Black and White with Leica SL

There are quite a few articles and comparisons between MM246 and SL out there. I think the consensus is - use the one you like. Both cameras produce outstanding black and white images. Where MM246 wins at using colored lens filters, SL catches up with a newer sensor, higher bit depth and ton of other features. I used both and can't say which one is better. Their pros and cons are so balanced and different at the same time that it almost makes you wish to have two of these at the same time.

The sad and happy path to the Leica SL

The path to this camera was just too long and insanely expensive. I usually care about things like geometry, symmetry, dynamic range, and technology in a camera. It has to be a tool that helps me show you, what is that weird thing I saw on the street and decided to share. Leica SL just came out. It was a perfect camera, but not for me. So I thought. When it came out I decided to buy Leica MM246. Marvelous camera, the Monochrom. Back then MM246 was justified as being cheaper and smaller. Of course, I've lost money when I decided to sell it later, but I feel like I've learned a lot working in black and white.

Next came Fuji X-Pro2. Why does one need an expensive Leica when one can buy Fuji, that is cheaper, lighter, is a rangefinder and has auto-focus weather sealed lenses? It's everything M240 supposed to be, except it is not a Leica. Fortunately, I returned it back to the store and only lost a bit on shipping charges. Don't get me wrong, Fuji is the best camera you can dream of if you want to buy a camera with APC-S sized sensor. Frankly, there is no objective reason I prefer full frame to APC-S, I just do and there is no explanation that I can think off. I don't normally do insanely shallow depth of field with a f/0.95 Noctilux. If I wanted that could probably get into medium format. Anyway, X-Pro2 produced amazing images. It was very light. It had a great hybrid viewfinder/rangefinder. It just felt wrong on a subjective level. At this point, I decided to stop and live a bit with no camera at all. 

Next thing I remember is looking at one of the large prints in our bedroom and thinking - "I kind of enjoyed this and was not so bad at it either". This time, I decided to get something pure to isolate myself from the camera features and become a true photographer. "No chimping", they say. This is how I bought Leica M-D. It's a full frame rangefinder by Leica with no screen. You can't even format an SD card with this camera. The feeling of shooting with M-D was amazing. It was liberating and refreshing. This camera allowed me to focus on the subject and on the environment.

I spend another 20 days with it and realized that a rangefinder with no screen just does not work. I mean, look at my pictures. If I don't embrace geometry and symmetry then I don't know what do I embrace. And to tell you the truth symmetry and rangefinder are two words you won't find in the same sentence, except this one. I also like wide lenses. Shooting 21mm on M-D was no fun. Focus through the rangefinder - check! Frame through external viewfinder - check! Press the shutter and see if looks good - check, but only once you get home. If I were a street or portrait photographer, that is not a paid photographer, but someone who would do street or portraits for fun, I would definitely keep the camera. I still shoot just for fun, but people is not really my thing ... except my wife, of course.

The sad part was that I had scratched the camera's body a bit and was not able to return it and get the full refund. It's the MM246 story all over again. My wife fully supported me, but deep inside I think the face above tells it all. I know I should have bought the SL long time as my first camera and just cross this one out of the list - "Need to buy the best camera in the world". So I did. Leica SL is the best camera in the world - at least in my world. 

Black and White with Leica M-D (Typ 262)

I'm somewhat convinced that it's not worth to have both MM246 and MD262 to support black and white and color workflow. I'm yet to try using filters, but something tells me that those days are over and I will have to do all the magic in Capture One now. The derived black and white unfortunately relies on all of the color pixels to be lit. If  I decide to put a red filter, which essentially makes blue and green to be blind to almost all of the light, I'll lose all the detail. On the other hand, it is nice to make the decision of keeping the color, making a black and white image or a black and white image as if it was shot through a color filter later. 

Some Leica Color

It appears that there are things in life worth capturing in color. I had to sell my Leica M Monochrom to get the new Leica M-D. I enjoy the pure experience of shooting without an LCD screen a lot more, but I miss the black and white workflow with filters and such of the MM246. I guess they have to release the MM without the screen now to make me happy. Leica MM-D anyone?

Another member of my collection is the 50mm f/1.4 Summilux. But that is the story for another time.