Leica Monochrom: example for those considering

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by rowlett, Feb 1, 2013.

  1. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    I found this to be "interesting" not necessarily from a picture-point of view, but if you view the maximum size,
    I think it's a good example of what that Leica Monochrom can do.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonyrowlett/8437267646/in/photostream/lightbox/
     
  2. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    There are a few others at that same site; have a look. I'm not really trying to show off, just show what I've done in the last few days playing around with a Leica Monochrom. I really think this is the most fantasic machine I've ever worked with. Not from a purely "megapixel" point of view, just what it can do with the megapixels that it has. Its results have been a bit startling to me.
     
  3. Hey Tony, your Monochrom is terrific! I was admiring your b/w photos on Flickr for the last few days and am glad you are sharing them here. Nice camera in the hands of a very good photographer.
     
  4. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    thanks, Alex. i just can't find a "style" for me. Jeff Spirer and Brad have such one, yah?
     
  5. You have a style, man. Don't worry about anyone else. All artists are different.
     
  6. Style, shmile you've always taken interesting photos. The pics actually all of yours with the different cameras including film, are all very clean. What's amazing is the lack of noise in the high ISO monochrome pics. So Tony, it will be interesting to see how the pics look with the new Leica Digital M's coming out. The photos are great on the Monochrome, but doesn't it bother you to have to use another camera for color? These pics are nice though.
     
  7. Hello, Tony, I really enjoyed looking at your portfolio. You obviously have a good eye and an ability to capture the moment. The amazing resolution of the Monochrom photos add detail and textural interest. I particularly enjoyed your photos from South Africa, having grown up there. It's interesting to see an outsider's view of what to an insider is mundane and every-day. I wondered if your photo, "Tree in Sweet Light" taken in the Kruger Park was captured with an uncoated, pre-war lens like the Summar; it has that kind of signature. Thanks for sharing! Best wishes, David
     
  8. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    Thanks for the encouragement! (It does work.)

    David, the "sweet light" shot was with my Nikon D700 (70-200). It was tweaked in Lightroom, though, so some characteristics sneak into the final image that way, I imagine.

    Barry, I routinely reduce noise in Lightroom, but not very much. If ever you wish, I could report my Lightroom develop settings in that regard. The high ISO performance of the Monochrom really is excellent; so much so that it borders on the bizarre! I struggled with the "black and white only" notion, but I figured two things: pick a camera that does one thing _really well_ and go with it, and the fact that it doesn't have to be a permanent solution. I do enjoy working in color, too, but for now I will chock this up as a B&W experiment. The new Leica M seems to be a great camera, and I have R lenses that might make its acquisition logical, but I have not really missed color by using the Monochrom.
     
  9. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    Working in Lightroom with images from the Monochrom is a whole new experience. First, a layer of complexity is removed entirely: the color-channel sliders. You're left with the exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks sliders. In a way, it's much easier to tweak your image to perfection, but the opposite side of that coin is that the sliders are used slightly differently. For instance, I find that I don't find useful, so far, reducing the highlights on account of it doesn't do much because once details are lost, you only have one channel to deal with and no amount of reduction can bring back detail. What that means is that you have to be careful with your initial exposure. Also, I have noticed that I need to bring up whites more, lower blacks less, and work the contrast in smaller increments.
     
  10. Tony, if you wouldn't mind sharing your settings for noise reduction, not that I have any Leica digital, but just to see how you go about doing it. I'm clueless when it comes to how to reduce noise and retain detail. BTW, its great finding some of your work again. Didn't realize you were on flickr, but when I first got into photography and started here on P.net, I remember some of your photos very much.
     
  11. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    Thanks for saying, Barry!

    The trick to noise reduction is one thing: don't over-do it! But between the Monochrom and the traditional color sensor, I think that is where the similarities end. With the Monochrom, the "grain" is much easier to work with, and in some scenarios, it truly does resemble film grain. Even at its highest ISO of 10,000, the grain is still reasonable and can be dealt with pretty easily in programs like Adobe Lightroom or Nik DfFine.

    Barry, are you using Lightroom?
     
  12. Tony, as someone who has used, or is using, both the colour and monchrome digital Leicas, is there any trade-off by not being able to manipulate the three colour sliders when converting to a monochrome image in post-exposure, as one has with the colour camera? I understand that if initial exposure is right (placed on right values) or if you are using colour filters, this may not be an issue, but I wonder if the Monochrom doesn't sacrifice some such flexibility by having everything in a single channel, pre-digested as it were (except for monochrome histogram and other modification potential in post-exposure).
    Although no slouch, my Leica M9 probably cannot fully compete with the Monochrom for resolution, dynamic range and ISO range in black and white (although I am curious about how much of an "offset" that may be in performance), but maybe it has some advantage for monochrome work with three channels, as mentioned above?
     
  13. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    Relative contrast control is sure easy when starting with a color image, that is for sure. So far I'm learning that to obtain the best in skin tones for Caucasians, one need place a light yellow or orange filter on the lens of a Monochrom, otherwise the skin tones come up a tad dark (at least sometimes, depending on lighting). I'm not sure if this is a huge deal, but I think that is where having the full color range in your M9 is more convenient. It may be the pay-off for the higher apparent resolution. Time will tell for me, as I have not shot that many pictures of people yet, but of the several, they sure look good with just adjusting things like contrast, whites, shadows, blacks, etc.

    I worried about this, because it was only recently that I began learning about using Hue/Saturation/Luminance (HSL) treatment in Lightroom. What an excellent and rich tool to use for B&W conversions from a color image.
     
  14. Yes, and have define as well as a plug-in.
     
  15. Interesting shots.
     
  16. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    Last night we had dinner company and so I put the Monochrom on my own version of "Snapshot Mode" :) by downsizing its resolution to 4.5 MB JPEG Fine (!), and by mounting my Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 Super Wide-Heliar Aspherical. I knew that the shots of the evening would not require 35 MB uncompressed (extracted from camera) on my hard drive, and a little funky angle of view for these times could be fun.
    <p>
    There is no downsizing of the .DNG format, so when you do this, you have to put up with some in-camera processing of the .JPG file type. For my purposes that was fine.
    <p>
    This is fairly close to a 100% crop of a picture I took of Mimi's silverware drawer. You might notice that her Chinese spoons are more prominent. (The next drawer is full of chop sticks!) The data follows. Make sure to view at highest res ("View all sizes"). Note that I increased the "Blacks" slider to +10 (this lessens the blacks and makes them a bit lighter). This is an ISO 2500 picture, with standard in-camera sharpening and no noise reduction that I am aware of. The Lightroom adjustments are fairly mild, the whites being shot up a bit more than the rest so I could bring out the whiteness of her spoons:
    <p>
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tonyrowlett/8440933491/in/photostream
    <p>
    Monochrom #5559 (jpg) 4.5 MB JPEG Fine<br>
    Approx 100% crop<br>
    Standard sharpening (in-camera)<br>
    No sharpening or noise reduction in Lightroom<br>
    ISO 2500<br>
    1/60th<br>
    Aperture: Not wide open<br>
    --<br>
    Lightroom 4 Adjustments<br>
    Exposure: +.24<br>
    Contrast: +14<br>
    Highlights: +16<br>
    Shadows: 0<br>
    Whites: +36<br>
    Blacks: +10<br>
     
  17. Here is one example. I attach the full size picture. Notice the outstanding whites and blacks.
    00bJTC-517799584.jpg
     
  18. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    That's pretty remarkable, Nozar. Thanks for contributing.
     
  19. Nothing much to offer. However. The picture of the Raven - WOW - what a picture. It's funny, a bit weird, and it even talks to traffic congestion (only way to get across the street is to fly?). Congrats.
     
  20. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    that was a planned shot. i saw him perched on top of that car and i knew he was going to jet. relatively fast shutter
    caught him. thanks!
     
  21. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    We have tons of ravens in Anchorage (indeed, Alaska) in the winter time. Even in Fairbanks when it is 50 below or colder, they are out. And you can hear them from farther away in the ice fog, and it is an eerie, strange, swallowing sound that is indescribable.

    Edgar Allan Poe would have dug Anchorage.
     
  22. I hear the new 50mm Apo-Asph Summicron is the lens that really shows what the M Monochrom can do.
     
  23. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    THAT lens will show what ANY Leica can do! :) (But you're definitely correct)
     
  24. I often wonder how much perfection is really needed? How much poorer is a few thousand dollar Summicron 50 compared to its recent aspherical namesake at about 4X the price? Or how much better is the Monochron compared to previous Leica digital Ms on B&W (M9, M8.2, M8)? For what it's worth, here is an unprocessed (except for the title) M8 image (sorry, I forget which lens, likely the 50mm Elmar-M f2.8) with the camera set on fine jpeg B&W setting.
    To answer those questions, I guess we would need rigorous comparisons of the two Summicrons as well as those between the M, Monochron, M9 and other bodies. I am sure the Monochron would have some advantage, but how significant for most usage?
    00bKJm-518603584.jpg
     
  25. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    That's cool, Arthur, it never dawned on me to use lens filters on the M8 in B&W mode. I will try that some time. Nice picture, by the way.

    On the Monochrom's distinct advantages, I'd say a major one is its high-ISO performance which is outstanding. The beauty there is that you can set it on Auto-ISO, lowest speed: 1/60th or 1/125th, highest ISO= 6400 or 8000 or even 10,000, and zone focus to your hearts content and get sharp pictures.
     
  26. Tony, I started using the B&W mode with an R72 filter to obtain black and white infrared images, given that the M8 has only a very thin IR blocking filter over its sensor. The Quebec City building in the photo has metal roof shingles the form of which were apparently developed from an initial similar application by local "habitants" that involved cutting up empty British tea containers to make roof coverings, after shipments of the imported product was diverted to Canada following the alternative destiny of tea at the Boston Tea Party.
    I think you make a very good point about a key advantage of the Monochrom. ISO range has been the Achille's heel of my M8 and (to a slightly lesser extent) M9. I don't fully understand how Leica got so much better ISO performance with the Monochrom (although some of that is likely related to more available pixels), but that is a really significant advantage for low light level and street photography and extending the zone focussing range you mention.
     
  27. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    I'm guessing that the actual level of noise is deceiving. There is probably as much noise with the Monochrom at a given ISO as there is with the M9, it's just that the Monochrom's noise is so much easier to deal with in good programs that handle noise reduction well, like Dfine and Lightroom. It truly is like film grain, even at high ISO.

    For the Monochrom, even without the use of the color channel sliders, I'm loving Lightroom more and more each time I use it.
     
  28. Good pics and discussion, but guys, it's nothing a good roll of Tri-X can't do... even better. :)
     
  29. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    Ray, I actually agree with you. Quite frankly, the Monochrom is a ridiculous overkill. In my view, the majority of the finest/most interesting photographs ever made with a "35mm" camera lack the majority of the Monochrom's characteristics, resolution, noise, blah blah. Don't get me wrong, it is a great camera and it's really interesting to use, but the ability to pixel peep the scratches of a bolt-head or lug nut on the tire of a truck 100 yards away is ... unnecessary!

    Funny thing, too, is I get all worked up about working in black-and-white for awhile as an experiment, when, at the same time, I see in influx of some of the most wonderful street photography taken in color which made me second-guess myself.... is that some karma or what? :) Some of the sites that I have been looking at:

    http://www.mattstuart.com/

    http://nickturpin.com/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/chiogonzalezphoto/
     
  30. The Monochrom is an indulgence - but it gives me ridiculous high useful iso, Medium format digi type
    dynamic range , panchromatic type tonality, better micro contrast and significantly better resolution and
    low noise if you care..personally I think that this straight (bayer filter and associated fussing less) B&W
    delivers a better result than B&W conversion of colour files eg from my M9.

    You shoot luminance with this camera in order to maximise teh benefit of what it can do - otherwise it is a waste. Just for tonality illustration purposes...

    <img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8353/8413234383_172bc64a3f_z.jpg">
     
  31. Peter, it may not be something you care to do or have time for, but is it possible to make two images at low ISO (160 or 320) with same wide tonality subject, same lighting and same lens at near optimum f stop, with each camera on tripod, and post large file results (link)? I for one would dearly like to directly see the differences in regard to dynamic range, micro contrast, resolution, noise, etc, at least at the lower ISO values.
    It may not be possible to see distinctions in regard to each of these parameters by such a test, but it would be worthwhile to know how much quality those who produce monochrome images with M9s may miss by not upgrading to a Monochrom.
    Of course, the new M camera or a Nikon D800e fitted with a Leica lens (not sure it can be done, but it was with fine results at the time of the Canon 5D Mark I) may change all that, but I guess that in some ways would be just muddying the issue (especially as a DSLR is a very different type of instrument).
     
  32. "Peter, it may not be something you care to do or have time for, but is it possible to make two images at low ISO (160 or 320) with same wide tonality subject, same lighting and same lens at near optimum f stop, with each camera on tripod, and post large file results (link)? I for one would dearly like to directly see the differences in regard to dynamic range, micro contrast, resolution, noise, etc, at least at the lower ISO values. It may not be possible to see distinctions in regard to each of these parameters by such a test, but it would be worthwhile to know how much quality those who produce monochrome images with M9s may miss by not upgrading to a Monochrom. Of course, the new M camera or a Nikon D800e fitted with a Leica lens (not sure it can be done, but it was with fine results at the time of the Canon 5D Mark I) may change all that, but I guess that in some ways would be just muddying the issue (especially as a DSLR is a very different type of instrument)."

    Hi Arthur - I don't see the monochrom as an 'upgrade' to the M9 - since it doesn't shoot colour! The M9 (and M8) are both capable of delivering good B&W employing post processing of course, however I do see the monochrom as my go to B&W shooter though.
    I could set up tests which show very little difference between the two in B&W versus B&W conversion - however in deep shadow or dim light or night time- the monochrome shines. A lot of people have difficulties learning to use the monochrom - because as a digital camera- once a highlight is blown it is blown - in daylight high contrast situations this can be a serious issue which needs to be thought through - as is the relatively high native ISO of 320. I use #3 and #6 ND filters on my Nocti and luxes for daylight shooting - as I pretty much shoot wide open as much as possible - since that is where the lux is optimally designed to be used ... ....however I have learned to use -1/3-1 full stop of EV in order to preserve the highlights - the darks are extremely easy to get detail out of - as in extremely easy - and that is where one will see the big difference between the M9 and the Mono - one you shoot to preserve the shadow detail - and the other you shoot to preserve the highlights ( if required)
    Incidentally I own a D800 - great camera but I am not satisfied with the colour versus the M9 it lacks the dimensionality you get from CCD. B&W conversions - same comments as apply to M9 above. To be frank the Nikon represents great value - however unless you are using Zeiss manual focus lenses you have to put up with the Nikon stuff - again I am used to shooting Leica lenses - Nikon doesn't quite do it for me. It does shine where Leica can't compete - and that is with macro and telephoto.
    I am concerned about the move to CMOS in the new M and will wait some time before deciding whether to 'upgrade' to this body for colour work - at this stage I am not convinced I need to.
    I will look for suitable opportunity to test the M9 next to the mono as you suggest - please don't hold your breath waiting though -:)
    Cheers Pete
     
  33. Peter, your reply and experience are much appreciated. Thanks. Despite some advantages (ability to use R optics, etc.), I have the same concern in regard to the M and its CMOS sensor versus that of the Kodak CCD. In regard to what you say about the differences in the Monochrom and the M9 and exposure I have been shooting at -1/3 or -2/3rds compensation and I now think that it may be quite important to be as accurate as possible in using the M9 to get exposure right and not have to shift the histogram later such as not to degrade the dark values. Of course, that may risk sacrificing some highlight textures. I wish I could afford a Monochrom as well, as that would be a fine instrument for low light B&W photography.
     
  34. I've uploaded an image from the M9 and M Monochrom both at base-ISO.<p>

    http://www.dpreview.com/galleries/876628771/albums/m9-and-monochrom-comparisons

    <p>

    The M9 image is converted to monochrome using Silver-Efex 2 that came with the Monochrom. A simulated Red filter is used, all Lightroom sharpening is turned off. Default sharpening made the image look ragged. 100% crops of the "Chimney" of Mt. Vernon shows the biggest difference in edge effects due to interpolation of the M9 mosaic filter.
     
  35. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    Brian, many thanks for doing that.
     
  36. Two weeks using the Monochrom; some shots here:

    http://www.viniciotassani.it/photogallery/box_novita-128/

    Thank you for comments
     
  37. Vinicio, some very nice images of human activity, in Venice, and elsewhere I assume. The low light photos with the Monochrom are fine, at least as far as is distinguishable with small size samples.
     
  38. Arthur, you're right, my fault. Those photos are for the website. I also uploaded few more shots on my flickr account at largest res.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/73569237@N06/sets/72157632852113673/
     
  39. Here is one example. I attach the full size picture. Notice the outstanding whites and blacks.
    Large photo attachment:
    (in Boston -- 5216 x 3472 photo)
    That's too sharp - or maybe you applied too much sharpening. Look at the profile of the statue against the white background, for example.
    Was that a camera JPEG? Because the rendering is awful.
     

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