My First Impression Review of the New Leica M-Monochrom Camera for Street Photography

Leica M Monochrom

I recently had the chance to shoot with the new Leica M-Monochrom camera at the Leica May 10th event in Berlin, and was quite impressed. The High-ISO is amazing but the camera is quite expensive.

Curious if the camera is worth the hype? Keep reading to find out more – and see the amazing b/w images taken of the trans-siberian railroad by Magnum Photographer Jacob Au Sobol.

1. The High-ISO is amazing

Jacob Au Sobol Leica M Monochrome

Jacob Au Sobol

The ISO capability of the new Leica M-Monochrom camera is about two stops better than the Leica M9. The way they were able to do this is by taking out the color filter of the sensor, allowing twice the amount of light to hit the sensor – allowing for better image quality and high-ISO performance.

I shot with the camera, and was shocked to see that I couldn’t see any noise on the camera at ISO 2500. Even at ISO 6400 the images looked great, with little noise. At ISO 8000 things started to get grainy. But even ISO 10,000 the files were what I would consider “usable”.

2. The camera is expensive

Jacob Au Sobol Leica M Monochrome

Jacob Au Sobol

The new Leica M-Monochrom camera is going to cost roughly $8000. That is about $1000 more than the Leica M9.

You might be asking yourself, “Why is the camera so expensive?” Why does it cost more than the Leica M9 when there isn’t any color?

I asked this question to a Leica rep and this is how they explained it to me (which makes sense to me):

Realize that it costs Leica a ton of money to produce and manufacture this new b/w only sensor, which is going to be produced in fewer quantities than the Leica M9 sensor. Considering the body of the new Leica M-Monochrom is the same as the Leica M9 – the cost of the camera is obviously going to cost more in the end (as the sensor is more expensive to produce).

So the question is: “Is the camera worth it?”

I would say this: If you love b/w and don’t like grain/noise at High ISO’s and have the money to afford the camera, go for it. If you don’t, I would say don’t take out a loan or a second mortage on your house to finance it.

3. It is innovative

Jacob Au Sobol Leica M Monochrome

Jacob Au Sobol

The new Leica M-Monochrom is definitely innovative. Although camera companies such as Phase-one have made b/w only sensors before, this is more of a “mainstream” product.

I see this camera as more of a camera that will pave the road for similar cameras down the line. Perhaps Leica will make an even more improved Leica M-Monochrom in the future, or other companies will make similar cameras.

I see lots of parallels between Leica and Apple in the sense that they both “think different”. To make a digital rangefinder in this day and age is quite different. To make a b/w-only camera in this day and age is different. I think that difference is good – because it causes people to think outside the box and try out new things.

So what does all of this mean for us? Is b/w film dead?

Jacob Au Sobol Leica M Monochrome

Jacob Au Sobol

Dr. Andreas Kaufman, owner of Leica camera, mentioned in the talk that this camera would cause the death of b/w film photography. I actually disagree- I think that people will be fascinated in this “b/w only concept” and actually end up buying film cameras and start shooting more b/w film.

If you are a baller on the budget (like myself) don’t be tempted by this camera. I would recommend instead getting a Leica M6 or a Leica MP camera and shooting b/w film. After all, this camera is a bridge between digital and film. I would just say go for shooting film.

Also realize that if you are shooting street photography, you don’t need uber-high ISO that is clean. After all, I think that a gritty and grainy b/w image actually adds to a street photograph. I personally don’t like my images looking too clean – because the images in b/w look too plasticky and without soul.

Keep shooting with the digital camera that you have, and I recommend using Silver Efex Pro 2 to convert your images into beautiful black and whites (that simulate film- and get pretty damn close).

Once again, if you can’t afford the camera – don’t spend time scouring forums and reading reviews about the camera. It will only make you unhappier. Just go out and shoot with the camera you got, or even experiment shooting film!

Video review of the new Leica M-Monochrom Camera

More Review of the Leica M-Monochrom

For more information and reviews of the Leica M-Monochrom, check out this list of reviews on the Leica Rumors Website.

Any questions about the camera, or thoughts you would like to share? Leave them in the comments below!


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  • Guest

    “If you are a baller on the budget (like myself) don’t be tempted by this camera. I would recommend instead getting a Leica M6 or a Leica MP camera and shooting b/w film. ”

    I’m sure there are cheaper options than those, rangefinder cameras included. Even though it’s your holy grail, not everything has to be about Leica…

    • Eric Kim

      Agree – Bessa R4a is good and Konica Hexar!

  • Bastian Junker

    Thanks for the article. My first thought was I rather have a b/w film camera like I already have. I can see that im not the only one….cheers

  • Guest

    In my opinion, the camera is beautiful, I would love to have one but I’m not gonna spend that much on it (as I did previously on the M9). I must say that I’m disappointed by Leica and I’m not sure if their “horse” has gone down with something….

    They say there removed the color filter?? that’s basically their “amazing achievement” here? they have the same sensor without the filter and now it get twice the amount of light? well, currently usable ISO in my opinion is 800, so now it has usable ISO up to 2500? . I’m not sure that i call that “innovation”, being at the front of technology. I’m not sure also that it’s that big of a deal to do it physically.

    Fujifilm for instance has shown some innovation with the xpro1 and we’ll probably see some comparisons soon enough and we’ll be able to know if the Monochrom has as good ISO capabilities as the Xpro1? does it?

    Another thing, the camera got style and chick for sure but they still have that shitty LCD on it? for 8K you get that shitty LCD? is it still possible to manufacture those nowadays? IMO, there is no excuse for still selling that LCD on a brand new camera. no other manufacturer sells those do they? and no improvements electronically?

    It’s obviously true what the Leica salesman told you that producing 1000 units is more expensive then 100,000. but still, you want us to treat you as an innovative, top of the line camera manufacturer? since sept 2009 till now you could not have improved the LCD + some electronics tidbits through the M9P and now the M9M?? that’s doesn’t

    Sorry but I’m not sure they are taking me for a sucker here, and i’m talking as an M9 owner who shooting Leica . If they are able to improve lenses each couple of years to the highest standards possible, they cannot afford not being in the front of technology and enough with the small quantities BS. if Fujifilm can create a great lens for 600 bucks, then there is a limit to the price you can charge for a lens.

    That said, Jacob au Sobo’s photos are amazing and I’m not accrediting the camera for them but the photographer.


    • Joe

      Hell…Jacob brought a self disclosed post processoor with him!! I would have loved to see his stuff out of camera! I also would have liked to have seen someone to be a Leicaite on the project. I bet Jacob doesn’t have one even after the shoot. All said, I know he is a good photographer…but again the display of images are over cooked!

  • Maguire786

    i was lucky enough to own an m6 35mm f 1.4 for over 10 years .
    it made using a flash redundant . What i wasn’t prepared for was how i began a process of self educating through using the m6 .

    I learnt how to correctly use the shutter release so i could use exposure speeds that on other cameras would have blurred . i began to understand how to use film speed latitudes . How to set it up as a simple point and shoot.
    then i began to experiment ( a comparison would be as in cooking ) i learnt how to keep both eyes open so i could also see what was happening out side of the view finder to take my time and to look and think ~ a interesting picture is always there you just have to look .

    My film of choice when i could get it was kodak panther ( slide )) . I also discovered ilford B@W film and filters ~ i found yellow for my taste seemed to work the best.

    Initially my attempts were utter rubbish then my mind set just changed i began to enjoy the process , i began to learn how the light and the time of day are just as important . i stopped reading camera mags wanting to buy the latest accessory however i bought a combination walking stick / monopod ( gitzo) which i used to make some pictures possible. the m6 was in a leather every ready case that was it . not once in 10 years did anyone , try to mug me , take it from me , ask me about it ~ i didn’t tape it / felt maker it off it never occurred to me. other than the yellow filter which fitted by an adaptor i used nothing else ~ the lens was always easy to clean using a micro fiber cloth. it was used in the winter / summer it just did what it did.

    maybe it just me i just feel there is something about the way a Leica system captures the moment .

    sadley i had to sell it as i needed the money that was in the early 1990’s . Sadly i feel as a brand they have marketed themselves for the well heeled . In my wildest dreams i can no longer justify their cost .
    £7,000 for a 50mm Nocto + camera + case + spare battery ~ thats knocking £13,000 plus thats a lot of money i can’t justify it or afford it . As to prices forgive me if i’m incorrect wasn’t there a version of the m9 that dismissed the identity tags costing nearly £1,000 more ~ i understand the economics of running a business but £1,000 . to leave the identity tags off . I do hope this new monocrom is the start of a new golden age for leica .

    i have seem some of the pictures the monochrom can produce they look wonderful full of light and shade

    And you know what there’s part of me that if i could, i would buy it in a heart beat + the 24mm f 1.4 and just enjoy

    i have used other camera and enjoyed them but the leica was the leica yes they can be and are problamtic and have faults but leica were always great at sorting out problems and would always go the extra mile .

    if you have the ability to afford, own a monochrom then bloody good luck to you, enjoy because from my own experiences of a M6 ~ in you hands you will have a piece of equipment that will not only improve your ability to take pictures but you will get some lovely lovely pictures .

    i’m not related or have any connection with the brand .


    I still take pictures i use a contax t3 for film and a fuji x100 for digital ( it really is a sweet piece of kit ) there has been a few hiccups the worse being the shutter blades sticking the process took 5 days ~ but getting past all the different stories its coming up to a year old and it can and does take some really lovely picture and i can afford it


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  • Malcom Wonders

    This was helpful for me and it really gave me allot to think about. Thanks for this!

  • John Jennings

    This is designer bling, nothing more. Great for the 1%-ers out there, but don’t covet this a bit.

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