How you edit REAL monochrome images? (from Leica)

A few days ago I had the chance to play a bit with a Leica M, I didn’t bring own SD card and haven’t had the $11,000 with me - but anyway, it’s real piece of kit! A bit quirky and certainly one needs to get used to it.

Anyway, that “M” only makes Monochrome images (conveniently Leica’s RAW format is DNG) and the store girl mentioned something about filters, like we used in the film days.

So I downloaded some Leica DNG later from this link and, right, seems you can not do any color channel based edits (like reduce blue to get the sky dark). I guess complex masking can do, but would be very time consuming)

Is it “that’s it” or can you do something?

With monochrome, you don’t have the color to preserve, so you can swing tone curves aggressively. You can also mask - dodge-n-burn like in the old days.

Now, I’ve gotten used to doing aggressive color manipulation in order to influence the grayscale transform, so I’d miss that. I’d also miss my $11K…

You can get a Leica Monochrom for 5000 already now.

The $6,000 you spare on the body can be a down-payment for this beauty: Noctilux M 50mm f/0.95. that comes with a $13,000 price tag :rofl:

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Thanks for the link to the samples. The raw DNG files can be read with a simple program using libraw. The raw values seem to be linear. No need to faff with white balance or demosaicing, of course.

With B&W cameras, there is no opportunity in post to edit tones according to their colours, so we need to do it in pre, eg with yellow, orange or red filters to darken skies. Other editing (cropping, global and local tone-shifts, sharpening, etc) work in the usual way.

The images [EDIT: in the second group of “Sample Raw Images”] suffer from poor focus or camera shake or both, so it is difficult to judge the lens quality. Perhaps the photographer couldn’t get the hang of the rangefinder. The photos don’t do justice to the camera. (Or maybe the camera is crap, of course, but I doubt it.)

It reminds me that some photographers have B&W “eye”, the ability to spot an arrangement of scene tones (instead of colours) that will make an effective photo.

EDIT: The first group of “Sample Raw Images” does not suffer from poor focus or camera shake, so are a better guide to lens quality, which looks great. But history shows that these files have been processed by “Adobe Photoshop Camera Raw 12.2”, so they are not really raw images. Grrr.


I could be wrong but opening DNGs using another app won’t display the edits. It is all in the metadata. That said, Leica DNGs could have some preprocessing.

Theres a lot of confusion about sooc dng. They are just like any other raw format until you mangle them with adobe dng software .

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@snibgo Thanks to point it out clearly. I just wanted to make sure that I understood the M DNG correctly.

That isn’t the point. You can probably go even cheaper with a non-Leica de-bayered sensor camera (which I believe some people use mainly for astro).

I bought a cheap monochrome camera for the Raspberry Pi to use in a spectrometer. Turns out it has an IR cutoff filter, so all light above 660nm is lost. I may yet scrape off the IR filter, but I’ll probably buy a proper spectrometer instead. It is interesting to regard its images: surprising resolution for a 640x480 sensor, and what looks like at least two stops of increased sensitivity.

For normal photography, I get why some would want a continuous monochromatic sensor. Me, I prefer capturing a bayer-encoded image and grayscaling it; there’s a lot of interesting manipulation to be had in messing with the colors before doing the grayscale.

There is also a no-IR filter version:

I have the V1, but sadly never had the time to use it for anything meaningful.

No-IR still has the bayer mosaic. I want a naked sensor, one that measures light at its essential energy across the visible spectrum. The micro-lenses would be good to keep the individual measurements as clean as possible, so a purpose-made sensor would be my only hope. Astro cameras are what I’d need, but for that price I should just get the i1Studio and stop building wonky lightboxes… :smiley:

Have you looked into industrial cameras?

They have all kinds of crazy - some with the price tags making a Leica M a cheap affair - but if you only need rather low resolution you might be in luck.

Basler is a good place to start, they have quite useful software support where you do not have to code the whole thing by hand. It still would need some fiddling to get what you want but you strike me as the guy who is not opposed to that. :wink:

That’s it.

Leica decided to throw away the color information for you, so you have to live with how their sensor behaves … or start messing around with filters like in the olde days.

I’m happy for Leica that their marketing works for them … just not on me.
I want the flexibility of a fully parametric color to monochrome conversion with all the modern bells and whistles I can get. And sometimes a picture just works because of the color, I am not that artistic to not be able to go back to the color version.

The camera is marketed at, well, people like me. I bought my first Leica in 1978, a model IIIc/f, for UKP £112.50 secondhand. It was about 23 years old, which was older than me. With the collapsible lens it was a pocket camera, for large pockets. It was solid and reliable and gave good results. Somewhat idiosyncratic: two viewfinders (one for viewing, the other for focusing), two shutter-speed dials, a knurled wind-on knob that turned the wrong way, and so on.

Over the years I bought a few more in case one broke, but none ever did. I have never bought into Leica “mystique”. But the bodies worked well, and the lenses were (in their time) as good as anyone’s.

And now I am a bit wealthier than I was then, so their marketing folk are tugging at my bank account and my desire to recapture my lost youthful promise.

But at that price? No chance. But if they want to lend me a camera for evaluation for, say, 20 years, I’m available.

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