Leica’s M Monochrom
LEICA’S M MONOCHROM
This is definitely not a review of a very expensive camera, which I will likely never own. This is commentary on market pressures (even unstudied ones) and the place of the camera is various people’s lives. Just last week, Leica, a German-based camera manufacturer, notoriously known for crafting fine cameras in the “very expensive” range, announced yet another specialty camera set to retail just under $8,000…and it only shoots black and white. I edit an online publication for a camera retailer, and the boys who control the press releases were quick to post the news of this camera’s release on both the website and on the company’s Facebook account. The outcry was swift and unflinching.
“What is the point of a black and white digital?”
As you can see, the comments were overwhelmingly negative.
In a PDN article, Leica was quick to point out: ”‘To make a digital camera that sees colors, you need filters in front of each pixel, which are then interpolated to create single colors,’ [Stephan] Daniel [Leica's Product Manager] explained. ‘In every case you will lose resolution compared to a sensor that shoots black and white natively. So the images taken with this sensor [in the M Monochrom] have more resolution and are sharper than those taken with the M-9 in color.’ As to whether this camera will signal the death of black and white film, Daniel was more circumspect. ‘We don’t know that yet,’ he said. ‘In some ways, it’s an experiment. But I can say this: on a purely technical level, there’s no reason to use black-and-white film anymore.’” I include this statement simply to give the reason behind such a move to make a black and white only sensor by Leica while this practice is not exactly the trend. It does seem like an interesting concept, however, and for those who really enjoy black and white photography, this may signal a new trend in their digital photography…if they can affordably get their hands on one. It is in this vein that I wish to speak to those who again leave their frustrated and petty comments smeared across the social media, acting often more like entitled adolescents than educated adults.
The camera was not made for you.
Nor was it made for me, in fact. If you can’t easily come up with this money ($8000USD) comfortably in, say, the next year, then you were once again not the target demographic of Leica. No reason to get mad or even alarmed. Photographers (and this goes for other fields as well) often feel entitled to have whatever is put out on the market, not understanding the marketing strategy that is so well played by a company like Leica. They actually don’t want you to own the camera. If you or I could afford the camera, it would lose the vast majority of its mystique, its “untouchableness,” its value. Yes, its value. Having an unknown photographer such as me actually prance around with a Ferrari of a camera would only make the Ferrari look bad. I wouldn’t be pulling up to any posh parties in Monaco or hugging the turns on Highway 1 back to my villa in Hollywood. I’m a detriment to the company. Leica, just like other high end brands, wants to keep a price that hovers in the range of “I can’t believe she bought that.” Then when that person pulls it out at a party, she (or he) gets the true value of the camera…excellent craftsmanship plus the attention and noteriety of actually owning it. Perceived value is still value. This goes for photographic prints, paintings, vintage Porsches, and celebrities showing up at your tennis match. It’s the intangibles of celebrity which translate into value of something. It’s why men wear expensive suits…and then let you know it. It’s why women want Jimmy Choo’s in some cultures. It’s why men and women in Nepal, India, Peru, Egypt, and Morocco all have asked me the same questions: ”Are you married and how many kids do you have?” Each society places perceived value of products and goods and even lives on different items, and Leica has simply entered the ring of quality products by producing excellent cameras, branding themselves, and placing a price tag on their items that continue to hold the value (perceived or otherwise).
So to the questions from the reader as to “WHY?!?!?!?!” they made the camera, the answer is simple: ”They could make the camera, and they thought it would make money.” It will. To the question, “What is the point of a black and white digital?” I included Leica’s answer in the second paragraph of this article. Whether you think that is valid line of reasoning is up to you. To the comment, “affordable. lol” the answer is “not for you. Nor was it intended to be affordable to you, just as Ferrari and Jaguar as companies did not intend for you to own one of their cars.”
For some reason, I am totally fascinated with the concept of value.
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