After the announcement of the LEICA M9 on 09-09-09,many of you expected the LEICA M10 when Leica announced new products for May 10th (May 10).

Looks as if we have to wait for the LEICA M9 successor, instead it’s the LEICA M MONOCHROM :
The world’s first digital camera exclusively for full-frame, 35 mm black-and-white photography!

Sounds like a weird idea but if you think about it you’ll notice the benefit and the market niche for such a camera:

  • In Leica’s words “Black-and-white photography is more popular than ever before.” – which is true if you see the number of black and white images in our Leica Forum
  • Not using a color sensor enables a leap in image quality as many compromises in recording and processing images are not needed any more.
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We had the opportunity to test a prototype of the LEICA M MONOCHROM prior to the official launch. In this article and in this video review we try to find out if this camera makes sense – and who might be the target group.

Here you find the full press release and all technical data:

The future of black-and-white photography: LEICA M MONOCHROM

With the Leica M Monochrom, Leica Camera AG, Solms presents the world’s first digital camera exclusively for full-frame, 35 mm black-and-white photography. Featuring a sensor especially designed for this purpose, it enables photographers to capture images in outstanding black-and-white quality that sets entirely new standards. The latest camera of the Leica M-System therefore continues the successful story of the Leica rangefinder system that has written numerous chapters in the history of innovative photography.

In the words of Jesko von Oeynhausen, product manager for the M-System at Leica Camera AG, ‘Black-and-white photography is more popular than ever before. Even today, it has lost nothing of its fascination as an expressive medium, not even for younger generations of photographers. This is confirmed by the numerous monochrome images shown by members of the M-Community, with whom we are in constant contact. With the M Monochrom, we now offer, for the first time ever, an opportunity to consistently and authentically explore black-and-white photography with a tool that is unique in the digital world. The camera’s exclusively black-and-white sensor brings an enormous technical benefit that is reflected in the amazing imaging quality it delivers.’

The 18 MP image sensor of the M Monochrom is perfectly matched to the unique properties of the Leica M-System and the superior performance of Leica M-Lenses. As the sensor does not ‘see’ colours, every pixel records true luminance values – as a result, it delivers ‘true’ black-and-white images that are significantly sharper than comparable exposures from a camera with a colour-sensitive sensor.

The classical, iconic design of the Leica M-cameras is carried forward by the Leica M Monochrom. The matt-black finish of the chromed top deck lets the camera appear as an unobtrusive tool. Only an engraved script on the accessory shoe reveals the product name. The camera features particularly soft leather trim with ideal grip that perfectly complements the camera’s discreet character. The camera package also includes a real-leather carrying strap in premium full-grain cowhide.

To allow precise control of tonal values, the Leica M Monochrom offers a raw data histogram display. The difference from conventional histograms is that it displays original, unprocessed and unmodified raw data. The combination of this with a configurable clipping display allows precise correction or optimisation of exposures.

At the touch of a button, images captured by the M Monochrom can be converted with characteristic toning effects from black-and-white film photography (sepia, cold or selenium toning). All users need to do is save the image in JPEG format and select the desired toning effect – simply and conveniently, and with no need for post-processing.

The M Monochrom is supplied complete with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, a professional digital workflow solution. The software is available to customers as an online download after product registration. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom offers a wide range of functions for the management, processing and presentation of digital images, for example the creation of simple print layouts, slide shows and photo books. A full-version of Silver Efex Pro 2, the world’s leading black-and-white image processing software, is also included in the package . Silver Efex Pro 2 offers an impressive collection of unique and powerful, darkroom-inspired tools for the creation of high quality black-and-white images. Silver Efex Pro 2 emulates over 20 different types of black-and-white film to recreate the glory of classical black-and-white film photography. The emulation of each film type is based on the analysis of many rolls of the respective type and guarantees perfect reproduction of the characteristic look of many popular films from ISO 32 to ISO 3200.

For the production of high-quality black-and-white prints, Leica Camera AG also offers a unique service in collaboration with Whitewall. After registering their Leica M Monochrom on the Leica website, customers can have their digital images from the M Monochrom printed on premium-quality baryte paper and order copies from Whitewall by means of a personal link.

From photojournalism and available light photography to discreet, artistically aesthetic, creative compositions – the Leica M Monochrom adapts flexibly to every application and enables the expression of personal photographic style and consciously creative composition. The enormous potential performance of the current M-Lens portfolio, with focal lengths from 16 to 135 mm, is also fully accessible. In line with Leica’s renowned commitment to extreme system compatibility, almost all lenses of the Leica M range built since 1954 can still be used on the M Monochrom.

At the same time, all the characteristic properties of the Leica rangefinder system are also present in the new Leica M Monochrom. This, for instance, also includes the system’s intuitive and discreet handling. Its manual focusing, based on the combined viewfinder and rangefinder concept and aperture priority exposure mode is an aid to photographers rather than placing undesired limitations on their creative freedom. In combination with the monitor display on the back of the camera, the simple menu navigation needs only a few control elements to enable rapid access to the entire range of camera functions. Together with its compact construction, the camera’s almost silent shutter benefits discreet and unobtrusive photography. Photographers can even select the appropriate moment for re-cocking the shutter. Then again, when longer exposure times requiring an extremely steady camera stance are essential, a slight pressure on the shutter release button in ‘soft release’ mode is sufficient.

All functions of the Leica M Monochrom are constructed with extreme robustness and a long working life in mind. Its one-piece, full-metal housing, made from a high-strength magnesium alloy, and its top deck and bottom plate machined from solid brass blanks, provide perfect protection for its precious inner mechanisms. The digital components and shutter assembly of the M Monochrom are similarly constructed with a view to a lifetime of endurance. For photographers, this all adds up to absolute reliability over decades of use. The experienced hands of Leica technicians at the factory in Solms are responsible for the assembly and calibration of M Monochrom bodies and the precise testing of all mechanical and electrical components. Leica Customer Care has decades of experience in been repairs and maintenance and therefore creates a solid foundation for long life and enduring value. Even today, the service department maintains and repairs all M-Cameras built since 1954.

The Leica M-System has played a significant role in the development of the company’s financial situation in recent years. The annual figures have been correspondingly positive since the launch of the Leica M9 in September 2009 and are now registering record revenues.

The Leica M Monochrom in black chrome will be available from authorised Leica dealers from the end of July 2012.

Technical data LEICA M MONOCHROM

Camera type: Compact digital rangefinder system camera with a dedicated black-and -white image sensor
Lens mount: Leica M bayonet with additional sensor for 6-bit coding
Lens system: Leica M lenses from 16 to 135 mm
Image sensor: Active area approx. 23.9 x 35.8 mm, 5212 x 3468 pixels (18 megapixels). Infrared blocking filter for invisible light with wavelengths longer than 700 nm, no low-pass filter
Resolution: Optional resolution, DNG™: 5212 x 3468 (18 megapixels), JPEG: 5216 x 3472 (18 megapixels), 3840 x 2592 (10 megapixels), 2592 x 1728 (4.5 megapixels), 1728 x 1152 (2 megapixels), 1280 x 864 (1 megapixel)
Image file formats: DNG™ (RAW), uncompressed, JPEG with quality-preserving compression
File sizes: DNG™: 18 MB (compressed), 36 MB (uncompressed), JPEG: approx. 2–10 MB
Colour spaces: sRGB hardwired
Storage media: SD-cards from 2 GB, SDHC-cards up to 32 GB
Menu languages: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Russian
Exposure metering: Exposure metering through the lens (TTL), centre-weighted at working aperture
Centre-weighted TTL-metering for flash with system-compatible SCA-3000/2 standard flash units
Metering range: at f/1.0 / ISO 320/26°: EV 1 to 21.
The left triangular LED in the viewfinder blinks when light levels are outside the lower metering range
ISO sensitivity range: ISO 320/26° to ISO 10000/41°, selectable in 1/3-ISO increments with aperture priority metering(A) and manual exposure settings, choice of automatic control or manual setting. ISO 160 also available as a pull-function
Exposure modes: Aperture priority (A) / Manual(M)
Flash exposure control
Flash connection: Hot shoe with centre and control contacts.
Synchronisation: Optional, on first or second curtain
Flash synchronisation speed: Metering range
Flash metering: Control by centre-weighted, TTL pre-flash metering (with SCA-3501/3502 adapters or SCA-3000 standard flash units e.g. Leica SF 24D/Leica SF 58)
Flash metering cell: 2 silicon photodiodes with condenser lens in camera base
Flash exposure correction: ±3 1/3 EV in 1/3 EV increments, adjustable on SCA-3501/3502 adapter
Settings in computer mode for LEICA SF 24D, ±3 EV in 1/3 EV increments, or from 0 to –3 EV in 1 EV increments / adjustable in all modes for LEICA SF 58, ±3 EV in 1/3 EV increments
Displays in flash mode: Flash ready: constant illumination of flash symbol LED in the viewfinder, flash confirmation: Constant illumination or rapid flashing of the LED after exposure, underexposure indicated by temporarily extinguished LED
Viewfinder
Viewfinder principle: Large size, bright, combined bright-line viewfinder / rangefinder with automatic parallax compensation
Eyepiece: Adjusted to -0.5 dioptres Correction lenses for –3 to +3 dptr. available
Image field framing: By projection of two bright-line frames with each lens attached: for 35 and 135 mm, or for 28 and 90 mm, or 50 and 75 mm. Automatically displayed when lens mount locks. Any of the pairs of bright-line frames can be displayed by moving the frame selection lever
Parallax compensation: The horizontal and vertical differences between the viewfinder and the lens are automatically compensated in accordance with the focusing distance set, i.e. the bright-line frame of the viewfinder automatically moves to cover the image field covered by the respective lens
Correspondence between the viewfinder and the actual image: At a focusing distance of 1 metre, the bright-line frame size corresponds precisely to that of a sensor size of 23.9 x 35.8 mm
At infinity, and depending on the focal length of the lens in use, more of the sensor is covered than the bright-line frame actually shows, the opposite is the case for focusing distances of less than 1 metre, i.e. somewhat less
Magnification: 0.68-fold (for all lenses)
Long-base rangefinder: Bright rectangular spot (RF spot) with coincident and superimposed fields in the centre of the viewfinder image
Effective rangefinder base: 47.1 mm (mechanical rangefinder base 69.25 mm x viewfinder magnification 0.68x)
Read-out
Viewfinder displays: LED-Symbol for flash status (on lower edge )
Four-digit, seven-segment digital LED display.
Display brightness adapts to ambient light, for: exposure compensation activation warning, display of automatically determined shutter speeds in aperture priority mode, reminder of activated exposure value lock. LED light balance with two triangular outer and one round central LED for manual exposure setting
Displays on the back: 2.5″ monitor (colour TFT-LCD) with 230,000 pixels
Shutter/shutter release
Shutter: Microprocessor-controlled, particularly low-noise, metal-leaf, vertical focal-plane shutter
Shutter speeds: In aperture priority mode (A) continuous from 32 s to 1/4000 s. In manual setting mode, 8 s to 1/4000 s in half-speed increments, B for time exposures up to max. 240 s, shortest shutter speed for flash sync, 1/180 s
Continuous shooting: approx. 2 fps, ≥ 8 frames in sequence
Shutter release: Three steps: Activation of metering – store metering values (in aperture priority mode) – shutter release. Standard internal threading for remote release.
Self-timer: Countdown 2 s (in aperture priority mode and manual exposure mode) or 12 s, menu setting option, countdown is indicated by a flashing LED on the front of the camera and a corresponding display on the monitor
Camera power on / power off Main switch located on the top deck, optional sleep mode for camera electronics after 2 / 5 / 10 minutes, reactivation by slight pressure to shutter release button
Power supply: 1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery, nominal voltage 3.7V, capacity 1900 mAh. Charge level displayed on monitor screen, when shutter locked in open position (for sensor cleaning), additional acoustic warning signal for insufficient battery charge
Battery charger: Inputs: 100–240 V AC , 50/60 Hz, automatic adaptation, or 12/24 V DC; output: 4.2 V DC, 800 mA.
Camera body
Material: Full-metal body in diecast magnesium alloy with synthetic leather trim. Top deck and baseplate in brass with black chrome finish, sapphire glass LCD cover for the monitor screen
Tripod thread: A 1/4 (1/4 “) DIN, stainless steel, integrated in base plate
Operating conditions: 0 to +40°C
Interface: 5-pin Mini-USB 2.0 high-speed socket for fast data transfer
Dimensions
(length × depth × height):
approx. 139 × 37 × 80 mm
Weight: 600 g (including battery)
Software licences supplied with the camera: Adobe Lightroom, Nik Silver Efex Pro, both as download options (high-speed Internet connection required)
Compatibility: Windows® 7 SP1, Windows® Vista® SP2, Windows XP SP2, Mac® OS X 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard) or higher
Package includes: Battery charger 100 – 240 V with two power cords (EU, USA. May differ in other markets) and one car charging cable, lithium-ion battery, USB-cable, real leather carrying strap, original Leica Monochrom print of a campaign photo, instruction manual, information leaflets on registration and software downloads

New Leica Products available for pre-order

About the Author

Andreas is Photo Enginer and lives in Bonn, Germany. He runs the international Leica Forum, the Systemkamera Forum (about CSC cameras) and the Fuji X Forum. Google+

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10 Responses

  1. Tony May 12, 2012 - Reply

    Pure black and white in digital … could only be Leica so what a cool move. Great review and the image detail produced by the M Monochrom looks fantastic.

  2. James Mason May 14, 2012 - Reply

    The paradox of Leica is the people who can afford this superior camera are people who can’t take pictures. The real photographers, those who shoot the pictures which drive our visual world, are more likely to be using an iPhone than a Leica.

    • deidre May 14, 2012 - Reply

      You are kidding…..right??

    • Maxwelle Jun 12, 2013 - Reply

      Sounds like sour grapes to me….Does James realise, many of the worlds iconic images were shot with Leicas?? I just bought an MM and am excited to be using all my old M series lenses again. I guess James has not heard of Sebastio Segaldo??

  3. Ken Kollodge May 14, 2012 - Reply

    The Monochrome is a neat addition to the Leica M arsenal but rather exotic, pricy and there probably won’t be much of a market for it. I have an M7, 6TTL and a freezer full of film including APX 25 and all the Ilfords and if I want just B&W, film seems the way to go and I can do my own scans. Before I’m flat broke, I’d like to see a full frame M10 with the M9′s ISO 320 performance at 2500, 30+ megapixel, write speed cut to at least 1/3 the M9′s time and at least double the pixel count of the rear screen that would be 40-50% larger than the M9′s. I’d likely pop 8K for something like that, but for what I do, I’m quite happy with my 9. And, BTW, 7K for an f2.0 50mm Apo is absurd considering the incredible performance of the latest 50mm f2.0 Summicron that I grabbed center slice from and got a beautiful 32″ print from with my Epson 3800 and I’m not all that good with Photoshop. Who’s kidding who about this APO?

  4. Dumont de Chassart Eric May 14, 2012 - Reply

    Great Idea !
    I’d like to see the results
    A bit expensive …

  5. ROBERT YAN May 14, 2012 - Reply

    A cool camera. A brave move for Leica to go into “only black and white” digital. Only the price stops me to think of it further.

  6. alzurzin May 15, 2012 - Reply

    FWIW. useless. no more than a novelty item. backwards. a desperate attempt to squeeze more life out of an imager that is already obsolete. the world left b/w +50 yrs ago for a reason. the world moved beyond RF for a reason. the world has moved beyond 18mp FF imager for a reason.

    the real question is: now that Kodak is dead and the imager is surpassed, what will Leica without a new imager? unlike old days of film, imagers are now integral to the camera, and lenses too are engineered for the imager. this is an inherent problem with digital: inability to upgrade imager by simply changing it, the way we used to do with film.

    without a superior imager, images from Leica are no better or less than those by competitive brands. Leica has no digital expertise, so it must use imagers made by others. but, Kodak is dead. if Sony’s imager is used, for example, how will Leica claim honestly its camera produces that special Leica-look”, when its images will be the same as other brands using the Sony imager? this is why I have delayed purchasing a digital Leica: why spend +3x the money just to get similar or inferior images? this is not how Leica built its reputation, but this is how the company has performed in recent years. sorry Leica, but the images I get from my M3 with film exceed those I got from the M9; and the M3 is a joy to use, the M9 was not.

    Leica builds superior lenses and bodies. But I want a superior imager and images to go with those lenses and bodies. No superior digital imager, no superior images. Reliance upon lenses and and an RF body alone will very likely be insufficient to sustain the company.

    my 2 cents.

  7. Max Chuffley May 16, 2012 - Reply

    Okay, so it’s an M9 with a difference. It may offer stunning results though at a high price. To get the image pirinted to a standard of quality that the camera can offer comes at a premium. Sure, we could envisage shooting thousands of photos but could we ever to print them off at say 16×12 each time?

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