Leica's new M Monochrom ups the black-and-white ante

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The M Monochrom (Typ 246) it the latest iteration of Leica's quirky black-and-white-only digital rangefinder

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Leica has announced the latest iteration of its undeniably niche but strangely compelling Leica M Monochrom, a US$7,500 camera which only shoots in black-and-white. The new version (Typ 246) is said to significantly improve on the image quality of its predecessor by using a newly developed 24-megapixel black-and-white CMOS sensor, and the camera now also features Live View and Full HD video recording.

While the idea of a digital camera which only shoots black-and-white left some people confused when the original Leica M Monochrom was released in 2012, the camera has found a dedicated following of fans who enjoy the sharp and rich images it produces. Now with the launch of the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246), it looks like those fans could have a new champion as the new camera appears to vastly improve on its predecessor.

At the heart of the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) is a newly developed black-and-white sensor which lacks both a color filter array and optical low pass filter, to deliver images which are sharper and feature more depth and clarity than those from rival cameras. In addition to a resolution increase to 24 megapixels (up from 18 megapixels), the full-frame (23.9 × 35.8 mm) sensor is now of the CMOS variety.

In conjunction with the same Leica Maestro image processor as the current Leica M and M-P cameras, and a two-gigabyte buffer, this allows considerably faster processing and performance. The camera has an increased top ISO of 25,000 (up from 10,000) and can shoot a series of images at a top speed of 3 fps (frames per second) for up to 30 images. The new M Monochrom can also deliver high-quality JPEG files in addition to the RAW data files in DNG format in less than two seconds.

These changes also mean the new camera is capable of recording Full HD 1080p video at 25/24 fps and that Live View can be used as an alternative to looking through the viewfinder. Within Live View there are two additional focusing methods, Live View Zoom which zooms in to provide full control of the sharpness, and Live View Focus Peaking which automatically highlights sharply focused edges in an image with colored lines.

Physically, the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) is similar to its predecessor, but has a number of key differences. These include a separate release button on the top for starting and stopping video recording, and a new button layout on the rear, which also houses a larger three-inch 921,600 dot LCD monitor featuring a sapphire crystal glass cover. The camera measures 138.6 × 42 × 80 mm (5.45 × 1.65 × 3.15 in) weighs 680 g (24 oz) and is manufactured from a high-strength magnesium alloy with a brass top panel and base.

Should you not want the straight black-and-white images from the M Monochrom, the characteristic toning effects from analogue black-and-white photography (for example, sepia, cold or selenium) can be applied in-camera to JPEG images. Buyers will also be able to download a free copy of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6 from the Leica website.

Due to arrive in stores later this month, the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) will set you back $7,500.

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