Shortly after Christmas I had bought as you might known the Leica M9 Monochrom. In the digital age, it’s a grandmother who can only tell her stories by a black and white fireplace. I had flirted with this restrictive camera for a long time and grew to love it surprisingly quickly.
After wonderful experiences with it, I’ve been traveling with her grandson since today Children grow up so quickly. The young woman towers over her old woman by at least two heads – in other words: it has more than twice as many pixels. But the decisive factor for me was that I can see something on the display now.
The new one, however, has other advantages: quieter shutter, better response, better rangefinder – it’s all a few years younger and the bones don’t sound so rotten.
The aesthetic highlight is the almost stealth look. With the current M10 Monochrom, Leica has dispensed with the typical red colour on the camera body. Or better: the camera is also monochrome. Consistency in the reduction to the essentials and absolute understatement. I’m looking forward to a new M chapter.
For non-Leica enthusiasts: yes, the camera can – as the name “Monochrome” suggests – only perceive its surroundings in shades of grey from black to white. However, it has plenty of these shades, which is why the contrast regulator in the image editing program of your choice is your strong friend. This behaviour is achieved by omitting the so-called Bayer filter.
With “normal” (almost all) cameras, this filter ensures that four pixels always result in an actual pixel. The four pixels are equipped with the three basic colours – green is doubled because the human eye sees green best. In the brain of the camera, the colour information of the four pixels is then calculated to colour and written as information in the data file of the image. This is then the pixel that you perceive in the image of a digital camera.
With Leica Monochrom, this Bayer filter is gone. And because omitting is, of course, more complex than using the standard, the Leica M10 Monochrom is around 200 euros more expensive than its little sister, which can see in colour.
The obvious question of whether you can’t convert the colour image of a normal camera into black and white, I can say no. I didn’t believe it either. There are very good conversion programs and emulation profiles for black and white photos from colour cameras and of course, this has been done for the last 20 years. But taking photos with a Leica Monochrome is something completely different. Apart from the insane many shades of grey, the approach to photography is the pleasant and the special. So it makes sense – as in the past in black and white photography – to work directly with colour filters. These filters influence the image result just as they did when we were still shooting on film.
That is why taking photos with a Leica Monochrom is a wonderful reminder of my childhood and adolescence. Probably buying a Leica M10 Monochrom is just as unreasonable as I was back then 🙂