By Michelle Park — Photos courtesy of the artists and Leica —

Although people love to capture the world in color, we all have a nostalgic affection for black and white photography. It’s just like how some people prefer awkward handwriting to pristine emails. Although the world has gone digital, photographers still keep their film cameras, and hipsters insist on shooting with discontinued Polaroid. It may be because we live in an overly convenient world that we are drawn to beautiful inconveniences. And that may be why the idea behind Leica’s M Monochrom is so appealing. The fact that the camera stubbornly, and only, shoots in black and white is a major draw.

With the launch of the M Monochrom on May 10th, German photographer, Jacob Aue Sobol, collaborated with Leica to document his journey from Moscow to Beijing—in black and white.

In shooting the series, “Arrivals and Departures,” Aue Sobol was faced with an unknown landscape, as well as foreign equipment:

“Every time I start a new project, I start shooting in color, because I am afraid to repeat myself…[but] working in black and white has always been the most direct way for me to reach more existential questions. In black and white I feel my images are not bound to a specific location or time. They create their own universe.”

Aue Sobol perfectly captures black and white’s uniqueness. Because the absence of colors on the images does not resemble what we see in life, the viewer is forced to accept the photos as pictorial representations, rather than strict reflections of reality. Not only do the monochromatic photographs “create their own universe,” but they also allow for the viewers to appreciate and indulge in the emotional substance and narrative embedded in the image. Black and white photographs set their own alien ground from reality, while magnifying the overlooked moments of life.

The Leica M Monochrom retains the classic aesthetics of the M9-P with a black chrome body, but it features an 18-megapixel sensor that exclusively shoots in monochrome. The body is compatible with a Summicron 50mm f2.0 M-mount lens, which Leica also introduced alongside MM. The MM has an ISO setting that reaches the 10,000 mark, a first for a commercial digital camera CCD. This ISO setting combined with the absence of a color filter array (CFA) produces immaculate, detailed photos, with a rich range of blacks, whites, and grays.

Just like its complex built, the camera requires a set of artistically keen eyes to match its specs. “The MM is not a camera for everybody,” says Ming Thein, a photographer based in Malaysia and the official partner and brand ambassador of Leica Camera in Asia. The camera captures luminance, not colors (the contrast of colors and luminance are completely separate pots of tea), so when using it, you have to learn to ignore contrasting colors, as contrasting colors is equivalent to similar luminance values, which will result in a very grey, flat, monochromatic image. Before investing in such fancy equipment, it would be best to spend some time on an affordable, manual SLR camera, and move on from there.

Phone call. Leica MM and 35/1.4 ASPH FLE

Stairs. Sasana Kijang, Bank Negara Malaysia. Leica MM and 50/2 APO

M Monochrom, taken by Ming

Family moment. Leica MM, 50/2 APO

The obligatory cat shot. Leica MM, 35/1.4 ASPH FLE

Counting pennies. Leica MM and 35/1.4 ASPH FLE


More of Jacob Aue Sobol (From Arrivals and Departures):


Leica M Monochrom:

Ming’s Blog:

Ming’s Blog post on M Monochrom:

Jacob Aue Sobol:

Jacob Aue Sobol’s Arrivals and Departures: