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Thursday, 10 May 2012

Comments

I'm already selling off stuff so I can buy the M-Monochrom. Been waiting for something like that for a long time. Bring it on, and hopefully others will follow.

Ah yes,

Attitude is a problem Mike. I shoot B&W with the Pani in B&W mode. Now I always work from RAW..........result, go figure, I have lot of choices how and when I return back to B&W. Now that is an advantage. And a big one to. But also a pain in the you know what, if you don't want that advantage......so Pana 1: Leica M9-M 1. Converting B&W is a mixed bag of beans.

Second is actual IQ. Now Leica doesn't use an AA filter anyway. Now Thom Hogan states here:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/hogan-leica.shtml

in this rather prophetic post (it's from 2010) that Leica's M9-M should have the same IQ as a 24 Mp camera like the Sony NEX7 or the Nikon 3200 (yeps, he was not that prophetic after all but mr. More is bad ass as we all know).

Personally I do think he has a point. Since no filter is blocking the light to the photosites and no interpolation according to the Bayer principle is needed, it might verry well be true. The problem is, these days 24 Mp (and beyond) camera's are not that uncommon. Camera's with fast, sharp, autofocus primes.

So today/yesterday was a mixed bag for me. I was hoping for an M10 with a 36Mp sensor coupled to the best glass available. That would make sense to a lot of people and to a lot of Leiconians. I think Leica made a great camera of the M9-M wich makes a lot of sence to a verry small crowd of people. I'm in it like you Mike, if Nikon made a monochrome D800m for 2900 euro (or for 3000 for that matter), I would go for it. But at above 6000 it is a niche product in a niche market, and that would be a pitty since a millions of rolls of B&W film sold, B&W held a charm to it's own.

Is there a solution? Of course: buy a old M5 or M7, couple that with high end Leica glass and use a high end film like Adox CMS20 en scan in a (rented) Hasselblad scanner at 6900 dpi. Then remove some dust and you will end up with a result that will amaze you. And if you wanna go sheaper even still, buy an old Fuji GSW690 at rock bottom price, fill it with 120mm delta 100 or Adox CMS20 and fire away. Develop and scan in a Nikon at 4000 dpi, it will also blow your socks of IQ wise ass mr. Dante Stella so nicely pointed out.

http://www.dantestella.com/technical/gsw690iii-res.html

Greatings, Ed

Mike,

Have you considered the possibility that your original post inspired Leica to make this camera? (I happen to know that Leica follows the photo blogs)

In which case, don't you think it's only right that they give you one?

"I've also said that if anyone ever made a B&W-only digital camera I'd be forced to buy it just on general principles. Money where my mouth's been, and all that."

*wink*

Courage? 8.000$ !

Well it is hats off to the Leica marketing team.
In the days of film, I like a lot of people carried two bodies one with B&W film and the other with colour.
Get my drift- 2 bodies say 3 lenses and the directors will be happy.
I am a sad individual who see both BW and colour, these days no matter what the hype says there really is no need for this camera other than the Faberge egg syndrome.
Am I a Leica lusting person with no money? Well I just sold my M because of its poor spec and performance compared to cameras at a third the cost , it also spent as much time in doc as being used and what realy matters is the image not the warm tactile- I using the same camera lines that gods have used feeling. I kept trying to convince myself I needed to keep it, that the miss rate compared to other cameras was my need to improve my technique and that when it came back from Germany this time it would be fine.
The lenses are very good, I have never been seduced by the hype into believing they are the best but they are good, so is a Bentley.

"*wink*"

...And that's true, but only provided I could afford it. If a frog could fly, he wouldn't bump his ass so much.

Mike

Put me in that line too. This product looks great -- I just hope the images it generate really are worthy of the hype and the name.

Pak

I'm sure this has been said somewhere already (and thought without doubt). I hope another camera manufacturer of reputation will follow Leica's example, with one I can afford!

I can't help thinking that Leica missed an opportunity to innovate further here, by building the sensor as a removable cartridge... that body will outlast the electronics/sensor by a long margin.

Cheers

Brian

There's an interesting angle in the linked post - that shot by Alex Webb relies on limited tone-range. It's one thing to convert colour to black&white. It's quite another thing to deliberately blast highlights or submerge solid shadows, especially given how the trend is for ever-increasing sensor dynamic range (quite a few 11-stoppers on DxO these days). How many people would *see* the possibility of that fininshed JPEG result when their camera goes to lengths to avoid getting it?

I am very happy to see Leica make this camera, and I am sure it will satisfy a need for the few people who asked for it repeatedly, but I am not sure that this will be exactly what people expected, in the end.

First of all, the benefit: a bit of high ISO sensitivity, and sharper photos, pixel for pixel. And an end-to-end B&W workflow, of course, maybe the most important thing.

But the downside is that one sensor gives one response to light, and everything else is processing. With B&W film we could put in Tri-X one day for the gritty documentary feel, and Adox CHS 25 the next, for loads of resolution and great tonality. With the M9-M you will always get the same result, presumably somewhat flat for the greatest flexibility, and then you have to process for grain, for resolution, for tonality, for whatever you want. Leica admits this implicitly by including Silver Efex Pro in the deal.

Is this what people want? I think the original question maybe wasn't 100% thought through...

Having said that, I would love an M9-M and the new Summicron, but it won't be in the budget until just after I win the lottery.

To quote a commenter above, "I just hope the images it generates really are worthy of the hype and the name."

This sentiment is precisely why this product exists. And I'm sure those who are saying this camera has increased resolution and sharpness are not wrong. What I'm questioning, however, is how important are those parameters today? When we see a good photograph, are we oohing and aahing at the sharpness and resolution? Most cameras on the market will do almost as well if not as well for 99% of general use, in terms of printing, sizes, publication, etc.

Your images should be your images, worthy because of your vision and talent, not because they were "generated" by a piece of machinery with hype and a brand name.

Hi Mike
Two phrases come to mind, the first is quite old...
The Emporers new clothes
The second just came to mind and made me laugh not least of which because I WAS ONE...
Lack lustre Leica - lustafterer
Probably will not get past the censor, to inflammatory.

I think they've jumped the shark here, price wise at least. Given its specs they seem to be aiming it at photographers rather than yacht owners, and if thats the case, then it's ridiculously overpriced. I paid €4400 for a new
M8 four years ago, basically the same camera body as this one, but a
different sensor. I could be wrong (I often am), but I can see Leica taking a bath here.

Looking at this from a different slant, the concept seems great, the price - well it's a Leica, but isn't the limitation of digital monochrome the transfer and viewing media? Most people will obtain jpegs from the internet - an 8-bit format, in B&W that's only 256 shades of grey. They will then view that jpeg on a monitor that probably doesn't do much better that 8-bits either - I do recall reading of a threat of a class action law suit a few years ago against Apple because the LCDs it was using were not even 8 bit (despite advertising 16.7million colours).

I guess until the world can be persuaded that we need to move to a greater bit depth for imaging and display, digital B&W is going to be heavily reliant on the use of something like Silver Efex to compress the B&W image into the 8 bit jpeg range. It probably isn't going to happen as 8 bit colour is enough for the majority of people just like (moving on to Mike's other favourite topic) 256kbit MP3 is good enough for most people to listen to music.

I have noticed something about the Monochrom that has received relatively few comments - the high ISO sensitivity. Some samples available at ISO 5000 and 10000 show remarkable image quality.

I am guessing that the sensor is just the same old Kodak sensor in a regular M9 minus the colour Bayer array. That's not a sensor renowned for low light sensitivity.

This is telling me that the colour filters stop a lot of photons from hitting the underlying "native" sensor. If that hypothesis is correct then imagine the low light capabilities of a regular Japanese DSLR / M43 sensor if they were made without the colour array.

To me the Leica MM is completely consistent with what Leica is best at: addressing photographers who can see the value of having limited options.

(That essay you linked from October 2011 should be required reading for any photographers who say they "don't get" why anyone would buy a monochrome-sensor camera. If they still don't "get" it after reading that, there's not much more that can be said.)

The MM's philosophy flies in the face of conventional digital wisdom, which is that more options are always preferable. Almost every serious non-Leica digital camera smaller than medium-format now offers video, live view, zoom lenses, autofocus, and of course color. The MM has none of these.

That will be baffling to many digital photographers--but then in the modern world we are trained by marketers to think that having an infinite number of options is always the ideal, when in fact most of life’s most meaningful pursuits and commitments involve not keeping all of one’s options open.

I agree that the high price is disappointing. Not only will most of the photographers who could wring the most out of this camera never own one, but those who do own one won't be nearly as likely to take risks as they would with a less-expensive camera. (Would that Leica had dropped the AA filter from the X2 and put a monochrome sensor in that $2000 camera!)

But based on the high praises already being sung by Michael Reichmann and others who have spent time with the MM, I don't think it will be the last monochrome-sensor camera any more than the Nikon D800E will be the last SLR to forgo AA-filter effects. With both cameras, if the results keep living up to the promise, others will follow.

I can't afford the Leica, but I sure hope it succeeds.

The funny thing is that everything related to monochromatic sensors is cheaper compared to Bayer pattern "color" sensors or Foveon X3 color sensors:

Absence of on-chip color filter array simplifies fabrication, no CFA-induced vignetting, no AA filters that affect resolving power, no interpolation (demosaicing) required, pixels could be smaller for comparable sensitivity or the same size for greatly increased sensitivity, simpler quantization, less noise, basically no need for complicated image processing engines, no Moiré or other artifacts requiring image reconstruction algorithms, and so on.

The only expensive part here is the Leica logo!

Now if they only made a titanium version! .... ;-)

Hey Mike, just a heads up that B&H is once again doing their sale on CF cards if you want to throw your links back up. I just ordered one.

I find myself in the ironic position of having wanted a digital monochrome camera for years and suddenly realizing that now -- even though I think in B&W, see in B&W, and print in it too -- I'd rather capture in color. I've just become too used to converting separately for skin tones, clothes, greenery, skies, etc. Despite years of almost nothing but Tri-X, by this point I'd feel a bit lost going back to true monochrome capture.

I was one of the many photographers Leica consulted, a few years ago, when they were developing the S2.

After I gave them my feedback to the mock-up that I was shown (kept from prying eyes, in the restaurant, by hiding it underneath the table!), the marketing people present asked for my reaction to some other ideas they were playing around with. One of the proposals was for a b/w only digital M, "With the classic Leica look".

I was staggered at the idea. This was at a time when they hadn't produced the full-frame M9. I'm still staggered.

I have no doubt that there are a relatively small number of customers who will be delighted by this but weren't there other, more pressing, concerns? A higher res M10? A note of apology to all the people who invested in the R system?

I second Ed's comment about shooting b/w with the Fuji GSW690.

First of all, can I get something off my chest? I own a Leica M9. I'm always embarrassed to say this. I shouldn't be. I should be proud in fact. The M9 is a great camera, it suits me, it might not be the best, but it's what I wanted. It costs a lot of money. A one-off purchase. Like my M3 and M6, it was a hard considered choice. I am not a doctor, lawyer, dentist etc - in fact I'm rather poor. I expect to use these cameras until I turn belly-up.

Now, I don't own or run a car (any more). So as well as the one-off purchase price I do not pay money to insurance vultures every year, I do not shell out for fossil fuels, I use, and encourage public transport which where I live is run on rather good environmental principles.

You make your choice, as so often in life, and you live by it.

It seems the photo blogs are already posting tests of this camera body but I have yet to hear anyone say anything about d-max! If this camera is to succeed as a knock-your-socks-off bw machine it's going to have to have d-max out the wazoo. So far what I have read is about shadow noise and they weren't complimentary. I think we need to wait for a full test by someone who shot bw film and was good at it who will answer the questions those of us who have abandoned film and do bw conversions really want to know.

I can (just about) see the point in this. It's like a new B+W film had come on the market, offering more/different capabilities. Which reminds me my last rolls of Agfa Scala are gathering dust.....

"these days 24 Mp (and beyond) camera's are not that uncommon"

True, but as I mentioned in the earlier post on Bayer array sensors that 24MP is divided between black and white pixels that are filtered for red only, blue only and green only, mixed to generate a considerably less than 24MP image which is then interpolated back up to 24MP and sharpened to make up for the fact that it had to be scaled up to get back to the advertised specs. Convert that to B&W and you throw away the color information you just lost resolution to obtain.

If you only want B&W and use filters for contrast control just as ${DEITY} intended it, losing the Bayer array, averaging and interpolation and sticking Leica glass in front of it should make you a very happy pixel-peeper indeed. Should also help with low-light performance.

I'll be interested to see if this makes as big a difference as I think it will.

Purely academic interest of course, unless something much more affordable comes along.

Very cool, Mike. I do vaguely recall that article. Rather prophetic, eh? I agree with David S.: it's not impossible that Leica's legendarily unimaginative braintrust used your piece, and the various mono-maniacal forum threads, as a "mandate"!

Mike,
My suggestion of the D800E still stands, as I feel certain that the new camera has the same setup as my D7000. If you set 'monochrome' in the menu, when you use the EVF instead of the optical viewer, you see it in B&W, before as well as after shooting. It is also very educational to look back and forth between the two views as a way to relate brightness and color.
When I started out, ~1948, I only could afford BW. Color films were expensive to buy and get processed, and I loaded cassettes from surplus rolls of BW. Military surplus was big after WWII. And of course any camera I used, slr or rangefinder, showed the subject in color. Of necessity I learned how to translate between them.Being able to see the image in BW on the EVF makes life a lot simpler. Try it, you may like it.

Fine, but it doesn't grab me. I have an M9, so why would I pay $7K for an M9 which shoots only black and white, when I have an M9 which effectively allows me to shoot BOTH in color and B&W?

OK,OK, the M9M might be set up to make breathtaking B&W images in a "classic" style, as in the good old days of Tri-X or Plus-X. But how ironic: people wanting a 2012 digital camera to shoot like a 1950s film camera. Why not just stick to film then, and forego paying the $7K?

I think what this does show is that in some ways, Leica is trapped by its own myth: the Great Photogs of the Fifties and Sixties banging out incredible B&W images with their low-tech and no-tech Leicas. Certain of the Cult of Leica are convinced that Leicas should ONLY be used to shoot B&W--that is, if they have gotten past the idea that the only REAL Leica is a film Leica which has no fancy stuff like autoexposure (OK, a TTL meter. Maybe.).

Sometimes I wonder if that myth isn't going to end up leading Leica to a glorious dead-end, trying to keep the "traditionalists" happy--a large of whom are not only rich but elderly. So what happens when they die out, and there's a new generation of photogs who aren't interested in "tradition"-largely because they've never been able to afford it?

It's time to get yourselves a secondhand Epson R-D1s, fix an old 28mm Elmarit to it, set it to B&W mode and dial in the orange filter effect. You'll be very pleasantly surprised, even in JPEG format.

Is Leica confirming its focus on the the luxury market niche segment -and if so, why not a Leica Monochrome with diamonds? Leica's Monochrom at USD 8,000 has strengthened my resolve to just buy another Epson R-D1s for one-sixth of that price. Cheers, Peter

the leica monochrom and 50mm apo-summicron asph have something very rare in the marketplace: a sense of finality. it's definitive. at least that's how it seems right now.

Mike,
You have an other option to get Monochrome at the near cost for Mortals. You can order a Canon 550D, converted by MaxMax here:
http://www.maxmax.com/monochrome_camera_order.asp
For only $1925 you get the camera converted to short Monochrome with your choice of filter. Seems they only do the Canon 500 and 550. Which I think is too bad as I would like to have an Olympus E520 or E620 converted.

A few thoughts... I can't afford to buy Leica gear, haven't seen an M-M except on web pages, and have no access to marketing numbers, so this is all quite speculative.

Any monochrome camera is going to be a very low volume item. Sure, Nikon would sell more mono D5100s than Leica will sell M Monos, but it's far from obvious that Nikon would sell enough to justify the costs of development, marketing, and support. The profit margin on a mono D5100 would be relatively low. Leica is already, for better or worse, committed to a low volume/high margin model. For better or worse, they are already committed to selling only to relatively sophisticated buyers. (Of course there are dumb rich guys and gals who buy Leicas for prestige, but on average it's a more sophisticated group of buyers.) For those reasons, it makes sense for Leica to be the first and possibly only company to produce a monochrome camera.

There are also a lot of potential benefits to the mono sensor, and we really ought to wait for test results and more sample shots to make up our minds about the M-M. Aside from resolution, there's the potential for smoother tonal gradations, higher local contrast, and higher accutance. The base ISO of the M-M is 320, and furthermore no amplification is needed to equalize color channels. That may allow the M-M to give better results at high ISO than the M9 (admittedly no low-light champ); it makes the M-M easier to handhold, and it offers the possibility of better shadow detail at all ISOs. It also will give the M-M user an advantage in weird artificial lighting with strange spectrums, where a color camera may have one channel with very little data. Demosaicing followed by BW conversion involves a lot of calculation, which means a lot of rounding error. Cutting out all that calculation may allow for cleaner files.

I'm sure there are other issues I haven't thought of. Bottom line, this is an exciting product and we should wait and see how it performs in actual use rather than rushing to judgment.

Would I love one? Heck, yes - I've already run a spreadsheet of what I'd need to sell to afford one.

Will I be getting one? Heck, no - the spreadsheet doesn't lie, I'd need to knock off a gas station or two to make up the shortfall.

They've really limited their market with the pricing. Too bad.

I guess a camera with dedicated B&W sensor in the near future would not come from those big makers (except a B&W module from Ricoh), but they will work out solutions for this need-look at what Nikon did with D800E. These makers want to catch the mass, while Leica is a niche camera maker and will keep bringing out niche products: they have enough supporters that can keep the brand alive. Image Nikon shows off a normal f2 lens with a price over $7000! And see the reactions to the initial price tag of Sigma SD1.

I don't even know what to think about this...I wish I could afford the 24mm 1.4 lens which runs over $6k and then I'd be happy being stuck with TRI-X...Nothing I want is affordable or I'd already own it!

I still haven't scored a '63 split window you know what...

I'm sorry, but I just have to chime in here. I just don't get it. I guess if it was a camera much less expensive than a regular camera - like some kind of novelty camera (the way a lens baby is a novelty lens),it would make sense, but to cripple any digital camera this way seems nonsensical. The color information is essential in being able to control the tonality of a final black and white print. What are we to do with this camera - go back to filters? Even if we did, that is a real compromise.

Sure, we put up with B&W film. Maybe we even loved B&W film, but that is old tech. Now we have the option of color or B&W. If there had been a film that produced both color and B&W negatives, believe me, it would have been preferred by most photographers.

I am sure that images from this camera will not be as detailed as those from a Nikon D800 at less than half the price.

So what are we left with? Possibly, it will have greater dynamic range. This is unproven, but in my mind even that would not make up for the other losses.

This seems like some kind of trick to me.

The DMD is now reality, and the monochrome digital has also arrived. So when will that elusive Pentax 24mm Limited come out?

The bigger question everyone should be asking is why doesn't Voigtlander make a full frame 35mm digital for their lenses, and then why don't they make a monochrome camera too...

Given all of the extravagant pining for the days of black and white film that goes on here, I just had an interesting question pop into my head :

If color film had been invented before black and white, would black and white film exist? And if so, would it be a big deal, or a tiny niche?

I guess I feel like the main reason people are excited about a black and white sensor is simple nostalgia, rather than any new capability or workflow (even given the "training yourself to see" aspects that Mike has put forward well).

I just saw some brand new B&W prints by Lee Friedlander from his latest Mannequin series at the Fraenkel Gallery printed full frame on 16x20. Absolutely gorgeous prints, each and every one- technically and aesthetically, all 35mm, silver gelatin.

Jeez, the number of people who didn't get the point of that post... Thank goodness you closed the comments. Any more and my faith in the possibility of communication via language was under threat.

They should have added more and priced it for less. Maybe 24-36mp and $5500.00. They cheaped it out and over-priced it again. Let's see if they can keep getting away with it. They may at least empty their M9 parts bin before the M10 comes along.
Hope they put more into the next model.

Niche product. ... Didn't PhaseOne come out with a monochrome medium format back a few years ago? I think it was like a P45+ without the bayer filter array.

$8k for the new Summicon APO ASPH? Amazing MTF charts but even the M11 is unlikely to extract that kind of performance, and even then only under rather laboratory-like conditions. It does not appear to be a lens intended for use by photographers.

No Thanks! MM is not for me. I enjoy shooting my film Ms. I have a scanner which I haven't used it months. I mostly shoot B&W but sometimes I shoot color. Yes, I enjoy shooting digital too but I won't buy a digital M to shoot B&Ws.

"$8k for the new Summicon APO ASPH? Amazing MTF charts but even the M11 is unlikely to extract that kind of performance, and even then only under rather laboratory-like conditions. It does not appear to be a lens intended for use by photographers. "

I'd like to second that. In my view it is an inherent contradiction in the Leica M system as such: On the one hand, the camera is made for handheld shooting, considered to be the ultimate tool for street photography (also in Leica's mind, since they were referencing HCB in their announcement according to the Luminous Landscape article). On the other hand, to extract all that optical goodness out of these marvellous and expensive lenses you need a stable tripod, cable release, perfect focussing, etc. If one does that, one might as well use a view camera with a much larger sensor (LF film, or MF digital) to get even better results, and, with the exception of one or two extreme wide angles, even the best equivalent optics of Schneider and Rodenstock are significantly less than those $8000. For a set of lenses, that price difference alone will help a lot with affording an MF back (or loads of film). As for the camera, even the most expensive German-made view cameras are only about 15-20% more than the M Monochrome (e.g. Linhof Technika 3000 for film, Linhof 679cs for MF backs), many others, including some Linhof monorails, are significantly less, in the range of $2000-3000.

It seems that Leica did again what they do best: get away with as little innovation as possible. Looks like they are simply trying to extend the life cycle of their dated sensor and electronics.
I'm sure that there will be some special editions of the MM to extend it even further when the initial demand will have dropped off.

Given the reaction to the pricing on this, and just about every other forum where it's been mentioned/announced, how much better would it have been received if it was priced say,$ 500-$1000 LESS than an M9? I'm pretty sure there'd be a lot (a LOT) more normal Joes walking around their normal kitchens this morning thinking "I can do this, it'd be worth it." I can't help thinking there was a real opportunity here, and instead they shot themselves in the foot. Maybe they should have called it the Leica O(2) series.

Sorry, after hearing all the arguments, for the life of me, I still can't understand why we need a B&W sensor when B&W film is available and is the perfect medium for B&W photography. It seems like a solution in search of a problem. If B&W photography is the art medium, then why try to replace the paint brush with a computer chip? With all the technological advances, I'm pretty sure that artists are still using paint brushes.

"They paved paradise and put up a parking lot." --Joni Mitchell

>>I can't help thinking there was a real opportunity here, and instead they shot themselves in the foot

I don't think so. Currently Leica is selling everything they can make. My dealer here in Germany tells me that an M9 has about six months wait for delivery, many lenses up to a year.

Dear Player,

Why go down this road again? Some people still want to use film to make their photographs. Fine, they can use film. Some people want to use digital to make their photographs. Fine, they can use digital. They aren't the same medium and they have entirely different workflows and advantages and disadvantages. People who say, “Oh, you should be using X instead of Y” have totally failed to understand that very simple fact.

You could just as easily have written your post about color as black and white, because there are a myriad of excellent color films out there as well. So what; it's not the issue.

You clearly don't need a black and white sensor camera. That doesn't mean other people don't. There is no “we.”


pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
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-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
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Dear Arne,

Have you ever used (or priced) a medium format digital rig? Most of them make the new Leica plus lens look inexpensive.

Have you ever carried one of those around? Even the best of them are big and heavy. Harking back to the film era, it would be like telling someone who was using a Leica M3 that they should use a Pentax 67. Few people would use them the same way... or want to switch one for the other (me, I was in the Pentax group, and I saw no use in my life for an M3).

While you are correct that it would take a fabulously good camera to extract *every* bit of optical quality of that new lens, that doesn't mean the new lens can't produce a substantial improvement in image quality. As in the film days, when you got a better (sharper/finer grained) film, your photographs got sharper (assuming your technique was good); when you got a better lens, your photographs got sharper. Unless there is a VERY large mismatch in quality between the lens and the camera, improving either improves the photograph, technically speaking.

Rather than damn the lens as being an excessive expenditure for negligible gain (which, you never know, it might turn out to be), wouldn't it be better to wait and actually see the comparison photographs?


pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
======================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 
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In the days of film, no one blamed the camera as much as in these digital days. People were told to print their own pictures if they really wanted an accurate rendition of what they shot. When people come to one of my shows, they are surprised and say "oh I thought you couldn't get real black-and-white prints out of digital". All that is needed, already exists. It's a matter of just using it, rather than just looking for the next great software or camera -which we know can't make someone into a photographer. So it is most definitely not the camera.

I want one, yes. I hope some other manufacturers will now be encouraged, rather than discouraged like you quite rightly pointed out might happen, to make a monochrome camera. Ricoh GXR would be the obvious first candidate, hopefully with a 35 mm equivalent f/2 lens. Otherwise I will probably have to buy this Leica MM next year. I have three lenses for it so that saves a bit.

Dear Ctein,

I know what medium format rigs cost, and yes, an IQ180 + an Alpa or Linhof body and some lenses will cost more than the Leica MM or the M9 and the new Apo-Summicron. But you could also take a Pentax 645 D in the MF category, with lens, and you still have a bit of change left for the tripod.
I haven't carried around or used MF digital rigs, but I have been and am still using 4x5" LF cameras (b/w film) since 21 years. Whether I carry a bunch of film holders or an MF back with it, wouldn't really make a difference in terms of carrying it around. I also use an 8x10 and some 6x7 film cameras, including a Pentax 67.
I am certainly aware that the MTF's in the image chain multiply, so you are right that theoretically one should see an improvement regardless of the problems of the other links in the chain. Will it possibly be a case of diminishing returns, as you mention? I do think so, you say wait and see a comparison. I have no doubt that a normal comparison will show it to be better, because that comparison will be done on a tripod under controlled conditions etc. For handheld shooting, the only approach that I can see is to have somebody go and shoot a few hundred images handheld with two cameras in parallel and then do a statistical analysis of each. I can see one reason to get that Apo-Summicron, apart from the pride of owning a lens that was engineered without (much) regard to cost, and that is the peace of mind that one hasn't skimped on the tools, so when there are technical problems, it can only be bad technique of the photographer. I am no stranger to that line of thinking (my two main LF cameras are Linhofs ;-)). I still think there is bit of a mismatch between the intended use of the M cameras (street photography) and the no-holds-barred approach on the lens. I think that effort would be better spent on the lenses for the S2, but the equivalent Summarit is actually $3000 cheaper.

Justifying or critizising this on money is a bit silly. People don't buy a Ferrari because they need a car. People don't buy a Leica because they need a camera. Leica is a good camera, for some, but it is not worth the money, in the sense that you can get a camera for much less money that provide good enough, as good or even better images. Some people can afford it and think nothing of buying it. Some people cannot afford it, or choose to do something else with their money. That is a personal choice. It is annoying that it is essentially a cheaper version of M9 but is not cheaper. But it is also a niche product that will not sell in big numbers. It would be silly for Leica to sell it at half the price just so that more people can choose to afford it. I still hope that other companies will finally catch up on this as it is something important that goes back to the history of photography. Fuji X100M, anyone? It might just happen. Fuji has always done unconventional things. If Fuji really set their mind to it, I bet they could release it even before the MM actually comes to stores.

Carsten: I think the reason Leica is selling everything they make (re: M9), is that they not only have a niche market, but a captive one as well. If you want a digital rangefinder, they're about the only place you can go.

If someone else was to come out with a digital rangefinder, very competitively priced (and which took M lenses), Leica might find itself in real trouble. And it leads me to wonder why Zeiss Ikon has never yet "digitized" their ZM camera....

As a long term but less than affluent Leica M user who only photographs in black an white and has stuck with film, the M Monochrom piques my interest. My first Leica M body and lens was purchased over thirty years ago as a more durable replacement for an Olympus RC, which had convinced me that a rangefinder was a preferable viewing system than the dark tunnel and full aperture view of a SLR. Both camera and lens are still going strong though somewhat battered with use and occasional misuse, as are the other two bodies and lenses. Since then, substantially more has been spent on film, paper and chemicals than on the hardware.

Yes, eight thousand US dollars is a lot of money to pay up front. However with B & H currently selling Ilford’s 36 exposure HP5+ at $3.5 dollars a film (which is less than the UK price), if the M9M gives me the equivalent of 2200, or so, films worth of exposures it will have paid for itself. As I currently get through 200-500 films a year, the initial outlay would be amortized in 5-10 years. (Probably less as the price of film will likely continue to rise.)

Positives for me include not having to cart large quantities of film around, with worries about dodgy X ray equipment when travelling; the ability to easily change ISO sensitivity, with good ISO 5000 performance; maintaining the advantages of a film M body – though presumably also maintaining their major failing, which for me is the lack of body sealing (just about tolerable in a film camera but worrying with a sensor and the accompanying electronics).

The disadvantages of the M9M for me include dependence on batteries, especially as they have limited capacity; scepticism regarding reliability and durability, especially when used in damp and dusty conditions; and having to buy then use a printer which has been engineered to fail after relatively few prints.

However, I will give it serious consideration, while being glad that Mike's wish came true.

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