Leica M Monochrom First Impressions Review
Hands-on look at Leica's M Monochrom: the world's first exclusively black and white full-frame digital camera.
The Leica M Monochrom camera is certainly designed for a very specific audience: it's an $8,000 full-frame digital rangefinder that shoots exclusively in black-and-white. So, if you're a professional street photographer or a die-hard monochrome enthusiast, then this may be the ideal camera for your needs.
To achieve true black-and-white photography, the Leica M Monochrom's imager is literally blind to colors due to its lack of a color filter array. This allows the camera to bypass the de-mosaicing process in an effort to capture the true luminance value of every single pixel, thus creating a "true" black-and-white image. Additionally, the camera's 18-megapixel sensor includes an infrared blocking filter for wavelengths longer than 700nm to ensure the M Monochrom only captures light from the visible spectrum.
According to Leica, this special black-and-white sensor design results in images that are 100% sharper than color sensors of a similar size, and, since no incoming light is filtered by the Monochrom's sensor, the camera is far more sensitive to light. As a result, the M Monochrom's native ISO sits at ISO 320, and the camera can handle up to ISO 10,000. In comparison, the Lieca M9 has a max ISO of ISO 2500 and the new Leica M, which was announced this year at Photokina, tops out at ISO 6400.
Other than its special sensor, the M Monochrom looks and feels much like the Leica M9 camera. It has the same Leica M bayonet mount, it can shoot DNG raw (compressed or uncompressed) or JPEG, and it has the sturdy, magnesium alloy construction that is integral to the Leica aesthetic. Unlike the new Leica M, the M Monochrom cannot shoot video, nor does it offer a live view shooting mode. Strangely, the camera does have a 2.5-inch color LCD, which may be the only colorful feature on the camera itself.
As Leica's press material states, the M Monochrom is "the perfect camera for anyone with a passion for black-and-white photography." This may very well be 100% true, but Leica forgot to mention you also need a cool $8,000 bucks—plus more for lenses—before you can even consider making the M Monochrom part of your arsenal.
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