Leica M Monochrome

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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