Everything went well yesterday, I'm happy to report. Apart from a few very minor hiccups, the shopping page seems to be working well. (Knock on wood—my wooden head will do.)
Here are the sales percentages so far:
The most popular print, "Couples along the Seine," happens to be the one taken with the Leica M Monochrom camera.
I wish I'd been able to try out Peter's M Monochrom when he was here, but we didn't have the leisure for that—he was here photographing for Harley Davidson, and once the work started he was busy 12 hours a day. Actually it was probably more like 14.
I'm still of two minds about the M Monochrom. On the one hand, I'm really glad there's a B&W-only camera on the market and I salute Leica for having the courage and independence to produce it. Bravo to them.
On the other hand, I wish they weren't the ones who had done it. That might seem craven and ungrateful, so let me 'splain. I feel that way because the M Monochrom is at the wrong end of the market. It currently costs $7,950 for the body. That's not a lot if you earn a million dollars a year or if you're a full-time pro who depreciates your gear, but for most people, it's a lot. Price sensitivity and limitations of means will conspire to keep it out of most people's hands, even the people who want it.
I'm aware that most people don't want it, so please, no comments about that. Heard it all before, many times. My opinion, however, and it might be a minority opinion, is that photography isn't about how cameras see, and it isn't about how people see. It's about how people see with cameras. And I'm firmly of the opinion that a crucial step in learning to see with a camera is learning to see "luminances only"—lights and darks and the contrast between the two. And by far the easiest way to do this is to shoot "concertedly"—i.e., a lot, for some extended period of the calendar—with a camera that only records black and white.
What the market sorely needs is a digital K1000. Regardless of which company makes it. The Pentax K1000, for those who might not know it, was a very basic, no-frills SLR that was widely used for photography classes. Descended from the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic by way of the Pentax KM, the K1000 was so popular among photography teachers, as a recommendation for beginning students, that they literally prevented Pentax from discontinuing it, even long after Pentax obviously wanted to discontinue it. The reason was that it was needed. The camera helped people learn the basics of photography. Seeing black-and-white only also helps people learn the basics of seeing photographically. I think this is true even if you're going to end up as a color photographer and even if you end up shooting B&W with a full-color camera.
Well, I have to take back the first sentence in that last paragraph. This isn't what the market needs. The market is indifferent to anything but sales and profits. It's what photography needs—photo students, photo teachers, and anyone who wants to learn, most efficiently, how to see with a camera.
The M Monochrom would serve this purpose quite well...if it cost $395 and most photo students could afford one. And if every high school photography program could afford a dozen, to keep in the cabinet and loan out to photo students.
That is—well, not quite the case, eh? $7,950 is a ways from $395. For most of us.
Hence my ambivalence. Very happy the M Monochrom exists; very sorry there isn't—and probably never will be—a B&W-only digital "K1000" for learners. (If any camera company wants to build one, please come talk to me. I can tell you exactly what to do. I mean exactly.)
Meanwhile, you can buy a very nice example of what the M Monochrom can do, in our current sale, in a high-end hybrid print made on traditional silver-gelatin paper. Of course my subversive mindset would also like to see it printed digitally, to see how the two compare; but that isn't what this artist wants for his work (Peter doesn't print fine art in inkjet).
An idea for some future time, maybe.
You can see more—okay, a lot more—M Monochrom pictures in the RFF M Monochrom thread, although it takes a bit of wading.
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
John Krumm: "It's fun to flick through the M-Monochrome Flicker group as well."
Robert Roaldi: "Oh no! Pie charts!"
Mike replies: "Mmmm, pie." —Homer Simpson
MM: "I think the appeal of a B&W-only camera is precisely the reason it has so many detractors: it imposes what many see as a fairly severe limitation that is not, technically speaking, necessary. I've made this point here before: the more capabilities that digital cameras offer, the more meaningful it is to shoot with limits. This is true regardless of whether those limits are 'artificial' (e.g. shooting with a B&W-only digital camera when one could shoot in color and convert it later) or whether those limits are 'real' (e.g., film, which feels increasingly limited—and thus more appealing to me—in the face of digital's ever-increasing capabilities). In other words, it can be extremely meaningful to create a strong photograph without using all of the advantages digital has to offer. Those who don't understand the appeal of limits for some photographers will never understand the attraction of a B&W-only camera."
Mike (partial comment): "I agree with you that it would be good for photography if there was a reasonably-priced B&W digital camera [...] but I've just bought a secondhand M Monochrom and am completely enthused by it. I think you would greatly enjoy it Mike. It's still not as nice to use as a Zeiss Ikon, but I do like shooting in mono, and the files are great."
pierre charbonneau: "I do own the M Monochrom since almost a year. Expensive but I love it. The difference with the regular M9 or any other digital 'color' camera lies in its files' potential to have the shadow detail to be dogged to an incredible level. Some will point out rightly that any good photographer should know how to expose a file or piece of film. But I am talking here about the expressive potential of B&W photography. About dodging for instance. Burning is possible to a degree. Avoid overexposure. I would risk to say, that the purchase does't justify well if the photographer intend to see or show his pictures solely on the monitor. The files do shine splendidly when they are printed. And this potential brought me satisfaction that I did not get since the demise of my darkroom."
Mike replies: You get very nice tones out of the M Monochrom. More to my taste than most examples I've seen.
Paul: "It's absolutely amazing how few have actually understood or even paid attention to your reasons why a monochrome camera is important."
Mike replies: I'm used to it. On this subject. I almost wrote a rant about it, but it came out too ranty.