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Old 16th May 2012   #1
fotografz
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Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

I have placed my order for this camera after some concern about the relatively flat looking files being posted which I've now resolved ... as the Beatles song goes ... "With a little help from my friends"

Thanks to Jono for supplying native MM DNGs of various subjects at a full range of ISOs in different lighting conditions.

Jono was also kind enough to supply a still life shot with the M9 and the MM at ISO400/320 respectively which allowed conversion to B&W and a direct comparison to the MM file with no variables except sensor type.

My good friend Irakly came by and we sat down to figure out how to process the MM files to achieve that "Leica Snap" (for lack of a better word) with B&W images ... the immediate observation was that true blacks were missing, which is what contributes to the over-all flat look. Our initial investagative process was not dissimilar to the approach needed when we went from B&W conversions of M8 files to the initially flatter looking converted M9 DNG files ... only this time the propritary MM processing technique was even more aggressive.

We began our effort by playing with the various B&W presets in the left dialog column, selecting the appropriate starting point for any given lighting scenario and/or ISO file.

Then we dealt with further assuring True Black, and fine tuning the other tonal areas.

Fortunately, LR4 has vastly improved the exposure controls to deal with it. By increasing the density with the black slider, then relieving the shadows (done to taste), plus increasing clarity and often contrast to different degrees, we were both satisfied relatively fast. Note, the adjustment of the "True Black" slider in LR4 was usually pretty aggressive, and to our surprise and delight, lifting of shadows did NOT result in increased noise ... such seems the nature of these MM files. True Black is far less affected by shadow adjustments in terms of degree, and remains true black even when shadows were restored. That is why they are separate controls I guess

I then processed the M9 color file, and the MM file of the same static subject ... Jono's famous "shelf pic".

Using best practices for M9 B&W developed over a couple of years use, I set about trying to match the over-all tonal spread and "snap" I expect from a Leica B&W image ... which was now easy to achieve with the MM file.

Interesting observation was how much sharper the MM file was when pixel peeping @ 100% and 200% ... the noise pattern on the MM file is much tighter and actually allowed some sharpening by increasing amount a lot and keeping the radius small (depending on ISO). The MM easily out resolves the M9 in these conditions. What percentage I'll leave to others to debate endlessly, but it is visibly sharper looking and cleaner by a good factor even without any additional sharpening.

I have a meeting in a few minutes, and when I get some more free time I'll post some results (thanks to Jono), in a SmugMug file and provide a link.

In the meantime, anyone with a DNG file, try playing around using some of the insights we discovered.

Hope this helps a little.

-Marc
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Old 16th May 2012   #2
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

I'd love to play with some DNGs. Are any available publicly?
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Old 16th May 2012   #3
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

Awesome work, guys. This was something I wondered about as well in looking at the posted samples. Looking forward to seeing your results.

Jono's seashore shot was more along the lines of what I'm thinking. That looked great. I assume a filter was used also.
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Old 16th May 2012   #4
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

I think he explained that no filter was used... Rangefinderforum.com - View Single Post - M9 Monochrom in China
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Old 16th May 2012   #5
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

Fantastic! This is exactly what many of us were hoping for. Truly appreciate Marc and all those that supported your effort which of course includes those you kindly thanked. Looking forward to your posted results and also hope in due time, some MM DNG"s will be made available for publically, so others can work and develop alternative processing schemes.

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Old 16th May 2012   #6
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

Here ya go ... Remember these are courtesy of Jono, bless his heart for being so generous!

Had a big meeting today so couldn't fuss with these all that much ... just used the basic stuff I mentioned in the opening here.

Each of us has a different way of processing ... but this at least demonstrates that the MM files are malleable and can be done in many different ways. So, coulda, woulda, shoulda isn't the point.

The color M9 shot with a B&W conversion is there with a 320 MM shot ... AND a MM 10,000 shot ... check out the 10,000 ISO!

The titles below the large preview spell out what is what. Basically, direct untouched originals followed by edits.

I think I made the China Girl (C MM Edit) a bit to crispy and forgot to exercise a bit of selective noise control on the MM 6400 group shot ... but coulda, woulda, shoulda

I think there is still a lot of learning to do with this camera ... and I'm sure MM Lightroom Presets will materialize once the camera is out and about. Plus, we won't know what shooting techniques may produce more (if anything) until we have it for good while.

Jono's MM files - fotografz's Photos | SmugMug

-Marc
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Old 16th May 2012   #7
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

Great stuff, Marc, especially edit 2 of the covered young female face...stunning, really! Great work capturing, Jono, and great image editing, Marc!
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Old 16th May 2012   #8
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Thumbs up Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

Quote:
Originally Posted by ashwinrao1 View Post
Great stuff, Marc, especially edit 2 of the covered young female face...stunning, really! Great work capturing, Jono, and great image editing, Marc!
love the detail pop from the scarf.
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Old 16th May 2012   #9
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

Marc, could you please make some screen shots of your Lightroom settings (e.g. for the cormorant fisher shot).
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Old 16th May 2012   #10
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

looks like there is a temptation to increase the contrast, bring up a pure black; but one of the appealing things is the soft gray tonality of the originals, something that is quite subtle in sharpness, crispness
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Old 16th May 2012   #11
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

Quote:
Originally Posted by ashwinrao1 View Post
Great stuff, Marc, especially edit 2 of the covered young female face...stunning, really! Great work capturing, Jono, and great image editing, Marc!
+1...very impressive Marc and of course Jono's originals are a great platform of images to work with.

I agree with others, that in some instances there might be a bit of high contrast in some of the post processed MM images that were worked on and in a few instances, I prefer a slightly lower contrast version, even though blacks might not be true blacks. It's all subjective, just as it would be with regards to selecting film, developer and paper type. Clearly the files are very mailable and this is an important consideration with regards to this new camera. In the future, it will be interesting to take the same MM RAW DNG's and immediately apply one of the Silverfast presets, as a start and see what they look like when compared to the images that were worked on via yoru (Marc's) protocol.

What a excellent start and much food for thought. Again I'd like to thank you Marc for posting these.

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Old 16th May 2012   #12
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
Here ya go ... Remember these are courtesy of Jono, bless his heart for being so generous!

Had a big meeting today so couldn't fuss with these all that much ... just used the basic stuff I mentioned in the opening here.

Each of us has a different way of processing ... but this at least demonstrates that the MM files are malleable and can be done in many different ways. So, coulda, woulda, shoulda isn't the point.

The color M9 shot with a B&W conversion is there with a 320 MM shot ... AND a MM 10,000 shot ... check out the 10,000 ISO!

The titles below the large preview spell out what is what. Basically, direct untouched originals followed by edits.

I think I made the China Girl (C MM Edit) a bit to crispy and forgot to exercise a bit of selective noise control on the MM 6400 group shot ... but coulda, woulda, shoulda

I think there is still a lot of learning to do with this camera ... and I'm sure MM Lightroom Presets will materialize once the camera is out and about. Plus, we won't know what shooting techniques may produce more (if anything) until we have it for good while.

Jono's MM files - fotografz's Photos | SmugMug

-Marc
Marc these are really good edits! (and Jono you rock!) Like the A-MM-edit 2 and MM 6400 Edit in particular. In fact I just placed an order on MM! =) Do you mind sharing your settings in LR?
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Old 16th May 2012   #13
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

Marc:

Nicely done. I went to your site to see the photos.

What's really good to see is how "malleable" these files are to reflect different techniques in processing and aesthetic tastes in final output.

My processed versions of these files, to suit my 'tastes', are quite a bit different from yours. Ashwin's been working the same files. We're getting together this weekend to compare results. I bet his versions are, also, uniquely his.

Thanks again to Brother Jono for leading us into the light

Cheers, Matt

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Old 17th May 2012   #14
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

Yep, no two set of eyes see the same. Probably true for our screens also

I do tend to a bit more density because I don't process for screen, but instead prints. I have printed some of these already because that's the test most important to me.

I usually use a double weight fiber based Ink Jet paper like Crane's Museo Silver Rag which requires a bit more contrast to the file ... this paper isn't quite pure white, nor obviously as reflective as a rear lit computer screen.

Once I go through that printing process a few times, I'll be able to make minor adjustments to the black density to account for any gain.

I also want to experiment with laser silver prints ... which are slightly different because silver prints produce better true blacks than typical inkjets ... so the files might need backing off especially on the bright white paper my lab uses.

Lots to learn, but one thing is becoming clear ... the files are delicious, and thanks to Jono, with Leica's permission, we have something to learn with before punking down a "Leica like" small fortune

-Marc
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Old 17th May 2012   #15
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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looks like there is a temptation to increase the contrast, bring up a pure black; but one of the appealing things is the soft gray tonality of the originals, something that is quite subtle in sharpness, crispness
I think what Marc has shown, despite increase in contrast, how much isn't blown out of whack, as some would call it! I think you can continue to push/pull until your hearts content and maintain a lot of original tonality. Something I would want from any sensor, color and B&W.
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Old 17th May 2012   #16
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

New versions of the Chinese fisherman added to the Smug Mug gallery ... a few less dense ones but still featuring good blacks ... these were done using a base from LR4 and then selecting various creative choices in Nik Silver Effex Pro-2.

-Marc

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Old 17th May 2012   #17
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

Marc, thanks for examples.

I am very impressed with the output of MM. The 6400 ISO shot also looked really nice. Jono's sample DNG file work really well in Nik SEP2 and I can imagine why Leica will include the software with every camera sold. Finally, a digital RF for B&W Leica shooters. My film Leicas are probably going to be upset with me for sometime.

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Old 17th May 2012   #18
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

Great work.

The MM is truly a B&W specialist's dream camera. I'll hate you all soon for piquing my curiosity. ;-)

(I hope that before I can afford an MM, Leica produces an X2-M. Something about the X2 has been calling to me; the simplicity of the X1 is what originally drew me down the road to the GXR. Sigh.)
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Old 17th May 2012   #19
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

Marc

Have you investigated whether the electronic monochrome filters in LR4 will work with M Monochrome RAW files? There's a full set from yellow to deep red and infra-red in this software and they could be extremely useful if they can be made to work as if the files were monochrome film.
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Old 17th May 2012   #20
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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Have you investigated whether the electronic monochrome filters in LR4 will work with M Monochrome RAW files? There's a full set from yellow to deep red and infra-red in this software and they could be extremely useful if they can be made to work as if the files were monochrome film.
Doesn't work. Those software filters require color data to work.
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Old 17th May 2012   #21
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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Marc

Have you investigated whether the electronic monochrome filters in LR4 will work with M Monochrome RAW files? There's a full set from yellow to deep red and infra-red in this software and they could be extremely useful if they can be made to work as if the files were monochrome film.
I'm not familiar with these. Where are they? How do you access them?

Maybe a Duh! question ... but ..

Thanks,

Marc
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Old 17th May 2012   #22
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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I'm not familiar with these. Where are they? How do you access them?
Develop module, Presets panel, "Lightroom B&W Filter Presets"
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Old 17th May 2012   #23
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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Develop module, Presets panel, "Lightroom B&W Filter Presets"
Oh those ... yes, I use them all the time, and did so with some of these files.

Thanks,

-Marc
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Old 17th May 2012   #24
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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Oh those ... yes, I use them all the time, and did so with some of these files.
so they do work? I'm confused now.
I haven't looked at the MM raw files yet.
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Old 17th May 2012   #25
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

They do change the image, whether or not the results are as expected, I have no idea
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Old 17th May 2012   #26
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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so they do work? I'm confused now.
I haven't looked at the MM raw files yet.
They affect the image some because there are a couple of 'Basic' panel changes in the filters. For example, the 'Blue filter' sets the Contrast to +25, Highlights to -50 and the Blacks to -7. What they don't do at all is set mimic a blue filter in the HSL/Color/B&W panel, where you actually filter a color image as if it were shot through a blue filter. Which they can't do because there are no colors in the file to mix down to monochrome. It's monochrome already.

Since what a 'Blue filter' setting does first and foremost is to filter out non-blue colors, I'd say it effectively doesn't do anything if you skip that part of the filter.

So yes, they technically work, but not as planned.
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Old 18th May 2012   #27
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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They affect the image some because there are a couple of 'Basic' panel changes in the filters. For example, the 'Blue filter' sets the Contrast to +25, Highlights to -50 and the Blacks to -7. What they don't do at all is set mimic a blue filter in the HSL/Color/B&W panel, where you actually filter a color image as if it were shot through a blue filter. Which they can't do because there are no colors in the file to mix down to monochrome. It's monochrome already.

Since what a 'Blue filter' setting does first and foremost is to filter out non-blue colors, I'd say it effectively doesn't do anything if you skip that part of the filter.

So yes, they technically work, but not as planned.
Thanks Tim.

Had a few moments to look at Jono's sample DNGs this morning. As you say, they can't do any color channel manipulation so while they do affect the image, it's not the same as bashing on a regular M9 raw file.

They do, however, produce a surprising range of interesting effects ... all through the manipulation of brightness, tonal curve, etc. The MM DNG files are delightfully crisp and show a good DR. The additional speed will likely be offset by the need for optical filtering at some levels.

How much better than standard M9 raw files ... I don't know without doing my own testing.

All very interesting stuff. As I said before, I'll hate you all for piquing my curiosity at some point, I bet.
:-) Seriously, it is a fascinating and specialized camera to consider working with, but one does have to be a pretty dedicated B&W user to invest in it. I do hope they come out with an X2-M, it would likely suit my needs just fine.
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Old 23rd May 2012   #28
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

I've only had a little time to play with Jono's graciously provided MM DNGs, but one of them I saw was captured at ISO 10,000. Hmm, I thought, let's see how it compares to the M9 at max ISO.

So I set up a similar still life and shot it at ISO 2500. Brought both into Lr4.1RC2, tweaked the M9 shot with a trivial B&W treatment (just the defaults), and applied luminance noise reduction to both at about 35 on LR's scale.

The results are identical in almost every way: same noise rendering, same detailing, virtually the same tonal curve, etc. That's darn good: a two stop gain for the MM.

That can be useful. It's still a bit specialist for me at the price but I can understand the appeal. I don't need such elevated ISO settings very often, it would be a bit of a leap to think I needed the MM. But it could spur new work in a different direction on the basis of its new capability.
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Old 24th May 2012   #29
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

Wow... I'm just now looking at the MM files. I can't believe how much detail is captured in these files. Controversial camera or not, I think it's a beautiful tool for BW. Thanks Marc for showing your processing methods.
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Old 25th May 2012   #30
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

Here is an interesting review of the MM but more than that, the pictures are far from the flat renditions seen in most reviews, I thought of this thread when viewing them. Would love to know what his reciepes are..

May 10, Part 1: The Leica M-Monochrom review
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Old 25th May 2012   #31
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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Here is an interesting review of the MM but more than that, the pictures are far from the flat renditions seen in most reviews, I thought of this thread when viewing them. Would love to know what his reciepes are..

May 10, Part 1: The Leica M-Monochrom review
Hi Ben
It's a fine review, but Ming makes it clear that he applies his PP to files whatever the camera he's testing.

The MM files are absolutely possible to manipulate (as you can see with the DNG files I've processed).

But I think you should cut the other reviewers some Slack (including me please), because they've been trying to represent the images that come out of the camera . . . not trying to process them to their own taste (at least, that was my intent).

Black and white files with big dynamic range do tend to look flat - but they are the perfect subject for further development

all the best
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Old 25th May 2012   #32
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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Originally Posted by jonoslack View Post

Black and white files with big dynamic range do tend to look flat - but they are the perfect subject for further development

all the best
Jono
For me personally, this statement by Jono is the essence of why I find the M9M so valuable an asset for advancing B&W digital photography. It provides a RAW image that has tremendous latitude for a wide range of post processing interpretations that can be applied.

One question I posed a while ago but haven't seen a response on, is whether the Nik Silver Efx supplied with the M9M will work on the gray scale DNG's right out of the camera, or do they have to be converted to a color space to work? In other words is this a specially written Silver EFX for M9M DNG gray scale files, or basically an off the shelf Silver Efx?

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Old 25th May 2012   #33
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

Dave,
Off the shelf - I recently bought SFXPro v2 and it works fine on the MM DNGs.

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Old 25th May 2012   #34
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

+1 for SFXPro with these files.

Turn all of LR's nasty destructive properties off and get out into SFXPro 2 as quickly as possible. An 8 bit Tiff is fine.
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Old 25th May 2012   #35
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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Dave,
Off the shelf - I recently bought SFXPro v2 and it works fine on the MM DNGs.

Chris
Chris, are you saying the current off the shelf Silver EFX v.2 works directly on MM gray scale images without having to 1st convert them to sRGB or Adobe 98 etc. color images (files) first? I thought all versions of Silver Efx (both v. 1 and v. 2) only worked on color files, not not gray scale images?

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Old 25th May 2012   #36
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
Here is an interesting review of the MM but more than that, the pictures are far from the flat renditions seen in most reviews, I thought of this thread when viewing them. Would love to know what his reciepes are..

May 10, Part 1: The Leica M-Monochrom review
Read his review where he talks about seeing and shooting in black and white. Its totally different from shooting in color then converting. When I was shooting film I spent a lot of time learning and seeing in black and white.
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Old 26th May 2012   #37
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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Originally Posted by D&A View Post
Chris, are you saying the current off the shelf Silver EFX v.2 works directly on MM gray scale images without having to 1st convert them to sRGB or Adobe 98 etc. color images (files) first? I thought all versions of Silver Efx (both v. 1 and v. 2) only worked on color files, not not gray scale images?

Dave (D&A)
I can take Jono's files and drag them into LR4 then edit them with SFXPro. I don't do anything else to them first.

Chris
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Old 26th May 2012   #38
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
I have placed my order for this camera after some concern about the relatively flat looking files being posted which I've now resolved ... as the Beatles song goes ... "With a little help from my friends"

Thanks to Jono for supplying native MM DNGs of various subjects at a full range of ISOs in different lighting conditions.

Jono was also kind enough to supply a still life shot with the M9 and the MM at ISO400/320 respectively which allowed conversion to B&W and a direct comparison to the MM file with no variables except sensor type.

My good friend Irakly came by and we sat down to figure out how to process the MM files to achieve that "Leica Snap" (for lack of a better word) with B&W images ... the immediate observation was that true blacks were missing, which is what contributes to the over-all flat look. Our initial investagative process was not dissimilar to the approach needed when we went from B&W conversions of M8 files to the initially flatter looking converted M9 DNG files ... only this time the propritary MM processing technique was even more aggressive.

We began our effort by playing with the various B&W presets in the left dialog column, selecting the appropriate starting point for any given lighting scenario and/or ISO file.

Then we dealt with further assuring True Black, and fine tuning the other tonal areas.

Fortunately, LR4 has vastly improved the exposure controls to deal with it. By increasing the density with the black slider, then relieving the shadows (done to taste), plus increasing clarity and often contrast to different degrees, we were both satisfied relatively fast. Note, the adjustment of the "True Black" slider in LR4 was usually pretty aggressive, and to our surprise and delight, lifting of shadows did NOT result in increased noise ... such seems the nature of these MM files. True Black is far less affected by shadow adjustments in terms of degree, and remains true black even when shadows were restored. That is why they are separate controls I guess

I then processed the M9 color file, and the MM file of the same static subject ... Jono's famous "shelf pic".

Using best practices for M9 B&W developed over a couple of years use, I set about trying to match the over-all tonal spread and "snap" I expect from a Leica B&W image ... which was now easy to achieve with the MM file.

Interesting observation was how much sharper the MM file was when pixel peeping @ 100% and 200% ... the noise pattern on the MM file is much tighter and actually allowed some sharpening by increasing amount a lot and keeping the radius small (depending on ISO). The MM easily out resolves the M9 in these conditions. What percentage I'll leave to others to debate endlessly, but it is visibly sharper looking and cleaner by a good factor even without any additional sharpening.

I have a meeting in a few minutes, and when I get some more free time I'll post some results (thanks to Jono), in a SmugMug file and provide a link.

In the meantime, anyone with a DNG file, try playing around using some of the insights we discovered.

Hope this helps a little.

-Marc
I have to say , I hate you.

Trully do. I saw a few samples and I said to myself "dont like the look of the MM files, thank god, I can keep my M9 at ease"

Now you just amazed me how with a few tweakings those marvellous look can be achieved.

Hate you mate. Really do.
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Old 26th May 2012   #39
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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I can take Jono's files and drag them into LR4 then edit them with SFXPro. I don't do anything else to them first.

Chris
Yep.

Marc
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Old 26th May 2012   #40
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

Once again, I find myself poking my nose in where it doesn't belong. In spite of what appears to be a very high degree of sharpness and maybe even an extended tonal range, I find the MM files to be lifeless.

That statement reflects my own fascination with and desire for the ability of a camera (or camera/film combination) to reproduce the subtle magical qualities of natural light. Maybe it is simply my own mistaken perception, but I find myself drawn to the extra measure of reality that some photographs allow by hinting at or exactly duplicating a sense of "real" light. When it all comes together, the subtlety of light and shadow can illicit a feeling of something familiar, almost like a memory.

I encounter that "magic" most often in images captured with film. Digital conversions to B&W (in general) and the MM sample images never quite seem to live up to the tonal realism that film allowed.

The alternatives Marc provided are indeed an improvement in terms of a "real black". But to my eye, that benefit comes at a cost. The resulting images have a look and feel that seems artificial, at times reminding me of the darkroom days when I was forced to print a thin negative on a paper grade higher in contrast than I would have liked.

In an era where photographers like John Paul Caponigro are posting pictures taken with an iPhone and run through Hipstamatic on their Facebook pages, maybe the processed effect of the MM files and other B&W conversions are perfectly acceptable. But I can't help thinking that if what you really want is stunning B&W, film is still the king.
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Old 26th May 2012   #41
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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I can take Jono's files and drag them into LR4 then edit them with SFXPro. I don't do anything else to them first.

Chris
Interesting! Here is why I asked. On a friends system (windows XP), that uses Bridge/CS5 and has installed the original Silver EFX v.1 . The MM DNG's after opening in Bridge and a few basic adjustments are made, are then opened in CS5. At this juncture, Silver EFX v1. will not open on any of those gray scale files unless they are converted to a color space such as sRGB/Adobe 98 etc.

I'm wondering if on his particular system, if it's simply due to using an older version of Silver Efx or something else? In other words, if he upgraded to v2, would he then be able to open a CS5 gray scale image directly in Silver efx with out conversion first to a color space? Thanks!

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Old 26th May 2012   #42
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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Read his review where he talks about seeing and shooting in black and white. Its totally different from shooting in color then converting. When I was shooting film I spent a lot of time learning and seeing in black and white.
I can't see as there is any difference. I've been shooting film and digital for B&W the same way forever ... I can't turn my eyes into B&W receptors. When I intend to make B&W, I shoot for that. When I intend to make color, I shoot for that. The only difference is that I can be opportunistic ... choose either rendering in post visualization ... but I don't have to let that affect my frame of mind when I'm shooting.
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Old 26th May 2012   #43
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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Originally Posted by D&A View Post
Interesting! Here is why I asked. On a friends system (windows XP), that uses Bridge/CS5 and has installed the original Silver EFX v.1 . The MM DNG's after opening in Bridge and a few basic adjustments are made, are then opened in CS5. At this juncture, Silver EFX v1. will not open on any of those gray scale files unless they are converted to a color space such as sRGB/Adobe 98 etc.

I'm wondering if on his particular system, if it's simply due to using an older version of Silver Efx or something else? In other words, if he upgraded to v2, would he then be able to open a CS5 gray scale image directly in Silver efx with out conversion first to a color space? Thanks!

Dave (D&A)
Well, I will confess to using SFXPro v1 on the first of Jono's examples, then rushing out to buy v2 even though I will get a free download in August. On my Mac, v1 opened the DNG's with no extra step in between. Perhaps it is a Mac/Windows thing? I think there is a time limited download of v2 available from Nik so he can see if it makes the difference. I just opened one of Jono's files that is in LR4 with CS5, and it shows the 'mode' as being RGB Color without me doing anything to it. So there may be some difference in the way a Windows system treats these files?

Chris
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Old 26th May 2012   #44
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as an aside

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Originally Posted by TRSmith View Post
Once again, I find myself poking my nose in where it doesn't belong. In spite of what appears to be a very high degree of sharpness and maybe even an extended tonal range, I find the MM files to be lifeless.

That statement reflects my own fascination with and desire for the ability of a camera (or camera/film combination) to reproduce the subtle magical qualities of natural light. Maybe it is simply my own mistaken perception, but I find myself drawn to the extra measure of reality that some photographs allow by hinting at or exactly duplicating a sense of "real" light. When it all comes together, the subtlety of light and shadow can illicit a feeling of something familiar, almost like a memory.

I encounter that "magic" most often in images captured with film. Digital conversions to B&W (in general) and the MM sample images never quite seem to live up to the tonal realism that film allowed.

The alternatives Marc provided are indeed an improvement in terms of a "real black". But to my eye, that benefit comes at a cost. The resulting images have a look and feel that seems artificial, at times reminding me of the darkroom days when I was forced to print a thin negative on a paper grade higher in contrast than I would have liked.

In an era where photographers like John Paul Caponigro are posting pictures taken with an iPhone and run through Hipstamatic on their Facebook pages, maybe the processed effect of the MM files and other B&W conversions are perfectly acceptable. But I can't help thinking that if what you really want is stunning B&W, film is still the king.
there's no doubt i love b/w film -- the look, the tones, the smell, the touch, etc... i don't shoot it because i often find my best images are Hail Mary shots that i never would have taken on film and/or paused long enough to think about it and the moment would be gone.

so i got my hands, briefly, on an MM yesterday.

i did something i have been dying to do from the moment it was announced: i shot in the dark.

well, as close to the dark as i could find, that is... i put my pre-asph 50 Lux on the camera and begged an lovely lady i'd been working in the service bureau with to crawl under her desk... set at auto-ISO (and -1/3 EV), i focused on her beautiful big eyes with the camera wide open, as close as i could get.

whilst my Lux is not quite as good as the Nocti at finding light in the darkness, it isn't a slouch by any means. her eye was perfectly in focus and you could see each lash at 3200. her face had an other-wordly glow to it, with a fine mist of grain (noise) in the contours. and oh the tonalities!

the reasons i can't share with you is two-fold. one, i honoured the rep's request that i not shoot with my own card; and, two, i honoured her request that it be deleted immediately.

still, after working the M8 and the M9 for years, i've gotten pretty good at judging what i've got on the (pathetic) screen in b/w. 3200, to my eye, was more like well-exposed 800 on the M9... i can see myself regularly using 3200, 5000, maybe even 6400 to keep the shutter speeds up in dark bars.

is this film? no. but what i got was something special unto itself.
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Old 26th May 2012   #45
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Re: as an aside

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is this film? no. but what i got was something special unto itself.
Which is why I'm here, and probably one or two others. How tantalising for you to see the photo on the LCD but not to be able to keep it and play with it. You have come a little closer to the grail than the rest of us have on this quest.

Chris
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Old 26th May 2012   #46
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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Once again, I find myself poking my nose in where it doesn't belong. --snip--

In an era where photographers like John Paul Caponigro are posting pictures taken with an iPhone and run through Hipstamatic on their Facebook pages, maybe the processed effect of the MM files and other B&W conversions are perfectly acceptable. But I can't help thinking that if what you really want is stunning B&W, film is still the king.
Film might still be king, and I shoot film 95% of the time, and I agree with your thoughts about film and light, but the images I've seen out of the Monochrom camera look pretty darn good to my eye.
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Old 26th May 2012   #47
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

I no longer care about the whole "film vs digital" horsepucky. I think it's pure distraction and a waste of time. Film looks the way it does because of its nature, digital looks the way it does based on how you render it. Get skilled with either and you create beautiful photos. End of story.

What you're buying with an MM is two stops of speed and a stop of dynamic range, in exchange for color capability, when all is said and done. If that suits your needs and desires, it's worth the price.
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Old 26th May 2012   #48
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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Originally Posted by Godfrey View Post
What you're buying with an MM is two stops of speed and a stop of dynamic range, in exchange for color capability, when all is said and done. If that suits your needs and desires, it's worth the price.
I've seen good examples of the extra speed, and I've seen good examples of extra resolution (Sean Reid's review being the best in my opinion). But, I keep hearing about increased dynamic range -- why is this and are there examples to demonstrate the increased dr?

Thanks.
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Old 26th May 2012   #49
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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I no longer care about the whole "film vs digital" horsepucky. I think it's pure distraction and a waste of time. Film looks the way it does because of its nature, digital looks the way it does based on how you render it. Get skilled with either and you create beautiful photos. End of story.

What you're buying with an MM is two stops of speed and a stop of dynamic range, in exchange for color capability, when all is said and done. If that suits your needs and desires, it's worth the price.
I surprised myself by bringing it up. Maybe it was because the OP started the thread by demonstrating processing alternatives that allowed for a true black. With no offense meant to any of the contributors, I couldn't help but notice that in most of the examples shown, film would have done a better job.

I can see the attraction for more speed and I completely embrace the digital workflow. However, I've yet to see a photo from an MM that justifies the cost.

Since you seem comfortable providing your opinion on any matter as the "end of story", I'll be bold and simply state that given the examples shown to date, the Leica MM is tantamount to the "Emperor's New Camera". The more people talk about it, the more they convince themselves of its magnificence.

Tim
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Old 26th May 2012   #50
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Re: Leica M Monochromatic Processing Insights

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Originally Posted by TRSmith View Post
Since you seem comfortable providing your opinion on any matter as the "end of story", I'll be bold and simply state that given the examples shown to date, the Leica MM is tantamount to the "Emperor's New Camera". The more people talk about it, the more they convince themselves of its magnificence.
Tim, i totally get where you're coming from and agree on a lot of your points, but...

is the camera magnificent? lol! i promise i will take it into absurdly low light situations and prove that it is merely mortal. however, i will get a lot more than what i have now, whilst not having to buy new lenses.

i know i am in a distinct minority, but i need this camera because 2500, f1, -EV is still not fast enough for the situations i want to use it in (not to mention the extreme and ugly noise, blocked up shadows, etc. i get with it).

by the time this comes out, i'm sure the M10 will be announced and many will jump ship.

for me, though, as a b/w shooter, i don't think i can expect better (nor am i quite so fickle)... still, i'm really going to need to shoot this in darkness and process my own images before i make the final call.
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