the shot is going to be in B&W. Your decisions are based on content rather than the beauty of the color in the image, so you tend to make different choices.
    That being said, I’m as pissed of as anyone at how Leica has entered the digital age. I was told over and over again by Leica reps that if I invested in an M8, that there would be and upgrade program to full sensor mode. They lied and destroyed the relationship they’d build over 70 years with their most trusted and loyal users. The images that both the M8 & M9 produce at anything over ISO 320 are crap, while at 160, the color is more beautiful that from any digital I’ve ever seen. They’ve become money grubbers, as has the rest of the corporate world… pathetic! I have to agree with BLP…. I’ll stick w/ my M6 and Tri-X.

  • mugget man

    The PhaseOne is a medium format. 

    The M Monochrom is the worlds first full frame 35mm digital camera, for the detail oriented people among us…

  • Ralph Hightower

    Wow! Slap a Leica nameplate on a camera and it’s instantly worth $8,000! People will buy Hasselblad for the name, and Apple iPhone. Yea, Hasselblad is expensive, but there are other manufacturers out there that can get the job done also. I’m coveting the Mamiya RZ67 system.

    Okay, I haven’t used a rangefinder camera; it may help with panning fast moving targets. But if I’m shooting fast moving targets, it’s probably with a telephoto lens. I’ll use the the lenses that I have for the shot I want.

    I’m shooting 2012 exclusively in Black & White using an archaic technique that uses film.

  • Amadeusz Leonardo Juskowiak

    You still can do this, in the old way, use filters!

  • WK

    Just want to address teis sharpness and resolution issue ( one of Leica’s marketing angles) . Realy folks it’s overrated!  – unless of course you mess around shooting brick walsl and  pixel peeking at 300 percent.
    Fact is 35 mm was never about sharpness. Its about spontaneity and fast reaction to a situation. Low bulk  fast lenses and quick handling!

    Most  photos jornos want infocus images that tell a story  – we leave the extreme sharpness to product photographers  who shoot watches, perfume bottles and cars. And those are best handled with medium to large format. Same applies to landscape snappers who have time to haul around tripods.

    AS for BW digital . Gimme a break. At 8000 a pop, I’d  rather stock up on  LOTS of TriX or just convert colour in Lightroom , which happens to do   an excellent job.

  • Dsubonovich

     This is the most germane and important comment.  Right here.  You will never get the look of black and white film printed on silver paper and toned with real toxic selenium toner with ANY digital camera.  You’re right, who cares about sharpness and grain anyway, fine grain being a bourgeois conceit anyway. (An aside, these people on the interweb who blow up a tiny portion of a tree to prove which lens is sharper; that just kills me.  I have to laugh.)  Film IS tough to travel with but what the hell, I’ve put 800 speed film in my CHECK IN luggage in Asia just to see what would happen and guess what…nada.
    The other sad thing is you can spot a digital black and white photo a mile away.  It’s been mentioned before digital photography makes everyone’s work look the same: flattened out and empty.  Be courageous, show your subject respect by making it hard to do, collect actual photons of light on a 3 dimensional film surface, part of the subject is actually IN your camera!, stay up all night drinking Scotch like W. Eugene Smith trying to pull one perfect print, don’t be a baby about it, grab any camera you can and hit the road.

    It all comes down to what Robert Capa said, “f/8 and be there.”
    f/8 and be there baby.

    Dusan Subonovich

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