Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) review

Leica's black-and-white-only rangefinder camera gets an upgraded sensor, screen and processor

Leica M Monochrom Typ 246

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We chose three rival cameras for the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) to see how it measured up in our lab tests:

Leica M240: This is the 'color' version of the Leica M and we chose this to see a direct comparison of how the sensor change affected the performance.

Sony A7R: This would be a tough comparison for the Monochrom's resolution, since the 36-megapixel A7R has 50% more pixels.

Nikon D610: Like the Monochrom, the D610 has a 24-megapixel full-frame sensor, and it's a lot cheaper.

We've carried out lab tests on the Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) across its full ISO range for resolution, noise (including signal to noise ratio) and dynamic range. We test the JPEGs shot by the camera, but we also check the performance with raw files. Most enthusiasts and pros prefer to shoot raw, and the results can often be quite different.

It's worth pointing out that the lab tests for the Leica M240, Sony A7R and Nikon D610 were carried out in color, which is what these cameras are designed for. To see the subtler differences in the Monochrom's black and white rendition, see the Nikon D610 comparison images in the Performance section.

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) resolution charts

We test camera resolution using an industry-standard ISO test chart that allows precise visual comparisons. This gives us numerical values for resolution in line widths/picture height, and you can see how the Monochrom compares with its rivals in the charts below.

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) lab tests

JPEG resolution analysis: The Sony A7R leads the field for JPEG resolution, its 36-megapixel sensor delivering more detail than the 24-megapixel sensors in the other models. Of the rest, the Monochrom matches or beats the Nikon D610, depending on the ISO setting, and is clearly sharper than the regular (color) Leica M240.

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) lab tests

Raw (converted to TIFF) resolution analysis: The results from the raw files are much closer, where the Monochrom is right at the top of this group for resolution.

Sample resolution charts

This is the chart we use for testing camera resolution. The key area is just to the right of centre, where a series of converging lines indicates the point at which the camera can no longer resolve them individually. We shoot this chart at all of the camera's ISO settings, and here are two samples at ISO 320 (the Monochrom's base ISO) and ISO 6400.

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) lab tests

ISO 320: Click here for a full size version.

Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) lab tests

ISO 6400: Click here for a full size version.