During my trip to Los Angeles, I paid a visit to the flagship Leica store in Beverly Hills.
In the store, you'll find a gallery, Leica cameras and lenses as far as the walls stretch, accessories, and some of the friendliest staff I've ever had the honor of meeting.
During my time there, I was able to try out a Leica M Monochrom and 28mm f/2.0 Summicron. As you can infer from my previous post, I was ecstatic to do so.
The Leica M Monochrom as the name suggests, shoots only in black and white. It has all of the guts of the Leica M9, without the colour capturing array in the sensor. After reading nonstop complaints about the newest Canon camera not shooting 4K video, I can't imagine what reactions the same people would have about the Monochrom's lack of colour.
Such a niche camera commands a niche price: the Leica M Monochrom is currently $5500 new, and it is one generation behind the latest Monochrom camera based on the M240.
Yes, a manual focus only, black and white only, 4 year old digital camera for $5500.
The price certainly shows in the build quality. Like the M8 and M9 before it, the Monochrom is built very much like a film camera, complete with a removable baseplate to access the memory card and battery.
The camera is absolutely beautiful: the matte finish on the metal, stunning leatherette, and the lack of any branding except on the baseplate and hotshoe, this is as much an art piece as it is a camera.
Operationally, it functions like its predecessors, and nearly identically to the M8.2 I had a few years ago. I didn't miss a beat coming back to it, although it was noticeably faster and didn't lock up like the M8.2 did.
One annoyance it has inherited from its older Leica brethren is the sound of its shutter rewinding. After taking a photo, there is quite a loud whirring sound as the camera preps for the next shot. This sound can be delayed by the "silent" mode in the menu, where the rewinding occurs only after you release the shutter.
The question you're likely wondering is "Why on earth would you buy a camera that doesn't shoot in colour, doesn't have autofocus, and costs the same as a truckload of DSLRs?"
As pretentious as it sounds, one less element to worry about in photography allows you to focus your skills on capturing the remaining elements.
Shooting in black and white prevents you from using colour as a cheap trick to make your images stand out; you have to use lighting, textures, and composition to do so instead.
In addition, the unique sensor in this camera is able to capture black and white images like no other: photos in low light are much clearer and more detailed thanks to the lack of a colour array in front of the sensor.
While this isn't the dream camera for me, I truly appreciate Leica's ability to craft products which come straight from their hearts, rather than from some marketer who machines a list of features into a camera.
I believe that whatever creative hobby/profession you're in, having anything that inspires you to do more and break your boundaries is precious. Whatever that inspiration may be for you, holding a Leica my hands inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and try things I haven't tried before. I totally understand if this doesn't hold true to you. We're all inspired in different ways.
In addition, the lens I had on the Monochrom, the 28mm f/2 Summicron was simply the sharpest lens I've ever had the pleasure of trying. Curse you Leica, as surely many of my future paychecks will go towards one of those in the next decade or so.
Special thanks to The Leica Store and Gallery in Los Angeles for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Visit them if you're in the area and interested in their products, their staff truly are some of the nicest in the world.