The most interesting thing about Leica's M Monochrom camera thus far hasn't been what you can do with it, but what you can't. When Leica introduced it three years ago, some people turned their heads sideways in confusion because it cost $7,950, yet could only shoot in black and white. In return, Leica promised tack-sharp photos that more closely emulated the look and feel of what you'd get from film cameras.
The idea panned out because Leica has returned with a new model of the Monochrom, dubbed the Type 246. It improves on a handful of features that were lacking in the first model, while adding high-definition video recording and a live view preview of what's being captured. That extends the camera beyond taking very nice stills, and actually changes how you can shoot them.
A black-and-white camera is still unusual in 2015
But the reason to go with the Monochrom over one of Leica's normal color cameras is the promise of preserving the tonality of images, something that can be hard to get right, or simply lost when running photos through software filters. Leica also promises a more film-like grain on the Monochrom when shooting at high ISO.
To further entice photographers, Leica's made a few nice changes from the past model. The camera now sports a 24-megapixel full-frame sensor, up from the 18-megapixel sensor of its predecessor. It's also bumped the screen size and pixel density up from 2.5 inches and 230,000 pixels to 3 inches with 921,600 pixels. Neither of these additions has made things slower though, Leica claims. Included in the Type 246 are a 2GB buffer and Maestro processor, which Leica says triples the speed over the older model.
The video that can be captured tops out at 1080p, either at 24 or 25 frames per second. Leica has not disclosed how long you can shoot for, but based on the Monochrom's sibling the Type M 240, it's likely to cap out at either 4GB or 29 minutes (whichever comes first). In a promotional video with photographer Ragnar Axelsson, you can see what this looks like:
One thing that hasn't changed too much is the price. The new Monochrom will run $7,450 when it arrives in stores on May 7th. That's some savings over what the last model cost when it launched, though let's be honest: if you're in the market for a Leica, that's kind of a drop in the bucket.
Below you can see some sample images shot by Axelsson around Iceland in the span of 80 hours.