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Author Topic: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?  (Read 10981 times)

Deardorff

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Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« on: November 22, 2017, 10:30:08 AM »

Leica has a Monochrome camera. No color information, from what I understand.

I have been told that doing B&W this way gives a higher quality image file for B&W.

Is this correct?

Is there an actual advantage to a fully monochrome sensor? If so, does it react to filtration as film does? So I can actually choose a wratten 23/25/29 and similar rather than rely on nebulous sliders in post processing programs?

Sure would like to see a Fuji X-Pro2M (monochrome) as I sure can't afford the Leica gear.

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Jeffrey Saldinger

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2017, 10:45:28 AM »

Other respondents will be able to describe the advantages better than I can (and there are some (many?) for some kinds of work), but for me the decisive disadvantage is the loss of individual color channels to work with in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Many if not most of the plusses and minuses will depend on the kind of work one wants to do and the image attributes one considers the most important.
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Jeffrey
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paulster

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2017, 01:10:03 PM »

I have been told that doing B&W this way gives a higher quality image file for B&W.

Is this correct?
Nearly all colour sensors are Bayer arrays, organised so that you have pixels of red, green, a second green, and blue in 2x2 arrays.  The de-mosaicing algorithm in the raw converter interpolates adjacent blocks to present you with 4 RGB values, but your actual RGB sensor resolution is really 1/4 of the overall number of megapixels for the sensor.

In the case of the monochrome sensors, each 2x2 array can actually produce 4 discrete monochrome pixels, with no need for de-mosaicing or interpolation.

So you have the potential for sharper images because there is no interpolation taking place.

The downside is you can't mix colour channels to simulate the choice of filters (e.g. red, yellow) in post, and have to do this the old-school way with physical filters on the camera.
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Rob C

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2017, 02:25:06 PM »

Funny thing - only filters I ever used on my lenses were of three sorts: a permanent haze filter to save the front lens element during outdoor work; a polariser for colour transparencies - in specific circumstances; an amber Nikon filter to save colours on rainy days, which seldom convinced me one iota. As for yellow, green etc. with black/white film - never. It never felt necessary.

Today, converting my Nikon raw files to Photoshop-friendly Tiffs, the ability to convert to black/white and try out the equivalent filtration changes possible and see what actually gives, is amazing. And, amazing as that might be, it is almost never particularly useful until the moment it becomes essential. Why would I choose to lose that rare choice?

Relative sharpness? Well, in a tripod-bound world this may make real sense. In my world, it does not.

I would like a mono camera as a gift, but not at the expense of the colour advantages my normal digital cameras give me. And yes, most of my photography today is converted into black and white.

Rob C

Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2017, 02:55:27 PM »

There is a 34-page thread here, on LuLa, where most of the contribution has come from our member Allen Bourgeois. Check it out.

http://forum.luminous-landscape.com/index.php?topic=72404.0

It seems to me that I am in the minority that understands that less is more. It isn't about sharpness, or Bayer, or filtering, or whatever. It is about deliberately reducing options when someone understands why less is more. The abundance of choice can often be crippling. It is about eliminating one more variable that does not matter so that one can concentrate on the one that matters. It is seeing the world monochromatically, shooting in the moment, and eliminating the endless fiddling with sliders and sitting in front of the computer for days.

RobMacKillop

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2017, 03:01:43 PM »

I like your thinking, Slobodan. I knew as soon as Leica brought it out, that I would want one. Unfortunately I can't afford it yet - though I notice the second-hand prices are dropping.
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Telecaster

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #6 on: November 22, 2017, 03:33:53 PM »

The monochrom(e) camera I’m waiting for has a built-in EVF that lets me see b&w as I’m framing. I know you can do this with the latest Leica Mono and the clip-on EVF, but IMO it’s kinda awkward in operation.

With b&w film I like to use a mild yellow or orange filter to darken skies a little. The Monochroms have a built-in dip in their response to wavelengths we interpret as cyan/blue that gives a similar effect.

-Dave-
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Alan Klein

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2017, 03:48:50 PM »

Shooting BW film or a BW only digital camera eliminates the post shooting worry if the picture looks better in color or BW.  It forces you to concentrate on BW. Shapes, contrast, content, etc. and not get swayed by the opium of color when you're looking for a shot. 

Alan Goldhammer

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #8 on: November 22, 2017, 05:31:48 PM »

Shooting BW film or a BW only digital camera eliminates the post shooting worry if the picture looks better in color or BW.  It forces you to concentrate on BW. Shapes, contrast, content, etc. and not get swayed by the opium of color when you're looking for a shot.
Back in the day when I shot lots of B/W film I had one of those filters sold by Zone VI studios that you looked through and it turned everything to B/W.  You could use this to see the highlights, shade tones, etc. which was supposed to help in composition.  Maybe it was good for larger formats than 35mm as I never found it all that useful.  Thanks to Slobodan for posting the original thread; I remember reading it when it was a hot topic of discussion.  I wonder whether the Leica is worth the money since one can still get Silver Efex which does lots of good B/W transpositions of digital images.  I still do a fair amount of B/W work and find that LR/PS along with Silver Efex does virtually everything and it's easy to use.
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Ferp

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #9 on: November 22, 2017, 05:58:31 PM »

There's also a relatively recent and much shorter thread in this forum:

http://forum.luminous-landscape.com/index.php?topic=117449.0

I'd always assumed that the attraction of a Monochrom was increased sharpness due to the absence of de-mosaicing, as that's what's talked about most often.  Which is not that much of an attraction for me, after all how much sharpness do you really need?  Modern cameras and lenses are pretty sharp, to the point where it's not a limitation in making great images. But in that thread someone posted a link to this review:

http://www.ultrasomething.com/2012/12/a-fetishists-guide-to-the-monochrom-part3/

which, although seemingly written by a Leica evangelist, makes a strong case that the attraction of the Monochrom is actually low noise and high levels of shadow detail.  If that's true, then I would be interested, since you can never have too much shadow detail or too little noise.  I still wouldn't be prepared to stump up the money for the body and lenses, but I do see the attraction.
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andrewrodney

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2017, 06:47:25 PM »

I like your thinking, Slobodan.
I absolutely hate to admit it, he's absolutely right!  ;)
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Andrew Rodney
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rdonson

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #11 on: November 22, 2017, 07:59:51 PM »

I like your thinking, Slobodan.

+++++++++++
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Ron

Jeffrey Saldinger

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #12 on: November 22, 2017, 08:10:33 PM »

There is a 34-page thread here, on LuLa, where most of the contribution has come from our member Allen Bourgeois. Check it out.

http://forum.luminous-landscape.com/index.php?topic=72404.0

It seems to me that I am in the minority that understands that less is more. It isn't about sharpness, or Bayer, or filtering, or whatever. It is about deliberately reducing options when someone understands why less is more. The abundance of choice can often be crippling. It is about eliminating one more variable that does not matter so that one can concentrate on the one that matters. It is seeing the world monochromatically, shooting in the moment, and eliminating the endless fiddling with sliders and sitting in front of the computer for days.


I too value Slobodan's post, but could “...endless fiddling with sliders and sitting in front of the computer for days” be digital's version of Ansel Adams's “The negative is the equivalent of the composer's score, and the print the performance"?  (And is not "endless fiddling" unnecessarily disparaging?)

There’s an individual’s own sweet spot that many thoughtfully seek in choosing and using whatever digital tools they wind up with to make their prints, not to mention how much time it takes over however many days of work to feel a file is "done".  I generally agree that less is more, but too much less (depending on what one wants to do) can frustrate an artist’s ability to express himself.  Less for the sake of less feels counterproductive, and a bit more may be just right.

A quote from Robert Browning comes to mind: “The little more, and how much it is; and the little less, and what worlds away.”  I think the idea applies here. (Browning’s context was not digital photography:https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/294443/the-little-more-and-how-much-it-is-the-little-less-and-what-worlds-away.)
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #13 on: November 22, 2017, 08:58:50 PM »

... (And is not "endless fiddling" unnecessarily disparaging?)...

Perhaps, although it was not my intention. I am one of those who belong to that category, sitting in front of the computer and fiddling with sliders for days. But that suits my personality, temperament, and perfectionism. All I was saying is that I understand that there are people with different mentality and different approaches. In other words, I am not a guy suited for Monochrom, but I can see how some people can appreciate it.

Just as I can see why some might prefer primes, and not just because they used to offer better quality (today's zooms are often just as good, if not better), but precisely because they limit their options (in terms of viewing angle) and force them to learn how to see within that view angle. By eliminating the need to decide which angle is best suited for the subject, and wasting time switching back and forth while zooming to determine that, they instead concentrate on the moment and subject matter. Again, "wasting time" is not meant as disparaging, as I am also the guy who has mostly zooms, but simply as a matter of fact that zooming is an extra step. Say you lose just 0.6 seconds while zooming... and it leads to your depression and ultimately death? Impossible and outright silly, right? And yet, just today I came across an article on how 0.6 seconds changed one photographer's life forever (though the story was published first in 2002, and was not because of zooming):

https://www.dallasnews.com/news/jfk/2002/06/30/photographersnapped-oswalds-murder-hair-soon-lost-pulitzer-place-inhistory-rival

As for AA, you are right. If one's approach to photography is similar to AA's then perhaps Monochrom is not for them. Or maybe they can use a few filters like AA did.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2017, 06:38:17 PM by Slobodan Blagojevic »
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ErikKaffehr

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #14 on: November 22, 2017, 10:03:32 PM »

Hi,

The Monochrome has two advantages:

  • Base ISO is higher because it does not have a colour filter array in front of the sensor
  • It does not interpolate missing colours, so the image will have better fine detail contrast

It will probably have characteristics different from panchromatic film and it will need like yellow, orange and red filters for enhancing clouds like panchromatic film.

Best regards
Erik


Leica has a Monochrome camera. No color information, from what I understand.

I have been told that doing B&W this way gives a higher quality image file for B&W.

Is this correct?

Is there an actual advantage to a fully monochrome sensor? If so, does it react to filtration as film does? So I can actually choose a wratten 23/25/29 and similar rather than rely on nebulous sliders in post processing programs?

Sure would like to see a Fuji X-Pro2M (monochrome) as I sure can't afford the Leica gear.
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Erik Kaffehr
 

Alan Klein

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #15 on: November 22, 2017, 10:51:19 PM »

Digital BW cameras still look like digital, unlike film.

Telecaster

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #16 on: November 22, 2017, 11:13:16 PM »

Seeing as I made my living being a stickler for tiny details and fine points—which was absolutely necessary for delivering the goods—in my post-work life I strive to let go of all that whenever *practical in favor of more intuitive responses. Limiting my options helps in this. If I use a camera that produces color by default, I tend to make color photos since that’s what appears in my processing software when I load **RAW files. Thus my desire for a good b&w digi-cam, ‘cuz I really like working in b&w when I know it’s the medium I’m using.

I still shoot some b&w film…but digital has made me lazy too. Anyway for me it’s not about b&w digital vs. b&w film. If any electronic camera could produce files that look like Tri-X or HP5+ I’d be thrilled. (For a time anyway, after which I’d likely start thinking about issues of contrivance and gimmickry.) But it’s not gonna happen, nor should it really. Just as digital color has its own look compared with Kodachrome or whatever, so does proper digital b&w. IMO better to embrace rather than fight it, especially if the taking of the photos is your thing (as it is for me) with the results being of lesser (though not devoid of) importance.

-Dave-

*I’m currently in the process of choosing a new car. It will not be quick or impulsive, though in the end it could come down to “this one feels right.”  :)

**This past summer I set up my most-used camera to produce b&w JPEGs, hoping this would push me to process more of the RAWs into finished b&w pics. Nope…did not happen.
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Jim Kasson

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #17 on: November 22, 2017, 11:19:21 PM »

It seems to me that I am in the minority that understands that less is more. It isn't about sharpness, or Bayer, or filtering, or whatever. It is about deliberately reducing options when someone understands why less is more. The abundance of choice can often be crippling. It is about eliminating one more variable that does not matter so that one can concentrate on the one that matters. It is seeing the world monochromatically, shooting in the moment, and eliminating the endless fiddling with sliders and sitting in front of the computer for days.

What do you think about this, Slobodan?

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, said in a recent Business Week interview, “I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do.” Replace “innovation” with “creativity” (I’m not sure I can tell you the difference, but “innovation” is not a word that resonates as well with artists) and “frugality” with darn near any constraint, and you have a truth that has been demonstrated over and over to me. It seems that the tighter the box, the greater the unleashed creativity. The opposite is also true: when I don’t set limits for myself, I get lazy and take the easy way out, which, by no coincidence, is the way of most photographs, and my results are just as mundane as the average ones.

We don’t have to get esoteric to see how limits foster creativity. Ultimately photography is about putting a frame around the world; the boundaries of the photographic image are crucial to the result. That’s why photographers hate it when others crop their work; it’s like someone is messing with the soul of the image. Many photographers almost always use the entire image that’s captured by the camera. When using film, some even prove it in the end result by including the edge of the negative.

Why do people do this? Doesn’t the perfect frame for any subject vary widely with the nature of the subject? Maybe it does, but there is a wonderfully clarifying consequence of constraining yourself to a certain image shape. The easy response is to seek out subjects that do well with that shape, but the real magic happens when you find compositions that work within the shape for subjects that don’t seem like they should naturally fit. The shape of the image, which you decided in advance, forces you into a picture that you wouldn’t have otherwise made. Stated more accurately, your own creativity is energized by the challenge of mapping the subject into the predetermined frame, and you come up with an image you wouldn’t have made without the constraint of the frame.

Once you start looking at limits as good things, rather than problems to be gotten around, there are endless opportunities for creatively boxing yourself in. Equipment is a good place to start. I’ve talked about image shapes, but why stop there? Plastic, light-leaky cameras with unsharp, flare-producing lenses; pinhole cameras; big, ungainly, view cameras, old, soft lenses with or without shutters; all will present restrictions that demand, and practically enforce, creativity. Film is another: infrared, big grain, low contrast, long toe; pick your poison. There are an endless variety of quirky print media and alternative processes, each with things they don’t do so well.

If you’ve got photographer’s block, a way to break out of it is to turn the usual equipment/media selection process on its head. Instead of blocking out the subject and style of photograph in your mind and finding the right gear to get the job done, grab a camera you’ve never used before (or at least have never used on the subject at hand) and see where it takes you.

While setting down your Leica or Linhof and picking up a Holga might be called for in severe creativity droughts, such extreme measures are usually unnecessary. Like many photographers, I work in series. I don’t usually define the series in advance; it usually grows out of some other photographic project or something else that’s going on in my life at the time. Once I’m into the series, it slowly becomes clear to me what the focus of the work is. For my best work, that focus is narrow, which means that there are lots of limits. Dealing with those limits forces me to be inventive. There are many other reasons for series work (some of which may be the subject of another post), but I’m convinced that one of the not-so-obvious effects is that narrowing your options spurs creativity.

Tony Jay

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #18 on: November 23, 2017, 12:24:22 AM »

What do you think about this, Slobodan?

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, said in a recent Business Week interview, “I think frugality drives innovation, just like other constraints do.” Replace “innovation” with “creativity” (I’m not sure I can tell you the difference, but “innovation” is not a word that resonates as well with artists) and “frugality” with darn near any constraint, and you have a truth that has been demonstrated over and over to me. It seems that the tighter the box, the greater the unleashed creativity. The opposite is also true: when I don’t set limits for myself, I get lazy and take the easy way out, which, by no coincidence, is the way of most photographs, and my results are just as mundane as the average ones.

We don’t have to get esoteric to see how limits foster creativity. Ultimately photography is about putting a frame around the world; the boundaries of the photographic image are crucial to the result. That’s why photographers hate it when others crop their work; it’s like someone is messing with the soul of the image. Many photographers almost always use the entire image that’s captured by the camera. When using film, some even prove it in the end result by including the edge of the negative.

Why do people do this? Doesn’t the perfect frame for any subject vary widely with the nature of the subject? Maybe it does, but there is a wonderfully clarifying consequence of constraining yourself to a certain image shape. The easy response is to seek out subjects that do well with that shape, but the real magic happens when you find compositions that work within the shape for subjects that don’t seem like they should naturally fit. The shape of the image, which you decided in advance, forces you into a picture that you wouldn’t have otherwise made. Stated more accurately, your own creativity is energized by the challenge of mapping the subject into the predetermined frame, and you come up with an image you wouldn’t have made without the constraint of the frame.

Once you start looking at limits as good things, rather than problems to be gotten around, there are endless opportunities for creatively boxing yourself in. Equipment is a good place to start. I’ve talked about image shapes, but why stop there? Plastic, light-leaky cameras with unsharp, flare-producing lenses; pinhole cameras; big, ungainly, view cameras, old, soft lenses with or without shutters; all will present restrictions that demand, and practically enforce, creativity. Film is another: infrared, big grain, low contrast, long toe; pick your poison. There are an endless variety of quirky print media and alternative processes, each with things they don’t do so well.

If you’ve got photographer’s block, a way to break out of it is to turn the usual equipment/media selection process on its head. Instead of blocking out the subject and style of photograph in your mind and finding the right gear to get the job done, grab a camera you’ve never used before (or at least have never used on the subject at hand) and see where it takes you.

While setting down your Leica or Linhof and picking up a Holga might be called for in severe creativity droughts, such extreme measures are usually unnecessary. Like many photographers, I work in series. I don’t usually define the series in advance; it usually grows out of some other photographic project or something else that’s going on in my life at the time. Once I’m into the series, it slowly becomes clear to me what the focus of the work is. For my best work, that focus is narrow, which means that there are lots of limits. Dealing with those limits forces me to be inventive. There are many other reasons for series work (some of which may be the subject of another post), but I’m convinced that one of the not-so-obvious effects is that narrowing your options spurs creativity.
Fabulous post Jim!

Great food for thought...

Tony Jay
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Rob C

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Re: Monochrome camera vs converting from color?
« Reply #19 on: November 23, 2017, 09:21:51 AM »

I just don't understand why, for some, having a camera that produces colour files prevents or impedes their ability to make black/white pictures. Hell, the bloody world is already in colour, what you gonna do about that? Spray it?

To me, this thing is about sounding deep, terribly intelligent and a committed photographer of some kind. It's nonsense! If you want and can afford a 'cron then buy it and enjoy, but that's all it boils down to in reality - your "eye" ain't gonna be one iota better than ever it was. If you lack discipline when seeing your files, that's something else, and cameras can't help you: only you can fix that. You don't buy those answers, you have to understand yourself and fix the guy inside.

Rob
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