Leica M Monochrome Magic….

A new camera come homes to live!


Leica M Monochrome

Leica M Monochrome


About a month ago, my truck was broken into and a camera bag was stolen with several Leica lenses, cameras and accessories.  After the insurance was paid, I purchased the amazing Leica M Monochrome and the Tri-Elmar 16 – 18  – 21 mm lens to replace 3 missing lenses and 1 camera.  

The M Monochrome is truly an amazing camera and the images are beyond stunning! I have found that I actually enjoy using it more that the M 240.  So far, I have used it for ultra long exposures in the Outer Banks, family pictures of my grand children during Christmas and on a just completed trip to Boone, NC for the New Year.  I am NOT going to do a review here rather I will just show the capabilities of this camera system while photographing my favorite subject matter!  

Duggars Creek Falls, Linville, NC   32 second exposure

Duggars Creek Falls, Linville, NC 32 second exposure, 6 stops of ND

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4

Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4

The water fall image above was taken on 1 Jan 2015 at Duggars Creek Falls in the parking lot of the Linville Falls visitor center where I sat on a bridge centered over the stream (I cannot get down to the water level due to a recent operation which limited me to just basic views). Notice the sharpness of the image and the tonality of the rocks drawing the viewer into the scene.  There was very little post processing on this image which shows the real power of the Monochrome! For this shot I used the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f/4 lens which is an amazingly tiny yet sharp lens! This image simply takes my breath away with it sharpness, tonality and the way it draws the viewer into the image.  This is one of my planned images for a Platinum/Palladium print in a few weeks!

This camera is going to be the cornerstone of a old (new for me) printing process where I will be making LARGE contact negatives on an Epson 7900 printer to use in the making of chemical based Platinum/Palladium metallic prints exposed with a high intensity UV lamp set and chemically developed.  All of the images are B&W so the high resolution images generated with the Monochrome will work perfectly with this printing process.

When used with a high quality ND filter set from B+W the most amazing Long Exposures are possible and this camera simply delivers!

The set of ND filters that I keep in my kit for in sizes for each of my Leica lenses  from B+W are:

  • 103  –  3 stop ND
  • 106  –  6 stop ND
  • 110  –  10 stop ND
Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second Exposure

Here is an example taken on the Outer Banks of North Carolina prior to sunrise with 6 stops of ND filter and a 250 second exposure!  I used the 50mm Summilux ASPH lens for this image. Look at the tones and graduations of the grays.  Simply amazing…

Roanoke Marshes Light, 8 second exposure

Roanoke Marshes Light, 8 second exposure

Another example is this image of the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse taken about a month ago at sunrise. The detail in the clouds and water prove the ultra wide dynamic range that this camera is capable of!

Jordan, my grandson on his new Christmas drum set taken with the Monochrome and the  Leica SF 58

Jordan, my grandson on his new Christmas drum set taken with the Monochrome and the Leica SF 58

Leica SF 58 Flash

Leica SF 58 Flash

For people, I have been coupling the M Monochrome with the Leica SF 58 flash which is simply a pleasure to use and is fully integrated with the M electronics! The camera and flash are so well functionally  balanced that it will blow your mind when you pick them up to shoot!  Audio indications from the flash for performance and a dual flash head that allows a straight on light plus a bounced light!

As you can see from the image of Jordan, it is exceptionally well balanced and the tonality is perfect yet there is no overt indication of flash in use!

I have used a Sekonic DR750 spot meter along with special software and target to measure the dynamic range of this camera when shooting in RAW (DNG) and get 11 to 13 stops dependent upon the ISO setting being used.  Who says that paying big dollars for a camera system doesn’t guarantee big performance!   

The system simply amazes me…..

If you have any comments or questions on this post please send me some feedback and I will answer to the best of my ability!

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second exposure.

Outer Banks Fishing Pier, 250 second exposure. Note the moving clouds!

15 comments on “Leica M Monochrome Magic….

  1. Very interesting. I remember when you first got your M-240 and I questioned your need for longer exposure times. Well I see it now. What a great set of photos. Your Duggars Creek Falls shot is beyond words. I have seen many of your pier shots but the Outer Banks at 240 seconds really shows what can be done with a long exposure. Very nice work. Funny that I also have the SF 58 Flash but I have only used it with my M-240, never even considered using it on my MM. Looking forward to your shots and thoughts on the Tri-Elmar.

    • Thanks Tom for the comments! I am having a lot of fun with the monochrome due to its 4 min bulb. I still do well with the M 240 but now I am using the monochrome more.

      The flash works great with the mono and adds a lot of capability to the system.

      I have not used the Tri elmar too much yet but I can tell you that it is very well made (almost the quality of my 50 Summilux) and is very sharp!

    • Hi when i use my Sf58 with the monochron the f stop does not change on the flash screen. Is that normal for everyone.

      • Francesco, the camera has not way to sense and tell the flash what aperture you are using. The 58 flash it telling


        which Aperture to use on the back screen with the data from the camera on shutter speed, ISO and distance. As long as you get within a stop up or down from this suggestion the flash will work great!

  2. I have been intrigued by this camera since first hearing about it, but since it was way out of my price range I’ve never really explored much about it. It strikes me as being about as close as you can get in the digital world to actually loading in a roll of b/w film. That said, it seems to me that any image you capture with the Monochrome Leica can be captured in color and converted. So, I am guessing the advantage is not having to make conversion decisions, while being assured you will end up with a lovely b/w image requiring little post work.

    One can change a menu setting on most digital cameras and record b/w, but it isn’t a particularly good b/w image. And once you’ve done that, you lose much of your control in post, not being able to manipulate the different colors. It is nowhere near as good as shooting color and converting where one has many more controls beyond what a camera can do. So, what did Leica do to get around this hurdle?

    I’m curious, will this camera respond to color filters in a similar manner to the way that b/w film did? Also, are there adjustments in-camera to simulate such refinements? I’m curious how much swing there is in menu settings regarding how the image is captured. I am guessing that Leica did not model the “straight from camera image” after any particular film stock, and that it is a “clean” digital image. At the same time they had to make choices in terms of how it interprets. Any thoughts on what road they took?

    So, I guess my parting question to you would be, what do you think makes this Leica Monochrome so special?

    • Frank, this camera is without peer. It responds to the standard B&W color filters (red, yellow, green and blue) just as film does, exactly! But… most importantly you MUST understand that it is the sensor that sets this camera aside and it will out perform ANY color camera image that is converted in post. As you also noted that setting up the camera to shoot a color camera in B&W internally simply dumbs the camera down and forces you to shoot in 8 bits.

      The Brayer pattern filter and the anti aliasing filter are simply not there. So in the color camera sensor world you get a 3×3 array of image capture wells that correspond to 1 bit of color info and the surrounding bits in the 3×3 array are “guessed” in the camera software giving you an effecting resolution of Sensor/9 for sharpness and color but an effective resolution of that of at the sensor. The Monochrome is a TRUE pure 18 mp with each sensor well being a true 16 bit discreate B&W capture well. This creates an image that is so sharp that it takes your breath away and if you take the inverse of the color sensor formula you get sensor_resolution X 9 as an effective output. You have to see the images to understand what I am really talking about but let me assure you that it will take your breath away.

      This camera (M Monochrome) is without question the most advanced B&W system that I have ever used. It so closely creates medium format quality images that I have to force myself to actually go out and take film images! But I still do so, I shoot a LOT of medium format (6×6 and 6×7) and large format 4×5 film as well because I enjoy the film process so very much. In fact I took the Voigtlander Bessa IIIw camera to the same waterfall as the image in this post and will process them tonight.

      I am such a sad puppy when it comes to this stuff!!

      Did I answer your questions?

      • Yes, thanks Mark, you answered my questions. That is interesting about the sensor. I was not aware of that, but it sure makes sense and I can see how it would be a difference maker. I bet blowups are stellar. With your interest in IR, Leica B&W, and medium and large format film, I don’t know how you find time to shoot them all! Hope to see you in 2015.

      • Mark, that is one of the better explanations I have seen as to why the Monochrome does what it does. I knew the Brayer pattern filter and anti aliasing filter were not there but didn’t know about the sensor well being a true 16 bit discreat B&W capture well. I went to one of the release parties when the M-Monochrom was announced and I really wasn’t that impressed. Once it was released and I started seeing the results I had to have one. I sold all my Medium format film stuff to make the purchase. I have never looked back. It was just like using film without a darkroom. The most amazing part was I was getting medium format quality from a little 35mm camera. So, Frank now you know what makes this camera so special.

      • Tom, thanks for the comment! Yes, the Monochrome is an AMAZING camera. I still shoot Medium Format (6×6 and 6×7) with the Voigtlander Bessa IIw and I just replaced my stolen M7 but the magic is gone from the M7 due to the Monochrome and the Bessa! I do enjoy working with film but the images from the Monochrome as just magic!

  3. Pingback: Leica M Monochrome Magic…. | Mark Hilliard › Von TOMEN

  4. These are lovely images Mark.
    Have you tried using graduated NDs with the rangefinder system (not the 240) where live view is not possible? I struggled somewhat when I visited Iceland with the Mono in trying to do landscapes in extreme weather conditions. But I admit that the Monochrom has performed impeccably for most other applications I have put it to. The SF58 I purchased still need to be removed from the box. But I am heartened to hear of your experience with it.

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