B&W samples from the Leica M Typ 240

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Typ 240 is available here from B&H here in black and chrome, and Amazon here in black and chrome.

The Leica M Monochrom is available here from B&H.

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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

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Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing and for the wonderful pictures!

  2. Thanks for some great real-world examples. Sean Reid has also done quite an exhaustive comparison side-by-side of the M9, M Monochrom and the M240 in a studio setting – with interesting conclusions about (high) ISO when compared to the MM.

    • It seems the MM may be short lived after all…

      • Potentially the opposite from his take.

        • In my opinion. But what do I know, I actually make pictures with my cameras, not shoot test charts :)

          • Probably a bit unfair, he usually does comprehensive studio tests as well as ‘real world’ tests.

            • Yeah, what does Sean know?

              Sean Reid, an American, has been a commercial and fine art photographer for over twenty-three years. He studied under Stephen Shore and Ben Lifson and met occasionally with Helen Levitt. In the late 1980s he worked as an exhibition printer for Wendy Ewald and other fine art photographers. In 1989, he was the first American photographer to receive an artist-in-residence grant from the Irish Arts Council in Dublin, Ireland. His commercial work is primarily of architecture, weddings and special events. His personal work is primarily of people in public places. Having worked mostly with large format and rangefinder cameras for many years, he now works primarily with the Leica M8 and Canon DSLRs. Most of his newest reviews and other articles can be found at ReidReviews.com

  3. Your B&W editing is simply spectacular, even though a little on the dark side. Adobe published LR and ACR release candidates that support new Leica M. Have you tried it yet?

    • Thanks. It suits the mood – and they’re meant to be viewed with your screen brightness at maximum. I’ve got the new ACR releases, just haven’t had the change to try them out yet.

  4. Ming -

    This is a great and highly relevant topic for us M9 shooters who one day may want to either add a Monochrom or trade an M9 for the new M.

    Can you also compare the B&W rendering of the M9 vs M240? This is probably the most important question for most of us, since few can justify the cost of two camera bodies.

    Thank you,

    ACG

    • In a straightforward conversion, the M9 is probably better due to the native tonal map of the sensor. But if you want to work your conversions a bit, the M 240 will be better because it has more usable dynamic range.

      • Can you explain more about ‘straightforward conversion?’ Do you mean in the RAW conversion itself, or in the post-processing after RAW conversion? Thanks you for this excellent write-up. It’s a relief to see someone actually making pictures in a review of these cameras.

        • Most people who shoot for a living don’t have time for reviews, and most reviewers do so because they can’t shoot worth a damn.

          Straightforward raw conversion is WB/ exposure adjustment, open in PS, dodge and burn and curves.

  5. I love the density and dynamic range of the M240 b&w. The shots are stunning. Does it take much post-processing to get these results? Have you ever posted pre and post processed images? Thanks for the informative articles you’ve posted in the past, especially your thought process when shooting. -Ken

  6. EvilTed says:

    “I’d say the M 240 makes for a much more flexible solution than a Monochrom…”
    In what ways?
    I’m confused, the MM has higher ISO (10,000 vs 3200), more resolution, is a dedicated monochrome sensor without Bayer filter.
    You also state this about the 240:
    ” 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.”
    Which suggests to me that the MM is better but the 240 is close enough to not split hairs.
    Do you mean to say that the M is more flexible in that it does color too or because it’s a better camera ergonomically?
    For most of us, the other difference is that the M is probably not coming to most peoples homes within the next 6 months, which makes the MM more appealing if one wants to go out and shoot now…

    • 1. The MM tops out at 5000, not 10,000. The M 240 tops out at 6400. Both are comparable in noise.
      2. If you have sufficient shot discipline, you’ll see the difference. Otherwise, you probably won’t. Either camera is more than sufficient to print large – 20×30″ and up – if you need more than this, you’re using the wrong format.
      3. And yes, the M 240 obviously gives you the option of color – and the ability to do channel-mixer based conversions if need be.

      • Leica claims 10,000 ISO:
        “ISO 320/26° to ISO 10000/41°, selectable in 1/3 ISO increments, in aperture priority automatic mode (A) and manual”
        “exposure setting, optional automatic control or manual selection. ISO 160 also available as a pull function.”
        So you’re telling me they only get half their advertized range?

      • Oh and the M’s ceiling is indeed 3200. There is a “push” setting of 6400 but it seems pretty noisy and has banding…

        • No worse than 6400 on my D800E at the pixel level, but yes, there’s some shadow banding. I know they were working on fixing this for release firmware but I have no idea if it made the ship date.

  7. Did you use the B & W setting in the M menu or shoot as normal color images? Did you post process in Silver Efex or some other program? Have you tried using LR4 only to post process? Thanks, Larry

    • Shot raw and run through my usual Ps workflow as noted. I don’t use filters because every photo is differently and that’s no one-size-fits-all solution.

  8. Dr Henry Thoannes says:

    Just an observation from a hardcore “Leicaiste” since 40 years, I do not dispute the images of M in b & w but when compared with the film edges are not “smooth”
    Thank you Ming for posting all your M pictures and share
    Dr Thoannes H

    • Could be a lens thing, could be a processing thing, but above all, likely to be because no sensor yet has the same tonal response as B&W film. One of the reasons I’m now using a Hasselblad 6×6 for my B&W work.

  9. how come Leica doesn’t always get top marks with dxo (for instance), yet delivers the best “real-life” photos?
    needless to say I own – and use – a Leica!

    • Arguable; the ‘best’ images are a product of the vision and skill of the photographer, not the camera. What makes a visually appealing image isn’t the same as what makes a technically good one.

  10. Steve Ziffer says:

    I appreciate your lovely work and expertise but I use the the MMonochrome at 10,000. Leica must have sent you an early model to test. As to the M, in some respects the software is beta IMHO. The focus peaking is just one issue. The MM requires minimal tweaking for large exhibition prints in addition.
    Cheers,
    Steve

    • Quite possibly – it wasn’t final firmware, much as the M 240 I reviewed wasn’t, either. Focus peaking is supposedly going to gain some options to make it more usable, but as I’ve yet to handle a final camera, I really can’t say.

  11. sergeylandesman says:

    Great pictures and comprehensive review!

  12. Really enjoyed your look. Any comment on your typical workflow appreciated.
    Txs
    Beginner

Trackbacks

  1. [...] 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.  [...]

  2. [...] 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 conv…  [...]

  3. [...] Black & white samples from the new M by Ming Thein. [...]

  4. [...] Also read Thein’s B&W with the Leica M Typ 240. [...]

  5. [...] Amazing street style photos by Ming Thein (Black & White) [...]

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