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Monday, 10 October 2011


... and - while we are on a roll here - let's not forget to ask Canon (and Epson) for a monochrome ink set (low gamut, whatever). Then we can actually print all those digital B&W images in "real" B&W without all those silly dots of super-bright color thrown into our grays.

It would seem easy for manufacturers to offer a few bottles of gray goo for sale compared to the complexities of a non-RGB sensor. And yet, in all these years we've been left to our own devices.


>How the * would a black and white sensor rob you of artistic freedom?

Perhaps artistic freedom was a poor choice of words. Let me try again. If I put my camera in BW mode and only shoot jpeg (as some have said they do) I have no choice in how the colors are converted to BW tones. The camera's software decides for me. When I use the RAW file then I DO have that choice.

I love having that ability and it's always an important part of the creative process for me. Having a BW-only sensor would deprive me of that. That's all I'm saying.

I have no doubt that all of the other advantages of a BW sensor that have been mentioned would be true. If someone makes one I'll probably be temped to get one and try it out.


I got it the first time. For those who don't get it, pshaw. That's Midwestern for "P!ss off witch ya." :D

The concept of not cropping strikes me as just totally bizarre -- because of my 40 years shooting 35mm film. With 35mm film, I really had no choice; the film format didn't match 8x10, the basic paper format. I knew one person who had the religion of not cropping, filed-out negative carrier, the works, but it always struck me as an affectation. Not all photos out there in the world are 3:2!

And you know why so many people had multiple bodies back when? One major reason is so we could have BOTH color AND B&W film handy at the same time.

But really, what's going on is that the different kinds of photography are getting confused with each other again. I photograph primarily to document things; as nicely as possible, but that's secondary to "getting the shot". And I would suggest, Mike, that you may be guilty of, or at least verging on, saying that the pure artistic motivation is a superior reason to photograph. That tends to get people's dander up a bit.

Mike, I like to think that I see in b&w perfectly with my Leica M9. I'm supported by the b&w preview on the LCD on the rare occasions I choose to take a peek. Regrettably, I'm forced to see the RAW file in color in ACR but this is brief and it soon disappears 99% of the time since once seen as a b&w picture, I (almost) never want the color. But my b&w eye was developed using film cameras, mostly an M7.

Many cameras can be turned into B&W only: just replace the low-pass filter with an infrared filter cutting beyond 800nm to eliminate the traces of red).
This way, you will learn to see not only in B&W, but also in IR!

Principally in reply to Clayton,
I understand the premise from the current sensor offerings that colour information enables interpretation into black and white with virtually limitles options - I know, as I use all manner of techniques and plugins/standalones to get where I want (although I am now back to shooting 95% using film). However, I can't comment on the technical possibilities of sensors that could be developed at a reasonable price point as I am not knowledgeable in that area. If it is possible, I would like to see it.
As for having the option locked into a manufacturers software interpretation, well I wouldn't know if that would have to be so. Could Raw black and white be possible using point of capture/conversion parameters such as filters, variable wavelength sensitivity, tonal mapping, development, toning, etc. ? I don't know. It's probable that manufacturers won't (or can't) see any market advantages to be gained or sufficient profit out of development, but I'd push for the road ahead to take a few more left turns before we are on a motorway that none of us can get off.
I have found the following articles to be interesting:-




Also raised on TOP September 2010.

Regards, Mark.

Post-processing isn't inherently opposed to pre-visualization; in Adams' work they went hand in hand. He'd pick exposure and film processing technique together, and had already thought about printing techniques after that.

One can argue that the truest art is the art you planned, and any art you find later is lesser art. But if anybody can argue it with a straight face, I'd be surprised.

Belated thought: B&W only sensors already exist. They are used in surveillance cameras. In fact Canon developed a 120 MP B&W sensor that they announced back in august of 2010

. They had already developed a 50 MP version back in 2007. Why don't they put them in cameras for the consumer market? Probably they don't see a consumer market.

If people aren't getting what you say, then you need to keep repeating this mantra under your breath, Mike.


Lifepixel.com, one of the places with a good rep doing IR conversions, has detailed how-to instructions with photos for many camera models. (They strongly suggest you pay them rather than doing it yourself! The Nikon D90 instructions I checked out include desoldering and resoldering wires along the way, as well as dealing with very critical alignments and such, I wouldn't dream of trying this myself. But that's not the point.) The point is that it's clear from their instructions that they do NOT remove the Bayer matrix filter; just the IR hot mirror, which is a separate sheet of glass entirely.

I believe this works because the dyes in the Bayer array are quite transparent in the infrared.

Unfortunately, that means that you can't really convert to pure B&W by this method.

sneye's comment says much of what I wanted to - I have a Lumix GH2 with custom preset C1 set to b&w, square, aperture-priority.
ISTM that what both this article and its equally prolix predecessor boil down to is a matter of discipline: it is by overcoming the temptation and keeping the toy in said C1 preset mode at all times that one learns how to see in that mode. I can't say I'd disagree that much, although it's hardly the most profound thing I've read today.

I answered the poll with the most expensive option available, because, in order to give up the flexibility, it would *need* to deserve to be that expensive - I would've preferred a digital MF back for quality.

On cropping: it is actually the viewfinder that is the cause of cropping. All this "95%" gibberish - horrible. No wonder people crop to correct and get carried away, cropping more to modify. Again, EVF or LCD live-view to the rescue. At a rate of one photo per day, I've not cropped so much as to "correct" a border for months.

It also seems to me that another question is what processing might be enabled and where it might be located. For example, the choice of emulating Ilford PanF-50+ with N-1 dev in Tanol[0].

I can see that, if one were to make a b&w-only digital camera, then this function could be implemented in its firmware.

I can also see that making the implementation happen in software (such as DxO Optics Pro) enables users of *all* digital cameras to benefit.

And I can see that if you were to put it in the camera's firmware, some smart-alec would come along and say "hey, a camera with a choice of films. I know a real authentic way to achieve that..." and they'd even add the option of stand-dev Rodinal instead.

The reasons why b&w-only digital won't catch on are partly the competitive viewpoints of choice, temptation, discipline and flexibility, and also that it's going to have to offer something *new* that can only be done that way.

[0] This combination is a viable definition of having lived.

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