Leica announces new Monochrom Typ 246 with custom-built 24MP CMOS sensor, live view and larger buffer
Today Leica launches its second-generation version of the niche black-and-white-only camera, to be known as the Monochrom Typ 246. It features a custom-made CMOS 24MP high-resolution Maestro sensor without low-cut filter, a 3MP live-view screen and 2GB buffer.
As with the original 18MP Monochrom sensor, the absence of a colour filter enables sharper pictures at higher sensitivities. Leica claims that the new model enables exceptionally sharp pictures at all sensitivity settings up to ISO 25000 “with exceptional depth, clarity and resolution of details that by far exceeds that of colour exposures”.
The new 3in sapphire-crystal monitor features 921,600 pixels and an anti-glare coating. Live view offers a 10x magnification (which, unlike all other modern cameras other than the Leica M, can be set to initiate automatically by moving the focus ring) and focus peaking. Buffer size has been increased to 2GB, in line with the latest M-P, to improve response and to enable faster sequence shooting.
Unfortunately, because of an absence abroad, I was unable to attend this morning’s press conference in London. Consequently I haven’t had a chance to play with the new camera but it will almost certainly feel exactly like the current M.
The camera body is identical to the current M and mounts the same rather antiquated VF-2 viewfinder as used on the M. Many had been hoping for the new and much better Visoflex finder now available for the X and T models. There is no mention in the press release of a movie facility, not that any prospective buyers will be at all bothered. (Note: Now I have seen the pictures I find that the video button is still there, so we can presume black-and-white vintage films are on the cards).
When the original Monochrom was launched in Berlin in May 2012, together with the flagship 50mm Apo-Summicron lens, it was a decided oddity and something of a risk for Leica. Based on the M9, with its CCD sensor, it became an instant success and, I suspect, has exceeded Leica’s wildest hopes in sales numbers. It has certainly attracted a cult following among some of the most experienced pro Leica followers.
Despite the arrival of the CMOS-based M (Type 240) in the following year, Monochrom sales remained buoyant and there were many who swore that the CCD design was superior for black-and-white photography. I remember listening to a Leica technician explaining at great length why the older CCD design was capable of capturing a much wider dynamic range than a CMOS sensor. The results seemed to prove that statement and there is no doubt that the first Monochrom will be a hard act to follow. It will be interesting to get the low-down on the capabilities of this new CMOS sensor.
I tested the camera in September 2013 and was (and still am) highly impressed by the overall capabilities and the experience of shooting without colour. As Leica suggested, the dynamic range is outstanding and it is possible with this camera to recover an impressive amount of detail from underexposed areas. On the downside, though, the CCD sensor suffered from a tendency to blow highlights which were less forgiving than the darker areas.
At heart, though, the original Monochrom was an M9 with a very poor screen and no live view, therefore no prospect of an electronic viewfinder accessory. But as a back-to-basics professional camera it became a huge success and it was capable of making the most of that ultra-sharp 50mm Apo-Summicron that sailed with it down the launching ramp in Berlin.
The new M Monochrom camera will be available from May but no price has been announced as yet.
Leica Press Release
Free for release after: 30 April 2015, 3 p.m. (CET)
New: LEICA M MONOCHROM – maximum picture quality in black and white
Leica Camera AG, Wetzlar, is taking the next step forward in its successful digital black-and-white photography concept for the Leica M rangefinder camera system and presents the new Leica M Monochrom (Type 246). With improved performance and features and a newly developed black-and-white sensor, the camera by far exceeds the high standards set by its predecessor. At the same time, it keeps its core competence sharply in focus: black-and-white pictures with maximum quality in all respects.
The new components of the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) are a high-performance Leica Maestro image processor as installed in the current Leica M and a buffer memory with a capacity expanded to two gigabytes. This combination ensures higher speed and makes the Leica M Monochrom even more versatile. For example, as the processor enables extremely fast processing of the image data captured by the sensor, sequences can now be shot much faster and assessed almost instantaneously in review mode on the camera’s monitor. As a further benefit, the Leica Maestro image processor also takes less than two seconds to deliver high-quality JPEG files in addition to the RAW data files in DNG format.
Another highlight of the camera is a new 24-megapixel high-resolution black-and-white sensor in full-frame format without a low-cut filter. As the sensor of the Leica M Monochrom does without a colour filter, which means that interpolation is no longer required for the calculation of luminance values, it enables exceptionally sharp pictures at all sensitivity settings up to ISO 25 000 with exceptional depth, clarity and resolution of details that by far exceed that of colour exposures. Pictures captured with the M Monochrom are uniquely characterised by finely grained rendition of details with no disturbing artefacts. Another advantage of the new sensor is that, in addition to the M-Lens portfolio, almost all lenses of the Leica R series can now be used on the Leica M Monochrom to expand the creative capabilities of the Leica rangefinder system, as is also the case with the Leica M.
The design of the Leica M Monochrom reflects the established philosophy of the Leica rangefinder system and concentrates on particular robustness and discretion. The top deck and baseplate are machined from solid brass blanks and finished in black chrome, whereby the raw materials used are especially homogeneous and sourced only from selected suppliers. The camera body is manufactured from a high-strength magnesium alloy. The extremely scratch-resistant and almost unbreakable sapphire crystal cover glass of the LCD monitor is of equally high quality. It is treated with an anti-reflection protective coating that ensures that photographers can precisely assess and check their images in any lighting situation.
The Live View function of the Leica M Monochrom provides a viable alternative to looking through the viewfinder. The high-resolution 3" monitor with 921,600 pixels ensures that photographers have complete control of composition, exposure, focusing and depth of field. Live View also offers two additional focusing methods: the up to tenfold magnification in Live View Zoom mode provides full control of the sharpness of details in the subject or the closest focusing distance. In Live View Focus Peaking mode, sharply focused edges in the image are automatically highlighted by coloured lines. Depending on the situation or the photographer’s preferences, the Leica M Monochrom provides a choice of several options for capturing exceptionally sharp pictures.
Thanks to its 1080p full-HD video capability, the M Monochrom can also capture high-quality video in black and white. Video recording can be quickly and conveniently started and stopped with a separate release button. Video sequences can be recorded in Motion JPEG format – that is, in true, individual full frames – which brings enormous advantages for video editing. Thanks to a dedicated adapter, almost all Leica R-series lenses can now be used with all available functions both for shooting video and capturing still pictures. Optimum sound is ensured by the optional Leica microphone adapter set, comprising an adapter and a stereo microphone.
At the touch of a button, exposures captured by the M Monochrom can be converted from black and white to a series of characteristic toning effects traditionally used in analogue photography – for example, sepia, cold or selenium toning. All users need to do is save the image in JPEG format and select the desired toning effect – simply and conveniently, and with no need for post-processing. Leica M Monochrom customers can download a free copy of Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® from the Leica website for professional post-processing.
From August 2015, a series of specially calculated filters in the colours yellow, green and orange will be available as optional accessories for altering the greyscale conversion of particular colours in the subject when shooting with the Leica M Monochrom. These allow photographers to create unusual moods and effects in their subjects and further expand the creative capabilities of the camera – for instance in landscape or portrait photography.
The Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) will be available from May 2015.
Technical Data LEICA M MONOCHROM (Typ 246)
Camera type: Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246), compact digital view and range finder system camera with black-and-white sensor
Lens mount: Leica M bayonet with additional sensor for 6-bit coding
Lens system: Leica M lenses from 16 – 135 mm
Picture format / image sensor: B/W CMOS chip, active area approx. 23.9 x 35.8 mm (corresponds to usable format of analog Leica M models) without color and low-pass filter
Resolution: DNG™: 5976 x 3992 pixels (24MP),
JPEG: 5952 x 3968 pixels (24MP), 4256 x 2832 pixels (12MP), 2976 x 1984 pixels (6MP), 1600 x 1072 pixels (1.7MP); For video recordings: 720P, 1080P
Data formats: DNG™ (raw data), either uncompressed or compressed (lossless), JPEG
File size: DNG™: Compressed 20-30MB, uncompressed 34.5MB,
JPEG: Depending on resolution and picture content
Video recording format: Motion JPG/Quicktime
Video frame rates: 24fps, 25fps
Buffer memory: 2GB / 30 pictures in series
Sound recording: Mono, stereo using microphone adapter, choice of automatic or manual modulation during recording or fixed "Concert" setting
Storage medium: SD cards up to 2GB / SDHC cards up to 32GB / SDXC cards
Menu languages: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Russian, Korean
Compatibility: Windows® Vista® SP2/ 7R / 8®; Mac® OS X (10.5 or higher)
Exposure metering: Through the Lens (TTL) metering, with variable aperture, center-weighted TTL metering for flash exposure with system-compliant SCA-3000/2 standard flash units
Metering principle / method: By metering the light reflected by light blades of the 1st shutter curtain onto a measuring cell: Strong center-weighted; for metering on the sensor: Spot, center-weighted, multi-field metering
Metering range: (to ISO 320, room temperature and normal relative humidity:) EV0 (with aperture 1.0) to EV20 (with aperture 32) Flashing of the left-hand triangular LED in the viewfinder signals that the exposure meter reading is below the working range
Sensitivity range: ISO 320 to ISO Push 25000, adjustable in 1/3 ISO increments, choice of automatic control or manual setting
Exposure mode: Choice of automatic shutter speed control with manual aperture preselection - aperture priority A, or manual shutter speed and aperture setting
Flash exposure control
Flash unit attachment: Using accessory shoe with center and control contacts or using SCA adapter set
Synchronization: Optionally triggered at the 1st or 2nd shutter curtain
Flash sync speed: = 1/180s; slower shutter speeds can be used, if working below sync speed: Automatic changeover to TTL linear flash mode with HSS-compatible Leica system flash units
Flash exposure metering: (with SCA-3502-M5 adapter or SCA-3000 standard flash unit, e.g. Leica SF 26) Control with center-weighted TTL pre-flash metering
Flash measurement cell: 2 silicon photo diodes with collection lens on the camera base
Flash exposure compensation: +/- 3 1/3 EV, adjustable in 1/3 EV steps via the menu, and when using correspondingly equipped Leica system flash units
Displays in flash mode: (in viewfinder only) Ready: Constant illumination of flash symbol LED in viewfinder
Viewfinder principle: Large, bright-line frame viewfinder with automatic parallax compensation
Eyepiece: Calibrated to -0.5 dpt.; corrective lenses from -3 to +3 diopter available
Image field indication: By activating two bright-line frames each: For 35 and 135 mm, or for 28 and 90 mm, or for 50 and 75 mm; automatic switching when lens is attached; frame color (red/white) selectable in menu
Parallax compensation: The horizontal and vertical difference between the viewfinder and the lens is automatically compensated according to the relevant distance setting, i.e. the viewfinder bright-line frame automatically aligns with the subject detail recorded by the lens
Matching viewfinder and actual image: At a range setting of 2 m, the bright-line frame size corresponds exactly to the sensor size of approx. 23.9 x 35.8 mm; at infinity setting, depending on the focal length, approx. 7.3% (28 mm) to 18% (135 mm) more is recorded by the sensor than indicated by the corresponding bright line frame and slightly less for shorter distance settings than 2 m
Magnification: (For all lenses) 0.68 x
Large-base rangefinder: Split or superimposed image range finder shown as a bright field in the center of the viewfinder image
Effective metering basis: 47.1 mm (mechanical measurement basis 69.25 mm x viewfinder magnification 0.68x)
In the viewfinder: Four-digit digital display with dots above and below
On back: 3" TFT LCD monitor with 16 million colors and 921,600 pixels, approx. 100% image field, max. 170° viewing angle, glass cover of extremely hard, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal for Live View and review mode
Shutter and shutter release button
Shutter: Metal blade focal plane shutter with vertical movement
Shutter speed: For aperture priority: (A) continuous from 60s to 1/4000s., For manual adjustment: 8s to 1/4000s in half steps, B: For long exposures up to maximum 60s (in conjunction with self-timer T function, i.e. 1st release = shutter opens, 2nd release = shutter closes). (1/180s): Fastest shutter speed for flash synchronization, HSS linear flash mode possible with all shutter speeds faster than 1/180s with HSS-compatible Leica system flash units); for video recordings (aperture priority and manual mode): 1/30 to 1/4000s, for manual mode possible override of specified shutter speed to ensure correct exposure
Activation of shutter: By integrated motor, low noise operation
Picture series: Approx. 3 pictures/s, ≤ 30 pictures in series
Shutter release button: For single pictures: Two-stage, 1. Activation of exposure metering and exposure lock (in aperture priority mode), 2. Shutter release; standard thread for cable release integrated.
Self-timer: Delay optionally 2s (aperture priority and manual exposure setting) or 12s, set in menu, indicated by flashing LED on front of camera and corresponding display in monitor.
Turning the camera on/off: Using main switch on top of camera; optional automatic shutdown of camera electronics after approx. 2/5/10 minutes; reactivated by tapping the shutter release
Power supply: 1 lithium ion battery, rated voltage 7.4V, capacity 1800mAh, capacity indicated in top panel display, when shutter held open (for sensor cleaning) additional acoustic warning of low capacity, maximum charging current/voltage: DC, 1100mA/ 8,25V. Model
no.: BP-SCL2, Manufacturer: VARTA Microbattery, made in Indonesia
Charger: Inputs: 100-240V AC, 50/60Hz, automatic switching, or 12V DC, 1.3A; Output: DC, 7.4V, 1000mA. Model no.: BC-SCL2, Manufacturer: Guangdong PISEN Electronics Co., Ltd., made in China
GPS: Optional (only with multifunction hand grip attached), not available everywhere due to country-specific legislation, i.e. enforced automatic shutdown in those countries), data written to EXIF header in picture files.
Level indication: Measurement using 3-level acceleration sensor, measuring range: inclination (about transverse axis) and tilt (about longitudinal axis) each +/- 90°, measuring accuracy / display sensitivity: ≤1° at 0-40°C / 32-104°F and horizontal alignment, display in monitor
Material: All-metal die cast magnesium body, synthetic leather covering. Brass top panel and base, black chrome plated finish
Frame selector: Allows the bright-line frame pairs to be manually activated at any time (e.g. to compare detail)
Tripod thread: A ¼ (¼ “) DIN stainless steel in bottom
Operating conditions: 0-40°C / 32-104°F
Interfaces: ISO hot shoe, accessory socket, contact strip for Multifunction Hand Grip M
Dimensions: (Width x Depth x Height) Approx. 138.6 x 42 x 80 mm /
515/32 x 121/32 x x 35/32”
Weight: Approx. 680g /24oz. (with battery)
Scope of delivery: Charger 100-240V with 2 mains cables (Euro, USA,
varies in some export markets) and 1 car charging cable,
lithium ion battery, carrying strap, body bayonet cover,
cover for accessory shoe / accessory socket, of
Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® license