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Wednesday, 08 September 2010


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Here is Luminous Landscapes thoughts from about a year ago:


Mega Vision also makes similar monochrome digital camera backs, albeit for tethered operation.

Forty two big ones buys a lot of Tri-X.

I'm sure it's been sent along already (or will be subsequently) but Michael Reichmann has reviewed this interesting bit of technology...


Guess I'll just have to settle for an S2.

I will stick with my Tri-X on Pentax 645N, for now.

Now buy a set of red, green and blue filters and piece together color images the old fashioned way. If you can get the registration right resolution should be ridiculous.

People spend a whole bunch of money just to avoid shooting film. If you need all that detail (as a pictorial photographer) why not just shoot friggin 8x10! It's SO MUCH cheaper, and probably resolves more detail when well handled.

I never thought I be using "shoot 8x10" and "it's so much cheaper" in a sentence together.

For scientific applications though...cool. I get it. The military can spend that.

How many megapixels (equivalent) are on a sheet of 4x5 film?

I think I'll stick with the "dynamic black and white" setting on my LX3.

I'm skeptical--very skeptical of any claims that removing the color filter array increases sharpness significantly, especially when you're starting with a camera that didn't have an low pass filter to begin with.

For DSLRs, which usually have to AA filters, only one of which is easily removable (the other is grafted on to the CFA, which is in turn grafted on to the sensor itself), there may be a tiny sharpness gain over a camera with only one AA filter removed. But I digress...the point I actually wanted to make is:

Unless your RAW processing program is _NOT_ demosaicing the file, you're going through exactly the same interpolation and "softening" that you'll get from a color file.

And for the record, all the whining I see about affordable bw digital capture is baffling. For less than two grand LDP will provide you with a brand new (but out of warranty) Canon 500D or 550D with the AA filter and bayer CFA removed. In terms of the minuscule market they're targeting, I think that's quite reasonable.

They're also working on converting 5D Mark IIs. I know because I asked--I'm interested in UV photography, and I have a hunch that the CFA blocks a lot of it..

Personally, I'd rather make my BW files from color images. There's no way I could make a lot of my BW images with a BW sensor. At least not without a zillion hours of setup, crazy lighting setups, bizarre filtration, and a ton of post-processing.

Should you buy a BW camera, bear in mind that you'll need to use DCRAW to output your raw files as undemosaiced tiffs to see the "sharpness gain".

In fact, true bw capture without a bayer matrix actually eliminates all the concrete "IQ" advantages you get from sloppy, inconsistent RAW processing. No useful highlight recovery trickery, no correctable chromatic aberration, no capture sharpening to counteract the demosaicing. You can write a script to turn your RAWs into tiffs and do all your work in Photoshop.

And when you read my post, I hope you rolled your eyes whenever you ran into a word in quotes. I know my eyes were rolling as I typed them...

And I have a post-script to my earlier comment--removing the CFA may actually reduce the light gathering ability of the sensor, since the CFA's microlenses are used to compensate for low fill.

There is a 'similar' camera on the marketplace. Not nearly as many megapixels. But does B/W without CFA interpolation. Easily converts to IR/UV. All for under $1000.

The Sigma SD15 (or the SD10 or SD14, for those who like to save a buck). People who shoot this sensor notice that it does a very nice job with B/W. The SD15 is a much better handling camera than the SD14, and that's the one I'd recommend for someone who's seriously looking for a camera that does B/W well.

Jim, very true, re: Sigma, but a lot of the BW folks have religious objections to the very act of capturing color information in the first place. Interpolation, sensitivity, are just something else to pile on top of it.

The Sigma camera is certainly intriguing, but there's a lot going against it. There's been little (or no?) development of the sensor over the last five or six years, it's 1.7x crop, the lens lineup is limited--even with adapters--and, well, it's a Sigma. The company does have a reputation for shoddiness.

The Achrom makes no more sense to me today (for general photography)than it did last year when it was announced. I, again, shook my head when I saw this message in my email today.

If I was really jonesing for pure b&w I'd much rather just shoot the b&w emulsion that fit the job. Much less costly, much more choice of medium subtleties.

But better yet, I'd rather shoot color and convert to taste, each frame as appropriate. No circa 1960 color filters. (I, too, think it's a bit of a stretch to worry about what's "lost" in color translation.)

It would be like buying a $42,000 car that can only make right turns. Why?

Pete Myers wrote: "But I am afraid Leica does not see the market potential. Few do."

I think they are all blind. Somehow no company saw potential in creating "home" video camera with large sensor until one of them made a large sensor still camera to shoot video...

I looked at converting a Kodak 14n to monochrome; there's a pin-identical black and white sensor. The problem lies in rewriting the camera's firmware, which was a task I wasn't equipped to deal with.

Gosh, think of how much it would cost if it could handle more than two colours.

There are already some *very* high-performance monochrome cameras out there for scientific applications. For electron microscopy, people are using cameras up to 8k x 8k. The price of these cameras can easily run into six figures.

Cameras for astronomy get even crazier. Presumably, cameras for military satellite-based surveillance represent the true state-of-the art.

@Pete Myers comment:
It would be a GREAT idea for companies struggling to get the pace of the bigs, to gain a dominant position in a valuable niche. Make an honest B&W camera and let the others fight in the coming "mirrorless" arena. I'm thinking Pentax, in particular, with their small primes... A competition-free niche with a sure base of selling numbers...
Ah, dreamin'

I have a D30 (3,2megapixels) that is not in "collectible condition"... Does anybody know how to remove the bayer filter from this? Has anybody ever tried it? I would give it a shot if I was given a clear "modus operanti".

i've long thought that the dedicated bw sensor market could be an area that leica could/should exploit. i think an ideal implementation might have something like a simple checkerboard mosaic of nd (2 stop?) filtered microlenses, so that you could do wicked wide-dynamic range capture, which could offer a significant and easy to understand advantage over bayer filtration, while also delivering the sharpness gains over interpolated files (and possibly a boost to low-light performance at the same time, as half the sites would have no filtration at all, but hopefully efficient light-gathering microlenses). i agree with the featured post by pete meyers that it would be key to provide the option at the same, or almost the same, price point as the color version.

it's even conceivable that leica could offer this option as an m9.2, carrying over that production line to when they eventually make an m10; the m10 will need to fix issues with red frame edges that won't matter any longer to the bw sensor array. i mean, if it would be easier or somehow more efficient to do it this way than to simultaneously develop two versions of the same brand-new sensor.

i know some of us struggle to justify purchasing a backup m9 body at this point (possibly 'making do' with a film body); personally, such a monochrome option would probably push me over the edge, as it provides not just backup capability but additional, expanded capabilities as well.

i am not holding my breath, though.

I'm perfectly content using digital for color and film for B&W. Not only do I keep an iron in the traditional photography fire, but if enough like-minded photographers exist we'll help to preserve the fine-art of wet printing.

"Presumably, cameras for military satellite-based surveillance represent the true state-of-the art."

You betcha. For lenses, too.


One might call it the "Stimulus" back, as it seems just about the only way to get your hands on one is through grant money.

If the camera companies ever make the leap to modular cameras with interchangeable sensors, I could see monochrome sensors appearing.

$42K? - I've been shooting for over 25 years and I bet I haven't spent $42 k on film, cameras and processing.

(excluding when I shot sports for several newspapers)

What is desperately needed in this area is competition. Even considering $40,000+ for this back should make everyone have their head checked. It's ridiculous. Thank god for Pentax and their new sub $10K offering, the 645D. That is at least somewhat reasonable price comapred to a high end Nikon or Canon. And what comes with a phase one back? A really small, poor resolution, impossible to see in daylight screen. Why would anyone pay a premium like this for such antiquated designs? I look forward to more offerings from Pentax or any other company that will create some competition (and resulting price drops) in this area.

gildasd - That's not something that you can do yourself. It requires grinding or chemically removing a thin layer over the sensor chip itself with accuracy in the millionths of a meter range. Even then, with good tools and instrumentation, there's a good chance of damaging the sensor beyond repair.

There are services that remove the AA and/or IR filters over sensors, and some of those jobs can be done yourself. But the bayer array is fabricated right on top of the silicon itself along with the microlenses, and is difficult to remove.

Out of curiosity, I decided to see how much Acros 100 I could buy for that amount of money. Sadly, Adorama will only let me add 9,999 of any one item to my cart, which works out at $26,897.31, plus another $961.90 for the lowest-cost shipping option to where I am.

I suppose the other $15,130.79 I have left can go toward chemicals and archival sleeves (maybe a buck a roll, combined?), plus some sort of large walk-in freezer to put the film stash in, since it obviously won't fit in the one I have now even if I do take the pizza and ice-cream out first.

I am with you about buying right turning cars, but lots of guys pay tons more money for cars that only turn left... and they are all NASCAR drivers....

I had a hard time finding this "LDP" that does monochrome conversions. But I eventually found a website that I think is either them, or else reselling their services. In case anybody else is interested and was having trouble finding it, here's their monochrome-converted DSLR page. (It matches the Canon body models and prices the earlier comment mentions, and other pages of this site refer to LDP doing the conversions.)

The sample pictures have an interesting look.

Eric--you do realize the irony of wishing for modular cameras with interchangable sensors, because then a cheap BW module would be available, right? The PhaseOne Medium Format System, of which the Achromat back is a part, is just such a frankenbeast.

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