SLOW AND STEADY
Published February 12, 2017
It has been 7 months since the last Gear Talk entry because there has been little to talk about on my part. No big drama over this or that not working. No grand hyperbole of selling everything. In fact it has all been a bit boring - just business as usual with the Leica M Monochrom Typ 246. Summing up recent times as "business as usual" is understatement of sorts because I never really shot much black & white, especially not film. If I processed a color digital image as black & white, most often it was because the color edit looked like shit. I certainly have no convictions about black & white as a purer art form, nor any artistic statements to make. Nope, just pictures of stuff, generally non-moving stuff because it is easier to focus on compared to stuff that does move. And I'm too lazy to chase moving stuff, so there's that...
So with no deep emotional bond to black & white photography, I have wondered what stirred this newfound infatuation with the Leica M Monochrom? After a couple really, really long seconds of soul searching, I found the answer - "lazy". I'm really lazy...
- No Color Editing - No more color profiles, no more setting white balance, no more color grading, no more color correction... Sensing a theme yet? I like color just fine, but as an editing / post processing exercise, it can be a royal pain in the ass and a time suck. So with a monochrome sensor / camera, all that be gone. Just scratch it off your to do list.
- Instant Contrast - Straight out of the Monochrom the DNG files may look a bit flat. Some quick edits with the levels, maybe a bump here and there in curve, save some highlights, open some shadows, add clarity... and the files begin to pop. But the real mojo is using colored filters - like magic red #25. On a nice sunny day, the contrast gods will smile upon your images - instant post processing all done at the time of capture.
- Low Stress Shooting - Leica M's are already pretty simple, letting the photographer "focus on the basics". Okay, perhaps a bit marketing hyperbole. The Monochrom simplifies matters a bit further, such as not having to worry about stray color objects and how they figure into the composition. Or if a highlight blows out, that is okay because it is... wait for it... black & white. Whereas blown highlights in a color image can look like a busted play. For example, a white sun in a color picture is a blown out sun. A white sun in the black & white picture is... well, how the sun looks in black & white pictures. Blown highlights on glass, metal, etc. just aren't as frustrating.
I still spend time scouting locations, deciding on what time of day to approach the site, experimenting with composition, working out the right exposure, trying to decide which filter might work best. But this is the fun stuff, right? The lens kit has been somewhat honed for the Leica M Monochrom -
- Leica 28-35-50mm F4 Tri-Elmar M ASPH E49
- Leica 35mm F1.4 Summilux-M ASPH FLE
- Leica 50mm F2 Summicron-M APO
- Leica 75mm F2 Summicron-M APO
- Leica 90mm F2.8 Elmarit-M
- Leica 135mm F3.4 Telyt-M APO
Those lenses were selected in part because the filter sizes are 39mm, 46mm and 49mm - all work with the Leica Universal Polarizer. If using colored filters, I only use a red and don't bother carrying yellow or orange. I have ND filters as well, but have not used them for anything specific yet. I generally carry a 3 lens kit to keep the bag on the light side. All those primes are very sharp; the Tri-Elmar is a convenience option. Optically it is so-so, but it is handy. Overall I have settled into a groove with the Leica M Monochrom Typ 246 and I am no so sure if I want another color Leica M. So where does that leave color?
The new Leica M10 looks enticing, and it is "new", which tends to override my rational side. But a new color M does not solve much (for me). Whereas the Leica SL Typ 601 addresses many of the gaps - like being a good platform for tele lenses, freedom to place focus anywhere in the frame, dependable focus accuracy when shooting fast apertured lenses, a great EVF, no shutter lag (compared to the Leica M's when shot in EVF mode), etc. But the SL's weight and size are polarizing compared to the Leica M's. If the SL was ~20% smaller and had a couple more features to better support M lenses, I would be pretty smitten with the Leica SL.
So as the title suggests, no rash decisions...