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M11 or M11 Monochrome ?

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I was only allowed black and white film as a kid.  My father used Kodachrome, but it was too expensive for us.  I remember thinking about an image, and being disappointed at the black and white result.  It made me think about what I was photographing - the light, the subject and what the final image would look like, in black and white.  I soon became disappointed with colour images.

We don’t take pictures to record what we see, but to capture a version of what we see - they’re not the same.  A perfectly composed and exposed image of a boring scene is still a boring scene.  That is largely why an Ansel Adams landscape is not “chocolate boxy” - we’re seeing what was going on in his head.

As Gordon says a page or so back, it all depends on how we see the world.

While I get the benefits of more MP and colour sliders, having colour, or not, is a complication I can do without.  I already have more choices of cameras and lenses than I know what to do with.  Life is far simpler and happier for me with one camera and one lens - I’m more likely to be frustrated at having to change lenses than having the wrong lens - as Robert Capa says, move your feet, it makes you think more about the image.

So, is there a need for an M11-M when the base M11 can do it all?

To be honest, it’s no different now to when the original M9 based Monochrom “Henri” was released.  Both options were 18MP (more than enough for most uses), but what you got was greater flexibility in files, better tonal range and finer detail.  Those files were a revelation, and my Monochrom still amazes me.  Now we have 60MP in both cameras, but the analysis and different between the two models is the same.  It’s just different numbers.

I’d say, if black and white is your thing, then the Monochrom version will always be more rewarding.  It is mine.  I still use my Monochrom and shoot Tri-X in my M-A.  The only battle I have, is do I really need a colour digital?  But then, I find colour an unnecessary distraction - I have an SL as a universal mount and for the zoom and telephoto; I am planning on getting the X2D for the benefits of medium format; and I couldn’t resist the M10-D.  But it’s the Monochrom I reach for as I head out the door.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The proof for me is in the prints. After adjusting my workflow with the M10 Monochrom, my M(9)M sits unused, despite its also great files. The M10 platform is also more robust, versatile and a pleasure to use compared to the M9-based version. The only thing lacking for me is the MM’s RAW-based histogram. 


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Posted (edited)
On 5/3/2023 at 3:16 AM, antonioxrosa said:

I sold my M10 and hesitating now between the M11 and the M11 Monochrome. I shoot b&w and the immediate answer would be Monochrome. However I have the following concern and I would appreciate others opinions.

Shooting in colour and move to b&w in post give me the opportunity to "simulate" colour filters by adjusting light in each colour channel, something I cann't do with the monochrome. I am also ware that with the monochrome I will gain more light and dynamic range but I will have to use external filters if I want for instance block some light on a blue sky.




I know this is a late response, but I think it may be helpful to others in the same situation:

Having owned both but only currently have the M11M:


  • Can more easily get a darker/blacker sky with the b&w color sliders compared to a monochrome sensor.
  • Heavy use of the blue/cyan sliders to get a black sky can leave an ugly glow at the horizon and/or unnatural-looking clouds, requiring masking, which gives mixed results.
  • Recommend using a linear (dial in the strength by rotating) or circular polarizer (same but have to watch the angle of effect) to pre-darken skies and increase color saturation in anticipation of altering the color sliders later in post. This can greatly help overcome the previous issue and horizon glow artifact.
  • Can add a nice punch of contrast where none exists by lightening yellow-orange-red sliders, which lightens dirt/gravel/flowers/objects in the image. This to me is the biggest benefit of the color conversion versus monochrome because it can make the land in the landscape pop at a very small detail level.


  • Can be difficult to get a fully black sky without a dark red filter and a perfectly dark blue sky.
  • Red filter drawbacks are loss of dynamic range, loss of detail in the shadows, and longer exposure times and/or higher ISO (same difficulty that red filters cause with film).
  • Darker skies derived from orange or red filtration may look more natural than black skies produces from color files, especially when it comes to cloud detail.
  • Impervious to noise at extremely high ISOs. I recently shot with a light red filter and f/8-f/16, and the ISO went very high (handheld shooting); however, the resulting images had no more noise than low ISO images from the M11.

If your goal is to replicate the black sky effect of deep red color filtration on b&w film, I would go for the M11 over the M11M. If you want a more natural look and/or can use the high ISO benefits of the M11M, then I would go that route.


Edited by hdmesa
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Posted (edited)

I agree that flexibility to use color sliders in PP is one factor that distinguishes a color-based M from a Monochrom. But achieving deep black skies doesn’t factor into my camera selection, as I find them unnatural and generally unappealing.  

Apologies to Ansel, but I prefer his very early prints of Moonrise, before he cranked up contrast in the darkroom.  The red filter alone didn’t produce the eventually severe black sky effect.  Of course the viewing public generally disagrees, and loves dramatic contrast.


I apply color sliders in PP with color-based cameras, and use glass color filters with a Monochrom (or b&w film), equally judiciously. For me, it’s the increased flexibility and convenience that comes with the color-based camera that matters, not the ability to achieve extreme effects.  

Nevertheless, my choice of color vs monochrome camera primarily comes down to shooting mindset, not so much the technical differences and results. But to each his/her own.


Edited by Jeff S
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mono all the way. 

I have been using a MM1 for a long while, upgrated to M11 colour. I can get close to the mm1, but it is not the same. the biggest issue is the latitude and the amount of data in the greys. my images have a very contrasty look and with the mm1 is simple to work with the files, they look great. with the MM1 1 is easy to break them, to start loose dark areas, etc. It can look very similar but it is not the same. And the digital filter are nothing like the real optical one. A red filter does not look the same as you are using 1/4th of the pixels, etc.

Why did i get the m11/ 

better machine, does not get stuck every 3 frames, reactive, great file quality (in colour), etc. modern garget with all the quality you would expect. At that time there was no MM11, plus i wanted something for colour too, to took the compromise. i can live with, but cash not being an issue and not needing colour I would go mono 100%.



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Posted (edited)

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My path-writ-large over the past decade or so went from, through, and to (in sequential order):

- Film-based Leicas (M bodies and inherited Barnacks), going back to the 60s,

- an all-in adoption of the Fujifilm X-Pro series (owing largely to their kinesthetic similarities to the Leicas),

- an all-in adoption of the Fujifilm GFX series,

- a partial return to Leica M bodies starting with the M246 Monochrom (accompanied by adoption of the SL series for color and zoom situations),

- replacing the M246 with an M10M,

- and now arriving at a happy point of blissful ownership and use of both an M11 and an M11M.

Of the previous systems mentioned above, all that remains in my stable are the film-based Leicas (IIIc, IIIg, and two M4s), an SL2, two SL primes and two SL zooms, and the M11 and M11M, plus all the Leica glass accumulated over the past 50+ years, in both thread mount and M mount.

Everything else has been sold as (or shortly after) the steps described took place, and that has helped finance the whole sequence.

My overall equipment footprint has shrunk with reduced redundancy, and my planning and decision-making prior to photography excursions has undergone considerable simplification. 

Well, not completely...

I also still have (and will probably never part with) a reasonable Hasselblad setup (one body, three lenses, five backs) for Medium Format, as well as Large Format bodies of 4x5, 5x7, and 8x10, along with the darkroom equipment needed to process all those film sizes, an enlarger for up to 4x5, an Imacon Precision II scanner that can go up to 5x7, and my beloved Canon ImagePROGRAF Pro-2000. 

No fishing boat, no airplane, no golf clubs, no gun collection. 

I'm a pretty happy retired guy....

Edited by DadDadDaddyo
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