Scary Faces……pushing the Monochrom further.

By December 13, 2012Blog, User Report

Leica Monochrom ISO

In the short period of time that I have owned the Monochrom it has already established itself as my “go to” camera, in part this is due to its incredible performance but also because my subject matter of late has been dark, in every sense……this camera along with the 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE make a formidable team, one I’m finding difficult to break up despite the other lenses available to me.

In the last week I took the opportunity to visit the theatre once more, this time with a view to having a closer look at the higher ISO’s on the Leica M Monochrom. With nothing specific planned we decided to do some impromptu “Scary portraits” by utilising the fixed stage lighting and a borrowed LED torch which on occasion I managed to hold in my teeth whist shooting. Clearly, this is far from ideal but it did actually work out reasonably well and I’ll be adding a torch to my bag for those occasions where you just need a some additional light.

Even though this show is very dark I still found myself not needing to push the camera beyond ISO 3200, even then it was artificially so and I could probably have shot at 1600, but as I wanted to see a little more from the Monochrom I went ahead. I also continue to deliberately underexpose by 1/3 of a stop to as much as 1 stop on occasion, I feel I’m really getting to grips with this particular Monochrom idiosyncrasy and as there really is so much detail in the shadows of these MM files that there is absolutely no point in risking blown highlights. I also wanted to take a closer look at what I would describe as being the Monochrom’s digital grain.

These imagess were all shot as JPEG’s, this was something I’d not yet tried on the MM and I was very curious to see the results, I always found the B&W JPEG’s from the M9 to be very pleasing, as you’d expect the MM files were even richer.

Please remember to click on the image to see a better quality rendition.

Scary Faces – No 1 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 800 – 1/180 Sec Leica Monochrom ISO L1000938-EditScary Faces – No 1 – 100% Crop at ISO 800 Leica Monochrom ISO L1000938-Edit-2I’m absolutely loving the sharpness and detail from the Monochrom and 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE, traces of what I would describe as the Monochrom’s distinctive “digital grain” are just apparent at ISO 800, this shot was taken in total darkness and illuminated by the LED torch only.

Scary Faces – No 2 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/125 Sec L1000860-EditScary Faces – No 3 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/125 Sec L1000853-EditScary Faces – No 4 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/125 Sec L1000850-Edit-EditThe image above will be a favorite of mine for a long time to come, I’d say these are some of the richest blacks I’ve achieved so far with the Monochrom, there is still plenty to learn and a lot more experimenting to be done but the progress has been satisfying so far. Despite being shot in JPEG the images still exhibit a huge tonal range and whilst I don’t think I’d ever use them straight out of the camera the PP certainly only took 1-2 minutes each to process.

Scary Faces – No 5 – Leica M Monochrom –  35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/180 Sec L1000867-EditScary Faces – No 6 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/250 Sec L1000854-EditScary Faces – No 7 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/180 Sec L1000864-EditScary Faces – No 8 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/180 Sec L1000861-EditScary Faces – No 9 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/250 Sec L1000875-EditScary Faces – No 9 – 100% Crop at ISO 1250 L1000875-Edit-EditTo me this crop at ISO 1250 is indistinguishable from the ISO 800 crop in terms of “digital grain”. In fact, I’d actually say it’s superior to the ISO 800 image, I don’t have enough experience with this camera yet to give a categorical reason for that but it obviously relates to the lighting differences between the two images, this was shot using ceiling mounted stage lighting with the subject positioned accordingly. Once again the detail is quite staggering. 

Scary Faces – No 10 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/90 Sec L1000984-EditScary Faces – No 11 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/250 Sec L1000988-EditThis particular image brings a smile to my face, it’s most definitely enhanced by the third face in the background!! 

Scary Faces – No 12 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 3200 – 1/180 Sec L1000877-EditScary Faces – No 12 – 100% Crop at ISO 3200 Untitled-1Usually we’d be referring to digital noise when looking at images shot in these lighting conditions and ISO’s but whilst that may be technically correct it does not seem fair to use this term when analysing the Monochrom images. I prefer to refer to this as digital grain, it’s certainly a more accurate description, whilst it is not directly comparable to film grain it is certainly closer to that than digital noise in my opinion. I’m sure plenty would disagree with this statement…..

 Scary Faces – No 13 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 2500 – 1/750 Sec L1000842-Edit-2Scary Faces – No 13 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1600 – 1/125 Sec L1001013-EditScary Faces – No 15 – Leica M Monochrom – 35mm Summilux f/1.4 Asph FLE – ISO 1250 – 1/350 Sec L1000922-EditWith each passing week I grow more competent and excited in equal measure with the MM, I can’t tell you how pleased I am that I talked myself in to this purchase. I’m sure there are many more out there going through the same thought processes I did when considering this camera, all I can say to those people is go for it, you will not regret it. 

As I initially mentioned I’ve been finding it difficult to break the MM partnership with the 35 Lux but in order to further my learning and enjoyment of this camera I am going to need to, I’ve got lots of vintage glass to try and there are photographers out there already getting excellent results. I’ve also got some exciting new lenses in the pipeline, certainly one of these has the ability to force me to ditch the 35 Lux for a while……..

Once more I’d like to thank the cast, crew and all those associated with the Tauranga Musical Theatre, your enthusiasm and willingness to participate in the making of these images is really evident in the photographs and most certainly appreciated. I’ve made no secret about my own feelings for this wonderful place, I look forward to capturing more moments and memories in the future. 

Cheers, Jason.


  • Ross Funnell says:

    Hi Jason,
    Enjoying your photos and comments on the MM.
    Having been a M9, M4-P and M7 user for several years and certainly find I am doing more monochrome images now than ever it makes sense.
    Originally born in NZ it’s interesting to see the local talent as well.
    Keep up the nice images.
    Regards Ross Funnell

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Ross, thanks for the kind words.

      You don’t need me to tell you that you have some wonderful cameras there 🙂

      Are you now considering the Monochrom?

      Thanks, Jason.

  • Anjolie Lanel says:

    Wow, the Monochrom certainly does an excellent job paired with the 35 Lux! I am definitely looking forward to your experiences and thoughts with the Monochrom and vintage glass

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Anjolie, the 35 Lux is just epic on this camera, the experimenting starts soon, it’s just quite difficult to know where to start…..I have identified a couple of lenses to start with though.

      Cheers, Jason.

  • […] from 800-3200 along with some 100% crops for anyone that's interested, you can find it here – Scary Faces……pushing the Monochrom further. This is a follow up to my previous piece – Monochrom – Scarily Good…. Here are a couple of […]

  • Luiz Paulo says:

    Hi Jason!

    I recently found out your site and it’s so nice!

    The quality of your photos really impresses — particularly these from Monochrom.



    Luiz Paulo

    • janrzm says:

      Hi Luiz

      Good to find you on here and welcome to my website. I’m pleased you find the content enjoyable, there is much more to come in the New Year.

      Thanks, Jason.

  • wow, very impressive Jason. Now I almost want one 🙂

  • Hilmar says:

    You’re photos are absolutely awesome. Would really love to hear about the way you are processing the MM files. 🙂

    • janrzm says:

      Thanks Hilmar

      I will be posting on the this subject later in the year, I’m up to my neck in other projects at the moment but lots of people have asked me this on email. Keep following 🙂

      Cheers, Jason.

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