week 19 | 2012…. NOT

2012, Photography


This week Leica took the bold move to announce a Leica M9 with a monochrom(e) sensor, the Leica M Monochrom. So much can be said about this camera and it’s sensor and so much doesn’t need to be said either. I personally like the idea of a monochrome sensor. It will exceed the dynamic range of most other sensors and get close to the dynamic ranges of several B&W film stocks. And yes, the fact that pretty much every pixel is relevant for the resolution and that the image doesn’t need any interpolation makes up for enormous resolving details and large printing. But when a print photographically sucks at A4 size, it will suck too at A2 or larger despite all the technical superiority. And most will add grain to their B&W photographs (remember that the Leica M9-M comes boxed with Lightroom 4.1 and Nik Silver Efex Pro) that will actually harm the technical resolving details at 100%, but makes up for the pleasurable perception that a photograph looks pleasing and sharp from a larger distance due to the added texture.

Left and Right

The most important reason however why I like the idea of a monochrome sensor is the thought of making a conscious photographic decision beforehand. And I wrote quite often about that so that doesn’t need any further explanation in my opinion. Yet, clean images at high ISO’s has in my opinion nothing to do with black and white photography. When you make the decision beforehand to shoot black and white, I would also expect the degradation of the images at higher ISO’s.


And what about the Leica M9 Monochrom? $8,000! Huff Nuff said! I don’t care for what price they sell it. I really like rangefinder cameras, but those producing them turned them into desirable niche products. Thankfully I know some photographers who do very exquisite photography with these cameras. Like many others are doing good with lesser, or at least cheaper, equipment. “It isn’t the camera, it’s the photographer….


And on a different note, I haven’t taken any photograph this entire week. And it felt ought, but I didn’t miss it. It did however give me a chance to work on some concepts for a few projects I have in mind. Having this time available feels quite liberating, even though I never thought my PAD project felt constraining.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

26 thoughts on “week 19 | 2012…. NOT

  1. ik weet helemaal niets van de Leica dus daar ga ik dan ook maar geen interessant antwoord op geven 😉
    de fotos zijn mooi! en goed van je om gewoon even geen foto’s te maken en de ruimte in je hoofd en in je tijd te maken!

    1. Dank je wel Joanna. Ach die Leica is alleen maar iets waar advocaten en tandartsen zich druk om maken. En die mensen vergeten dat het om de foto’s gaat.

      Fijne dag!

  2. I’d like to see Ricoh, with a module for the GXR, or Canon, with a mono only sensor option for the G1X, test whether or not this concept has a broader appeal than the well heeled rangefinder dedicated niche that the Leica will reach. I personally think it does, but I’m often out of step, so who knows. Whether or not the by-products of the mono sensor are important to you will depend entirely on your style and artistic intent. But I do think there are enough B&W fans out there who would explore pure, best quality, fine toned, uncompressed B&W files if they could afford the price of admission so as to make it worth somebody’s effort to bring a more reasonably priced version to market.

    Hope all’s well. Will be interested to (hopefully) see what your new projects will be.

    1. Maybe the Ricoh GXR platform could provide the best and most valuable solution for a monochrome sensor. Their M-mount module seems to be selling quite well. There is however a huge catch in the entire discussion. Yes, in the old days you would shoot B&W film and that was what it was. But that also meant that after 36 exposures you could use a color film instead. A monochrome sensor will always be monochrome, you can’t change it.

      I personally love B&W and most of my photographs are B&W, but I would never go for a monochrome sensor. And maybe that has to do with the kind of B&W tones I actually prefer.

      Hope all is well with you too. I am enjoying the short break, but started photographing again.

      1. You’re right. I doubt that very many would want to have it as their sole camera. That’d be the beauty of a GXR module in B&W. Easy to switch, almost like changing rolls of film.

        And I agree completely, some styles would not benefit. I suspect, the by-products of a monochrome sensor would be of little value for your current chosen style. But for others, it might prove to be the entry point for finding their style.

        They say that Kodak actually made a camera with the mono sensor years ago, but never brought it to the marketplace, but that’s another whole different discussion… poor Kodak.

        1. Given the style of the photographer I find it interesting that Leica featured Jacob Aue Sobol with his high contrast photographs with lots of grain. He applied a kind of Moriyama style of B&W roughness. The high quality of the images and good high ISO performance enables such styling too.

  3. From a visual viewpoint your subject matter is interesting…. I particularly like your doorway shot. Don’t know whether its my monitor but images are very dense and without shadow detail, so perhaps contrast overcooked……….. sorry.
    Regards, John.

    1. Why apologize, John? I didn’t want to go for full blacks and strong whites. It is not your monitor, it is my conscious decision. And I wanted some of the subjects to act like silhouettes in photographs. The outline could be enough for personal interpretation I believe and shadow details not always add valuable information that is needed to read a photograph.

  4. Hi Wouter, If any other company will produce a B&W sensor it will be Ricoh. I would buy one in a heartbeat but cannot stomache the M-Monochrome (and a lot of my work requires close up lenses). And just after returning from repair in Germany my Zeiss Ikon broke again today so I believe my rangefinder days are over. The idea of a B&W Ricoh is extremely appealing to me! I would love to have a camera that allows me to work completely in B&W, to have B&W RAW files. There is something pristine and invigorating in that.

    My own photography has slowed down too but that’s been fine. I’ve been shooting around the yard finding stuff that’s interesting (if you just look carefully). After all these years I came to the realization that I’ve been treating photography as a destination, as a place to reach, but no, it’s a journey. That’s freeing! It’s just something I do for fun, creativity and relaxation, and nothing more. (Still, secretly, I want to continue to get better.)

    1. I recognize what you say on the photography part in general. And yet, it is not only a journey, but also something to ease the expectations of life. Something to relax and see things freed up. It probably also means that I will be realistic about my photographic goals too.

      I do like the thought of a B&W camera and personally I would think the GRD is best suited. The GXR might certainly be more flexible, but I personally like the idea of a B&W GRD version. It would fit the cult status too.

  5. No photograph in the entire week?

    Be careful, Wouter. Don’t end up like me 🙂 I didn’t take one single shot in three months now, not even a phone picture.
    And to be honest, I still don’t miss it. On the contrary, it feels way more relaxed to go for a walk or meet someone in the city centre, without looking for possible shots at the same time. I realize now how restless it made me.

    I’ll probably use the phone cam again for some personal stuff now and then. But right now, I’m just happy I got that money off my back.

    1. That won’t happen Robert. I took some pictures this weekend and today. The freed up time not only gave me chance to think of some projects, but also some time for more reflected thoughts. More than anything else I realize I photograph for the brief moment to forget some of the day, to balance the day and to reflection. It does mean I feel most happy when I actually snap my moments. I need the break away from everything else and don’t need or want additional stress from searching the perfect moment.

      It is good that you’re thinking of picking up a cam again, Robert. And remember, it is the personal stuff that really matters.

      1. It will probably be my new challenge: after shooting 30 years like a Photographer, just taking snaps for the sole purpose of capturing personal moments. Like “normal” people do.

        By the way, I notice a typo in my first comment: money = monkey.

  6. Good pictures, Wouter, and I’m fascinated to hear about this new Leica – not that I can afford one! But I can’t recommend Silver Efex Pro too highly. Adrian

    1. I will never afford any Leica either (not even a D-Lux), but I do hope that this camera triggers others to come with something constraining too. Something that forces your mind set into a true specific direction.

  7. A GRD with a B&W sensor, wouldn’t that be something? I could live with, and afford, that.

    1. With the acquisition of Pentax they could turn Ricoh in a niche brand. And I guess a B&W GRD would fit nicely.

      I did check some Leica M M raw photographs and they are very clean, maybe to clean. Also the highlight clipping can be quite pronounced and hardly recoverable. The tonal range is pretty impressive though.

  8. Call me “old” school, but I like my color channels! I can play around with the conversion and get some detail back. I think the GXR is perfect for a BW module, but we have to think marketing here, only Leica can afford making special cameras like this, and again I do not see Leicas as cameras but more as luxury items, like jewelry. Of course I drool over the sharpness like the next guy, but let me suggest that people do not care about that. If Pentax plays well the Ricoh brand over the world, maybe we can get a full frame module and a BW module.
    Moody shots as always, and very inspiring

    1. Lol, “old school” and color channels. Despite the cleanness of the Leica images it is pretty old school, because you have to work filters in front of the lens to alter the luminance of colors. For $8,000 though it has nothing to do with rational IMO.

  9. Like I said, they lost the camera status a long time ago, these are luxury items. They sell like hotcakes in china, not to photographers but to rich chinese people. Some people enjoy having what others cannot have :/
    I do think Leicas are overpriced, and could never justify that price point, specially coming from a third world country!

    1. Leica was never cheap, but they were work horses ment to be used as a tool for photographers. Nowadays they buy them, because they can. Too bad in my opinion.

  10. Yup and from time to time they add the special editions witch are ridiculously priced so that only a select few can afford them. Sad thing is, the photographers that actually DO do something with a Leica are rare, like this photographer: http://www.patrickfarrellphotography.com/pulitzer-2009/gonaives-haiti-4_0_164.html
    Check out the rest of the Leicas:
    They are expensive bokeh machines

    1. In the end they will remain tools, even though it seems to make many photographers a lot of sense with what cameras and lenses the photographs were taken. Better stop ignoring that. If people want to buy a new Leica, feel free. If people prefer a point & shoot or a mobile phone, that is fine too. It remains the photographs that really matter in my opinion.

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