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M10 Monochrom vs M10 — and, generally, color camera vs B&W

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My initial reaction to the M10M was that I prefer to shoot B&W with the M10. In another thread, I posted a couple of M10 B&W pictures as an example of the tonality, gradation and resolution where I wanted to be in B&W, for which I thought the M10 was perfectly adequate. I wrote also that I prefer the greater flexibility of digital filters from post-processing to glass contrast filters. Indeed, I previously had the M-Monochrom and prefer the M10 in this respect. 

Some background 
Having published my book last November, I'm now thinking about another project. I've been posting a series of images in a (tentative) series called Empire of Signs, the title of Roland Barthes' book about Japan. I don't believe in jumping directly into defining a new project: rather i tend to take pictures and see how this leads me to a project; so,  Empire of Signs may not lead anywhere. When I was in Tokyo at the end of November, I bought a new, 2019 edition of Moriyama Daido's Light and Shadow, which was published in 1982. The latter first edition came out ten years after his previous book and three years after he stopped photographing altogether. As I recall, he got back to photographing after looking at the first photograph ever made, the one by Niépce, which was an eight hour exposure of the view out of a window: it had a building and showed just light and shadow. Moriyama's book established a narrative between light and shadow.

Some of the pictures in Light and Shadow are things at the verge: scruffy plants, for examine, at the edge of a store. Photographing in Thailand, often in the harsh, midday sun, I've been thinking about this type of image, and how it could be worked into the Empire of Signs.Today, I made the picture below. 

M10 | DR Summicron 50 | ISO 200 | f/11.0 | 1/250 sec


Chiang Mai – The Empire of Signs

Coming to the point
To get the look that I wanted: the dark leaves in the shade and the much lighter tone of the leaves where the sun hits them, as well as getting the poster at the left to be dark enough, I used the color sliders in Lightroom, as well a strong contrast increase. I could have done this with a Monochrom camera, but the adjusting the M10 colors gives me more control. On the other hand, with the M10M, I might be able to show more detail in the leaves, which could also be interesting

Perhaps a better example is the image below, shot in dappled sunlight. I've posted a couple of images of these three tourists taking a group selfie of themselves using an iPhone on a tripod stick. Here, I was speaking to them, saying I was taking unposed pictures when I got a thumbs up, a V-sign, and the flashing of my name card. In processing this I could get the skin tones in B&W that I wanted by adjusting the color sliders. As I recall, when I was shooting with the M-Monochrom, I was limited to selective dodging and burning — not as flexible

M10 | DR Summicron 50 | ISO 200 | f/4.0 | 1/1000 sec


Chiang Mai

So what do you think about considering doing all this with the M10M rather than converting from color with the M10?
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Frog Leaping photobook

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I find this interesting - as one who is more tempted by the M10M than I was by earlier Monochroms. After reading your post and looking at your pictures, though, I feel I could tell that the second one was produced by adjusting the LR colour sliders, and was not 'natural'. Whether I could make the same judgement in a blind test is another matter.

Some years ago I photographed competitive Latin dancers in the Winter Gardens, Blackpool, using the SL. The lighting was very difficult: pink and green spots, and not that bright, and I was trying to deal with movement as well. I achieved the best tonal gradation and shadows by adjusting the colour in LR, but the skin tones certainly don't look natural to me, even allowing for the dancers wearing heavy yellow/orange makeup. I use these images as a reminder to myself not to adjust colour sliders too far in B&W conversion. Revisiting them, I wonder how the Monochrom would deal with the same situation.

 

 

Edited by LocalHero1953

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Seeing as though you are asking for opinions from Monochrom camera users there might be some bias to comments comments made here? I have been shooting the Monochrom since 2013 and before that prolifically shooting film in the 1980's. Shooting with the Monochrom camera seemed natural for me however there is more to the Monochrom than increased dynamic range, grain and the ability to use real glass filters. Shooting with Leica Monochrom cameras involves experiencing and learning a new perspectives for the photographer and image making in general. In my view one becomes a better photographer by using solely the black and white medium, there is a discipline involved, like like using film. Talk to any proficient painter and he or she might tell you that "seeing in black and white" is essential for an oil painter. 

Film is not practical for me now and I have moved on from the 1980"s so the nearest black and white film experience is using monochrome digital sensors. I also love shooting colour and the SL is a perfect tool however I rarely convert colour files to B+W.  

It is not easy sometimes producing a particular style using a Monochrom camera, some have said that the files are too clinical, too much like 4x5 black and white films. The post production challenges using Monochrom Cameras almost pushes one to strive for and to explore ways to achieve the desired results. In my view one develops (continues) a relationship with black and white image making through Monochrom cameras.

You sound passionate about black and white work so my opinion is yes, I think you could consider using the M10M (or other versions) for your projects. Expect some learning curves along the way because using a Monochrom means exploring ones relationship to black and white photography.  The M10M has a fair amount of technology in its functions compared to the MM1 and in a way makes the process somewhat easier.       

      

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This image was shot using film, recording film RE 2475  (1000 ASA) and printed on TP6 to produce kind of grain I utilised in my work. The film worked well for very low subject light conditions. One needed a mental preface to the whole process in order to achieve the desired results from this film. That means knowing how you will expose and then develop the film for the desired printing outcome. In other words visualising the end product at the time of shooting it. One required a good knowledge of how this film worked, its good and bad qualities. I guess that is what I am saying about digital Monochrome sensors and "learning" how to use them.   

Edited by Kendoo

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No, as stated in the original post, I had an M9 Monochrom — for a little more than four years in 2012-17. I was happy with it, but sold it as well as my M9 when I bought my M10. I'm now considering shooting only B&W. My concern is the extremely high resolution of the 41 MP sensor of the M10M might it difficult to process files for the "less exquisite" look that I want. The following two images illustrate my concern. The first is an M-Monochrom shot (taken without a filter) and the second one was shot with the M10.

My fear was that the roughness of the second, M10, image would be much easier to achieve with a color file. I processed the second file using ColorEfex and have the processing in a "recipe" in that app. Just now, I took the original DNG and desaturated it by simply clicking "Black & White" in Lightroom; then I put the B&W file into ColorEfex and applied the recipe that I had used for the image below. The result of processing the B&W file was the same as processing the original file with this recipe. Indeed, I now saw that the ColorEfex recipe I used didn't depend on having a color file intput: in other words, the type of rougher output that I want can be done just as easily on a B&W file — at least one that is 24 MP.

The remaining question is whether M10P files, which are 41 MP, will be more difficult to deal with in this respect. I'll have to get a hold of an M10M DNG and try it out.

M-Monochrom | Elmarit 21 ASPH | ISO 320 | f/8.0 | 1/750 sec


Hua Hin

M10 | DR Summicron 50 |ISO 200 | f/5.6 | 1/350


Wiang Pa Pao
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Frog Leaping photobook Edited by Nowhereman

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Sounds like you answered your own question. I use Photoshop, layers and other processing filters tweaked manually to get the result. Using recipes will be limiting in the end. 

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^ Of course it would be limiting. I wouldn't expect to work the same way with the M10M: this was just a test to see how difficult it would be to achieve the roughness with the M10M that I may want. Below is an M10M image to which I applied the recipe, as well as grain, mentioned above to a DNG provided by @Chaemono in another thread, of which post #17 provides the DNG download. However, there is also an issue of problematic highlights, raised in post #23, which has been raised elsewhere as well. 

By the way, the image below is not necessary how I would process this files: it's just a look at how the ColorEfex recipe I used on the M10 tree image above would look. However, there is still another apparent issue with the M10, in that most of the initial images posted by people who started shooting with the camera have muddy tonal palettes — possibly this comes from the M10M not yet being supported by Lightroom, but I don't really now. The image below has some muddiness in the mid-tones that I don't particularly like.

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There is no answer.  Everyone has different tastes regarding B&W, just the same as two people will not agree on best colours between two images.

Good processing, a colour DNG, to B&W output,  from a Leica camera will give a very exceptional image to everyone. Similar acceptable great quality as an image from a Monochrome camera.

 

I think we keep seeing the same discussions..😕

 

It's about having a B&W camera only...and I'd love one.

...

Edited by david strachan

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The point, though, is that there are issues currently about muddiness of tone and highlight rendition (references are linked in my last thread), which may stem from the M10M not yet being supported by Lightroom and some other apps, or possibly from firmware issues.These issues are not being imagined by people and warrant discussion. And there may be ways that images from the M10M may indeed be superior and cannot be duplicated in conversion to B&W from M10 files, such as skin tones mentioned by @LocalHero1953 in a post above. That also warrants discussion.
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In the original post, I wrote that in another thread I posted  a couple of M10 B&W pictures as an example of the tonality, gradation and resolution where I wanted to be in B&W, for which I thought the M10 was perfectly adequate. Since I've fine-tuned these two images since then, I'm reposting them here, in the higher resolution now accepted by this forum, so that you can see what I looking toward.

M10 | DR Summicron 50 | ISO 400 | f/5.6 | 1/60 sec

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36 minutes ago, Nowhereman said:

It's not a "Monochrom page". As I'm considering whether to get an M10M, it's a thread that I started to explore whether, and under what conditions, it's preferable to use the M10M or the M10 for B&W.
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To be honest, for street photography my M9P gives me great B&W, more than I could ever want..at base ISO probably better than M10 and same as any of the Monochrom cameras, I wouldn't be able to tell them apart for sure. So, output wise unless you need high res and high ISO, you won' get a lot of benefit from buying any monochrom vs using a regular Leica..but to me the conversation is much more than the output itself, it's about how it changes how you shoot. Of course you can just have one camera and do both color and B&W in the same body, and no problem with that at all. But as you shoot color, you mostly look for interesting colors, etc and have a different mindset. As you start editing after a shooting in LR you might find one or two pics that look good in B&W and convert them, and that's pretty much the workflow / mindset (at least for me). With the monochrom, though, (and I used to have the M9M so I'm talking from experience), you are limited to B&W only, so you are always focused, not concerned with making any choices btw color or b&w, and as you shoot more with it you start to look for compositions that look good in B&W, and you grow as a photographer through that process. That's the real beauty of it to me, it's the same as having a film leica with tri-x / hp5 always with you. If this sounds like something you'd like, definitely get a monochrom...the very small differences in rendering of midtones / highlights / shadows will be irrelevant with time and should not be the main / only deciding factor, because I'm sure you'll be pleased with B&W from any Leica camera all the way from the M8 to the M10. 

I'd say the two cameras that made me improve the most as a photographer were the M3 (because it helped me 'read' and understand light without relying on a light meter) and the M9M (because it helped me understand B&W composition better). I'm still a crappy photographer lol but at least I feel these cameras taught me something, and I love them for that. 

___________

kurocamera.com | instagram

Edited by shirubadanieru

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@shirubadanieru Daniel - when I had the M9 and the M9 Monochrom, I shot in "binges": a month or so with one and then with the other. When I was on an M9/color binge, I converted M9 shots to B&W rarely — as I recall, only when my M9 Monochrom went in for a sensor replacement. On the other hand, Moriyama Daido says that one of the things that he likes about digital is that he can subsequently decide if any particular shot should be color or B&W — sometimes he uses both version, as he did even when he shot color film: there is famous shot of his of a young woman running up a rubble-filled lane, from Okinawa I think, which he used in color in one book and in B&W in another. 

In my original post above, I wrote about starting to get to point of departure for a second book, which, at this point, I would like to be B&W. With the M10, I find I'm sometimes distracted by color: when I was in Tokyo the last week of November, it was overcast with some rain showers almost every day — the light was beautiful, producing saturated color, a shocking change for harsh midday sun in the tropics. Accordingly, I stayed with color for my Tokyo shots, which started to form a possible series called Empire of Signs. I found couldn't resist the color of shots like the following one from Yurakucho or even the second one below from Chiang Mai in the midday sun.

Nothing says that, if the Empire of Signs turns out to be a serious point of departure, it couldn't be color and B&W — thought I'm tending much more to B&W and exploring whether to get the M10M. 

M10 | DR Summicron 50 | ISO 800 | f/5.6 | 1/180 sec


Tokyo - Empire of Signs 

M10 | DR Summicron 50 | ISO 200 | f/4.0 | 1/1000 sec


Chiang Mai - Empire of Signs 
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Frog Leaping photobook

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I’m a little confused by your desire for the M10M. Probably because I haven’t followed all the details. But it appears to me that you like the B&W output from the M10 and the additional flexibility of color manipulation in post to make B&W conversions, while at the same time not really liking the M10M output. If I recall correctly, there is also some concern that 40 mp might not mesh with your style either. If I were you, I’d save my $8k. 
 

I’m in a different boat. I really only shoot B&W, but have never really liked the look of moderate to extreme color manipulations during conversion. I don’t care one way or the other about the 40 mp; my current Sony has that resolution and it’s fine with manual focus lenses and my shooting style. There are work arounds for when I’m going for a certain look, and sometimes the extra resolution is nice. Lastly, the monochrome sensor has some real benefits for me. I think the noise looks much better, the high ISO is better, and it is more compatible with true symmetrically designed lenses. I also suspect that any goofiness with M10M files in LR is due to it not being supported yet. Lastly, I don’t have a digital M yet. I’ve been saving my pennies for some time for the release of the M10M.  

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Mitch,

in my practice (as amateur) not wanting to make books or exhibitions, I can only count on "my own user's pleasure".

Just a though, I use for years along digital M with color and b&w sensors.

Mindset is very important for me : b&w mindset when I have Monochrom "I" or "II" ...and another color mindset when I use color Ms.

B&w mindset can lead me to "think in b&w" in situation while shooting, that is different than "converting colors to b&w in PP" which can be nice process.

 

B&w mindset for me was very difficult to acquire as decades long Kodachrome (Velvia ...) user.

 

 

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On 1/25/2020 at 6:21 PM, tgray said:

I’m a little confused by your desire for the M10M...But it appears to me that you like the B&W output from the M10 and the additional flexibility of color manipulation in post to make B&W conversions, while at the same time not really liking the M10M output. If I recall correctly, there is also some concern that 40 mp might not mesh with your style either. If I were you, I’d save my $8...

On 1/25/2020 at 7:34 PM, a.noctilux said:

...Mindset is very important for me : b&w mindset when I have Monochrom "I" or "II" ...and another color mindset when I use color Ms....B&w mindset can lead me to "think in b&w" in situation while shooting, that is different than "converting colors to b&w in PP" which can be nice process

I was (am?) considering the M10M because, for my second book project, I'm thinking, again, of only B&W. In a post in my book thread, I carefully laid out what I felt would be the point of departure for my next book project. This involved a general concept (images as "end of language" in the Zen/haiku sense of emptiness) and a visual concept (high contrast, reductionist B&W).  The visual point of departure is not only the high contrast B&W of Moriyama, but also the reductionist darkness of Paulo Nozolino, a still narrower range of B&W. It's hard to get a sense of Nozolino on the web, but the following exhibition walk-through video gives more of it than web images or even the twenty images in his book, Loaded Shine (which I'm posting for general interest):

(Of course, I'm not thinking of trying to copy Moriyama and Nozolino, but using them as a point of departure to see where that will lead me.)

A few years ago, when I had both the M9 and the M-Monochrom, I shot with the two cameras in "binges" of a month or so each. But the problem of wanting to concentrate on B&W was still there. On balance, I'm happier in this respect with just the M10. This is where I keep on thinking about the M10-Monochrom. But I think the the 41 MP would push me away from the reductionist aspect that I want — I could be pulled into "an excess" of beautiful and exquisite details, the same way that I'm sometimes pulled in by beautiful color with the M10. In the end, I feel I need more discipline in this respect rather than needing the M10M.
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A postscript on Paulo Nozolino
As I said, it's difficult to get a sense of Nozolino on the web. I respect that he has no web presence at all: no FaceBook, no Instagram, no website. He shoots only film: Tri-X, with an M6 and one lens. There is an hour-long discussion video between him and Spanish photographer Alberto García-Alix. It was at the Madrid photo festival two or three years ago. Garcia-Alix speaks in Spanish (English subtitles) and Nozolino, who is Portuguese, in English. In the video, Nozolino said he shoots very little, only 20 rolls a year. I thought that was an exaggeration, for effect; but in an interview I read subsequently, he said he sometimes has a roll of Tri-X in his camera for as long as three months. Gotta love a photographer who doesn't shoot 9 fps! Nozolino does a workshop in Arles in April, most every year, I think. Here is the blurb for the workshop:

Quote

 

This workshop is not for digital photoshop liars, reportage, landscape or portrait photographers, conceptual artists or career seekers. It is a workshop for the unsure, the poets, the dreamers, all of those who feel they don’t fit in the system!

During the six day experience we will discuss content rather than form and how to make a coherent statement through sequencing for an exhibition, a portfolio or abook.

This workshop is not for digital photoshop liars, reportage, landscape or portrait photographers, conceptual artists or career seekers. It is a workshop for the unsure, the poets, the dreamers, all of those who feel they don’t fit in the system!

During the six day experience we will discuss content rather than form and how to make a coherent statement through sequencing for an exhibition, a portfolio or  abook.

Using photography as a scalpel. Perform visual surgery into a make-believe world. Getting to some kind of personal visual truth. Work is about making things as simple as possible, using one camera, one lens, one eye and time to waste. Walking, thinking, talking.Photographs consist on making an attempt to get to the core of things, people and places, by contemplation and acute action, by reduction not accumulation.

 

I believe the original of this blurb is in French, which doesn't have quite have such a film chauvinist tone. I would translate the French text of first paragraph as follows: "Landscape photographers, reportage photographers, portraitists and conceptual artists will stay away. Careerists and photoshop addicts will also give it a pass, as this workshop is not for them".

You can find an interview with Nozolino in English, but there are better ones in Portuguese. His vision is dark, dealing with death, decay and entropy of civilization, but I'm stating this glibly. One is often influenced by great photography, but I have not yet managed to do anything approaching his style in a meaningful way. But working with that in formulating a point of departure interests me.

However, there is one thing in which Nozolino has already effected me. You will have noticed that all of Loaded Shine is in vertical shots. Before I started going digital, initially by scanning film, at least ⅓rd to 2/5 ths of my shots were in vertical format: simply because processing horizontal photos produces a much larger image on the screen. After I started looking at Nozolino, I started shooting more vertical shots.
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Edited by Nowhereman

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I'll probably end up with the M10-M eventually, and have exactly the same dilemma as you do. 

I convert around 80% of my shots to black and white. I just prefer the look, and when I take photos I specifically look for the types of scenes that work well with black and white. It's only if a scene absolutely relies on its colours to actually make a pleasing shot that I would leave it as colour. 

I am very happy with my B&W conversions from my Q2, I think the higher resolution is great and a big leap over the files coming out of my M262... I don't subscribe to the 24mp is good enough crew, and will take all the resolution I can get without sacrificing too much in other areas.  But high ISO on both cameras is pretty terrible.  

For me, the ONLY reason I would get the M10-M over something like the upcoming M10-R would be high ISO performance. All the other benefits of the dedicated monochrom sensor are great, but high ISO is the only game-changer for me.

When the M10-R comes out, and assuming it's around 40mp, I'll check the reviews and see how clean the files are at ISO12,500. If they're good enough, I'll probably sell the Q2 + M262 and get the M10-R. Carrying a single body that can do it all "well enough" just makes sense (although I will miss IBIS on the Q2).

If the M10-R is significantly underperforming in the higher ISO range I'll get the M10-M. At least that is where my head is after a lot of research.

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