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Wednesday, 19 March 2014


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A Nikon V3 Monochrome, or just Nikon VM, what a dream!

I don't know how difficult this will be. How about a button that can defeat the IR filter on the sensor as well?

Me: Knock-knock.
JK: Who's there?
Me: Naga.
JK: Naga who?
Me: Nagannahappen.

"It might not be that expensive a project, ... Making changes to mass-production manufacturing lines is breathtakingly expensive.

I understand people's love for b&w photography. But what I do not understand is the desire to own a digital camera that only produces monochrome files. Given the option to do this with nearly every digital camera today, and given the inexpensive powerful post-capture processing tools to "develop" image files, and given the existing availability of b&w film ... why-oh-why this fetish about having a b&w camera (i.e. the M Mono)?!

Utterly incomprehensible to me.

[Could that have anything to do with...oh, I don't know...the fact that YOU'RE NOT A BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHER?!? :-) --Mike]

If money was not an issue, which it is, I would love a digital black and white camera. I've always thought it would be interesting to be able to switch out the backs on a dslr or consumer priced camera, similar to the way medium format cameras work.

Well, well... I remember a comment by Ctein in which he stated common people are the driving force behind the photographic industry and we, the photography enthusiasts, are a minority. He was mainly right, although 'we' are an immense minority that led to many innovations. Spot metering is the first one that comes to my mind, but most innovations were introduced in order to make photography easier and more affordable. Photography for the people, if you like. However, if spot metering is an example of a useful feature dictated by the needs of professionals and enthusiasts, thinking a brand like Olympus would make a monochrome camera might be pushing our imagination a little too far. Leica can do it because they're a niche brand and the price of the Monochrom M is so high it easily tops the costs of R&D and manufacturing; they know a camera like this will sell, no matter how much they ask for it. Olympus, however, would lose money, which might be regarded as a bad idea when presented at a Board meeting. In a nutshell, Olympus don't do Verblen goods. They can't afford it.
Besides, I have some doubts about the utility of such camera. Owning an E-P1 and an OM-2, I can tell you there's no way the E-P1 can match the sharpness and resolution of the OM-2 loaded with an Ilford film. I don't know much about the new gen micro 4/3 sensors produced by Sony on behalf of Olympus, but from what I see on the internet there doesn't seem to be a lot of difference when it comes to resolution. And you can't replicate that wonderful silver tonality of a pure black and white film with digital, no matter how good your software is: you'll end up with a mere imitation.
The best advice would be to stick to film cameras and load them with the best black and white rolls available. Why go digital when film does such a terrific job? The Ilford FP4 and Pan F are so stupendously good they've instantly become my favourites; for high ISO, there'll always be ol' reliable Kodak Tri-X, and you'd be surprised at what the inexpensive Agfa APX can do for your pictures.
Forget digital monochrome cameras from Olympus: as Kenneth Tanaka predicted above, it ain't gonna happen. And rightfully so.

I don't see this happening either, but if it did I'd guess it would be Fuji over Olympus.

I suspect people over-value the higher resolution of an un-Bayered B&W array.

And I suppose some people actually don't trust themselves to hold to the limits they believe are important if they have color available in their hands at all times.

I'm pretty sure the people so dedicated to B&W digital gear are all old dinosaurs like me, thinking that will somehow get them closer to what they remember fondly.

Like lots and lots of people, I was primarily a B&W photographer for decades. And like lots and lots of people, this was primarily a combination of finance, and the difficulty of working in color in the darkroom days. Now, I shoot mostly color, though not exclusively.

can I have one that does TriX dev'd in Rodinal, 50-1 please

More of a question than a comment. Mike I believe it was you who said that "in camera" monochrome with a Nikon D700 was the pretty good, if not the best in the industry. How would you compare two images….. the same shot, same subject, same speed and aperture , same lens, asa 250 iso 250. One taken with a Nikon F3 with plus-X vs Nikon D700 set to Monochrome.

I'd buy a monochrome sony RX1, I don't know why but i'd like my monochrome camera to have a fixed lens - I wouldn't buy the OM version and a set of new lenses - but i also wouldn't want a monochrome canon 5Dmk3 (although i'd probably end up wanting it... maybe as a 6D...)

A monochrome Ricoh GR? in a heartbeat...

I'd much prefer this from Fuji.

There is someone who converts a couple Canon models to luminance only, but he has tackled no M43 models yet. I'd like to see an affordable conversion like we can get with IR. See http://www.maxmax.com/ldp_b&w.htm .

I doubt Olympus (or anyone but Leica, actually) has a good business reason to come up with a digital camera optmized for monochrome. Sure, you can get better output resolution by not having to demosaic the image, but resolution really isn't the problem these days. Also, with a monochrome-only camera, you'd have to use contrast filters while shooting (like old times!) to control the tonality, rather than adjusting the RGB channels in post-processing. Some might prefer this (I've always enjoyed using contrast filters, but it's certainly more flexible to do it in post.

"Could that have anything to do with...oh, I don't know...the fact that YOU'RE NOT A BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHER?!? :-) --Mike"

What if a camera had a mode you could really lock it into (maybe with a difficult key combo or something) that would only provide black and white output and viewing, including changing all the relevant menu options, and adding things like color filter emulation and tonality choices?

What if the same thing were done at the factory, and you couldn't change it?

Would that satisfy the same need? Or would even knowing that there were little color filters over the pixels ruin it for black and white photographers mentally? Because I think that's really what we're talking about here.

(I suppose I'm also assuming that you get a monochrome raw files, though it wouldn't be true raw since it would be "monochromed".)

I'd hope for something more outside the box, like a low-cost, stripped down box camera. (OK, so more "box" than "outside the box".) Something resembling the top half of a rolleiflex TLR; crank not necessary, though the chimney would still come in handy on sunny days. Optional mirror-image preview?

Yes, I've been addled by the TOP film (and BW) nostalgia mini-kick, and my tongue is in my cheek. And yet... as Mr. Kashi said, we're looking at different demographics; why not one that would get excited about going retro with a low price point and contrarian spirit? Excellent IQ of course, but also simple and fun.

I am very definitely a Black & White photographer - take very little colour - there's no way I'd ever give up the extra control of local tonality and selective masking in Photoshop that I have when starting out with a full colour Raw file.

That would be like sending out my BW film work to be processed by the corner drugstore.

I'd buy one. I'd buy one from the first manufacturer to make one (other than Leica, can't really afford that and tried film rangefinders-still have an m6-and didn't like them, but even so, I've thought about getting a Monochrom more than once).

And more than the black and white camera, I'd probably also buy a matching color camera and a handful of lenses if it wasn't in a mount that I already used. I don't know if a black and white camera would be a huge seller, but I think it could get some people to switch systems and buy more than just one camera body.

I'm putting in an order for APX 100 and Rodinal 1:100, little or no agitation after the first minute. Thank you.

[Could that have anything to do with...oh, I don't know...the fact that YOU'RE NOT A BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHER?!? :-) --Mike]

Actually no, upon introspective analysis I don't think so. I enjoy doing a bit of monochrome, too. I think my opinion really stems from the reasons I stated, being essentially that this is a feat that can already be performed more aptly and flexibly with the tools at-hand for almost anyone.

Of course whatever people like to play with is fine with me. But from my perspective digital photography is, at a fundamental level, about capturing information, as much of it as possible, from the scene. This enables you to delay as many rendering decisions as desired while shooting. A monochrome camera immediately excludes a majority of information from any scene it records. So the only rendering opportunities left after the shutter clicks are luminance-related and even those are further limited by the exclusion of color channels.

I think most of the lust for a b&w digital camera is more about romance than reality.

As for me, I'd be interested in more 'vintage' style lenses, and absurdly large (but low resolution) sensors. But I like Tessars, and steep depth of field falloff.

Pardon me for linking to another photographer’s blog, but see the results “Crazy Comparison: The $999 Olympus OM-D [E-M5] vs the $7995 Leica Monochrom”:


I do understand why some people want this, and yes I accept that I am not getting the same thing when I convert a colour image to B&W, but I can also see that technically I'm getting better B&W images from my OMD-EM5 than I ever got from 35mm B&W film.

Yes, they do have a different feel (more clinical?) but I suspect this would be the same with a monochrome sensor - perhaps more so.

Better do the best ever made film scanner, as good or better as the best digital camera -but cheap,of course. With it and any film camera, who need a monochrome toy? Digital cameras-lab of today do "todo", also monochrome.

This is where an electronic viewfinder could shine. Actually seeing the image in black and white before shooting.

"Utterly incomprehensible to me."

"[Could that have anything to do with...oh, I don't know...the fact that YOU'RE NOT A BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHER?!? :-) --Mike]"

I shoot about 50/50 these days, and I'm with Ken on this. Besides, I don't wanna carry a second damn camera. One's enough.

I thoroughly read three months ago the Max Max website information on those conversions. By buying new, say a Canon T5i,not only could the conversion be to monochrome, but by adding the filter that blocks normal color light, you could have a pure monochrome IR camera. With movie capabilities too. The variations seem very creative to me.

Given how I love using my E-PL1 in monochrome mode, I'd probably fall over myself trying to buy an Olympus B&W camera. Put that 25/1.8 on it and I'd be in heaven.

In the mean time, I'll keep doing my poor man's Plus-X imitation with monochrome mode, +1 Sharpness, +1 Contrast, Yellow filter and square aspect ratio too ;)

As one who photographs digitally in B&W most of the time and could (grudgingly) raise the funds to buy a Leica M Monochrome outfit if I was convinced it was the best way for me to go, I've given this matter a lot of thought and find myself torn...

On the one hand, I'd love the increased resolution of a luminance-only sensor (no Bayer matrix, so every pixel counts equally), but on the other hand, I would really hate to give up the awesome flexibility that color files offer when being converted to B&W. It's a lot like having an infinite selection of color filters available and better still, they are applied post-exposure, so one's initial choice isn't permanently baked into the file, as it would be when using a traditional physical filter in lieu of a virtual one.

For the moment, the latter is winning over the former, at least after the cost of putting a Leica outfit into my bag is factored into the equation. If Olympus does decide to offer a monochrome-only camera, though, presumably it would be more affordable than Leica's version, so perhaps I could be tempted after all ... hmm.

If it will look like Verichrome Pan straight out of the camera, I'm all for it. I hate the default look of the Leica Monochrom, from what I've seen. Yes, I know about curves and in camera settings.

I hope someone with influence at Olympus reads this open letter. Great idea!

It will not happen though it's a great idea. The only company daring enough to follow a great idea without the need for direct commercial succes (Leica is much more than an M-range of camera's these days) is Leica. How about an D800m, what would that be like or an IQ180m.....the Bayerless monochrome sensor is not a bad idea. For studioshots you could even simulate color with it. Just use colored lights and shoot the static scene 3 times in different wavelength (or more) and combine.

But as I said great idea's these days never materialise, because we are all swamped in a sea of commercial stupidity.

Greets, Ed.

I'm pretty much a color photographer, but at the same time I think I can at least somewhat understand that people who considers themselves black and white photographers would want a black and white camera.

What I'm curious about is what black and white photographers think of getting a black and white preview of what they're photographing, as the electronic viewfinder/rear display on a mirrorless camera with a black and white sensor would show a black and white picture.

I have earlier, out of curiosity, set my E-M5 to black and white and found it disturbing that the EVF showed the world in black and white. I mentioned this to a friend, one who just might get a Leica Monochrom if it weren't quite so expensive, and he found it clever yet ultimately disliked the idea.

Now, I also understand that black and white photographers are a bunch of different people, but I'm still curious how they feel about the black and white viewfinder.

Regarding the "simulations"- I notice the Hasselblad user neglected to include the "v" notched rebate. How are we to know it wasn't some cheapo Japanese knockoff like a Bronica?

OK, I LOVE shooting black and white and I "see" fine (accurately) in BW. I'll accept your premise, Mike, that for some knowing there is "color" in their dSLR makes it harder to do BW but it doesn't make any sense to me. Plus, except for extreme pixel peeping where perhaps one can see evidence of the better detail generated by the monochrome sensor (all photo sites recording only brightness) over the Bayer array RGGB, I am confident that it makes no practical difference in the final product, whether print on wall at normal viewing distance or printed in a publication.
IMHO, the whole thing is an exercise in silliness. Maybe I don't get it, though.
To me, one of the tremendous advantages of digital is being freed from the restriction of "film in your camera". From frame to frame I can switch from low ISO to high, daylight to tungsten, vivid to flat and so on. Shoot raw+jpeg and I can change my mind about most of those decisions after the fact.
Here's how I would make my BW only dSLR: shoot raw, set camera on some nice BW mode (lets remember that NO camera is going to give you an LCD preview that is better than approximate to the actual file), import files to Lightroom with a previously tweaked BW develop preset applied on import. There, done. Spent exactly no money. I'll take the 7grand I saved on the leica M and take my sweetheart on a nice Caribbean vacation where I'll take lovely BW and color photos of her with the same camera.
Life is good.

This sounds more reasonable than my idea for a Micro Four Thirds film camera. Basically, it would be a camera back that can shift up and down between a digital sensor and a 110 film cartridge with a shutter. You would use the sensor for metering and focusing, and then switch to film to make the exposure.

Sort of like a Minolta 110 SLR, but with even better glass.

If a monochrome M10 would appear, I would take a very long and serious look at it. I would be very tempted.

The results I have seen from the monochrome Leica -I do not own one- are a bit of a disappointment to me. There's less advantage in resolution and tonal value than I expected/hoped for. In addition, a real black and white sensor would bring back the full array of black and white filters I used in my film days, and with all the different filter sizes in M43, I would not be too thrilled about that. A Cokin-like system would solve that at the cost of size and bulk.

With little advantage and the possibility of 'digital filtering' the colour sensors offers,I would stay with the regular sensor. With a much improved tonal curve and more detail, I would go for the B&W sensor.

It is a lot like having a camera converted to infrared; it becomes a bit of a one trick pony, but if done well, it does offer wonderful advantages (I am still thinking about that route).

I do not think this will happen, given the market aspects, etc. But i would love to have such a beast, at a price i could actually consider. If an 4/3 type was, done, i would actually consider 4/3 for the first time.

I to would prefer a Fuji one.

I sometimes shoot jpegs in one of the B&W modes with my x100s and X20. Those modes combined with tuning the shadows and highlights separately in the quick menu, can provide an interesting degree on control. Keeping that idea, and changing the sensor to a monochrome one, would be quite the piece of kit.

"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." --Rex

To be fair, this also how the human eye and brain allow us to perceive that spectrum in the first place.


An easy way to monochromatic is to buy an IR conversion digital camera or convert one you already have that you don't use any more. I set the preview to B&W and everything is mono. I stay away from leafy green things because I don't care for the white foliage look. My results look like high contrast B&W and the sharpness and detail are incredible from my old D70 because all that Bayer stuff has been ripped out.

What about HP4 tonality Mike?

It would seem to me the manufacturer that could most easily produce a monochrome only good camera would be Sigma with their already Bayerless sensors. The camera would be capturing all wavelengths still, but could output mono jpegs along with their full color RAW files, and the rear LCD would of course be mono. Maybe it could simulate different CC filters?

If only there were 3rd party (read: good) software able to manipulate the camera's output. The Foveon sensor would allow better simulation of contrast controlling filters. This seems like an entirely software solution. I suppose the white-balance button (if there is one on a DPx) would be superfluous.

I do wonder if the Foveon sensor has the dynamic/tonal range in monochrome sufficient to mimic good chemical mono?


It's a great idea. But no-one will make it. So we need to seek out the very few digital cameras that produce superb B&W in camera. In my experience there are three. First, the Sigma DP2 Merrill. Second, the Epson R-D1, set to filterless mono mode with an orange filter on the lens. Third, the Leica Digilux 2. There may well be others, but there aren't many. The good news is that you could buy 2 of each of these and still have spent a damn sight less than you would buying a Leica MM.

Re. Technical Editor Ctein's weigh in.

Specifically that an interchangeable sensor is a costly, hard to implement feature.

Why is that so? My cheap ancient DSLR has CF memory cards that plugs in with a gazillion pins(well, perhaps not a gazillion, but a whole bunch for sure). These things work and transfer information just fine. Would a sensor, mounted on a board need a lot more pins? Could a plate, with a precise distance to the lens mount be ok to bring the sensors into proper register to focus corectly? I really don't know the answers to these questions, so this post is not a challange to your statement, just seeking information.

'We want information' Number 6

I'd love to see SOMEBODY produce an affordable interchangeable lens black and white camera. Truthfully, if Olympus did it, I'm pretty sure I'd buy one. There is something within me that really loves the idea of the Leica M Monochrom, but it's way out of my reach.

Manuel:"And you can't replicate that wonderful silver tonality of a pure black and white film with digital, no matter how good your software is: you'll end up with a mere imitation."

Tell that to Salgado :-)


Genesis has both. Can you tell which is which?


If anyone does this it will be Fuji or Ricoh as both are hobby camera businesses with a nostaligic view of their older cameras. And they're Japanese. The photo otaku always like a interesting odd camera to collect.

The main trick is replacing the Bayer CFA with a uniform filter that modifies raw silicon photoresponse to something more like film (as Leica/Truesense did with the Monochrom's CCD).

As Fuji already have a custom CFA (XTrans) on a Sony sensor (it's not magic, it's Sony!) they're part of the way there and they make the organic pigments too.

The tone curve off the sensor will be linear (until it starts to saturate). You can have any tone curve you want in post or using built in film effects. I suspect both Ricoh and Fuji would go for classic Neopan look (100, 400 and 1600). But with raw files and DxO Filmpack (or your favorite emultor) anything is possible.

And if you want a yellow filter you'll have to add one onto the front of the lens ...

A sensor is just a sensor....I'm refurbishing a webcam (decent one from Trust) with a new CS mount lens. Now the CS mount states 12.5 mm away from the sensor please (that is about it), so tinker of the old lens (or the sensor it a question of relative perspective), replace the mount with a new one (USD 8.55) and a new zoom (Euro 49.00) and presto a new 3D scanning camera is born. Replace the clumsy case with a 3D printed on and ad a tripod mount (Arca Swiss dovetail printed) and presto ready is the conversion. Now if I can rebuild a camera in minutes flat (minus the printing time of course), why could't some clever engineer hack up a camera with an interchangeble sensor. A hack, someone did, wasn't it Ricoh with the RD?

Greets, Ed.

a few interesting entries about B&W the past day or two. re digital B&W camera i consider my Sigma Merrill to be just that. With the recent price drops the DPxM cameras are remarkably inexpensive. They offer a true 15mp B&W sensor with all color info retained in each pixel (Leica's M doesn't do this).

Also, speaking of the Monochrom, there's an entry on Steve Huff's blog with images taken with an M2 and Monochrom. http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/03/21/a-night-at-the-opera-with-the-leica-monochrom-m2/
I am struck by my strong preference for the film images. In fact I find myself wanting to run the digital images through DxO's Film Pack or Tiffens Dfx software to get a bit of grain into them.

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