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Thursday, 22 March 2012


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Let Michael Reichmann buy it for review and then see if he will sell it to you cheaply. (or at least more cheaply...)

Suddenly camera makers seem eager to satisfy all those obscure desires, the plot thickens.

I stopped by a local dealer to pay my respects and wish him well in his upcoming retirement. During the course of the conversation, knowing that I've purchased more than my share of Leica products from him over the years, he shared with me what Leica is cooking-up for its spring announcement. Of course I cannot claim to positively know with first-hand certainty, and I would not be mature if I shared what he told me (even though he's always been absolutely accurate with such information for years).

But it ain't a black and white camera. Sorry Mike.

Here's a hint that might seem to tie things together nicely. Why has Leica's camera and lens production been so constipated for over a year? What have they been doing with their work days?

Remain calm. If they release one, then others will follow suit and they'll be cheaper.

Maybe they meant a black and white only camera; if so, this is perhaps part one:


More seriously, the discussions over on the Leica Forum regarding the the rumored b/w sensor are as expected, ranging from great idea to ridiculous idea.

The notion of not having an LCD is particularly interesting. If they're trying to recreate the wonderful film M experience, I hope they also consider the option of a manual shutter re-cocking mechanism to silence that awful motor sound.


Stop! Don't touch that credit card.

Do look at the Kodak B and W digi:


Its a rare bird, no doubt not in every camera store, but maybe worth a search.


Mike, if Leica produces a BW only camera, it's only a matter of time before Panasonic or some 2nd tier camera maker jumps on the bandwagon. Then I predict in about 3 years all major camera companies are offering up a BW version of the camera for the "professional"...

A) I still don't understand why (aside from the theoretical technical improvements) a dedicated B&W camera is better than a B&W MODE setting.

B) As Leica does, does the market. All will covet the million dollar apparatus, so someone will follow suit and make an affordable production version to steal the actual sales.

FS - Right kidney. One owner. Low mileage. Used gently.

No need to fret. Keep in mind that you are a _photographer_. Hypocrite, non-hypocrite? Who cares. The world spins. Technology advances; the camera industry becomes more like the fashion industry (must have this year's model) and less like the hardware industry (a hammer is a hammer). Here's a practical way out: If the rumor turns out to be true, start saving $50 a week in a coffee can for the purchase. By the time you have saved enough money (say 5 years), the issue will be moot because we will have moooooved on. And you'll have a nice wad of cash to apply to the _then_ current vleben flavor of the season. Wink. ;-)

I got my two M8s and my Summicron 35 by trading prints for them, so I don't feel too bad about their cost.

I still love to focus in that rangefinder. For me, it is the only reason to use a Leica. If I wanted image quality, a Canon 5D is cheaper and probably better.

Even though I shoot overwhelmingly black and white, the prospect of a B&W only Leica M doesn't seem too enticing. Why give up the power to adjust my BW conversion after the fact? For resolution? You don't use a Leica rangefinder if you want resolution! "Resolution" in time, sure (as in, hitting the exact moment you want) but not resolution in space. There are better cameras for that.

Maybe you could sell your soul or something to be able to afford 'Going Leica'. :-D
I went Leica about a year ago and even on the cheap and buying only 1 leica brand lens I ended up out almost 4,500 bucks.
A New Leica is probably gonna set you back at least a new mazda!
I wish you well.

If true, it's a good ploy by Leica. I'm sure they would again love to see photographers with a pair of Leica cameras around their necks... one for mono and one for color, just leica the good ole days!

You are going to have to buy one, use it for a year exclusively and give us a report on it. Because it is a Leica, you should be able to sell it and get your money back....right?

I know I've brought this up before on this site, but switching from digital to film brought a number of benefits, one being freedom from fixating on the next release's offering (and do I need it) or from waiting for gear yet realized, such as a relatively affordable 'full-frame' rangefinder, let alone one equipped with a black & white only sensor.

However, I'm not fully liberated, as I scan my negatives and print using an inkjet. Not too long ago, I believe Ctein posted an article examining the fate of scanners, so that concern has been recognized (though unfortunately, not resolved, lest I win the lottery and pick up one of those Hasselblad Flextights).

To add, I would like to see a dedicated B&W printer, along the lines of the Epson 3880, but of course, with more gradations of gray. Canon's Pixma Pro-1 pushes in that direction with three gray cartridges in addition to the matte & photo blacks. I realize that third party options are available, but I'm uncomfortable with potential operability and warranty issues that might arise. I also realize that the 3880 and its ilk already produce excellent black & whites, so it's probably the nonsensical fastidious side that stokes this desire.

And in the end, there is always the option of learning to print in the darkroom, and I will pursue this at some time just for fun, but I do enjoy the control that curves alone offers in Photoshop.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see if the rumored monochrome-only Leica actually arrives.

I would take the same attitude toward the rumored Leica B&W that I take toward Apple products: I know that I will never buy something from Apple (for a lot of reasons, including price), but I'm always happy when they make something good because I know that the best features of it will be imitated and improved by companies whose products I am willing to buy. If Leica makes a B&W camera, then someone like Fuji, who seems to be in the creative risk-taking business at the moment, or (pleasepleaseplease) Olympus might follow suit.

Yes, this rumor is annoying. If it's true, it would be amazing and fantastic and painfully expensive. It's something to be excited by and scared at the same time. Like pulling a bandaid, I hope they get it over with quickly.

Mike, if the result is that the output is like a Tri-X emulator, you are so royally screwed! Start getting the cash out of the shoebox...

Mike, this an "Angst" response! I'm not waiting in line with you on this one but I'm in the process of "de-Nikonizing" myself and springing for the Fuji X-Pro 1. But leaving a known and heading for the unknown has me with similar feelings. I've already pulled several cranial muscles "debating" this decision. It's a done deal and I'm going for it. Best wishes on your own decision.

I've said the same, Mike, but after buying a NEX-7 and ordering a D800E, I'm tapped out.

I guess you should have qualified your "if anyone ever made a B&W-only digital camera I'd be forced to buy it" comment with an "if I can afford it" haha. If you want to buy it, but can't, I'll let you off the hook. ;-)

Oh relax, Mike! Leica might be the first to announce a dedicated B&W sensor camera, but shortly after they prime the market with the idea that B&W-only is for "discerning artists," Ricoh will produce a better one as a GXR module.

So when the questions come in about your "Leica pre-order status" just say you're waiting for the first-adopters to shake the bugs out of it... then quietly order the Ricoh. ;)

I've always said the same thing, and up until three years ago had the disposable income to buy one-even a Leica. I shoot for, and convert nearly 95% of my "Real Photos" to B&W ( and yes I'm with those JPEG guys!)
But I've come to realize that I've been seeing in B&W for 45 years photographically and no longer believe that a B&W only digital camera is necessary! So cut yourself a break! Now if it shoots only in Panatomic-X that might change things!

Well, the obvious solution would be for all of us to buy it so you could get one through the sum gained from affiliate sales... :)

OOoo this is good.

We all "know" the mirrorless EVF system is reserved for Photokina. Herr Stefan himself said so.

First rumors fly about B&W only Leica. Then people get invited on a M10 (May 10) event.

Ah, so what, it could still just the X2 announcement, or worse, a special edition puppy poop colored M9-P RIGHT RIGHT RIGHT????

No, they just announced a special WHITE version of M9-P. Wrong color but no way now they will reserve an event for just another special edition.

Now what?

My heart would love to see a B&W sensor Leica, but my brain tells me that it would be an X2.

They should have chosen May 9th to make the announcement.

Well, Mike, we are rooting against each other on this one. I am really hoping this black and white sensor is true. Why? Because I am a color photographer and I love my M9 and if the next M is black and white, then I don't have to agonize over whether I should buy it or not.

Speaking about rumors, there is a rumor that Sony is developing a camera with a square sensor.

Leica already makes a B&W camera; it's called the M7.

'Sooner or later the sensor in the average phone will be the equivalent of the MP3 file—good enough for most people—and alternatives will get thin on the ground.'
Mike Johnston, B&W sensor link

Nokia 808 anyone?

I'm with you Mike. I want it to be true and I'm very afraid if it is! And, I'll be disappointed if it isn't...


I can relate to the retro/simplicity thing. I have a hankering for the OM-E5 and the X Pro 1 both (the only reason I don't have a hankering for a Leica is because the pricing puts it out of the realm of feasible).

But I think it's taking things a little too far to build a digital camera without an LCD in 2012.

Of course, it's only a rumor ...

But I think it's perfectly acceptable to renege on your promise to buy a dedicated b/w camera. I told myself some years ago that I'd buy the first camera that behaved like my Minolta Himatic (fast 40mm lens on a compact rangefinder). One of the Sigma DP series sort of fit the bill. The GF1 with the 20/1.7 was close. But ultimately I decided that even if a camera is the only one to offer some key feature, that's not enough.

Besides, if you get a Leica, you'll talk about Leica more, and that might get yet another siren song going in my head (I've been ignoring the full frame song so far).

I'd rather have Panasonic do it, with a replacement for the GF1. Then I could use my 20mm pana lens and my Leica/panasonic 45mm.

Mike, Kodak came out with the 760M back in 2001. Obviously you didn't buy it back then, and neither did a lot of other photogs.'

IF it is true regarding the B&W sensor Leica, I propose that your readers solve your problem. If every reader sends you $10, I think you can afford the camera. For $200 a reader gets to use your camera for a day.
I hope that Leica does this camera, because they can. It would not make as much money as their white M9P going for $30,000
But it would add to their Leica credibility and would be justifiable as good PR.

I prefer to convert color to B&W so I can add filters in post-production, but I will still borrow yours for a trial in return for my $200. Perhaps you should post this offer on Kickstart too.

Careful what you wish for - it will usually come back to bite you on the tush .... one way or another.

I'm still shooting film but this topic interests me. Not that I own one, but I understand the Canon 5D series (and maybe other Canon DSLRs) have the ability to recall multiple settings profiles. Can one of these profiles be optimized for in-camera BW? And would the quality equal or approach that of a dedicated BW-only sensor? If so, well, that would seem like the best way to go. If for some strange reason one wants to shoot digital rather than film.

I think I've got a solution for you, Mike: Having seen one of those fancy Leicas at Horsetail Falls a couple of weeks ago, I have to say it is a classy chassis, with beautiful design ethic, and just about every shot I've seen coming out of one is top notch. Er, maybe like Apple products? Of course I've never looked into buying one because I'm dirt poor. But I get the impression that the price is justified, no bright red lipstick needed. ;-) Damn if I could actually defend my impression, though. I don't have enough experience with a variety of cameras to give examples.

OTOH, I'm one of those folks who prefers to shoot in color and convert to monochrome in post processing. I can say that I've done it enough to have a good solid base for comparison. Eventually, though, I do want to convert to film, and that means learning to see in zones/tones, and this camera may make that transition a bit easier for me.

So how about this? You use your pull as a widely read blogger to get one of those cameras, hand it over to me for a specified period of time, and I'll write up the review, and an analysis of making the jump from black and white treatment to in-camera. This way you don't have to buy one, your sense of honor is intact, you can get a fair review of what it's really like to shoot black and white.

Whatcha think?

Those of us who would like one probably won't be able to afford it. You won't have a dilemma as no doubt someone will give you a review copy to keep which will make the rest of us more miserable. Really wish I had your kind of problems!

‘What am I gonna do if this is true?’

I'm glad I wasn't the only one who saw the rumor and had that thought.

I don't know the answer, though (for either of us).


reading this post reminded me of 2 things.

Firstly, a quite recently (3 odd months maybe) I said my dream camera would be a Nikon FM2, b/w sensor, and no screen on the back. Ctein very gently let me down, noting that the camera would have such a tiny market it would cost a lot, and not sell well. He was undoubtedly correct, and also gracious in putting me right. But if Leica did exactly the same......it would probably sell like hot cakes.

Secondly, I have always been somewhat intrigued by the Leica 5-character coding for their products. Things like SOOGZ which I think is a filter adaptor from a quick Google. There's a used camera shop / cafe (good business idea) called Aperture Photographic in central London and I was in there looking at a tatty 24mm AIS lens and drinking some coffee. A very smartly dressed middle aged man came in, and in the space of about 5 minutes chose an M6, a 35mm Leica lens, a strap and something else, and paid hard cash for it - over £2500 I remember. I could not help but overhear his conversation with the owner of the place, in which he said it was his Christmas present to himself, he'd done well in business that year, but did not want his wife to know.

So there you have it. The Leica "Cartier Bresson kit" should be immediately branded the ANGST.

Probably been said before but I'm sure some hacker could modify any camera to shoot B&W only, surely only a software issue

Dear Mike,

Oh, don't worry. You KNOW you'll never be able to afford it.

pax / Ctein

As someone who's been advocating a certain type of mirrorless camera since The Dawn of MILC, I can sympathise with you about being right yet in the minority.

As for your reputation being ruined if Leica releases a B&W camera and you don't buy it, I wouldn't worry. It wouldn't make you a hypocrite, Mike, it would just make you a responsible adult.

I also thought that an autofocus, backwards compatible M camera/lens system would be the logical next progression for Leica. I'm sure I've heard that this in't possible, but then we were also told that a full frame rangefinder was impossible.

As hard as I've tried, I can't seem to get a memory card to work with my enlargers. It just casts a shadow.

I'll just stick with the OM-3Ti for as long as I can get film and then will be in barter mode with the other horders while putting the freezer under armed guard.

B&W sensor - great !
No LCD - a disaster. I shoot a lot of film, but i would never, ever buy digital without LCD. I just does not make any sense, sorry. A camera should not make things harder then it is needed - it is just a tool. A digital camera should have an LCD, because it is natural for it. No one will make better pictures only because there is no LCD.

No need for the Leica when you can get twice the sensor in a Phase One Achromatic plus back. AND you have the option of whatever your favorite system is. Double and: IR sensitivity without any pesky filters! All for only the price of a luxury sedan! Laugh in the face of the Leicaphiles...

"Art" does not depend on the instrument used to create it. So your attempt to justify the creation of a digital B&W-only camera doesn't hold water...

Mike said "Talk about yer dilemmas. The veritable double bind. I would be equally pleased if it were true and displeased if it were true. Disappointed if it isn't true and relieved if it isn't true. If it happens, it would either a) cost me a lot of silly money (I'd probably have to take out a bank loan) or b) prove I'm a hypocrite. If not a, b; if not b, a."

Hey, Mike. The mythical mono Leica will be just the thing for Schroedinger's Cat photos!


The Leica M with a B&W sensor and prints made on Silver Gelatin paper would be impossible to resist.

In reply to Steve Jones

"but I do enjoy the control that curves alone offers in Photoshop."

- Don't let that stop you! I got all the curves adjustment I need right here, in a little box, starting at 00 and ending in 5.

Wow! I like Jack's proposal!

I made the choice to sell all my Canon gear to purchase an M9. It already produces the most stunning b&w files, using post processing, that I've ever seen from a digital. I have absolutely no desire for a b&w M. But.....

Make me a b&w X2 and I'm far more intrigued. Make it with interchangeable lenses and an EVF and the kids go on eBay.


Yeah, just class it with the phase digital b&w–unobtanium, specialized etc. Then put your money where your mouth is and buy and etch-a-sketch.

But seriously, don't kick yourself over it. If Leica proves it popular enough then others will follow (cf. D800e). And what Miserere said–responsible adult. Better you than me!

I don't want a B&W only digital camera. At all.

I worked with the Kodak DCS760w once upon a time ... a truly wonderful specialist instrument for a particular kind of job in forensic and scientific data gathering ... but beyond that it was just a specialist camera that didn't give me anywhere near as many options for producing top notch black and white photos as a standard digital camera.

You see, with a B&W only camera, the only way you have to manipulate the spectral rendering is to fit filters to the front of the lens. It's like working permanently with a camera that can only take one type of B&W film. Forever. With no processing options since there is no spectral information in the collected data.

Not worth it. I can do better B&W with my M9 just as it is, I don't need a specialty camera that does not allow me to render B&W properly for the scene and lighting.

A B&W only digital camera! Can't wait for the rotary dial iPhone.

I have two already. My FE and my F3 loaded with the superb Tmax 400. Very affordable as well and so are the lenses.

These cameras also have a dual advantage of being digitilized (word?) or wet printed.

Dear Neal,

You haven't got real control, you just have a scant handful of presets.

pax / Ctein

Now, if Leica really wanted to give a whole lot of people something they almost, but not quite exactly wanted, they'd make a digital, B&W-only R10.

Wow, I think I'd be in line too. After having used a DSLR, for black and white, whilst I'm sure the controls and results of post-processing are probably more flexible -- it's the thinking part at taking the photo which is missing.

As in, you don't. That's always got me about having this colour stuff in between taking the photo to realising the final print...


A B&W sensor would be a curious thing. I mean, part of the tonality of a film image is down in part to the colour sensitivity of the B&W film. So what happens with a B&W only sensor, with no colour sensitivity (presumably)? Or will we be back to subtle IR cut style filters on lenses, filtering 'just' enough colour to 'adjust' the light falling on the sensor, which you then have to stack with a proper yellow or red filter if you want fluffy clouds against a dark sky?

But you can be sure if Leica remove the colour, and remove the LCD, and even if they make you cock the shutter yourself with gears and a lever, they will charge more for less.


mike, I'm not worried about what would you do if leica releases that camera. after all, the DMD is here (Fuji X100) and you didn't buy it... and that was your idea too ;)

The definition of "mixed emotions": your Mother-in-law driving over a cliff - in your brand new Mercedes.

It may be closer than you think, for less money than you think. On DP Review recently, they were talking about how Samsung (correct me if I'm wrong on the manufacturer please) is considering an Android powered camera.

That would be very interesting if it came out in a body with full manual control. Let the users and hackers design a minimal but perfectly usable interface, RAW mode B&W only and we're there.

Just cover up that pesky red dot on the body and pretend it's something else, problem sorted ;-)


You remember those Sigma SD1 prints we looked at? Well, the truth of the matter is that the X3 sensor is an outstanding 15 MP B/W sensor (no AA filter, no CFA deconvolution) that just happens to have color come along for the ride.

I'll bug my pal at Foveon to do the following:

1. Put a B/W mode on the DPX-Merrill cameras that allow them to show B/W off the LCD during shooting.

2. Make the camera delightfully responsive (I remember your first introduction to the DP1/2).

3. Keep it at $1000 or less.

I'm sure it'll be an amusing conversation, but they really do want to focus on making excellent photographic tools...


I know this has been debated ad nauseum so I won't get into it too much, but wouldn't the technical advantage of increased sensitivity and high ISO performance by removing the Bayer colour filter (since the filter itself absorbs much of the light before it hits the sensor) be largely offset by the coloured filters you would then have to put on the front of the lens to control tone and contrast, like everyone used to do with B&W film?

"Leicas only for the carriage trade"? Ouch!

I must take exception--yes, I own Leicas. But I didn't get 'em for snob appeal, or as expensive status symbol neckware. Got 'em way back when because of what I was shooting at the time--SLRs were just too noisy for the conditions I was working in, and there was really no other choice. But yeah, I became an addict after I started using them, and it got worse and worse over time--now only a dose of M9 will satisfy my need. It happens, you know....

So all you haters, stop hatin' on Leica. We're not ALL obnoxious one percenters, you know...

"after all, the DMD is here (Fuji X100) and you didn't buy it... and that was your idea too ;)"

Oh, I consider that I have a DMD--the GF1/20mm. Granted, it doesn't have a built-in viewfinder. I do plan to buy the OM-D when it gets here.


Dear Cary,

Depends upon how strong a colored filter you're used to using with B&W film, really.

And, most photographers did not routinely use a color filter with B&W photography.

Don't worry so much about it unless a #29 is your constant friend.

pax / Ctein

What will happen on May 10th?

Leica will announce the M10 (May 10 ... just like the M9 on 09/09/09). It will be interesting who is supplying the 35mm sensors. The Kodak sensor was getting long in the tooth. Do Leica have another supplier or does Truesense Imaging (the spun off Kodak CCD maker) get the job.

What fraction of the market for Leica is "aspirational" rather than the Veblen good consuming "professional" who are less sensitive to price and market. The photographer stretching to buy the M6/M8/M9/M10 he's lusted after for years but it will be the only Leica he buys) that might now be attracted to the XPro1 or NEX7 or OMD in hard times?.

Leica may announce a replacement for the X1 which has hit "end of life" amongst retailers. Will this replacement be another similar camera (X2?) with a better APS sensor or will the replacement (for the not very successful X1) be M mount mirrorless with EVF APS Leica in the same price range?

That would have enough differentiation from the M class cameras to not impact sales but would be in a direct fight with the XPro1, NEX7, OM-D, etc. Perhaps they've seen the popularity of the manual focus lenses with len adaptors on these systems? If they think these cameras will make an impact perhaps they moved up the rumored Photokina 2012 mirrorless announcement to get their dog in the fight at the X1 price point ($2K)? It's higher than the rest but it comes with a Red Dot™

Although I sent a tip to Mike on the B&W Leica rumor (because we've read the comment here) I don't think we'll see one.

"...I know that I will never buy something from Apple ... but I'm always happy when they make something good because I know that the best features of it will be imitated and improved by companies whose products I am willing to buy..." @Nicholas Condon

Out of hundreds of imitations of Apple
products, which one is an improvement ?

Dear PWL,

Ahhh, but it is so much fun to mock those who are. Back at Darkroom Magazine, we had an acronym for a certain class of subscribers: DWRTMACL

(doctors who retired to Miami and collect Leicas)

If the shoe doesn't fit, just don't wear it.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

"Out of hundreds of imitations of Apple
products, which one is an improvement ?"

Did you get a chance to watch the Chase Jarvis interview with Guy Kawasaki? The "former chief evangelist for Apple" he preferred Android over iPhone. Actually, the best part of the interview was listening to his comments on some current Apple products. Yep. He is well past the evangelist stage!

OK, Android is not really an imitation of Apple products. I, however, would like some company to make an imitation of my iMac that could connect to the Internet wirelessly and then stay connected. Or one that....oh...better stop there!

Out of hundreds of imitations of Apple
products, which one is an improvement ?

None that I've seen. But I'd rather have a Leica camera. :-)

Well, Mr. Ctein, I am not a doctor, I am not retired, I don't live in Miami, and I use Leicas, I don't collect 'em. So there.

Hmmm... if we're going to be trading hackneyed proverbs, something comes to mind about not judging a book by its cover...:-)


I know I specifically mentioned filters but I never said those filters were blindly shoved in the filter drawer, I use many methods for controlling tonal variation and contrast.

filtration is but one of them, split filtering as well as dodging and burning, developer choice, toning and if I'm feeling particularly affectionate towards a print, I'll make it a bromoil matrix and have at it with my shaving brush and ink!

I believe I have lots of control, not that I couldn't do it all on a computer, but that wouldn't be any fun now would it!


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