Henri at the Wedding-Leica Monochrom

Henri-Named after the great Henri Cartier Bresson

You need to have guts to first produce a camera with just a black and white sensor, yes black and white only…no color, and second to price it at $8,000. No don’t fall off your chair yet, that’s what it was priced at when it first released, the first Leica Monochrom with a CCD (charge coupled device) sensor. They eventually moved to CMOS (complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor) sensors to improve dynamic range, introduce live view and improve ISO performance but ask purists who used CCD and they still swear by the Image Quality CCD produces. I have used the Leica M9 and still use the Leica Monochrom and both have been magical

The Monochrom Cameras neither have a Bayer Filter (which is responsible for color) nor an Anti Aliasing filter (which is generally added to remove Moire artefacts) in front of the Sensor. The net result is that images tend to be sharper and the light gathering ability of the Sensor improves. Thus the minimum ISO on the Monochrom is ISO 320. It essentially gathers double the light of a colour sensor Leica M9 which has a minimum ISO of 160

A while back I sold my M9 and was ‘M’less for a while when I saw a pristine Monochrom for sale at much lesser than half the price of a new one…it had done just 1300 clicks, so I got it

Now here is where my FB friend Hari Subramanyam comes in. He is a Leica connoiseur and has pretty much used every Leica lens and M Camera created. The moment I told him I’m getting the Monochrom he said ‘then you got to get the Super Angulon’. The Super Angulon is a 21mm f3.4 lens which Leica produced between 1963-1980. It was in fact manufactured by Schneider and marketed by Leica

Now the complications of this lens are:

• Leica M Rangefinders have a maximum viewing angle equivalent to the viewing angle of a 28mm lens so a different optical viewfinder (which slides into the flash hotshoe) would be required

• Since focusing would be through the rangefinder optical viewfinder and composition through the additional optical viewfinder there is a good chance that the subject would have moved between the time taken to shift the eye from one to another. To overcome this one has to resort to zone focusing and have knowledge of hyperfocal distance focusing

• The rear elements extend so far near the shutter that the camera metering is rendered useless and so you have to calculate exposure by the ‘sunny 16 rule’

Here is where the advantage of having shot with fully manual cameras kicks in. My first DSLR was a Zenit and with very basic metering so I used to follow the sunny 16 rule quite often

You can read about the sunny 16 rule of metering here


So when a friends wedding came up in Texas I was all excited to try this camera out. I added a light red filter on the lenses to render skin tones fair. Red filters block blue (making it appear dark) and let red tones (pink, orange, yellow, red etc) pass (making them appear light grey to white) thus giving some added contrast to the pictures

Most pictures are with the Super Angulon. A few shots with the Voigtlander 35mm f1.2II Nokton

The Super Angulon is a super sharp lens and has a brilliant rendering and almost zero distortion. One needs to be careful while clicking people not to get too close but still close enough to render a meaningful compostion

The Monochrom CCD sensor of course has a tendency to blow out highlights very soon so underexposing by a third or two third of a stop helps as shadows can be recovered easily

This was the first time I used a wide angle for a wedding and what it does is force you to change your style of photography and composition itself. With 50mm and above you do more portraits, detail shots, facial emotions etc but with a wide angle it is more photojournalistic, more a narrative of the happenings, surroundings, environmental portraits etc

Enjoy the pictures, like, comment, share and have fun