Leica M9 Mono vs. Sigma sd Quattro B&W

I woke up this morning thinking I’d take my F5 and my monochrome and take some comparison photos to see what the difference was in the look of real film, in this instance Fomaplan B&W, and a camera that claims to be able to effectively simulate analog capture. I took my Sigma Foveon sd Quattro along too just for the hell of it.

As usual, things didn’t go as planned. When I got home and loaded my Mono photos in LR I found them all grossly overexposed, unusable. Inquiry into the matter determined I had set exposure compensation to +3 and not -0.3 as I had thought. All shots wasted. It didn’t go any better with the F5. Turns out my ‘new’ (as in bought used on Ebay) bulk roller has a light leak, and that leak ruined the roll of Fomapan I shot and has ruined the entire 100 ft of film I’ve already loaded into cartridges, (a second roll shot quick confirmed my findings). So I’ve tossed the loader and 15 rolls of defective film. On the bright side, the Sigma sd quattro shots came out great. So, in order not to completely have wasted my day, I went back and reshot with the Mono at -0.3 exposure comp and figured I’d compare the Mono shots to the sd Quattro shots.

I shot the 18mg Mono at 400 ISO with 35mm VC 2.5 with yellow filter attached. I shot the 19.6mg Sigma at 100 ISO with a 24mm (36mm crop equivalent) Sigma 1.8 EX DG and added a yellow filter in post. Post processing was the same for both cameras – DNGs marginally adjusted in LR and then further work in Silver Efex where the Tri-X emulation was applied to both sets of files and some more marginal tweaking applied.

A Film v Mono comparison is going to have to await my purchase of a new bulk loader.

The Mono photos are borderless. The Sigma sd Quattro photos all have the thin black border. You can click on them to enlarge.

Sigma sd Quattro
Leica M9 Monochrom
Sigma sd Quattro
,Leica Monochrom
Sigma sd Quattro
Leica M9 Monochrom
Sigma sd Quattro
Leica M9 Monochrom
Sigma sd Quattro
Leica M9 Monochrom
Sigma sd Quattro
Leica M9 Monochrom

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Note that I chose to use the Quattro as opposed to the SD15 for the comparison. The SD15, while only 5mgs, is a ‘real’ Foveon while the sd Quattro has a slightly different sensor architecture wherein there are more blue sensors than the Red and Green layers beneath it. The SD15 has 3 stacked Red Green and Blue sensors with equal pixel count. B&W Tri-x files from the SD15 are outstanding and actually look like Tri-X. In retrospect, I wish I had used the SD15 instead of the sd Quattro. My initial conclusion is 1) the Monochrom produces kick-ass B&W files…but not looking much like classic Tri-X even when the Tri-X emulation is applied and 2) the sd Quattro also produces its own nice look (not much like Tri-X either) but not quite as good as Mono (or the SD15 files) run through the Tri-X emulations. Between the Mono and the sd Quattro, I prefer the Mono files; they appear slightly sharper and have a crispness to them I don’t see in the Sigma photos. That doesnt mean they look more like film output. I’m not sure either do. That’s probably a comparison between the SD15 and the F5 with Fomapan…and a Nikon d200 thrown in for good measure.

And, of course, none of this accounts for different shutter speeds and f-stops used by the two cameras nor the different time of day the photos were taken – the Quattro photos at about 10:30 AM, the Mono photos about 3 hours later, which essentially makes any valid comparisons worthless. The lesson to be learned? Who knows.

2 thoughts on “Leica M9 Mono vs. Sigma sd Quattro B&W

  1. patrick j clarke

    I love all my Foveon’s but find the Quattro’s Monochromes the least special. They tend to be grainier and maybe more like Ilford XP2, but not quite as good. And not the same as the original Foveon or the Merrill. I don’t know if the smaller resolution of the original is the difference, but I think the original has a slight nod in pleasing mono quality…but give me the Merrill Mono any day of the week, especially on the DP Merrills.

    From your shots, I know I’d choose the M9M over the Quattro as I sold my sd Quattro just because it didn’t quite do it for me. Maybe the M9M is a better base to create something unique but not filmic, but now that I’ve been shooting my DP2M on JPG as you suggested, I rarely even add any film simulation (I might still add some film grain tho in DxO Film Pack 6).

    Reply
  2. Dogman

    Personally, I would take either and be happy–I’m not into perfection. So, you could just mail both those cameras to me and I’ll keep them until I can decide which is better.

    Oh? Okay…never mind.

    Reply

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