Quite a number of readers have asked about the Leica M Typ 240‘s potential for black and white usage. I think perhaps a more accurate description of the question would be: do the M 240’s files convert well to black and white? And if so, how do they compare to the output of the M Monochrom? I’m going to answer this in the context of raw conversion – there will be some users who only employ out of camera JPEGs, however, like the Monochrom, the M 240 requires processing of a DNG file to get the most out of it. And yes, there is a very significant difference.
I didn’t have the two cameras on hand to do a direct comparison, but looking at the file samples I’ve got that were shot under similar conditions, it appears that the M 240 has two advantages over the Monochrom: firstly, the sensor has a bit more dynamic range, and secondly, it also has slightly lower noise at every ISO. In theory, this means that we should have the ability to produce even smoother tonal rolloffs in the deep shadows and highlights; however, it’s not quite that simple.
Those who have read my review of the M Monochrom will know that I was very enamoured of this camera’s tonality: it produces very rich, dense results that are difficult to replicate with a non-CCD sensor. The D800E can do it, but it requires a significant amount of photoshop work to achieve. The M 240’s native tonal response is somewhere between a CMOS and CCD, which I think gives us the best of both worlds. I found the files very easy to process into tonally rich, pleasing black and white images; in fact, not that different to the Monochrom. Granted, the M 240 doesn’t have the same resolution – it still has a Bayer filter, and the 6MP increase in resolution isn’t really enough to overcome the Monochrom’s advantage – but for the majority of applications, it’s pretty close.
Perhaps it’s easiest to let you judge for yourselves, but at this stage, I’d say the M 240 makes for a much more flexible solution than a Monochrom, however, if you’re going to be making very large prints, then the Monochrom still holds a noticeable resolution advantage. There are also additional images from the Monochrom available in these photoessays here and here and on my Flickr stream. EXIF data is intact on all images if you click through to their respective Flickr hosting pages; images marked 50mm were shot with the 50/2 APO Summicron ASPH, and images marked 28mm were shot with either the 28/2 ASPH or ZM 2.8/28 Biogon.
The Leica M Monochrom is available here from B&H.
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