Simple Black & White Bake Off Between the Leica M and Leica Monochrom

What follows is not scientific.  One image (taken with the Leica Monochrom) comes from a cloudy day, and was shot at ISO 800.  The other image (taken with the Leica M-240) was taken on a sunnier day, at ISO 640.  Each was taken with the 50mm APO-Summicron-Asph at f/8, Monochrom at 1/125th, and the M at 1/500th.  Both were processed in LR4, and then sent over to Nik Silver Efex Pro2, where we toyed with them in the High Structure preset.  So, similar settings, similar post-production, not quite identical.  My reason for this experiment was to determine whether or not the M-240 takes images that can compete with the Monochrom’s, when converted to black and white.  Here are the two shots; look at them carefully, and after which I’ll weigh in.  Admittedly, you are seeing these in a significantly down-rezzed file so they could be posted online.  As always, click on the image to see them at a better resolution.







So, same lens, slightly different light conditions.  One image in its native monochrome, the second image converted to black and white.

My conclusion?  I think the M-240 black and white rendering is quite good, and I would not hesitate, after taking a picture, converting the image to black and white.  But I also think the Monochrom image is just that much better — a little more detail in the grays, a little richer.  So, which is better?  I think the Monochrom.  Is the M-240 black and white rendering good enough to use and be happy with?  I think so.

What do you think?

6 Responses to “Simple Black & White Bake Off Between the Leica M and Leica Monochrom”

  1. A. Lurker Says:

    I suspect that, with something as important as the quality of the light changing between shots, the test is invalid at the level of “that much”. What is important is the user’s dedication to strictly B&W, the ability or willingness to buy both, the amount of possibly valuable time wasted in front of a monitor with endless tweaking to match this or that other image. Macro things like that.

    The two cameras will have to live together for a time while people absorb their qualities so they can make their choice. Leica’s pricing precludes most people from buying both. Tests like these (and there’s been a ton of them, pre-release) although well-meant are as useful as judging lens quality from 4×6 s from the drugstore.

    • johnbuckley100 Says:

      “Tests like these (and there’s been a ton of them, pre-release.”

      Really now? Haven’t seen them, but then as an anonymous lurker, you must hang out in more sophisticated circles.

  2. From the point of view of an appreciator (and a crudely skilled one at that) :

    On the whole, they look quite comparable. I can see your point about grays when looking along the sill just beneath the window. But why does the Monochrom destroy, for example, the detail of the New Years card? Is that something about changes in lighting?

    Am I catching a non-issue … probably, but I had fun trying!

    • johnbuckley100 Says:

      That really is a function of the lighting. In the one, there’s glare from the sun, but not the other. Lighting makes a big difference. But not, I’d venture, in the level of detail in two similar I,ages like these

  3. […] Simple comparison of the new Leica M and a Leica Monochrome (Very hard to compare) […]

  4. Bruce Carl vonZinger Says:

    Excellent test example. Of course not “Scientific” but since when do we need science to tell us what we see? Knowing how great the Momchrome is, I would have to say the M is outstanding … better or not???, who cares, as it’s beyond most Photographer’s ability, let alone need. We can always wait for the High Priest of DXO to tell us what we already know. (and I have nothing against DXO. They are an excellent company with excellent people working for them, so I do not mean it as a slight against them, but just a snarky comment on the whole Interenet Troll brigade who would make a decision “to buy or not to buy” based on a web rendered jPeg …
    Thanks for putting “it out there” for us, and facing head long into the winds of ill-content.

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