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Wednesday, 22 November 2023


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For me, although I'd love to have a monochrome only camera, for the amount of shooting I do (or would likely do with a mono camera) I can't justify the spend. I see mono converted files and the quality is (or can be) so good that if anything, for my purposes, just getting a dedicated conversion app would suffice.

I'd also like a camera that natively shot square compositions. I don't expect any manufacturer is likely to make one of those again.


I'm thankful that Black Friday is no longer the ridiculously crazy Event that it once was. It seemed to arrive this week (more or less) without hysteria, like a slightly bigger than usual holiday shopping weekend. Though maybe it only feels that way because we're currently preoccupied with bigger issues.

Mike, may I suggest that this may be an occasion to repost or link to some of your photo book recommendations? I say this knowing that in theory this is a relatively easy project for a blogger but that some bloggers are wont to escalate such things into research projects, which they should by all means feel free to do for their own pleasure, but with the knowledge that their readership for the most part would be well served by a simple reminder in the form of links or reposts.

Have a Happy Holiday!

On Christmas shopping: I was hoping for a new Sigma L-mount camera. Sort-of an update to the SD Quattro lineup, with an actual shutter and grip, not necessarily a Foveon sensor, but with the option to mount those interesting Sigma i-series lenses on. And lighter and less complicated than the Panasonic S5.

That Pentax K-3 Mark III monochrome with the new D-FA 21mm could be an awesome combo, but it competes with my existing setups of Ilford XP2 in the Minolta Dynax 7 with 35mm f:2, and Leica R8 with the 35mm f:2 cron. And I'm not going to invest in a whole new system just to play with a B/W-only camera.

I purchased a Pentax Monochrome shortly after it started shipping in the US.

The background to my decision to buy the Pentax Monochrome, as with other commenters here, is that I too have a collection of Pentax Limited lenses, both APS-C and FF, as well as very nice K-1 Mark II full-frame and KP APS-C bodies, all of which I retain despite using Micro Four-Thirds cameras more frequently.

I basically bought the Pentax Monochrome to have a convenient digital option that more closely approximates the tonal and definitional quality of large format film. Converted full-color RGB seemed to lack some of the lovely gradational transitions of well-done large format film.

Most of my BW work more recently has been done on large format film, mostly 5x7, although sometimes 4x5 and 11x14, but I mostly scan the BW film and print it digitally except for making contact prints from the 11x14 negatives.

Enter the Pentax Monochrome, which is a 25MP APS-C sensor camera.

I made side-by-side comparison tests using the same lenses with the 25MP Pentax Monochrome and with my full-RGB 24MP Pentax KP converted using Nik Silver Efex.

My sense is that the Pentax Monochrome BW output is somewhat superior to the conversions BUT that exacting technique is critical to actually achieving any visible improvement in larger prints.

The Monochrome does have somewhat finer "grain" and somewhat higher definition than converted KP files. The Monochrome has better tonal gradation, probably because there's no Bayer interpolation.

So, from a purely technical standpoint, the Monochrome is a marginal yet definite win for higher quality BW output.

That brings up the more important question of whether it fits one's image-making needs. Over the years, many of us have forgotten that many images actually look better in color and that we've lost as least some of our ability to visualize strong BW images.

I believe that means that learning to properly use the Pentax Monochrome to produce superior BW images is going to take some time to relearn BW technique. For example, we need to acquire proper lens filters and properly use them, just like large format film photographers. With a monochrome sensor, you can't just tweak the various RGB color channels like you can when making a conversion from a full-RGB image file.

Then, there's learning again how to see in BW, particularly visualizing Zone III to Zone V tonal qualities. Most BW work that I've seen, much of my own included, is frankly not very attractive, and never really was. So, we need to learn how to see and work again with luminance contrast rather than color contrast.

Over the years, I was nostalgic for the BW work of my youth, including the times spent with Minor White when he was teaching at MIT. After using the Pentax Monochrome for a while, I realize that really achieving good BW print output is, and always has been, more demanding artistically and in terms of strong technique than working in color.

It's going to take time and commitment to learn how to best use the Pentax Monochrome with practiced restraint as to subject and lighting. It's a specialist camera for specialist artistic image-making.

There's one other approach that, to some extent, bridges traditional BW work and color digital imagery, which I have loosely termed "Not Quite Black and White", basically making full RGB digital images that have the ambience of a traditional BW image through choice of subject, lighting, etc but that incorporate some low saturation color as well, such as color washes or small bits of color within the overall BW-appearing image. Such images seem to work well.

So, in the meantime, I've simply switched to a somewhat larger camera bag for Pentax gear and include the Monochrome along with the rest of the Pentax gear. I'll try to use whichever tool seems to best fit the image at hand.

Of course, reader Acetous Q. Driveby can opine about how B&W is sh*t ...

Wait a minute? We can swear here? Well f*ck a duck! This makes up for yesterdays lack of a post M*ke.

And - yes, if my wife liked B&W (she's a hater, unfortunately), then I would be pining after the Pentax Artisan (what they shoulda called it). But d*ng it all, in Australia, they're just overpriced. My frugal side just can't abide that.

To explain extravagant purchases to my (worlds best) wife, I express all $ amounts as a percentage of an American Strat (USA made Fender Stratocaster, $5K here, for a goodun).

As in,
WIFE: How much was that big lens that just arrived?
ME: 0.4 of an American Strat.
WIFE: J*sus Christ!

Do you still have the loaned Leica M Monochrom?

Crows. So my question about crows is: Do Crows Have Free Will? I asked ChatGPT for its take, and I got a blog post out of it!


'Look up"acetous." It means "vinegary." I'm kind of proud of myself for knowing that word.'

Yes, but how do you pronounce it...? :-)

The closest I'm coming to a dedicated B&W camera is setting my M10's preview to monochrome. I think it kinda helps - nudges the frames in my mind, as it were.

Oh, and incidentally, I'm sat here right now, trying to print some B&W portraits of the neighbour's children, and while reading about B&W on TOP, I accidentally printed a colour file...

Peace, and all that underrated stuff,

My comment has nothing to do with today’s topic. I just want to wish Mike and all of his readers a Happy Thanksgiving. This blog is one thing I am always thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving Mike!
Thank you for another year of images and your thoughts.


Happy thanksgiving to you Mike, and all the commenters that amuse and inform! Thanks for all you give to this blog visitor!

I am slightly amused by the discussions (here and elsewhere) about how one prefers (or needs) a monochrome viewing screen to properly shoot monochrome. How did we ancient photographers shoot with (color) optical viewfinders or a ground glass and black and white film! Must have been magic!

Oops! Not long after I left a comment suggesting that Mike reprise some book recommendations for holiday shoppers, I noticed the "Book of the Week" and "Books" links in the Categories menu on the right. (And look how that menu has grown, too.)

Facepalm! And sorry to be so obtuse, Mike.

I have had a K3M for a while, but I am still to bond with the camera. It's well made & very solid, but I have been spoilt by my GFX 100's which, has some great Acros B/W film simulations, plus the evf is B/W when you use one of the B/W simulations. I have found myself preferring the Fuji's evf, which is much larger than the ovf of the K3M, plus you have focus peaking & focus magnification at the touch of the button. It took me a while to tame the contrast from the K3M, but I now have it figured & I am always using -0.7 or more exposure compensation even with highlight metering, I never want to blow the highlights & the shadow recovery is so good on the K3M. I'm unsure if its a keeper, but if I sell it I still have my Huawei P20 Pro phone, with its lovely Sony 20MP monochrome sensor, Leica lens & Leica jpeg engine, its a dream combination.

Black Friday, monochrome camera... I see what you mean!

The Pentax Monochrome I rented seems to work just fine. I'm giving a lot of thought to getting my own.


The prints of the feeder, sprig, and dog look great. I haven't printed the cones.

Here's another way to feed your look-up obsessions. Get yourself a copy of the cult-worthy Webster's International dictionary, Second Edition. It's almost 7 inches thick, and there was probably one weighing down a standing desk in your college library. The unabridged editions were published in the mid-1940s, though some printings are more comprehensive than others. The real deal can be identified by looking up the entry for "ship" and confirming that it specifies 169 distinct parts of the rigging and 20 more parts of the hull. I found one from a book dealer in Germany, figuring it would have much less wear and tear than those found here.

[Oh, it's so sad. When we sold the beautiful Arts-and-Crafts-style lake cottage that had been in the family for 100 years (you can see it if you Google "1095 Hamilton Drive Alanson MI"—my great-grandparents were the Hamiltons—I brought home the Webster's Second that had been kept on a stand in the "sun room" there since it was published, probably. And then it promptly became lost. I searched all the boxes for it for so long and so assiduously that I even imagined someone had stolen it; but why? It was, as you know, the last of the "prescriptive" dictionaries, and it is magnificent, at least as long as you don't read it prescriptively. --Mike]

Mike, it didn’t sound like you wanted me to reply to this post. However, after reading the comments, I thought I’d just add that there’s only one reason to shoot with the K-3 III M or any other monochrome camera:)


Hi Mike
I'll try to keep this short. I just turned 81 and have been serious about photography for the last 20 years. Started with Pentax 35mm and progressed to Hasselblads - 500C/M and xPan II (all used).Almost all of my photography with this gear was black and white. I loved the Hasselblads but was getting tired of hauling the weight around and of having to choose which lens to take etc.
So I followed your advice (kind of). I sold all of my film gear, paper, film, darkroom equipment and got more than enough to buy a Leica Q2 Monochrome which will go with my iPhone 11Pro. I was also able to buy an Epson SC P900 printer.
The Leica is great. One fairly light camera, fixed lens, auto-focus. A lot of decision making removed.The digital zoom satisfies my desire for different lenses. Prints are terrific even without lightroom/Photoshop.
Thanks for the advice.

Thank you Mike and Calvin. All your talk about The unabridged Webster made me go look at mine. It is indeed a second edition and the ship entry is as Calvin describes except it shows 24 principle parts to a wooden hulled ship and a second diagram of a steel hulled ship with even more parts. Now I can see another rabbit hole to eat my time, exploring my grandfathers dictionary. Truthfully I grabbed it after he died simply because it was his and have never truly explored it

If you really like that Sigma 30mm f/1.4 you can buy one for the Pentax as well... I have one. Just sayin'...

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