Leica M Monochrom Digital Rangefinder Camera - Page 21
Index of pages covering Leica M9, Leica M9-P, Leica M-E, Leica M Monochrom and Leica M Type 240:
To you, Henri
By: Thorsten Overgaard
(for more on the Monochrom, visit the previous page "Monochrom M" about the release of the Leica M Monochrom in Berlin in May 2012. More pages will be added about the Leica M Monochrom later)
The Leica M Monochrom had the working title Henri, and I guess a chance ending up being named simply Henri. But then Leica camera AG came up with a better idea of simply naming the cameras by their letters, Leica M and Leica M Monochrom.
The camera was, and is, thought of as the tool for an artist. For a Henri Cartier Bresson to use in this digital age.
I wonder what he would have thought of it, had we walked the streets of Paris today. In the sunshine late in the afternoon with some rainy clouds coming and going, making the light interesting.
What would have come from an expert mouth that loves its subject?
Two fellows of Cambridge University on the lawn of the university courtyard where only fellows can walk. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0. © Thorsten Overgaard, October 2012. 320 ISO.
I am sure he would not understand the interest in zooming in on details in the images to admire the sharpness of details. Though, as it is how the cameras capture things these days, he might see it as both a challenge to avoid the details taking over the simplicy of the story, yet at the same time enjoy a new detailed view into the magic of light.
Henri Cartier Bresson used to empty and archive film rolls at night before bed time and fill new ones for the next day. What has taken the place of this ritual? I guess seeing the battery chargers blinking in the distant corner, the Thundebolt harddrives chewing on the new images whilst Lightroom imports the images could have the same calming effect. If the record player was playing some nice music.
Would he indulge in editing the images himself, or would he simply go through them, and let his now 75 year old master printer Voja Mitrovic deal with editing and printing them?
Boy club excursion with Leica M9-P, Leica M3 and Leica M Monochrom (Matthias Frei, Ernst Schlogelhofer and Hartmut Henninge). © Thorsten Overgaard, October 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0. 320 ISO.
In a way, because he was not against new ideas and technology, I think he would have gotten over not having to rewind the film with his thumb. Instead he would find help in the two frames per second to capture exactly that decisive moment. Because I don't think he was running a competition with himself trying to capture it in one frame. I think he was rather interested in capturing it in one of the frames. And clearly here the Leica M Monochrom would help.
In any case, we can guess but we cannot know, although it is an interesting thought experiment. It would be comforting if he liked the camera made for him.
What perhaps is the most interesting part of this story is that Leica Camera AG intended to create the optimum artists' tool, with Henri in mind: But for any photographer wanting to capture simply black & white, with as little technology between him self and the image, as possible.
A decision is a decision 'till you change your mind
Let's go back almost three months to the day I got the Leica M Monochrom. I was so proud of my self-control: I received the box and put it on a table downstairs, then resumed with the work I was doing upstairs. I knew it was coming but hadn't written back that they should keep it, nor had I yet decided if I actually wanted it.
After a few hours I went down and picked up the box, just to enter the serial number outside of the box into my Leica Camera AG Owners Page where I keep track of all my serial numbers, just in case something gets lost.
I guess it was at this point I finally had to make a decision. I could still return the box unopened.
© Thorsten Overgaard, Denmark, December 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95. 1600 ISO
Some days earlier I had gotten an e-mail from my Leica pusher that she would send my Monochrom on the coming Tuesday. I would be at Photokina on the Monday evening before and would know what the Leica M10 might be, and hopefully get one the same evening or the day after. I had heard rumors that the M10 wouldn't be delivered for 4-6 months, but if it existed, I would get one. Somehow. The impossible Leica M9 I got within 48 hours. Nothing is impossible.
"If you can believe something great, you can achieve something great" as Katy Perry would say.
Maybe I didn't need a Leica M Monochrom after Photokina. Maybe the Leica M10 would be the answer to everything. Maybe I should just keep things simple.
A man reading a book in a cafe in United Kingdom while being photographed by a stranger wearing a pancake hat. © Thorsten Overgaard, October 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0. 320 ISO.
So I didn't answer the mail. I planned to just let it float into the unknown, and make a decision after Monday evening at Photokina.
But Monday came around and even then I couldn't decide. So I decided to decide later.
And now later had arrived to my doorstep.
I remember back in May 2012, me and some friends, our enthusiasm for the new Leica M Monochrom, and our instant decision to order it. We ordered it that very same evening. Dr. Kufmann had actually spilled some hints about it almost a year yearlier.
Now this box was sitting on my desk, and so far all we had in common was the knowledge of its serial number. Would it really be worth it to open the box, or would I be happier to return it? Different arguments went back and forth, I tried to convince my self that no matter what, I deserved it! On the other hand, I preferred to have as few pieces of equipment as possible. Keep things simple. But there were no new arguments on the table that I hadn't heard myself telling myself since two weeks ago.
I opened the box.
There was only one way to find out if it was true love... or not. And when my eyes met the eyepatched bayonet of the Leica M Monochrom, we both knew:
There would be love.
Inside Cafe Lynfabrikken in Aarhus, Denmark. This is what I consider my first Leica M Monochrom photo.
© Thorsten Overgaard, October 4, 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0.
Learning about colors with the Leica M Monochrom
I installed a few hours more of self-control, before I took the Leica M Monochrom out to show it my city. Perhaps also, I was trying to test if it's uncompressed love for me was real, and if my childish lust for adventure in black & white would persist after the chemicals of the fresh-smelling silver box had drifted off.
From the many camera straps I have on shelf for moments like this - the brown Leica a la Carte, the black Artisan & Artist, the (sexy) braided Annie Barton, a few Gordy's straps, another red cotton Artisan & Artist - I decided to use the black leather strap that it came with and which had been made specially for the Leica M Monochrom.
© Thorsten Overgaard, London, October 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0.
Then I went out to show the Leica M Monochrom some of my favorite cafes in Aarhus, as I do with any new friend who has just arrived (Aarhus just made the list of the top 5 happiest cities in the world, by the way).
I parked the car nearby the first cafe, Raw Bar. The air was fresh and clean, the lighting, fantastic. I looked over the lake and ... by golly! I've never seen such bright and beautiful ... colors!
And my friend, the Leica M Monochrom couldn't even see them. Born complete color-blind.
Sabine Kohler. © Thorsten Overgaard, London, October 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0.
A new understanding of my self and my eye
The first thing I learned about the Leica M Monochrom is that it will be mainly a tool for understanding, rather than a technically different tool.
The technical aspect is rather quickly covered. The colors are gone, and that means no need for the color filters in front of the sensor (that all digital color-sensors have) that separates the three main colors into three channels of illumination. The filter took away some light (1 stop) and without it the sensor that originally had a base ISO of 160 ISO now has a base ISO of 320 ISO.
© Thorsten Overgaard, London, October 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0.
As a result, the sharpness has also increased. The amount of microdetails has increased quite a bit. In the case of portraits, the details are so sharp one must often edit the facial details of images if one wishes to remain friends with the female subjects one photographs. A problem I thought Leica S users with their 37.5 Megapixel resolution was alone about, but a reality and a problem Leica M Monochrom users now also face. A lot of sharp details, and some times too many and too detailed!
Leica M3 comes out of a Paul Smith bag. © Thorsten Overgaard, October 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0. 3200 ISO.
Color temperature act as color filter for the Leica M Monochrom
Surprisingly, or not as surprisingly, when the color temperature changes, the colors change. Also on the Leica M Monochrom.
In the examples below I tested out of my personal curiosity, how the Leica M Monochrom deals with colors at 3200 Kelvin (Tungsten light) and 6000 Kelvin (bluish cold overcast daylight).
Note that the change of the background and the light on the hat is due to the fact that the Tunsten light comes from above, whereas the 6000 Kelvin daylight comes from available light from the right (only one light source is 'on' at the time).
Hannah laughing. Inside the girls' dormitory at Cambridge University. © Thorsten Overgaard, October 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M f/2.0. 3200 ISO.
Now, what on Earth are we talking about?
If you have the Leica M Monochrom and plan never to return to color, you may or may not skip this part. Everybody else should pay close attention.
||The Kelvin scale of color temperature
Color is a temperature, or actually a wavelength. The higher the speed, the cooler, the slower he speed of wavelength, the warmer colors.
But for simplicity we refer to colors as temperature, and the Irish physicist William Thomson Kelvin was the one who defined the scale we now know as Kelvin. Each color has a Kelvin value, and the white "daylight" is 5500 Kelvin.
To the human eye most colors appear to be the same throughout the day, but in actual fact the colors change from bluish before sunrise and then become warmer and warmer as the sun comes about.
Around midday the light is white, known as Daylight 5500 Kelvin.
Late in the afternoon as we approach sunset the sun goes low and the colors become warm. Just before sunset you see the orange-red sunset, and that is the color it gives to things till it disappears behind the horizon. If you pay attention during the sunset, you can quite easily see how the sunny side of buildings and trees have a warm glow, whereas the shadowed side has a cold bluish cast.
For a camera this difference between bluish cold shadows and the orange-red surfaces hit by the sun by sunset is the bare reality. Your eyes adjust for it, which is practical in many regards.
Soho Square Gardens, London. © Thorsten Overgaard, October 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0.
Color understanding in black and white and red
One used to talk about panchromatic films (pan means all-inclusive) and traditional film. Without going into too much detail, the panchromatic film would respond to the luminance of all colors, whereas the traditional black & white film would see red as black.
So what about the Leica M Monochrom? Not that it really matters, because in my view you are given a tool, and then you learn it and get the best out of it.
Though it is interesting and importaint to know how the tools you are given react. So is the Leica M Monochrom a panchromatic sensor that responds to luminance alone across all colors, or does it behave more like a traditional black & white film?
I did this test in low light in my daylight studio to test both high ISO and how the Leica M Monochrom sensor works with colors. And I would expect that the sensors ability to handle colors would be stressed at high ISO and low light. So I wanted to try that.
After all the sensor only "sees" 320 ISO, so when darker than that, the ISO has to go up so the computer algorithms can help the sensor "see". In other words, this should be on the edge of performance.
Now, a few things have changed in digital black and white photography since the days of the film. When you import a color raw or DNG file (or color JPG) into Lightroom and change it into black and white, you can change the tone of each of the different color channels. You couldn't with black & white film, and you can't with the Leica M Monochrom.
Leica M Monochrom DNG and Leica M9 black & white JPG seem to be close - or the same - in their definition of colors. As seen in the above photos, the tones are in the same area, the Leica M Monochrom perhaps a bit softer and more well-defined. But then, the above Leica M Monochrom to the left is a DNG file exported as JPG from Lightroom whilst the Leica M9 file to the right is the cameras' JPG file straight from the camera. The DNG should be more detailed ...
Perhaps the real advantage, apart from the higher ISO and more definition, is not a different way of seeing colors, but the fact that the black & white DNG contains more data to stretch than the JPG.
© Thorsten Overgaard, London, October 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0
One could also say that the Leica M9 DNG-file turned into black and white in Lightroom would contain a similar, larger amount of information to stretch as the Leica M Monochrom black & white DNG file. But that is not the case. The Leica M Monochrom file has a further advantage because there is no color sepatration filter in front of the sensor. The image is simply more well-defined and the sensor sees better as the Leica M Monochrom has a base ISO of 320, and the Leica M9 sensor has a base ISO of 160 ISO. In other words, when it is dark in a corner, a shadow or overall in the image, the Leica M Monochrom sees more and better, resulting in less noise.
I don't know if this analogy would make sense, or even be true: A 3CCD video camera is considered the high quality of video because it records the main colors separately, whereas a cheap consumer video records all three colors into one channel. The Leica M Monochrom doesn't have to deal with three colors, only light. But it uses a sensor that was designed for three colors. So more horsepower.
I don't know if this is the case. I actually happen to think that the Leica M Monochrom is much similar to the Leica M9 black & white results and that the biggest effect is on the users thinking process. But this "3CCD used for one color" analogy might make it easier to grasp the concept of the horsepower the Leica M Monochrom has, or should have.
Woman reading a paper in a Cafe in United Kingdom. © Thorsten Overgaard, October 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0. 3200 ISO.
Noise and change of tones over high and low ISO
If one looks at a 100% crop, one should realize that one never does that in real life. Because when you do, you are standing with your nose against a 180 cm x 120 cm print hanging on the wall of the Guggenheim.
People don't stand that close to photos unless it is a very grainy image of a nudist beach in Italy from the 1960's and one of the dots looks like Lolita, whom you once went to boarding school with. Could it really be her?
In real life you don't. But let's just for the sake of the experiement look at the actual noise level from 10,000 ISO and down. Here it is with your nose just in front of the image:
Apart from virtually no noise at 1600 ISO, the higher ISO show some grain or noise.
Does the quality of the tones change in Monochrom, as colors would in a normal Leica M9 or dSLR ..?
What interested me more to find out with the Leica M Monochrom, was if the tones would change at different ISO levels.
With the Leica M9 I never go above 800 ISO because I want to be sure the colors look right even in low light, even with mixed light sources.
When you go above 800 ISO on the Leica M9 you might get lucky, and the colors look OK. But if you don't get lucky ... the magazine or the client who commisioned the photos won't be happy with the magenta skin tones.
But I had good and bad results at low light with the Leica M Monochrom, so I wondered if the sensor was unable to deliver the same nice tones at hight ISO. Hence I did a test for my self to find out:
Factually, when I look at the color chart, it doesn't look to me like the quality of tones drops at high ISO. Does the contrast or tonality of the hat or the wooden table change? Nah, not really.
Maybe the contrast appear a bit harder at 10,000 ISO but it's far from the washed-out effect I feared. There is actaully no washed-out effect. But I think the lower quality at higher ISO that I feared and suspected was rather a result of photographing in bad light conditions. Those were the times where I would turn to 6400 ISO and even 10,000 iSO.
It is apparently true that the Leica M Monochrom - despite that it sees color temperature - doesn't react to color channel noise. Simply because it doesn't have the color separation.
Was it me, or did the look actually change when I shot in low light? I have had a few occasions where I looked at my images from a low light shooting and wondered, did I lose something in this shot? Did I get too comfortable and use a high ISO just to make life easy, but lost tonality?
This actually has been the main question I have had with the Leica M Monochrom. Is high ISO purely a matter of noise/grain, or is it also a matter of quality of tones?
Here is a crop of 80% of the frame:
1/180 second at 10,000 ISO. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 90mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0
1/125 second at 6400 ISO. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 90mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0
1/60 second at 3200 ISO. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 90mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0
1/30 second at 1600 ISO. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 90mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0
I look at the pictures above, and frankly I don't think there is a any difference in the tonal quality. And if there is, I can't tell. And if I can't tell, I don't worry about it.
My philosophy about editing and quality is that if it works for me, it works for others too. It's my image.
It also means that if I feel 10,000 ISO is too high, it really doesn't matter what others think. It's doesn't work for me.
So where do I stand on this? I think I feel comfortable at 1600 - 3200 ISO with a Noctilux. Why go higher with such a light-strong lens?
If I apply logic, the M9 worked well at 800 ISO. This sensor is a stop faster, so 1600 would be the same in the Leica M Monochrom. But 3200 ISO looks pefect from the Leica M Monochrom compared to black and white from the Leica M9 at 2500 ISO.
I shot a few unscientific tests when waiting for lunch in Bangkok:
|400 ISO Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95. Bangkok, December 2012.
|800 ISO Leica M Monochrom
||1600 ISO Leica M Monochrom
|3200 ISO Leica M Monochrom
||6400 ISO Leica M Monochrom
|10000 ISO Leica M Monochrom
Perhaps this is more of what I wanted to test, the highlights and shadow areas:
|1600 ISO Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95. Bangkok, December 2012.
|3200 ISO Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95. Bangkok, December 2012.
|6400 ISO Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95. Bangkok, December 2012.
|10000 ISO Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95. Bangkok, December 2012.
Leica M Monochrom is not about technical details
But if we are honest, then what does all this technical stuff mean?
Not much, really, and I am glad we have put it behind us.
I did the above tests not to test the camera, but to find out for myself. I have been wondering how the Leica M Monochrom saw colors compared to the Leica M9, how the tones of the Leica M Monochrom might change over different ISO levels (especially when stressed at higher ISO settings).
That the Leica M Monochrom in fact sees colors differently at different color temperatures shouldn't have surprised me, but did.
In any case, I am just not doing tests. I am using equipment, and if it somehow makse sense to use a piece of equipment, I do.
Then, I try to learn how to use it the best for my purpose.
The real test of a camera is if you love to use it.
Do you take it with you and take pictures with it?
Do you feel good about the images you shoot?
Rainy December in the Kingdom of Denmark. © Thorsten Overgaard, December 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95. 1600 ISO
3200 ISO is the new 800 ISO
One thing you get very used to, very fast, is the ability to take photos anywhere and anytime. With a good lighstrong lens and the high ISO there are no limitations anymore. And you are not even stretching the quality.
After a few days of using the Leica M Monochrom, returning to the Leica M9 feels like hitting a wall. It is amazing how quickly you forget to work below 800 ISO and how restrictive it feels when you have to.
An interesting light situation ... 1/180 second at 3200 ISO, f/0.95. Not much light, but that can some times give an interesting type of soft light where it looks dark and dull to the human eye. © Thorsten Overgaard, Denmark, December 2012 with Leica M Monochrom and Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95.
Ironically, one of the first assignments I had after having taken in the Leica M Monochrom, was shooting at an event lit by candlelight and a few low-light LED lights. The Leica M Monochrom was perfect for the assignment, except the magazine asked for color photos.
I did bring the Monochrom, but mainly I shot Leica M9 at 800 ISO.
Andrew McArdle of Perth, Australia. © Thorsten Overgaard, December 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0. 3200 ISO.
Originally I got the Leica M9 as a fun toy. I had to have it, but I used Leica R8 and Leica R9 for everything that mattered. I didn't expect the Leica M9 to become part of the professional kit. But in a matter of 4-5 months I realized I could use it alongside, and not so many months later I realized I could do without the bulky and heavy dSLR cameras and simply rely on the Leica M9 as the only camera.
What started out as lust for a new toy became my business. And in a way I wanted to take the same chance with the Leica M Monochrom. Who knows what will happen, what will come about? Even RED came out with a new RED Epic Monochrom camera for moviemaking. Maybe Woody Allen wasn't that conservative after all. Maybe Monochrom is the new black?
Hence, even I could predict and also see from week to week that the Leica M Monochrom would take the backseat on assignments, I would use it for everything else I possibly could. To learn to tame it and to provoke my eye.
To see where it would lead, to work with a monochrom camera.
© Thorsten Overgaard, London, October 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0
I also happen to see a new era for the Leica M system. I meet people who give the Leiac M9-P to the wife and say they will only use the Leica M Monochrom from now on; "I anyways always only shoot black & white".
I have also met people who used the Leica M Monochrom for a while and then returned to the Leica M9; "I can't get the black & white look from the MM that I can from the M9, so my future cameras will be Leica M-E".
Others say they look forward to the Leica M and the EVF (electronic viewfinder) and it's ability to help focusing, as well as replace several acoustic 21mm, 24mm, 28mm and other viewfinders.
Very few have said they want a Leica M with video, but many will be playing with it.
I think the Leica M video will lead some people to ask for a further developed Leica M Video that have the connections for proper sound, better ways to handle the camera and such.
And I also think that the EVF will be so popular with many, and the bulky design of it on top of the Leica M, that they will ask for a future Leica M edition with a built-in digital viewfinder.
But even more will continue to ask for the traditional acoutsic viewfinder Leica M is known for. So one version with the traditional and the possibility for adding one on top, another version with EVF built-in at the expense of the traditional viewfinder.
Quite many I have met think the new Leica M is "too electronic" but I think that when they get it in their hands, they will realize that they only got that impression from the coverage of Photokina. All the pictures and talk about the EVF, the R-lenses, the video, the larger screen and such. In actual fact the Leica M feels like a Leica M9, with three extra buttons - and a lot more horsepower. It's going to create mayhem when people find out what it is. (I'm happy to say my Leica M is reserved, even paid for, so I'm not going to be in a different line).
I guess what I am saying is that the Leica M will take several different directions. You don't have to love, even understand, each and every Leica M model that comes about. They will be different creatures for different needs.
Sunny side up in Bangkok. © Thorsten Overgaard, December 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95
The Leica M Monochrom comes with no choice between compressed or uncompressed files as the Leica M9 and Leica M9-P does. There is uncompressed, and that is it.
In LFI (page 56 of the January 2013 issue) this reason was given for why the Monochrom doesn't offer compressed DNG files:
"Leica's lossy compression procedure uses a simple but effective method of reducing the original 16,384 brightness levels to just 256, without visible loss in image quality. Despite the course representation of tonal values in the compressed raw data, the interpolation between several sensor pixels to derive a complete set of RGB data in the final image creates a finely resolved histogram without any obvious gaps.
Since the demosaicing step is missing from the image processing pipeline of a monochrome camera, thinning out the full gamut of tonal values would have a visible effect, so lossy compression is not an option for black and white photography."
JPG or DNG ... or both?
I started out shooting uncompressed DNG along with JPG to see what worked the best. I had heard from a few people that the JPG worked well and that was all they used.
However, my decision was to use the DNG. All in all, it looks better, and somehow I feel the black & white DNG is the thing that really distinguish the Leica M Monochrom from the Leica M9's JPG Fine in black & white.
Black & white DNG (that is something new!) and a sensor that picks up micro details
The DNG, along with the lack of disturbing filters in front of the sensor, is what I see give me the possibility to create something different.
Some may argue for 32 GB SD-cards in the camera then, but I haven't gone there yet. I still use my good old trusted SanDisk 16GB 30mb/sec and 45mb/sec cards in the Leica M9 and Leica M Monochrom (I shoot compressed in the Leica M9 so I can fill in twice as many M9 shots on a 16GB card as on MM shots on the same card).
Speed of writing to SD-cards
The speed of buffering and writing uncompressed DNG files to the SD-cards is considerable slower than the Leica M9 writing compressed DNG files to the SD-card. Get used to it. I haven't, but I have to.
Park in Bangkok, December 2012. © Thorsten Overgaard. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95.
The "no more space on SD-card" error
I've been around a couple of people who had an error on their SD-card with the Leica M Monochrom where there were no more space on the SD-card. Or rather, there were supposed to be space but the camera reported there was no space and as a result, wouldn't fire.
When you encounter an error like that, it can be everything. Card, a hidden folder on the SD-card because the user has been using the SD-card for storage and/or forgot to empty the waste bin after having thrown the images out.
We handled it this way, and this was also the way I handled it when my camera acted up the same way a couple of weeks ago:
I have no idea what the problem was. I only had it once and this handled it, so I haven't indulged in it further.
Make a new folder.
Reset the number sequence.
Reset the camera.
Turn the camera off, take out the battery.
Insert the battery, turn on the camera.
I'm sure this is over the top. But it can be done in a minute or two, and it handles any problems.
When I come to think of it, one of the cameras that had this problem was a leica M9-P. But whatever. I recommend using the same trusted SD-card forever. Don't change brand, don't change speed, don't change size of cards. Just stay with what works. Period.
Fashion store in Bangkok, Thailand. © Thorsten Overgaard, December 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95. 3200 ISO.
Yes, you will need ND-filters for all of your lenses
ND filters are Neutral Density filters. Or sunglasses for lenses.
The ND filter reduces the light going through the lens without degrading the quality or changing colors or anything. Just less light.
If you live in a Sunshine state, or visit a synny place with your Leica M9, you will need ND filters if you want to keep the lens fully open at f/0.95 or f/1.4 or whatever. You should always keep the aperture as open as the lens goes (as covered elsewhere in these pages).
Aperture is not for light control but for control of DOF (Depth Of Field), so only if you actually want more sharpness in the the front or back (for a group of three people portraits for example) should you use aperture to get more sharpness.
The rest should be done wide open. That is my opinion and how I always do it.
I keep stumbling into people who live in exotic countries with too much traffic and too much sun ... and yet they don't own a single ND filter. They use the aperture to step down the light.
And what a waste of good lenses!
8X ND-filters from B+W
You should get a 3 STOP ND filter for all of your lenses. Get B+W Made in Germany ND-filters, and get 3 stop (also known as 8X filters because you reduce the light to half, three times, 2x2x2 = 8).
As we like it (one should think), those ND-filters are handmade and hard to get. But get them anyways, and don't buy 64X filters or any other silly filters some photo stores have in stock. Outside the Leica ranks where few lenses are used wide open, ND-filters are mostly used to create stop-motion series. Hence the very dark 64X ND-filters are in stock for such purposes.
You want 3-stop 8X ND-filters.
Shoot 320 ISO outdoor
You will shoot 320 ISO outdoor, which is the base ISO of the Leica M Monochrom. If you go as low as PUSH 160 ISO you loose 3-4 stops of dynamic range. So don't.
Never go below 320 ISO.
At 320 ISO in sunshine your precious f/1.4 lens is turned into a f/4.0 lens without the ND-filter. So get ND filters and get plenty. If you have friends with Leica, buy them ND filters for their birthday.
When the sun gets up you put on your 3-stop ND filter and your f/1.4 lens behaves like a f/4.0 lens but remain fully open at f/1.4.
If you go indoor with your lens with ND-filter, you turn up the ISO to 3200 ISO or so, and you can shoot indoor without removing the ND filter.
When the sun goes down you take off the ND filter.
Don't use ND filter and UV filter at the same time
The ND filter protects the
lens when it is on. If you must, put on your UV-filter when you take off the ND filter. Don't have both of them on at the same time as it may give you dark corners.
I generally don't use UV filters because I don't like them. I like to look at the lens, and I am fearless. I made a scratch in the front glass of my 35mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 FLE two weeks after I got it.
But as the lenses are handmade, repair is possible. I paid 250 Euro to get it fixed at the mothership in Solms. That is less than an UV filter cost. So that is how I treat my lenses.
I'm not suggesting you are wrong using UV-filters, I'm just provoking you to re-consider if it is really necesary (though on the Leica 50mm Noctilux-M you should never use UV-filter in the evening as it will cause reflections).
Unlike the UV-filters, the lens glass is hard. There has been a few lenses existing with 'soft glass', such as the 21mm Super-Angulion, but none of the current lenses are easy to screatch. Though it is possible with some work and attitude.
© Thorsten Overgaard, London, October 2012. Leica M Monochrom with
Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0.
Learning to expose correctly, again
Film, if you remember, always have film (or plastic) in the empty (white) spaces. The Leica M Monochrom has nothing. Just white with no information.
Unlike the Leica M9 that always seem friendly with over-exposure, the Leica M Monochrom show no mercy. If you blow out the highlights, there is no information to gain back in Lightroom.
No-information (white) highlights also could be said to be a new aesthetics. Something you have to get used to decide to like, or something you want to avoid.
Local hip-hop artist in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. © Thorsten Overgaard, December 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 90mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0.
Say you are shooting the underground in London and there are lamps in the ceiling. If you expose the people walking, correctly, the lamps will eventually be compleetely white and blown out. You can decide either, that this is how it is, or that that effect in an(y) image is untolerable.
In any case it will be a good idea to send images with blown-out highlight via Photoshop and edit Levels from 0-255 to 2-253 so that there is a little definition of grey in the highlights and the black areas are not completely closed to 100% black. You will notice that all the images on this page has that little definition in white edges because I did that.
American actress and singer Joy Villa in Bangkok, Thailand for Olivia Diamonds. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95. © Thorsten Overgaard, December 2012. 320 ISO.
It takes a few days to get used to read the display of the Leica M Monochrom correctly. In general the image should look underexposed on the display, compared to how it should look on the Leica M9. So you may spend a few days not really getting the results you had hoped for. But you will get there.
The full greyscale
One thing that I could see, and which annoyed me, was that the majority of Leica M Monochrom images I saw coming out from the people who had started using it, were very grey.
I have a certain aesthetics in black and white that I subscribe to. Partly defined by what the Leica M9 produces, partly based on the aesthetics I have built from what I have seen through the years; in prints, books and magazines, as well as my years with extensive use of black & white film.
© Thorsten Overgaard, London, October 2012. Leica M Monochrom
With a new tool, I was curious to see what the aesthetics could and would develop into, but at the same time I was certain that one would have to deal with the files a bit more violent than most people did in the beginning.
Because so many seemed to try to preserve the full greyscale of the sensor. As if a full greyscale was the aim.
I think not.
Girl in the Skytrain in Bangkok. © Thorsten Overgaard, Bangkok, December 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95. 1600 ISO.
I don't like it as extreme as the photo series Leica Camera AG presented with the Leica M Monochrom. Those violently beaten-up hardcore processed images that showed sharpness and detail. It has to be some kind of black and white traditional aesthetics, I think, plus some more that the new camera would make possible.
When the Leica M9 came out, we all spent a good three to six months trying to get the files to behave, and at the same time learn from the files what things could look like. And I think it is safe to say that the result is a look that is unique and which today is recognized as the "Leica M9 look". Even so much that some fear that the new Leica M with a CMOS sensor won't be able to produce a similar pleasing look.
(I actually think - and hope - that look is not a Leica M9 look, but a Leica Camera AG look. They didn't just buy a sensor, they designed it. For the M9, and now for the Leica M. I saw some 3200 ISO files from the Leica M some months ago, and I didn' cancel my order. I'm going to use 3200 ISO color on the Leica M).
This is a Leica M9 photograph. People will often ask if on of my photos is a Leica M9 or Leica M Monochrom. In many ways I like my Leica M9 black & white JPGs because I know what I get and how to tweak it to what I want. © Thorsten Overgaard, Perth, Australia, December 2012. Leica M9 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0.
Likewise, I expect the Leica M Monochrom to develop into a unique visual language, or at least technique, that is unique because it can be done only with that camera, and which have some qualities that are recognizable and valued from the history of photography with film. Plus possibly something new even film can't do.
I still feel we have some miles to walkon this. My own results have moved to a place around the results I can get with the Leica M9, and I am curious to see where it leads from there. I am not studying the files, I'm just working with them and move my borders bit by bit towards something that will hopefully be better.
Part of working with the files is to see the light, and to see it differently. Because without great light, no great pictures. But perhaps what the Leica M Monochrom can do is to capture light differently. Maybe it allows more, and/or differently.
Joe Nattapol Suphawong in Bangkok, Thailand. © Thorsten Overgaard, December 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95
It is interesting that many will ask if my Leica M9 files are from the Leica M Monochrom ... and that even I can be in doubt with some photos. If I took it with Leica M9 or with the Leica M Monochrom.
In a way it is good, because it means that I circel around my own aesthetics and it is not the camera that defines a style. It is me who make the style. I just happen to work towards the same aesthetics with any camera.
But I feel there is something to be learned not just from using the Leica M Monochrom and its simplicity and funky limited view on the world. I also feel there is some new ground to be taken, and that new gound can only be found with the camera in hand.
I, as many others, prefer to work within a workflow and with tools I know well. A professional is one who can produce a predictable result of a certain standard. One who knows he can do it before he begins. Therefore the first step with a new tool as the Leica M Monochrom is to get to that safe ground: Knowing that you can get the usual quality with this tool.
Thomas Montgomery for a magazine shoot. © Thorsten Overgaard, London, October 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Summicron-M f/2.0 (Version II)
From there it will have to develop, and I hope we can all join in and learn from each other. Though I get many nice e-mails and other recognitions, I feel Leica is doing a lot of the work, and the users of Leica are doing most of the work by using, testing and sharing your thoughts, tweaks and results. I feel more like a curator of experience and history in doing my website and my work. I didn't learn all I know from my own experience, I learned it from our collective experiences.
I feel it is imporaint to acknowledge that we all share a responsibility, as well as enjoyment, in working with this new camera based on very old and sane ideas. And in case nobody thanked you for it before, I hereby do.
Getting packed to leave for another city. © Thorsten Overgaard, December 2012, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95. 320 ISO.
To be continued ...
Index of pages covering Leica M9, Leica M9-P, Leica M-E, Leica M Monochrom and Leica M Type 240:
Suggestions for further reading ...
Facebook Leica M Monochrom User Group
"Henri - The Leica M Monochrom" article by Jono Slack who - likewise as he did with the Leica M9 prototype back in 2009 - took the prototype Leica M Monochrom to China and made a beautiful simple article about his experiences. Jonathan Slack has also made some of his DNG files available.
Ming Thein does some very interesting reviews and have started a three-part of the "Leica M Monochrom review" on his blog.
White Smoke Studio blog with wedding photographs taken with the Leica M Monochrom
Erwin Puts has made a very short and precise account of what kind of milestone the Leica M Monochrom and the accompanying new 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0 lens is. His "Leica Monochrom" article is here
Also Sein Reid Reviews www.reidreviews.com have had the Leica M Monochrom prototype out for testing and have written a good review. This is for subscribers so you may want to subscribe (33$ per year).
David Farkas have done a review as well on the Red Dot Forum of the Leica M Monochrom. He has also done a ISO comparison between the Leica M9 and Leica M Monochrom.
Luminous Landscape also have tested the Leica M Prototype and have written about it here.
Steve Huff and guest readers also have written about the Leica M Monochrom.
The street photographer and blogger Eric Kim has written an article about Leica M Monochrom for street photography.
Finally, but not least, British based World Press winning photographer and Leica M9 shooter Edmond Terakopian have written the blog post "The King of the Tones?" with a short hands-on review.
The KLCC Tower in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. © Thorsten Overgaard, December 2012. Leica M Monochrom with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95. 3200 ISO.