Until now, most digital black & white images have been processed from color captures. Now Leica is offering a different approach—a new model of their classic M-series rangefinder called the M Monochrom which uses a full frame black & white sensor recording only luminance values and a histogram readout that displays unprocessed and unmodified raw data. This is a tool for purists, without a doubt, and will be cheered by many who advocate for the artistic value of monochromatic expression. Of course the whole line of justly famous Leica lenses will be at your disposal, including the brand new APO-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH.
With this camera Leica is filling a niche many photographers have been longing for—a single purpose tool optimized for one particular photographic technique. Other manufacturers have shied away, with limited market size and short term profit potential being judged outside their business model. But Leica has an edge here as a boutique company that continues to hold superlative craftsmanship and quality among its core values. Dedication to these tenets has driven the costs of its products into the stratosphere, but regardless, they’ve succeeded in developing a customer base that keeps both cameras and lenses (especially the lenses) in high demand and short supply. There is a unique mystique surrounding the whole Leica experience, and I expect the M Monochrom will rejuvenate many discussions about it. And there will likely be some angst as well that film will no longer be required to authentically capture black & white images. Technology marches on.