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Leica’s new Monochrom camera has a purpose-built black-and-white sensor

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The M10 Monochrom carries on Leica’s black-and-white line of digital range finders

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Leica M10 Monochrom
Leica M10 Monochrom
Image: Leica

Three years after the release of the M10, Leica is finally introducing a Monochrom camera based on the M10’s design. The new M10 Monochrom has all of the design traits and features of the M10 (or more accurately, 2018’s M10-P), such as a slimmer body and wireless connectivity, but with a new 40-megapixel black-and-white sensor.

The Monochrom has been one of Leica’s most controversial digital cameras ever since the first version came out in 2012. A digital camera that physically can’t shoot color photos is something that a lot of photographers have a hard time wrapping their heads around, especially when said camera costs nearly $10,000.

But Leica has argued that the Monochrom produces better black-and-white images than shots that are converted from a color camera, with more detail, better dynamic range, and a unique look that just can’t be replicated by other cameras. And the company has won over enough photographers to warrant at least three generations of the Monocrom line.

Leica M10 Monochrom front
Leica M10 Monochrom
Image: Leica
Leica M10 Monochrom back
Leica M10 Monochrom
Image: Leica

While the first two Monochrom cameras had modified versions of the color image sensors from other M cameras, the new M10 Monochrom is the first one with a unique sensor built specifically for black-and-white photography. The new 40-megapixel, full-frame chip is different from the 47-megapixel color sensor found in the Leica Q2 and SL2 and is the highest resolution of any current M camera. It has an ISO sensitivity range of 160 to 100,000, which is a greater range on both the low and high end compared to the prior model.

The M10 Monochrom has a higher sensitivity to light than other Leica cameras and can shoot up to 100,000 ISO. 16mm, f/8, 1/250 sec, ISO 40,000
Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Aside from the sensor, the M10 Monochrom is basically an M10-P with a matte paint finish. (Leica calls it “black chrome.”) It has a thinner body than the prior Typ 246 Monochrom, built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, the M10-P’s quieter shutter, a touchscreen, and no video features whatsoever. Leica says it removed the video feature simply because customers weren’t using it, even though it was just added in for the last generation. Missing from the front of the camera is the classic Leica red dot, and details that would normally be highlighted with red paint, such as the auto ISO and auto shutter speed settings, are a muted gray. The M10 Monochrom also has a blacked-out shutter button and lens release button to keep with the black-and-white aesthetic.

Leica M10 Monochrom top
Leica M10 Monochrom with 35mm Summilux lens
Image: Leica

Though the M10 Monochrom has arguably fewer features and capabilities than the M10-P it’s based on, it still commands a steep price tag. Leica is selling the camera for $8,295, about $500 less than the M10-P currently sells for. Chances are that price tag won’t matter for most of Leica’s customers considering the Monochrom. Those who are interested can get the M10 Monochrom from Leica stores and dealers starting today.

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