Leica M Monochrom Compared to the Leica M9

Leica’s new black & white rangefinder, the M Monochrom, eschews the standard color filter found in ordinary camera sensors in order to capture higher quality monochrome photographs. How much of a difference does this make compared to the standard practice of converting color images to B&W? David Farkas over at Red Dot Forum decided to find out by doing a head-to-head comparison of the camera with a Leica M9. He photographed the same scene at different ISOs, and then published the photos with a nifty slider that lets you easily compare the resulting images. Here’s a spoiler: the difference is quite noticeable.

ISO Test: Leica M Monochrom vs. Leica M9 [Red Dot Forum]

  • Thomas

    The Monochrom performs really well IMO. There’s a clear differance between that and the standard M9. 

  • Henri

     I am curious to see how Leica MM will perform compared to Leica M10 in the near future. I think that would be a more fair comparison since their dates would be closer.

  • Knur

    Leica M9 image quality really bad.

  • Michael

    In the end I am glad I still use film for B&W, I know the technology will soon catch up but until then I still cant justify the Leica MM

  • Knur

     35mm film is almost dead. Is too expensive.

  • Andy

    I don’t know how much does it cost in other places, but in Hong Kong, processing a roll of 35mm film is HK$20.  That’s about US$2.56 or ~2Euro dollar.  And you can get your film processed in 1 hour!  There’s still lots of people using film here.  IMHO the print out from film is still much more impressive than digital output.  My feelings to digital output is that it’s just like a color photocopier, which is flat and deadly.

  • Michael


    I develop my own negative then either digitize and make prints on my Epson 3880 or if I really like the picture I would enlarge it at a local darkroom (Dodge & Burn).  It can get costly but its a lot more fun and rewarding then in digital post processing.
    Plus I don’t doubt that digital will soon catch up to film as well as the inkjet printers, but for now it’s not up to its potential and not worth investing to digital B&W cameras, imho.

  • 9inchnail

    That’s because good image quality is too mainstream and just sooo 2012ish. There’s nothing better than some good old noise in your photo. You’ve propably never heard of that.

  • Ivan

    Interesting, but not really the best test: in my opinion the greatest advantage to B&W sensors over Bayer sensors is not high ISO, but using REAL filters for B&W photography over simulated filtering applied in PP to color images.

    So how about testing a landscape scene using deep red filter on Leica M Monochrom, then comparing that result to red channel only conversion from a color image from Leica M9? I would imagine result to be an eye opener for many who do not understand that color image is actually “constructed” from Bayer array and how M Monochrom differs from color cameras.

  • mythbuster

    nonsense comparison. why don´t compare m10 to b&w film instead? Anyway why don´t compare it with a no outdated camera as nikon d800?

  • Henri

     I don’t think it’s dead. I’ve been using film and developing my own bw for years. If it was dead, it would be hard for anyone to find bw film. Kodak Trix that costs $4.50 is still better than the digital image that you would get from an overpriced $9000 camera if you’re after the classic film look. Plus, a 10 liter Pyrocat HD developer will cost you $14.50, you do the math. I don’t see the point why people spend so much money on a camera and then use a plug-in like Silver Efex to simulate the film look.

  • Keith

    LOL. Comparing a 2009 camera to a 2012 camera. Obviously it’s going to have better noise control. It’s like comparing a 5D2 to a 5d3 or a d700 to a d800. Hold on. Wait. There is NO COLOUR? Even the X-PRO1 has better ISO control than the m9m. Now ain’t that impressive. 

    As much as i like leica, i’d stick with their film cameras TYVM. Paying so much for backwards technology that’s being bought into by people who’ve got more money than sense. Give me a roll of HP5 or Tri-x anyday. 

  • Knur

    You sound like a hipster :)

  • Suman0102

     if I want the good old noise on my photo, i’ll just crank up the ISO really high. But I’d also like to know that i can get sharp, clean images at good ISO levels also. just saying….

  • PaulJay

    That’s really an argument for a 8000 dollar camera…..

  • zidar

    I was once hounded off the Leica Historical Society of America website because I posted the purpose of a Leica is to hang around your neck when you accept an award for images you shot with your Canon digital. But there’s an element of truth to that….Leica defined a certain kind of photography…and a certain kind of photographer. Many of us follow the lead of those great photographers. It’s just that we’ve got better tools these days. But shining a little light on the past is good for the image of the photographer. 

  • dan

    Knur Leica M9 does not perform bad
    IT PERFORMS BEAUTIFULLY !!! I’s a great camera with fantastic results. Yes it has it’s own defects like high ISO. but the Iso on the M9 starts at 160 while on the MC it starts at 320 , which means: you need a filter ( sungalasses) if you want to shoot outside in bright sunny days. I am not saying it does not shoot well although i was not impressed by what i saw so far.
    Some of my bad Leica M9 images :)

  • SBGallery

    Wow Dan, these are great photographs. Congrats.