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Thursday, 18 August 2022


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Ya gonna make prints?

[You have to, don't you think? --Mike]

I’ll just say that I’m able to produce satisfying prints from both my M9 and M10 Monochrom cameras, assuming I do my job well… from shooting to editing to display… just as in my film and darkroom days. ‘Looks’ and tonalities differ widely depending on my rendering objectives for each pic. File malleability is incredible, especially with the M10M. The greatest limitation for me is the lack of ability to tweak color channels in post. Use of colored lens filters is helpful, but not nearly as flexible. However, this is offset by the B&W mindset that I’m able to achieve. Still, I wouldn’t own either Monochrom if I weren’t delighted by the print results.

I fully intended to sell my M9 Monochrom when I bought the M10 Monochrom, but somehow haven’t been able to pull the trigger. There’s still something special about those files, despite the ISO limitations and less ‘clean’ files compared to the M10M.

You imply you only have a screenshot of the image but he provides a 47MP download.

[Where and how? I never download other peoples' pictures from the internet so I don't even know where to look. --Mike]

Forgive me but this is beginning to sound like HiFi forums discussing the merits £10,000 per metre speaker cable.

Taking it as a given that prints have to be made how many will you make ? What size? What will you do with them?

So what would be the actual cost per print calculated against the camera cost.

But then its only a hobby for most of us.

That first filmlike shot by Arnold H. Crane is how I remember black and white photos when I first started buying photo magazines in the early 70s; dark, with great slabs of black and graphic shapes.

There may have been some subtle detail in those blacks, but they didn't survive the journey to the printed page.

That car shot by Guy Ross-Clift really catches the moment; it's spot on. I'd probably raise the mid tones a bit (my early exposure to the style of those times didn't influence me) but that's just how I see the world. Guy sees it differently, as do you, which is great.

Mike wrote, "Still, I don't believe that if I were standing there I wouldn't be able to see any detail in the fellow's shoe."

I believe that this photograph is about the woman's face and her happiness (my interpretation) at seeing the man. The rest sets the scene. While showing more detail of the man's shoe is possible (for example) it is not important to the scene -- the viewer should be guided to the woman's face and shown the context while minimizing distractions.

My opinion.

[As I said in the post, I believe the eye will be led to the woman's face regardless, and that the viewer doesn't need to be guided heavy-handedly. But I also said there's no wrong or right way to do B&W, so your judgment is, of course, valid. It's all about artistic choices, and there's a very broad range in B&W. :-) --Mike]

Perhaps the most pervasive trend in black/white snaps today is encapsulated in those street pix where everything dark is turned into jet black, with only the highlights having any detail.

I didn’t like that much at first, then I had a go at it myself. Now, I see it as just another gimmick, an attempt to introduce interest where none really exists. There are scenes where it works, but mostly it just reminds me of poor exposure techniques.


Of course, what all of this truly exposes, is the utter pointlessness of photography without purpose, without commission.

As an art, I think it has lost its validity because the electronic age (digital) has reduced it to painting-by-numbers, where a person can sit in front of a computer for hours, endlessly playing games with the same file until a moment is reached where tiredness - or perhaps boredom - says enough is enough, this looks perfect. Self-deception comes easily to the weary head; don’t play with Amazon late at night: you never know what the dawn may see you having bought!

Digital tones are on a straight line. When converting to B&W I almost always use 'curves' to apply a film-like curve with a 'toe' and a 'shoulder' to get more satisfying tones. I should add that I always shoot in RAW format, not JPG or any of the 'modes' which I suspect applies a curve that the programmer of the camera software thought was appropriate.

These last few posts resonate with me. I personally preferred my monochrome workflow with my Leica M9 (colour) with Lightroom presets to convert to mono (slight bias on yellow / red tones). The spectral response was consistent shot to shot and even though the camera experience was colour, the screen was sufficiently awful that you only used it to verify framing and just moved on.

On the M-Monochrom 246, it is completely different. Spectral response is baked in the sensor and I don't want to use filters. The CMOS sensor has a lot more sharpness and a lot less contrast. It's like shooting with T-Max after a lifetime of Tri-X, with a different colour filter in front of your lens all the time. And the start up time of the camera always feels like an eternity.

One year later, I haven't gotten used to all of this yet. But when it does work, it work beautifully. It just isn't as satisfying nor as reliable to use shot to shot. It leaves me unsure that a monochrome only sensor really is the way forward.


I’m with Albert Smith; I prefer the first version of the image (as viewed on my iPhone and iPads). The second version, with lifted shadows, is just T.M.I. ! My eye first travels to the man’s goofy socks and looks for a dog associated with what looks like a leash in his hand. Eventually I find the woman in the car. Too much distraction. No intrigue, which is most often what the best bw work has to offer in exchange for its intrinsic abstraction. “Dynamic range” = dynamite; it can liberate and clarify or, in unskilled hands, destroy.

[Okay, but what are we looking at? A casual meeting between two people who know each other. It's a light picture. Why is it appropriate to have the full-dress zippy-zappy "sturm und drang" for that, with Wagnerian shadows and a storm-dark atmosphere? By applying over-the-top drama to every scene, aren't we just devaluing those strategies for when they're actually needed? --Mike]

Perhaps the typical criticism of digital b&w having too much mid-grey is driving a trend to under-expose in order to ensure there is some black in the image.

I am somewhat mystified by the obsession with monochrome digital cameras, as if having a monochrome sensor is the path to better black and white prints. It’s as if just having a monochrome sensor will magically yield a fabulous black and white image right out of the camera.

Because the tonal relationships (based on color) in the image are largely fixed, about all you can do in post-processing is work with brightness and contrast. Granted, that’s essentially what we did in the darkroom, but in the digital age it seems to me that we are giving up a wide range of choices in how we render the final print.

Why throw away all that color information at the beginning. Plenty of time to do that later, after you make some decisions. After years as a B&W darkroom “dawg”, I find the digital process gives me a level of control beyond my most outrageous “dawg” dreams.

[If I haven't addressed your mystification by now, I'll never be able to, but, again, for me, it's about a mental mindset, not about technical issues. People are different in that way. --Mike]

Mike, this series by Gordon Parks, taken during the WW II years, has to my eye, that great tonality to which I (largely unsuccessfully) aspire.

This was from the Guardian online paper of a few days ago.


It would be interesting to see you do one more test. Take one of the cameras you really don't like using, the X-H1, and set it to film simulation, black and white mode. Tweak the noise, highlight, shadow and sharpness settings and then compare how it does. Can it produce the kind of output you like to see in black and white?

I mean, this would be *purely for science!*

[I'm actually planning to do that, when all the monochrome cameras get here. I actually can get quite nice B&W from converted Fuji shots, especially with the 16-MP sensor. It's that mindset glitch that always defeats me. --Mike]

I think digital display massively changes how images, especially B&W ones, are viewed. It's transmissive versus reflective: the whites on a screen are made of LED light shining into your eye, and can always be brighter than the white of paper reflecting light back.

Regarding Geoff Wittig's comment on monochrome conversions that "it looks like you're stuck with the relatively arbitrary decision the manufacturer (or conversion shop) makes regarding the sensitivity of the sensor to red, blue or green light striking it." There is no decision being made by the original manufacturer or conversion shop: once the bayer filter is stripped away, you're left with the inherent sensitivity that silicon has to light. The photographer can then choose how sensitive it is to different wavelengths (colours) of light by adding filters in front of the lens.

A couple of years ago I decided to try shooting JPEG B&W instead of shooting Raw and converting it. I caught all kinds of flak from three different forums when I reported this. The standard response was that giving up Raw image quality is a mortal sin and I am condemned to Clueless-Grandma-Holiday-Picture-Taking Hell to use only a 2mp Point-n-Pray Casio for eternity.

But this practice works for me quite well. I've always kinda liked a gnarly look to my pictures. Image quality is subjective to me. As Jeff indicated above, I like to start out with B&W and I feel comfortable knowing I'm always going to get B&W in the end. I use several models of Fuji and Nikon cameras along with a Ricoh GRII. All of them give me pretty outstanding results with their JPEGs and I can't complain. They all have filter effects for mono and the filters work fairly well. I do a lot of post processing on the files anyway--I cannot stop the practice of tinkering with the files. Of course, I'm limited in cropping unless I'm using the 36mp Nikons, in which case the results look more like medium format even though I'm only shooting on Fine JPEG Medium. In general, JPEGs don't have as much information in them as Raw files but it was surprising to me how much detail can be pulled out of the shadows.

This is why the Monochromes are so appealing to me. I doubt I'll ever own one given the cost and the state of my financial health. But I like the idea of the self-imposed limitation.

And WTF is "film-like" and "filmic" anyway! Mike's examples make clear there is no such thing. There's only good pictures and bad pictures. There's plenty of each done digitally AND with film.

I have to say that I'm really enjoying these few posts on B&W cameras. After years of converting colour files, I finally took the plunge and bought the Leica Q2M earlier this year, my excuse being that since I was turning 65, I could somehow justify to myself the expense of what is, in all honesty, a quite constraining photographic tool! Since then, I've found a sufficient number of ways to work with it to make me happy. By embracing those limitations and exploiting them, rather than just wishing I had a zoom lens/colour sensor with me, I just end up shooting differently and, exactly to your point, shooting for B&W rather than just shooting and seeing what works post facto. (And I'd be happy to post some RAW files on Dropbox and send you a link, if you wanted to explore processing SooC images. Just e-mail me.)

These examples and discussion so far illustrate how different BW photography is from color photography, and how malleable a monochrome image is, paradoxically as a result of a substantial limitation. And I contend that this plasticity extends even beyond post processing and presentation, to the act of looking at the final product. It may have to do with the tension of seeing the familiar in an "unnatural" way, and how that encourages us to question or play with the act of seeing. That tension, which sometimes shades into wonder, is inherent to all photography, but take away color and it's amplified by an order of magnitude.

OK, I could waste thousands of words trying and failing to explain this phenomenon, but why bother? It's readily apparent in the above post and comments.

That's neither here nor there regarding whether any practitioner of this art needs a particular tool--that's purely an individual thing. But if you're that artist, you should have that tool.

Mike wrote Where and how? I never download other peoples' pictures from the internet so I don't even know where to look

On the photo at your link to Flickr, bottom right there is a downward arrow with a bar which when clicked offers, in this case, many sizes including the original 8368x5584.

Dear Dr Mike,
My wife says I am always all black and white, no gray areas, no middle point.
Should I adjust my contrast? (or my attitude?)
Please help!

Re: shoes, crushed blacks, detail in shadows, etc.

I'm presuming you've looked at Josef Koudelka's incredible Gypsy photos, William Klein's big city Books, Victor Skrebneski's black and white portraits (of people in black, turtleneck sweaters), Michael O'Brien's book, Hard Ground, etc. etc. etc.

Seems like the towering artists of our generation didn't give a flying finch about seeing endless detail in shadows. Not one of them.

[I don't know about that. You'll see plenty of shadow detail in Cartier-Bresson, Henry Wessel, Helen Levitt, Robert Adams, Nick Nixon and many other large-format photographers, and I could go on. Koudelka has a great style and he makes it work, but then he knows what his result is going to look like when he shoots and he shoots with knowledge of that, like Alex Webb does in color. Both the Westons used empty black shadows as figuration, Brett more so, and it was a point of contention with their friend Ansel. Surprisingly, given what was an extreme tonal style in his day (it's not extreme any more), there aren't a lot of empty shadows in Ansel's work. He was typically careful to only use stark black where that's what the naked eye would have seen in the scene. And even then he sometimes preserves just a hint of detail, to imply more.

For any tonal style you could name there are multiple examples of people who use that style, and examples of people who made it work and others who didn't do as well. Maybe not in every period. --Mike]

Great point; this scene would have been perfect for face- or eye-detect AF, wouldn't it? A textbook example. However, then he wouldn't have been shooting with a Q2M then, right? Aren't "bare" sensors limited to contrast-detect AF, and therefore can't do face- and eye-detect focus? I don't know for sure, because I don't know enough about how AF works.

Contrast-detect AF is the only kind available in Live View. I don't know why a "bare" sensor would be unable to do face detection. It seems the software should be unaffected, but I'm not an expert.

I have never used a “mono” digital camera, and it would be an interesting experience for me, but one has to bear in mind that I was printing professionally from 1960, mostly in b/white but also in colour.

When I went solo, in ‘66, it was mainly b/white, and with colour pretty much exclusively transparencies. It was with Kodachrome 64Pro that I spent the final few years of my pro career. I never did work professionally with digital cameras. However, there’s no doubt in my mind that all those years of darkroom life gave me a tremendous advantage when I actually got into Photoshop: I had long, deeply-established knowledge of how b/white pictures could look, probably should look. I think it must be very hard trying to establish, sans earlier reference points, an understanding of what quality in the digital b/white medium might be. No, I don’t think it’s always fair to use the cop out of “artistic expression” always being paramount, if it comes but as a ploy to excusing poor technique.

It’s sometimes said that digital can’t match the look of analogue. I tend to accept that, but only at the actual print point: I think that one can produce monitor images from digital cameras that look every bit as good as the best film prints ever can; it falls apart a bit at the next stage, when the digital prints get made. (I base this statement on my own experience of pigment prints on heavy Hahnemuehle papers via my beloved, long-obsolete and scrapped HP B9180 A3+ printer. These prints still look pretty good behind glass, but as the naked matt prints, yuk! I never had any joy using glossy papers on that printer.)

Consequently, claiming that digital cameras are somehow lacking in comparison with film ones is a little bit too simplistic a statement. If anything, it doesn’t take long to realise that for low light, digital is a great step forward. But the devil, as I suggested, is in the printing.

The Mono machines accept traditional filters; I never did use them with film, with the exception of a polariser when suitable, or otherwise a permanent haze filter to protect the lens’s front element. With digital originals, it sometimes happens that using the natural colour channels with my b/whites can bring out something otherwise impossible to show; would using a Mono thus turn out a disadvantage? Possibly, but in fairness, the times I need to use the colour channels to replicate the effect of b/white image filters is relatively rare. I believe that, for me, the principal disadvantage of a Q2M would end up being the frustration of a fixed 28mm lens.

I can understand that seeing the image in the viewfinder already as a b/white could help in some tricky circumstances - especially in fashion shots.

Perhaps the greatest turn-off for me comes from seeing Q2 camera types used for headshots, even by photographers who have already produced pretty good pictures in that genre using longer focal lengths. Because it’s Leica don’t change the laws of optics and perspective! Frightening how powerful the mystique of that brand can be, even where folks clearly know - and have demonstrated - better! Feeling obliged to use short lenses mainly because they are all you have is bad thing.

It’s my view that older, good lenses designed for film cameras can offer contributions to image tonality that some more modern optics cannot so do.

Maybe it’s better to travel in hope, armed with a colour-capable camera, aiming for black and white pictures, but free to use them as colour ones if you prefer. You just never know whether they may turn out to be useful to you in another context later on.

"...it falls apart a bit at the next stage, when the digital prints get made. (I base this statement on my own experience of pigment prints on heavy Hahnemuehle papers via my beloved, long-obsolete and scrapped HP B9180 A3+ printer. These prints still look pretty good behind glass, but as the naked matt prints, yuk! I never had any joy using glossy papers on that printer..."

In my experience, assuming one uses the proper glass (low-iron, AR-coated, but not "museum" with yellow UV filter), the deficiencies of pigment inkjet prints on glossy or matte papers remain just as visible when framed as when held in the hand.

I've found that, in order to duplicate the appearance of legacy glossy air-dried, fiber-base silver gelatin papers (not today's far-too-shiny fiber darkroom products), only one combination works. Namely, Hahnemuhle FineArt Baryta Satin paper printed on a dye-ink printer. The prints might not last as long as pigment types, but they look decent and will outlast me. I don't sell prints, so that's all that counts.

I have an Epson P-600 now sitting in the closet for this reason. It was replaced with a Canon PRO-100; I assume the current PRO-200 would do just as well.

Really enjoying the musings about b/w photography you've been
posting the past several days. In my case, I also set my camera
(Sony A7iv) to show a b/w image in the evf and on the lcd while
capturing a jpg and raw file. This approach gives a nice preview
of the 'tones' present. As well, it also allows me to better see the
structure of light in the scene.

And, finally, the late Ernst Haas recommended having separate
days for shooting b/w and color.

Mike, I much prefer your last edits of the B&W photo, the tones to me are much more pleasing. My personal opinion only but since I can make a comment I will. For me the top left hand corner distracts from the main point of the image, the person in the car. Perhaps some gentle darkening in that section would help the viewer to immediately get visually directed to the woman in the car. I always preferred when printing B&W to gently darken all corners just a tad to direct viewers to the center or main interest of the image.

[My second version, although it wasn't enough for you, actually was given quite a bit of "vignetting," or what B&W fine art printers in the darkroom used to call "edge burning." --Mike]

Well, there's no one right answer to b/w tonality. Sometimes I yet struggle to get the result I want in a print, and that's after 40+ years of practice. Why? That's the nature of art.
I did realize, some years back, that "life-like" highlight separation is key to what I want to see in my prints. And consciously or not, my b/w practice has evolved to give me those kinds of results. On a good day.
It will be interesting to see how you like your various monochrome cameras work for you, that's for sure. I'll be paying attention.

Hi Mike,
Re the lighting of King St, it’s not a wide street, 4 lanes, often with parked cars on outer 2, so traffic only moves along inner 2 lanes.
Buildings are mostly 2 stories high on both sides - can see in reflection on windshield, and generally run NNE to SSW, so the street is often in the shadow of the buildings. This will be lit by light reflecting off buildings & from sky. The exception being middle of the day of course, which would result in very stark lighting. As a sweeping generalisation, the sun tends to produce harsh lighting in Australia.
Given the warm tops worn by both, this will likely be a Sydney winter, even if the gent is wearing shorts, so not as harsh light as summer - of course, I could be way off if it was a cold autumn or spring.
Beanie, jumper, shorts & thongs on feet is not an uncommon winter sight in Newtown, with the university nearby :~)

When it comes to losing the darker detail with a central, quite-a-bit lighter focal element, I have two words for you: Gene Smith. In the original photo, I'm not sure why we need detail in the man's shoes when the central interest is his relationship with the woman. But opinions will differ, of course.

[Because of the light. The light, the light, the light. There's no importance in the shoe. I always look to a photograph to give a feeling of the light. --Mike]

Lots of commentary, so I'll add the name Sebastião Salgado. No lacking of info in his work I reckon.

Albert Smith: "I'd bet that any 10 random readers are seeing 10 different things when looking at the images."

Yeah, but YOUR readers, especially any that are paying attention to this sort of post, are not "random", and probably have put some effort into monitor calibration.

Wow, terrific job on high res file, Mike! Great to see exactly what you meant. I have to agree the tones are just about perfect for the picture/story. Nearly there. IMO cropping some of the busy-ness at the left edge would wrap things up nicely, further centering (perceptually, not geometrically) the woman's face and the action.

Years ago, I converted a cheap Epson desktop printer to grayscale using a DIY kit. When it worked it was a blast, but boy was it high maintenance.

One is much better than two. Two has that strange, 'metallic' look, that over-processed digital files have.

It's not so much that her face needs to be emphasized, as that the mirror housing needs to be de-emphasized. Between its brightness, and its being better focused, it's a prominent distraction. I'd print down the whole left 1/3rd of the frame, with a soft curved boundary to omit most of the woman and include more of the door frame.

Wait, you don't know how to use layer masks? Curves adjustment layers with layer masks are dodging and burning died and gone to heaven! Plus you can do any amount of it (you don't run out of exposure time under the enlarger; you can still of course over-do it enough to look wrong, that's always an option). It's up in the top 5 most important things in Photoshop! It's also actually very easy do. Important keyboard shortcut: backslash ('\') toggles on and off the overlay showing the mask (as 'q' does for a selection) while editing that layer.

Can't help adding two cents of BW sensor wisdom:

Jeff in Colorado says: "Highlight recovery is tricky with monochrome sensors, because all channels clip simultaneously." — Not really, there are NO color channels in a BW sensor. There is a single set of luminance information to play with. The trick is simply to expose for the highlights...

Mike replies: "It's the biggest weakness of digital, in color or B&W. There's a very narrow range between those glaring electronic-looking empty featureless whites and too much undifferentiated dull tone that rob the results of sparkle." — totally agree but ditto: simply expose for the highlights!

Then you say: "[...] I'm not sure about this, but I suspect that one of the biggest advantages of very high-MP sensors (say 45+) is that this problem—the visual effects anyway—are easier to overcome. Some of the best high-MP-sensor pictures have very good highlights, or seem to." — Pixel density / high resolution have nothing to do with dynamic range, if anything it is the contrary, large pixels have more DR... The first Monochrom by Leica was a 16MP thing that delivered fantastic files to 'play' with. Maybe what's happening is that high-res sensors tend to be expensive things that are also designed to provide more dynamic range (hence the cost).

At the end, if you get the highlights right, all that counts is how much noise you pick up in the shadows: the best sensors are the least noisy, so that one can recover a lot of clean information in the shadows. A monochrome sensor has one big advantage: no color noise (which plays havoc in BW conversion), just a bit of luminance noise which can look very filmic by the way.

I would like to add my own wish for more of a platform for Jon Cone and his Pizeography pro workflow. We also need much more reliable and simple B&W printing workflows without colour inks.

Hi Mike, if you would like to understand layers masks ,or anything Photoshop, I would recommend Unmesh Dinda’s Piximperfect channel on YouTube. Secondly if you don’t have one already a Wacom table is an inexpensive and delightful gadget. It takes about a day to get used to and makes Photoshop’ing so
Much more enjoyable. Unmesh has a good episode about best Wacom practice. His explanation of layer masks is here; https://youtu.be/pLVQecX4bkQ

In my view, there is little point in trying to decide how much detail one should see of the shoe in the image under discussion, or how it looked to the eye in the real scene. The human eye adjusts almost instantaneously to light intensity as one’s eye moves through the range from bright light to shadow. Obviously, neither a film or digital camera can do that and one must select a range within the overall dynamic range of the medium for a final image.

Bill Brandt was mentioned in the discussion: the two images below show how he did this in a high-contrast style, in which he went for the highlights, so that in the photo on the left details in the face are visible and there some mid-tones as well, while the shadows go to black; in the portrait on the right, he goes for a highly graphic look, with almost almost no details in either the highlights or the shadows. Ansel Adams, in the his book on printing, stated that he found that he was printing much darker and with higher contrast when he got old.

For me all this means that what matters is what the photographer wants to express either in terms of form (Ralph Gibson) or emotion (Daido Moriyama)—rather than being a function of shooting film or digital, or rather than wanting to represent the “real” light as it was in the scene. Mike mentioned Cartier-Bresson as a photographer who favored a full tonal range. Interestingly, Cartier-Bresson did not print himself, raising another issue: that photographing is a skill that differs from that of printing.

So, what you want the image to express is the most important consideration for tonal range and gradation. My own concern is how to shoot into the bright and harsh, tropical light of Thailand, for which I favor a high-contrast look that is similar whether I use Tri-X (first image) or digital (the other two images).


Chiang Mai

Wiang Pa Pao

The final point is that all this becomes important, critical really, for images that you care about deeply.

I often work on RGB TIFF files and process them as b&w images. One of the first things I tend to do, after an initial levels or curves adjustment layer, is to create a b&w layer in which I adjust the color, or tone, of the image. I find that a warmer tone allows my eyes to go deeper into the shadows and discern detail where a cooler rendition of the same image doesn't. I'm not sure of the physics of this, whether the rods and cones in the eye are somehow "tickled" by the warmer hue in such a way that feel and grab hold of subtle texture in darker areas, but I know it's a thing. If I want the image to stay more on the surface, ie a more graphic composition where shapes and contrast are meant to be primary, cooler tones seem to enhance and articulate that best.

Sorry if my question is a little off-topic, but this got me thinking. A while ago you wrote that those working with film should try to achieve the maximum beauty of the medium, that nothing else makes sense now, as digital is technically better.

However, there are artists and groups who see it the other way around. Take the Kharkiv school of photography for example. There are many artists working in that tradition today. The founders endorsed the concept of bad photography (among other things), striving for imperfections and mistakes. And ugliness. I find it very interesting, often beautiful, sometimes ironic or sarcastic, while breaking many of the "rules". It strikes me as very humane, as we as humans always are full of faults. Boris Mikhailov is famous, for example with his series about homeless people (Case History).

I find similar work here in Sweden, where I live. Take Anders Petersen for example, and many like him among younger generations. Imperfections, "ugly" poses, humanity as it is perhaps... These often work with 35 mm bland and white film.

Just curious about your thoughts on this, if you have have time. Do you personally like this kind of photography? Myself I value this more than conventionally beautiful work. Thanks!

The "bare silicon" of sensors isn't equally sensitive to all colors (any more than silver halides were; dyes were added to create panchromatic film, but even then the response isn't uniform and in fact it's not desirable for the response to be uniform).

So the same issue exists, whether the response spectrum of the sensor matches (or can be massaged in post to match) your desired response spectrum closely enough to be useful.

Paul Roark's 'Black & White Print and Technical Information' may be of interest.

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