Original M Monochrom Still a Good Buy?
Old 04-18-2016   #1
Nathan King
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Original M Monochrom Still a Good Buy?

I have been photographing with film Leicas for several years but am looking at a digital Leica. The obvious choice for me is the Monochrom since I can't remember the last time I took a color photograph. My budget would require me to purchase a used original model. Does this seem like a smart idea given that digital models probably won't age as well as a film body? How likely would it be that I would run into the sensor corrosion issue? Having "only" 18 megapixels is a complete non-issue given that I only print up to 16x20.

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 04-18-2016   #2
pechelman
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one should be so lucky as to run into sensor corrosion issues. gets you a new sensor.

the only reason to consider not getting an M9 based camera would be the old LCD screen, loud shutter, and generally slower more awkward feeling operation.
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Old 04-18-2016   #3
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Nathan, no one really knows the odds of encountering sensor corrosion. From the web you'd think it's most of them, but who knows? But Leica will repair it, regardless of owner, so the only concern would be time without the camera.

Granted, the LCD is old tech, but the size doesn't concern me because I don't use it much. If it had LiveView, that would be different.

I think the thing I'd be asking is, would it be better to purchase a used M240? They don't cost much more and you'd have no sensor issue, more pixels, LiveView, and the option for color. At least this would be my thinking. Not sure what I would do.

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Old 04-18-2016   #4
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I think it's still a fantastic camera, and you could probably use it for many more years to come and not be disappointed with it.

That said, I personally found the camera good to about ISO 400 -- above that, I wasn't too crazy about the image results (but that might just be a personal thing). My prints are generally 11"x16", and anything that I printed from this camera's files looked great.

The other thing about this camera is its relatively small buffer -- about 8 frames if you're shooting in quick succession, then it's a doorstop until it 'processes' all the images (that is if you're shooting RAW). Screen is basic but works fine. You have to shoot with this camera like it has slide film in it -- in other words, expose for the highlights.

So there are some things about this camera that will cause you to shoot differently, but nothing that you can't quickly get used to. All in all, still a great camera, and I'd gladly have another.
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Old 04-18-2016   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vince Lupo View Post

That said, I personally found the camera good to about ISO 400 -- above that, I wasn't too crazy about the image results (but that might just be a personal thing). My prints are generally 11"x16", and anything that I printed from this camera's files looked great.
Please elaborate on this. 400 is nearly base ISO for this camera. One of the reasons I want the Monochrom is because of the difficulty in making a decent sized print in low light with film. The Monochrom appears to have legendary low light capability.
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Old 04-18-2016   #6
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I've always found this comparison to be well done.
http://www.reddotforum.com/content/2...-vs-m-typ-240/

Some folks on here prefer the High ISO output from the M9M vs the M246, others like Vince prefer the opposite. While I've never used an M9M, from the comparisons I've seen, I too prefer the M246 in terms of the amount of noise and the retained detail. To some extent, I might even prefer the output of the M240 converted (up to ~2000) to the M9M. The M9M might look more filmlike, I guess, in the regard however. For my own use, and again, basing this only off comparison I've seen, I'd probably be fine using the M9M up to ~5000, whereas I'd go another ~stop to 10k on the 246.

I wonder if Vince meant ISO4000, though?
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Old 04-18-2016   #7
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I was in more or less your position not so very long ago and ultimately bought a used M240. The main drivers for me were 1) weather sealing -- I live on a sailboat in a very damp part of the world and I ran through three overhauls of my Fuji X Pro 1 before deciding to move on to something else; and 2) Shutter noise -- I take a lot of photos at small gatherings and performances and the M9 shutter was enough louder to matter.

The most helpful comparision of the M9 Monochrom, the type 240 and the type 246 I found was here:

http://www.ultrasomething.com/photog...d-sensibility/

I kind of wish I'd got the 246 really -- would have been a stretch financially but I might have been able to do it with a slightly longer wait.

But what I drew from the linked article is that the M9 Monochrom is very good -- better than the type 240 converted to black and white unless you use noise reduction and even if you do maybe even still better. So it's hard to see it as an obsolete camera.

As other people have said, Leica has been good about repairing the sensor corrosion problem at no cost to you other than the time spent without the camera. I don't see any other reason it shouldn't last as long as, say, an M7 if you used it the way you would use an M7. Of course, you probably won't -- digital is so much cheaper you'll likely take a great many more photos and therefore put greater strain on the mechanism.
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Old 04-18-2016   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nathan King View Post
Please elaborate on this. 400 is nearly base ISO for this camera. One of the reasons I want the Monochrom is because of the difficulty in making a decent sized print in low light with film. The Monochrom appears to have legendary low light capability.
Sorry, I made a mistake (maybe I haven't had enough coffee today). I meant to say ISO 800, not 400. Above 800 I wasn't too crazy with the results. Here again, this is just personal preference, but I'm not doing low-light photojournalism/street photography. And when I mean 'results', I'm talking about prints.

BTW there is a 'pull 160' option with the Monochrom, so you can go below the 'base' ISO. There is no 'pull' option with the 246.

As far as which high ISO I prefer (M9MM vs 246), the 246 by a mile.

BTW this is probably the most 'film-like' shot I've taken with the Monochrom (the original one), ISO 320. The print is easily mistaken as a darkroom print:


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Old 04-20-2016   #9
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I always shoot at 1600 and 3200 on the street and my last exhibit 13 X 19 prints were outstanding and I am very picky. If I want a film look I would shoot film. The original MM at 10,000 has a film look. Tri-x in rodinal.
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My Vote is for the Original Mono
Old 04-20-2016   #10
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My Vote is for the Original Mono

CCD sensor makes it. I usually shoot at 640, but then I do mostly street and event photography.

The screen quailty means nothing to me, I have mine in case where the screen is not accessed. Considered your subject. I'm old school, sure it's loud, but I still shoot an ancient Bronica, now that's LOUD!

Go for image quality first. If you want a cheaper 246 image an aren't making wall paper, get a used X1 or X2 and use the B&W setting. You won't be able to tell it from the 246 in all but the fastest ISO. I'm not kidding!
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Old 04-21-2016   #11
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Originally Posted by Dektol Dan View Post

If you want a cheaper 246 image an aren't making wall paper, get a used X1 or X2 and use the B&W setting. You won't be able to tell it from the 246 in all but the fastest ISO. I'm not kidding!
It's interesting, but when I first read this I thought 'no way'. But, after having looked at a few online samples from the X1, I have to say they look pretty good. Not sure how an 11"x14" side-by-side print comparison would be with the 246 (an APS-C 12mp sensor vs a full-frame 24mp dedicated black and white sensor), but at least online they look good. Of course, you'd have to be content with a fixed wide-angle lens and no built-in viewfinder (you could mount an auxiliary viewfinder on the accessory shoe), but it is an interesting camera nonetheless.
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Old 04-21-2016   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dektol Dan View Post
CCD sensor makes it. I usually shoot at 640, but then I do mostly street and event photography.
Dan,

Plus one. I seldom go to 800 ISO because I want to print big and also because image IQ is very important to me.

Sometimes it is the size of the pixel verses how many, and the 18MP without an anti alias filter or Bayer Filter Array offers enough resolution for me to print 20x30 easily.

For me the CCD rendering has a vast midrange which makes it great for simulating medium and even large format tonality. For midrange detail the CCD sensor has other cameras beat.

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Old 04-21-2016   #13
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I have always used ISO 50 and 100 with slide film and for many years, so I am not at all looking for high ISO photography. Maybe I am lucky here. The M9 (in my case) is almost always set to ISO 160-200. These days I have been using the M9 also at ISO 400 at times.
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Old 04-21-2016   #14
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Originally Posted by raid View Post
I have always used ISO 50 and 100 with slide film and for many years, so I am not at all looking for high ISO photography. Maybe I am lucky here. The M9 (in my case) is almost always set to ISO 160-200. These days I have been using the M9 also at ISO 400 at times.
Raid,

I use a D3X for color digital, and the high ISO on this camera is kinda lame, but I never-ever go above 800 ISO.

We are old school and stubborn.

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Old 04-21-2016   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raid View Post
I have always used ISO 50 and 100 with slide film and for many years, so I am not at all looking for high ISO photography. Maybe I am lucky here. The M9 (in my case) is almost always set to ISO 160-200. These days I have been using the M9 also at ISO 400 at times.
Yeah, but you live in f11-land! So not quite fair. Come up north to the world of perpetually gray skies and deep urban shadows, where 9 AM might look like 9 PM.

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Old 04-21-2016   #16
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I held off buying the MM until prices dropped well below 4000 USD. I purchased a low shutter count copy, complete with recent Leica service and the passport warranty.
If you go for a used MM, several vendors offer Leica serviced cameras with two year warranty. Popflash and Leica Miami often have these available. You could find a used M240 for similar or slightly greater price, but if the CCD sensor and a devoted monochrome camera are your preferences, the MM is still a good choice.
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Old 04-21-2016   #17
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Originally Posted by ellisson View Post
I held off buying the MM until prices dropped well below 4000 USD....
I've been unable to sell mine at just over $3K USD. And it's really excellent.

Even some dealers are now around $3.5K.

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Old 04-21-2016   #18
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I've been unable to sell mine at just over $3K USD. And it's really excellent.

Even some dealers are now around $3.5K.

John
That is a really good deal! And from an RFF member!
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Original M Monochrom Still a Good Buy?
Old 04-21-2016   #19
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Original M Monochrom Still a Good Buy?

Yes, dealers have MMs in minty condition at or below $4k. There also are still some new MMs from dealers in the mid-$5k range.
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Old 10-21-2016   #20
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original M-M still high on my wishlist.
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Old 10-21-2016   #21
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No complaints at all. I got an M9M that was heavily used but with a new sensor this year. I shoot it constantly and could not be happier with the files it produces. I often shoot it indoors at 1600, 3200 and with some experience opening the files I'm getting great results. As winter approaches and the dark times come to northern Vermont I'll be shooting this more and more I expect.

I too am a fan of low ISO films,and prefer shooting the M9 (color) at the base ISO or pull. I was afraid I'd dislike the relatively high base ISO of the MM, but it hasn't been a problem.
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Old 10-21-2016   #22
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short answer, hell yes

longer answer, only limits to the MM v1 imho are buffer speed and shutter noise. if you don't shoot rapidly and don't have need for more silent operation, do it. wonderful files that process and print beautifully.
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Old 10-21-2016   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vince Lupo View Post
Sorry, I made a mistake (maybe I haven't had enough coffee today). I meant to say ISO 800, not 400. Above 800 I wasn't too crazy with the results. Here again, this is just personal preference, but I'm not doing low-light photojournalism/street photography. And when I mean 'results', I'm talking about prints.

BTW there is a 'pull 160' option with the Monochrom, so you can go below the 'base' ISO. There is no 'pull' option with the 246.

As far as which high ISO I prefer (M9MM vs 246), the 246 by a mile.

BTW this is probably the most 'film-like' shot I've taken with the Monochrom (the original one), ISO 320. The print is easily mistaken as a darkroom print:


Untitled
by Vince Lupo, on Flickr
\

beautiful!
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Old 01-23-2017   #24
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I have the M9M and I really love it. I think the CCD sensor really does produce a beautiful tonal range. I use it all the way up to ISO 6400 sometimes but I use it at ISO 1250 or 1600 nearly every day. I personally love the quality it produces at these ISOs and in fact have even been known to use a ND filter to use them in the daylight. The files are definitely noisy but I feel the noise mimics film grain beautifully. It should be noted however that my favorite film is Delta 3200 in 120.

The things I don't like are the loud shutter, slow buffer, no live view (I'd like to do some macro) and the poor screen quality. The screen is so bad that I pretty much only use it to look at the histogram, though this is a wonderful way to get great images.

It seems like if you could pick up an inexpensive M9M now it would be ideal as I would imagine they will make an M10 monochrom in about a year so you could wait for that to come out and either buy it or get a less expensive 246. All the while you can enjoy the M9M and may just end up keeping it!
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Old 01-23-2017   #25
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I don't have any direct experience with any digital Leica, but just from hanging around here, I can't possibly reccomend one unless nothing else will do what you want.

I'd say put the money for an MM into film and processing.
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Old 01-23-2017   #26
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I love my M9M and when it went to Leica NJ for sensor replacement I experienced Monochrom withdrawal. To satisfy it I got an M-246 to shoot while the M9M was away. My thinking was that after the M9M returned I would sell one of them. I still have both and can't decide between them. The M-246 is clearly better as a camera, but I love the look and feel of the M9M more. And its images seem to have a bit more "bite" than those from the M-246. As far as high ISO performance goes it beats that of the M-240, but the M-246 is in another league.

So I would recommend the M9M without reservation
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Old 01-23-2017   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Luke_Miller View Post
I love my M9M and when it went to Leica NJ for sensor replacement I experienced Monochrom withdrawal. To satisfy it I got an M-246 to shoot while the M9M was away. My thinking was that after the M9M returned I would sell one of them. I still have both and can't decide between them. The M-246 is clearly better as a camera, but I love the look and feel of the M9M more. And its images seem to have a bit more "bite" than those from the M-246. As far as high ISO performance goes it beats that of the M-240, but the M-246 is in another league.

So I would recommend the M9M without reservation
Luke,

My almost 4 year old MM is at Leica N.J. getting sensor replacement. I got on a list so I could use my camera for 4 extra months. I will likely get my camera back the beginning of February. My camera received heavy use and is silvering around the edges. The covering also is worn smooth in one concentrated area because of a grip. Anyways I miss my camera.

I bought a SL to tide me over, but I will keep both.

To me you have a hard choice. The M246 has deeper shadow detail and smoother highlights with a scooped midrange. Then there is the high ISO performance...

But the MM has that wonderful vast midrange that resembles medium and large format. Enough said, warts and all I love my MM.

Good luck.

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Old 01-23-2017   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Luke_Miller View Post
I love my M9M and when it went to Leica NJ for sensor replacement I experienced Monochrom withdrawal. To satisfy it I got an M-246 to shoot while the M9M was away. My thinking was that after the M9M returned I would sell one of them. I still have both and can't decide between them. The M-246 is clearly better as a camera, but I love the look and feel of the M9M more. And its images seem to have a bit more "bite" than those from the M-246. As far as high ISO performance goes it beats that of the M-240, but the M-246 is in another league.

So I would recommend the M9M without reservation
Off topic, but so glad Leica seems to be going back to its old product naming. Every time I see something like "M-246" in a post I have to look it up and review its features.

I'm sticking with my original MM, but if I had both, I'm pretty sure I'd choose the 246. Quieter shutter, Live View, and better ISO performance would tip the scale for me. I certainly doubt I could come up with a reason to own both.

John
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Old 01-23-2017   #29
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I don't have any direct experience with any digital Leica, but just from hanging around here, I can't possibly reccomend one unless nothing else will do what you want.

I'd say put the money for an MM into film and processing.
From hanging around here and getting digital Leica after putting money into film, processing, printing from many film formats I'm pleased to announce here what any digital M is worth it! From M8 to M10.
Well, any Leica is worth it. Film on FB prints, digital on pigment inks prints.

And it is not Leica thing exclusively. I liked how Canon lenses worked at DSLRS and SLR of all kinds. Same with Leica, if RF is what you want. Digital or film, shooting experience is the same.
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Old 01-23-2017   #30
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While the old MM puts out a nice file, the rest of it is pretty crappy. Only in Leica la-la land do people put up with the truly awful screen and battery life in a camera this expensive. I would never want to go back in time to when Leica was just hobbling these things together from off the shelf parts. If the sensor didn't crack it corrodes and then off to Leica for months and months. Personally unless you have an art director breathing down your neck about turnover time I'd recommend a good scanner for the superior product you are already shooting...film.
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Old 01-23-2017   #31
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Save I would disagree with it being crappy. Screen means little to nothing to me. I use them the way I would use polaroid. And I carry extra batteries just like I do with the 262. A camera that has files that compare sharpness wise to a 36MP camera and is better than my 262 in low light and is 4 years old is not crappy to me.

I love film but the ability to have 3200 ISO files that render med format film quality and to shoot one frame at 3200 and the next at 320 is amazing.
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Old 01-23-2017   #32
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Save I would disagree with it being crappy. Screen means little to nothing to me. I use them the way I would use polaroid. And I carry extra batteries just like I do with the 262. A camera that has files that compare sharpness wise to a 36MP camera and is better than my 262 in low light and is 4 years old is not crappy to me.
^^^

Here's that Leica La-La land. It's secretly not 18mp it's 36, and the screen isn't crappy because you're not supposed to like the screen! I never said it doesn't put out a nice file, it does, that's great. But that's the only thing it does well. If that's worth it to you then great, but that screen is a POS and they should have upgraded it when they made the M9-P. It's literally the Nikon D80 screen which was super old when the dang M8 came out.

Please show me a MM 3200 ISO images that look like images from my Pentax 6x7.
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Old 01-23-2017   #33
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If you were at one of my exhibits you would have seen some prints that were as clean as many B&W images I got from my 500 C/Ms. And don't take my word the MPs thing.
https://blog.mingthein.com/2012/05/2...hrom-vs-d800e/

I don't buy a camera for the LCD screen and it's a 4 1/2 year old screen.

I get it. You don't like Leica's and thats OK. There are plenty of other cameras out there for you to use. For B&W I prefer my MM by a lot.
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Old 01-23-2017   #34
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So, it is OK to use film camera without screen, but it is not OK to use digital camera with small screen? Twisted logic, isn't it? All I need from digital M is to check exposure, because digital M is much more flexible on exposure tweaking and in camera processing comparing to film M and it needs to be checked sometimes. The only reason to have large screen on digital camera is for touch function. I have it on iPhone. On digital M I don't need it. Never needed on big DLSR either or on small P&S.

As person who came to digital M from film M I'm finding battery capacity argument weird as well.
I have 12-40 frames with film, before reload. I must have spare cassettes to be able to continue. With digital M I don't need any cassettes, but same space in the bag might be taken by spare battery. But my digital M battery lasts one week with periodical image taking during week and two weekend days walkaround for few hours. And reloading cassettes with film takes longer time, comparing to charging procedure.
I only ordered second battery on previous week. Just if winter will returns. My digital M has no problem to take images under -10C for three hours on single battery. Long enough to get me to the point I have to come back. If it is -20, any battery won't last long. Including batteries in film M compatible with what digital M is giving me in terms of exposure handling.
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Old 01-23-2017   #35
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If you were at one of my exhibits you would have seen some prints that were as clean as many B&W images I got from my 500 C/Ms. And don't take my word the MPs thing.
https://blog.mingthein.com/2012/05/2...hrom-vs-d800e/

I don't buy a camera for the LCD screen and it's a 4 1/2 year old screen.

I get it. You don't like Leica's and thats OK. There are plenty of other cameras out there for you to use. For B&W I prefer my MM by a lot.
Ok so that link has shown me that the D800E puts out a better file than the MM, no surprise there. Also none of those images look remotely like my 6x6 or 6x7 images.

Don't like Leica??? I shot weddings all last summer with my 240 and you can pry the M4 from my cold dead hands. I like cameras that live up to their value propositions.
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Old 01-23-2017   #36
airfrogusmc
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Did ya read it? The conclusion and the files form the MM were as good as IQ wise as the files from the Nikon and Ming preferred the B&W files from the MM as I do.

And I have an M 262 and the low light capabilities of the ORIGINAL MM are better and B&W files from it are better than any conversions from the M 262.

So if you are a B&W photographer and are looking for a good choice in a rangefinder and don't want all the stuff the newer MM has (though the files from that are even more spectacular) then the original MM might be a great choice. And the piece is certainly good now.
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Old 01-23-2017   #37
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Eh, I think it's a good buy if you get one for the right price. I wouldn't pay more than $3000 for one though even with a new sensor. They have their short comings compared to other products in their price range. The files look great from base up to 6400 but the battery life is terrible and the screen is terrible. If a screen is there, it needs to be usable. The 5Dc and D700 were out long before the Monochrom and their screens are infinitely better. I've shot events with the Monochrom and have gone through almost 3 batteries and I'm not a spray and pray kind of shooter. If you're buying it as a camera to have fun with and using it within its boundaries it's fine. Also, don't clip the highlights, they go quickly.
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Old 01-23-2017   #38
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I usually go through 2 batteries at a corporate event. But if you are shooting B&W this is still a very good option and a much better option than a 5Dc or a D700. Expose to the left and like kodachrome if the shoulder/highlights are gone, they are gone. Could there be an M10 MM in the future?
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Old 01-23-2017   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by airfrogusmc View Post
Did ya read it? The conclusion and the files form the MM were as good as IQ wise as the files from the Nikon and Ming preferred the B&W files from the MM as I do.

And I have an M 262 and the low light capabilities of the ORIGINAL MM are better and B&W files from it are better than any conversions from the M 262.

So if you are a B&W photographer and are looking for a good choice in a rangefinder and don't want all the stuff the newer MM has (though the files from that are even more spectacular) then the original MM might be a great choice. And the piece is certainly good now.
Ming's conclusion is that he convinced himself that the files were as good. But the visual evidence from actually studying the images he posted tell a different story. Ming has a detailed blog but his photography is not that compelling.

As for your last paragraph, yes if you MUST have an RF and it MUST be B&W there are precisely 2 choices and one is cheaper and usable. So if you eliminate all other options then the M9MM certainly is 'the best' among 0 other options. If however you practice some critical thinking and widen your scope it's pretty obvious that many choices in it's development were made from a cost cutting point of view and it led to a pretty crappy camera considering the price. As wonderful as it is to go from ISO 3200 to ISO 320, the budget required to get an M9MM would enable you to have 2 M6 bodies. Problem solved.
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Old 01-23-2017   #40
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I've always proclaimed that the original MM was the best camera I've ever used. And today, I'd say that's true... to a point. I love the sensor but after owning eight, yes 8, cameras from the M9 series (M9/M9P/MM) the platform nickel and dimed me. I'm talking about horrible battery life, horrible use in the cold, crappy chargers, finicky SD card use, tiny horizontal banding in the shadows after shooting consecutive shots at 320 ISO, rangefinder going out of whack, etc., etc.

In the end I simply had to move on. I traded my A7s and MM for a M240 with a ton of accessories. I do miss the files of the MM, there is no doubt about that but with the M240 I feel the camera is a lot more refined in regards to all of the issues I've had over the years. Is it perfect? No. But that's okay, it's perfect enough.

I'm definitely keeping my eye open for the M10 monochrom version.
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