Leica Monochrom: Love blooms in shades of grey

Posted on by Mike Evans

I have now had my second-hand Leica Monochrom for nearly a month and am truly loving it. Black and white photography is in my genes, I guess. It was all I had to work with for many years as a journalist. Back then, over 40 years ago, the best professional photography was in monochrome and I have always been a sucker for a good B&W print. The Leica Monochrom, with its naked sensor with every little pixel doing its monochromatic duty, is capable of capturing an incredible amount of detail and the results are addictive.

But is going back to a glorified M9 disappointing after having played with the new M? I find the two cameras, M and MM, are totally complementary. The M is undoubtedly a great camera and produces excellent B&W conversions. Yet there is an extra dimension to MM files that is hard to convey. If you can afford both of these beauties you are in for a treat.

From an ergonomic point of view I find the MM, which is identical to the M9 except in the sensor, just as satisfying as the new M. In some cases, weight for instance, it is better (90g lighter) and feels more natural in the hand, less thick. I am happy to rely entirely on the rangefinder instead of being seduced by the undoubted benefits of a top-mounted EVF. And I really do like the stealth-mode shutter which is available on the MM and M9 but not on the M. This enables a shot to be taken quietly with the louder recocking noise delayed until you take your finger off the shutter release. Having being reintroduced to it on the MM, I am now missing it on the M.

There is one major improvement in the MM compared with the M9. Low light performance, not a strong point of the M9, is transformed. Whereas the M9 was struggling at ISO 1600, the MM produces great results up to 3200 with 6400 and even 10000 being perfectly viable. I hope to be able to demonstrate this in a future post.

Above all, I am finding the Monochrom to be inspirational. It is the camera I am most likely to pick up and it is the one I have decided to take on my summer break in the Greek Cyclades. The Greek islands in black and white: That is a challenge.

Leica Monochrom and 50mm Summicron. f/2 at 1/3000s, ISO 320

Leica Monochrom and 50mm Summicron. f/8 at 1/250s, ISO 320

Brick Lane, London. Leica Monochrom and 50mm Summicron, f/8 at 1/750s, ISO 320

Leica Monochrom with 50mm Summicron, f/8 at 1/250s, ISO 320