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Digital Leica M8 / M8.2 / M9 / M-E /Mono / M10 aka "M" Discussions about the Leica M8 /M 8.2 / M9 / M9-P/ M-E / M Monochrom / M10 aka "M": Leica digital M mount rangefinder cameras. Naming the new digital M the "Leica M" is VERY unfortunate as it will only confuse newbies with other Leica M cameras of the the past. Happily there is room for confusion with only the past 59 years of Leica M production ... since Leica introduced the Leica M system in 1953. All Hail for the Leica Marketing Department learning Leica M history!

View Poll Results: Would you buy a B&W only M9 ?
Yes, absolutely. 70 14.23%
Yes, but only if it performs like B&W film. 59 11.99%
Yes, but only if it costs 15-20% less than the standard M9. 60 12.20%
No. 303 61.59%
Voters: 492. You may not vote on this poll

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Would yo buy a B&W only 16 BIT M9 ?
Old 01-22-2010   #1
mfogiel
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Would yo buy a B&W only 16 BIT M9 ?

Like many members on this forum, I am no longer so young, I shoot for pleasure, I almost exclusively shoot B&W film, and I also use a MF system for the shots where higher resolution is desirable. Thinking about the stir that the M9 has brought up recently, I remain aloof, principally because I am not at all satisfied with the B&W tonality of available digital cameras. In my opinion the major technical obstacle is the limited BIT depth, which makes it difficult to "gently describe" the highlights. If you push your histogram to the right and try to gain some definition in the highlights, you steal the effective dynamic range, and the shadows become dull. So a sensor with a good DR and a high BIT depth - I presume at least true 16 BIT, would be necessary in order to get closer to a film like tonality, and permit old farts like me to get rid of the hassle of MF cameras and heavy tripods, plus would liberate us from scanning.
What I believe would be possible easily today, without increasing the camera cost - maybe even on the contrary - decreasing it - would be to make a "HCB M9" a B&W only sensor version, which would do away with the Bayer array and IR filter, and could use spare chip computing power to generate greater DR and BIT depth. As side bonuses, you would get more speed for the available light shooting (the Bayer filter takes away probably at least a stop of speed), and high IR sensitivity for more dramatic landscapes. Also, the files would be smaller, and the buffer would not fill up so quickly..
So, how many of you would contemplate buying such a camera?
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Old 01-23-2010   #2
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BW film is my main reason to still use film cameras after a short time with DSLR cameras. Only if BW film is no more available at reasonable cost I might consider such a specialized digital M to be able to continue taking photos with my Leica lenses. Still, developing film and the ability to choose between different emulsions and developer is an essential part for to take photos at all.
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Old 01-23-2010   #3
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They didn't make one with the M8, and I doubt we'll see one from the M9. Even if they do, I bet you it'll cost even more than the "normal" M9..we are talking about Leica are we not?
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Old 01-23-2010   #4
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Absolutely no. Even though I started off with B & W some 40 years ago and have a strong relation to B & W photography.

Today it is 'all colours'. One of the strong advantages with digital photography, with the digital after handling and all that, is that it handles colours easily - and cheaply for us amateurs. All black an white had a meaning when the wet lab made colours complicated and expensive. Due to the digital age, this is no more.

A B & W M9? Why not a M9 with a built in phone...? Come on, folks. The world has moved on.
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Old 01-23-2010   #5
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I voted No because the myth of 'film like' tonality only exists for some people some of the time. I'd say my M9 gives 'better' tonality out of the box than I got from Tri-X. Indeed I have to neuter that inherent tonality if I want a photograph to look like Tri-X film. So a dedicated B&W M9 would be an even more specialist tool than you think, because it would only be emulating Pan-X, ultra fine grain, or high silver content films.

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Old 01-23-2010   #6
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More to the point, would Leica sell one? And why? A whole new chip for a tiny market? Besides, they've already said (many times) they have no plans to make such a camera.

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Old 01-23-2010   #7
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mfogiel, thanks for a coherent exposure of why it is worthwhile.
Yes absolutely and I would swap out my M8.2 and M9. Kodak has such a a sensor available already.

Last edited by downstairs : 01-23-2010 at 01:52.
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Old 01-23-2010   #8
pawel glogowski
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mfogiel View Post
If you push your histogram to the right and try to gain some definition in the highlights, you steal the effective dynamic range, and the shadows become dull.
I don't understand this statement. Making exposure with histogram to the right was invented to increase usage of sensor tonality to maximum, and specifically improving tonality / quality in the shadows. It always serves this purpose very well (improves RAW exposure in that way), but You need to remember that material exposed to the right is just a base for postproduction, You can't just expose to right, save JPG like that and say that shadows are dull. It's just wrong.

About B&W camera.. I can only imagine reasons why B&W only sensor would be much worse for B&W photography than normal color chip.
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Old 01-23-2010   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by downstairs View Post
mfogiel, thanks for a coherent exposure of why it is worthwhile.
Yes absolutely and I would swap out my M8.2 and M9. Kodak has such a a sensor available already.
With the M9 microlenses? Or in SLR form?

How many of these cameras could Leica sell? A few dozen? Even a few hundred? They'd have to amortize the cost of rewriting the software over very few cameras. And one reason they dropped the viewfinder options, except in la carte, was that dealers complained about the very high cost of inventory with 3 versions of the same camera.

No dubt I'll be accused of wet blanketry again, but although it's perfectly technically feasible, I have my gravest doubts about its commercial feasibility. So does Leica.

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Old 01-23-2010   #10
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I think the biggest obstacle to getting a camera company to make such a camera is that most of us don't see the obstacles you describe in existing top of the line digital cameras. I know many people do, so I'm not trying to dismiss what you are saying. It's perfectly valid. I just don't think there are enough potential buyers around anymore motivated to buy such a specialized camera.
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Old 01-23-2010   #11
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If you expose a modern digital prosumer camera correctly, you don't have a problem with blown highlights.
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Old 01-23-2010   #12
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tom, that's my experience. The cameras and software, especially shooting RAW, are very good, now. I haven't really had any more problems in recent years with highlights using digital SLRS than I had with them using film SLR's. But I've followed enough threads on the issue to realize that there are many people who see something I don't when looking at digital output. Probably not enough to serve as a market for a very specialized camera, though.
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Old 01-23-2010   #13
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No, as I would not nuy a camera that accepts only BW film. A BW 16bit setting would definitely make sesnse. Still - I had always thought that the grain (fine, coarse, sharp, smooth, whatever) is part of the image ...
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Old 01-23-2010   #14
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Black and whote photos, now, dont sell nearly as well as colors. Since I often shoot jobs and other things, its a firm no.
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Old 01-23-2010   #15
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Quote:
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.. wet blanketry ...
Not wet blanketry. Of course you are right. But one M9P/bw in the shop window would sell four M9s. That role is played by the MP for now.
B&W is part of Leica DNA - maybe from the times when there was no colour press. B&W adds a fundamental level of abstraction to images. In the race towards holography and immersive 3D which started with Kodachrome, Leica got left behind.
This is an ancient discussion, but B&W is about 'interpretation' rather than 'representation'. I opine with humility, that this is where the M line reigns and where it belongs.
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Old 01-23-2010   #16
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a definate yes,.....as well as that yes I think,could be wrong,that a smaller manufacturer such as ricoh could give credibility and some understanding to its gxr camera with such a sensor.A small b and w only sensor would give impressive quality and could be fitted into a small camera.to me the gxr is the ideal site for such an exotic departure.
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Old 01-23-2010   #17
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Just came back from East Africa with my M8, and managed B&W, Colour, and IR, all in one handy package. Camera performed flawlessly, with razor sharp images. Who could ask for more?
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Old 01-23-2010   #18
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To clarify my statement: it is not only about blown highlights - I own a Fuji S3 which has a DR of more than 13 stops because of the double pixel solution, so once you expose correctly, the highlights are not blown anymore. At most, exposing normal digital cameras in a way that they do not blow the highlights reduces effectively their real speed by a stop or so... The real issue, as far as I am concerned, is that both the human eye and film tend to apply a "shoulder" to the light response curve. Therefore film is able to record a disproportinate amount of shades of white respect to a linear response recording tool like a digi sensor, before you reach "pure white" i.e. a point beyond which no difference can be observed by a human eye. This is why, even scanned film looks much more "natural" in its light response than digital, as the highlight "adjustment" takes place in the emulsion.
Now, it is marginally possible to reproduce this in digital processing, if you compress the histogram to the right, and then model it with curves, so that it resembles more the tonal response we are accustomed to, but this "steals" the tonality in the darket parts of the image.
In fact, I believe that digital will not match the film like response, until it will be able to produce probably a 24 BIT image at the least.
I have no intention to convince anybody of this, and if you are happy with your digi B&W, then you are blessed, like these who are born with the gift of the Faith.
I have done my testing and comparisons, and am still firmly of my opinion, even after having seen many photos made with best MF sensors like Phase One.
In fact, for me, the dispute is not if a 16 bit digital B&W will be able to match film, because it will not, but if this will be a compromise small enough to be outweighed by the advantages of using the digital process with all its pluses and conveniences, just like digital B&W printing to my eyes is with respect to wet printing.
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Old 01-23-2010   #19
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Kodak was not successful with a B&W DSLR. The B&W Leica would be even more expensive
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Old 01-23-2010   #20
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It would not require a whole new chip, and would require essentially skipping a step in the CCD run. Most Kodak CCD's are offered in Color and Moncochrome, but not the CCD's offered for the M8 and M9. The KAF-6300 series CCD used in the DCS-460, DCS-660, and DCS-760 cameras was offered in Color, Color Infrared, Monochrome, and Monochrome Infrared. Everything else about the cameras remains the same.
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Old 01-23-2010   #21
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And now Brian is going to bore us with his story of how he called Kodak and had them make a custom run of the KAF-1600 CCD for his camera. And it only cost an extra $4,000. But that was a lot of setup cost to cover changing the steps in the manufacturing process for 50 sensors. The Army Night Vision Lab liked the idea too.



The B&W camera is likely to cost more than a standard M9. NRE for the design, and change in the steps for manufacturing.
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Old 01-23-2010   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Sweeney View Post
It would not require a whole new chip, and would require essentially skipping a step in the CCD run. Most Kodak CCD's are offered in Color and Moncochrome, but not the CCD's offered for the M8 and M9. The KAF-6300 series CCD used in the DCS-460, DCS-660, and DCS-760 cameras was offered in Color, Color Infrared, Monochrome, and Monochrome Infrared. Everything else about the cameras remains the same.
Dear Brian,

Well, that certainly removes one objection. After that it's just software, cost of inventory and size of market. And Leica's stated lack of interest.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 01-23-2010   #23
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It still wouldn't give you the image quality of a $400 Leicaflex w/ an R 50 Summicron, so no. Besides, w/ film you have all those wonderful emulsions to choose from. I like digital fine for color, but B&W? It just isn't there yet. May never be. The $400 Leicaflex is right here, right now.
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Old 01-23-2010   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Dear Brian,

Well, that certainly removes one objection. After that it's just software, cost of inventory and size of market. And Leica's stated lack of interest.

Cheers,

R.
Software is trivial as you skip the Bayer Interpolation. Cost of inventory and size of the market is the real issue. The advantages, picking up twice the sensitivity for the sensor and eliminating any chance of Color Aliasing.

This is why the Scientific and Technical market tends do be served by specialty companies. I've dropped $25K on an off-the-self Infrared camera before, not a problem. It was cheaper than spending $1M to have one made from scratch, including custom focal plane arrays, as we did in the early 1980s.
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Old 01-23-2010   #25
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O.k. I think this now has become a different question. How much would you be willing to pay Brian to convert your M9? By the way Brian, I am expecting a cut as your self proclaimed agent. We'll talk latter.

I can't imagine there won't be a natural progression towards higher bit depth. So, in some ways this is just a matter of evolution. I certainly would love to have a system that performs as you describe. But, I do not know that I would want it to be B&W only. Although, I love B&W above all else, it does not have as strong of a market in galleries.

Also, I am wondering if this kind of detail, will soon be lost on people. As and example, if you look at music reproduction, people have gone to lower resolution in the mp3. While the critical eye and the educated critic will know the difference. Will it matter to the public?

I suspect that if one truly wanted this product, the first step would be to amass enough buyers who would be willing to approach Leica. It is possible that if you could fund it, they might build it. But, to expect them to build such a product on their own, seems to be only wishful thinking.
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