I recently started using a Leica Monochrom 246. The camera has been on the market for some time, so I don’t intend this post to be an in depth review of the camera, rather, it is a post about my feelings on shooting with this camera, and thinking in Black and White.
In many ways using a camera that only shoots Black and White brings me back to a time 40 years ago when I seldom put color film in my camera. In those early days I learned that when shooting with Black and White film I had to learn to “see” in Monochrome. When photographing, I had to look at how light is interacting with my subject, what sort of contrast is going on, what is going to happen to the highlights and shadows when I press the shutter, what values of grey are going to be in the final image. After all of that is taken into consideration then I could look at the subject itself and see if it is interesting given how the light is affecting it, or think about what could I do to make it more interesting.
In those days color contrast was not as important. A fall scene with brilliant reds, yellows and greens may all be the exact same shade of grey, and make for a very boring image! Learning to “see” in Black and White takes practice, but when you learn to look at photography as a combination of subject matter and values of light, you become a better photographer, and the same principles can be applied in color, for the most part.
This brings me to the Leica. Without the choice of color or black and white, it makes me concentrate on values of light and subject matter. Color will not help or hinder my image (unless I’m shooting with a color B&W filter). The rice may be green and the shirt a faded red & green check, but that does not matter. What matters in the direction of light, my exposure and my subject.
The boxers shorts may be bright red, but that does not matter. what matters is the light, contrast and action.
One could say that I could just set one of my other cameras to shoot Black & White jpegs and achieve the same results. Well, with all due respect, not even close. you see the Leica Monochrom can shoot in RAW, yes Black & White RAW files with all the advantages of shooting in RAW. The other option is to simply use my Leica M6 with film. OK, that is a viable option but expensive, and time consuming, and … I would not like the files as much as the Monochrom RAW. (yes, I realize that is a personal taste statement). There is something rather unique about the files from the Monochrom. They look much different than a film scan. I can shoot at higher ISOs than I can on any other camera I have ever owned, and still have the high ISO files look great. For me to say that is a mouth full, and something I have wanted for many years.
For the foreseeable future, I will be shooting with the Leica Monochrom, if not exclusively, then for 90% of my work, that’s how much I like using this camera!
If you enjoy my work, my images are available on Fine Art America at: https://bit.ly/3lFtP7x