Monochrom – Scarily Good….

By November 14, 2012Blog

Leica Monochrom

As a rule I like my posts to be considered and well thought out so it many respects this is rather an impromtu update on my first three weeks with the Leica M Monochrom.

I say three weeks but really in terms of actual usage it’s been more like a 7-8 hours. Having experienced the initial sense of euphoria that always accompanies the arrival of any new camera I found myself quite unexpectedly feeling a little deflated after firing off the first few frames. Was this a case of “buyers remorse”?  No, it wasn’t that I regretted the purchase, not at all. This was about seeing that many of my initial shots contained blown highlights, it has to be said this really dampened my enthusiasm quite rapidly . Yes, despite what I’d read elsewhere I still anticipated picking up this camera and being fully conversant with it in minutes……naive and perhaps a little arrogant on my part. 

I quite literally put the camera back in the box and left it for 10 days or so while I got on with some other more pressing matters……if I’m going to be processing images in LR4 and subsequently having two library’s (MM files not yet supported by Aperture 3) I should really tidy out my Aperture 3 library before it all turns in to one big horrible mess!! I had been guilty of some very lazy practices, ones I won’t repeat in a hurry! Looking back, at least subconsciously I must have been thinking that I would have some decent images out of the Monochrom to process at some point! 

Back to the Monochrom, it’s now clear that my two biggest challenges with this camera will be – 

  • Exposure – despite the histogram showing a correct exposure there is still clipping, maddening to say the least.
  • Processing in LR4 – I used LR 3 a little but the look of my B&W’s plus all my file structure was born out of Aperture 3

Add to this the harshly lit skies of a Kiwi summer and opportunities to use this camera were eluding me. Thankfully I have what is becoming an ongoing association with Tauranga Musical Theatre and was able to get a couple of rehearsals in this week and at the same time hone my skills with the Monochrom. Their current production – A Very Scary Xmas 2 is dark, these are conditions outside the realm of the M9 at ISO 640 even with the Summilux’s. Yes, I personally choose not the use the M9 above ISO 640, maybe 800 on rare occasions.

So, belatedly I have decided to put up my first images from the Monochrom, some may have already seen these shared on my Facebook page. 

These images were taken during the rehearsal, the action is live and fast moving, the light is without a doubt the most challenging I have worked in, often dark yet interspersed with bursts of light my shutter speeds could vary between 1/30 and 1/2000 in an instant. Throw the idiosyncrasies of the Monochrom meter in to the mix and you get my drift. Whilst I would be the first to admit there is always room for improvement I am really quite pleased with these.

Monochrom L1000560-Edit-Edit




I can’t underline how incredible the image quality is from this camera, all the shots here are taken at ISO 1250 – 2000, there is no noise reduction required. I’m yet to see how the camera performs at even higher ISO because quite simply I haven’t had to go there, it’s difficult to imagine circumstances where I would need to…..

Monochrom L1000553-Edit




All these images were shot with the 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE and the 50mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE. I have done some experimentation with vintage Leica glass and coloured filters, I continue to work on this and will hopefully collect some images that will allow me to put together a future post on the subject.


Monochrom L1000799-Edit



L1000799-EditAs I mentioned, processing images from the Monochrom was one of my concerns, B&W is my comfort zone, but my initial impressions of the Monochrom files was that it may be more difficult to get my B&W look than it was using the M9, how ironic would that be……however, my LR4 fears have proved unfounded, I believe I’m on top of the processing and now I have what I would describe as my look. I’m never critical of the images of others, we each see things differently and I firmly believe that, I am pleased that I have managed to avoid the silver/grey looking MM files that I have seen o





So, what about exposure then? Well it’s a work in progress but I’ve found that underexposing by 1/3 to as much as 1 stop in some cases will do the job. These files contain so much detail in the shadows that there is almost limitless opportunity to recover them. So, in essence one should shoot cautiously.

I’ll continue to post my thoughts and images on the Leica M Monochrom, but after a shaky start I have to say it really is “scarily good”



PS. Thanks very much to my friends at Tauranga Musical Theatre, your wonderfully talented and make great photographs  😀


  • Bruce Esplin says:

    Jason – great images and an excellent and educational ‘impromptu’ update.


  • Josh Perera says:

    Great images Jason.
    Loving the look your getting.
    You’ve inspired me to set my nex5n to b&w for the past week or 2 with my trusty old Jupiter 8, as I was finding myself visualizing a lot in b&w when shooting colour.
    Been loving it, but definitely havn’t found a personal look yet. I think that may come with time.
    Again great work mate. Keep up the inspiring imagery. 🙂

    • janrzm says:

      Thanks Josh, get yourself out there and shoot some B&W’s 😉 I think a personal look comes eventually although as with all things photographic it continues to evolve. Thanks, Jason.

  • Jason Byrne says:

    Awesome Jase – Love your work with this Theatre Group

  • Wonderful work Jason. I believe you’re correct when you say that you’ve avoided the grey look seen in so many other MM files. Congratulations!


    • janrzm says:

      Thanks Peter, “Avoid flat grey look” was high on my list of priorities 🙂 appreciate your thoughts and comments.

      Cheers, Jason.

  • Stephen says:

    Wow. seeing the rest of these, especially outside of facebook, shows just how good the the iq from the monochrome is!! Of course, It’s helped along considerably by proper usage…I must say, I’m really impressed that you managed to get results this good from the environment I’m sure you were working in. Shooting performances well isn’t at all an easy thing!

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Stephen, thank you. The IQ is certainly quite astonishing, certainly words don’t do it justice. This is certainly the most challenging environment I have worked in, keeping out of the way of the cast and not falling off the stage are hard enough….:-) Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment. Regards, Jason.

  • Guy says:

    Some great images here, the IQ at high ISO is really something. I particularly like the ones with the smoky background.

    • janrzm says:

      Thanks Guy, the IQ up to ISO 2000 is quite unbelievable, beyond that I’m not sure yet. I feel much better about the camera now, the first couple of days were rough…. 🙂 Thanks for taking the time out to read this. cheers, Jason

  • Matt says:

    Very fine shots Jason. Pretty good on the internet, must be something else in a print. Are you doing much in LR4 with them?

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Matt, thanks, I have not printed them but the files on my iMac screen are quite something. Without going in to detail about how I process them the truth is I do very little to these in PP. Now I’ve worked out how to get my look in LR4 each image took 2-3 mins I would say. Probably see you on Thursday, cheers Jason.

  • Keith (M) says:

    Curses Moriarty, why did I start looking at the images! I had just about convinced myself that I do not need and MM.
    Seriously though, these are some of the best MM images I have seen on the web – great work.

    repeat after me – I do not need and MM, I do not need and MM, I do not need and MM…
    hmm, doesn’t seem to be working.

    • janrzm says:

      Ha…..your in trouble! Ok, I had also convinced myself I could make nice B&W’s with the M9 and didn’t need this camera because whilst I was sure it had potential many of the initial images from it were flat and grey 🙁

      I decided to take a chance really on the following basis. 1. You only live once…. 2. It’s better to try and fail than to never try at all….. tenuous I know but I’m so pleased I did it.

      Also pleased I got through the initial stage with the camera where it was more than a little frustrating.

      Cheers, Jason.

      PS. Get your order in 🙂

  • Don says:

    Wow, stunning, especially shot no.1!

    A camera system like this is way, way over my budget and photographic ability, but I’m certainly enjoying seeing the results from this site and others. Bravo!!

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Don, welcome to my site. Yes, maybe No.1 would be my favorite also. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here. Cheers, Jason.

  • Wolfgang says:

    Excellent images. I am loving the MM as well. Like your experience it took some getting used to, but once I pulled out the contrast filters my brain reverted back to years and years of b&w film shooting. The high iso quality can’t be expressed enough, the added detail over the M9 is the icing on the cake. I look forward to seeing more of your images. Thanks for posting these.

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Wolfgang, welcome to my site. Thanks, it’s good to hear from others that are using this camera and having similar experiences. My brain is stuck in B&W always has been, so I didn’t have any adjustment to make in that sense….:-) The high ISO quality is extraordinary as you say, I certainly feel like this camera will surprise me a lot more over the coming weeks and months. Thanks again, appreciate hearing from you.

      Cheers, Jason.

  • Ed Leary says:

    Fantastic pictures. I rented the MM for 5 days before I decided to place my order. Totally agree with your comments on highlights. But…. I could tell in the short time I had the rental that this camera was the answer to all my dissatisfaction with the DSLR world. So packed up 25 years worth of accumulated gear (which covered my whole table, vividly encapsulating why I had grown do scattered and unfocused), shipped it off to B&H and put in my order. A challenging camera, yes, but a picture taking mentality & process I really like. Simplicity and thoughtfulness has really brough back all the joy for me. And results that make me very happy. Thanks for the great images.

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Ed, its great to see so many new visitors to these pages. Thanks for your kind words. It’s funny how we can get “lost” sometimes…..great story. The MM is going to be bringing lots of joy to many people I suspect. Enjoy the camera.

      Best wishes, Jason.

  • Perfectible says:

    Dear Jason,

    in one word ! Amayzing !!! Thank You very much for the written…And for theses pictures wich are incredible…

    Best Regards.


    • janrzm says:

      Hugues, I’m delighted to have you visit my site, welcome.

      As always your words are both kind and encouraging, thank you very much indeed.

      Kindest Regards, Jason.

  • Harold says:

    Awesome images
    I have been playing with the Monochrom at ISO 5000 and its incredible
    I am interested how you process them. Do you just use LR or do you also use silver efex ? What is you technique for pure whites – using exposure slider more or whites and highlights ?
    Best Rgds

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Harold

      Thanks, I appreciate that.

      I am yet to take the MM up to those ISO’s but I have no doubt the images will still be incredible.

      Regarding my processing of B&W images, I have had many comments on this website and even more emails, without going in to detail here I can confirm that I will be doing a future post on this.

      Thanks, Jason.

      • Alex says:

        Have you – by any chance – done a post about your processing of BW images? Would be very, very interested to hear about it since I really like your MM images! I would say that’s the look I like best of almost all MM examples I could find on the net…
        I am thinking of buying Monochrom myself – that’s why this would be of a great help.
        Thanks in advance
        BR / Alex

        • janrzm says:

          Hi Alex,

          I haven’t…..I keep promising to because I get a lot of emails asking the same thing. I’m slightly immobile at the moment but I really will do this. It’s good to hear you like the processing and I hold the MM in high regard, if B&W is your thing you wouldn’t be disappointed.

          Cheers, Jason.

      • Alex says:

        Hi again,
        Not to put any pressure on you, but did you have chance to write a bit about your PP of Monochrom files? Still have plans to do that?
        I keep coming back to your blog to see your MM photos – they look simply stunning. It would be very nice to get your thoughts on that matter. I have recently had chance to play with Monochrom
        for several days and kinda found my way of avoiding the typical grey look of MM files, but I would more then like to see how you do such a great PP.
        Thanks in advance
        Keep up good work
        BR / Alex

        • janrzm says:

          Hi Alex,

          No pressure and I hadn’t forgotten, the issue has been that I’ve just not used the MM!! I had pulled out 2-3 older images to show as examples but really I wanted a couple of new shots also. I’ve actually got the MM in my bag alongside the M7, hopefully I can capture something worthwhile next time I’m out. At that point I have absolutely no issue doing the post.

          Thanks again, Jason.

  • beautiful, beautiful shots. Very classic, from the subject as well from the way you processed them. And looking at them, i’m sure you’ll master the camera 🙂

    • janrzm says:

      Thanks very much, it’s always good to hear feedback like that. I still have a way to go with this camera, but it has to be said, it’s truly quite remarkable. Cheers, Jason.

  • Jorge Rubia says:

    Amazing work, Jason! I too have just days ago begun my own journey with the MM. I too had mixed feelings on the first 48hrs or so, but soon those doubts evaporated as the PP started making sense…loving the experience, but need more time to experiment and get to grips with this amazing sensor.
    I will keep coming back here for more.. .Great blog too!

    Regards and thank you

    • janrzm says:

      Thanks Jorge and welcome to this website. The first few days are definitely interesting, once the understanding of how best to expose and process the MM files starts to fall in to place you really begin to see the true potential of this camera. Congratulations on your purchase, enjoy!!

      Thanks, Jason.

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