More B&W sample images from the Leica X2

Today’s post is a quasi-photoessay. I’ve decided to share some more black and white samples from the Leica X2; my full review of that camera is here.

Actually, I’m being a little bit contrarian: it’s a camera that does outstanding color reproduction, but my choice of black and white is a deliberate one; not because I want to follow the popular monochrome theme going at the moment thanks to the M-Monochrom, but because one of the things I test when shooting with a new camera is the quality of its files on conversion; it tells me a lot about the tonal response curve of the sensor, which is useful information for both monochrome work and color work.

The X2’s CMOS has a very linear response, similar to the Nikon D7000; in fact, my conversion workflow for these two cameras turned out to be extremely similar. What does this mean? Great overall contrast, but perhaps a bit too much; there doesn’t seem to be that nice gentle highlight rolloff that’s the M8/M9/S2’s trademark. Dynamic range is high, but a lot of it is bunched in the shadows and requires some work to recover.

Many of you have asked about my B&W workflow – there’s an upcoming article on conversion options, and their differences, which I think you will all find useful. I’m also trying to figure out the best way to present a short walkthrough on how I personally do my conversions, which should help demystify the notion that you have to use filters or scanned film to get the look you want.

Oh, and that tilting EVF is extremely handy when you’re trying to be frame-fillingly stealthy with a 35mm lens. MT

Images shot around downtown Kuala Lumpur with a final production Leica X2.

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


  1. Could you comment on using the x2 in manual focus mode? For your candid street work do you use manual or auto? Is the manual focus painful to use, etc..?

  2. Hi Ming –really enjoyed your X2 review and additional images. This is a bit of a digression –I’ve been shooting 35mm b/w, scanning and then processing with Aperture/SilverEfex Pro. I’m happy with the results I’ve gotten but I sometimes feel that I tend to add too much contrast for the sake of punching up the visual impact of the image, but that in a way it’s a bit of a cheat as it can be used to make a mundane image more interesting than is justified by the composition and subject. The X2 black and white files you show here look superb –tack-sharp, beautifully composed, etc. –but I’m curious you feel about the trade-offs of increasing contrast at the expense of lost shadow detail and general reduction in dynamic range. This isn’t a criticism of the images themselves, but it’s something I’ve been wondering about a lot lately, as the post processing I’m doing on the film I shoot (Ilford HP5 which has pretty good dynamic range as I understand it) has me very much thinking about this issue.

    I’ve been using Leica glass on my NEX 5N and the difference in dynamic range, film vs. digital, is really noticeable even shooting RAW. Apologies for the slight non-sequitur.

    • Thanks Jack. I’d suggest taking a look at my B&W processing articles here and here – you don’t have to trade off contrast for dynamic range; it’s all about how you control the tonal response in the highlight and shadow portions of the image. You don’t have to have mega contrast everywhere – just in the bits that matter; so long as you preserve some tonal separation in the other portions of the image, you won’t have that over-punchy look.

      • jackjforster says:

        Thanks Ming –just read the article and watched the video; the video was really helpful. I’ve been just starting to experiment with some of the techniques you show -especially using the dodge and burn tools and tweaking the curve –and that was a big confidence builder as well as a great way of showing some basic principles to be aware of –especially the notion of not overdoing it.

  3. Dave L. says:

    Ming, these images are stunning. Looking forward to you BW conversion discussion. Thank you for all of this!

  4. X2 with Olympus VF2 Viewfinder, yessss it works, here are this pics:

  5. My x2 has arrived today. AF speed excellent and accurate!

  6. Wayne S. says:

    Really like the light and the tonal range in the 2nd shot! Would like to see your B&W post processing flow for that shot. Maybe in your upcoming B&W processing article?

    • Thank you. I’ve done the workflow bit already, so I won’t be covering that shot specifically, but it should give you an idea.

  7. Hi Ming. Thanks for sharing. Your images look rather sharpened on my monitor. How about uploading an out of camera raw, alongside the same image processed “your way”. This would help evaluation of the X2 a great deal.

    • I’ve solved the sharpening problem already, future images will fix it. Seems like the photoshop downsizing got bumped to bicubic sharper instead of the bicubic smoother I normally use. I do not share my raw files for several reasons – one is that I shoot with the end in mind, i.e. knowing I will edit; two is for intellectual property reasons. Sorry.

  8. Ming, based on your review, I have made my decision to sell my Nex7 and buy the X2 tomorrow!

    Thanks a lot for your first test and for your stunning pics.
    Keep running the good work!!!!!


    • Thanks – and congratulations. I don’t know if the camera is available yet, though – so you might want to check before selling the NEX.

      • X2 Order placed, as it is already available in Germany in main Leica shops.
        The OLY VF2 has been confirmed by Leica itself to be working on the X2! It was tested yesterday in a Leica shop in Germany

      • Delivery of the X2 will be tomorrow 16-5-12, or on friday (thursday is day off in Germany).
        I also placed the order for the OLY VF-2 which is only 42% of the price of the Leica version!


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