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How Many Filters for a Leica Monochrom?

User_Removed 8 4.6k 1 Scotland
4 Sep 2012 10:13AM
OK. We seem to have run out of steam on the other discussion threads, so here is a slightly delinquent new one.

As you no doubt know, Leica have launched a monochrome-only version of the M9. With a standard lens it costs something in the region of £8000 and it's sensor does not capture any colour data at all.

One of the huge advantages of processing "normal" digital Raw files in a program such as Lightroom is that we can manipulate each of the colour channels separately when converting a colour image to monochrome. This, in effect, reproduces the effects that, back in the days of black and white film photography, we achieved by placing a coloured glass or gelatin filter in front of the lens - yellow to darken skies, red for a dramatic sky, green to lighten grass and foliage, blue to enhance skin tones, etc., etc. Probably most of us, in those days, got away with a collection of not more than about a dozen filters.

But, when converting a coloured digital image to monochrome, we have at our disposal an almost infinite range of colours and strengths of "filters".

So, the question is - if you were buying a Leica Monochrome, how many filters do you think you would need to purchase to achieve a satisfactory level of flexibility. Or would you just settle for inferior final images?

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JJGEE 13 7.2k 18 England
4 Sep 2012 10:24AM
You are aware that this camera comes with Lightroom 4 & Silver Efex Pro included in the price.

So, I assume Leica feels that you can use these for enhancing the images, which will not be inferior Wink
Pete Plus
17 18.8k 97 England
4 Sep 2012 10:38AM
When I shot film I used yellow as the standard always on the lens filter and switched to red when I was after high contrast. I then used Ilford Multigrade to proved the flexibility and fine tuning of tonal range. With digital I just shoot raw and then use software to deliver the contrast range I desire. I'd be interested to see the difference between adjusting software colour sliders and adding a red filter. Maybe we need to get the Leica in to try.
JJGEE 13 7.2k 18 England
4 Sep 2012 11:00AM

Quote:Maybe we need to get the Leica in to try.

I bet you will have quite a few "volunteers" queuing up to do the review / testing Wink
Michael Reichman ( on another photography site ) had one and wrote an article on his experiences with it.

Monochrom M9 ( If this breaks epz's T&C's I will understand if it is deleted )
Sooty_1 8 1.5k 221 United Kingdom
4 Sep 2012 11:50AM
I'd use the ones I always did...yellow everyday, orange, red, green and blue for more dramatic tonal separation, dependent on the picture.

Me, me , me....I'll test one, and I bagged first!

User_Removed 8 4.6k 1 Scotland
4 Sep 2012 12:00PM

Quote:You are aware that this camera comes with Lightroom 4 & Silver Efex Pro included in the price.

So, I assume Leica feels that you can use these for enhancing the images, which will not be inferior Wink

They do indeed.

But my point is that, with a sensor that does not capture any colour information, you have far less data to play about with in those software packages.

The only way you can avoid the images being "inferior" is to have a sufficient selection of filters to meet all of your needs - which was what I asked in the original question.

Of course, I did not provide my own answer to the question. Looking at how I manipulate colours in my Lightroom and SEP2 conversions to monochrome, I suspect that I could probably get away with about 40 - 50 filters if I was using the Leica. Otherwise I would not have the degree of control that I currently feel I need. But, to be frank, there is no way I would carry that number and certainly no way I would fiddle about with so many to try to get the effect I wanted. So I guess I would be down to something in the region of 8 - 12 and simply accept the lack of fine control.

But it does seem like a retrograde step.

What I would really like to see is the market research analysis that led Leica to place this camera on the market.

Paul Morgan 17 19.1k 6 England
4 Sep 2012 9:19PM

Quote:As you no doubt know, Leica have launched a monochrome-only version of the M9

I thought the filters were built in Smile

User_Removed 8 4.6k 1 Scotland
5 Sep 2012 9:35AM


I thought the filters were built in Smile

Interesting Paul

What that review does say is:

Quote:There are also a number of filter options that emulate the effect of using optical filters on black and white film photography.

But I don't see how, in terms of physics, that is possible, as it also says:

Quote:Although it is based on the Leica M9, the Leica M Monochrom has no colour filter array, so it can only record black and white images.

I must be missing something. If the sensor is not capable of capturing any colour information at all, I can't see how firmware or software can process non-existent data to emulate the effect of colour filters. The only way that can be done is by "processing" the light before it hits the sensor, i.e. what old-fashioned filters do.

It will be interesting to discover what actually does happen here.
ErictheViking 5 124 102 Scotland
14 Nov 2012 10:26AM
I know this is returning to an old thread but when it started i wasn't a member so I'm catching up on all the past threads.

I have read the comments of this thread with interest, like most photographers I would love to own this camera for black and white but unless a millionaire uncle I know nothing about leaves me a fortune or I win the lottery its unlikely to happen. However like most other things in life it will not be long before Japan produces a cheaper alternative especially with Leica and Panasonic's co-operated working.
On the subject of filters i did very little film work and never used filters but I do know they were used basically to change the grey tone conversions to suit specific effects the photographer wanted. What I do use regularly is Silver Efex pro 2 and while having no colour raw file removes the use of the colour filter section you can achieve the same effects by adjusting the brightness, contrast, amplify White and amplify black controls within the specific area section. It isn't a blanket change affecting the whole picture and can take a little more time to apply but the effects being more specific should help obtain a better final result.

The best way to settle this would be as suggested to get a Leica Mono to test together with the software and compare the results with a standard M9 so over to ePHOTOzine lets see the results

User_Removed 8 4.6k 1 Scotland
16 Nov 2012 9:23PM
That's really interesting Eric.

Personally, I can't imagine how anyone makes real sense of the nuances of Silver EfexPro2 without having been totally immersed in film photography. But you obviously are well doen that road.

I would love to see a follow up to your suggestion of a comparative test between a Leica M9 colour image converted to mono and a Leica Monochrom photo of the same scene.
ErictheViking 5 124 102 Scotland
16 Nov 2012 10:15PM
The thing thatís helped me most is I love black and white and experimenting with the software to see what happens. As to the camera test thatís up to the moderators and magazine staff who organise these things so maybe if I put it in bold caps they may hears us ..... LETS HAVE A LEICA M9 / MONOCHROME TEST GrinGrinGrinGrinGrinGrinGrin.

ErictheViking 5 124 102 Scotland
17 Nov 2012 9:03AM
Hi Guys

I decided to email the editorial team regarding any chance of reviewing the Leica cameras, after all if you don't ask you don't get so I'll ge back with any answers and maybe some of us till get a chance to test as part of the review .. fingers crossed!!


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