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Wildly colorful photos got you down? There's an 18-megapixel full-frame sensor for that. The Leica M Monochom may seem an unlikely proposition, with its monochrome-only sensor and $8,000 price tag (not to mention the added financial burden that comes along with investing in a Leica M-mount), but the camera offers some unique benefits that, for some, may justify the cost. Because the sensor is capable of outputting one pixel of data for each pixel captured -- there's no hint of color mucking about -- the resulting images are incredibly sharp. There are low-light benefits as well, with the Monochrom offering a top ISO setting of 10,000, compared to 2500 with the aging M9. Other features include a 2.5-inch 230k-dot color LCD, a rangefinder-type optical viewfinder and a 14-bit uncompressed RAW mode that yields 36MB DNGs.

The camera itself offers an appearance consistent with other Leica snappers, and includes a magnesium alloy construction with hints of brass and chrome. Naturally, there's no video features to speak of, so no 1080p black-and-white shoots for you. We do have pricing and availability, however, though we don't exactly have the funds to match. The body-only M Monochrom is expected to retail for $7,970 when it hits stores (beginning with Leica's Washington DC showroom) in July. A new Leica APO-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH prime lens will be available around the same time, for the modest sum of $7,195. There's a full PR just past the break.

Gallery | 10 Photos

Leica M Monochrom

Update: DPReview has posted a gallery of sample images. Don't be so quick to dismiss this camera -- plenty of deep-pocketed photographers have likely been waiting for something just like it. Hit up the source link after the break for the shots.

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LEICA M MONOCHROM: THE FUTURE OF BLACK-AND-WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY

Solms Germany (May 10, 2012) - Leica Camera AG presents the Leica M Monochrom, the world's first digital camera exclusively for full-frame, 35 mm black-and-white photography. Featuring a sensor designed specifically for this purpose, the new addition to the Leica portfolio enables photographers to capture images in outstanding black-and-white quality, setting entirely new standards. The latest camera in the flagship Leica M-System, the Leica M Monochrom continues the successful story of the Leica rangefinder system, which has written numerous chapters in the history of innovative photography.

"Black-and-white photography is more popular than ever before. Even today, it has lost none of its fascination as an expressive medium, not even for younger generations of photographers. This is confirmed by the numerous monochrome images shown by members of the M-Community, who we are in constant contact with," said Jesko von Oeynhausen, Product Manager for the M-System at Leica Camera AG. "For the first time ever, we are offering an opportunity to consistently and authentically explore black-and-white photography with the M Monochrom, a tool that is unique in the digital world. The camera's exclusively black-and-white sensor brings an enormous technical benefit that is reflected in the amazing imaging quality it delivers."

The 18 MP image sensor of the M Monochrom is perfectly matched to the unique properties of the Leica M-System and the superior performance of Leica M-Lenses. As the sensor does not 'see' colors, every pixel records true luminance values – as a result, it delivers 'true' black-and-white images that are significantly sharper than comparable exposures from a camera with a color-sensitive sensor.

To allow precise control of tonal values, the Leica M Monochrom offers a raw data histogram display to exhibit original, unprocessed and unmodified raw data. This, combined with a configurable clipping display, allows precise correction or optimization of exposures.
At the touch of a button, images captured by the M Monochrom can be converted with characteristic toning effects from black-and-white film photography (sepia, cold or selenium toning). All users need to do is save the image in JPEG format and select the desired toning effect – simply and conveniently, with no need for post-processing.

The classic, iconic design of the Leica M-cameras is carried forward by the Leica M Monochrom. The matte-black finish of the chromed top deck allows the camera to be an unobtrusive tool. Only an engraved script on the accessory shoe reveals the product name. The camera features particularly soft leather trim with ideal grip that perfectly complements the camera's discreet character. The camera package also includes a genuine leather carrying strap in premium full-grain cowhide.

The M Monochrom is supplied complete with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, a professional digital workflow solution. The software is available to customers as an online download after product registration. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom offers a wide range of functions for the management, processing and presentation of digital images. For example, this software allows for the creation of simple print layouts, slide shows and photo books.

A full-version of Silver Efex Pro 2, the world's leading black-and-white image processing software, is also included in the package. Silver Efex Pro 2 offers an impressive collection of unique and powerful, darkroom-inspired tools for the creation of high quality black-and-white images. Silver Efex Pro 2 emulates over 20 different types of black-and-white film to recreate the glory of classical black-and-white film photography. The emulation of each film type is based on the analysis of many rolls of the respective type and guarantees perfect reproduction of the characteristic look of many popular films from ISO 32 to ISO 3200.

For the production of high-quality black-and-white prints, Leica Camera AG also offers a unique service in collaboration with Whitewall. After registering their Leica M Monochrom on the Leica website, customers can have their digital images from the M Monochrom printed on premium-quality baryte paper. These prints can be ordered from Whitewall through a personal link.

From photojournalism and available light photography to discreet, artistically aesthetic, creative compositions – the Leica M Monochrom adapts flexibly to every application and enables the expression of personal photographic style and consciously creative composition. The enormous potential performance of the current M-Lens portfolio, with focal lengths from 16 to 135 mm, is also fully accessible. In line with Leica's renowned commitment to extreme system compatibility, almost all lenses of the Leica M range built since 1954 can still be used on the M Monochrom.

All characteristic properties of the Leica rangefinder system are also present in the new Leica M Monochrom. This, for instance, also includes the system's intuitive and discreet handling. Its manual focusing based on the combined viewfinder and rangefinder concept and aperture priority exposure mode is an aid to photographers rather than placing undesired limitations on their creative freedom. In combination with the monitor display on the back of the camera, the simple menu navigation needs only a few control elements to enable rapid access to the entire range of camera functions. Together with its compact construction, the camera's almost silent shutter benefits discreet and unobtrusive photography. Photographers can even select the appropriate moment for re-cocking the shutter. When longer exposure times requiring an extremely steady camera stance are essential, a slight pressure on the shutter release button in 'soft release' mode is sufficient.

All functions of the Leica M Monochrom are constructed with extreme robustness and a long working life in mind. Its one-piece, full-metal housing, made from a high-strength magnesium alloy, and the top deck and bottom plate, machined from solid brass blanks, provide perfect protection for its precious inner mechanisms. The digital components and shutter assembly of the M Monochrom are similarly constructed with a view to a lifetime of endurance. For photographers, this provides absolute reliability over decades of use. The experienced hands of Leica technicians at the factory in Solms are responsible for the assembly and calibration of M Monochrom bodies and the precise testing of all mechanical and electrical components. Leica Customer Care has decades of experience in repairs and maintenance and therefore creates a solid foundation for long life and enduring value. Even today, the service department maintains and repairs all M-Cameras built since 1954.

The Leica M-System has played a significant role in the development of the company's performance in recent years. The annual figures have been correspondingly positive since the launch of the Leica M9 in September 2009 and are now registering record revenues.

The Leica M Monochrom in black chrome will be available from Leica dealers including the Leica Store Washington DC beginning in late July 2012.

LEICA APO-SUMMICRON-M 50 MM F/2 ASPH.: THE NEW MILESTONE IN LENS CONSTRUCTION

Solms, Germany (May 10, 2012) - Leica Camera AG presents a new milestone in the history of lens construction: the Leica APO-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH. With the goal of creating a lens that fully achieves the opportunities offered by high-resolution camera systems, Leica engineers have successfully redefined the limits of what is technically possible. The result is an extremely high-performance lens that sets entirely new standards and currently stands as an exceptional talent amongst the standard lenses of the Leica M portfolio.

This new reference lens achieves the best test results ever seen in the Leica M-Lens program. The MTF curves of the Leica APO-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH. that describe the contrast of fine details and, in turn, the image sharpness, confirm its outstanding performance. Even the finest details are resolved with more than 50% contrast across the entire image field. This previously unattained value confirms the exceptional positioning of this lens. All images captured with the Leica APO-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH. in any photographic situation show extreme sharpness and resolution of details from corner to corner of the image. Additionally, the apochromatic correction of the lens minimizes chromatic aberration on sharp edges to ensure natural rendition of every detail. As a result, photographers benefit from the best possible reproduction results at any print size.

The outstanding performance of the Leica APO-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH. is founded on the perfect interaction of all its design and construction parameters, from optical calculation and choice of materials to the sophisticated and elaborate manufacturing and finishing of the lens. Together with more than 150 years of experience in the design and construction of optical instruments, Leica's reputation as the manufacturer of the world's best lenses is once again emphasized.

The new design of the Leica APO-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH. is based on the optical design of its predecessor that has been on the market since 1979 and is the oldest lens represented in the Leica M portfolio. The classical specifications, 50 mm focal length and a maximum aperture of f2, offered an ideal starting point for further development. As such, Leica's expert lens designers were able to concentrate exclusively on the improvement of imaging quality within these standard specifications.

In its optical design, the Leica APO-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH. is oriented on particular features of the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH. and the Summilux-M 35 mm f/1.4 ASPH. lenses. For instance, the Leica APO-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH. also incorporates a floating element. The lens group behind the diaphragm is designed as a floating element that changes its position relative to the front group during focusing, ensuring that the lens achieves outstanding imaging quality throughout its focusing range, including at closer focusing distances.

The realization of the apochromatic correction of the Leica APO-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH. involved the use of specially formulated glasses based on original developments from the former Leitz glass laboratory. The use of such glasses requires great effort and many years of experience. As a result of the consistent advancement of optical processes, working with these high-quality glasses has been refined to such a fine art that they are integrated in the best possible quality into Leica lenses as evidenced today in the Leica APO-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH.

As a particularly reliable product with enduring value and made in Germany, the Leica APO-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH. is manufactured from only the best materials and is assembled in an elaborate process completely by hand at Leica's factory in Solms. The combination of cutting-edge technologies and painstaking manufacturing procedures guarantees the consistently excellent quality of every single Leica lens.

The Leica APO-Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 ASPH. in black finish will be available from Leica dealers including the Leica Store Washington DC from late July 2012.

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Leica M Monochrom captures exclusively in black and white, costs far more than your color-abled shooter