New Gear: Leica's Black and White M Monochrom (Type 246) Camera Gets a CMOS Sensor, Shoots Video

Leica's black and white digital camera gets an overhaul

Leica M Monochrom Type 246

When Leica announced their black-and-white-only M Monochrom camera, the reaction was strong, but varied. Some people couldn't wait to shoot pure black and white digital photos, while others claimed it was an extremely expensive novelty. Now, Leica has released an updated version of the camera with a CMOS sensor, giving it the ability to use Live View and even shoot monochrome video.

When Leica announced their black-and-white-only M Monochrom camera, the reaction was strong, but varied. Some people couldn't wait to shoot pure black and white digital photos, while others claimed it was an extremely expensive novelty. Now, Leica has released an updated version of the camera with a CMOS sensor, giving it the ability to use Live View and even shoot monochrome video.

Because the camera doesn’t care about color, there are no filters, Bayer or otherwise, in front of the pixels, so each one reports about the amount of light coming in and basically nothing else. Leica claims that results in an image that’s roughly 100% sharper than a color photo converted to monochrome.

The camera has a 2 GB buffer for bursts and an upgraded processor, so it operates at about three times the speed as the original. Despite that extra power, however, the ISO range has been capped at 25,000. That's nothing to scoff at, but I actually would have expected it to go a little higher, especially since the CCD version went all the way up to 10,000 rather comfortably. Just the switch to CMOS alone should give it a substantial bump, not to mention the ability for a black and white image to make noise look more like appealing grain.

As a side effect of the new Live View functionality, you can also now use the Leica R-series DSLR-style lenses with the M Monochrom. It seems as though focusing was likely the sticking point with the rangefinder setup, but viewing a feed as it comes off the sensor eliminates that barrier. That opens up a lot more options for Leica shooters, even though the R-series lenses aren’t exactly cheap on their own.

Because it’s a true black and white camera, it also responds to colored filters as a film camera would. Leica will be releasing some new yellow, orange, and green filters to go with the M Monochrom later in the summer.

The new M Monochrom will retail for $7,450, and if the original is any indication, they should have no trouble selling a whole pile of them for that price. Yes, it’s still a very niche camera, but we’re still pretty excited to give it a try when review units become available or we unexpectedly find a giant bag of money sitting on the sidewalk.

Ragnar Axelsson/Leica for POP photos
Ragnar Axelsson/Leica for POP photos
Ragnar Axelsson/Leica for POP photos
Ragnar Axelsson/Leica for POP photos
Ragnar Axelsson/Leica for POP photos
Ragnar Axelsson/Leica for POP photos
Ragnar Axelsson/Leica for POP photos
Ragnar Axelsson/Leica for POP photos
Ragnar Axelsson/Leica for POP photos
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