Joseph Kashi submitted the following comment to the "Question for Now" post:
As many enthusiasts are returning to monochrome photography as an adjunct to the ubiquitous digital color, I'd like to gently suggest that Olympus put a monochrome-optimized version of the E-M10 on the market at a rational price point. This seems to have worked OK for Leica, although those are different demographics. It might not be that expensive a project, and would attract at least some attention in the right marketing demographics as well as complementary sales among serious photographers who already own Micro 4/3 gear.
I'd like to second that (but please be gentle and try to mimic the tonality* of Plus-X with a medium yellow filter, instead of tonality that's been relentlessly anseladamized).
(Thanks to Joseph)
*Relatively few people understood that post. It was my attempt to do impressions of various styles of B&W photography. Yes, it's all the same file, manipulated in Photoshop. Like someone doing an impression of Jack Nicholson is not actually Jack Nicholson....
Technical Editor Ctein adds: It's not going to happen, but that's about market economics, not image quality. Saying there's no point to monochrome digital camera, as at least one commenter implied, would be a little like saying there's no point to black-and-white film so long as you've got a paper like Panalure to print on.
An anti-aliased Bayer array camera discards about three quarters of the light hitting each pixel and has about 60% of the resolution of a dedicated monochrome camera. In other words, the quality of detail you'd get out of a 12-megapixel monochrome camera is comparable to what you'd see in a 30-megapixel color camera. Plus, the bigger, more efficient pixels make a real difference in how clean the tonality is and how well-rendered subtle gradations are.
I know a local photographer with a Leica monochrome. The image quality really is extraordinarily beautiful. No, it doesn't look like black and white film. Personally, I think it looks a hell of a lot better than any black and white film I've ever seen. Which, I know, is entirely a matter of individual taste but, damn, that camera's good.
But…. Black-and-white photography has been about 1% of the market for decades. It is truly a niche market. Maybe a company like Fuji, which has been known to make rather brilliant niche cameras when the mood strikes them, might tackle it. I would sure not count on it.
As an aside, you folks hoping for a convertible or interchangeable-sensor camera, it's just not going to happen, not at any price point you will like. Those are technically much more difficult to accomplish than you imagine. And, it would likely be a marketplace failure. You'd gain a very minor increase in potential market for a substantial increase in camera cost. Look at how many people whine about video being included in their still camera, where the added cost of that truly is small-to-non-existent. Now apply that mentality to the extra-costly convertible/interchangeable. —Ctein
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Mani: "If anyone does this it will be Fuji rather than Olympus, and I predict the camera will be called the X100M (for Monochrome, naturally....)"
Rex Lechat: "There is a difference between a black and white image created by converting a colour digital image and one that is a result of using a monochrome sensor. With a monochrome sensor, every single pixel on the sensor becomes a single pixel in the image. Each pixel only has one job: record the brightness of the light that falls on it. With a colour sensor, some pixels capture red, some capture green, some capture blue light. The ensuing colour image is the result of a mathematic calculation that mushes together the results from multiple pixels to create the (illusion of) the full visible colour spectrum. When you convert the colour picture to black and white, you are stripping the colour from the mush. This produces a different image from the one that started off as purely monochrome. (Please don't jump all over me for oversimplifying the underlying technology for the purpose of this discussion.)
"Beyond the technobabble, I suspect that when you know that your only option is black and white, you approach your photography differently.
"At a reasonable price, I would probably buy a B&W-only camera. It wouldn't be my only camera, but I'd certainly have fun with it."
Godfrey: "I can understand the desire for a monochrome-only digital camera if it offers something not achievable using a color camera. The Leica MM offers more acutance, sensitivity, and dynamic range compared to an M9. Of course, you're locked into one spectral response curve...only manipulable via filters at capture time. Which knocks some of the edge off the sensitivity gained. But B&W photographers with film cameras seemed to deal with that OK. Would I buy one? Maybe, but not one derivative of an E-M10. E-M1, more likely."
Keith I: "I would have a very difficult time passing up a monochrome Fuji X100s, and it would be worth the very hard time explaining the purchase to my wife."
Norm Nicholson: "Actually, there is an inexpensive monochrome camera with superb resolution already on the market. My Sigma DP2 Merrill has a monochrome mode. You then sample only the blue channel to reduce the signal to noise level from using the bottom two pixel layers. All tonal adjustments are then done in post. Sadly, for me, I see and dream in color, so i have not been too pleased with my work. But I've seen some very nice photos done by others."
Mike replies: Hmm, interesting.