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Within the M system, If we want to make black and white prints we have the following options:  Film M camera and film, M240/M-P conversion to B&W, M Monochrom version one and M Monochrom typ 246. 

 

I must admit that so far I have never seen a B&W print from the typ 246 fine print in real time, only on the web; it seems that M cameras of any kind in these parts (midwest USA) are only slightly more prevalent than unicorns.  From what I can see online though, the image quality of typ 246 prints when created by a skilled printer is simply astounding; by all appearances, typ 246 prints look for all the world like they equal or exceed 4x5 inch prints made in a wet darkroom. 

 

I have shot a lot of B&W film in my M4-P and I still love that camera and the process of film photography.  However, the typ 246 is a compelling camera in light of the printed image quality it produces (based on my limited observations) and other considerations such as a maximum ISO of 25,000 and the speed/convenience of digital shooting and printing. 

 

For those who own the typ 246 camera and make fine prints, can you provide some insight regarding printed image quality?  Any thoughts on the process of printing from typ 246 image files will be greatly appreciated; is it best to shoot in compressed DNG mode or uncompressed DNG?

 

Thanks in advance to any and all who reply.  I am seriously considering acquiring a Monochrom 246 and will be grateful for any insight and thoughts shared.

Edited by Carlos Danger

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Don't have the 246 but have worked with the Monochrom 1 for a while now and find it a remarkable camera.  From all the testing I have read,  I think the only real difference between the two versions (apart from all the bells and whistles of the 240 -- live view, video etc) is that it performs somewhat better at high ISO,  but the high ISO performance of the Monochrom is already exceptional.  I seem to remember JAAP saying he prefers the file of the Monochrom.  Bottom line,  they are both truly great cameras -- I can make a completely convincing 36 inch print from the Monochrom. I can't justify the "upgrade" even if I could find one. 

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My 2c worth .....given I was just comparing some decently printed test images that I'd had done at a London pro lab (inkjets at 300dpi from their large Epsoms on Fine Art Baryta). All 30x20" crops off what would be 50-55" wide prints!

2 images off the M246 & 50 APO, both handheld. And 1 image from a 400mb drum scan from 5x4 Acros from my previously owned Ebony and 110 SS XL (ie about as sharp a lens as exists in LF).

All were different subjects, but it gave me a strong feel of the respective image quality.

Much difference in look / Image quality between the 2 cameras? No, amazingly not. Both have a ton of detail and micro tonality. Both far exceeding the relatively smudgy (lower resolution) and overly macro-contrast look from converted B&W files off my M240 at that massive print size. There is slightly more fine detail off the 5x4 versus the M246, but the higher acuity off the digital M246 narrows the gap. Again, both the 5x4 and M246 produce a tonality, 3D depth and clarity that eclipses the M240 at this print size. The 50 APO also really sings in the M246 and is presumably contributing to what I'm seeing from the M246.

I'm sold on the M246's benefits and am now looking to buy one as a complement to my M240 ....

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I only have the comparison between M9, Nikon D3x and M246. I print with Epson 3800. The quality of the prints from the M 246 is simply stunning!! I never before had such prints.

 

Theodor

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My 2c worth .....given I was just comparing some decently printed test images that I'd had done at a London pro lab (inkjets at 300dpi from their large Epsoms on Fine Art Baryta). All 30x20" crops off what would be 50-55" wide prints!

2 images off the M246 & 50 APO, both handheld. And 1 image from a 400mb drum scan from 5x4 Acros from my previously owned Ebony and 110 SS XL (ie about as sharp a lens as exists in LF).

All were different subjects, but it gave me a strong feel of the respective image quality.

Much difference in look / Image quality between the 2 cameras? No, amazingly not. Both have a ton of detail and micro tonality. Both far exceeding the relatively smudgy (lower resolution) and overly macro-contrast look from converted B&W files off my M240 at that massive print size. There is slightly more fine detail off the 5x4 versus the M246, but the higher acuity off the digital M246 narrows the gap. Again, both the 5x4 and M246 produce a tonality, 3D depth and clarity that eclipses the M240 at this print size. The 50 APO also really sings in the M246 and is presumably contributing to what I'm seeing from the M246.

I'm sold on the M246's benefits and am now looking to buy one as a complement to my M240 ....

 

Thank you for this detailed information. One question: did you use both cameras on a tripod or was the M246 used handheld, as would be the norm for many people?

 

Mike.

 

Mike.

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Thank you for this detailed information. One question: did you use both cameras on a tripod or was the M246 used handheld, as would be the norm for many people?

 

Mike.

 

Mike.

It was handheld. Base ISO (which is high and gives a lot of flexibility compared to film days!), f5.6 and I kept the shutter to 1/360 or 1/500. I'd absolutely assume I've left image quality on the table by not using a tripod, especially when sizing up a 1.5" wide sensor to 55" wide print!!

 

I've also done 350mb drum-scanned 50" Lambda prints using Acros 100 on a tripod mounted Mamiya 7, which again is about as high resolution one could get in MF film. There is a lot of info in Mamiya 7 MF film, but very fine detail gets obscured eventually by even low-low grain films like Acros - so I'm probably able to see more details in the M246 prints. The micro-tonality also feels higher on the M246 to me (more like LF film "look") probably again because grain is absent and not muddying shadows and very fine detail. Also acuity looks much higher on the M246 as per normal on digital vs film (it's easy to oversharpen the Monochrom).

 

Put it this way - in the image I took, there is a lamppost with a narrow litter bin on it. This bin is probably less than 1/2" tall in the context of the 55" wide image, but I can very clearly read the sign along the length of this litter bin for "gum + butts". In the M240 image, it's completely illegible - complete mush. I'd guess that it would be obscured by the grain in a 6x7 print with Acros. Adox 20 (which I shoot at ISO 12) in the Mamiya 7 would likely record it fine. I'd guess the 5x4" Acros would also record the writing just fine.

 

So film can do probably all this, but needing the use of mega slow film like Adox 20 (6x7) or using 5x4 - both needing a tripod. The key difference is that I got this very high image quality - handheld - at ISO 320 - using a very small and light camera (and lens - I used the 50 APO). That this is image quality is possible from something so small is extraordinary.

 

Some will say this is daft pixel peeping. However, I think these subtle differences in resolution have an aggregated effect across the whole image, and change the feel and clarity and depth of a massive print even when viewed a few feet away.

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My 2c worth .....given I was just comparing some decently printed test images that I'd had done at a London pro lab (inkjets at 300dpi from their large Epsoms on Fine Art Baryta). All 30x20" crops off what would be 50-55" wide prints!

2 images off the M246 & 50 APO, both handheld. And 1 image from a 400mb drum scan from 5x4 Acros from my previously owned Ebony and 110 SS XL (ie about as sharp a lens as exists in LF).

All were different subjects, but it gave me a strong feel of the respective image quality.

Much difference in look / Image quality between the 2 cameras? No, amazingly not. Both have a ton of detail and micro tonality. Both far exceeding the relatively smudgy (lower resolution) and overly macro-contrast look from converted B&W files off my M240 at that massive print size. There is slightly more fine detail off the 5x4 versus the M246, but the higher acuity off the digital M246 narrows the gap. Again, both the 5x4 and M246 produce a tonality, 3D depth and clarity that eclipses the M240 at this print size. The 50 APO also really sings in the M246 and is presumably contributing to what I'm seeing from the M246.

I'm sold on the M246's benefits and am now looking to buy one as a complement to my M240 ....

 

The posts that are being made in this thread are making a very strong and compelling case for the Monochrom typ 246 for anyone who loves to shoot in black and white and loves to make fine prints in B&W. 

 

I am of the opinion that the combination of the M-P 240 coupled with Leica M lenses exceeds the print quality of 120 color film and probably equals the I/Q of 4x5.  from my observations I would have to say that the typ 246 camera coupled with M lenses easily achieves that and more in the realm of black and white. 

 

Based on what I have seen, the M Monochrom cameras essentially give a photographer the large format B&W capability of a 4x5 - and perhaps even approach  5x7 image quality -  in a package that can be held in the palm of your hand. 

 

That is simply mind blowing.

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Don't be fooled by marketing numbers on these cameras!

The highest ISO values most often are unusable on the MM2 (as they where often on the MM).

 

I had only the choice of switching my old MM to a MM2 and the very only advantage I see from the newer model is about a 1 stop advantage in ISO.

 

With my old MM I would happily shoot up to ISO 1600 without reservations to quality and use ISO3200 in low light (knowing that now and then the files would suffer from pattern noise during raw conversion in dark image areas).

 

The new MM2 can be used with same reservations with a stop higher ISO sensitivity but the pattern noise with the MM2 is A LOT WORSE when it appears.

 

The noise pattern between the two cameras are also very different where with the old sensor at no ISO speed the noise would look "digital" It always had a very natural feel (similar to pushed B&W film).

The MM2 produces MUCH cleaner (noise wise) images up to ISO 3200 but when noise heavy kicks in, it makes you want to throw away the image.

 

I believe part of this behavior stems from the new model only delivering 12bit files rather than the 14bit files the old MM would deliver (I actually hoped a lot, that Leica would be the first manufacturer to actually go the extra step and introduce a true 16bit file 35mm camera body - you should see what 16bit files do to an image, just work on a Leica S file).

 

I really hope Leica does the effort next time around.

If I had a choice, I would choose a MM over a MM2.

In my opinion, a decision towards an MM2 is not driven by image quality but exclusively by either needing it's additional features or not or integrating it into an existing M240 based system or not.

 

For current MM users I strongly believe it is a camera generation to skip.

 

Btw, I loved my MM and still believe it is the very best 35mm camera made to date.

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Don't be fooled by marketing numbers on these cameras!

The highest ISO values most often are unusable on the MM2 (as they where often on the MM)...

 

I think in terms of the maximum ISO of a camera being about twice (or more) of the actual usable ISO if you want image quality that will produce a fine print - as in one you would not have reservations about hanging in a gallery and offering for sale.  Print size plays into the equation to be certain, as does a person's own individual criteria for what constitutes a "fine print." 

 

The M 240 and M-P 240 both have a maximum ISO of 6400.  To my eye, image quality starts to decline at around ISO 2000 and is a problem at ISO 3200.  I prefer shooting in the ISO 400-800, with 1600 at the outside to retain acceptable (to my eye) image quality for print making. 

 

That's just me, though - YMMV.

Edited by Carlos Danger

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Don't be fooled by marketing numbers on these cameras!

The highest ISO values most often are unusable on the MM2 (as they where often on the MM).

 

I had only the choice of switching my old MM to a MM2 and the very only advantage I see from the newer model is about a 1 stop advantage in ISO.

 

With my old MM I would happily shoot up to ISO 1600 without reservations to quality and use ISO3200 in low light (knowing that now and then the files would suffer from pattern noise during raw conversion in dark image areas).

 

The new MM2 can be used with same reservations with a stop higher ISO sensitivity but the pattern noise with the MM2 is A LOT WORSE when it appears.

 

The noise pattern between the two cameras are also very different where with the old sensor at no ISO speed the noise would look "digital" It always had a very natural feel (similar to pushed B&W film).

The MM2 produces MUCH cleaner (noise wise) images up to ISO 3200 but when noise heavy kicks in, it makes you want to throw away the image.

 

I believe part of this behavior stems from the new model only delivering 12bit files rather than the 14bit files the old MM would deliver (I actually hoped a lot, that Leica would be the first manufacturer to actually go the extra step and introduce a true 16bit file 35mm camera body - you should see what 16bit files do to an image, just work on a Leica S file).

 

I really hope Leica does the effort next time around.

If I had a choice, I would choose a MM over a MM2.

In my opinion, a decision towards an MM2 is not driven by image quality but exclusively by either needing it's additional features or not or integrating it into an existing M240 based system or not.

 

For current MM users I strongly believe it is a camera generation to skip.

 

Btw, I loved my MM and still believe it is the very best 35mm camera made to date.

 

 

I comfortably use my 246s up to 10.000 iso. Of course it gets a bit grainy but it's a more film-like kind of gran. Nothing that you can't deal with in post even for large prints. 

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I think in terms of the maximum ISO of a camera being about twice (or more) of the actual usable ISO if you want image quality that will produce a fine print - as in one you would not have reservations about hanging in a gallery and offering for sale.  Print size plays into the equation to be certain, as does a person's own individual criteria for what constitutes a "fine print." 

 

The M 240 and M-P 240 both have a maximum ISO of 6400.  To my eye, image quality starts to decline at around ISO 2000 and is a problem at ISO 3200.  I prefer shooting in the ISO 400-800, with 1600 at the outside to retain acceptable (to my eye) image quality for print making. 

 

That's just me, though - YMMV.

The ISO limitations between M9 + MM and M10 + MM2 are pretty similar. Both MM generations upped the sensitivity from their color based sensor by a stop.

So when you were happy with M10 files at ISO3200, you will be happy with MM2 files at 6400.

 

I comfortably use my 246s up to 10.000 iso. Of course it gets a bit grainy but it's a more film-like kind of gran. Nothing that you can't deal with in post even for large prints. 

 

I would be very happy to hear how you deal with the pattern noise at higher ISO in post processing (I use exclusively Lightroom's noise reduction tools and am not happy how these work in extreme cases). I hear there are other products which deal better with noise patterns that Adobe products do not currently.

 

Please understand also that my reservations at higher ISO files are concerning pattern noise and a strong reduction in dynamic range.

When either of these problems are not an issue in a certain situation, higher ISO speed are perfectly usable.

 

With the old MM I find pattern noise not always be there but only from time to time.

Pattern noise with the MM2 is almost always guaranteed there once you move above ISO 6400.

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I comfortably use my 246s up to 10.000 iso. Of course it gets a bit grainy but it's a more film-like kind of gran. Nothing that you can't deal with in post even for large prints. 

 

Yes, in my experience of both versions of the Monochrom the noise is pretty similar in both, except the M246 is two stops better. As for 'pattern noise' it tends to only appear if you are heavily trying to get rid of the 'digital grain', but for myself I like the noise of the Monochrom and often set my camera to high ISO to use it creatively and in place of grainy film. In fact I never ever use noise reduction with any camera because it looks even less natural than the honest representation of the digital noise. Trying to make a silk purse out of a sows ear is very much like thinking image quality is simply a fine grain picture instead of concentrating on whether the photograph is good and has some character. And digital noise used well (and the Monochrom is the best camera to do this) can add that character in the same way grainy B&W film abstracts the image and replaces unnecessary or distracting detail.

 

 

Steve

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I would be very happy to hear how you deal with the pattern noise at higher ISO in post processing (I use exclusively Lightroom's noise reduction tools and am not happy how these work in extreme cases). I hear there are other products which deal better with noise patterns that Adobe products do not currently.

 

Please understand also that my reservations at higher ISO files are concerning pattern noise and a strong reduction in dynamic range.

When either of these problems are not an issue in a certain situation, higher ISO speed are perfectly usable.

 

With the old MM I find pattern noise not always be there but only from time to time.

Pattern noise with the MM2 is almost always guaranteed there once you move above ISO 6400.

 

I don't own a Monochrom but I did read this

 

http://www.ultrasomething.com/photography/2012/12/a-fetishists-guide-to-the-monochrom-part3/

 

which discusses pattern noise and how the reviewer deals with it. It may not be the problem you are describing and you may have read the article already, but I hope it helps.

 

Mike.

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