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Thursday, 20 March 2014

Comments

Re: The bigs not helping mirrorless:
I assume at this point in the narrative that Canon and Nikon are sitting back and letting Olympus, Fuji, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony throw everything at the wall to see what sticks. In effect, the bigs are farming out the necessary market research and beta testing to the smalls.
My prediction: The first MIL cameras that have sensible menus, professional performance(no blackout/finder freeze) and adequate battery life will either say "Canon" or "Nikon" on the front.
As a Fuji owner, I'd love to be wrong.

It's an Ilford wind that blows our way.

There's one other thing I didn't mention, which is that the cameramakers need to wake up and make some high-quality but super-simple-to-operate small cameras. And I mean super-simple. They have all this technology to make picturetaking easy yet still effective, but they refuse to offer it without forcing numberless choices and a bewilderingly tortuous path to mastery down the throats of anyone who buys their products. Any of their products.

So, Apple's next big thing? I've always wondered if I'd buy an Apple camera. Hell, whether I'd even like an Apple camera. But this sounds like a job for Apple. Also, Apple is the one company that seems to understand that it's better to cannibalize a market segment rather than having someone else jump in and steal the market.

Hypothetically, if a high quality consumer camera, as you seem to be calling for, were Apple's next big thing (or "hobby", as with the Apple TV) then I don't think it would be for me. But it might be a beautiful thing.

I think you also kind of touch on a thing that's bothered me a lot and that's how most enthusiast digital cameras are do (almost) everything devices. A black and white only DSLR/Mirrorless System Camera isn't a do everything camera. Unless you want to do everything in black and white.

Just like my do "everything" camera only needs to be a good fit for me for the photography I prefer to do.

Also, this do everything DSLR that most enthusiasts seem to demand is probably why DSLRs are what they are today (and pretty much were in the nineties as SLRs) and also why they can't really capture my interest.

Sounds like a great set of experiments! I look forward to the results. As for a B&W digital camera (beyond the stratospheric Leica) I want to toss the Fuji X-series into the proverbial ring. While still capturing full 14-bit color raw files using their film simulation modes (several B&W are offered including three with software filters) one can "see" B&W in the viewfinder or LCD screen (you can even capture raw + jpg and use the built-in raw software for those .jpg conversions)..

"At the very least, all this should make me happier, which is to say, less cranky. Whenever we get cranky about photography it's a sure sign that we need to go get out behind the camera and shoot. It cures a lot of ills."

I sure agree with the gettin' out and shootin' prescription.

I'm shy of projects defined in terms of prescriptive tools and/or process, as opposed to outcome.

I know that such a rigid set of rules for doing that would make me unhappy, and likely cranky, rather than happy.

The project is defined in terms of intellectual curiousity; "How does my visual brain work?", rather than creative expression. I prefer one driven by results; "My finished images seem less fine than I would like in 'X' characteristic. I would like to improve them."

Or, more loosely, or generally, "What I'm doing isn't getting me the results, physical or internal, that I want. How might I change that in a positive way?"

This may naturally leads to speculation, research, etc. about what changes in visualization, equipment*, technique, process might yield the desired results. It could even lead to taking up watercolor and doing less photography.

I should be clear that, in my formulation, the goal need not be traditional technical improvement. It could as easily be about achieving results that are less technically perfect, but more emotionally satisfying, or not.

But that's just me.

Moose

* Beware free floating GAS looking for any excuse for getting new 'stuff'.

Amen. I'm charging batteries to get out shooting myself.

Sounds like fun, go nuts.

I really don't get it. In one of my incredibly insightful moments of prognostication, I wrote Canon a few years back and suggested that their Canonet QL 1.7 was a perfect starting point for a rangefinder type digital. No response of course. Now, as mirrorless threatens to take over the market, I am still waiting for Canon to catch up (as Nikon has at least been improving as in the D800e) or innovate or start manufacturing speaker systems or something!!! Anything! The Sony a7r is tough competition but with few native lenses. The Fuji Xt1 is cool but why 16mps and not 24/36.
Is the industry THAT glutted? Apparently so.
Why not give professionals a truly professional system rather than more of the same with just enough change to warrant a major expenditure to upgrade? Sheeze.
I am sounding like a curmudgeon...just old and frustrated I guess.
Only my two pesos.

Either you or Ctein should get very specific about why a B&W camera would be a good idea. How would it be different than converting and tweaking?

Oh, so you are finally going to use that dark room you built a couple of years ago? ;-)

[I've been using it. Just not very often. When I retire. --Mike]

"The super-simplicity of smartphones is part of what's herding the public toward using them as cameras."

It's also what's herding the public toward using them as computers.

Hey Mike,

There is a camera manufacturer who builds a small, under $1K B&W camera---and you've seen large prints from that sensor that you've found quite satisfying. Sigma. The current crop of Merrill cameras (DP1M at 28mm FOV, DP2M at 45mm FOV, DP3M at 75mm FOV).

Now, I know you tried an earlier DP1/2 and really hated it. The Merrill contingent is much better. I find the controls to be very logical and easy to use (very little menu stuff to deal with). I miss a viewfinder, but I'm getting used to it. You can set the WB setting to monochrome (on the DP3M at least), and I believe the LCD on the back will be in B&W when the camera is set in this mode (but I'll check tonight, if I remember).

So, you have this little, highly optimized, battery-eating fixed-lens camera that makes wonderful B&W images. And as an added bonus, if you need to add beautiful, rich color---you can do so quite easily. The ISO range is much better in B&W, and the files have a nice grain at those higher ISOs.

It's not the camera for everyone. But for those who understand the limitations, it can be a very liberating tool...

Jim

Interesting experiments, Mike. My guess is that the differences between film and digital images will be based on expectations rather than image quality. Further, if you compare post processing - wet darkroom vs. Pshop or similar, you will find better control of the final print in digital mode. Look forward to you posting the results. as for 35 vs 120 film. well that's a different story. I think it will depend on what and how you make your prints.
As for a monochrome digital, I don't object to others having one, but I frankly don't understand the reason. I shot B&W for nearly 10 years before I started using color, and for a while even carried two cameras so I could use the one that fit the image I wanted. Then I realized that by shooting all slide film, I could do B&W internegs in my enlarger, and even modify the grayscale with filters in the light path. EUREKA. Now, with digital I get both with greater control and I ain't lookin' back. For me, some images look better in color, some in B&W. I don't want to be restricted, and I don't want to carry two cameras. For me its a clear choice. So what am I missing? Why a dedicated mono camera, when you don't know in advance what images you will find and will look better one way or the other? Can you or someone inform my ignorance? I am really curious.

Regarding mirrorless, I think you're a bit too pessimistic on Canon. The EOS M suffered for being overpriced at launch and far too slow, but Canon got a lot of the rest right: compact & solid build, a well thought out touch screen interface, standard 18MP Canon IQ (i.e. pretty good), and a superb 22mm f/2 pancake kit lens. I think Canon will eventually get the speed issues worked out, expand the lens lineup, and reenter western markets with a stronger product that will do just fine.

Nikon, OTOH, seems utterly clueless. Thom Hogan's comments on the V3 are quite devastating: http://www.sansmirror.com/newsviews/nikon-introduces-v3.html

Grind as much as you want, artists other than musicians have pretty much always lived in the margins of the markets for materials that were mostly used for something else.

Stone was about buildings and roads. Paint about protecting surfaces of vehicles, furniture, and buildings. The greatest volume of photography has always been for either personal social use or various practical uses (real estate, mug shots, etc.)
Quilting and knitting arise on the backs of textiles for clothing.

Happily we live in the age of globalization, and so find the 10,000 people worldwide needed to support spider egg emulsions for use in plastic film can pinhole cameras is doable, and may even thrive.

If you want to shoot B&W with your digi cam, or at least end up with a B&W image do yourself a favour and turn off any chimping abilities. Or at the very least set your camera to monochrome mode and chimp B&W images so you don't get jarred out of the B&W head space.

I have given up trying to switch back and forth between my large format camera and my digi cam. Both suffer. All I come back with is crap.

Currently I am experimenting with setting my Panasonic GX-1 to monochrome. I'm not really a "specs" kind of guy so have not idea what the bit depth etc etc is when this camera is set to B&W. I will judge the results when I made some prints. I am only viewing the image on the back screen as a B&W image so this helps.

Mike, I'm really looking forward to reading your findings on your film experience!
You certainly make some points. So many, in fact, that it would take several hours to discuss them. (tl;dr) Writing about your quest for a black and white-only digital camera, you've stated this: "some of us (me included) "see the way the camera sees," which is what makes it easy to "see" in B&W when out and about with a camera that shoots only B&W, and difficult to ignore color with cameras that record color." After reading it, I was instantly reminded of a quotation of Octavio Paz: "reality looks more real in black and white". Of course, being a poet, Octavio Paz liked to play with words, and to some it may make no sense, but he was right. Colour dominates the image to such extent that forms, volumes, textures and lines, all of which make up the structure (i. e. the reality) of an image, become secondary. I fully understand your wish for a black and white-only digital camera that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.
Except that this imaginary camera couldn't be equipped with a small(ish) sensor. One of the things I like about my Olympus OM-2 is that it is, for all purposes, a full-frame camera. It gives me the kind of control over depth of field that 4/3 sensors are only capable of when you use very long lenses and stand really close to the subject.
I wrote it on a comment yesterday, and my mind hasn't changed over the last 24 hours: the best way to have a fine black and white-only camera is to use a film camera loaded with a high quality black and white film. I understand you won't be able to visualize the picture you've just taken on the camera's screen (chiefly because there's no screen at all...), but is it that important when you're trained to see in black and white and you've mastered exposure?
Film is not withering; as a matter of fact it is enjoying the sort of revival that's keeping vinyl records alive. Of course it is no longer the main medium, but it is far from dead. This is not a phenomenon led by die-hard oldtimers: there are lots of young people turning to film, partly because gear is so inexpensive these days. If you compare the prices of a second-hand 35 mm film camera and lenses with the cost of a full-frame DSLR system, the choice of film becomes a no-brainer. (Providing prejudice doesn't get in the way.)
Finally, no - Canon and Nikon will never join the Micro 4/3 protocol. One of the reasons is that they don't want to invest on cameras that would eat in on their DSLR sales. (That's why they make uninspiring CSC's.) The other reason is that they're too bigoted to accept the thought of someone mounting an Olympus lens on a Canikon body. It ain't never gonna happen.

Mike,
I'm glad you wrote this. I'm about to go out to take some pictures now, thanks to this post.

I too have been wrestling with my own photographic dissatisfactions. I finally got a hold of how certain factors work in pictures. Now I'm annoyed with the (lack of) affordable technology to achieve those ends. I'm especially annoyed at the main factors you pointed to; the intransigence of film, and the intransigence of the #%¥% camera makers.

But, I still am glad to have figured out what I did, uniting in one understanding how lenses draw, StAnsel's "image management" and "visualization", bokeh, local and global contrast, Dutch late-Renaissance lighting, etc. You are quite right, do the work, and understanding will come.

(Also, I now understand why you told George he only needed two lenses, a wide and a tele. You are right, except you need at least two wides and two teles. :) )

I think the experiment you're proposing is a great idea Mike. I can especially relate to your remarks about the convenience factor of film with regard to format. That since you're shooting film anyway, you might as well go with the larger 645 and get a little more bang for your buck in the IQ (or more aptly, "tonality" department) for your trouble.

Also, and aside from the question of how well you can see in B&W, it might well be interesting to consider the effect that the format you're using could have on the way you see. I know it's an old saw (a really old one) that moving up to a larger format will slow you down a little more and force you to pay a bit more attention to what you're seeing, or intend to photograph. All the way out to the extremes of Ultra Large Format, where a slow and methodical approach is compulsory; completely dictated by the "format".

Yeah, that's all true and everyone knows that and it's completely irrelevant these days anyway, I know. But if you're choosing to shoot film and you're already making a comparison between 35mm and 645 and whether or not the film choice psychologically affects how well you can see in B&W, why not make another set of notes, mental or otherwise, on how differently you see simply as the result of using a larger format?

I shoot 8x10 exclusively and for largely that reason. I see SO much better!

Grind the Axe.
You are probably correct that we won't see an affordable Monochrome sensor camera, but I do think that there is a chance we might. As someone else said, Fuji has been taking more risks to greater effect than anyone else.
I don't think the fact that we haven't seen one is anything more than simple economics. You need to invest in development and manufacture of a new sensor with very limited sales potential.
Small volumes mean higher prices. Higher prices for any given feature set means lower sales.
Personally, I agree with your thesis that you learn to see differently when you know B&W is the only option. I used to be able to do it, but now I almost never SEE pictures as B&W. The Monochrome camera appeals to me for that reason and because of the increase of accutence . But I don't think I would buy one.
If funds were unlimited, walking around with an M240 and a Monochrom would be interesting, two identical cameras with shared lenses one loaded with 'Velvia' and one with 'tri-x' would feel like coming home again, but if they were different cameras with different lenses it would lose a great deal of it's appeal for me.
The biggest obstacle is the fact tha so many folks are happy with B&W Conversions. I'm not saying that You should be happy with conversion, I making the point that conversion is convenient and good enough for most. (Just like lossy compressed music). Camera companies are having a hard time with main stream cameras, sadly, they are not looking for any niches.

Ignore this at their Peril
You are right here again, but I don't think they are ignoring simple, I think they don't know how to do it. It's not in their DNA.
The iPhone changed the world because of Apple's insight that a Phone is not hardware, it's software. It's easy to forget how revolutionary that was. A Phone that needed NO buttons for any of the normal phone functions. At which point it became a multi function device that changed the world a bit. EVERY Phone had buttons Now, almost none do.
The entire camera industry is doing nothing but re-arranging buttons, especially the old guys. Buttons and gears are in their DNA
It's really hard for them to change even when they know.
I am reminded of ctein's comment on Kodak. It wasn't that they didn't see it coming, and it wasn't that they didn't try. They tried and failed. And it was very sad.
There is plenty of Peril to go around in the camera industry.
When you become out of sync with the times, things that used to come easy become hard.
The old saying about re arranging deck chairs...... Just substitute Buttons and look at the Nikon Df. A very capable camera, but a step in the wrong direction I think.
Work is the Cure.
Right again, one good picture and everything else goes away.
Cameras have been changing so fast that there is a tendency to get caught up in feature iteration while failing to fully appreciate just how amazing the current crop of cameras realy is.
Thanks for a great post. I think I'll go make a picture.
Michael

Yes. (Better days ahead.)

Your plan sounds interesting and ambitious but wouldn't it be easier just to eat a Snickers and get back to being yourself?

Quote...
There's one other thing I didn't mention, which is that the cameramakers need to wake up and make some high-quality but super-simple-to-operate small cameras. And I mean super-simple.

Sounds good to me...a bit like Kodak in days long gone.

If any of the rumored non RGB patterned color sensor cameras come out, B&W could become the next feature that everyone who doesn't use it would complain about "paying extra" for like so many complain about paying extra for video now.

The problem is not "getting rid of color" because that's easy. The problem is "looking like someone's favorite film and developer combo. Reasonably acceptable color is easy compared to satisfying both a T-max fan and a thick emulsion fan.

My feeling is that emulating the non-linear response of B&W film is more of a difficult problem than getting rid of the color information.

Better high ISO performance with lower noise is good for color, but not so good for "film like" B&W.

If I were really into the B&W thing , I'd be playing around wits one of the Sigma DSLRs. I suspect that if you removed the easy to remove IR filter you would have about as good a digital B&W camera as you could get.

Sigma, master of the niche, ought to look into the killer B&W market since it's only a software problem for them vs. a hardware problem for everyone else.

Save on rental fees. Buy yourself a 40mm Canon pancake lens for the 1V for about $200. This lens is REALLY good and it works with digital cameras, too. :) I'm mixing up some XTOL tonight. Let me know if you want me to send you some!

Amen to the last paragraph. Just the exercise of trying, even if there are no keepers, is usually enough to bring out the grin. Even more so, if there are keepers, though.

And get you out of the house after that dreadful winter you have had:)

Mike wrote, "There's one other thing I didn't mention, which is that the cameramakers need to wake up and make some high-quality but super-simple-to-operate small cameras. And I mean super-simple."

Most of today's cameras have an "auto" mode that makes very good pictures automagically. All Mike needs to do is find a camera that meets his definition of small, set it to "auto," super glue all the controls in place and make pictures. But then Michael Reichmann would complain that it didn't have a dedicated mirror-lock-up switch.

Mike -- I'm reaching out to you again....

[Dave, You are not receiving my emails. I don't know why that is. --Mike]

People have, of course, made monochrome digital cameras in the past, including some of the old Kodak DSLR conversions.

A more affordable one is harmless -- but also basically worthless. What it gives us is forced commitment -- we can't change our mind and use the full color data being captured later, since it isn't being captured.

Other than that, the downsides of converting RAW files to monochrome are trivial. There's a modest loss of potential resolution compared to a mono-only sensor, and a modest loss of speed. Nothing else. And there are benefits in being able to get a variety of renderings out of the capture. So, to be commercially successful, enough photographers would have to buy a monochrome-only solution in a particular camera line (lens mount) to justify the development and support of a separate model. People would have to want a camera at the same price point. And they'd have to want it enough to pay at least the premium cost. For, I continue to believe, a very small benefit. Why would any manufacturer do this to themselves?

[Hi DDB, please see the link in the Addendum. --Mike]

Mike, rumours has it that Sony are working on a FF monochrome sensor and IMHO I think it will be used in an FE mount A7 styled mirrorless camera which could be launched just before Photokina in September.

http://www.sonyalpharumors.com/sony-to-launch-a-full-frame-black-and-white-sensor-camera/#disqus_thread

Sometimes I set the 7D to shoot monochrome jpegs only - no raw - and I set the camera into manual mode. It's like shooting with my AE1, but with AF. When I chimp I only see the monochrome image. I know that's still a compromise with regard to 'possible' image quality, but sometimes I just need to immerse myself in the monochrome experience... without the hassle of developing film.

I still have a film camera (Canon F1) and a couple of lenses, and every other year or so I get the urge to shoot some B&W film, which I do, and develop it. So now I have some negs.

The problem is I no longer have a darkroom, nor the space to create one. So I scan the negs.

Which seems to me pretty pointless as I've really gone the long way round to create a digital image which I could have done better, and more easily, with a digital camera.

Nonetheless, there is something pleasurable in handling film, and sooner or later I'll do it all again ... probably next time I read about some new scanning technique.

Canon and mirrorless: does the pending Canon G1X MkII count? The spec sheet looks pretty good but it's just a question of whether Canon are going to pull their punches and nobble the camera.

"So, for instance, all along I've been saying that some of us (me included) "see the way the camera sees," which is what makes it easy to "see" in B&W when out and about with a camera that shoots only B&W, and difficult to ignore color with cameras that record color.

But is that really so?"

I really do not think it is so.

When shooting black and white film (which I did quite a bit back in the day) the only world we looked at as we figured out what and how to make photographs was a color world. That's what we saw in our viewfinders or on our ground glass. Yes, somehow, we "saw" in black and white while looking at this color world, even though we never saw the world converted to black and white as we made the photographs. That only came later—often much later—after film was processed and contact sheets made.

If anything, the idea that we would need to be able to see the image in monochrome at the time we make the exposure is more of a diversion from how we shot back in the day than it is to see it in color. (Again, color was the only thing we ever saw while holding the camera.)

Take care,

Dan

[Dan, please see the Addendum to the post, which was added after your comment came in. --Mike]

I don't really get the gestalt of a monochrome digital camera. Sure, on technical merits of 100% pixel peeping "zero artifact" files, a technical case for a monochrome sensor can be made, but is that really holding back a creative B&W mindset when taking photographs?

Pretend your RGB camera can only do B&W just like you did when you loaded B&W film. Go out and look at the world with that previsualized result in mind. You can even set a B&W preset in LR or other RAW digital negative editor if you like to reinforce the notion that you've only one possible monochrome rendition of the scene before your eyes. Or, if you like, add a "yellow filter" preset and a "red filter" preset to give yourself a traditional B&W kit. There you go. Enjoy. It's B&W photography as far as I"m concerned unless you really are trying to be the classically inspired purist, at which point you really do have to revert to film. The monochrome digital camera fails at that whole "film experience" just as well as the RGB camera.

"the camera makers need to wake up and make some high-quality but super-simple-to-operate small cameras..."

Just bought a Canon G15.

Set it on Auto, and switch it on...
- One lever to zoom
- One button to press to take still fotos
- One button to press to take proper HD video.

Results are astonishingly good - and I can show anybody how to use it in under a minute.

3.) the way film and everything surrounding it is withering even though it's perfectly viable as a pleasing and rewarding niche in our hobby.

Nicely put, Mike.

Yesterday I related how impressed I was with the beautiful, finely-detailed B&W 16x20" exhibition-quality prints I'd had made from 6x7 negatives after a recent Himalayan trek. After getting over my initial shock, my next thoughts were: "After seeing these, why would you get all fired up over digital?", and "How many people have been denied the enjoyment of having their own beautiful prints like these because they've been sold the line that film is dead and no good?"

John Camp,
While waiting for the duo to explain the virtues of a monochrome camera, we might choose to read forums about the Leica Monochrome.

http://www.reddotforum.com/content.php/226-Leica-M-Monochrom-Review

The plus is sharper, higher ISO, and higher resolution for a given sensor,
which can pay off in extreme enlargements. If you don't need extreme enlargements, and use a high ISO color sensor camera, then Mono is less a plus.

http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-forum/leica-m9-forum/318643-monochrom-do-its-files-survive-extreme.html

The workaround for me is use a higher resolution color sensor. I have enlarged S2 files to 7.5 feet by 5 feet in B&W and I am able to do my complex filtration in post processing. However, my work around utilized a larger even more expensive camera than the Monochrome M.

Of course if one has always shot B&W film then the switch to the monochrome makes sense, as it did for Mike's friend Peter Turnley.


http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-forum/leica-m9-forum/323269-peter-turnley-monochrom.html

Dear Mike,
I noted your addendum and particularly:
'If you don't agree, I understand. If it's not true for you, I understand. If you fail to understand because you refuse to understand, I can't help it.'
As your original work is copyright, may I quote the above for when next I have to deal with visitors and inquisitors?.....

thanks and regards

mal

Yay! The shootout between Mamiya 7II between Leica M7 would be interesting. I need to get my Mamiya out for a spin. I have the M7II with 43, 80 and 150 set. I love the 43mm for landscape. I hardly use the 150

I don't have a Leica M7 but I have few Ms. I have a serious case of GAS.

I have to take issue with MIchael Perini on one thing he wrote:
"The biggest obstacle is the fact tha so many folks are happy with B&W Conversions. I'm not saying that You should be happy with conversion, I making the point that conversion is convenient and good enough for most. (Just like lossy compressed music). "
On the contrary, Michael, proper conversion in Pshop offers more control over image quality than a direct from sensor mono camera image. There are several ways to convert from color to B&W in Pshop. Simplest is desaturation, which is the only method which offers little or no control. The B&W conversion option offers access to the RGB channels and allows good control over the shades of gray. Using conversion to LAB color mode lets you work with the luminance channel. And if you know what you want before conversion, use the channels in the color image before conversion. Further, unlike the sensor image with color filters applied in front of the lens, with the Pshop conversions you cn use selections to modify various parts of the image to the desired shade of gray. Very convenient in making an object in the image stand out from the background. In all, conversion gives you probably the best image control generally available. More control than a direct mono sensor does. Further, removing color information should not degrade resolution, contrast or other quality factors in the image. Conversion is not a "lossy compression". Finally, remember that with few exceptions, both color and mono images are abstractions of the object being imaged. They differ only in the parameters of the abstraction.
Other than that, I agree with much of what you say.

I have another idea: wear a blindfold and load your favorite camera of all time, then go out shooting without knowing if it's B&W or color. This will reveal whether we have a deep empathetic connection with that very special camera.

I think I may need more coffee.

I've had zero personal experience with digital B&W, so my experience is limited to observation- and most of that online. What I've seen taken in "open shade" often looks fine to exceptional. What I've seen taken in more contrasty situations, such as direct sunlight however, runs the gamut; and I often find it less than appealing. I don't know if this is due to certain sensor limitations, lack of adequate post, monitor presentation or combinations of all or some of the above. Seems as if the subtle and continuous tonal gradations of B&W film are just inherently absent, which leads to everything from blown out highlights at worst, to an overall sterile or "artificial" look which I find deficient of the soul that is, in fact, B&W. I don't know if that can be fixed by a B&W only digital, or the new crop of organic sensors to come. To be continued, I hope.

Simple to use cameras! I may be showing my age but I truly think the best user interface was achieved with the Olympus OM and Nikon F3 era cameras. I don't want to push buttons or scroll through menus. Just focus, meter, and adjust in my head.

Hugh Crawford in the partial featured comment makes a good point about getting digital B&W to mimic you favorite film stock. But thinking about the generational divide discussed in another post it will be an interesting (r)evolutionary process to see how the younger, post film, generation processes digital to B&W when they have no reference to film whatsoever. What will their references be? do they even really need one? Interesting times.

"the way nobody will build an affordable B&W digital camera; subset, the way those who don't want one would like to deny the rest of us the choice"

Hmm... I seem to recall that some who don't want video would also like to deny the rest of us the choice :)

[Not even close. I have zero problem with some cameras having video. Even most of them. I just don't want it myself. --Mike]

Never the art came from anything else than the need to overcome and override our limitations. Compensate or perfect or escape, that where art came from.Perfect machines were always there, 5Dc, D700 and now A7, they are all go beyond our limits ( at least for us filmheads ) but we all anticipated new replacement models. Neither to compensate nor to escape.
BW milc/dslr at affordable would be a nice throw-back - work within your limitations to overcome, perfect or escape the same limitations.
The only trouble is that market is very much navigated and driven by the needs of amateurs and pixel-peepers since they are the most rewarding consumer - pros learn pretty well to work within their own limitations.

I understand the desire for a B&W only camera. I've had it myself. I managed to work through it and can do pretty well with black and white capture in a color camera. But I understand the hang up.

The *simple* camera is already here. You know what I'm going to say, but I'll say it anyway. It's the iPhone. I know people don't want to believe it but even for a moderately serious photographer the iPhone does 75% to 80% of what you pined for in all of those DMD articles. It's small. It's fast. And its JPEG files, even in the dark, are about as good as my circa 2007 D200.

And you can take the files and make B&W pictures out of them while you sit wait in line at the store.

Finally, I remember shooting some film a few years back in a fit of nostalgia. I got to the end of the roll by surprise, rewound the film and opened the back only to find out that I hadn't pushed some lever and the film had broken off the spool and was thus ruined. That made me get over my nostalgia pretty quickly, until the year they shut down Kodachrome and I shot some of that...

Mike wrote:
2.) the way Canikon only very begrudgingly gives the barest of nods to mirrorless, at the same time blithely ignoring the numberless smartphones massing at the edges of the Empire and threatening all of our futures; subset, the annoying way that the public is slow to get behind anything the industry behemoths don't tell them to get behind;

This annoys me. Several camera related blogs I read regularly rant about this.

1.) Why is anyone surprised? The successful never run away from what made them successful until they are forced to by the less successful who try everything to create the next successful thing.

2.) As an owner of two Canikon DSLRs, a full frame and a crop sensor, am I part of “the public” that “is slow” and is waiting for “the industry behemoths” to tell me what to think? Actually yes I am (although I take exception to the word “slow”). The camera companies “tell us what to think” with price, capabilities, IQ, etc. When I look at the cost and capabilities of a Canikon crop sensor system and compare it to an equally good (IQ) mirrorless system I concluded that the Canikon has some better capabilities at a lower price but at more weight and bulk. It works for me.

Complaining about what could be or should be seems pointless. Be a good consumer and vote with your dollars for what you believe is the best available solution at a price you are willing to pay. If the “bigs” are too slow to meet your needs they will soon follow a long list of former camera companies that are remembered in museums and history books.

New subject – Mike I really enjoy reading your blog. And, as a “good consumer” I did order a book from you last year and promise to vote with my dollars again this year.
Thank you,
gary

Slightly out of context, but interesting in the implications for camera makers:
While traveling recently, I only saw four people with digital SLRs. Three of the four were using the DSLRs in live view mode, not looking through the optical viewfinder, the purported advantage of a SLR. The fourth had a DSLR with small zoom hanging over his shoulder but was taking pictures with his phone!

Why not do it with firmware? Not like the B&W mode in every digital camera. How about a black and white only firmware option for any digital camera? No colour options. Not even in raw. Then you could use the colour array to simulate filters and the raw files would be in black and white. You could have a yellow or red or green filter. You wouldn't be tempted to revert to colour, because you can't. And the manufacturers don't need to spend a penny more on a different sensor. If you find out black and white isn't your thing then you can simply hook up to a PC and load the colour firmware.

Sure a true b&w sensor has more resolution and less noise compared to it's colour sisters but I think an A7R sensor with b&w firmware would be enough for nearly anyone.

Gordon

How Timely! I'm struggling with the digital B&W thing 'cause I want a Leica Monochrom. Not for vanity, but because it works as a camera and won't send me off into colour, interrupting my train of thought. (I have an m6 which is the coolest camera I'll ever own, probably). I suppose someone might bring out an affordable mono only digital camera, but it would probably have a stupid evf, or screen only. . Oh yes, and a set of silly menus. Realistically, it would have to be a monochrome dslr. The DP2M is the nicest small camera I have, by a mile, but I can't live with the awful post processing and the low ISO limitations.

As an alternative solution to a sensor change, for example, Sony could take the A7r and give it a menu option to become a b&W only camera, producing b&W RAW files etc?? (in fact, any hi-res camera, including DSLR's could do the same). You'd have the added benefit of being able to select the spectral response, while staying in monochrome. Actually, that's a bit of a brainwave, If I do say so myself!

Have fun with your experiment anyway!

Very cool! Knock yourself out!

Ah, the EOS 1V, that was s sexy camera! But if you turn off the LCD in your DSLR, in fact it will not matter if you shoot "B&W" on your 1V or DSLR, the vision will be the same?

As for simple and small cameras, there are plenty around, just have to be used in P or Green mode, just like a camera phone?

You'll still be going out with a film you know is black and white. My suggestion for your experiment is to get a bunch of 400 ISO films, some black and white and some colour (say Portra 400 for example, a brilliant film with lots of latitude). Hand the camera and film to a friend and ask them to load one of the films at random, but not tell you. Each time you finish a roll, go back to that friend and ask them to unload and reload without telling you which films were, but mark the cans and keep a record. When you're done, process the films, and see if you can see any results.

In my own case, I finished a roll in a borrowed Mamiya 645, thinking it was black and white, but it was in fact colour. I was pleasantly susrprised at the results!

Video is fine with me if it will sell more cameras, as long as the video record button, which is always in a place where it is easy to hit by accident, can be replaced with something more useful, like a focus aid. Not all permit that.

scott

Whenever I read about people discussing black and white film I wonder which b/w they're referring to, the smooth tones of a low ISO film or the grainy gritty texture of ISO 400 and higher. Not to mention the way the film is developed to bring out or suppress this or that characteristic. Talking about b/w film is like talking about "the old days", sounds good but more or less mytho-poetic. Maybe that's why only Leica has actually produced a monochrome sensor (and included a software package for simulating various film emulsions. If all you want to do is "see" in b/w most digital cams can present b/w viewfinder/LCD preview images. If you want digital b/w be specific about what it is you want.

What makes the Leica Monochrom special is that it only records luminance info without the megapixel losing Beyer filter. As pointed out above the Sigma comes close to doing the same in its mono mode because of the way Fovean sensors work. My Dp2Merrill is one of my favourite cameras within its limitations it produces shockingly detailed images with lovely tonality in colour but also in b/w. It's also remarkably well thought out menu wise and straightforward to use. The new Sigma Quattro will actually record 19 mpx of luminance info before it's colour layers record colours. Nobody has seen images from it yet but it's reasonable to hope it will produce even better b/w images. It weighs just a few hundred grams to boot. Not a camera for everyone but it does have its fans.

Why would anyone buy a small, super-simple camera when they can buy a small, super-simple camera including a smartphone and computer, for pretty much the same price??

Analogy to computers: It's like the phase when elite experts compiled their own Linux kernel to get some trivial task done. Fighting to keep n00bs out of their sanctuary. They loved unusable computers, because it meant exclusivity: only they were able to use them. Remember how angry these folks were (and still are) when things like the ipad came out. Because then, EVERYBODY was suddenly able to use a computer.

The useable, enjoyable camera will come. It will be loathed, scathed, ridiculed by the camera politburo. They will swing their heavy DSLRs over their heads, yell and groan to defend their authority and territory. In vain.

No need to worry. We just need more people to get interested in photography, as in "wanting to express themselves and record things that matter to them". And the smartphone is the perfect entry point.

Smartphone photography has evolved completely unnoticed from the camera politburo. Smartphone photographers will also evolve, demand more, and someone will make cameras for them.

I think we'll see gorgeous b/w cameras as well, sooner or later.

(I see an early hint in the products Sony is making. Crazy stuff like self contained lenses. I think it won't be a traditional camera manufacturer who finally cracks this. Might be Sony, might be Microsoft/Nokia, Apple, Google.)

" Now, as mirrorless threatens to take over the market, I am still waiting for Canon to catch up..."
Where do you guys get this stuff?
So far, mirrorless is NOT threatening to take over. It has been slightly declining both in sales and market share in most markets.

At best, I was "on-the-fence" about a monochrom(e?)-dedicated digital camera (just set any digital camera menu to B&W dammit!) until I followed the reddot forum link provided by a previous poster and saw the images from the "iconic" ;-) Leica Monochrom M.

I was stunned by the images I saw there, but i knew those images were artful culls by a highly skilled photographer, so I moseyed over to Flickr to see what the unwashed like myself might provide, and I was again impressed with the regular photos and the IRs. I also tried to give a fair shake to the other B&W brands mentioned, but I wasn't moved by those.

So, yeah, now I have a new Camera Of Lust for my bucket list (after the D4 D800 twins of course), but unless and until I am infused with ridiculous amounts of cash I'll be nurturing that dream for quite a while....And, hell, I never liked Rangefinders anyway :-) .

MartinP: "Why would anyone buy a small, super-simple camera when they can buy a small, super-simple camera including a smartphone and computer, for pretty much the same price??"

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Mike replies: Why, for the same reason you bought a better camera, of course. For better high-ISO capability, better enlargeability, interchangeable lens choice, better handling, better viewfinding, etc.

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But then it would no longer be super-simple and it would no longer be small. The usual target demographic for simple cameras always carries a mobile or smartphone, so putting the camera in there too has a net size increase of pretty much zero. Asking the user to carry a second unit the same size (at least) means a 100% increase in size, weight and confusion. This is not negligible.

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