When Leica announced the Leica Monochrom in May 2012, it was a real game changer, a very bold move which turned out to be an outstanding success. I was lucky enough to take a prototype to China before the launch. The code name for the older model was Henri, so it’s completely logical that the new model has been code named Elliott.
The new Leica Monochrom (Typ 246) is based around the Leica M-P (Typ 240) with a 24 MP CMOS sensor made by CMOSIS rather than the CCD of the old camera. It has a similar stealth livery to the previous model with the sapphire crystal back and no red dot.
It’s worth briefly revisiting the reason for a monochrome camera before discussing Elliott in detail. Current sensors only detect the intensity of light, not the colour. A Bayer filter is placed over the sensor with a different colour filter over each photosite. When the image is processed (demosaicing), groups of four pixels are examined together and in the context of surrounding groups, and the colour is calculated. The filter itself imposes a one to two stop reduction in the light reaching the sensor, and the demosaicing process reduces the resolution. With a monochrome sensor there is no need for a Bayer filter or for the demosaicing process. In theory one might expect a 4x improvement in resolution, but in practical terms it works out more like a 2x improvement.
This article is not meant to be a critical review. My loyalty as a camera tester is to Leica. On the other hand, I hope that I’m an honest correspondent. I won’t say anything that I don’t really believe to be the case or leave out anything which I consider to be important. Of course, I do carry out some detailed tests, but I generally keep these to myself. However, I spend a lot of time with the camera (in this case around 5,000 images). I try and shoot in as many different circumstances as possible which which I hope to have represented well with the images in this report.
It’s also worth mentioning that many of these pictures were taken with an early prototype camera, and the performance, especially at higher ISO, has improved in the production camera.
Improvements Over the Old Monochrom
So, if the older Monochrom is still popular and produces fantastic results, why do we need a new one? The answer is the same as the reason for the M (Typ 240), and it’s worth revisiting the differences between the old and new cameras. First I’ll look at it in practical terms, and later in terms of image quality.
It’s easy to forget the huge practical leap forward from the M9 to the M (Typ 240). Leica really listened to their customers and addressed almost every criticism of the older camera. These improvements are all reflected in the new Monochrom. Better than that, as there have been a number of excellent firmware updates since the launch of the M (Typ 240), and all of these are reflected in the firmware of the new Monochrom. The only disadvantage is that the new camera is about 100 gr heavier and 0.6 mm thicker.