Leica M Monochrom and color filters

The pictures were taken in Fosen at various places during daylight a while ago. Since we had daylight this was a perfect chance to try the yellow, orange and red filters that I received about a month ago. I have no experience with color filters previously, so this was the first time I tried them out.

It was a beautiful day and you have to take the ferry for about 20-30 minutes to reach Fosen from my hometown, Trondheim. We encountered some fog as well while the sun was going down, which created a very nice atmosphere to photograph in.

I have not experienced any focus related issues with using any of the B+W MRC color filters that I purchased. I am however not a super-pixel-peeper, but when things look crisp and sharp at 100% – that’s good enough for me.

Fosen_11

Fosen_01

The red filter is extremely contrasty. I even had to tone down the pictures taken with the red filter because I thought they were way to contrasty out of the camera. The orange filter was more balanced and provided a decent amount of contrast without adding too much, and since the Leica MM has TTL metering you don’t have to worry about manual exposure compensation with filters.

Fosen_02

Fosen_09

My favorite filter is definitely the Yellow (022) filter. I use this filter all the time except when I am shooting during the darkest time of the day (night). From my measurements the yellow filter makes the camera adjust the exposure about +2/3 stop.

Fosen_08

Fosen_06

The orange filter is my second favorite. I can see myself using the orange filter more during the summertime when we have more available and brighter light to create some nicely contrasty images. It will also prevent the sky from blowing out without requiring under-exposure, and still create natural looking files. I expect this to be my favorite filter during good light and bright and sunny days. From my measurements the orange filters makes the MM apply +1 1/3-2/3 exposure compensation, so you will effectively loose about one and a half stops of light by using this filter.

Fosen_04

Fosen_05

The red filter is extremely contrasty as I previously said. I am not sure if I’ll be using the red filter too much, except for some specific use where I specifically want extreme contrast and dark skies. I am toying with the idea of using the red filter plus a B+W Circular Polarizer together for some extremely contrasty skies during sunny days.

I also have the Hoya R72 IR filter and the B+W MRC Kaesemann Circular Polarizer which I have not been able to test yet, simply because it is too dark nowadays to test them properly.

Fosen_03

  • dan

    very nice pics.
    i liked the contrast in the pics, the red fulter as well.
    i bought the ND filter which was not mentioned here and since i live in a very sunny country, i found the 0.3 not satisfactory enough
    guess i needed a 0.6
    Danny

    • Thanks Danny.

      I was considering getting either a 3 or 6 stop nd filter to shoot wide open during bright summer days. That’s the 0.9 or 1.8 if I remember correctly. With a base iso of 320 it is very challenging to shoot wide open even during overcast days.

  • Anonymous

    Bo very nice article and superb results! I would love to see colour separations with gelatine filters if you can find the kodak colour separation filters Red No.25, Green No.61 and Blue No.47B and see what colour images when the 3 shots are combined look like. Don’t forget the fiter factors for exposure (the blue is quite some time) Tripod a must of course.
    I guess you know all that anyway.
    if you have any friends with an M9 would love to see a comparison B&W with your M
    Kind Regards and happy shooting.

    • Hello!

      No I wasn’t aware of that. I don’t expect that I will test any of those filters, or do any very technical comparisons with an M9 (unless I purchase a cheap used one myself once the M is released, which will be used for the few color shots that I do). My articles basically revolves around my experience with the Monochrom and the equipment that I personally use myself.

      I will test the Monochrom with a IR filter, polarizer, dark red filter, green filter and ND filters later on when I receive them, and then post a few examples without getting too technical.

      Thanks for your feedback.

      • Anonymous

        Sorry Bo my info was not clear but I meant that you try colour separation with the gear yu have the Monochrom.
        I think if the light meter is accurate enough (hope so) the gelatine filters(cheap) will give a good colour image…

        • Thanks for the idea. I might have to try that later if I can find some gelatine filters.

  • hopeapaju

    I have been wondering about this filter option. In Silver Efex and Lightroom there are options to apply filters effect in postproduction. In your opinion, what is the major difference between that and applying a filter already on the actual lens?

    • From my experience there is a big difference. As you say you can emulate color filters in Silver Efex, Lightroom and Photoshop (plus other plug-ins as well) but those are software emulations. It will affect the overall quality of the file that you are working with. For example adding or changing software filters will introduce noise, artifacts, or other unwanted side effects. A physical color filter will not introduce any artifacts, noise, etc. at all. And from my limited testing the physical filters give a different and better quality than what a software filter will do.

      The backside to physical filters is that you are locked in to what the filter did to the image. With software filters you can play around as much as you want. So you sort of have to know what you want – then and there – with physical filters.

      With the Monochrom however this isn’t really an issue. There is no color information to work with anyway, so you cannot emulate color filters via software as there is no color information to work with.

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  • I love these photos. Wonderful job.

  • Reblogged this on Simon Sundaraj-Keun.

  • Fabulous photos & beautiful camera!

    • Thanks for the reblog!

  • petesullivan

    thanks for taking the time to do this, Borge. The information about the way you are using the filters is most helpful – and your images are inspiring!

    • Thanks again Pete! It’s my pleasure.

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  • Frank

    Excellent page with helpful hints. I found more tangible stuff here than on Steve Huff´s page. Thanks

  • Frank

    All color filters are completely redundant on the Leica MM. You get all results by PS in raw mode. Only exception, the grey filter for fine art photography.

    • Sorry Frank, but you are wrong.
      It is extremely difficult to replicate in PS for example the skin tones that a orange or red filter will give. The color filters also affects the exposure and contrast of the sky, clouds, water and do forth – naturally.

      There are no color channels in PS with this camera. All you can do is basically dodge and burn selectively with a brush. Not quite optimal, and very time consuming.

      • Andrew P

        I agree. Working with the MM is totally different from any other camera. As a basic example, curves work ‘upside down’ – push the line up and it goes darker instead of lighter. Relating to the post, however, all the MM is doing is recording – incredibly effectively – different grey tones. Once the image is recorded that’s all you have. On the other hand if you do a software BW conversion on a ‘normal’ colour camera the channel information is still there and can be modified, thus affecting the b/w conversion. By the way, I love this blog, and great photos too.

  • You can use colored filters as ND and get the tonal results you desire with the monochrome.
    A yellow filter is 1 stop, orange is 2 stop and red is 3 stop.

    I personally use filters not for shooting wide open in direct sunlight, but for shooting @ F8, zone focusing on the street and keeping the shutter speed between 1/125 and 1/500.

    ET

  • Hey Børge!
    Very nice review!
    I just wanted to let you know, that I mentioned you in a Blogpost on my site, here is the link:
    http://www.schumacher.photo/digitales-schwarz-weiss/

  • Penciljockey

    Just curious. Did you find that you had issues with focus with the red filter on? Someone is claiming it throw the focus off when using the optical rangefinder.

    • Hello. It’s normal to experience severe focus shift with red and dark red filters indeed. Especially with an infrared filter! This doesn’t happen so much on film.