The Leica M Monochrom is special in the Leica lineup due to the fact that it lacks a color filter, which improves image quality and restricts the camera to shooting black and white. If you’d like a monochrome-only camera but don’t want to shell out $7,450 for the latest Leica M Monochrom, there are now converted Fujifilm cameras for a cheaper alternative.
No, Fujifilm hasn’t announced its own line of monochrome cameras. Instead, the cameras are being modified and offered for sale by a third-party company, MaxMax.com, which has been doing camera conversions since 1997 and monochrome conversions since 2009.
MaxMax.com says that after years of hearing customer requests, it has finally decided to convert Fujifilm’s highly regarded X-Trans cameras to monochrome ones by removing the color filter array in them.
Right now there are two converted models being offered for sale: the Fuji X-Pro1-M (a converted X-Pro1) and the Fuji X100S-M (a converted X100S).
“To convert a camera to monochrome, we take the camera apart, remove the sensor, remove the sensor coverglass which is epoxied to the ceramic package then use special equipment to remove about 5 microns from the surface of the sensor removing the microlenses and the Color Filter Array,” company president Dan Llewellyn tells PetaPixel. “This exposes the bare photodiodes so that all the pixels see the same light.”
Llewellyn says that this isn’t an easy conversion to do, and that you’ll basically need access to semiconductor fabrication equipment to try it yourself.
“The Fuji sensors are a particular pain to convert because the epoxy Fuji uses to hold the coverglass on is very strong,” Llewellyn says. “It is difficult to remove the coverglass without damaging the sensor.”
Llewellyn believes that his company’s Fuji “poor man’s Leica” alternatives may actually perform better than the Leica M Monochrom in some regards “because there is more engineering in the Fuji,” he says.
Here are some example monochrome photos captured with the two converted monochrome Fujifilm cameras (you can download their original RAW files here):
If you’re new to film photography, chances are that you’ll get into shooting black and white sooner or later because you have been inspired by the masterpieces of old masters. But before you become the next Henri Cartier-Bresson or Sebastião Salgado, there are a few introductory things you should know.
Seeing the world in black and white is the main struggle for everyone at the beginning, but like with everything else, it can be learned and practiced with a simple understanding of how colors are translated into B&W. The human eye can distinguish approximately 500 shades of gray (well, some are limited to 50, but that’s another story). On the other hand, the scope of colors feels almost unlimited by comparison.
Why are some colors identical when turned into B&W?
Imagine a bus with only 50 seats (and no standing space) that has to carry 200 hundred people at the same time. If they all want to get in, some people will have to share the same seat. It’s the same with colors turned into B&W, there are too many to fit into the 500 shades of gray, so they must be compressed to all fit in the bus. To put this into an image, I’ve turned the 6 basic colors into gray so you can see how they translated in B&W.
We can see that some share the same seat. Look at the yellow and orange: they are nearly identical, so that affects sunset pictures. Another interesting comparison is the red and green: they are almost identical, which makes pictures of poppy field look like a muddy gray landscape… how disappointing!
Does that mean that I can’t take a good B&W picture of a poppy field?
Hopefully not! There are ways to change the way B&W film responds to colors. For this, you will have to rely on colored filters. Let me briefly introduce each of them:
Yellow filter: The classic among black and white photographers. Blue skies are darkened, which helps to increase the separation with the clouds. Other colors like green, red, orange and yellow will appear brighter.
Orange filter: It comes right after the yellow in terms of strength. Blues will become even darker for a more dramatic effect. Most warm colors will also show brighter than greens.
Red filter: This one is the strongest. Red will turn into white and foliage appear very dark. If you want your poppy flowers to pop out that’s the one but pay attention to the background. We can see at the horizon the light green turned also into white. It works best with darker shades of green like in the foreground.
Green filter: The opposite of the previous one. Red will turn darker and green brighter. It’s not very popular because of its limited span of action, but it can give very interesting effect when used on the correct scene.
Blue filter: Another uncommon filter but if you want to brighten blues it’s the one! Warm colors will be darkened and red turned into black, which can help to separate elements in a mixed colored scene. It also increases fog and haze which can help to emphasize a moody landscape.
One important thing about using filters is that they all reduce the amount of light by 1 or more stop. So you must compensate this loss of light when exposing. It varies depending on the filter so refer to the manufacturer’s product information.
Considering contrast when shooting B&W
Now that we know how to manipulate each color, the other element to consider when shooting B&W film is contrast.
Depending on which style you are going for, contrast will play a major role. There are no colors to define the mood of your image so the type of light is probably the most important element to create the ambiance you want to achieve. Direct sunlight can be a nightmare for color photographers, but not in B&W. If you want to shoot street photography, for example, it’s exactly what you are looking for as it will create contrast and harsh edges in your image. It will help to detach the subject from its environment and re-enforce your composition.
If you prefer a softer ambiance, look for an atmosphere with low contrast. Cloudy or foggy days are perfect for this type of images. The light is evenly distributed which result in a mellower ambiance. It’s also the ideal situation for shooting female portraits, as it makes skin looks softer and more pleasing.
Another crucial element that affects contrast is the type of film you shoot with. B&W films don’t react the same way and it’s important that you choose the proper one based on what you are looking for. This is really a matter of personal tastes and there is no right or wrong film here, just the one you like.
If I want to go for a contrasty image, Ilford HP5 or Kodak Tri-X are my go to films. If I’m aiming for a softer image, Fomapan 200 or 400 is the one I prefer.
“There are so many films, which one is the best?”
Choosing film can be overwhelming when beginning so if you are not sure about which one you should use, check out the “Film Dating” quiz I created. It helps to find the right film for you in just a few clicks.
The last point that will influence the result of your image is the development technique or chemicals you will use. There are many ways to go when developing and the combinations of film/developer can completely change the look of a negative.
I’ll take the example of stand development, as that’s the one I’m more familiar with. Depending on the film and developer you are using, it can completely change the contrast of your photo. I have tried this approach with Fomapan 400 (low contrast) and Kodak Tri-X (high contrast).
When developed using the stand technique using Ilfotec DD-X developer, Fomapan 400 turned into a super contrasty film. On the opposite, Kodak Tri-X, which is known for being contrasty, turned into a flatter image with this process. These are just examples and combinations are infinite when developing. The best is to experience yourself with the chemicals and films you have at home. If you want more information about developing time for each film and chemical, check out this Massive Dev Chart.
We’ve now seen that many factors can influence a B&W image, but the most important point is your ability to see the world in monochrome. That’s what requires the most practice but with experience, you’ll become better — it’s just a matter of training your imagination.
If you are just starting out, forget about everything else and just concentrate on imagining a scene in B&W. Once you’ve gained more experience, it’ll be easier to apply what you’ve read above.
About the author: Vincent Moschetti is an Ireland-based photographer who is in the middle of a year-long experiment where he’s shooting only film photography. You can find more of his work or follow along on this adventure by visiting his website or following him on Facebook and Instagram. This post was also published here.
Storm chasing photographer Mike Olbinski is known for his gorgeous time-lapse films of thunderstorms, tornadoes, and monsoons. His latest project, however, was a bit different from the rest: it’s one of the first storm time-lapse films to be entirely black and white.
“For quite a few years now I’ve been wanting to do something different with my time-lapse films,” Olbinski writes. “I love color. Storms are full of color. The blues, the greens, the warm oranges and reds at sunset. The colors are sometimes what make a simple storm into something extra special.”
“But black and white speaks to my soul. I love it. There is something when you remove the color that lets you truly see the textures, movement and emotion of a storm.”
Everything in Pulse was captured over the past few years by Olbinski using a Canon 5DS R, 5D Mark III, 11-24mm, 16-35, 35mm, 50mm and 135mm.
“Pulse” has been selected as a “Staff Pick” over at Vimeo.
If you’ve been using a channel mixer adjustment layer to help you properly dodge and burn portraits, listen up. You’ve been doing it wrong, and retouching expert Daniel Hagar wants to explain why.
This Photoshop tip was released as part of Hagar’s “Breaking Bad Retouching Habits” series on YouTube.
As he explains in the video, it is a good idea to use a high contrast monochrome help layer when you dodge and burn. It’s easier on the eyes, makes flaws more visible, and accentuates the tonal relationships you’re trying to alter. However, Hagar wants you to know that the oft-used technique of using a channel mixer adjustment layer as that help layer is a no-go.
He explains it in more detail in the video—and in extreme detail in this blog post—but the gist is this: what you want out of a dodge and burn help layer is something that lets you focus on the luminosity values, but using the color mixer to add contrast by dropping the reds and amplifying the blues doesn’t accurately represent those values.
So, if you use this common technique, you’ll think you’re making the right adjustments only to turn off the help layer and find, in Hagar’s words, “disharmonies and patches on the skin that weren’t there to begin with.”
While you can set up the channel mixer a different way to avoid this, Hagar makes a few other suggestions that will work better. Next time, try a black & white adjustment layer set to saturation blend mode, or a neutral color layer set to color blend mode instead. Then add contrast with a curves adjustment layer. These options will let you focus on the luminosity values without misrepresenting them.
Check out the full video up top for a step-by-step demonstration.
Before the introduction of color film, Many photographers experimented with ways to record color images using black and white mediums. One of the more famous examples comes from Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky and his photos of Russia from the early 1900s.
Prokudin-Gorsky took three black and white exposures behind red, green, and blue color filters that could later be combined into a full color image. Actually displaying the photos in color back then required projecting each separate color channel onto lantern slides and aligning them manually, But through the magic of Photoshop, we can replicate this process digitally.
To create these photos, you’ll need a red, green, and blue filter. I used a red and green filter from a black & white filter kit. Most of those kits don’t come with a blue filter, so I had to purchase that separately. The filter I used in my example shots was meant more for color balancing than color filtering, and let in some colors other than blue, resulting in a sort of retro-looking blue cast in the final image. If you want more accurate color, you’ll need to use filters that only let in one color of light.
A tripod is absolutely necessary for this, as you’ll want as little movement in the scene between exposures as possible (unless you’re going for some kind of “trippy” vibe). A windy day is also not an ideal time to try this. The wind picked up in this shot, causing lots of wild color ghosting.
If you’re shooting on black and white film, it’s especially important to remember the order that you used the filters in. I was careful to take each shot in order of red filter, green filter, blue filter to prevent mixing up color channels when combing them in Photoshop.
After you’ve developed and scanned your film (or copied the photos if you’re using digital) it’s time to fire up Photoshop. I haven’t tried this on GIMP, but I suspect it would also work. First, copy each channel into a separate layer. It helps to label them so you’ll know where to copy them later.
Organize your three shots into labeled layers.
At this point, you should select Edit->Auto Align Layers. This probably isn’t necessary when doing this digitally, but it helps to align the color channels when pasting them into the final image.
Next, make a blank document of the same size where you’ll copy each channel into. I like to do this in a separate document to avoid confusion when pasting the channels. Copy the layer you shot with the red filter into the red channel, green into green, and blue into blue. Even with auto-align, you may need to adjust the position of some of the channels.
Paste each of the filtered shots into their respective channel in a new document.
If you’ve done everything correctly, the end result should be a full color image from only black and white exposures!
About the author: Matt Point is a photography enthusiast who enjoys photographing nature and wildlife. You can find his photos on his 500px page.
Motorola Mobility has been ordered by a court ruling to fork over $10.2 million to Fujifilm for violating one of the Japanese company’s camera patents in its mobile phones.
Reuters reports that Fujifilm originally sued Motorola in 2012, demanding $40 million and accusing the company of using four patented technologies without permission. Three of them had to do with the phone’s camera and one had to do with data transmission.
On Monday, a jury found that three of the patents were invalid. The only one that Motorola was found guilty of infringing was a patent that had to do with converting color photographs to black-and-white ones.