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Leica M246 Monochrome vs Leica M240 Desaturated vs Leica M6 B+W Film - plus an appearance from the Sony A7rII Hi-Res Desaturated

Leica M246 Monochrome vs Leica M240 Desaturated vs Leica M6 B+W Film - plus an appearance from the Sony A7rII Hi-Res Desaturated

In continuation from my previous write-up, I remembered to bring my Leica MP 240. So this time around, I am rearing and ready to do my Monochrome vs Desaturation vs Black and White film comparison.

But now that I'm doing this, I'm not so sure that I would be terribly interested in that comparison. I mean, I have seen photographic reviewers compare monochrome to desaturated images, and I've seen reviewers compare monochrome to black and white film. And even though I don't ever recall seeing any reviewer compare monochrome vs desaturated vs black and white film, I'm still not satisfied.

Looking at my images from the shoot, I noticed that I took some images with my Sony A7r MKII. So to sweeten this comparison a little, I'll also desaturate some high resolution image files, and see how that works out. Unfortunately, I didn't intend to do that originally, so I will only almost have one complete set of images to compare. I know, that sounds pretty pathetic.

For the rest of the unsorted images, they will be aggregated together as odds and ends at the end. Although those images are not in complete sets, I believe they still provide some insight in comparison between format.

The film that I have selected for this shoot is Kodak Tri-X 400 (like last time) and also Ilford Delta 3200. For the Tri-X 400, I was shooting with the Leica 50mm F/0.95 Noctilux wide open, and for the Delta 3200, I was shooting with the Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux at f/4 and 1/500th of a second in order to freeze the playing of music.

And just for fun the fun of it, I've included some Hasselblad XPan images - for no particular reason. I just really like the Hasselblad XPan shot indoors in close quarters.

First Set - Warm Up Shots of the Piano Trio - ISO 3200

Leica M246 Monochrome x Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux shot at f/4

Leica MP 240 Desaturated x Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux shot at f/4

Leica MP-6 x Delta 3200 x Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux shot at f/4

Hasselblad XPan x Delta 3200 x Hasselblad 45mm f/4, shot at f/4

Second Set - ISO 3200

Leica M246 Monochrome x Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux shot at f/4

Leica MP 240 Desaturated x Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux shot at f/4

Leica MP-6 x Delta 3200 x  Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux shot at f/4

Hasselblad XPan x Delta 3200 x Hasselblad 45mm f/4, shot at f/4

Although it may not be immediately clear, given the downsized DNG images posted, the monochrome images at ISO 3200 is better than the desaturated digital images at ISO 3200. Furthermore, the dynamic range in the shadows and highlights are also less detailed in the desaturated images. In comparison to the Ilford Delta 3200 images, the grain size is extremely evident on the higher speed film. However, there is a very pleasing quality to the analog rendering, that film photographers would invariably prefer. 

It should also be noted that the light condition in the rehearsal studio, albeit suboptimal, was nonetheless sufficient for available light photography. Given that, shooting at ISO 3200 did not result in undesirable artifacts in the desaturated digital images. But from my own experience, I do know that poor lighting poses a significant risk to dynamic range at high ISO for desaturated images.

Set 3 - ISO 400 - Shot Wide Open + Featuring a Hi Res Image

Leica M246 Monochrome + Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux, shot at f/0.95

Leica M240 Desaturated + Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux, shot at f/0.95 - My apologies... I forgot about the pose, so this one is different from the rest of this set.

Leica MP-6 + Kodak Tr-X 400 + Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux, shot at f/0.95

Sony A7r MKII + Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux, shot at f/0.95

Hasselblad XPan + Kodak Tri-X 400 + Hasselblad 45mm f/4. Obviously not shot at f/0.95, but I've included it just for fun.

At ISO 400, from the perspective of my layman's eyes, I don't see significant difference between the Monochrome, Desaturated, Film, and Hi Resolution Desaturated images - especially when downsized for screen. It makes you wonder if you really need a monochromatic sensor to optimize digital black and white photography. But to be fair, the Leica Monochrome files are the cleanest (if you examine the DNG files), while the film scans are the least, which is evident on the screen image.

Set 4 - Assorted Odds and Ends

Leica MP-6 + Delta 3200 + Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux, shot at f/4

Leica MP-6 + Delta 3200 + Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux, shot at f/4

Leica MP 240 Desaturated + Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux, shot at f/0.95

Leica M246 Monochrome + Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux, shot at f/0.95

Sony A7r MKII Desaturated + Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux, shot at f/0.95

Leica MP-6 + Tri-X 400 + Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux, shot at f/0.95

Judging from what I have selected for the odds and ends, it would appear that I prefer the images taken on film over digital. To be honest, that might be the case. There is something about film that seems very forgiving. Maybe it's because it's not as harsh and precise as digital. Because of that, you don't need to be as exact in focusing. 

Still, the workflow of film is so much less convenient than digital. If this comparison were done solely on digital, I would have published this post over a week ago. But given the need to develop and scan the negatives, procrastination got the better of me.

Overall, I found this to be a rather fun exercise to do. However, I think I can do a better job, next time around, given the benefit of the learning curve. For one thing, I would have more varied complete sets of Monochrome, Desaturated, Film, and Hi Res Desaturated images to compare. But for now, in this write-up, I believe that there is sufficient material to provide an initial comparison. Even so, I should try to do a better version at a later date - if for no better reason than to redeem myself.

By the way, my film was developed at Color Resource Center, at 20 West 22nd Street, New York City. They deserve a shout out, since they were able to scan 3:1 aspect ratio negatives.  

All images have been optimized on Lightroom. Images have not been cropped, unless otherwise stated.

Special thanks to Akiko, Anat, and Gjiberta.

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The Sony A7r MKII from a Leica M Photographers POV

The Sony A7r MKII from a Leica M Photographers POV

Shooting with the Leica M246, Leica MP-6, and Hasselblad XPan

Shooting with the Leica M246, Leica MP-6, and Hasselblad XPan