Leica Monochrom

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by ray ., Jun 17, 2013.

  1. Anybody shooting with a Leica Monochrom lately? Do the photos still have the antiseptic feel of digital, or could I safely
    replace my film M with one? Are blacks in a good quality inkjet print as deep? I sort of doubt it..

    I had an M8 a few years ago. Has anyone compared the results (not the interface etc) with that camera and the Monochrom? A few weeks ago I got my Epson 3800 prints out and the ones that originated from Tri-X or other b&w film had deeper blacks than from the M8, which by itself with no comparison, makes a good effort toward trying to look like film. Does the Monochrom get any closer?
     
  2. I think the MM is an extraordinary camera. MF resolution and an awesome tonal response.
    Take a look at my images www.flickr.com/photos/michael_toye
    This one is 100% https://secure.flickr.com/photos/michael_toye/9004291954/sizes/o
    Michael
     
  3. SCL

    SCL

    There's an active forum dedicated to the Leica Monochrome on the L-Camera forum http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-forum/
     
  4. Take a look for yourself at this excellent thread started by Tony. Great photos, too:

    http://www.photo.net/leica-rangefinders-forum/00bJ3j
    While I like the results of the Monochrom, I think it retains that antiseptic look of digital. The statement above that the Monochrom has "MF resolution" is optimistic to say the least.
     
  5. What Jim said. There are a lot of cheerleaders for this thing, but look at the photos you see from it! Yeah, they look good for digital, but that doesn't mean much, do it?
    I like Leicas, have owned a lot of them, the lenses are superb, but digital is digital, and always will be. This will surely get people's hackles up, but I guarantee I could take a $50 film camera, load it w/ Tri-X, print it on fiber paper, and blow away any B&W digital photo ever made. Any of us could. I wouldn't make this bet w/ color, as digital does a remarkable job w/ that, as long as you're willing to live w/ the loss of shadow detail that occurs. It's really silly to run around w/ blinders on. Film excels at some things, digital excels at other things, but it's foolish to mix the strengths up w/ the weaknesses. But hey, people invest a ton of money in something, it biases their reality.
     
  6. If you liked Panatomic-X in Microdol, you'll love it.

    They're not bringing Panatomic-X back. I guess there are those that thought it was sterile.
     
  7. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    "It's really silly to run around w/ blinders on. Film excels at some things, digital excels at other things, but it's foolish to mix the strengths up w/ the weaknesses. But hey, people invest a ton of money in something, it biases their reality. "

    I'm trying to figure out what this says. Who has those blinders, Steve?
     
  8. <img src="http://www.leicaplace.com/members/brian/albums/1943-carl-zeiss-jena-5cm-f1-5-leica-mount-original/733-korea1-zeiss.jpg" > <p>

    ISO 5000, 1943 Carl Zeiss Jena 5cm F1.5 Sonnar "T" wide-open on the M Monochrom.
     
  9. The photos are nice, but I did notice that they are very digitally "clean" looking. Both the new Asph lens and the the monochrome. I'm not sure they don't look antiseptic to me. If you want, you could try to add some digital "grain" and see what that does. But there's almost a kind of HDR look to some of them. Though I like the photos a lot, good work Michael. Why don't you post on the pic of the week thread? We need ya.
     
  10. If I wasn't clear enough, I like the results I've seen from the Monochrom. If I had the intention to buy a digital Leica it would probably be a Monochrom. Barry may have selected the more accurate word: clean. It certainly retains that digital look but not in an obnoxious way. I wonder if digital cameras use sharpening (or an unsharpening mask) in-camera to create that uniquely digital look.
    Regardless, I like the tonal range of the Monochrom and it is about the only digital that could woo me away from 35mm B&W film.
     
  11. "It's really silly to run around w/ blinders on. Film excels at some things, digital excels at other things, but it's foolish to mix the strengths up w/ the weaknesses. But hey, people invest a ton of money in something, it biases their reality." - Steve Mareno​
    FWIW, I interpreted this to cut both ways. A film workflow and kit can be a costly investment, perhaps no less so than for digital. Digital vs. film is now as false a dichotomy as watercolors vs. oils.
    Foolhardy claims that digital is just as good as film misses the point, as I see it, entirely. I think a better approach to this is to appreciate the differences, if not celebrate them. Still we precede with making foolish comparisons as though our eldest child is quantifiably better than our youngest child. Pffft!
    Enough with being meta.
     
  12. Thanks Barry. I have just joined and am keen to participate :)
    Further on the Monochrom conversation, my images are a specific look. I shoot and process for strong clarity and a deep DoF. I think what encourages me about the Monochrom is how little work I have to do in PS to achieve these results. I used to shoot Canon and the Monochrom is a clear step up.
    No disrespect to others here - I'm new so have no idea of anyones' camera history - but I tend to take reviews on cameras with a pinch of salt unless they've lived with said camera for at least 1000 shots.
    Michael
     
  13. So much depends on how someone likes to print... Brian, I'd love to see a few more examples of yours,
    although, looking at screen shots, it's still hard to judge what a print would look like.
    As far as resolution goes, even the M8 was excellent, and I don't think comparison to medium
    format in that respect is unreasonable. I'm just not convinced that anything digital is up to the full tonal
    range of a good black and white film optimally processed. I guess I'd have to see some prints in person- or better, give the camera a
    run myself to know for sure.
     
  14. I've been posting most of my shots here:

    http://www.leicaplace.com/members/brian/albums/

    People know I am a classic lens fanatic. So, many are sorted by Lens.

    Digital does not have the "Toe" and "Heel" of film, easy to blow highlights and miss shadows. Choice of a lens is even more important on a Digital camera. Older glass with less contrast, and "not too much resolution" suits digital well.

    I've been using "Digital Imagers" since 1981. You don't need liquid nitrogen anymore, not even with IR cameras. Some things have improved.
     
  15. bms

    bms

    (yawn) When are people stop comparing digital and film?
    Digital does not have the "Toe" and "Heel" of film, easy to blow highlights and miss shadows​
    While that is true, IMO, if you scan film, much will depend on scanning and post-processing. You can "blow" highlight and "block" shadows at each step. And then of course it will be paramount how, with what and on what you print it. While the choices for a completely analogue process seem to become more and more limited, there are so many option (and hence variations) for digital output.
    I, for one, don't think that digital looks "antiseptic" per se. That being said, unfortunately I have not had the chance to play with the Monochrom, but I doubt it is an "replacement" for film, just a different option. If you really need to choose between film and digital, a better comparison would be a good darkroom print vs a good inkjet print from the Monochrom. I am pretty sure they will look different, but each pleasing in their own way.
     
  16. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    Yes, Benjamin, thanks.

    Also, when are we going to stop criticizing technology as it improves? It's like complaining about the impurity of a Porsche's ability to go 150 miles per hour when in the old days a Model T would go 25 and that's if you could keep it on the road with its lousy steering. The Model T, see, has much more character than the Porsche.

    Film grain was essentially bad, wasn't it? Wasn't there a whole industry surrounding the notion that if you exposed correctly, developed it using the correct developer, temperature, time, and agitation methods, then you could _reduce_ apparent grain? Didn't film grain adversely affect the extent an image could be cropped and enlarged? I get that film grain adds character to photographs, and I even like that.

    Now, if you mix a Leica Monochrom with Lightroom (and possibly DFine), you can end up with virtually grainless pictures. I think that's actually really cool.
     
  17. "I am pretty sure they will look different, but each pleasing in their own way." - Benjamin​
    Yep!
    "Film grain was essentially bad, wasn't it?" - Tony​
    I'm just an egg. My understanding is that grain is an essential component of acutance. At some level whether pixels or crystals, something is needed to allow photos to have apparent sharpness to our eyes. Not bad but different.
     
  18. "I'm just an egg" - is that a Robert Heinlein reference?
     
  19. Film is not about nostalgia to me, as Tony implies in using the word "character." It's about a superior tonal scale. It's subtle, but it's there, and it's significant enough to cause a lot of very good photographers, still to this day, to opt for using film. Digital has a different look. You may like the clean look or not. Digital tends to be superior to 35mm film with respect to resolution. But the main reason it's the prevalent technology now is that it's less labor intensive and more convenient. For commercial photographers too, it's used because in that realm, "time is money."
     
  20. Also, when are we going to stop criticizing technology as it improves?​
    Tony, film grain was not inherently "good" or "bad". There was a lot of chemistry done to control the grain structure. Some poeple liked grained films for others did not and it also related to the use for the photos. So its really not grain or no grain. Also, I'm not really concerned about film vs digital either. I don't know if people are reacting to my original comment that they took it to be some luddite comment against digital photography. I was just reacting to the photos I was looking at. They have an HDR appearance to me and are very "clean". This can be simply post-processing or the camera. People have sometimes used that type of description in relation to the new ASPH lenses that they are so sharp edge to edge that some find them not pleasing. Could be that. But if you think I'm making an anti-technology statement, you are incorrect.
     
  21. (yawn) When are people stop comparing digital and film?


    Digital does not have the "Toe" and "Heel" of film, easy to blow highlights and miss shadows

    While that is true, IMO, if you scan film, much will depend on scanning and post-processing. You can "blow" highlight and "block" shadows at each step. And then of course it will be paramount how, with what and on what you print it. While the choices for a completely analogue process seem to become more and more limited, there are so many option (and hence variations) for digital output.
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

    They are two mediums that I have used for a very long time, and I will continue to compare differences as I continue to use both. That way, I get better results with each.

    Film does have a toe and heel, digital does not- it is a linear response.

    You can be bored, or you can learn something.
     
  22. "...is that a Robert Heinlein reference?" - Michael​
    It's the only book I've read by Heinlein but it influenced my young life like none other. It was the right story at the right time.
     
  23. Have look for the Monochrom as a landscape camera thread on rangefinderforum.com, just the first two images alone.
    There is no doubt the Monochrom is a remarkable camera. And that is even before you consider its high ISO
    performance allowing faster shutter speeds and smaller apertures in situations where 1/30s at f2 would be a luxury. Must
    be the ultimate street camera, and jazz bar camera.
     
  24. I did a quick test for a thread on DPREVIEW- bright outdoor scene at ISO 320, the building had an open door. 6-stop push to pull out the detail from the view through the door.
    6-Stop Push
    This is my second Monochrome digital camera, the first was bought 20 years ago.
     
  25. The RFF thread I mentioned:
    http://www.rangefinderforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=127029
     
  26. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    Have you seen the three-part review of the Monochrom by Gregory Simpson? Nicely done. He loves film, so did a pretty good job of comparing the two: http://www.ultrasomething.com/photography/2012/12/a-fetishists-guide-to-the-monochrom-part1/
     
  27. C-Sonnar 50/1.5, at F4, with Orange filter at Manassas Battlefield.<p>

    <img src="http://www.leicaplace.com/members/brian/albums/csonnar-50-1-5/632-csonnar-cannon-f4.jpg"> <p>


    Jupiter-3 5cm F1.5, at F4 <p>

    <img src="http://www.leicaplace.com/members/brian/albums/1950-kmz-jupiter-3/622-50j3-gun-f4.jpg"><p>
     
  28. bms

    bms

    They are two mediums that I have used for a very long time, and I will continue to compare differences as I continue to use both. That way, I get better results with each.​
    Brian, I meant no offense - my maybe not so well put statement was referring to the seemingly endless discussion of one being somehow "better" than the other. I mostly shoot digital but though I came back to film after it had already started its decline, using it has undoubtedly taught me a lot. For me they are more like different media. I don't think many painters will endlessly ague if oil is better than water color or vice versa.
     
  29. Great article, Tony! It is more on the balance than anything else I have read about the Monochrom. I am posting these excerpts specifically to address how the Monochrom compares to film, according to Mr. Simpson of course.
    Gregory Simpson says something in Part 2 that echoes a lot of what people have said here about the Monochrom:
    "In spite of its film-like tonality, the cleanliness and detail contained in these files still make them appear uniquely digital. Is this good or bad? That depends totally on you, your fetishes, and how flexible you are." - Gregory Simpson​
    His opinions are well constructed and states them with wonderful clarity. I can get away with mistakes on film that I could never pull off with digital. His personal case for film (text in bold for emphasis):
    "There are two reasons why I sometimes grab a film camera on the way out the door. The first is film’s tonality, and its response to light. The Monochrom definitely closes the gap here, but it doesn’t quite eliminate it. There are still differences with toe and shoulder response that, in some 'real-world' situations, make me choose film. Note that I define 'real world' as meaning 'oops, I really screwed up the exposure on that shot!' And in these conditions, film’s unique toe and shoulder response curves completely save my butt. If I were more in control of my exposure, I wouldn’t hesitate to claim that the Monochrom could effectively eliminate the tonal advantages I get from film. But on the streets, where photo opportunities occur so quickly that I have to 'make do' with dubious exposure and even more dubious focus, film remains somewhat more forgiving, and thus a viable medium."- Gregory Simpson​

    This, however, is great praise for the Monochrom:
    "If I owned a Monochrom, I would still continue to shoot film, but I’m quite certain that the quantity of Tri-X flowing through my cameras would drop precipitously."- Gregory Simpson​
    I would LOVE to have one of these to shoot with. I really like the results of the Monochrom. Sure, I would still shoot film but the Monochrom would make a dent in my 35mm b&w usage.
    Based on his review I would say that both sides of this argument are more or less correct in their opinions.
     
  30. Are blacks in a good quality inkjet print as deep?
    Well first off, do you understand that there are labs that will print digital files to real silver-halide paper, either FB (expensive) or RC ($2-$3 for an 8x10)? Because if you like silver halide prints, digital doesn't take away that option. Of course, if you want to print from digital to silver halide paper at home, your options are not great: IIRC a super-expensive Durst digital enlarger that basically had an LCD where the negative carrier would go, or printing negative transparencies with an inkjet and making contact prints with them.
    As for inkjets: some setups (printer, ink, and paper) can deliver very high Dmax with good separation / tonality in the darker tones. I'm not an expert, but I've seen some stuff that was very nice.
     
  31. Maybe OT, but is the issue with getting deep blacks in prints an issue with the digital capture or is it one of printers/papers? Just wondering out loud. When i was printing with my Epson 2200 using the all black method, I felt that I was getting decent blacks with the Matt black ink, probably now obsolete and I haven't printed in a long time,just getting color prints from a service. So I'm curious where that all is. Ray, you were printing with a 3800. Were you getting good B/W?
     
  32. Getting good b/w, yes. Just was saying that in a direct comparison, blacks are blacker on the prints
    made from film that was scanned, as opposed to prints made from M8 files. Same papers, same printer.
     
  33. Adjusting the contrast of the files from the M8 will fix that. In a wet darkroom, you adjust exposure time and contrast to get the look you want from differing negatives. With digital printing, you adjust the files.
     
  34. Here's a quick shot I just did to compare maximum darkness between film and digital. I put down a wet-darkroom print made from a film negative right next to a print made from a file from a digital camera (Canon 5Dmk2) and photographed them at the same time. The shot is a bit overexposed (the prints look darker) and the lighting/reflections aren't perfectly even, but it shows the relative darkness of each type. The one on the left-hand side of the picture is film; the right side is digital.
    00bkq9-540872584.jpg
     
  35. Tony, I don't think grain is bad at all. Just imagine Ralph Gibson's photographs without it.
     
  36. I am confident that a good inkjet print has equivalent Dmax to a silver bromide print. As Dave says, you can get a bromide print made from a digital file if you really want the same look as "classic film" print. Any differences that can be seen between digital and film in the contrast and black and white areas can be adjusted by processing in RAW. I think what Ray is talking about re "the antiseptic look of film" may have something to do with the lack of grain and the high degree of sharpening often shown in a digital image. Although you can add "digital grain", I am not sure why you would most of the time (unless looking for a faux film look), it is also easy to control the degree of sharpening to match more closely the look of a sharp film image - don't oversharpen. I am still rather bemused that these arguments/discussion still go on. Like most of you, I used film for most of my "photographic life" and I certainly enjoy good digital black and white as much as classic film darkroom prints. Much of the differences seem to me to be much overblown.
     
  37. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    The use of the term "bad" was inappropriate on my part; I didn't really mean to imply that the very structure that MAKES the image on film is bad; I think I meant more along the lines that for a detail-capturing device, grain can eventually get in the way. But, practically, it is only if you want to enlarge a great deal which I do not much.

    One thing about the Monochrom that I am enjoying is my ability to crop pieces and parts of an image with greater ease and with less noise. Mr. Simpson makes reference to this ability in his article.
     
  38. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    With reference to printing digital picture onto traditional fiber-based paper, I am considering trying Digital Silver Imaging. Anyone have any experience with them?
     
  39. I am considering trying Digital Silver Imaging. Anyone have any experience with them?
    No, and I don't mean to highjack the thread, but given some of the technical discussions that underlie the issues, after looking at their home page, it might be worth observing that they make this substantial error / misstatement: "The fusion of modern digital technology and true silver gelatin fiber printing. We use a Durst Theta 51 photographic laser printer that exposes Ilford silver gelatin papers at 400ppi. The RGB tri-color laser produces continuous tones ...." Wrong. The silver in the paper emulsion only simulates continuous tones. It is manifestly not a continuous-tone process--and never was, either with traditional B&W film or traditional B&W prints. The local prevalence / density of grains makes the area of the print look darker or lighter to the naked eye, much the way halftone dots do in a printed image. But at any given point you have grain or not, and not really continuous tones. At the lower end, Mpix makes the same error: "True Black & White Photo Paper: Our matte finish True B&W Photo Paper offers rich black, continuous-tone prints ...."
    So do these labs produce good prints? Might very well (and I've had good experience with Mpix). You don't necessarily have to be a technical ace to produce great work. But one might be slightly more suspicious of the abilities of people who make technical claims ("continuous tones" / "continuous-tone") that are just wrong.
     
  40. "Adjusting the contrast of the files from the M8 will fix that."
    RAW>TIFF files were adjusted. Scanned film yielded deeper blacks in an inkjet print than the M8.
     
  41. I used it for about 4 weeks now. Still believe ideally processed film + print from web dark room is better, just in my own opinion. However, if we don't compare with "ideally processed film + print", but just consider in average, taking into account all factors, including low night quality (and especially if we don't insist on film look but just an "image" as is), MM is very good and very lovely.
    [​IMG]
     
  42. RAW>TIFF files were adjusted. Scanned film yielded deeper blacks in an inkjet print than the M8.
    Then the adjustment of the raw->TIFF files was not done to a great enough extent / properly / in an appropriate way. Whether you're working from original digital capture like an M8 or scanned film, either way, if you print them the same (inkjet, Lightjet, etc.), they can have the same Dmax / blackness of blacks. In this regard, the curves tool is your friend. Note also that color digital capture (or scanned color film) will let you more-or-less apply B&W-type color filters after the fact in the digital darkroom, before conversion to B&W.
     
  43. Not convinced. I use curves on digital same as scanned film.
     
  44. If you like "grain" from M Mono naturally, one possible way to do this is to underexposure significantly, and then increase the exposure, fill-light... etc. in Lightroom. See whether you like the resulting "grain". I am ok. The one below was originally seriously under for the couple because of the sunset behind (I tried to use a larger image this time to show the resulting "grain"):
    [​IMG]
     
  45. "Not convinced."

    That's a problem with your reasoning, not with the printer. The printer doesn't know or care whether the file is from a digital camera or from a film scanner. It will happily print the same maximum black for both.
     
  46. bms

    bms

    It is manifestly not a continuous-tone process--and never was​
    Well, as you explained that is true for film, too, but I would wonder especially about the laser printed fiber paper, which is not a true conversion from digital back to analogue, it seems, though I think if you are not a grain/pixel peeper, both methods appear to be continuous to the eye
     
  47. No reasoning involved Mike, just reporting my observation. I use curves exactly the same way to adjust
    contrast, whether it's a file from digital camera or digital file from scanned film.
     
  48. If you're using curves "exactly the same way" on two different files (with different min and max values) and expecting the output to be the same, perhaps you should try a bit of reason.
     
  49. Not the "same way" as you're interpreting that phrase. I'll take a look at the prints again tomorrow. Could
    it be that what's happening is that to get similar detail and similar overall contrast to a film scan, in the digitally captured photograph,
    the blacks end up suffering a bit? This would make sense since the digital camera photos I've seen
    where the photographer prints with deep tones and detail in whites tend to have a quite noticeable loss of
    deep shadow detail. I seriously doubt it's a matter of any ability to manipulate curves; I'm quite adept at it- I've done it enough years.
     
  50. Got to agree with Benjamin and Dave, if looked at strictly, film is not continuous tone either. Probably these companies should just stop mentioning it. What they mean is that there are a sufficiently large number of tones available that it will look like continuous tone and that this will serve any image and reasonable person for black and white output (i.e its not 8-bit 128 tones, as was once).
     
  51. Not convinced. I use curves on digital same as scanned film.
    Well then Ray, two thoughts:
    (1) Do the histograms of the raw->TIFF file and the scanned film look identical after you've finished processing them? If the histograms are not identical, then of course the prints will look different. As an experiment, maybe try to match the histograms before you print, and see whether the prints look the same. I bet that at a minimum, the degree of difference will decrease very substantially.
    (2) If the histograms match, then is it possible that what you're seeing is an artifact of different spectral responses between the film and the digital sensor? If so, then a color digital capture would allow you to use curves separately on the R, G, and B channels to match the film's spectral response, but obviously with a pure-monochrome digital sensor, you may have to apply somewhat different filtration than you would with film to get the same results.
     
  52. Ray - I can't see your explanation makes much sense. If the details are in the digital file and film too then both prints could be made to look almost identical. Sometimes these discussions vear off into "dynamic range talk" and then filmophiles say that film has greater dynamic range, which I think no longer applies for correctly exposed images with recent digital offerings either: particularly so if talking about print output.
     
  53. Well, as you explained that is true for film, too, but I would wonder especially about the laser printed fiber paper ....
    Fundamentally, the silver-bearing emulsion on on FB (or RC) paper is the same basic thing as the silver-bearing emulsion on the film. They are fundamentally similar in the way that they simulate continuous tones with greater or lesser concentrations of silver grains affecting the rendered density. Exposing the paper with a laser or LED, instead of a light through a negative and focused onto the paper, does not change that. Of course, the digitally-controlled laser or LED does not have infinitely-variable intensity, so theoretically you could get a banding-like effect. However, as far as I know, all current laser / LED photo printers are at least 8 bits (per channel for color), and some are more, so you have at least 256 shades from pure black (0) to pure white (255), which is plenty to simulate continuous tones for practical purposes of human vision. And when that laser hits that FB paper at 17/255 of maximum intensity or 162/255 maximum intensity, the paper reacts just like paper always did: with a variable (based on the light intensity) and slightly imprecise / random change to the silver that the developer will turn into a visible image composed of many tiny grains of varying concentrations, sizes, etc.
     
  54. "If the details are in the digital file and film too.." <p>
    Not sure what you're talking about.
     
  55. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    Ray, and everyone, the issue here is when Ray said, "...scanned film" in comparing to RAW> TIFF.... Ray, when you scanned that film, you lost the traditional process and entered into the digital world. Once digitized, all bets are off; you can make ANYTHING digital as black as black can be. There is some limitation of digital printing, i.e. pigmented ink jets. How black are they, and can they be as black as a traditional B&W fiber print made the old fashioned way? I don't know!
     
  56. I sold my leica m4p recently and use the funds for my daughter's Chinese tuition.
    FWIW! ;)
     

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