Posted in: Digital cameras

The Leica M Monochrom is an $8000 camera that shoots black and white pictures

Leica, the Rolls Royce of camera manufacturers, has announced the newest member of their flagship rangefinder cameras. The Leica M Monochrom is a very specialized camera that is designed to take just black and white pictures and nothing else.

Now before you start laughing and wonder how is this different than a regular camera shooting in black and white mode, let me explain. The sensors on digital cameras are literally color blind, which means they are sensitive to light but they cannot differentiate between colors. Because of this, normal digital cameras place a color filter array (CFA) on top of the sensor. Light passes through this filter and then gets separated into different colors, which are captured by the sensor and then combined later.

The problem with this arrangement is that most of the light is wasted when it passes through the color filter and a lot less of it reaches the sensor. However, on the M-Monochrom, there is no color filter over the sensor, so all the light coming in through the lens falls on the sensor, which makes the sensor capture much more light, thus getting significantly higher quality images, even in low light. Also, the process where the color information from the filters is then combined, also known as demosaicing, is not present on the M-Monochrome, so there is even less processing of the picture once it is captured, making it retain most of the details.

Regarding the specifications, the M-Monochrom has a 18 megapixel full-frame CCD sensor that can capture images in sensitivities as high as ISO 10,000. On the back is a 2.5-inch, 230k dot display with sapphire glass cover. The camera supports Leica’s M Mount for lenses. There is no video recording on this camera.

Captured images can be saved in its RAW DNG file format, or you can save them in JPEG. Saving it in JPEG lets you use three color filters for the images from the within the camera: sepia, cold and selenium toning, to really get that old photograph look for your pictures. The camera also comes with full version of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro 2 for editing your photos, software that alone costs $350 combined.

As usual, you also get the beautiful classic Leica design. The camera uses a single-piece, full-metal housing made from high-strength magnesium alloy and the top and bottom are made from solid brass blanks. There is soft leather trim on the sides and the M-Monochrom also comes with a carrying strap made from genuine full-grain cowhide leather. It’s the materials and the general attention to detail that sets Leica cameras apart from the plastic cameras that we usually see, which includes high-end DSLRs.

The specific skill set of this camera, coupled with $7,950 price tag means it will find few takers when it goes on sale in late July. Those, however, who do a lot of black and white photography and want no compromises in quality will find this the ideal camera for their needs.

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