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Thread: M9: Color vs. B&W

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    M9: Color vs. B&W

    I note that there are many great b&w photos posted in the threads here that were taken with the M9. When I was shooting my Canon and Sony DSLR's, I saw very few posted pictures in b&w. I always shoot in color, but it is clear to me that b&w is a wonderful style. So I have begun to wonder why I see so many done with the Leicas.

    Would it be of interest to discuss the relative merits of color vs. b&w when using the M9?

    Do you feel that the M9 is a better camera for b&w than other cameras? Is the M9 a better b&w shooter than color? Are there photographers who prefer the M9 for b&w but a different (non-Leica) cameral for color?

    I understand that definitions will certainly vary as to what constitutes "better" in my questions above. Please respond with your opinions and additional comments to create a new topic of discussion.

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    Senior Member mathomas's Avatar
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    Re: M9: Color vs. B&W

    I can't speak to the M9, but I have an M8 and I think the in-camera B&W jpegs that come out of it are really good, esp with the contrast bumped up a notch. That, and a bit of tradition, may explain the phenomenon you see.

    (PS - I've stopped shooting DNG+JPG (B&W) because it's so slow on my M8. I do my B&W conversions in Nik Silver Efex now).

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    Member dannh's Avatar
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    Re: M9: Color vs. B&W

    Hey Tom, I think part of the reason you see more B+W's posted by Leica men and women is that we're usually the type who have enjoyed shooting B+W film using an all manual camera. For me at least, there's a bit of nostalgia.

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    Re: M9: Color vs. B&W

    Imo, it certainly has to do with a fair number of Leica users being of a generation that is aware of the power of B&W. My approach is : Does colour add anything to the image? If not - B&W it is... (See the bottom line of my posts..)
    JAAP
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    The colours of my generation are black and white.

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    Senior Member bensonga's Avatar
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    Re: M9: Color vs. B&W

    Quote Originally Posted by tom in mpls View Post
    Do you feel that the M9 is a better camera for b&w than other cameras? Is the M9 a better b&w shooter than color? Are there photographers who prefer the M9 for b&w but a different (non-Leica) cameral for color?
    I have no experience with the M8 or M9, but I think this is an interesting topic to explore...thanks for raising it Tom.

    Leaving aside the option of in-camera B&W for the moment, I'm struggling to understand how one DSLR vs another could be inherently better (or worse) for B&W images, since the conversion from color to B&W would be done via Photoshop, Lightroom, NIK Silver Efex or some other software.

    I do quite a bit of B&W image processing and printing from my Canon digital image files, as well as a Panny G1 (using Leica-R and Nikkor lenses) and Hasselblad CFV files. I haven't noticed any real differences when converting the color files to B&W from these different cameras. None have the look of B&W film of course, but that's a different topic (and I still shoot a fair bit of B&W film).

    Re in-camera B&W images.....I can imagine that these could differ quite a bit from one camera system to another, but I don't see any real benefit to shooting in-camera B&W myself. I prefer the control that something like NIK Silver Efex Pro etc offers for B&W conversion of digital image files.

    So...I'll be interested to hear what those with more technical expertise than my own have to say.

    Gary
    Last edited by bensonga; 5th May 2010 at 15:56.

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    Re: M9: Color vs. B&W

    Shooting an in-camera B&W JPG with a RAW is nice as it allows you to see how the scene looks in B&W, yet gives you a RAW for later processing either as color or as B&W using some other conversion technique or style.

    On the M9 it seems to require little additional time.

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    Re: M9: Color vs. B&W

    Quote Originally Posted by bensonga View Post
    I have no experience with the M8 or M9, but I think this is an interesting topic to explore...thanks for raising it Tom.

    Leaving aside the option of in-camera B&W for the moment, I'm struggling to understand how one DSLR vs another could be inherently better (or worse) for B&W images, since the conversion from color to B&W would be done via Photoshop, Lightroom, NIK Silver Efex or some other software.

    I do quite a bit of B&W image processing and printing from my Canon digital image files, as well as a Panny G1 (using Leica-R and Nikkor lenses) and Hasselblad CFV files. I haven't noticed any real differences when converting the color files to B&W from these different cameras. None have the look of B&W film of course, but that's a different topic (and I still shoot a fair bit of B&W film).

    Re in-camera B&W images.....I can imagine that these could differ quite a bit from one camera system to another, but I don't see any real benefit to shooting in-camera B&W myself. I prefer the control that something like NIK Silver Efex Pro etc offers for B&W conversion of digital image files.

    So...I'll be interested to hear what those with more technical expertise than my own have to say.

    Gary
    Different sensor response curves, AA filter, IR-filter and Bayer filter for starters. I would sell a kidney for a true monchrome M9 with no Bayer filter.

    "The market wants a Leica to be a Leica: the inheritor of tradition, the subject of lore, and indisputably a mark of status to own."
    Mike Johnston


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    Re: M9: Color vs. B&W

    On the topic of BW vs color: the old saying goes something like this; in color you see a photograph; in black-n-white you see the soul of a photograph.

    Sometimes colors do add to the form or content of an image. But I use the same test JAAV does. Put a bit differently, if color does not "help" an image then typically it "hurts" understanding an image. View an image in color then view it in b/w. The version that helps understand the image better, that's the one to use.

    If you want to see some examples of how color can help photographs, go to Amazon and search for Harald Mante's book "Photography Unplugged". This book has excellent examples of how simple compositions shapes and elements in color can make a photograph compelling. (Also, this is wonderfully simple, but elegant book layout for anyone working on their own book project.)

    Mante also wrote a book about color/composition which I checked out of the local library. Very interesting reading of a complex subject.

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    Member overgaarcom's Avatar
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    Re: M9: Color vs. B&W

    I shoot DNG (color) and JPG (black and white) always, so that when I quickly look through them all in Lightroom and select the ones I want to save in my archive of final images for later use, I can see which works the best as I have the B&W next to the colors (sort after capture time). Some color pictures work best as color, some best as B&W, and some work both ways.

    All in all, I don't have any idea what is what, I just know when I see it what I like. Though it's a certain thing that 95% of works for clients has to be delivered in color. A few graphic designers and art directors like to get B&W shots as well - to use them as B&W or work with them as duotone or other.

    The M9 and the Leica lenses has some qualities that shine through in B&W. The way light and details and contrast is handled just makes "ordinary" black and white images alive and historic.
    Last edited by overgaarcom; 10th May 2010 at 15:53. Reason: -

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    Re: M9: Color vs. B&W

    I should have added to my post above that the M9 (still have an M8 too) is my only camera. Sold my FF Canons once the M9 was out and sold my last Canon lens the day before my M9 arrived. I did this because I am ready to spend the rest of my photo days with Leica only, that includes this camera system's advantages (there are plenty) and disadvantages (there are plenty).

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    Re: M9: Color vs. B&W

    Quote Originally Posted by overgaarcom View Post
    The M9 and the Leica lenses has some qualities that shine through in B&W. The way light and details and contrast is handled just makes "ordinary" black and white images alive and historic.
    Your general comments about B&W vs color are appreciated. I am particularly intrigued by this statement about the special character of B&W with the M9 and Leica glass.

    Quote Originally Posted by oc garza View Post
    I should have added to my post above that the M9 (still have an M8 too) is my only camera. Sold my FF Canons once the M9 was out and sold my last Canon lens the day before my M9 arrived. I did this because I am ready to spend the rest of my photo days with Leica only, that includes this camera system's advantages (there are plenty) and disadvantages (there are plenty).
    Same here.

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