A few people have asked me why I haven’t written more blogs on my ‘adventures’ of using the Leica Monochrom. Sadly I have to write that it is because for the second time it has gone back to Leica for adjustment. My camera and lenses were returned from Germany in just over three weeks (fast for Leica), all appeared fine until I used my 75mm lens at close rang to my subject and with a wide aperture – completely out of focus. So back I trotted to Leica Mayfair somewhat baffled that this wasn’t noticed when tested in Germany. I am now waiting for the camera and lens to come back. As the lens is perfect with my M9 it would appear that the issue is to do with the sensor of the Monochrom, but I’m not sure. I have to say it is rare to my knowledge that a Leica camera or lens has to be returned a second time for the same issue after having been checked/repaired in Germany. I guess who ever looked at my camera just had a bad day! I hope when it comes back all will be well.
For now, I’ll write of my use of two days.
Using the Monochrom
The camera is a specialist camera, it is not suitable for many area’s of photography. No good for sports. Far too slow, and doesn’t have the long lens range for sports, however it would be ideal for documenting behind the scenes in any locker room. I do much PR Photography, and conference work, and clients wanting colour so it is of no use, but I have also used my M9 at events and conferences (along with a DSLR) using ambient light and converting the images to black and white to give the client something different. So I will use the Monochrom. It’s ‘horses for courses’, and I think it is crazy to try and compare a rangefinder camera with a SLR – which has been the case. As a Portrait Photographer I will use the Monochrom for much of my Portrait Photography, and cannot wait to do so. And of course Street Photography.
Black and White shooting
I feel that if you have experience in shooting black and white film, that will be a great advantage when shooting with the Monochrom it’s the nearest thing to shooting film with a manual camera. You have to have a different mind set to photographing in colour, you need to see in black and white, and have an awareness to how colour is going to translate into tones of gray. Subjects, including street photography in black-and-white often accentuates light and shadow, repeating patterns, texture, contrast, and shape, while colour saturation and vibrancy are less important; a beautiful blue sky behind a bright red building looks good in colour, but will most likely be boring and flat in black-and-white. Blue and red translate to more-or-less the same tonal range in black and white. The use of filters will help here, I tried a medium yellow filter to increase contrast that I often used with film, and in truth could not really see any difference, in theory I should have. I will need to experiment on this trying red and others filter. When shooting with the Monochrom it also pays to keep in mind the extra post-processing latitude you’ll have; images come from the Monochrom flat and gray looking, but come to life with just a few adjustments in Lightroom, especially if you boost clarity up.The clarity deals with the mid-tones of an image. But as the sensor is all black and white and does not have RGB channels you cannot lighten or darken the different channels to change the luminosity of a colour, i.e. make a blue sky darker or green leaves lighter. Hence the need to use filters at the shooting stage to save too much work in post processing.
The Monochrom is a beautiful camera to hold and use, it may not be the easiest of cameras to use with no auto focus, and the low resolution LCD screen on the back is not really good for checking your focus, but a big plus is the histogram which shows the 9 zones (zone system) with warnings for over and under exposure. The menu is simple and straightforward, which I love, many reviewers find it lacks functions – it has all you need to take a quality image. Like shooting with a film camera, the Leica Monochrom forces you to practice your craft well, and engage your brain when taking images. My wish for any future Leica M cameras is to have an adjustable diopter on the viewfinder.
The featured photograph was shot with a Summicron 35mm lens, ISO 320 S 1/250 F5.6.
More images to follow soon.
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