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I need to confess: I want a black & white only camera

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Poki, May 16, 2015.

  1. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    Austria
    During the past couple of weeks, I realized one shocking fact: I want a camera which only can shoot monochromatic images.

    Why? Well, after editing my latest shootings, I almost always preferred the black & white versions of the images. Also, looking through my Flickr photostream, there aren't only more and more black & white images as the time goes on, there are also very few color images where the color actually adds something to the image.

    17056011680_3566a6789e_b.
    An image, so that the thread doesn't look too boring. ;)

    Now, you probably ask, can't I simply turn my color images into black & white? Yes and no. Yes, it works, and Capture One does a pretty good job at it. But no, I can't, due to multiple reasons. First, it's an additional step for each and every photo I edit, which takes tons of time (turning them to b&w when importing is not a good idea since I don't see how individual colors are converted).
    Second, my clients expect me to deliver at least some images in color - I feel the only way to not having to discuss with them is being able to tell them that my camera is not able to shoot color images (the client is always right, after all, but arguing against the technical possibilities won't get them anywhere).
    Third, Leica's new Monochrom clearly shows the advantages of black & white only sensors, with images at ISO 12000 with barely any noise. The A7s can do this too, you say? Nope, it can't. Not only does the A7s only have half the resolution of the Leica, it also shows more noise -- and, more importantly, the loss in dynamic range is much more dramatic than with the Leica.

    Am I alone with this desire?

    Unfortunately, there are no options out there. Sure, there's the Leica Monochrom, but even the old one, used, is quite a bit above my budget. Also, I'd love to be able to continue using the amazing lenses I've collected over the years. However, the probability that Sony will release an APS-C E-mount camera with a monochromatic sensor are ... nonexistent, I guess.
     
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  2. jai

    jai TalkEmount Top Veteran

    589
    Feb 4, 2013
    No, not alone. I have an option.

    But, if you think the reason why you want a black and white camera is the Bayer filter is holding you back, technologically speaking, its probably not a satisfactory one.

    I do think if you are shooting professionally you always need digital and you always need colour. Clearly. But I also think, if you are a professional who loves black and white, clients will respect a photographer who has a second camera loaded with black and white film. If you like manual focus, you can share lenses with your E mount system. It's brilliant.

    If you want sharpness and crispness like that shot you posted, you will struggle. But I personally think what makes a B&W shot good is more about texture, and the way white runs off into grey and falls into black.

    And if you decided to get a medium format camera (which is probably more appropriate for professional work) you won't be wanting for detail. Plus, hipster cred.
     
  3. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    Austria
    Thank you, didn't even think about going the film route, to be honest. Medium format b&w film as a second camera seems like a great option! Problem is.. I never shot film. I'm pretty confident I have enough experience to get the exposure right, but I have absolutely no experience developing film. And I don't really want to outsource such an important part of the image creation process. However, learning that process seems tempting ... I might just try it out. :)
     
  4. jai

    jai TalkEmount Top Veteran

    589
    Feb 4, 2013
    I think you'll like the way black and white film renders without having to worry about all colour channels and everything else involved in black and white conversion. I look back on my digital B&W photos and am just not satisfied with them after shooting film. Mostly because I just wasn't good enough at processing them to get them looking as good.

    Learning to process black and white film is good fun, if you have the time for another hobby. Each film/developer combination will give you a slightly different result, leaving room for endless tweaking. A lot to learn and I've just started. I personally am trying to get a few more people from this forum over to the "Forever Film" one too.

    Probably better to try a few rolls with somebody else processing first. If you have a decent scanner already, you can scan negatives yourself and that makes a bigger difference than you'd think. Labs tend not provide very high quality scans.
     
  5. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran

    876
    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Jeff
    My Lightroom B&W preset is: convert to B&W -> "Clarity" +45. It looks particularly good with the RAW captures from my EOS-M. (Something about the character of that sensor: not quite like Tri-X film, but I do feel some "mojo"...)

    I too would love to get my hands on one of those Leica Monochroms, but that's probably not going to happen anytime soon. That would be cool if Sony could raid Leica's domain and produce a Monochrom body for the rest of us. But I'm not holding my breath...
     
  6. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    Austria
    I'll certainly look into trying b&w film myself. However, I'm afraid a medium format film body, fitting high-quality lenses, the film itself, the developing tools and a good scanner all together cost a small fortune as well ... Can't I just send my NEX-7 to some chinese people who trade the color sensor for a b&w one? :D
     
  7. serhan

    serhan TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2011
    NYC
    You can do a mono conversion by taking out the bayer level of an existing camera eg use your old one when you upgrade... The infrared conversion companies do that. It should cost you much less then a Leica and also can use the same lenses and no learning curve of a new camera... Maybe search for a company in Europe who can do that for you... I remember one was mentioning a company in NL. Here is a company or a hobbyist who does that in US:
    http://hyperdslr-mods.blogspot.com/2013/08/monochrome-conversion-modifications-yes.html
     
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  8. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    Austria
    Wow, I didn't think that's even possible. Thank you for the info! I'll definitely read into that as well, and if image quality doesn't suffer too much from the procedure, a black & white NEX-7 seems like the way to go! Should be the cheapest and simplest option as well.
     
  9. serhan

    serhan TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2011
    NYC
    It might even improve if done correctly:
    http://diglloyd.com/blog/2007/20070727_1-Monochrome_vs_Color.html

    When I google'd more info comes:
    https://www.talkphotography.co.uk/t...al-camera-to-mono-by-removing-filters.442277/

    And how to do it:
    http://www.iceinspace.com.au/forum/showthread.php?t=109439
    http://petapixel.com/2013/08/04/scr...ayer-off-a-dslr-sensor-for-sharper-bw-photos/

    Kolari does Sony A7 filter topping conversions, you can check with them also:
    http://www.kolarivision.com/thinfilterconversion.html

     
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  10. grillec

    grillec TalkEmount Regular

    89
    Mar 19, 2015
    I think you have to use the right color filter on top of your lenses to get the optimum out of a b&w picture. I prefer the conversion by Silver Efex as example, because here I can decide this after the shooting.
    Wouldn't your clients demand a change of a camera if the can't get the wanted color pictures?
     
  11. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    Austria
    Good point. But my current situation is that I have a few big clients I work with, and I doubt any of them would go as far as telling me to use different equipment. Also, photography is only a second job to me, with a full time job as a graphic artist at an ad agency covering my main income, so I'm not dependent on what I earn as a photographer. Which is a good thing, since I'm still trying to find a style I'm totally confident with (if that's even possible - feels like my taste and style evolves with every shooting).

    As for quality of b&w conversions vs b&w sensors - that's a good point too. And I'm not sure how this works out in practice, but it would be great to have some experience to compare which approach delivers better results, especially at harshly lit concerts. Knowing that concerting NEX cameras to b&w sensors is possible, I might as well throw my old NEX-5 at it and compare the results for myself.
     
  12. Bill

    Bill TalkEmount Veteran

    339
    Oct 22, 2012
    Brisbane, Australia
    Bill
    While I accept that there are other benefits in shooting with a monochrome sensor, for myself I agree with grillec about being able to adjust the colour response from within Silver Efex (or Lightroom). I use that often.
    http://www.billdanby.com/2014/12/black-and-white-from-colour.html
     
  13. MAubrey

    MAubrey TalkEmount Top Veteran

    That depends on how you define "a small fortune."

    I just started developing 120 b&w film. Here are my costs:

    $300 Mamiya M645 1000S+80mm f/1.9
    $25 Five roles of T-MAX 100
    $30 One Quart of Diafine
    $30 One liter of TF-5 fixer
    $15 Used Paterson developing tank for 120 film
    $400 Total

    I bought everything over a period of three months, which helped balance out the cost a bit more, too. And getting the 80mm f/1.9 really drove up the cost of the camera/len, too. Had I gotten the more standard 80mm f/2.8, I could have saved $150 easily.
     
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  14. tomO2013

    tomO2013 TalkEmount Veteran

    375
    Dec 11, 2014
    Hi Mike, like you I love film development and film printing. I happily shoot 6X6 format and buy up rolls of film to shoot on a hassleblad when the opportunity arises and am part of a black and white film only club - the mandate of the club is you shoot black and white film, you develop it and you print it yourself.

    I think you make a really good point about film.

    I'd like to add to your post with a few practical things that the OP maybe should be aware of if he dips his toes into the addictive world of film shooting and printing.
    There are practical concerns to shooting film that you need to be aware of in terms of end-to-end consumables, chemical storage, equipment needed to print etc... It's one thing to develop a negative, but doing your own printing also requires similar print chemicals and a good enlarger with quality enlargement lenses. This can be expensive - a fraction of the original cost no doubt, but fortunately (or unfortunately from my wallets concern) film is making a bit of a come back to the point that I've seen good enlargers start to really rocket up in price on ebay :/.

    The availability of really nice fine art fiber based papers is becoming harder to find too. If you stumble across some at a good price, buy as much as you can - go nuts. I'm serious. Sure you can still get Ilford and the like, but some of the really nice photographic papers such as Agfa MCC fibre paper have long since gone out of business and trying to get your hands on the stuff on ebay is like getting your hands on hens teeth. When it does come up for sale, it can often go for 10 times the equivalent inkjet paper. Yes you can get your hands on Adox (who are developing a similar paper on the original Agfa production line) but the whiteness of the paper is not the same and again it's expensive probably due to economies of scale.
    It's the same deal with some toners. Similarly if film rolls come up for sale I'd buy as much as I can!

    A few additional items that you may need to consider with respect to film - climate. No joke. In colder climates (e.g. -30 celcius and under) you need to be careful on the time of year that you are ordering developer or fixer as some are impacted by the extreme cold in the great white north during transportation! Some US shops such as B&H will not ship certain chemicals across the border to a non-residential address either (think it's a terrorism thing) but will only ship to a business. This in particular has been very frustrating as in Canada, Henry's and other Canadian camera shops tend to be more expensive and not carry as good a selection of developers and fixers as B&H. Want to get Rodinal from B&H or the Rodinal copy? Forget it if you are not living in the US - most delivery companies refuse to carry it so you have to pick up by hand!

    I'm not saying that film is NOT cheap. It can be as Mike suggested - really I'm just appending your post here with some additional costs that the OP may need to also consider if going that route. There are additional costs associated with film consumables long term so I can see why the OP is interested in a pure digital B&W camera. It's definitely an extremely enjoyable and immensely fun avenue to explore for B&W.
     
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  15. MAubrey

    MAubrey TalkEmount Top Veteran

    I should confess that this point that I'm a film fraud...since I digitize all my negatives and only print from there. I know. It's not very pure. I just don't have space for a full darkroom and my wife and I move too often for it to be feasible.
     
  16. jai

    jai TalkEmount Top Veteran

    589
    Feb 4, 2013
    That's all I do! I think its the sensible way to do it these days.
     
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  17. Nexnut

    Nexnut TalkEmount Top Veteran

    I've shot mainly Tri-X for more than three decades, still have all my negatives, slides and prints, some of my old gear, a decent stock of rolls in the fridge BUT digital has thoroughly spoiled me. Neither the gear (meh), nor the looks or the instant gratification aspect - ... forbid - but the extended, endless possibilities in post and the efficiency. I really miss the direct, more transparent experience of shooting film though, nothing got in the way back then (AF, settings, menus and whatnot) except changing rolls once in a while and I could imagine to shoot some specific future series or projects on film but processing the results digitally would feel a bit like cheating and IMO nothing beats a silver print anyway. Oh well ...
     
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  18. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran

    876
    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Jeff
    I call it the "hybrid" workflow - kinda gets you the best of both worlds. Plus, it lets me share my old Ricohflex TLR captures on Facebook, Instagram and Flickr! :D
     
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  19. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    Austria
    Thank you for all the very helpful tipps! I need to make a decision at some point ... but I'll wait a little with that. Need to think more about the three major options (shooting film, letting my camera be converted, or save up years for a Leica MM).
     
  20. alaios

    alaios TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jan 11, 2013
    Düsseldorf
    Alex
    I am shooting black and white film years now (developing at home). I also bought new camera yesterday for my pocket camera
    http://kenrockwell.com/olympus/35rc.htm
    If you need more help regarding measuring for film and developing give me a pm
    Alex