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Monday, 15 August 2022


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I recently had my X-T1 converted to 720nm infrared.
After a couple of days shooting, it's a B&W camera - the colour results are horrible. Now it's a specialist B&W IR camera with the viewfinder set up for high contrast B&W. No problem with mindset using this cam.

I also happen to have a x-T100 that sits on a shelf gathering dust while I struggle to find a use for it. I've now decided to treat them as a pair, one for B&W IR, the other for visible light B&W. I have also set the X-T100 to operate as a B&W camera and have a dedicated camera bag for the two bodies and a lens. Because my subconscious knows the X-T1 is B&W only, it's easy to convince it the X-T100 is as well. When I pick up that bag I have only one mindset: B&W. Sometimes we just have to play mental games with ourselves.

"...cameras with B&W-only sensors, I presume because they know the "take rate" would be minuscule and they'd make no money on the product..."

I don't know. I suspect that even B&W centric shooters from time to time want or need color for certain subjects. If say Fujifilm made an X100-class mono camera, they'd sell that to those that want it. And maybe also another standard body so that color would be possible. This might make someone that could be happy with one camera buy two so they could be complete.

You don’t like the tonal rendition of the Leica Monochroms? Have you shot or edited RAW files from them? Other than not having the ability to use color channels in post-processing, I find that my two Monochroms are endlessly flexible in tonal variation, depending on shooting/lighting conditions, use of color filters and edits thereafter. And, as we know, colors have nothing to do with black and white tones; only luminance/brightness matters. That’s why only luminance in the HSL panel in LR affects b&w tones; not hue or saturation. I do find, however, that the original M(9) Monochrom seemingly renders differently at times than the M10 Monochrom, but I’m no expert on all the underlying factors, including perhaps CCD vs CMOS technology.

I have a Lecia Q2M. It really isn't the same as shooting on one of my Fuji cameras and converting the photos B/W. You do need to know how to use filters. I suspect a lot of people who prefer to convert to B/W never learned how to use filters because they never shot a lot of B/W film. There is nothing wrong with that. However having started with B/W film I have no issue using a Yellow or Red filter. I already know how it's going to effect the photo. The photos also look different period. I am not saying one is better than the other. However, I do think the B/W sensor will appeal more to people who started photography with B/W film. For digital, the only camera that I have used that comes remotely close for B/W to the Q2M is a Sigma with the Merrill sensor using Sigma Photo Pro. Also, as you pointed out in your other post, the high ISO photos from the Q2M are amazing when compared to a color sensor. It's not even close. Honestly, I have zero problem using ISO 12,500. ISO 3200 is really no different than the base ISO. ISO 6400 will be significantly better than ISO 1600 on a color sensor. You can see an ISO comparison at this link:


Finally I would have to agree that there is a mindset that goes along with shooting a B/W only camera. When you know you are getting B/W no matter what you see the world in B/W. To me the biggest limitation to the Q2M is the lens. I prefer 35mm. To compensate, I walk closer. I do think Leica should have made the camera with a 35mm F2 lens. C'est la vie.

Also I'm not sure you are getting the same sensor if you do a B/W conversion as the sensor in the Q2M. I almost went that route. That said it's a whole lot less expensive. I love the Q2M but one does take a lot of extra precautions when wandering around with $6,000 camera.

In a similar way, I struggle to use my digital camera for black & white. I simply use it for colours. I could probably get over it but my idiosyncrasy goes further. I think of B&W only as B&W film. I would not prefer to use a digital camera, converted or natively monochrome. Strange isn't it?

Oh, for Pete's sake!

Try before you buy ... on the cheap:

A used Huawei P20 Pro with Monochrome-only sensor, Leica design and image processing.

First comment ever ... here goes: Another analogy ... I mountain bike, and sometimes I ride a single speed - only one gear. This approach is not for everyone, so the argument goes, before committing to it, ride your geared bike in one gear - 'just' don't change gears during one ride. NOT POSSIBLE in my experience (unless you disable the shifter or something).
Back to your problem ... could a firmware solution help? Option to limit camera to mono for a day, or n (36 for old times sake?) exposures? No override, once set the setting can't be undone, not even by removing the battery and putting it back in or HW reset. Would that help?
BTW: I often shoot my Fuji XE3 in Across simulation mode and tend to see in B&W once I have set the camera. I may be fooling myself of course, but I think I do :-)

[Welcome to the Commentariat Erwin, and thanks! --Mike]

It is all mindset. I shoot my mirrorless camera in the B&W setting but with raw files. I’m seeing the image on the lcd as B&W. I’m composing for B&W. But I’ve got all the color data. I almost never use the image in color though. It looks wrong. Off. I just can’t. It’s a B&W image, in my mind.

Thanks for the read. As always.

Of the current manufacturers, I wonder if Fuji is the most likely to introduce a B&W only camera, maybe a "100" model offshoot. Fuji isn't shy about going their own way. Maybe they could team up with an after-market third party, the way car manufacturers team up with tuners. Now that the digital market has matured, there must be someone thinking of niche camera markets.
With all the Chinese lenses hitting the market, a Chinese-origin body, maybe m4/3s, can't be far away. I can see one of them bringing out a specialized B&W body. They could use the higher resolution/lower noise/greater dynamic range appeal. Maybe incorporate internal "digital" B&W filters the way Olympus does in their B&W mode, save everyone the bother of carrying around thin filters that fall into snowbanks or puddles.

Talking about niche products made me think of Pentax, sticking resolutely to the optical viewfinder dslr and eschewing mirrorless. Ricoh keep suggesting they’ll move to a more ‘workshop’ like manufacturing paradigm and a monochrome version of the k3iii or kp would seem an ideal vehicle for them - they’d have the niche to themselves. But they still don’t sell a modern 24mm prime for their aps-c sensor…

I should have also added print variables (paper choice, ink set, display lighting, etc) to the factors that influence the black and white tonalities when using my Monochroms. For me, it’s the print that matters.

In the end, as in darkroom days, I’ve seen very different rendering styles from different photographers, despite using the same gear or film stock. There is no one Monochrom ‘look’ or tonal rendering, in my experience.

"it makes no sense to pay a lot of money to cripple a perfectly good sensor"

Cripple? or Liberate? It's a bit of both, but I consider monochrome the true "native" mode of the modern camera sensor, with an elaborate kludge applied to let it "see" color. Free the sensor! At least try digital photography at its purest.

I say sell the 6600, buy a used A7 for the conversion and break out that Summicron. On the other hand, don't take buying advice from a poor person.

I think some readers are maybe confused by the framing, 'what the camera sees'. Because if you switch a digital camera to B&W mode, it seems like it's seeing in B&W. But I get what you mean: the 'problem' is that you can change it back to colour anytime (or if you are shooting RAW, the colour information is being captured anyway).

In fact, if I understand you correctly, the problem would still persist if—indulge my thought experiment for a moment—you were carrying two identical cameras, one of which was B&W-converted. Of if you had, say, a Hasselblad with two backs, one loaded with Tri-X and one with Portra. Because the siren call of colour would still distract. But you can quell it by eliminating the colour option altogether (except perhaps on your phone, if you have it with you).

Perhaps the dilemma is easier to understand if it's framed in terms of choice. Psychologists have long recognised that constraints can foster creativity. It sounds like that's what you're trying to do by choosing a B&W-only camera.

In a way, the 'just use B&W mode' comments are similar to the 'just ignore the features you don't need' comments you get every time you write about your desire for a simple camera. Well-intentioned advice, and perhaps satisfactory solutions for some, but I get why they're not wholly satisfactory for you :-)

I understand having trouble discarding pixels to achieve a different aspect ratio. I find it unsettling even when left with plenty of pixels.
You could look to the good book for guidance. Leviticus 23:22 do not reap your fields to the very edge".
There's more but it is about setting aside
A portion for the poor and alien and not photography.
I would love a monochrome camera provided it had film simulation modes.

Hey Mike. Here's a thought based on this:

"...I shot mostly with SLRs with yellow filters on the lens—what you see in the viewfinder is a color image "stained" overall with yellow. I don't care what I see in the viewfinder. I have no problem visualizing the final results based on whatever materials I'm using. It's what the camera sees that counts, not what I see."

Have you tried shooting with a yellow filter on any of your digital cameras?

The result would be an image that would never work in color, you'd have to convert it to B&W. You'd have to experiment with the conversations to get the tonality you're after, but it might solve the issue for you without converting a camera.

Heck, if it works, you could glue a yellow filter to a 35mm lens and call it your black and white lens. 🙂

So you don't really need a dedicated monochrome camera at all.

You need hypnosis?

"Look into the viewfinder...you're getting sleepy...sleepy...
Your camera is becoming heavier...heavier...
Your camera has swollen to become a Graflex...a Graflex..."

I have a hard time believing people still don't understand your particular point of view on how you approach: seeing ("pre-visualizing"), cameras, and B&W.

That said, may I suggest renting a Monochrome, since what you really (seem to) want is a return to shooting (and getting) B&W film results with digital ease (who wouldn't). The B&W conversion results may still not satisfy the itch to get that analog B&W film look. Renting a Monochrome will at least get you closer to determining if you can, in fact, achieve a B&W feel worth investing in- it won't be the exact same as with your converted camera, but it may be close enough to help you decide whether to finally pull the trigger.

Send your Sony to me and I'll do the B&W conversion for $10 by setting it to mono and then supergluing the buttons so you can't change it back.

Bonus is this will also remove a lot of those features you think are unnecessary so you'll have the simple camera of your dreams.

Here's the problem Mike: If your go-to explanation when someone challenges your logic is, "Well, I'm not like the rest of you," then why ask for our opinions in the first place? They are irrelevant. You are a self-sufficient adult who is free to do whatever he likes, without explanation to anyone. As long as your adventures and mishaps entertain me, I will gladly read and support them, regardless of whether I would ever do such a thing myself.

[I don't think that's entirely fair. I never talk about this stuff without acknowledging the validity of the opinions of people who don't agree with me. All I care to make clear is where I'm coming from, and why I might not feel about it the way they do. --Mike]

I’m 73, and I get it. The first 5 years of my sojourn into photography (age 20-25) was B&W only. Tri-X and Diafine, 99% of the time, at that time only 35mm, in a Miranda D and a couple of Pen F’s.
Only started using color two years after I got married and a my daughter was born, July 77’.
Didn’t even think about it, to me photography was supposed to be black and white. Before even knowing anything about cameras I was fascinated by Life and Look, etc. photo articles, almost all in B&W. As a kid had a subscription to National Geographic (gifted to me by a great aunt who thought her nephew needed a more rounded world view).
Although Nat Geo had a lot of color they also used B&W and these magazines became my standard for good photography.
But now, with my cell phone or mirrorless it’s all color, if I want monochrome I’ll occasionally use the half frame Pen’s or shoot photo paper in 4x5.

I think I understand what you are saying about mindset. When I was using B&W film my mind was set on the intensity of light viewed through the format frame.
The objects or subjects described were secondary to the abstraction of the shapes of light forms.
Since 2002 I have been working with digital RGB capture exclusively and my mind is set on the objects or subjects I am describing with in the format frame, color is secondary, where previously the intensity of light was primary.
I wish you good luck on your journey.

Get some heavily tinted red glass sunglasses.

Every time I think about b+w versus color, I think about this old Calvin and Hobbes:


I'd be curious to know what your mindset is regarding shooting b&w jpegs only with your camera of choice? You're not getting a RAW file, and you're seeing b&w on the screen or through the viewfinder. Some makers give you various parameters, such as a yellow filter or contrast settings. I've recently read several articles or watched videos by photographers that have said they are fine with jpeg only. I think some of them might do minor tweaks and others are fine with the SOOC jpeg.

Because I do not like black & white (BW) digital, I still shoot BW film. It is not difficult, especially if you are an occasional shooter. I process my film (4x5/120) at the kitchen sink. My laundry room is my darkroom space and is where I load film holders and tanks. I digitize the film for web and printing. I have been doing it this way for over a decade.

I do not have the "seeing in color" difficulty as I shoot whatever catches my eye. I use digital for color and do not shoot color film unless I build a project around it. When I do shoot color, I have a lab process it since I sold off my Jobo ATL 1000 years ago. Lately I have been experimenting with shooting 4x5 BW film and adding color with filters or layers. Here is an example:

My IR 590nm converted Fuji XE-2 is a fun camera for BW (I do not use it for super color as I do not care for the look), because the tones I can get for some images do a better job than a color digital turned to BW does.

All this is subjective of course. What I sense however may be habits that may stand in the way of actually shooting. A mindset can be a habit of thinking if you see it as an established set of attitudes (change your attitude is what I heard growing up).

I hope you find your way back to a BW workflow that satisfies your artistic desires and makes financial sense.

Does anyone know if a B&W converted camera (in my case, an X100) would take the same type of B&W pictures it did before the conversion? Even though I have had a very much on-again-off-again relationship with this camera since I bought it, I do love what it does in terms of B&W. However like you Mike, I get distracted by the availability of colour and option paralysis sets in. So, if it was converted so that it only took B&W, would the results look like the results I can get now or would there be a new look to everything?

This probably won't help. But if you set your camera to monochrome and shoot JPEG only, then the camera is B&W only. (Shooting RAW + JPEG is a no go for you since the RAW image would be in color).

The JPEG file could still be edited if necessary using a program like Silver Efex.

So sorry that you suffer this dilemma.

Maybe if I started delivering black and white Gibson’s Doughnuts to Lensrentals weekly they’d listen more? I’ll never afford or justify a Monochrome Leica, but renting a modified camera before dropping a dumb amount but a lot less stupid amount on a conversion would be great. I think differ t shooting my IR X-T1, so I get the conundrum. Plus, less filters, more light, which is always nifty.

I seem to have the opposite problem of you - I have a really hard time "seeing" colour photographs. Although I'm a big fan of the colour work of, e.g., Harry Gruyaert, Trent Parke, or Saul Leiter, my brain simply doesn't pick up those kinds of pictures naturally. No matter whether I shoot colour (digital) or B/W (film or a Leica M8 set to Monochrome)

I guess I'm more of a "Shapes and decisive moments" kind of guy :-)

The loaner camera could help you make up your mind if it's the same model you have now. Otherwise, I think you're just kicking the decision can down the road.

I know virtually nothing about digital sensors. Maybe there is useful information to be gleaned from a different camera converted to monochrome by the same folks.

But it seems to me getting a different converted camera on loan won't tell you whether you'll enjoy using a monochrome'd A6600 and working with its files.

I say go for for the conversion, resolve to make the best photographs you can, and forget about the reduced resale value.

It's the same as shooting with, for example, the XPan. One can crop any image to the XPan ratio, and that it's not just seeing it in viewfinder, but the real difference is that using an XPan makes you see the panoramic images in your mind.

I have been lent an amazing guitar amplifier. It is what people call a 'modelling' amplifier which means it can replicate many other amps. Once modelling amps were not so good, but now ... are astonishing. With this amp you can sound like anything. (Must obviously avoid the ten thousand awful high-gain options and the nine thousand Aerosmith presets, but that is easy: no-one wants to sound like that.)

With this amp you can sound like anything. With this amp you can do anything, be anything, be any one. With this amp you will spend thousands of hours searching for the sound Jimmy Page had on Presence (much heroin helps they say), or that Django Reinhardt had (yes, of course it will make your guitar sound like a Gypsy jazz guitar: it can do anything). With this amp you will spend ten thousand hours searching, endlessly. Sometimes, perhaps, you will play: always you will sound like someone else.

And I have another amplifier (borrowed from my good friend). It has a volume control (you must set it to about 11 o clock: higher is too raspy, lower is not raspy enough), and a tone control (set it all the way up if you do not like mud). And a power switch, and a jack socket for your guitar. This one also has a 'power soak' because 11 o clock is too loud really, which you can adjust but never need to. These are its controls.

With this amplifier you can do one thing. When you turn it on it will do that thing. When you turn it off it will stop doing that thing. And before you turn it on you know what that thing is. And that thing is to get out of your way and let you play the guitar. With this amplifier you can hear, before you turn it on and after you turn it off, what it will do, and what you will sound like. It was a very expensive amplifier, even though it is based on a very cheap one made a long time ago.

This, I think, is why black and white cameras are not like colour cameras.

(Also, of course, this amplifier will make you sound like Jimmy Page did on the first two records, if you want it to.)


Have you thought about setting the viewfinder to monochrome mode? Then shoot using a normal or customized B&W JPEG setting. You will not see the color in the field. This will effectively make your camera B&W, usable with contrast filters, but still usable for color if you want. If you want the raw file, shoot raw+jpg, and use a Lightroom preset to convert to black and white on import. With this workflow you will never see the color. At that point is the small boost in sharpness and sensitivity worth $1200?

I have played around with this using my GX8 and found it an effective strategy to help me see B&W better.


Your thoughts and experience with the dilemma of seeing and shooting B&W images with a camera that sees in color are much the same as my experience. I am so glad that you highlighted Jeff’s reference to “mindset.” For me, “mindset” really is the explanation for the problem you are fighting with. I am guessing that like you, I don’t have the ability to turn off color vision when I am using digital camera to that can record images in B&W and color. However, when I load a film camera with black and white film, I miraculously start to see in grayscale, although, maybe it’s not really a miracle but more of a curse in the digital age. Ha!

I agree with you about the monochrone image in the viewfinder of a mirrorless camera not being very good in terms of tone. So, I am wondering if maybe using a digital camera with an optical viewfinder but setting the camera to record only monochrome jpegs might be a better B&W experience. It would be more like shooting B&W film in a SLR which you said was not a problem for you back in your B&W days. You may have already tried this approach with your “Big Dragoon” though.

Yep...spot on. Shooting in B&W and in Colour requires different mindsets. In short, mind boggling.

One of the practical reasons B&W is so endearing is that it brings out the soul of the subjects and hence has a strong effect in advertising.

I like shooting in B&W film, scan into digital and inkjet print out. It's a lazy way of "darkroom" work although I still have a traditional darkroom for that once in a while hideaway.

Why not take your a6600 (or a Fuji), set it to monochrome and jpg only, and stick the buttons in place with superglue?

You then have a camera that only shoots BW for evermore, and you’ve saved $1200.

Apologies for not seeing that you don’t like the Monochrome conversions- but if Leica doesn’t get it right from jump… what are the chances of a 3rd party, particularly with different camera models/sensors, getting it right to your taste?

Digital and analogue are two different animals, you’ll get much closer to that classic B&W look with film and a Plustek scanner.


Crazy idea here... How about permanently attaching a yellow filter to a decent 35/2 lens with crazy glue and forcing yourself into the B&W mindset when you use that lens? That way, the images would be unusable unless converted in post to B&W. Also, the yellow image in the viewfinder might remind you through positive reinforcement that it's a B&W experience. Wouldn't that solve the issue of your brain reverting to "color think" because of the color sensor?


[That's a good idea and it might indeed work. --Mike]

If the viewfinder shows color (don't they all), does that impact looking for b&w pix? I used to setup my camera to show b&w in the viewfinder. Forget what camera it was (20D?).

Black and White and micro lenses. Mike, when you are investigating Byer stripping to create a mono camera, could you explore micro lenses? My understanding is that micro lenses are also stripped off. Miscro lenses are important on mirrorless ILC cameras, especially with wider lenses. The micro lenses are needed to bend the rays at the edges so they strike the sensor more vertically. If this is so, and I believe it is, making a dslr into a mono would be a better idea, if you intend using wa lenses.

Or maybe you could borrow or buy a camera from a user who previously converted it, possibly from Monochrome’s clients or just somewhere else…

One possible interpretation of this is that you, and some others, are head cases. I mean, I really DON'T see what you're getting at. (There's an old saying that you can sometimes deal with crazy, but there's just no talking to stupid. Maybe I'm being stupid about this.)

But: When I shoot my Z6 in monochrome mode, it's the *same* as a Monochrom, as far as I can tell. You pick out the photo you want with your eyes, which is in color unless you're totally color blind, but you're looking for luminance and etc., and then you put the Z6 to your eye and now you're seeing a black and white image in both the view finder and on the back screen, and you really can judge luminance and shadows, and when you import it to your computer (say, to Photos in Windows 11) it's in B&W on your screen and you never have to deal with color at all. If you set the camera to monochrome, IT'S a MONOCHROME CAMERA. Are you saying that the simple knowledge that somebody scraped the color bits off a normal camera is fundamentally different than a camera that's been set to monochrome in the menu, so that when you pick it up, it's a monochrome camera and unless you change it back you'll be shooting in monochrome from the moment you turn it on? I mean, that really seems like, ah, um...$1,200?

Set your camera to b&w or mono and shoot RAW plus JPG.
You will see mono or B&W in view finder so that you can set up a camera profile and make your exposure adjustments appropriately. Your JPG files will be b&w and your Raw files will be color. You can refer to the JPG files when post processing if you like to do so in RAW. After a bit of working this way it all becomes second nature.
No mono camera required.

The guy at MIS says he has a NEX 6. Ask him to send you multiple samples.
I bet he reads TOP ;-)

If possible try a Fuji X-Pro2 or X-Pro3 Monochrome. The poor mans Leica substitute.

Wish Fuji would bring out the X-ProM - solid Monochrome only body. Leica sells them - why not Fuji?

You seem to be saying that accepting the limitations of the tool…or becoming one with those limitations (if limitation is the right word) helps you to pre-visualize the scene and turn a limitation into an insight.

It may be that your 21st century problem with the monochrome sensor is related in part to the electronic viewfinder. You say that what you see doesn’t matter but I don’t understand how that can be when you’re trying to find scenes that will render nicely with just luminances. Your electronic viewfinder does not see the actual light falling on the scene and so you don’t get a feel for the light being captured by the camera. Instead you see the post-processed results of a sensor displayed on a tiny, comparatively low resolution screen.

If you want to use all the sensor you’ve got you may want to try an optical viewfinder again for your B&W work to see all the dynamic range the world has to offer. It may give your brain a more satisfying type of data to process. Can MIS modify a DSLR?

In the past, I have shot a lot of black and white film with my 4x5 view camera. I learned to see in black and white because I had black and white film loaded in the film holders. In recent years I have been shooting more digital, I too wish that there was an affordable black and white only sensor digital camera like the Leica Monochrom.

I have been getting more used to using the digital camera with potentail for both colour and black and white images. Last year on a hike up to Arnica Lake in Banff National Park, I ended up with both black and white and colour images from my day in the mountains. I was hoping to do all black and white. But it didn't work out that way. I have to admit that the colour images had a certain pleasing look to them. Some of the black and white images looked too flat and I couldn't find the right contrast.

One other thing that I have been adjusting to is the aspect ratio as I was so used to shooting or visualizing in 4:5 aspect ratio with the view camera. Even though my full frame 35mm size digital camera has crop settings for this I rarely use it. So what I do is shoot with an older Nikkor 35mm shift lens (PC) from the 1970s. I take two pictures while the camera is on a tripod with the lens shifted up or down and then stitch those images together in Photoshop.

I think the most reasonable suggestions was already made in the comments of the last post:

Try to buy a second hand camera that someone else already had converted. Doesn't really matter if Sony or Fuji, as long as you have a lens you like for this project.

I was also going to suggest seeing if someone could simply update the firmware on the camera to “disable” colour in the viewfinder and all the colour jpeg presets so you can’t record colour.. I don’t know if that’s possible, but would be interested to hear if that would be a solution? I bet it would be a lot cheaper…

I’ve got a similar problem when reviewing a set of new images in lightroom. My mind can’t sort the rejected photos at the same time as the standout photos…. It should be possible to do both simultaneously but I just can’t do it. I have to do one review of the images to pick out the ones to delete, and then a second review to pick out the ones that I’d like to work on.

I have a simple (albeit slightly more expensive) option to suggest.

Go to keh.com and order one of the Sony a6000 camera bodies in LN- condition for ~$450 and get that converted. Sell off some of your other cameras if need be, but you won't be sacrificing your a6600 before you know if you like this B&W conversion.

If you totally love it, sell the a6600 afterwards assuming you still have your Fuji mirrorless. If you don't like it, you won't have converted the expensive a6600 for something you later find out isn't what you expect.

Asking for a loaner is a great idea, BTW.

As a mountain biker and former single speed owner that’s a perfect analogy.

What I came to say is that all great art succeeds in part because of the way the artist works with, or against, or transcends the inherent constraints of the medium. It’s only illogical from a rational perspective. From the perspective of creative process it makes absolute sense.

Having a roll of 35mm film developed and scanned costs about $20. For $1200, you could send out 60 rolls of film. If you only shoot B&W occasionally, that could keep you going for a while.

As an alternative, a session of B&W film might be something you just treat yourself to whenever you have a little extra cash to blow on yourself.

After 70 years of shooting B&W film I have no problem visualizing monochrome images through an optical viewfinder.

But when I started shooting digital as well, still intending to make B&W prints, I had exactly the problem you describe. Knowing that I would see color images when I downloaded the files at home was a real distraction.

My solution turned out to be setting the camera to produce both a RAW file and a monochrome JPG file. With my Fuji X cameras, at least, that means I see a monochrome image in the viewfinder and, because I use the JPG images for my physical printed "contact sheets", the first time I see a color image is when I convert a selected image from RAW to DNG with Iridient X-Transformer and immediately convert it to 16-bit Grey in Affinity Photo.

This Pixii Rangefinder camera has a mind-twisting new feature. https://pixii.fr/monochrome

Mike, have you considered that in about 6 months (give or take some) Leica will release the Q3 and then a monochrom version of it. So the Q1 or Q2 Monochrom might just come down in price enough for you to be able to consider it. As that might be less than the $2400 you are not quite prepared to sink into this experiment.
I get the idea why you want a monochrome only camera as it will force you to chose to see in only one way.

I suggest you get a second memory card that you label B&W and use that whenever you want to shoot monochrome. Same as loading a roll of Tri-X! That should solve your mindset issue for a lot less money.

That’s a great suggestion from Erwin. Manufacturers could do that at almost no cost and if they made it optionally non-reversible that would fix your ‘seeing’ problem.

It used to be (still is?) possible to add home-brew firmware to Canon cameras so maybe someone has done it or can do it.

The bike analogy speaks to me. When I cycled in my youth “gears” were quite uncommon on ordinary bikes. I had two, a freewheel cog on one side of the rear wheel and a smaller fixed one on the other side. I generally used the fixed and with only a front brake (legal in the UK if fixed-wheel). In theory I could fairly quickly swap them round on the road but I don’t think I ever did. Might be the same with firmware in cameras since it’s always a bit of a faff to change them!

The cone and rod is different sensor. Also, atmosphere wise when you lose the memory meant at home. I think both physically and mentally we are adopted to get a different picture

For the camera the problem of colour layer it cut off the light differently. Unless you binning or use the other kind of sensor, it is different photos.

More on the firmware trail. The Piixi camera can produce monochrome DNG file by craftily reversing the Bayerisation of the image — seems the obvious thing to do!

Of course the camera’s not cheap and probably not technically suitable but …


I have been following this series of "seeing in B&W" posts, and I do get what you are saying, Mike; essentially you need the mind trick of knowing the camera can only record in to B&W actually get in the head space of visualizing the shot in B&W. But I have to say, I think Gordon Lewis is calling you out objectively on this one. It's still a mental exercise that eventually needs to transcend the choice of camera, especially in the digital era. Once a photographer begins to previsualize, or rather, visualize a scene's tone reproduction values as in the school of Adams, and also go beyond the framing/cropping decisions, or even the Cartier-Bresson decisive moment which anticipates what will come next in an instant, then this skill set is best mastered when it is transferable to many different scene renderings, IMHO. In the film era, I would encounter a scene and quickly ask "how would it look on Kodachrome, Extachrome, or Tri-X, etc. If my instinct about the scene rendering was strong enough, I'd happily short a roll, and load a new one to take the shot as I envisioned it should be. Didn't happen all that often, and I couldn't ever really visualize color neg (because it varies in odd ways from one negative stock to the next and also during the printing), but my point is that one's visualization process can over time accommodate more than just one "look".

Enter the digital age, and visualization skills are alive and well...one even needs to become more skilled at it. All that said, if your ultimate goal is trying to render digital files with a traditional B&W film look, your're probably going to get tripped up not by the color and tonality of the camera output, but by the MTF curves. Owning a monochrome-only digital camera won't get around this fact. Digital cameras today have far exceeded film in the low and mid-frequency spatial response while film can still outperform in high frequency resolution. Bottom line is that two images matched as precisely as possible for color and tone, one shot on film and the other born digital, are still going to end up with a different "look". I can usually determine digitally-mastered film images versus born-digital images simply by looking at the differences in perceived "sharpness". Attempting to match the look of today's digital image sharpness by aggressively sharpening film scans ends up looking totally overbaked, and I'm not aware of anyone who's attempted to go the other way, i.e., add some selective MTF curve blurring algorithm to reduce low and mid frequency acutance so that it more closely resembles film. About as good as one can do in the latter approach is simply to mount an older lens on the camera which has significantly less optical performance than modern digital era lenses.

I can understand being too frugal to change anything. I have not been able to justify upgrading from my E-M1 mk1, and consequently I mostly photograph with my iPhone. But I will say a converted Sony, should you decide you don’t like it, will be worthless. Whereas if you don’t like a Q2 Monochrom, you can sell it and recoup most of your money.

For the photographer committed to black and white, the Sony sensor conversion makes perfect sense because the cost is about 27 percent of a new Leica M10 Monochrom and one-third of a good used model. For the shooter who is unsure of his dedication to monotheism, the M10 Monochrom rental fee, by comparison, is a relatively small expenditure for piece of mind.

Hi Mike,
As a penny pinching option you could try an experiment - for a month exclusively follow the same workflow as if the camera had already been converted:

1) Shoot raw on the Sony, as if using black and white film, with filters etc.
2) Copy all the files to the computer
3) Convert to black & white DNG files using Monochrome2DNG (tell it to convert the preview as well)
4) Process the files with your favourite DNG tools

(tested using my Ricoh GR III)

Possibly set the camera to preview in black & white, as you would probably do that after the camera was converted anyway

This way you never see a colour image from the camera, and the whole post processing workflow will be in black & white.

You may get better image quality from a converted camera - but the point would be to find out if the workflow works for you.

I do wonder if using the iPhone for colour pictures and a converted camera for B&W wouldn't undermine the aim of 'seeing in B&W' - for me switching between the two regularly is like flitting between focal lengths where it reduces my ability to see a picture without looking through the camera.

Anyway - good luck surviving this highly specialised GAS attack :)

Fujifilm XE 1 or XE 2 plus 27mm! Good and cheap B&W!

One million times all of this. I fought with these limitations with the X-Pro1. Aside from two native Fujinon lenses, I primarily used my OM/Zuiko 21/2 and 28/2.8. Those roughly translated to the wide and normal lenses I prefer for 90% of my shooting. It seemed a bit of a waste of the rest of the glass at times, but no big deal - I’m using the lens’ sweet spot.

But “seeing” only in b&w with a colour sensor was not always successful or satisfying. It seemed like very time I was “on a roll” I would notice something in colour and then … the vibe was gone.

The most successful approach was to shoot in fine JPG only and not have even the possibility of a RAW file “just in case” … But then thoughts would intrude: “a RAW file would give me added flexibility to convert to a “better” b&w final image. It’s not that I didn’t like the b&w JPG files from the X-Pro1; they are very good and I actually preferred them to the X100T that I had later on.

Both of those cameras are gone, but I’m considering getting another X-Pro1 and FORCING myself to shoot b&w JPG only. Since I have so much more discipline now. Yeah, that’s it … or investigate converting the sensor to monochrome. Or winning a small lottery jackpot and buying a Monochrom.

Feels to me like you might be overthinking things

You need a delayed print sale. 1 print from the new camera, paid in advance:)That sounds like the most hellish stress (on you) ever, so I'm kidding, but hope that you do proceed - having a camera that makes you smile is a great thing.

This isn't a dig at you or the others with this problem:

"It's just that I find that difficult to sustain over the long haul. If I know color is available, I gradually migrate into seeing color pictures again and making pictures that have to be in color. It's totally a mental thing. It's not a technical issue or a technical problem. It's about mindset."

Two possibilities...

1) You need to practice harder. Colour and BW versions of everything, shot at the time. Just like learning to use an M-series Leica in film days - really very slow and dofficult.

2) You are actually meant to be a colour photographer, even if you would like to be a BW photographer. If you really really wanted to be a BW photographer and couldn't afford a fancy digital, you'd be shooting Tri-X. My guess is this is the answer.

Me, I'm a BW photographer. Every digital camera I've ever owned has been set to BW, yellow "filter" as soon as I got it, and left there. Now I have a good Tri-X conversion (Exposure software with N-1, N, N+1 and N+2 presets) I couldn't be happier.

Very very rarely, I use a Kodachrome 64 preset if I want colour.

Scientific/medical stuff - I can do correct accurate neutral colour. Just no interest in shooting it for myself.

So, yes, I'm a BW photographer. I stopped thinking about it many years ago.

Add me to the list of people who finally "get" your position.

Personally I'm able to compartmentalize easily. If I'm shooting for black and white, I can do that without being distracted by colour.

But I completely understand your perspective.

Another option:

There's a firm called Cobalt Image who sell camera profiles for use in Lightroom/ACR and Capture One. The profiles are contained in what they call a "Basic Pack" ( https://www.cobalt-image.com/basic-pack/ ) specific to a camera model so if you use more than one model of camera you need to buy a profile set for each camera. The Basic Pack profiles are all colour profiles but include a profile which is used by their film emulation packs which duplicate the look of various film stocks and a "Smart Pack" which offers variations on the colour profiles in their Basic Packs as well as what they call their "Smart Pack" ( https://www.cobalt-image.com/product/cobaltsmart/ ).

The Smart Pack includes 4 B&W profiles. There's a standard monochrome profile, a "linear profile" which doesn't use a contrast curve within the profile, a "scientific profile" which "emulate human eye sensibility (eliminating the saturation variable keeping the luminance level)" and a profile which combines the linear and scientific profile features.

The scientific profile is interesting. The white balance sliders in Lightroom's Basic Panel and in the Mask panel work and changes to white balance brighten or darken parts of the B&W image but the vibrance/saturation sliders in the Basic and Mask panels are greyed out and can't be used. The Hue and Saturation sliders in the Camera Calibration panel all work and brighten or darken parts of the B&W image. On the other hand the colour channel sliders in the B&W panel which normally change the luminance of tones in the B&W image aren't greyed out and can be moved and pressing the Auto button causes the sliders to move but I see absolutely no change at all in the image as a result. I don't know what's going on there.

I like the tonal rendition the scientific profile provides and I prefer it to most of the Adobe monochrome profiles, midtowns seem a little brighter and the grey scale brightness/darkness of different colours looks better to me. II don't do much B&W conversion but I do often swap to it when editing colour images in order to make my luminance adjustments and then swap back to a colour profile in order to make my colour adjustments. I also like their Basic Pack colour profiles. Originally I used the Adobe profiles before swapping to a couple of profiles I made for my camera with a Colour Checker Passport because I felt the colours from the Colour Checker Passport profiles looked slightly more natural. I think the Cobalt Image colour profiles are just a little more natural again.

Unfortunately they do not offer a free trial period. You have to buy the profiles to try them and that may put some people off. It's annoying that they don't provide B&W profiles in the Basic Pack and the Smart Pack profiles don't work without the Basic Pack. If you use more than 1 camera model (I use an X-Pro3, an X-E4, and a Ricoh GR III) you need to buy a Basic Pack for each different camera model but the Smart Pack accesses a special profile in the Basic Pack and you only need to buy one Smart Pack as it can work with any and all Basic Packs.

They also offer a set of B&W film emulations and 2 sets of profiles emulating the look of Leica Monochrom CMOS and CCD sensors. I haven't tried any of those profiles. They also only work in conjunction with a Basic Pack.

So that's another B&W conversion option available on the processing software side of things.

As its been suggested to get a monochrome sensor on the cheap, get a Huawei P20 Pro phone, which has a Sony monochrome sensor, with Leica processing & Leica designed lens.

You could wait for the rumoured Pentax DSLR which will have a monochrome sensor, but there is no timescale to its launch or its price & specs.

Fuji are also missing an opportunity, there is a monochrome version of the 102MP sensor used in the GFX 100 & 100s, but there is no rumours about them using it, which is a crying shame

Forgot to say just finished photo book VENEZIA by Federico Povoleri, terrific shows what rising seas and cruise line tourists have done to this magnificent city. I have since read there is now a daily quota for number of visitors, book all B/W he professional photog and used PENTAX K5 11 with different lenses.

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