Tag Archives: Leica MM

A Leica M6 and Tri-X v. the Leica Monochrom

TX v MM 1

An interesting comparison of 35mm Tri-X shot with an M6 versus the digital Monochrom, identical subjects, identical lenses, by French photographer Alexandre Maller (www.alexandremaller.com) posted on summilux.net. All photographs are by Mr. Maller.

3 lenses used: -. Summicron 35 asph – Summicron 50 V – Apo-Summicron 90 asph. 

Silver images: Tri-X exposed at ISO 400 and developed in Ilford LC 29-1. The negatives were then scanned at 3200 DPI original size with an Epson V700,.

Digital images: 400 ISO DNG , then post processed in Adobe Camera RAW 6.6. 

TX v MM 2

In resolution and detail the digital files are superior, but I prefer the rendering and the particular dynamics of the film – the rendering from highlights to shadows and grain distribution over various tones looks more pleasing to the eye, fuller, warmer, less ‘plasticky’ even looking at limited web-sized pictures. After over a decade of rapid development in digital capture the best digital engineers still haven’t mastered the art of digital film emulation. The clinical digital sterility is still there with the Monochrom, especially seen on mid tones and highlights. To achieve the look of film with the Monochrom, which is what Leica purports it to do, you’d need to add digital grain to certain midtones, soften highlights (often impossible with digital files because they’re clipped), and expand the shadows.

TX 1

 

Tri-X (Above). Monochrom (Below)

MM 1

 

TX 3

Tri-X (Above). Monochrom (Below)

MM 3

 

TX 2

Tri-X (Above). Monochrom (Below)

MM 2

TX 4

Tri-X (Above). Monochrom (Below)

MM4

 

Which leads to the obvious question: why spend $7500 on a digital camera that emulates the “film look” when you can just buy a used Leica M film camera for $1000 and a 100′ roll of Tri-X and get the real thing? And another thing to think about: in 50 years that M4 you buy on Ebay for $950 will still be working just fine, no batteries needed, while your Monochrom will have been consigned to the junk heap decades ago.

The M4, all parts made by Leitz, is all mechanical, all parts capable of being replaced without much ado by a competent repairman or machinist. The MM (and all digital ‘cameras’) are consumer electronic commodities meant to be replaced by newer, “better” commodities every three years or so. Your Monochrom employs specialized chips and other parts, not made by Leica and therefore out of their control, which exist in finite supply: a proprietary shape and voltage battery manufactured by a third party, proprietary code to run itself, a proprietary imaging chip. Your Leica MM also depends on a host of other third-party technology (e.g. computers, image processing programs, web browsers) over which neither Leica nor you have any control. In 15 years, while your M4 loaded with Tri-X sits happily on your shelf next to book binders full of sleeved negatives you can touch and manipulate at your leisure, your Monochrom, all electronics and tiny motors, will be unrepairable because there won’t be parts. And good luck finding and/or retrieving all your MM DNG files.