Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Review

 
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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246)
Resolution: 24.00 Megapixels
Sensor size: 35mm
(35.8mm x 23.9mm)
Kit Lens: n/a
Viewfinder: Optical / LCD
Native ISO: 320 - 25,000
Extended ISO: 320 - 25,000
Shutter: 1/4000 - 60 seconds
Dimensions: 5.5 x 3.1 x 1.7 in.
(139 x 80 x 42 mm)
Weight: 24.0 oz (680 g)
includes batteries
Availability: 05/2015
Manufacturer: Leica
Full specs: Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) specifications
24.00
Megapixels
Leica M bayonet 35mm
size sensor
image of Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246)
Front side of Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) digital camera Front side of Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) digital camera Front side of Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) digital camera Front side of Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) digital camera Front side of Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) digital camera

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Review -- First Impressions

by
Preview posted

In mid-2012, Leica announced perhaps one of its most unique digital cameras to date. The Leica M Monochrom took the body of the M9-P, and swapped in a full-frame CCD image sensor that lacked a color filter. Without filtering, the sensor provided a completely monochrome image, and significantly higher sensitivity than a Bayer-filtered sensor.

Now, it follows up with the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246), retaining the earlier camera's name and tacking on a slightly clumsy model number as it has done with other models since early 2014. The M Monochrom (Typ 246) sports a brand-new body and reworked internals.

The new body is just a touch deeper and quite a bit heavier than that of the original M Monochrom. In redesigning the body, Leica has reworked the Typ 246's controls -- including a switch to a traditional rear dial that's tucked into the thumb grip -- and done away with the bright line illumination window.

Inside, the M Monochrom (Typ 246) features a brand-new 24 megapixel CMOS image sensor, in place of the earlier 18 megapixel CCD chip. It's still unfiltered, creating monochromatic images, and with a total pixel count about a third higher than that of its predecessor, linear resolution should be about 15% higher, all else being equal.

The change from CCD technology to CMOS may cause concern among some purists who feel CCD provides better image quality, but it brings significant advantages in other areas. The Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) still uses a Maestro processor, yet despite its one-third higher pixel count, performance has increased by 50% to three frames per second. Courtesy of a two gigabyte buffer, burst depth has simultaneously soared from eight to 30 frames.

Sensitivity now tops out at ISO 25,000 equivalent, where the original M Monochrom was limited to a maximum of ISO 10,000 equivalent. Base sensitivity is unchanged at ISO 320, but the Typ 246 lacks its predecessor's ISO 160 pull setting.

The LCD monitor is now a half-inch larger than before, with a three-inch diagonal, and has much higher 921,600 dot resolution. And while purists are again likely to recoil at the thought of shooting at arm's length, the switch to CMOS also allows both for live view on the LCD monitor, and for Full HD video capture. These changes make the M Monochrom (Typ 246) a much more versatile camera, and they also allow access to features like multi or spot metering and focus peaking that the earlier model lacked.

Of course, they only work in live view mode; when shooting through the finder you're limited to center-weighted metering and rangefinder manual focusing. And the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) is still what some photographers might consider a rather limited camera in terms of feature set. For example, it lacks autofocus and Program or Shutter-priority exposure, with both of these shortcomings caused by its lenses, which lack any electronic or mechanical connectivity.

But for fans of rangefinder-style shooting and manual controls, and especially those who favor black and white photography, the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) has few challengers, and a lot to recommend it. At least, if you can afford its high pricetag, but that's par for the course for a camera carrying the Leica brand -- even one which forgoes the company's iconic red dot logo.

Available from May 7th, 2015, the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) is priced at US$7,450 body-only.

Let's take a closer look around its new body.

 

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Walkaround

by Mike Tomkins

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Review -- Product Image

At a quick glance, the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) looks a lot like its predecessor from the front, but look more closely and there are quite a few changes.

For one thing, there's a new button on the front panel of the magnesium-alloy body, just above and to the right of the lens (as seen from the rear). This new Focus button is used to enable the M Monochrom (Typ 246)'s enlarged display or focus peaking functions in live view mode, making it easier to determine when you've reached the point of focus.

The top left shoulder of the camera is no longer notched inwards slightly, a design change that increases overall volume just slightly, but makes the camera look less awkward and boxy. And there's no longer a bright frame illumination window, which used to sit just to the right of the viewfinder window

As in the earlier M Monochrom, M-P Typ 240 and M-A film cameras, it's interesting to note that Leica's famed red dot logo isn't present on the front panel, its place occupied by a slightly curious-looking screw. M Monochrom (Typ 246) users are likely to be jokingly questioned as to whether it holds the camera together, but it does give the camera a slightly more stealth aspect.

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Review -- Product Image

There's also no Leica branding on the top deck, unlike some of the company's other models. This view is relatively little-changed from that of the original M Monochrom, although the Typ 246 does have one new button, labeled with an M and sitting at the very end of its right shoulder. This is the Video Shutter Release button, used to start and stop movie capture.

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Review -- Product Image

It's the rear panel of the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) which shows the most change. For one thing, the LCD monitor is larger, and the column of buttons that line its left side are now rectangular, and rather larger than the original M Monochrom's tiny circular buttons. At the top of the stack is a new Live View button, and the Menu button has jumped across the display to join the other buttons in this column.

On the other side of the display, the Four-Way controller has been combined into a single rocker pad instead of four discrete buttons, and the Info button now sits at its center. The control dial that previously encircled the Four-Way controller has been replaced by a more traditional dial that's inset into the thumb grip. (You can't really see it very well in this photo, but the thumb grip projects a bit beyond the camera body, and is angled so that the dial faces slightly towards the right for an easier reach for your thumb.)

There's also a new accessory interface terminal directly beneath the flash hot shoe, and a three-hole speaker grille alongside the bottom right corner of the LCD monitor.

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Review -- Product Image

Other than the changes we've already noted, the right side of the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) is basically identical to that of the earlier M Monochrom. Don't be misled by the small inset above the strap lug -- it isn't a cover or button, just a protective pad to stop the camera body from getting scratched by a strap with metal D-rings.

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Review -- Product Image

And finally, we come to the left-hand side. Here, Leica has removed the USB port that was featured on the original M Monochrom, giving the camera a slightly cleaner look, but necessitating that you remove images and movies from the camera via the SD card, rather than a cabled connection. There's also a new circular trim detail at the base of the left side. Otherwise, this side too is basically unchanged.

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