B&W Photography

Digital cameras for b&w photography

Based on my experience I listed below cameras in terms of quality of image they can provide for b&w photography. This is my subjective assessment. In general, my impression is, that if you have choice of camera with optical low pass filter (anti-alias) and without it, take the later one. Somehow, I found, all the mentioned cameras I used and listed below do not have anti-alias filters. Probably, such feature improves micro contrast, I have no idea, but it looks to me, that lack of optical low pass filter produces better looking b&w images, deeper, sharper.

1. Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) – the b&w Queen

Probably the cheapest b&w camera available for high quality b&w photography, with native black and white sensor. It is worth every penny. No RGB filter there (GOOD NEWS). Raw photos look a bit muddy and dull, but that is because of wider latitude. Process them with Acros or other presets in Lightroom or with Silver Efex Pro plugin (see below)

 and you will see huge difference compared to all other cameras. The camera is not masterpiece in terms of ergonomy (opposite to what fans of Leica say), but can easily produce quality photos on masterpiece level. The fastest shutter time for flash photography is unfortunately 1/180 second, so forget HSS. But, despite the drawback the camera still leaves competitors far far behind.

I highly recommend to use native lens, or Nokton Voigtlander lens with M mount for Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246). The camera doesn’t have ultrasonic cleaning for sensor, and manual cleaning is rather messy task. It means, that if you use, for instance, zoom lens with “pumping” zoom mechanism,  you can put some dust on sensor. The black spots can be easily removed in Photoshop or Lightroom, but it is better if sensor is perfectly clean.

No need to buy expensive lens with aperture F1.2 or wider, because usually their widest apertures are useless anyway, due to contrast and light aberrations etc problems.

The rule of thumb, at least for start, is: buy 50mm lens, put it on Leica, and don’t change the lens for at least half year.

2. FujiFilm X-T2.  Second position for b&w quality.

No optical low pass filter. Colour matrix/filter modified, X-Trans sensor, not typical Bayer. For some reason, this cheap camera is able to produce really nice b&w photos. If you cannot afford Leica Monochrom (Typ 246) buy secondhand FujiFilm X-T2 instead. I used also FujiFilm X-T4, but for b&w photography FujiFilm X-T2 is definitely much better. Good news: do you want to do HSS flash photography with 1/1000 or faster shutter? No problem, with FujiFilm X-T2 it is possible. The camera is mirrorless, so you can use adapters if you like other lenses than native. However, Fuji lens are rally good.

3. Nikon D810.

No optical low pass filter, so – in my opinion – better for b&w photography than Nikon D850. Nice machine if you like Nikons. Plenty of second hand high quality glass. Full frame sensor. No complains at all. Nikon D810 – link to Amazon.co.uk

4. Sony A7R II.

No optical low pass filter. Native glass is mostly Zeiss, so that is a good news, because glass is important for micro contrast. Very good choice of lenses, you can also use adapters, because Sony A7R II is mirrorless camera. Sony A7R II – link to Amazon.co.uk