Leica has announced the M Monochrom (Typ 246), an updated version of its black & white-only rangefinder camera. Whereas the original M Monochrom was based on the M9 with its 18MP CCD sensor, the new model is based on the latest M-P (Typ 240) that uses a 24MP full frame CMOS sensor. The Typ 246 employs an identical body design to the M-P, but the sensor has no colour filter array, resulting in exceptionally sharp monochrome images.

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Removal of the CFA means that more light reaches the sensor, and this has a knock-on effect to the sensitivity range, which now covers ISO 320 to 25000. Leica says that dynamic range is also improved, and recorded in the 14-bit DNG Raw files. The rear LCD has 912,600 dot resolution, and uses a sapphire glass cover with anti-reflective coatings. Continuous shooting is available at 4 fps, thanks to a 4GB buffer and Leica’s bespoke Maestro processor.

As the sensor has no colour sensitivity at all, contrast control requires on-lens coloured filters, just as with black & white film. Leica will be releasing its own yellow, orange and green filters in 39mm and 46mm sizes to go with the M Monochrom.

The camera has live view, with 5x and 10x magnified views plus a peaking display for critical focusing. This outlines high contrast edges in red, which stands out nicely against the monchrome image. The camera also has a port for the optional EVF-2 viewfinder, as also used by the Typ 240 (and the same as the Olympus VF2).

The M Monochom also allows Full HD movie recording, and while it has no built-on microphone socket, one can be added via an adapter that slots onto the accessory shoe. Unfortunately you can’t use the EVF and microphone adapter at the same time.

The camera is finished in a discreet matte black finish, with no Leica red dot. New versions of Leica’s 50mm f/1.4 and 35mm f/2 will be available in the same finish to match. All the same accessories as the M (Typ 240) can be used, including the optional handgrip that has built-in GPS and allows tethered studio shooting.

The M Monochrom (Typ 246) will go in sale in mid-May for £5750.

Press release:

New: LEICA M MONOCHROM – maximum picture quality in black and white

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246)

Leica Camera AG, Wetzlar, is taking the next step forward in its successful digital black-and-white photography concept for the Leica M rangefinder camera system and presents the new Leica M Monochrom (Type 246). With improved performance and features and a newly developed black-and-white sensor, the camera by far exceeds the high standards set by its predecessor. At the same time, it keeps its core competence sharply in focus: black-and-white pictures with maximum quality in all respects.

The new components of the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) are a high-performance Leica Maestro image processor as installed in the current Leica M and a buffer memory with a capacity expanded to two gigabytes. This combination ensures higher speed and makes the Leica M Monochrom even more versatile. For example, as the processor enables extremely fast processing of the image data captured by the sensor, sequences can now be shot much faster and assessed almost instantaneously in review mode on the camera’s monitor. As a further benefit, the Leica Maestro image processor also takes less than two seconds to deliver high-quality JPEG files in addition to the RAW data files in DNG format.

Another highlight of the camera is a new 24-megapixel high-resolution black-and-white sensor in full-frame format without a low-cut filter. As the sensor of the Leica M Monochrom does without a colour filter, which means that interpolation is no longer required for the calculation of luminance values, it enables exceptionally sharp pictures at all sensitivity settings up to ISO 25 000 with exceptional depth, clarity and resolution of details that by far exceed that of colour exposures. Pictures captured with the M Monochrom are uniquely characterised by finely grained rendition of details with no disturbing artefacts. Another advantage of the new sensor is that, in addition to the M-Lens portfolio, almost all lenses of the Leica R series can now be used on the Leica M Monochrom to expand the creative capabilities of the Leica rangefinder system, as is also the case with the Leica M.

The design of the Leica M Monochrom reflects the established philosophy of the Leica rangefinder system and concentrates on particular robustness and discretion. The top deck and baseplate are machined from solid brass blanks and finished in black chrome, whereby the raw materials used are especially homogeneous and sourced only from selected suppliers. The camera body is manufactured from a high-strength magnesium alloy. The extremely scratch-resistant and almost unbreakable sapphire crystal cover glass of the LCD monitor is of equally high quality. It is treated with an anti-reflection protective coating that ensures that photographers can precisely assess and check their images in any lighting situation.

The Live View function of the Leica M Monochrom provides a viable alternative to looking through the viewfinder. The high-resolution 3″ monitor with 921,600 pixels ensures that photographers have complete control of composition, exposure, focusing and depth of field. Live View also offers two additional focusing methods: the up to tenfold magnification in Live View Zoom mode provides full control of the sharpness of details in the subject or the closest focusing distance. In Live View Focus Peaking mode, sharply focused edges in the image are automatically highlighted by coloured lines. Depending on the situation or the photographer’s preferences, the Leica M Monochrom provides a choice of several options for capturing exceptionally sharp pictures.

Thanks to its 1080p full-HD video capability, the M Monochrom can also capture high-quality video in black and white. Video recording can be quickly and conveniently started and stopped with a separate release button. Video sequences can be recorded in Motion JPEG format – that is, in true, individual full frames – which brings enormous advantages for video editing. Thanks to a dedicated adapter, almost all Leica R-series lenses can now be used with all available functions both for shooting video and capturing still pictures. Optimum sound is ensured by the optional Leica microphone adapter set, comprising an adapter and a stereo microphone.

At the touch of a button, exposures captured by the M Monochrom can be converted from black and white to a series of characteristic toning effects traditionally used in analogue photography – for example, sepia, cold or selenium toning. All users need to do is save the image in JPEG format and select the desired toning effect – simply and conveniently, and with no need for post-processing. Leica M Monochrom customers can download a free copy of Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® from the Leica website for professional post-processing.

From August 2015, a series of specially calculated filters in the colours yellow, green and orange will be available as optional accessories for altering the greyscale conversion of particular colours in the subject when shooting with the Leica M Monochrom. These allow photographers to create unusual moods and effects in their subjects and further expand the creative capabilities of the camera – for instance in landscape or portrait photography.

The Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) will be available from May 2015.