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Tuesday, 16 August 2022


Another ISO showdown from Red Dot Forum. (You might be aware that David Farkas, the publisher, is also the owner of Leica Miami.)


The M10 Monochrom remains the king of high ISO in the Leica portfolio.

Hope you enjoy using the M(9) Monochrom. The M9 platform is old and clunky compared to the M10 Monochrom, and the ISO is limited in comparison (the M10 Monochrom sensor is also 40 MP), but the CCD files are special. And the M9 Monochrom is the only Leica M that has a RAW-based histogram. This is a nice feature, especially given that blown highlights cannot be recovered in post by using different color channels as with a color-based camera. One must use care shooting, similar to slide film days.

I keep thinking about what you said about seeing what the camera sees.
My first, immediate reaction was “all right, Mike have some quirks, who doesn’t?”
But then I took a look at my Lightroom catalog.
I always liked B&W way more than color and shot countless 35mm rolls of film, but when I take my digital camera I just can’t see “good pictures” in B&W.
When I take color pictures with my digital OMD and I get home I get into Lr and try if any of those looks good in B&W. Maybe this one will, or that one.
But it’s a process of “forcing the color to fit” in B&W, not natural at all.
Funny how I never realized that until now.

Hi Mike.
While you ae exploring this topic and in contact with the gurus of monochrome sensor conversion, can you get reliable information on the following. It seems to me to be very important for anyone considering a monochrome conversion to a mirrorless camera.
Does the conversion remove the microlenses? These are essential on mirrorless cameras for wa lenses. They change the very acute angle at which light from the edges strikes the sensor. This is less of an issue for APS-C sized sensor conversions.
If I am correct, a mono conversion should not be done by anyone intending using wa lenses on a FF mirrorless camera. As I understand it, dedicated mono mirrorless cameras still have the microlenses.

Used monochrome'd Pentax K-50, 650 EUR: https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/24-photographic-equipment-sale/445434-sale-monochrome-pentax-k-50-debayered-sensor.html

So the pixii compensates for the color-filtered pixels before it writes the raw file. Is changing the stage of conversion from after the file is written to before enough to fool you into thinking you're shooting B&W?

[Beats me. --Mike]

A point that I don't believe has been addressed:

What is the end use? Once you've taken a picture with the latest SuperDooperMono Mark X, will you print it? And how?

After all, the print is the performance.

Having a pixii that is *capable* of colour but you *choose* to not use it and switch to mono, is exactly the same ‘psychological mindset challenge’ that you say happens to you, Mike, with the average Bayer camera, that you could switch to mono output.

"*An art school friend called fine-art students "art dawgs" so I started to call our little cohort in the Photo Dept. "photo-dawgs." Like most of my attempted coinages it did not catch on. Except with me."

I have, from time to time, issued what I call a Patois. A word or saying with a new or different meaning. One that leaps to mind is: Food tastes better when it's a baby.

My Patoises have similarly only caught on with me.


I have a Leica Monochrom (246) and love its files. But I still have to massage the files to suit my purposes. After all, it's like having a film camera but access to only one type of film. Odds are (in a Murphy's Law sense), it's not the type of film you prefer.

I don't think I have the problem of not being able to see in B&W with a color sensor/film. But converting color to B&W has always left me frustrated because in spite of the great volume of plugin post filters available, none seem to suit my wants, and using them makes me feel like I'm not bringing anything unique to my vision. Doing one-off color conversion myself in Photoshop is possible, and a more flexible option, but I find it tedious and too time-consuming. Maybe I need more practice.

The 246 has always pleased me for its low-light usefulness and for the ability to use color filters to shape the look I want, in that old-school film way.

One thing I find consistently useful with the files is to add a bit of an S curve in the shadows. This accentuates detail there and, if done carefully, does not affect the rest of the image. This is in addition to whatever "magic" I work on the files.

Prediction: You will be unsatisfied, dither about returning to film and your beloved Tri-X, not do so, and move on.

Less likely but better outcome: You'll fall for the M that's being lent to you, sell some of that highly valuable crap in your collection, buy one, and shoot happily for years. But then what would you write about here?

@Luke : It should be, as in the Pixii, once you have chosen for a shot in monochrome, this results in a monochrome file only - turning back to colour (or retrieving it) is impossible.

This has been an interesting series of posts about B&W sensor photography.

You've gotten two offers of B&W cameras to try before you spend any money. May as well take advantage of your kind readers!

Those photos by Norman Eder look very good to my eye. I don't know if your Sony's sensor is the same as Norman's camera, but that would potentially give you some pretty good photos.

Those photos by the converted Pentax K50 for sale look pretty crispy.

As far as other manufacturers being able to make B&W-only sensor cameras ("Same Old Problems!" post), back when film was still king, probably 95% of film used by non-professionals was color. So, your options are likely going to be few, barring some breakthrough in technology.

I look forward to reading all the comments.

I'm enjoying these posts but maybe not for the subject, which I admittedly know little about and don't share any enthusiasm for. It's because I very much relate to, and share, the problem when my shall we call it compulsive attitude creates a scratch that can only be cured by spending lots more money to obtain an even better iteration of what I already own.

Let me explain.

A nice German sports car, let's call it Mr. P, is in my driveway. It is a pretty color, it makes great sounds> It's low to the ground, and it's paid for. But it has electrically-assisted, not hydraulically-assisted steering. It's better says Mr. P's Dad, it weighs less, makes the planet a little greener not to carry around that heavy hydraulic pump anymore.

But wait, my little voice says, hydraulic steering is better! It makes the older Mr. P's feel more alive, the wheel moves beneath your fingers, not this deadish new thing! Yes, less-sensitive drivers who don't know any better think that Mr. P's steering is the bees' knees, but they know nothing! Old dogs like me who know a thing or two, we get the difference.

What to do is obvious. Sell Mr. P at a loss to buy a used, older brother Mr. P that has the BETTER steering. Yes, that makes sense. That satisfies the itch.

By the way, this is a true story, I say sheepishly. Please protect my identity and consider yourself lucky you're only in camera-land.

on the sigma FP...
I think I heard the Sigma CEO, Mr. Yamaki, say in some interview somewhere that the FP series was intended to also be a capable photo, vs video, camera from the start and that in Japan there is a significant user group that is completely focused on photo use with both the FPs.

I haven't tried the electronic viewfinder yet, but, although I like the somewhat unique eyeball engagement of the big Loupe-like vf I've been using,I suspect that evf will open up the range of settings the camera feels right for.

Their website is pretty well done if you want to learn more: https://www.sigma-global.com/en/cameras/

I have a similar feeling about preferring to shoot b&w while seeing b&w. I convert many images to b&w like everyone else, but I deeply enjoy looking at a b&w image in camera when intending to create b&w photos.

From what I understand, the Pixii does more than "ignore" the color information. Rather, it "knows" what amount of light is subtracted from the Bayer array, and reinterprets the luminance output from the pixels on the sensor to account for the color filters. So it is compensating, rather than just ignoring the colors.

Back in 1978 a roll of TX 135-36 went for $1.42 or $6.45 in today's dollars. Today B&H sells a roll of TX 135-36 for $11.99. I currently shoot TX 135-36, process it at home, make proof prints by scanning the negatives in PrintFile negative holders with my Epson V750 PRO, then only scan the frames that I want to print with a Minolta DIMAGE Scan Dual IV film scanner that I acquires in NOS condition for under $100 earlier this year. 8x10 final prints look great. 13x19 final prints are pushing it, but still look great. So how I figure it... even though I am essentially paying almost twice of what I paid for rolls of TX 135-36 back in 1978, it would take me shooting many hundreds if not thousands of rolls of film to equate the cost of acquiring a Leica M10 Monochrom Rangefinder Camera. I still have a Leitz Focomat V35 enlarger, and often just enlarge the 35mm negatives totally bypassing digital altogether.

I had a Sony A7RII converted to monochrome by Daniel at MIS several years ago. Unless you intend to shoot IR, I do not recommend this option. I have done extensive tests and there is virtually no visible improvement in resolution for normal photographic subjects, since standard interpolation methods used to demosaic raw files recover much of the lost information. The increase in sensitivity is also small. Finally, by removing the color filter array, you lose the ability to adjust the tonality of monochrome images based on color. The range of adjustments you can make in post far exceeds what you can do with color filters since with the channel mixer you can even subtract one channel from another. My advice is to just set your viewfinder to mono, shoot in color, and save yourself $1200.

If do you want to shoot IR however, I highly recommend the MIS conversion to monochrome. You can see a few of my IR images at https://www.dl-c.com/Gallery/index.html.

BTW, the converted body works fine with wide angle lenses.

I've rented an FP. It's a delightful camera for stills. It just doesn't have anything extra like... a grip. Unless you decide to bolt one on.

It is really too bad about the black and white conversion though. That camera has the best colors I've seen this side of Foveon.

Kirk also raves about the fun he has shooting stills with the camera.

I just looked at the Pixii web site and I now I hate everything. First, the website has so much parallax scrolling it is disconcerting. They have obviously put visual slickness over usability. Then, they do the Apple thing where they upcharge for storage when it is just flash in there.

Finally, the "knowing" how much light is subtracted and the compensating for it. So ... it does some math to fill in the "missing" details. Um, either that's something trivial meaning that it processes images from color to black and white, or it's a false claim about information theory.

I just don't get what all this B&W angst is all about (unless it's to purposely rile up your readers). RENT A MONOCHROM or BUY TRI-X. Problem over.

I've been thinking about where you're coming from. I can easily see a parallel, and very likely, scenario.

Give it a few years, and the practice of having different lenses with fixed focal lengths (either primes or zooms) will seem very quaint. Sensors will have sufficient resolution, and lenses sufficient quality, that "digital zoom" will be the norm.

In the same way that choosing a different aspect ratio on my Fuji cameras when shooting in RAW is just writing a pre-defined crop of the RAW file into metadata (so you still get the whole RAW file), we'll have one huge file that we crop into.

There will still be old fogies* who will insist on the quaint practice of sticking lenses with fixed focal lengths onto their old cameras. "I spent a lifetime learning to see 35mm. I know I can just 'crop into' 35mm, but I don't want to. Harrumph." They will sound exactly like the people who insist on limiting the sensor to monochrome, even though converting from colour works perfectly well.

* Fogey-hood is my plan.

Jeff wrote: "...the CCD files are special. And the M9 Monochrom is the only Leica M that has a RAW-based histogram."

I had the original M9M, and agree that its CCD files are special. I now have the type 246, which I bought despite my impression that the histogram is said not to be based on the RAW file. I don't know whether that's technically true, but I did careful comparisons between the 246's histogram and the actual RAW histograms in Lightroom, and they are either identical or so close that the difference is insignificant. I loved the M9M and the files are great, but the 246 files are also great, and it shares the M9M's ability to nail exposure precisely without blowing highlights.

I want to share with you readers a Greek photog who uses Leica Q, his work is mesmerizing! George Tatakis, he doing series on Greek culture featuring women in their native costumes for the different regions in Greece. Check him out on his site or Instagram sit back and enjoy!

I think I want to change my ‘vote’. I had suggested that you convert the more up to date camera and use it, but the more I think about it the less sense it makes. You would be making a $2400 investment into a play thing that was worth nothing in resale value, and that you could get tired of, or find it did not quite do what you want, or simply break in short order. If you are not in a position to respond to such an experience with a shrug of the shoulders, then I think you should not go down that path.

Perhaps think of the $1200 cost to convert as a “B&W” fund. Put it to one side, perhaps to be added to from time to time, and only to be spent on B&W ‘stuff’: Could be putting some film through an old camera, and sending it of for development and scanning (you could do quite a lot of that for $1200), or a saving fund for one of those Leica cameras one day, perhaps used?

The claims for the PIXII monochrome mode sound like hooey to me. The spectral response of the sensor elements will still be determined by the filters over each. While it is easy to back calculate the initial average light intensity reaching each element, there is no way to back calculate the spectrum of the light, except of course by using the information from the adjacent elements, which is what is done in conventional demosaicing.

If the camera were really to just convert each pixel signal to a light intensity and write a file from that, it would generate a (near) superposition of images with three different color filters. I can't imagine that would look very good!

It sounds like what the camera does do is to output a raw file from which the color information can no longer be recovered. That, to a degree, might satisfy the psychological need to be committed to a black and white image. But, I don't see how it could be equivalent to a true monochrome sensor.

I still like the idea of putting a yellow filter on a color-capable camera. The filter would give you the same viewfinder look as you had shooting film and it would make the raw file unusable for color prints, so it might be easier to think of it as B&W.

I would be inclined to convert the old Fuji. It is already depreciated so you would have a lower investment if the project didn't work out.

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