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Differences in Blown Highlights and Crushed Shadows between M246 Mono and M240

Differences in Blown Highlights and Crushed Shadows between M246 Mono and M240

I don't use the (A) mode and Auto ISO when I shoot on the street, because the lighting condition on the street is unpredictable, and because the camera's exposure metering is not optimized for what you need. So constantly, while I'm shooting on the street, I am manually adjusting my exposure for the next shot, based on the changing light, and also the balance of light and dark, relative to the subject, which can confuse the automatic metering system.

Usually, I'm pretty good at it. But there are times when I miss the exposure. This is especially true when I forget to adjust the exposure setting when an unexpected photo opportunity pops up, just as the lighting condition changes from one extreme to another. When this happens, the exposure difference could be as much as two stops. And if you fails to meter correctly, it's then up to Lightroom to salvage the image, assuming that you shot in RAW DNG.

This image was shot on a Leica M 246 Monochrome. It was accidentally overexposed by one stop. The subjects legs were in shadow, but his upper body was under an extremely bright beam of sunlight. I was able to retrieve a reasonable amount of details from the overexposed shadows in Lightroom, but the highlights were blown beyond repair.

Of course, what I am saying is true for all camera manufacturers. Human error in metering will happen if the photographer shoots without electronic metering aids. However, what I do see in Leica M Bodies do seem to follow a consistent pattern. Highlights are prone to becoming blown on the Monochrome bodies if the highlight of the image is overexposed by one stop (in strong highlight situations), while shadows are "crushed" or blocked on the color M bodies, if underexposed by more than two stops (in lower light situations). 

The image was shot on a Leica MD Typ 262. The subject walked into shadow just as I also walked into shadow. The image was underexposed over two stops. Areas of dark and shadows were all crushed.

By contrast, I also noticed that the Monochrome bodies fared better with shadows when underexposed. If the image is underexposed by one and a half stop, usually the shadows can be recovered in Lightroom. If underexposed by two stops, you're pushing it, but you should still be able to use the image after post on Lightroom. If more than two and a half, then the image is likely to have significant crushed shadows. 

The image was shot on a M 246 Monochrome. The image underexposed by one and a half stops. All the details were lifted out successfully on Lightroom.

I am aware that the image files on the Monochrome Leicas cannot be saved if underexposed too much, especially in low light situations. However, what I have come to understand is how much better the Monochrome sensors are in low light situation when compared to the color M Leicas. It's almost as if Leica had made it this way. I mean, just look at it - the M 246 Monochrome has an extra stop of usable film speed, for low light conditions, while the M 240 can stop down to ISO 100 (pulled) for better image quality under optimal light conditions. 

It thus makes sense to use the Monochrome bodies in lower light situations, versus the color M Leicas. For the M 240, the use of a faster lens, like a Summilux is necessary in low light conditions, while a Summicron is all that you need for the Monochrome bodies. As such, the usage of lens predetermines the types of images that one would take for either camera body. For the Monochrome and Summicron pair, having deeper depth of field is more likely, whereas the color M Leica and Summilux pair would likely isolate the subject more, in an effort to render background bokeh. For that reason, I generally recommend the 35mm Summicron on the Monochrome and the 50mm Summilux on the MP 240 for those who carry both bodies. If just the one body, then the 35mm Summilux. 

This image was taken at night, at ISO 12,500, and underexposed by one stop, in order for me to increase the depth of field and increase shutter speed, to get more of the image in focus, and reduce image blur.

A final advantage that the Monochrome bodies have in poor lighting conditions is an inherent benefit of black and white photography - you don't have to deal with the suboptimal color balance distinctive to low light situation. Immediately monochrome photography deals away with that problem by simplifying the image from color to a gray scale. And if the image is underexposed significantly shot on the Leica Monochrome bodies, the resulting crushed shadows after repairs on post might appear grainy and acceptable for use.

As for color M bodies, it does appear that the M 240 does handle blown highlights significantly better than the M Monochrome. From my experience, one can save an over exposed image up to one and a half stops without encountering significant problems in loss of image details. With that said, bright light conditions are normally not a problem in photography, given that there are so many more ways to overcome it without adversely affecting the image quality - whether by stopping down, or using a neutral density filter.

Image was shot on a Leica M 240. It was overexposed by one and a half stop. All the stone masonry were white on the image, as were the highlights on the subjects skin. Lightroom was able to salvage the image.

Bottom line - I believe the Monochrome M bodies excel under suboptimal light conditions while the Color M bodies excel in extremely bright conditions.

What the Leica MD taught me what the Nikon Df should have been

What the Leica MD taught me what the Nikon Df should have been

Leica M-D Typ 262

Leica M-D Typ 262