Sometimes it is so great to shoot B&W photos in-camera. The best thing in this approach is that you can see a B&W image through the viewfinder or LCD. It really helps you understand things in monochrome – helps you see the gradations, tones, shadows, and highlights. Yes, I know, it is JPEGs then but usually the results are quite rewarding actually.
I have used all my cameras in B&W mode but below are some examples shot with Fuji X100 and Ricoh GR.
I have been now regularly testing my Leica Digilux 2 and I have not been very convinced with its color output (yet). Of course there are some shots in each shooting session which please me but unfortunately most shots are quite mediocre. For color work I prefer this camera to shoot close-ups (see my earlier post on this) and this area it handles just wonderfully.
I have been after a camera which I could use solely as a monochrome camera (something like a poor-mans Leica Monochrom). I have tested my Fuji X-Pro1 and Ricoh GR for this purpose. Both of those cameras produce fantastic in-camera B&Ws but I prefer to use these modern cameras more freely, i.e. for both color and monochrome. And I like to shoot RAW with those two and make B&W conversions in post-processing.
I tested today my Digilux 2 to shoot in-camera B&Ws. I just put camera’s white balance adjustment to B&W and went to shoot some pics. When I opened the shots in Lightroom I was surprised very positively. In-camera B&Ws were very pleasing with nice gradations and good dynamic range. They needed very little tweaking in LR. I think the WB adjustment of my Leica Digilux 2 will be fixed to B&W from now on. Monochrome shooting suits this classic so well and I think the results are spectacular (at least by my standards) for a 10 year old 5 MP camera used by a hobbyist shooter.
Here are just few examples of the results I got:
Tested High Contrast Monochrome in-camera JPEG preset with Sony RX100. I really like the results. Very contrasty and quite coarse looking images but suits well for certain situations. I think this monochrome setting may give new life to my RX100 which has been largely neglected lately. Below is a self-portrait (well, sort of) which I really liked.
I have mainly been shooting RAW with my X-Pro1 lately largely because of improved RAW support by LR 4.4. But I tested again (did this already with my earlier X-Pro1) in-camera B&Ws and this time exclusively in 1:1 format. Very cool indeed. I have adjusted highlight tones to +1, shadow tones in +2, and sharpening to +1. These settings increase contrast quite a much and give also additional punch to sharpening. Square format is very interesting one for the compositions. When doing this I am not cropping in LR at all and also otherwise use only very minimal adjustments. For example, I am not so worried about clipped highlights or shadow areas (of course I try to get the right exposure). It seems that little bit of a clipping give that certain wanted character for the shots. This approach may seem to be very limiting but actually I find it very nice approach. It gives more space to breathe. It is not limiting me at all. It frees my mind.
When shooting using the approach mentioned above led me to think cameras. This could be very dangerous thing to happen, I know. But anyways. I would be very happy with a very limiting camera. For example, a digital camera with a fixed prime lens having a B&W-only sensor. I know there is Leica Monochrom but it is way too expensive (and it uses interchangeable lenses which too are way too expensive for me). I would like to go one or two steps further from the Monochrom when speaking about limiting factors. Yes, B&W only but fixed prime lens and fixed image format (e.g. 1:1). Yes, just crazy. But I feel that kind of a camera less limiting than those with huge amount of customization. Just take the camera in your hands, compose, expose, and shoot.
I really like B&W photos. But I seldom process my shots into B&W versions. I think I am more a color person but sometimes B&W processing can give an extra punch to your shot. No distracting colors, only your subject. I think I will at least test B&W processing for my shots more from now on.
I use Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro for B&W conversions and I find that plug-in really nice. It has so many nice options to control the process (such as the Control Point feature) and very nice presets also. There will be version 2 of Silver Efex Pro soon, so check Nik’s web site to get more info.