Some will tell you it doesn’t matter. Leica and Phase One will tell you a monochrome sensor is best. You can probably do beautiful black and white photography with any camera.
Me, I am rather fussy about my cameras for monochrome. Being a devotee since a teenager I can vouch for the fact that any camera does indeed work if you are prepared to learn to visualise in tones. This skill is very hard to learn and takes months, if not years to practice. The classic method is one camera, one lens, one roll of film a day for a year. It has to be the same film and developer for the year too. You keep everything constant until you figure out the conversion of what you are seeing into monochromatic images. It plain and simply is just a matter of time and practice.
Shooting with a dslr is the same, unfortunately, until you put it into live view and set the camera to monochrome.
Yes that is one of my secret ingredients. I shoot in monochrome from the moment I pick up my camera.
The day I added an electronic viewfinder to my Olympus Pen EPL-1 I discovered a new way of working and seeing. Suddenly I didn’t have to work as hard on the visualisation as I could see it in my viewfinder.
So, for me, without a doubt, the best camera for monochrome photography is one with a digital viewfinder that allows me to shoot in raw and see in monochrome before I take the photograph. I don’t know why Hasselbad hasn’t figured this one out, or why Fuji doesn’t see the need for an orange filter simulation.
These types of cameras as often called ‘mirrorless’ at the moment. Some people call them electronic viewfinder cameras, but not many. Some cameras allow you to add an electronic viewfinder, like the Leica Monochrome.
They have improved my black and white photography substantially. Well, beyond my imagination could have ever predicted. It is now my prerequisite for buying a camera.
As many of you know, I really love my Olympus micro four thirds cameras, and I am learning love my Fuji medium format for it’s beautiful files and huge prints. Panasonic and Sony also make them.
Apparently Canon and Nikon will join the club later this year. DSLR’s aren’t the best tools for monochrome photography. If monochrome is your passion, join the club and enjoy the benefits.
Mea Culpa. Note the crane in this photograph has now been removed. Photograph and text copyright ©️ Len Metcalf 2018